Theros has a special place in my heart. The original Theros block was when I first really started playing Magic properly with Journey into Nyx the first prerelease I attended. I’ve had a lot of excitement leading up to this set and for the most part, it has not disappointed.
In this article I’m going to look at the cards I think will see a lot of play in Commander pods over the coming months. They may not necessarily be the most powerful cards in those colours, but are ones that I think people will jam in their decks as soon as they get a copy. One rule for these cards: I’m not including any reprints. Theros Beyond Death has some great reprints that I didn’t want to dominate the list, so decided I’d avoid them completely.
When I said that ”for the most part” this set had delivered in regards to my excitement for the new cards I feel that it’s really this section of the colour pie that lets it down. In the original Theros block, we had amazing options to choose from including arguably one of the best control Planeswalkers in Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, the original version of Heliod and the one mana Oblivion Ring, Chained to the Rocks that – while underused – fits perfectly into any red and white deck. But that’s enough about old cards, let’s get onto the new ones.
Archon of Sun’s Grace
Finally, the Pegasus tribal card we didn’t know we wanted! What a lot of people have picked up is, if want your friends to hate you but don’t want to buy a copy of Divine Intervention, you can instead grab an Archon and Enchanted Evening to draw out the game. This works by creating a Pegasus when Enchanted Evening enters the battlefield, however as it is now also an Enchantment card type, the Pegasus triggers Archon again for another Pegasus, repeating over and over until either the Archon is killed or the heat death of the universe (but it’s more likely that everyone will pick up their decks and go home). As we all know the worst thing that can happen after the 50th turn of a Commander game is for no one at all to win.
One of the cycle of mono-coloured gods from Theros Beyond Death, Heliod, Sun Crowned is probably the most anticipated card by the community. People are already pointing out infinite combos with cards like Walking Ballista and Spike Feeder in Modern, potentially even replacing Archangel of Thune in the decks that run it. While this is a very powerful synergy and the Spike Feeder combo can even be hit by Collected Company, we’re not here to talk about Modern; we’re here to see what the minty fresh new Heliod can do for your Commander decks.
Honestly, I’d look at playing the same cards as the Competitive formats. Spike Feeder gives you infinite life and Walking Ballista with Heliod’s ability to grant lifelink means you can shoot everyone for infinite damage on turn four (with Radiant Fountain or one of the soul sister cards or even the brand new Daxos, Blessed by the Sun). If infinite combos aren’t your thing you’re, looking more at a deck with a heavy life gain focus. With Heliod in the command zone you can create a very nice soul sisters deck but in these more value-focused ”fair” decks I’d say Heliod will fit much better in the 99 of a deck like Oloro, Ageless Ascetic or the new and very popular Kenrith, the Returned King
Eidolon of Obstruction
I don’t have a lot to say about everyone’s new favourite enchantment creature. Honestly, I’m a little underwhelmed. There is a lot of talk about this being a really powerful answer to Planeswalkers and I’m just not sure that’s totally accurate. There are some Enchantment-focused decks right now that play Suspension Field as their answer to Planeswalkers and I’ve not really seen it work to huge success. It certainly slows down the very Planeswalker heavy Superfriends decks but at the same time there are a ton of ‘walkers that can answer Enchantments with their abilities, just making that one ability cost more to deal with Suspension Field. Eidolon of Obstruction works in a similar way but is arguably worse, as Commander decks tend to run more creature removal than they Enchantment destruction. The big issue is that the decks Eidolon of Obstruction wants to hit (i.e. Superfriends decks) are completely stacked with Wrath effects to kill everyone’s stuff whilst keeping their Planeswalkers. It’ll be interesting to see how this card impacts people’s desire to use Planeswalkers but personally I won’t hold my breath to see if it becomes a solid answer to the powerful card type.
As always, I think blue has been given a ton of powerful options and I definitely struggled to whittle my choices for this colour down to only the three – but I do think I’ve picked three of the more interesting cards you’ll see in play, instead of just picking the most powerful card draw and counterspells printed in the set.
One with the Stars
There’s not a lot of mechanics to go into with this card but it’s still pretty exciting. Song of the Dryads, Imprisoned in the Moon and Darksteel Mutation have always been some of my favourite removal spells because of their versatility as well as their ability to effectively remove someone’s Commander without sending it back to the Command zone. While arguably not as good as these other cards, not being tutorable with Zur, the Enchanter (probably the main user of these cards), and the fact that the enchanted creature keeps its abilities, this card still hits the best feature of these cards in stopping a troublesome Commander from being able to attack or block whilst preventing your opponent from recasting it. A lot of Commanders are played for their powerful abilities so this will be one to playtest and see how it performs, but I do think that it will be adopted by a lot of blue decks that struggle with removing certain creatures.
One with the Stars isn’t the only powerful enchantment blue has recieved and while I was hoping to avoid putting all of the gods into this article it seems like that was a futile effort because they’re just all so powerful. The mono-blue god of the cycle is once again Thassa, previously defeated by Kiora in the original Theros block. Having her Bident stolen seems to have done a lot for everyone’s favourite god of the sea because this Thassa has come back with a vengeance. Not only is Thassa now a 6/5 instead of a 5/5 but she is also able to pay mana to tap creatures which combined with Verity Circle can be the starts of a powerful card-drawing engine (just look at Gadwick, the Wizened decks) but this is not what makes new Thassa the powerhouse she is sure to become. Conjurer’s Closet has been a build-around for Commander decks for ages, allowing you to recycle your ETB effects over and over generating a huge amount of value and an insurmountable lead. Unfortunately, this meant having to dedicate a ton of slots to cards like Fabricate just to be able to find it. Luckily we can now just have a Closet in our Command Zone because someone stapled it to an Indestructible 6/5. While this cuts down our colour options (RIP Cloudblazer), the added consistency will very potent. This card will be one to look out for in the coming months.
Yet another Thassa-related card makes the list. Thassa’s Oracle is a much more competitive card than some of the rest and will almost definitely be jammed into any deck currently runinng Laboratory Maniac or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. Whilst worded slightly differently and not able to win the game in response to removal (or even after it has already entered play), Thassa’s Oracle is going to be a powerhouse in any deck that puts a ton of mana into drawing its entire deck, or any deck that uses Hermit Druid to dump its entire library into the graveyard. It’s most likely just going to be an additional copy of Lab Man in most situations. Not hugely exciting, perhaps, but another card to look out for.
I’ve been playing black in my Commander decks more and more as time has passed. The combination of removal, card draw, and reanimation all at the cost of a few points of life is a resource that you can use in abundance in Commander.
Erebos, Bleak-Hearted is the best of everything when it comes to black cards. The active ability works as removal and also give you a sacrifice outlet that can trigger its passive ability: allowing you to draw cards in exchange for a small amount of life when your creatures (including tokens) die. Simple design, but fits the design space of black perfectly and even works well as an Enchantment, without the devotion to make it into a creature.
Another great design for a black card but with more of a focus on the reanimation side of the design space. Gravebreaker Lamia is made up of two important parts: the first ability can be seen as Entomb stapled onto the creature, and the second ability offers cost reduction for creatures you can cast from your graveyard. While this does not affect most reanimation spells, the new Escape mechanic will benefit from it, and recasting creatures with cards like Yawgmoth’s Will becomes much better value, raising it from a simple combo piece.
The last of the black cards I think will be everywhere after the sets release, and the one I’m most excited to play around with is Nightmare Shepherd. Great in creature-based black decks, it gets better and better the more Enter the Battlefield, death, and sacrifice effects you have in your deck. After one or two rounds of Fleshbag Marauder, your opponents battlefield will be crippled leaving you to mop up their life totals with a bunch of Gray Merchant of Asphodel triggers
Like white, red often struggles with card strength within the multiplayer environment. The usual aggressive strategy can struggle to deal with 120 total life instead of the usual 20 in most constructed formats. This weakness unfortunately leaves me with only two cards for red in this article
New Purphoros is another fairly straightforward card. Essentially what he’s a Sneak Attack for red and artifact creatures. Putting Enter The Battlefield or death trigger creatures help you to generate value, and putting something ridiculous into play like Blightsteel Colossus can instantly kill one player… but will probably end up in your own death very quickly afterwards.
Another red enchantment closes out my red card picks. While not exactly Yawgmoth’s Will, the additional Escape cost makes this card still very unfair, and yet another enabler for combo-focused graveyard-centric decks like Kess. As mentioned with Yawgmoth’s Will, despite its ideal use in combo decks, I find it very powerful as a way to reanimate creatures for value. Underworld Breach can be used the same way – however even when I cast Yawg’s Will fairly I tend to die immediately, because that card puts the fear into opponents and I feel like Underworld Breach will inflict the same fate.
Green has been well known as one of the better colours in Commander because of the access to ramp and huge creatures. This has been exaggerated by the sheer power level of green cards in recent sets. Thereos Beyond Death is no exception and has some of the best commander cards I’ve seen in a long time. I’m excited for 2020 to be another year where I jam green into every deck possible.
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
Probably one of the two best cards in the set for Commander (and if not best almost certainly most used), Dryad of the Ilysian Grove is a combination of Exploration and Prismatic Omen, two cards that are very powerful in their own right and when put together truly push the envelope for multi-coloured ramp decks. I think that this card will be everywhere soon so make sure you’re packing some extra Enchantment removal (I’ve started to play Return To Nature more and more for the sheer utility and I recommend it).
The last of the god cycle, Nylea, Keen-Eyed works on two fronts. Firstly, it makes your creatures cheaper, allowing you to cast bigger beefcakes faster, while (secondly) its activated ability lets you draw creatures or put other cards into your graveyard. Nylea is obviously designed to be played in big creature decks, but I also like the idea of playing it in a reanimator deck and then using it to fill your graveyard with cards like Life From the Loam or Dakmor Salvage or in spell-slinger Temur decks to fuel your delve or flashback strategies.
The other card I think is arguably in the top two for the set, Nyxbloom Ancient/c] is basically [c]Mana Reflection but better. This card is amazing at rebuilding your board after a wipe or fuelling X cards. While the triple green cost can be a struggle on curve in multi-coloured decks, being able to triple your mana to cast giant X spells in a deck like Riku of Two Reflections makes this another amazing green card that will swiftly become a staple of the format.
Acolyte of Affliction
As time has gone on I’ve been moving away from very strong combos with a million Tutors towards more midrange value decks, and a lot of these are graveyard-centric. As soon as you focus on the graveyard, cards like Regrowth and Eternal Witness get much better. Since Guilds of Ravnica we’ve also had Golgari Findbroker. This is great because so many of the great value cards these decks play are creatures (like Mulldrifter and Baleful Strix). Theros Beyond Death brings us a Golgari Findbroker that also puts cards into your graveyard – Acolyte of Affliction will become a powerhouse staple in Muldrotha, the Gravetide and Yarok, the Desecrated decks.
Not quite Pod, but a similar sentiment. Enigmatic Incarnation is a very weird card that demands a consistent curve in Creature mana costs, while also needing you to have a similar curve in the mana costs of your Enchantments. The card looks fun and I think with pattern of rebirth-style decks or even decks that stack Enchantment Creatures that you can sacrifice with either this or Birthing Pod giving you a little more flexibility on which of the two you draw. I don’t think that will be a new combo deck but I think it will be a lot of fun to try out. I want to see someone sac. a 3-drop to go and get Academy Rector, if I’m honest.
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
I LOVE putting lands into play. I also LOVE drawing cards. Gaining life, that I can take or leave. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Hunger does two things I love and the life gain is the icing. I think that this card is going to be a powerhouse either as Commander or in the 99. An Explore/Growth Spiral attached to a huge creature that you can repeatedly recast from your graveyard (as long as you have cards to exile) allows you to set up a powerful engine to get ahead of the rest of the table.
I was originally planning to avoid colourless because there were so few in the set that were good enough that weren’t reprints but then I could only find 2 red cards that I really wanted to write about and the article title says 18 cards so my hands were tied.
Commander is the format where you most here people say ”I’ll put this into my deck, it may be a 10 drop but it’s Commander so mana’s never a problem.” This is because of cards like the aforementionedNyxbloom Ancient, and of course Nyx Lotus. While people were excited for a potential reprint of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx I think that this is a great runner up prize. The same effect as Nykthos on a 4-mana Artifact makes it a lot easier to take advantage of with untap effects especially since you don’t need to pay two generic mana for the effect, to begin with. I can see this being a staple in mono-coloured decks, great in two-coloured decks and a little sketchy but still playable in three coloured decks as all you need is 3 devotion for it to be as good as a Gilded Lotus an already popular card.
So there we have it. That’s my ten cents on the cards I think will be in your pods come Theros Beyond Death’s release. Do you agree? Let me know what you think will be the most played cards from the new set. Check out some of my other articles by clicking on my name below. And of course, thanks for reading