Even if we don’t have a complete picture of Theros: Beyond Death right now, it’s not too early to start sketching out some deck ideas or considering which new cards might support existing strategies. At this very early stage, it’s difficult to fully anticipate how the new set will impact Standard, but it’s definitely not too early to start thinking about Brawl!
When it comes to a new set, it’s a lot of fun to upgrade your existing EDH and Brawl decks. After all, it’s a simple enough process – you’re able to substitute new cards as they’re previewed on a one-for-one basis. This isn’t the same in Constructed formats such as Standard or Modern, where there are so many more variables to consider thanks to the fact that you can include up to four copies of one card.
So, with that said, I’m already beginning to draw up preliminary Brawl lists that I’ll update with new cards as they arrive. In particular, there are some new commanders from Theros I’m very excited to try out!
The Buy-a-Box promo, Athreos, comes with a pretty clear set of instructions. You want to play with as many value creatures as possible, so as to make the most of the return-from-the-dead ability. Of course, the Plan A is to put coins on your opponents’ creatures, but sometimes they won’t always co-operate with this. As such, we fill this deck out with powerful enters-the-battlefield effects so as to give them coins, should the need arise.
Commander: Athreos, Shroud-Veiled
1 Cauldron Familiar 1 Burglar Rat 1 Yarok's Fenlurker 1 Eternal Taskmaster 1 Corpse Knight 1 Cruel Celebrant 1 Charming Prince 1 Lazotep Reaver 1 Gorging Vulture 1 Hanged Executioner 1 Murderous Rider/Swift End 1 Plaguecrafter 1 Midnight Reaper 1 Master Splicer 1 Basilica Bell-Haunt 1 Cavalier of Dawn 1 Cavalier of Night 1 God-Eternal Bontu 1 Syr Konrad, the Grim 1 Underworld Sentinel - Theme Booster Exclusive 1 Meteor Golem 1 Witch’s Oven 1 Despark 1 Epic Downfall 1 Final Payment 1 Arcane Signet - Brawl Deck Exclusive 1 Orzhov Locket 1 Mana Geode 1 Spinning Wheel 1 Kaya’s Wrath 1 Blood for Bones 1 Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord 1 Bond of Revival 1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General 1 The Cauldron of Eternity 1 Temple of Silence 1 Godless Shrine 1 Scoured Barrens 1 Orzhov Guildgate 1 Castle Ardenvale 1 Castle Locthwain 1 Witch's Cottage 1 Command Tower 8 Swamp (339) 8 Plains (331)
This deck is more or less maxed out on white and black value creatures, ensuring Athreos has a good coin target the turn it comes down. This also lends itself to the deck’s Plan B – using cards like Bond of Revival or The Cauldron of Eternity to play a traditional reanimation game, irrespective (or in addition to ) Athreos.
However, this leaves us pretty top-heavy. A bunch of mana rocks help in that regard, in addition to extra removal. You’re incentivized to make trades virtually all the time with this list, as a creature in your graveyard is better than a creature in your opponent’s graveyard. Don’t be afraid to “trade down” as a result.
Waking up Athreos isn’t a priority in this deck, but it can definitely happen. The Cavaliers, in particular, are good at providing the necessary devotion, as well as cards like Basilica Bell-Haunt. Ideally, however, you’re getting the most mileage form Athreos with its triggered ability – buying off creatures opposing left and right, before enjoying the return on your investment when they die!
Daxos, Blessed by the Sun
Daxos has been through a lot – he went from being a white-blue bulk rare to being a middling white-black commander, and now he’s back as a classic White Weenie two-drop. This bloke will get huge pretty quickly, and there are plenty of cards in Standard that take advantage of his triggered ability, both as enablers and payoffs.
Commander: Daxos, Blessed by the Sun
1 Sunlit Hoplite - Planeswalker Deck Exclusive 1 Faerie Guidemother/Gift of the Fae 1 Healer's Hawk 1 Haazda Marshal 1 Hunted Witness 1 Ajani's Pridemate 1 Impassioned Orator 1 Charming Prince 1 Tithe Taker 1 Hanged Executioner 1 Ministrant of Obligation 1 Angel of Vitality 1 Linden, the Steadfast Queen 1 Gideon's Company - Planeswalker Deck Exclusive 1 Master Splicer 1 Twinblade Paladin - Planeswalker Deck Exclusive 1 Syr Alin, the Lion's Claw 1 Cavalier of Dawn 1 God-Eternal Oketra 1 Victory's Envoy - Theme Booster Exclusive 1 Venerated Loxodon 1 Harmonious Archon 1 Dawn of Hope 1 Raise the Alarm 1 Rally for the Throne 1 Arcane Signet - Brawl Deck Exclusive 1 Mace of the Valiant - Brawl Deck Exclusive 1 Unbreakable Formation 1 Ajani, Strength of the Pride 1 Commanding Presence 1 Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis 1 Smothering Tithe 1 Conclave Tribunal 1 Elspeth, Undaunted Hero - Foil 1 The Circle of Loyalty 1 Finale of Glory 18 Plains (331) 1 Karn's Bastion 1 Mobilized District 1 Castle Ardenvale 1 Cryptic Caves 1 Idyllic Grange
This isn’t the weeniest of white decks, true, but it makes up for that by having a strong lifegain subtheme. Not only does this help when racing, it offers us a ton of sweet payoffs. There are so many Ajani’s Pridemate-esque cards in Standard, and I’m not just talking about Ajani, Strength of the Pride. Did you know Gideon’s Company and Twinblade Paladin were real, actual factual Magic cards? They work very nicely with Daxos!
To make the most of Daxos’s lifegain trigger, we want as many creatures entering (and leaving, I suppose) the battlefield as possible. Token generators, from afterlife to God-Eternal Oketra, do good work here. Unfortunately, there’s no real anthem effect in Standard outside of The Circle of Loyalty, but untapping with a Victory’s Herald does a good impression of one.
We play both Elspeths as they synergize nicely with the “go-wide” approach of this list, although playing Elspeth, Undaunted Hero kinda means we’re locked into playing the as-yet-unseen Sunlit Hoplite (I hope it’s not total garbage!). Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis seems particularly suited to this list, as the Escape cost will be easy enough to pay with cheap creatures trading off as well as token generators like Raise the Alarm.
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
The new Ashiok is a weird card to build around, but after a little digging I was actually surprised to see how much you can take advantage of the very quick ultimate. You can fire off an ultimate just two turns after playing Ashiok, and there are more ways than you might think to get your opponent’s cards into exile! That’s the thrust of this entire list – exiling as much of your opponent’s deck as possible, so as to support Ashiok’s ultimate.
Commander: Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
1 Yarok's Fenlurker 1 Thief of Sanity 1 Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft 1 Murderous Rider/Swift End 1 Etrata, the Silencer 1 Rankle, Master of Pranks 1 God-Eternal Kefnet 1 Lochmere Serpent 1 Panoptic Mirror 1 Scrabbling Claws 1 Legion's End 1 Negate 1 Tyrant's Scorn 1 Thought Erasure 1 Epic Downfall 1 Arcane Signet - Brawl Deck Exclusive 1 Disdainful Stroke 1 Ashiok, Dream Render 1 Cry of the Carnarium 1 Grotesque Demise 1 No Escape 1 Ob Nixilis's Cruelty 1 Memory Theft 1 Never Happened 1 Devious Cover-Up 1 Chemister's Insight 1 Ritual of Soot 1 Covetous Urge 1 Leyline of the Void 1 Revenge of Ravens 1 Enter the God-Eternals 1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General 1 Thought Distortion 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 7 Island (335) 8 Swamp (339) 1 Command Tower 1 Watery Grave 1 Temple of Deceit 1 Castle Locthwain 1 Castle Vantress 1 Dimir Guildgate 1 Dismal Backwater 1 Evolving Wilds 1 Fabled Passage 1 Mystic Sanctuary
Not only is there a sizable amount of decent removal that exiles – everything from Cry of the Carnarium to Epic Downfall – there are also a few counterspells, “discard” spells, and even three-drop Ashiok as well! Happily, this entire deck is able to play a reasonably orthodox control game while still exiling opposing cards for the Nightmare Muse ultimate.
Outside of that, however, there is a respectable suite of creatures that also act as strong threats. Many of them even play into the exile gameplan – Etrata the Silencer and Lochmere Serpent, for example – but you can always just stabilize the board, beat down with a God-Eternal Kefnet, and win that way.
I haven’t had a lot of luck with control decks in multiplayer Brawl, especially in non-white decks that don’t get the good sweepers. This list, however, should do well enough in the single-player queues, given its abundance of one-for-one removal and the sheer proactive power of Ashiok, Nightmare Muse. Any game that goes long is going to be very good for you, as Ashiok provides such a huge amount of firepower when ultimating!
Changes and Upgrades
I’ll be keeping a close eye on the Theros previews as they start to roll out properly in the coming days and weeks – and I’ll be looking for ways to improve these decks. Value-oriented creatures to recur with Athreos, go-wide white beaters to pair with Daxos, and further ways to exile cards for fun and profit with Ashiok – that’s what I’ll be specifically seeking out.
Sketching out and modifying singleton decks is a lot of fun as we head towards a new set. With uncommon legendaries and sweet new mechanics, I’m sure Theros: Beyond Death is going to have a lot to offer!