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Carrie On – Scholar of Athreos

If you search Gatherer it will tell you there are 25 multicoloured cards in Theros. THIS IS WRONG!

There are actually 10 more that the search doesn’t find. I’m talking about the cards with activated costs that require a different color of mana than the one used to cast them.

[draft]Scholar of Athreos
Setessan Griffin
Coastline Chimera
Crackling Triton
Returned Phalanx
Loathsome Catoblepas
Deathbellow Raider
Priest of Iroas
Agent of Horizons
Satyr Hedonist[/draft]

Some of these cards suck (I’m looking at you [ccProd]Loathsome Catoblepas[/ccProd]). Others are mediocre or are situationally useful but rarely will they make the main deck. You don’t always need to be in the other color for some of these cards to be worthy of a slot in your 40 cards.

[ccProd]Returned Phalanx[/ccProd] is a superb roadblock in black decks. Many of the more aggressive decks rely on 1- and 2-power creatures so they either have to power up one guy so that it can get past, or use a removal spell early when they want to be curving out their creatures. [ccProd]Nessian Courser[/ccProd] has the same body and costs one more mana. I wrote last week about my love for Courser; while [ccProd]Returned Phalanx[/ccProd] is not where you want to be bestowing auras if you aren’t in blue, he still stalls the board just as well and a turn earlier. If you are in blue, then [ccProd]Returned Phalanx[/ccProd] can be a very aggressive card or just an occasionally useful beater. I really like this card if I’m in UB and for that reason—you don’t tend to get them if you are in black with another color, as you won’t rate him quite as highly. Still, if others don’t, then profit!

I won’t play [ccProd]Setessan Griffin[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Crackling Triton[/ccProd] unless I am in both those colors or I am short on playables. In this format I would far rather a 1/4 than a 2/3 for 3 mana (better at stopping those 3/3s we’ve been talking about) and at least you might get some utility out of your [ccProd]Wavecrash Triton[/ccProd]. If I’m splashing red anyway, [ccProd]Crackling Triton[/ccProd] goes up slightly in my estimation—but only slightly. [ccProd]Setessan Griffin[/ccProd] is just a bad flier without the green. You can’t splash the effect because it’s double-green and it trades with much cheaper fliers such as [ccProd]Vaporkin[/ccProd]. Basically I don’t want to play a 5-drop flier that gets outclassed by 2-drops, thanks all the same. I’m not even that excited if I am in green because green has much better 5-drops to offer.

[ccProd]Coastline Chimera[/ccProd] will never make my main deck, unless I’m really struggling. I don’t like 1-power fliers in blue. However, he’s an excellent sideboard card against aggressive decks but I don’t care about being able to use the ability. He’s especially good in any blue mirror where they have multiple [ccProd]Vaporkin[/ccProd]s.

[ccProd]Priest of Iroas[/ccProd] can be annoying to play against if you are relying on multiple enchantment creatures but, ultimately, she is a 1/1 for 1 which is rarely a good start. I will play her in a deck with multiple Ordeals as you really want one-drops to stick them on, although she’s definitely the bottom of the barrel and you really want to be RW to get full utility out of her, which isn’t the greatest color pairing.

Red is really unpopular. You often see good red cards very late. [ccProd]Deathbellow Raider[/ccProd] is a red card. Ignore the activated ability. He’s a 2/3 for 2 which is insane for aggressive decks, and a really nice place to put Ordeals and other auras. If you have the black mana, it’s nice to not have to suicide him when they play the 3/3, but otherwise he’s essentially red, and no one wants to play with him.

I talked about [ccProd]Agent of Horizons[/ccProd] last week. In summary, I love this card in UG as that evasion is really nice in the late game and absolutely fine in GX as just a 3-power three-drop where you can bestow [ccProd]Leafcrown Dryad[/ccProd]. [ccProd]Satyr Hedonist[/ccProd], on the other hand, sucks. If I want two-drops he’ll do, because a 2/1 for two is fine, but I’m not happy about it, and I don’t expect to use his ability. I have seen GR monstrous decks try to use him as ramp, but then they [ccProd]Voyage’s End[/ccProd] your [ccProd]Nessian Asp[/ccProd] and you feel really sad.

Now we come to the tenth and final multicolored card, and the one I really want to talk about today: [ccProd]Scholar of Athreos[/ccProd]. As I hinted at last week, I love this card! It has won me so many games where many other cards would not have have been able to. It is surprisingly hard to hit past a 1/4 that is also draining you for 2. Scholar can easily gain up to 5 life a turn by blocking a 3-power creature and draining for 2. That is hard work to beat through. It always looks bad, but you probably do have to use a removal spell on this card, otherwise it will kill you eventually if the game just stalls out.

[ccProd]Scholar of Athreos[/ccProd] reminds me of the classic all-extort Orzhov deck from Gatecrash Limited, but possibly even more broken given the context around it. Extort was a nice effect to have on cards, and raised their value greatly, but to make it your primary strategy required something of a critical mass, which was rarely achieved in the format—try convincing that Boros player that he doesn’t want [ccProd]Syndic of Tithes[/ccProd]. Also, because it was such a fast format and because so many creatures were above the power curve, the strategy of deliberately paying 1 more for all of your permanents in the early game wasn’t necessarily viable. Scholar, however, doesn’t tend to get picked by other strategies, and Theros isn’t as back-breakingly fast as Gatecrash. It also doesn’t require you to spend mana you can’t necessarily afford in a specific timing window. And, you don’t have to have nonland cards in hand; in fact, the more lands, the better!

I’ve used this card in a number of decks. Basically, any black deck can splash it as you only need the one white mana but want multiple black sources. I’ve seen people get this hilariously wrong. Scholar is not playable in a white deck that isn’t also black unless you desperately want a road block—in which case, I heartily recommend [ccProd]Guardians of Meletis[/ccProd] instead. If you do need to play it in a white deck then don’t bother putting in the Swamp, it’s just insulting to the power of this card.

Scholar is great in Theros because it is one great mana sink. If you are running 18 lands like many decks want to then it gives you a fantastic use for the 9th land: an extra life point drain a turn. I never feel sad when I hit 9 lands with this card, it reminds me of playing Assault Loam where drawing lands just made me happy—a rare experience in Magic.

I like [ccProd]Scholar of Athreos[/ccProd] best in straight Orzhov decks with lots of removal. Scholar really shines in decks that have a plan to reach a late game (or she can simply be the late game). Scholar helps with the “getting to late game” plan: as discussed above, a 1/4 for 3 isn’t the easiest creature to bypass. Being in Orzhov also gives you access to so much removal, including the only unconditional removal spells of the set, [ccProd]Divine Verdict[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Sip of Hemlock[/ccProd]. I also really love [ccProd]Lash of the Whip[/ccProd] for all the combat blowouts, plus you get early conditional removal in the form of [ccProd]Pharika’s Cure[/ccProd]. No control deck is complete without card draw and luckily [ccProd]Read the Bones[/ccProd] provides just that.

What you do with the rest of the deck is up to you. This base can support many strategies. Recently I ended up in a sort of Orzhov heroic deck which either won early with an aggressive start if my opponent faltered or sat behind some Scholars while making one big heroic guy that beat in. This was a draft that got kind of confused, but the 3 Scholars just carried me to a 3-0. The deck would do a bunch of damage early and then Scholar would win out eventually when the board jammed. This draft really demonstrated the power of Scholar to me as I thought I was going 0-3 for sure.

[ccDeck]1 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Favored Hoplite
1 Tormented Hero
1 Travelling Philosopher
2 Cavalry Pegasus
2 Wingsteed Rider
1 Agent of the Fates
3 Scholar of Athreos
1 Heliod’s Emissary
1 Celestial Archon
1 God’s Willing
1 Scourge Mark
2 Chosen by Heliod
1 Ordeal of Heliod
1 Whip of Erebos
2 Lash of the Whip
9 Plains
9 Swamp[/ccDeck]

Instead of white heroic, you can go with a more black devotion-based deck with [ccProd]Gray Merchant[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Disciple of Phenax[/ccProd] (if you are lucky enough to get the Merchants, anyway). [ccProd]Gray Merchant[/ccProd] is over-drafted at the moment, but these cards are perfect for a long, controlling game that is won without attacking. I would look to supplement this with the black fliers for some evasive beatdown. Here’s a deck I invented for illustrative purposes.

[ccDeck]1 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Returned Phalanax
2 Pharika’s Cure
2 Scholar of Athreos
2 Bloodtoll Harpy
1 Read the Bones
1 Heliod’s Emissary
1 Erebos’s Emissary
1 Divine Verdict
1 Insatiable Harpy
2 Disciple of Phenax
2 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Lash of the Whip
1 Keepsake Gorgon
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Abhorrent Overlord
10 Swamp
8 Plains[/ccDeck]

Bestow creatures are sweet in either deck as they let you super-size a creature to add aggression, which will supplement the Scholar damage. [ccProd]Hopeful Eidolon[/ccProd] is especially good to ensure you reach that late game. [ccProd]Heliod’s Emissary[/ccProd] is vicious if you have some fliers to put it on because that way they need multiple blockers to deal with it.

The thing that makes me really sad about [ccProd]Scholar of Athreos[/ccProd] is that, at the moment, you can happily wheel it in draft. You don’t always want to splash it into your black deck (that’s probably limited to BG and maybe the occasional UB deck) but this shouldn’t be the sort of card you pick up if you are already WB; it’s the sort of card that should put you into WB.

If you haven’t tried to play with [ccProd]Scholar of Athreos[/ccProd] then I strongly recommend you do so. After discovering its power I get really sad when I see them going late, especially when the strategy isn’t, in fact, open, and it’s just a case of the person drafting the archetype and doing it wrong. I will frequently hate-draft them if I have nothing better to take late.

See you next week.

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