Owen’s a Win – Best Theros Commons

Last weekend, I attended my local prerelease, and I have to say Theros Sealed deck is totally engaging. It’s a little early, but so far I think it’s a great format that offers you many options and avenues of interaction. You can play a controlling deck with card draw and loads of removal or a hyper-aggressive deck based around heroic.

I often found myself struggling with my Sealed deck because there were powerful cards in all colors and multiple viable strategies. I played in two total Sealed deck tournaments, where my first deck had [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card], [card]Curse of the Swine[/card], and [card]Prophet of Kruphix[/card], and my second deck had [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] and [card]Tymaret, the Murder King[/card]. I liked being able to play a fun late-game controlling deck as well as being able to play a Rakdos turn em’ and burn em’ style deck. As I usually do when a new set comes out I’m going to break down what I believe to be the best commons in each color, except this time I will also be listing the next contender in line.


[draft]Lightning Strike[/draft]

The best red common is [card]Lightning Strike[/card]. Previously known as [card]Incinerate[/card] or [card]Searing Spear[/card], this card really packs a punch in Theros Limited. It gives you a way to interact with heroic creatures on the cheap, and makes it much less likely that you die to a creature bestowed by a bigger/better creature. As a result of heroic being one of the key themes, there are tons of auras and combat tricks that people want to include—cards like [card]Dragon Mantle[/card], [card]Scourgemark[/card], and [card]Chosen by Heliod[/card].

Having a card like [card]Lightning Strike[/card] in the format keeps people honest, they can’t just do whatever they want all the time because once you have 1R untapped they open themselves up to a total blowout. This also means that [card]Lightning Strike[/card] is very, very good because it will force people to play much differently. On top of all of this, it kills most creatures and can deal 3 to the face. [card]Lightning Strike[/card] is also my pick for best common in the set overall.

[draft]rage of purphoros[/draft]

The second best red common is [card]Rage of Purphoros[/card]. I like this less than [card]Lightning Strike[/card] for many reasons, though clearly there are situations where it is a better card, like against a [card]Horizon Scholar[/card]. The largest reason why I would rather have a [card]Lightning Strike[/card] is because [card]Rage of Purphoros[/card] is a sorcery and can’t be used as effectively in combat or against auras. Not that five mana is an unreasonable amount of mana to spend on this type of effect, but [card]Lightning Strike[/card] is significantly cheaper and kills many of the same creatures at common. I like this card quite a bit though and having both of these great removal cards in red at common means red is going to be one of the best if not the actual best color in the set for draft.


[draft]Lash of the Whip[/draft]

The best black common in the set is [card]Lash of the Whip[/card]. In my first Sealed deck, I had three copies of this card splashed in a blue/green deck with some [card]Commune with the Gods[/card] and [card]Mnemonic Wall[/card]s, which worked out very nicely. Even when I could not kill creatures outright with it, I was able to find ways to send my creatures into combat and shrink theirs down to a size where they could be eaten or at least traded off with before they became monstrous. I have already stressed the importance of instant-speed removal in this format and that adds value to [card]Lash of the Whip[/card] which would still be first-pick quality even without it.

[draft]Read the Bones[/draft]

Next in line for black is easily [card]Read the Bones[/card]. This card is a total powerhouse in Sealed, it has everything I love about [card]Sign in Blood[/card], [card]Divination[/card], and [card]Foresee[/card] wrapped up into one tight little package. This is the single best card at common in the entire set at drawing cards, and if [card]Preordain[/card] taught us anything about how good it is to scry before drawing cards then it won’t take long to see how powerful this card really is.

Read the Bones compares very favorably to [card]Foresee[/card] which used to be a windmill slam first-pick card in M11 draft. Losing 2 life can be significant against a dedicated heroic deck, but against a blue or black deck it’s downside is so small and the upside of resolving this card is so large that it’s easily worth the price. If Theros draft turns out to be anything like M14 then you had better believe there will be a high correlation between casting [card]Read the Bones[/card] on turn three and winning the game.


[draft]Voyaging Satyr[/draft]

The best green common is [card]Voyaging Satyr[/card]. I had two of this card in my Sealed deck and I absolutely loved him. There were very few other ways to produce mana and the ones that did exist were underwhelming at best (I’m looking at you [card]Opaline Unicorn[/card].)

[card]Voyaging Satyr[/card] isn’t just a [card]Wirewood Elf[/card], it allows you to untap a land, which may look like it simply produces one mana, but it importantly produces additional colors of non-green mana. My deck had many double-blue spells, but I knew I could play fewer Islands in my deck because if I draw one and a [card]Voyaging Satyr[/card], I can play any card in my deck regardless of color requirement, so consider that when working out your mana base. I always look for cards like this when a set comes out because they increase a deck’s consistency while providing the opportunity to have a nut draw. At the prerelease, I had turn two [card]Voyaging Satyr[/card] into a turn three [card]Thassa’s Emissary[/card] while my opponent hadn’t even cast a spell yet, 3/3 [card scroll thief]Scroll Thieves[/card] are very hard to handle on turn three and they end the game very quickly.

[draft]nessian asp[/draft]

I also have a fondness for [card]Nessian Asp[/card], this guy is a total monster on the battlefield. Having reach makes him already great against the blue and white decks which aim to beat you in the air, and 5 toughness gives him a built in resistance to [card]Lash of the Whip[/card] and [card]Rage of Purphoros[/card]. I always like to have at least a few cards with monstrosity in my deck when I play green to give me something to do in the late game and [card]Nessian Asp[/card] even impresses me at that. Paying seven mana for a monstrosity cost is slightly high but nothing too unreasonable, but getting four +1/+1 counters is huge! On turn five he should halt any attackers in their tracks and stabilize the board until turn seven when you can cash him in for an 8/8 haste creature. He is weak against [card]Voyage’s End[/card] and [card]Griptide[/card], but so is every other creature in the format. I wouldn’t let something like that stop me from playing a creature this powerful.


[draft]voyage’s end

Blue was by far the closest call for me and I am not 100% certain this is correct but as it stands currently the best common is [card]Voyage’s End[/card], with [card]Griptide[/card] second. As you can see both of these cards are incredibly similar and this should show how good bounce actually is in this format. The common trend in this format is that the removal is incredibly conditional. If you want to remove a creature these days you will need the right tool for the job, it’s about matching up your cards correctly against theirs and making sure you don’t use a [card]Lash of the Whip[/card] on a creature that you can kill it with [card]Lightning Strike[/card], so if your opponent topdecks a 4-toughness creature you don’t lose to it. In Theros, if you want to remove a creature from the table no questions asked, you better open a [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] or have a blue bounce spell. [card]Griptide[/card] and [card]Voyage’s End[/card] both do all the amazing things I talked about against auras and combat tricks while also having amazing utility against monstrosity.

Remember, monstrosity says, “when _____ becomes monstous, do _____” so the creature actually needs to become monstrous for that thing to happen. If the opponent taps his eight lands and tries to make [card]Stoneshock Giant[/card] monstrous, if you respond with a [card]Griptide[/card] he isn’t going to trigger the [card]Falter[/card] half of the ability. The monstrosity cost on these creatures is so high and the cards that can remove them at instant speed are so rare that when you can pull something like this off the tempo advantage you gain is almost insurmountable, assuming you have some amount of pressure going for yourself. Time will tell which of these two is the best but I wouldn’t fault you for first-picking either one.


[draft]wingsteed rider[/draft]

This feels like a common trend these days but White is the runt of the litter here with no common removal outside [card]Last Breath[/card]. My pick for the best white common is deceptively strong and impressed me all weekend: [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card]. [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card] is cheap, has evasion, and gives you a strong direction to head for a white aggressive deck based around heroic. White has many good cheap common cards that work well with heroic like [card]Gods Willing[/card] and [card]Chosen by Heliod[/card] which give you excellent protection against removal while also being good cards in any normal Limited game focused on combat. [card]Gods Willing[/card] specifically is good against every top-common removal spell I’ve listed so far and for the low cost of 1 mana.

[draft]divine verdict[/draft]

I like [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card] more than the next best white common [card]Divine Verdict[/card] because they serve different purposes and [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card] is exactly the card you want if you’re aiming to be aggressive, which not many of the top common cards lend themselves to. In the past, [card]Divine Verdict[/card] has ranged from horrible in a format full of 2-drops to quite good, where it stands in this format. You don’t often just die to a [card]Satyr Rambler[/card] and instead die on turn seven to a massive [card]Sealock Monster[/card]. White drives you to be aggressive and so [card]Divine Verdict[/card] will be both underdrafted and much harder to spot when it’s in the opponents hand. Also note how well this card can be disguised in combination with cards like [card]Griptide[/card] and [card]Breaching Hippocamp[/card].

This is only scratching the surface of Theros Limited and if the rest of the format plays out anything like my experience at the prerelease then I have to say it’s going to be one of the best Limited formats of all time. I love that you can play a three-color control deck with seven and eight mana spells as your game plan and have eighteen lands—it’s like Rise of Eldrazi in that respect. I also like that you can build Boros decks that aims to win with one-casting cost creatures backed up with creature enchantments and [card]Minotaur Skullcleaver[/card]s. If it were up to me, every format would be like this, and I love how there is a balance between the two and you can adjust your strategy and card choices drastically based on your opponent’s deck, I had a cool situation come up where I sideboarded into a different color because I had two copies of [card]Dark Betrayal[/card].

I hope this helps you prepare for your Theros drafts, and good luck!

Owen Turtenwald
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OwenTweetenwald on twitter

1 thought on “Owen’s a Win – Best Theros Commons”

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