Welcome to my Pick 1, Pack 1 list for Theros Beyond Death! The goal of this article is to rank all cards in the set from high to low for the purpose of the first-pick, first-pack decision in draft. The ranking is also relevant as a rough guideline for the subsequent picks and for the rough power level of cards in Sealed Deck.
Draft Archetypes in Theros Beyond Death
Before getting to the list, let me provide some context by going over the draft archetypes in this new Limited format.
Each of the 10 color pairs has a signpost gold uncommon that is meant to show that color pair’s theme. These cards can direct your draft in terms of synergies to focus on for a coherent deck.
White-Blue: Fliers. Staggering Insight is best on a flier, which white and blue have plenty of. Locking up the ground with high-toughness blockers and winning in the air will be the plan. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Sunmane Pegasus, Daybreak Chimera, Witness of Tomorrows, and Riptide Turtle.
White-Black: Recursion. Rise to Glory can return Auras from your graveyard, so you want to maximize Auras that end up in the graveyard. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Mire’s Grasp, Dreadful Apathy, Aspect of Lamprey, and Heliod’s Pilgrim.
White-Red: Heroic. In Theros Beyond Death, Heroes are creatures who temporarily boost the power of your team when the Hero is targeted with a spell. Hero of the Nyxborn is a good example, and it brings along a friend to receive the boost. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Hero of the Pride, Hero of the Games, Omen of the Sun, and Infuriate.
White-Green: Auras. Siona grabs an Aura and then creates tokens when you attach Auras to your own creatures. So for this archetype, you want to focus on beneficial Auras. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Transcendent Envoy, Warbriar Blessing, Indomitable Will, and Setessan Training.
Blue-Black: Self-Mill. Devourer of Memory gets bigger whenever you mill yourself, and its activated ability helps fuel escape. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Funeral Rites, Towering-Wave Mystic, Sleep of the Dead, and Mogis’s Favor. (I wish blue had a good common escape card, but all we have is Sleep of the Dead, unfortunately.)
Blue-Red: Draw-go. Mischievous Chimera triggers whenever you cast your first spell during your opponent’s turn, and there are several other creatures with similar effects. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Arena Trickster, Omen of the Forge, Vexing Gull, and Naiad of Hidden Coves.
Blue-Green: Constellation. Eutropia the Twice-Favored triggers whenever an enchantment enters the battlefield under your control, so this archetype wants to focus on enchantments. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Nexus Wardens, Brine Giant, Ichthyomorphosis, and Omen of the Sea.
Black-Red: Sacrifice. Slaughter-Priest of Mogis gets a boost when you sacrifice a permanent, and there are plenty of sacrifice synergies in this color combination. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Discordant Piper, Lampad of Death’s Vigil, Portent of Betrayal, and Omen of the Dead.
Black-Green: Escape. Acolyte of Affliction fuels escape by putting extra cards in your graveyard, so this is a graveyard-oriented archetype. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Venomous Hierophant, Relentless Pursuit, Voracious Typhon, and Underworld Charger.
Red-Green: Ferocious. Warden of the Chained can’t attack unless you control another creature with power 4 of greater, so you want to pair it with a lot of big monsters. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Stampede Rider, Loathsome Chimera, Nylea’s Huntmaster, and Flummoxed Cyclops.
A final theme in the set is devotion. It appears in all five colors, although it seems best supported in black. If you start the draft with a God, then you have an incentive to go (nearly) mono-color if possible.
Methodology and Data Sources
To construct an aggregate ranking, I took the weighed average of the following normalized grades.
- My own initial grades. I gave a Limited grade between 0 and 5 to every card (found in the column “Frank” in the linked sheet). These ratings mostly convey my first impressions, based on careful deliberation. I may update them and this article in a few weeks. (Editor’s note: Several cards have received minor grading changes on January 18, 19, and 22; the pick order list in this article has been updated correspondingly.) I used my own grades for a weight of 60%.
- The Draftaholics Anonymous rankings, collected on Thursday January 16. Their scores for cards are derived from users who are presented with choices between two cards in a pick 1 pack 1 context. I scaled the ratings so that the card with the highest score became a 5.0 and the card with the lowest score became a 0.0. I used their rankings for a weight of 20%.
- The LR Community review rankings, also collected on Thursday January 16. These rankings are based on a project by cricketHunter where hundreds of users submit Limited grades for every card in the new set. I scaled the grades so that the card with highest grade became a 5.0. Thanks to cricketHunter for providing me with the raw data! I used their rankings for a weight of 20%.
Afterwards, mid-February, I made minor adjustments to the final grade so that they would better reflect my experience during additional drafts. I reached Mythic in Limited on Arena with a 73% game win rate. Afterwards, on February 27, I updated this article with the corresponding rankings.
In the past, I also used LSV’s set reviews and the average pick numbers on Draftsim.com to construct an aggregate ranking. This time, I reduced the number of data sources to give a higher weight to my own ratings—I am actively learning the new set to compete in upcoming tournaments, and then I trust my own insights—and to be able to submit my pick order list sooner. I retained the two data sources that, for the past few sets, were closest to the aggregate rankings and therefore were historically most “accurate.”
After taking the weighed average of all these grades, I made some adjustments for multicolor cards and colorless cards to get closer to a proper first-pick, first-pack order. After all, first-picking a gold card reduces your flexibility because it only goes into one color combination, whereas an artifact card keeps your options open. I subtracted 0.1 points for any gold card and added 0.1 point for any artifact.
The result was a number for every card in Theros Beyond Death—an aggregate of the above three sources that captures people’s first impressions. These numbers and the raw data in spreadsheet form can also function as a searchable text list. After I got a number for every card, all I had to do was to press sort, and the aggregate pick order list arose.
Tier 1: Bomb Rares/Mythics
Cards from this tier got a final adjusted rating between 5.0 and 4.0. If you prefer letter grades, then I would peg most of them as A+, A, or A-.
These are the best cards in the set according to this aggregate list, and I would first-pick them over any common or uncommon.
The cards are in order. This doesn’t really matter for this group because you’re almost never choosing between two rares. But the order means that, in a first-pick-first-pack context, Kiora Bests the Sea God is the best card in the set while Shadowspear is on par with the best uncommon.
Tier 2: Includes the Best Uncommons
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 4.0 and 3.5. That’s approximately B+.
Remember that this is all one continuous list, to be read left-to-right, top-to-bottom, and that the cutoff for my category grouping is completely arbitrary. The way to read it is that Pharika’s Spawn should be first-picked over Banishing Light, which should in turn be first-picked over Eat to Extinction if they’re all in the same booster together.
Kunoros, Hound of Athreos is on par with the best card from the next tier, at least in a first-pick-first-pack context. Note that all card valuations will start to shift heavily after your first few picks based on your colors, archetype, mana curve, and synergy potential.
Tier 3: Includes the Top 6 Commons
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 3.5 and 3.1. That’s approximately B.
So according to this list, Mire’s Grasp is the best common to first-pick, followed by Dreadful Apathy, Iroas’s Blessing, Final Death, Voracious Typhon, and Warbriar Blessing, in that order. These are all perfectly acceptable cards to start your draft with, and they’ll keep your options open.
Tier 4: Great Playables
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between a 3.1 and 2.6. That’s approximately B-.
Tier 5: Good Playables
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 2.6 and 2.0. That’s approximately C+ or C.
Tier 6: Okay Playables
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 2.0 and 1.6. That’s approximately C or C-.
Tier 7: Mediocre Filler
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 1.6 and 1.0. That’s approximately C- or D+.
Tier 8: Really Bad Filler and Unplayables
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 1.0 and 0.0. That’s approximately D or F.
What is the Best Color?
Taking the aggregate original grades for granted, the expected total as-fan grade per booster for each color is given below. (The total as-fan grade per booster of a certain color is the sum of the grades of mono-colored cards of that color in a freshly opened pack. For example, a freshly opened booster with a white common graded 3 and a white uncommon graded 2 and no other white cards would have a total as-fan white grade of 5. The expectation takes the long-run average over all possible boosters, using how often certain cards will show up in packs based on their rarity.)
This analysis suggests that black is the best color and that blue is the worst color.
Thanks for reading; I hope this pick order list will spawn some debate. I will return soon with a Limited bucket list filled with sweet interactions and tricks for Theros Beyond Death Limited.
Meanwhile, let me know in the comment section which cards you felt were overrated or underrated. And if you want a chance to test your mettle at Theros Beyond Death Limited, then don’t miss the upcoming MagicFest in New Jersey. I’ll be attending as well, and I hope to see you there!