Theros Beyond Death Set Reviews:
Welcome to my Theros Beyond Death set reviews. I’ve been reviewing each and every set since Alara Reborn, and I always kick things off with Limited. This review will give each card a grade for Limited, which does mean both Sealed and Draft. However, if there is a meaningful difference between the two formats for a specific card, I’ll call that out in the comments. Note that the grades help you compare the cards to each other, or see where a card lands at a glance, but the commentary on the cards tells the full story. Enjoy!
Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. The Scarab God.
5.0: The best of the best. (Oko, Thief of Crowns. Embercleave.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (The Great Henge. Lochmere Serpent. Stonecoil Serpent.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Murderous Rider. Bonecrusher Giant. Edgewall Inkeeper.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Bake into a Pie. Scorching Dragonfire. Covetous Urge.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Rimrock Knight. Trapped in the Tower. Maraleaf Rider.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Rosethorn Acolyte. Lost Legion. Youthful Knight.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Raging Redcap. Garenbrig Squire. Wicked Guardian.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Ogre Errant. Sporecap Spider. Fling.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Eye Collector. Fortifying Provisions.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Return to Nature. Crystal Slipper.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Irencrag Feat. One with Nothing.)
Two mana is cheap enough that I’ll always run this, as it can disrupt the opponent’s gameplan and give you some solid info, all while trading one for one. In the late game, it can even just exile something from their graveyard, meaning it’s still somewhat live (though weak).
Aphemia is solid even if you aren’t triggering the ability, and becomes one of your stronger cards if you can get 1-2 triggers. This is a great incentive to have both enchantments and self-mill in your deck, and the floor is high enough that it’s basically risk-free to draft and play.
Aspect of Lamprey is going to be an annoying card to play against, and that’s not just because of the disturbing art. It eats two of their cards and gives you at least one lifelink hit, while also leaving an Aura in play for devotion (and synergizing with enchantment build-arounds).
On its own, Blight-Breath Catoblepas (that’s a mouthful) eats a 2-toughness creature, which is passable. It’s not that hard to imagine this taking down larger targets, and is a powerful way to top off your curve if you’ve got a lot of black creatures to help the devotion. I’m in for this, even if it’s not quite as good as Gray Merchant (which did get a promotion this time around).
Cling to Dust has a couple minor effects, and doesn’t charge you a lot for them. It is unfortunate that you can’t cycle this until something hits the graveyard, but I do like it as a minor card draw engine that can snipe opportune Escape targets. I would really only be happy about this if I had no other card competing for Escape material.
According to the flavor text, this guy essentially sings “Closing Time”, and I can just see all the other satyrs and revelers groaning once he starts. As a card, this is pretty good, offering a double serving of sacrifice fodder while also being a fine 2-drop just straight up.
Unconditional instant-speed kill for two mana (most of the time) gets high marks from me, and even if you pay 3-4 mana this is still a very good card. It’s even hard to splash, meaning devoted black mages will get this more often as a result.
This is looking like a snack too, as it exiles anything troublesome and lets you Surveil 1 as a bonus. This one is splashable, so it’s a safe early pick and will almost always make the cut.
Elspeth’s Nightmare becomes less a nightmare and more a bad dream as the game goes on, but it’s quite strong in the first 3-5 turns. For this to be really good, you need to hit on both the first two chapters, which won’t always happen later.
This guy hates Divination with a passion, making us natural enemies. Despite that, I would play this if I didn’t have other high-end options, though I am uneasy about playing a 6-drop that will often be a 2/2 or 3/3. Luckily, if this lives for a turn or two it naturally grows, so there is a payoff at the end of it. I do want to note that this is another high-cost enchantment creature, and I’m still wary of those getting killed by enchantment removal spells.
Erebos has a very powerful static ability this time around, and I love that it’s optional (it would be pretty dicey if it weren’t). This is a fantastic build-around, as it enables sacrifice decks incredibly well (imagine slamming this on a board with two Discordant Pipers). Later in the draft, this may not perform, as you do need a lot of creatures for it to be good, but I’m taking Erebos early if I have the opportunity.
I’m liking all of these black removal spells. This kills anything given enough mana, and will be a good removal spell at any point in the game. Gaining X life is also a nice bonus, as it makes sinking 5+ mana into this feel like very good value. About 5% of the time you’ll want to exile cards from a graveyard, which is a nice option to have even if you rarely use it.
I’m not looking gift removal in the mouth here, as this gets rid of anything you want at instant speed, and does so forever. Yes, it can be a bit clunky, but you’re never cutting this and it’s even easily splashable.
Tizerus is offering us one of those really chalky flavorless apples, or an orange with a really thick peel. No thanks, I prefer to put cards in my deck that do something, and this falls well below that bar.
The Read the Bones slot is always a good playable, and this is no exception. Milling for two helps find and fuel escape, and two cards for three mana + two life is a fine deal. Funeral Rites plays very well straight up, and gets additional value in graveyard decks, while also being good with removal spells, much like any card draw.
I wouldn’t call this broken, but it would be a grave mistake to pass it most of the time. It’s a well-costed creature that goes and finds your best Escape card, and even makes it a little cheaper. If you have this, make sure to draft at least a couple Escape cards, which I can’t imagine will be that hard.
Everyone LOVES Gary, so it’s great that he’s back for a second time. He even got a promotion to uncommon, which is probably for the best, as the triple Gary decks were obnoxious to play against in Limited. Gary is a great card, and always has a solid effect on the board, so as long as you draft enough black pips to go with him, he will deliver (those sacks of gold).
Grim Physician obviously plays well in a sacrifice deck, but I do want to point out that this is better than it looks even if you aren’t sacrificing it for value. It’s a good defensive 1-drop, and I’d play this in most control decks without a second thought. Any one-mana spell that consistently trades up for 2-3 mana plays, which this does, is something I’m interested in combining with card draw and lategame plans.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
I don’t hate this as a build-around, as it gives you a strong payoff and more flexibility than you may think. It triggers off creatures on both sides of the field, as long as the Auras are yours, so you can use this in a deck with pump Auras or a deck with removal Auras, and either way get some good value. This is also a lifelinker, meaning throwing Auras on this works out well, and this does see itself when it dies.
The name Inevitable End is appropriate, because this always eventually gets its target. This is the exact kind of card that is easy to underrate, because typically Edict (sacrifice) effects aren’t very strong in Limited – the opponent just sacrifices their weakest creature. In this case, you punish them if they try and keep the enchanted creature alive, so most of the time this will act as targeted removal (that is an Aura, opening the door to some combos). There will be games when they can sacrifice enough chumps to kill you with the 4/4 flier or what have you, but most of the time this will do the thing you want.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
In a non-sacrifice deck, this is filler. It’s playable, but won’t usually do much more than act as a cheap enchantment and maybe provide a little value. In a sacrifice deck, this is a great way to eat your own creatures, and you’ll gladly play multiple of these.
I love getting my minions back, especially golden versions with lots of buffs. As for this card, it’s got some good potential. You basically get to copy any creature that’s about to die, complete with ETB abilities, and it plays well with various Aura or enchantment build-arounds. It’s a little pricey, since you don’t want to just play this without having a plan for the creature to die, but if you can time it right you can definitely get a card out of it. It moves up in value if you have sacrifice effects or cheap removal spells.
I admire any 2-drop that can trade for a 5-drop, and this even gives you a little self-mill and a couple of points of life. A solid card, and one I’m always happy to play.
Hateful Eidolon is salivating at the thought of this, but then again so is anyone. Two mana to kill most creatures or weaken ones you can’t kill is a great deal, and this is easily black’s best common.
Mogis’s Favor is another Aura kill spell, and really snipes 1-toughness creatures. It even has a cheap escape cost, and is a great effect to have access to. I look forward to playing with this, I think it’s going to be a strong enabler.
I’m a fan of 4/4 fliers with upside, and this has a really cool upside to boot. It lets you get massive value from sacrifice creatures with good ETB or death triggers, and the biggest problem is that you’ll probably kill them with the Shepherd before your engine really gets going.
If you need more enchantments, more devotion, or just more dorks, this has you covered. It’s not exciting, but it fills out the roster.
This Omen doesn’t do much until something has died, which makes it a slightly less reliable Constellation trigger, though I supposed you can just toss it out there if you really need to. I like having one of these in most decks, and would play more if I had a lot of creatures or a lot of self-mill.
This is a little better than a straight Diabolic Edict because you can choose whichever mode gives you the best outcome, but it’s still situational. I do like it as black enchantment removal, and killing something like Dreadful Apathy is going to be sweet.
You can’t jam too many Escape cards in your deck and realistically use them all, but this is one of the more enticing ones. It starts as a decently-costed vanilla, and later in the game comes back as a 5/6 that eats a creature. Sounds like a good deal to me, though make sure they don’t have just a Gorgon in play when you bring this back.
I’d be mad if I was this bad too, though I wouldn’t say that to this guy’s face. If you need a 5-drop, Rage-Scarred Berserker is perfectly acceptable, but you won’t need to take this early or play too many. It is nice to target creatures with juicy attack triggers, so try and make some mondo combos if you can.
If you want a cheap flier, this fills the slot, and can even devour an Escape card from time to time too.
With enough sacrifice fodder, you can really reap the rewards, and at worst this is a cheap enchantment creature that makes opposing removal spells worse. I’d play this in most decks, though in decks that are a little lighter on creatures it may not make the cut.
As usual, if you want 2-drops, this is fine, but the ability doesn’t make it that much better than your average bear. You’ll steal games every now and then, but it’s more of an annoyance than actual evasion.
Limited: 0.0 // 3.0
This card is VERY dangerous, and I highly recommend not playing it unless you have multiple good ways to get rid of it. I’m thinking cards that sac enchantments, not enchantment removal, since spending 3 mana + the cost of another spell is not worth it. If you can’t get rid of it soon, this will be treacherous indeed, and you will find yourself backed into a corner you can’t get out of.
As long as you have plenty of creatures/enchantments (it shouldn’t too hard to get to 15+ combined), this gives you two Zombies, some scrying, and a bunch of self-mill. That’s a good deal for three mana.
A cheap devotion/enchantment enabler that can also weaken Escape for your opponent and gains you some life? Sounds good to me.
This rating is predicated on you wanting to attack, as this is a great threat in any deck that is looking for one. It’s an efficient beater to start with, and comes back for seconds later, making it an ideal aggro card (and unplayable in control).
Underworld Dreams is kind of a build-around, as it fuels devotion by a ton, but it’s too hard to cast and too slow to be something most decks want. It can also be a good sideboard card, as it punishes slow decks fairly well.
I don’t see cutting Hierophant just about ever, as it brawls with anything and enables graveyard shenanigans nicely. This is also a very punishing creature when combined with combat tricks, as it always takes down whatever it’s fighting (Chain to Memory in particular looks like a good combo).
Woe Strider is an absurd card, and I’m excited to use it for both Constructed and Limited. This is great in any deck but outrageous in the sacrifice deck, and if I opened this I’d try and be RB sacrifice if possible. This gets you value out of the gates, can fizzle any removal spell or negative Aura, and comes back even bigger.
Top 5 Black Commons
2. Final Death
1. Mire’s Grasp
Black gets multiple great removal spells, solid creatures, and good synergy cards. This looks like the color to beat to me, but we will see what red and green have in upcoming days.