Theros Beyond Death Set Reviews:
Welcome to the first of 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.)
Alseid of Life’s Bounty delivers a rich bounty for just one mana. It’s a 1/1 lifelinker, making it a solid target for pump spells/auras, and it’s a one-mana enchantment, which synergizes nicely with constellation. The last ability is what really sells me, as the Alseid will eventually trade for a card (and be up on mana) against a removal spell or in combat. That combination of power and flexibility is exactly what I’m looking for in a card, and this one is going to do some good work.
This rating is predicated on having a good amount of enchantments to bring back, but that shouldn’t be too hard in this format. Note that it’s any enchantment, not just Auras, and that includes the various creatures that are also enchantments. A big flier is often a must-answer threat, and getting a card plus free mana (since it brings the enchantment back to the battlefield) is a good deal for six mana. This is also a way to put a negative Aura on to an opposing hexproof creature, as you are allowed to do that when you bring one back, due to how the rules work (attaching an Aura on the battlefield doesn’t target).
Archon of Sun’s Grace would be great if it was just a 3/4 flying lifelinker for four, but it also generates a steady stream of 2/2 fliers and even gives them lifelink as well. This is very good even with minimal support, and a straight-up bomb in a deck that does a good job of triggering constellation.
Banishing Light has always been an excellent removal spell, and has additional combos in an enchantment-based set. Of course, that does come with a drawback, as your opponent’s will have more enchantment removal than in a normal set, so be aware of the midcombat Disenchant when attacking.
At the end of the Saga, you get a Plains, a 0/4 Wall, and 2 life. That’s a solid deal for 2 mana, though clearly not what aggressive decks are looking for. This also is an enchantment for constellation purposes, and even puts itself in the graveyard if you have ways to get value from that. This is a neat card, and I look forward to getting as much value out of it as possible.
Captivating Unicorn isn’t a bad top-end threat in an aggressive constellation deck, but is unlikely to be a high priority either. At most two decks at the table will want this, and often it’ll be just one, so it’s not something you need to take early.
Even with the inherent risk of Auras, Commanding Presence is a good card. It makes a creature almost impossible to beat in combat, and gives you a 1/1 token each time it gets through. Some decks won’t be able to deal with this card, though be ready to side it out against opponents who have bounce and unconditional removal.
Dawn Evangel functions as an Aura build-around while also being an enchantment itself, which means some decks will just run it for that. It triggers even on opponent’s creatures dying if you’ve put Auras on them, so make sure to get full value if you have negative Auras in your deck.
I like Daxos in any heavy white deck, as he offers a lot of toughness, a lot of lifegain, and is a cheap enchantment. You don’t need to be mono-white by any stretch, but probably want around 9-10 Plains and a fair amount of other white creatures to make this legit.
Daybreak Chimera is the dream follow-up to Daxos, but is more than fine in any white-based deck. If you can reliably cast a white creature on turn two or three, this will land on turn four and pressure the opponent nicely, and it’s even great to play it for two mana later in the game. Having a turn six be this plus a 4-drop is very efficient, and that isn’t that hard to envision.
White’s standard removal Aura is especially good in this set, as it combines very nicely with multiple of the set’s themes. It plays well with constellation, with effects that get enchantments back (and this even sacrifices itself for value), and with devotion. Like Banishing Light, it can make you vulnerable to mid-combat removal, so keep that in mind.
The rating on this is entirely based on it being a 2/1 first strike for two, as the anti-planeswalker ability is unlikely to be relevant. I also like that it’s an enchantment, which is largely a bonus (though that flips on expensive cards, as those are less good for triggering constellation and I care more if they get killed by Disenchant effects).
Steps 1 and 3 on this are both worth a full card, and the best one happens first. This is a 5-mana removal spell with significant upside, making it a very desirable card. It exiles anything, not just creatures, and Step 2 can potentially mess with their plans. I’m looking forward to conquering my opponents with this, and I doubt it’ll be very hard to do so.
Elspeth does a ton for only four mana. She can put tokens into play if you need ground blockers, pump your creatures if you’re on the offensive, and gain life if you’re dying to evasive threats. She would be impressive even without the escape ability, and that really puts her over the top.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
Favored of Iroas is our first linear build-around, where it’s either crap or great depending on how much support it has. If you’re reliably playing enchantments each turn, this is a potent threat, especially if those enchantments happen to pump the Favored, but it’s not great otherwise.
You’ll play the first one of these about half the time, as it can stop removal spells or trigger ETB abilities (such as constellation). It’s even a neat combo with Dreadful Apathy, as you can activate the Apathy and Flicker it in response, exiling the original creature and letting you put Apathy on something else. I’d lean away from playing this without a couple combos, though it’s an effective sideboard card against removal.
Glory Bearers has solid stats and gives you a decent upside if you’re attacking, all while being an enchantment. I don’t hate it if you need another creature, but it’s nothing special.
Heliod will make it very difficult for your opponent to win any kind of long game, and becomes especially strong in decks that can assemble enough devotion. Heliod is also great if you’ve got other sources of lifegain naturally in your deck. Still, all that does add up to a card that can be a little slow, and I have Heliod slightly below bomb level.
I really like Heliod’s Intervention in Limited. It can be a blowout to kill even two enchantments/artifacts, and if you’re lacking in targets you can gain a ton of life. There are matchups where it won’t be what you want (it’s bad against control decks that don’t have targets, for example), but in general I’ll be happy starting this.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
If you have fewer than two targets, this doesn’t pull its weight, but it’s great when you’ve got stuff to get, which I imagine will be plenty of decks. I really like the gameplay of Heliod’s Pilgrim, as it gives you some card selection, a good target for your Auras, and just makes your deck run smoothly.
In aggressive decks, this will often play as a cheap and effective removal spell, but it’s a disaster if they ever get loose before the game ends. As such, I’d largely avoid this in slow decks, but it’s strong in anything faster. It is also a cheap enchantment, so it may make the cut if you’re really hard up for Constellation (or have good ways to recur it).
I’m not that high on the heroic trigger here, as +1/+0 to your team isn’t a huge effect, and it requires you to go wide, have cards like this, and have ways to target them. That said, this is a 2/2 for 2, so you can’t go too wrong.
A 1/4 flier is a fine stat line for 4 mana, and the trigger here does at least come with some evasive damage built in. Still, the same that I said about the previous card applies.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
Paying a 3-mana tax to get your best enchantment is almost never going to be worth it, though if you have a couple really powerful enchantments (think Gods), maybe it’ll fly.
I am high on Indomitable Will in this set, and think it will be a devastating combat trick. It procs Constellation at instant speed, wins fights and leaves behind a huge threat, and doesn’t cost a ton of mana to do so. You do need a fair amount of creatures to make it reliable, but that’s not hard to assemble.
Blessing is a solid trick without the bonus, and can be a huge blowout in decks that rely on Auras/enchantment creatures. If you counter a removal spell with this you are almost assuredly up on mana, and that can be quite a blessing indeed.
Ideally you’ve got a couple targets for the Storyteller, making it a good curve-filler that can bring back some of your best cards in the lategame (and gain you a little life to boot).
The death trigger here is minor, but every now and then will snipe an escape card. Past that, this is an aggressive 2-drop that can provide a decent amount of pressure.
I like the stats plus the enchantment typeline here, and will want this in most of my decks that are base white (10+ Plains).
The Omens grease the wheels nicely in this set, and often pull double duty when it comes to making synergy decks work. This one gives you some tokens for the Heroic theme, an enchantment for Constellation, and a sacrifice effect for BW or RW decks. That’s a lot of minor effects, but they do add up, and plenty of decks will want this.
Phalanx Tactics is a hybrid combat trick, where it’s worse than Inspired Charge on big boards but much betters as an early-game play. That means more decks will want it, but it’s not exciting in really any deck.
The rate is too low for me to be interested in the Wayfarer, as you need to really be jamming on enchantments to make this worth it.
As long as you get three tokens from this, you’ll feel like you got a fine deal, and this already gives you one naturally. Reverent Hoplite is going to be a key part of making go-wide decks work, though it’s good defensively in a control deck that plays to the board as well. Casting a Dreadful Apathy or two into this sounds pretty sweet to me.
I’m a lot lower on sorcery-speed enchantment removal than instants, as mid-combat blowouts are a big part of the value, but I’d still lean towards maindecking a Revoke. The first Disenchant is worth a lot more than the second, as you don’t want to end up with too many dead cards, so keep that in mind.
Are you ready to not rrrrrrrumble??? I’d pass on this unless you were really hard-up for creatures, as it’s just too much mana for too few stats.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.5
I’m low-key excited to try and take advantage of this (eyes emoji), but it’s only good if you’re really working to make it good. It’s a cheap constellation/heroic trigger, and can come back very easily, so in a focused deck it can really make your engine go. That said, it’s too weak by itself, so don’t play this unless you have done your homework.
My general baseline for Wrath effects like this is that I like them at four mana and am not a huge fan at 5+. The reason is that you can take some damage to set up a four-mana sweeper a lot more often, and it even opens the door to playing this and a creature in the same turn. The card draw effect is more of a disadvantage than an advantage, though you can definitely use it to your benefit. Imagine using a 4/4 to hold of a bunch of small creatures off, then getting your card back. It sounds delightful to me, and even if the opponent gets a card, wiping the board at a time of your choosing is very powerful.
Sunmane Pegasus doesn’t come cheap, but it does impact the board nicely. Vigilance and lifelink are among two of the best abilities (after flying) when you’re putting a big Aura onto something, so keep this in mind when drafting a deck with good pump spells.
“Mom, can we get Geist of Saint Traft?”
“No, we have Geist of Saint Traft at home”
*At home: Taranika, Akroan Veteran*
Taranika puts a lot of pressure on the opponent, though she needs a helper in order to do so. She plays very well with pump spells, and even defends well thanks to the double vigilance she offers. I like her more in aggressive decks, but she’s powerful enough to get played in all but the most creature-light of builds.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
Envoy is good for decks that need cheap enchantments and good for decks looking to build a battlecruiser (by dropping a ton of Auras on something). It’s not good elsewhere, making it a classic build-around, though definitely not a transcendent one.
Most decks will have targets for this, and in the worst-case scenario you can buff an opposing creature in order to make it eligible. Putting Sentinel’s Eyes on a 3/3 and then getting a Dawn Evangel trigger sounds great, and isn’t that unrealistic of a play.
Top 5 White Commons
White has a nice suite of commons, with a good mix of removal, threats, and even card advantage in the form of Heliod’s Pilgrim. Its themes look well-supported, even if I am skeptical of the Heroic aspect. White looks good to me this time around, especially given its trajectory over the last year of sets.