Last weekend I went at GP Austin, not to play Oko Modern, but to practice and then compete in the Team Series Finals between my team, Hareruya Sword, and Ultimate Guard! The format was Theros Beyond Death Draft, which nobody had played yet.
It was a great experience because we practiced Team Draft non-stop from 9 AM to 8 PM on Friday and Saturday. It was even more special because the set we were playing with—Theros Beyond Death—had not yet been released, and we barely knew the cards!
It was amazing getting to play with the real cards, and I hope in the future they’ll hold more tournaments like this.
So, who better than me to explain to you what to do in this weekend’s prerelease?
This weekend you’re not going to choose any color, or any guild—you’ll receive six boosters and a promo rare that you’ll be able to play, so we’ll treat this prerelease like a normal Sealed, and in my article today I’m going to show you the various colors and what to expect from each of them.
To kick things off is black, which according to our testing, is the best color in Theros Beyond Death as it’s super deep. Basically every common except Fruit of Tizerus is playable (that one really isn’t!) and you can never end up short of playables if you choose black as one of your colors.
Venomous Hierophant is crucial if you want to play escape cards, and the escape mechanic is by far the best one in the set. It provides never-ending card advantage, as escape cards (like Mogis’s Favor) don’t get exiled once they get put in the graveyard again, and you can use them over and over, making self mill cards—like Funeral Rites—very important if you plan on getting the maximum value out of your escape cards. On top of it, Venomous Hierophant has a solid body, ready to fight with anything, as well as getting through the high toughness in this format (Riptide Turtle above all, which is a perfectly fine playable in this set).
Rage-Scarred Berserker looks like filler, and a 5-drop you wouldn’t really miss, but the more we played with this Minotaur the more we liked him. 5 power is crucial in this format, as many defensive creatures have five toughness to block the many four power threats that green and red present.
It certainly isn’t a staple in black, but it’s a card that hardly gets cut in Draft, though obviously it could be in Sealed.
Black pairs best with green, and this in fact was the combination that we found to be the most successful. It’s also what I victoriously drafted in the first Draft on Sunday of the Team Series Finals.
B/G Escape – 2-0 vs. Jon Finkel
1 Chainweb Aracnir 1 Moss Viper 1 Mire Triton 1 Lampad of Death's Vigil 2 Hyrax Tower Scout 1 Loathsome Chimera 1 Nyx Herald 1 Nyxborn Marauder 1 Pharika's Spawn 1 Venomous Hierophant 1 Acolyte of Affliction 3 Rune-Scarred Berserker 1 Enemy of Enlightnment 1 Omen of the Dead 1 Traveler's Amulet 1 Return to Nature 1 Relentless Pursuit 1 Funeral Rites 1 Pharika's Liberation 1 Aspect of Lamprey 1 Final Death 8 Forest (347) 8 Swamp (339)
The second best color in Draft we found to be green, but it’s possible that in Sealed Green could be the best, as it has the best rares and uncommons.
Green’s plan is the classic “large creatures with trample,” and it does it very well.
The best common is Warbriar Blessing, which is not only removal, but triggers heroic, and it’s an enchantment aura that you can return to your hand or tutor for. It even buffs toughness, making it a truly outstanding card.
This enabler isn’t a simple two-for-one like Funeral Rites—it gives you card selection and it digs deeper for those escape cards. We started liking this card, and we ended up loving it. It’s very powerful.
Ilysian Caryatid and Omen of the Hunt are two great tools for splashing, which in this format isn’t really supported. Along with these two commons we only have Altar of the Pantheon, Traveler’s Amulet and Unknown Shores, which make splashing really hard outside of green.
As a general rule remember that you need at least 3 sources to splash one card and 4 to splash two. So if you want to play green-white and splash Purphoros’s Intervention I suggest you have at least 1 Caryatid, 1 Omen, and 1 Mountain. If you want to splash Fateful End because you’re in need of removal you can add Unknown Shores, which doesn’t shine, but can always be a fine addition when you need fixing for a Sealed deck.
Green-white is a good strategy, as the heroic mechanic can be very powerful, and I’d love to share with you one of my drafts which was definitely the most fun I’ve had in this format thus far.
G/W Heroic – Testing
2 Skola Grovedancer 2 Destiny Spinner 1 Eidolon of Obstruction 1 Hyrax Tower Scout 1 Heliod's Pilgrim 3 Siona, Captain of the Pyleas 1 Loathsome Chimera 1 Setassan Champion 1 Voracious Typhon 1 Nyxborn Colossus 4 Sentinel's Eyes 2 Karametra's Blessing 1 Setassan Training 1 Dreadful Apathy 2 Relentless Pursuit 1 Temple of Plenty 8 Forest (347) 7 Plains (331)
White doesn’t particularly stand out, but it’s capable of doing some nasty things. I’m usually in love with aggro strategies in Draft, and white delivered, though it will be harder to build those decks in sealed.
Dreadful Apathy not only is a Pacifism that you can tutor for with Heliod’s Pilgrim, but it’s also a way to exile an escape creature that can be sacrificed with something like Lampad of Death’s Vigil or Skophos Warleader.
On top of that, Dreadful Apathy gives birth to one of my favorite combo in Theros Limited with Flicker of Fate, as you’re able to activate Dreadful Apathy’s ability to exile enchanted creature, then you can blink it with Flicker of Fate, put it on a different creature and still being able to exile the previous enchanted creature!
Flicker of Fate has been outstanding, and I want one in every white deck. You’re also able to blink Sagas, on top of it just being able to save your creature from a removal spell or make Auras fall off of opposing creatures. My favorite trick with Flicker of Fate has been in a Boros deck with Iroas’s Blessing, as I was able to move the Aura to a different creature to win that combat war, as well as getting the ETB effect and dealing 4 more damage to a different creature. I also had a great turn against Paul Rietzl in the Grand Finals of Team Series where I was able to reset my Tymaret Calls the Dead on turn 4 after it already made two Zombie tokens!
Karametra’s Blessing looks like an unassuming combat trick, that just gives +2/+2 for one white mana, but it’s much more in this format, as giving hexproof and indestructible to an Enchantment or Enchanted Creature really means a lot. Many of your creatures will qualify in this format, and this card can lead to very big blowout, way better than any normal combat trick.
Sentinel’s Eyes is another perfect addition to white decks, as it triggers heroic from Hero of the Pride and Hero of the Winds, as well as being an aura that can easily return from graveyard if the enchanted creature dies. I am normally a hater of Auras, but in Theros Beyond Death there are plenty of Auras that are recurring, or have a good enters-the-battlefield effect, making the concept of an Aura card being bad pretty obsolete.
White has also the ability to go wide, with cards like Omen of the Sun and Reverent Hoplite, and with anthems like Phalanx Tactics and Hero of the Pride. This build is harder to happen because it’s more based around good uncommons, but White has been pretty underrated in our Draft, and by Ultimate Guard so far, so I believe it could be a viable strategy.
B/W Aggro – 2-1 vs. Paul Rietzl
1 Mire Triton 1 Hero of the Pride 1 Leonin of the Lost Pride 1 Daxos, Blessed by the Sun 1 Eidolon of Obstruction 2 Underworld Charger 1 Tymaret Calls the Dead 1 Omen of the Sun 1 Taranika, Akroan Veteran 1 Sunmane Pegasus 1 Venomous Hierophant 1 Lagonna-Band Storyteller 1 Nightmare Shepherd 1 Rage-Scarred Bersker 1 Reverent Hoplite 1 Daybreak Chimera 2 Karametra's Blessing 1 Mogis's Favor 1 Omen of the Dead 1 Flicker of Fate 1 Phalanx Tactics 9 Plains (331) 8 Swamp (339)
Red is a color capable of wearing multiple masks, and the one that can make a pretty pair with every single color. Blue-red has a very nice theme of playing spells in your opponent’s turn, red-white is aggro heroic, green-red is a very good beatdown strategy and red-black, my favorite one, has a good grindy value aspect.
Red commons aren’t exciting, as you have very many fillers and cards that you’d rather not play. Red is not deep at all, that’s why it has to be a backup color, and often is just needed for its removal (Omen of the Forge and Iroas’s Blessing at common), although it has some very good two-drops that are important to curve with.
Underworld Rage-Hound is the two-drop that overperformed the most—it’s the cheapest of the common escape creatures, and it easily gets into the graveyard and comes back. It plays the best with green and black as those are the colors that manage to fill the graveyard the easiest, letting you return the Hound over and over as a 4/2. Also we discovered our love for Rage-Scarred Berserker especially when paired with this creature.
I’m going to show you a very good R/B deck that Lee Shi Tian drafted, and that served as a very good archetype for the team.
R/B Escape – Testing
Lee Shi Tian
2 Hateful Eidolon 1 Blood Aspirant 1 Underworld Rage-Hound 1 Oread of Mounain's Blaze 1 Incendiary Oracle 1 Soulreaper of Mogis 1 Hero of the Games 1 Underworld Charger 2 Nyxborn Marauder 1 Pharika's Spawn 1 Rage-Scarred Berserker 1 Dreamshaper Shaman 1 Mogis's Favor 1 Omen of the Forge 1 Mire's Grasp 1 Inevitable End 1 Final Flare 1 Pharika's Libation 2 Iroas's Blessing 1 Final Death 9 Swamp (339) 8 Mountain (343)
This deck is a masterpiece, and this is why Lee Shi Tian is a master of the game. He stormed off with Hateful Eidolon, having an insane amount of good cards with it. First removal spells like Mire’s Grasp, Inevitable End and Mogis’s Favor, but also enchanting his own creature with Iroas’s Blessing and then sacrificing it with the plenty ways he had was pretty cool. It’s definitely a deck that doesn’t always come together, but it can be great when it does. Portent of Betrayal is also excellent here.
Last is blue, my least favorite color so far. I tried drafting a bunch of various blue control decks, but they all failed against the escape menace, whereas blue-white heroic was a solid strategy that I think will be the best way to maximize the color blue.
Thirst for Meaning reminds all of us at Thirst for Knowledge, and if you’ve played Cube Draft you know how powerful Thirst is there. While Thirst is a very powerful common, I found the rest of the color to be shallow, and in particular weak to other grindy strategies in different colors.
Whenever I tried to draft a control deck, Riptide Turtle and Deny the Divine shined and I was very happy with the first one against the various aggro decks green, red or white, as they rarely can overcome a 5-toughness blocker. You also have Nyxborn Seaguard, and these two creatures are why I like Rage-Scarred Berserker so much.
Blue does have some powerful uncommons and rares that can hook you up in that color, so if you open one of these it’s fine to go here, just make sure to find a way to fight escape threats and to build a proper defense to eventually win with fliers or Sweet Oblivion.
Blue Control – Testing
1 Eidolon of Philosophy 1 Mire Triton 1 Threnody Singer 1 Vexing Gull 1 Riptide Turtle 2 Naiad of Hidden Coves 1 Elite Instructor 1 Nyxborn Seaguard 1 Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths 1 Polukranos, Unchained 2 Shoal Kraken 1 Witness of Tomorrows 2 Traveler's Amulet 1 Mire's Grasp 1 Omen of the Sea 1 Whirlwind Denial 2 Deny the Divine 1 Thirst for Meaning 1 Memory Drain 1 One with the Stars 9 Island (335) 6 Swamp (339) 2 Forest (347)
To close this super long article about Theros Beyond Death Limited I’ll add some deckbuilding tips:
- Always maindeck Return to Nature and Revoke Existance, and if you’re short on removal you can even play two. You won’t regret them.
- Unless you’re an Aggro deck with solid manabase, you should always play Traveler’s Amulet, as it helps smooth your manabase by acting like a slower Evolving Wilds, as well as filling your graveyard for your escape cards.
- Sideboard in Starlit Mantle or Final Flare if your opponent has a removal spell heavy deck, those aren’t as good maindeck, but I often sideboarded them in.
- Wrap in Flames can target your creatures as well as your opponent’s, meaning that you can target a Hero of the Games and pump your team, as well as making two of your opponent’s creature not block.
- Klothys’s Design isn’t an amazing card, but if you have Nylea’s Forerunner or multiple Setassan Trainings, it could become a proper win condition.
- Constellation creatures aren’t necessarily enchantments, so if you have played old Theros make sure not to get confused when you have a creature that has Constellation on it.
- Nessian Hornbeetle doesn’t trigger if it’s the only 4 power creature you control, for example with an Aspect of the Manticore on it, whereas Stampede Rider does.
- Some Auras can only be used on your creatures (like Setessan Training) and some can be used on your opponent’s (like Mogis’s Favor).
- We finally have a destroy enchantment in Black, and it’s an instant speed one: Pharika’s Libation.
- Altar of the Pantheon is playable but not something I was ever interested in while drafting. If you open some bomb rare worth splashing and aren’t playing Green, it’s justifiable to play, but I’d rather play Unknown Shores.
- Sea God’s Scorn isn’t Sea God’s Revenge. Bestow doesn’t exist anymore and this isn’t as good as Sea God’s Revenge was in past Theros. It’s still a solid card in Green-Blue, but time’s have changed.
That’s it for me, I hope that this article not only will give you a proper preparation for the Prerelease, but will help you in the future drafts of this format, which looks very cool and interesting.