Aaah, can you smell the salt in the air today? No, it’s not just the aftermath of the latest B&R announcement — it’s time to look at blue spoilers for Theros Beyond Death! We’re continuing our countdown to the set’s release by covering each color in turn; check out the white and red spoiler discussions if you need to get up to date!
Theros lends blue mages the power of massive sea monsters, wise philosophers, and inscrutable sphinxes. All are within the portfolio of Thassa, God of the Sea, who returns with another blockbuster card of her own in this new set. What better place to kick things off?
Of the five mono-colored Gods, Thassa had the most to live up to. Her original incarnation as Thassa, God of the Sea is a near-perfect card design that found traction with blue players in both Constructed and Commander.
Luckily, Thassa, Deep-Dwelling appears just as powerful and flexible — essentially a riff on the same design, but with different abilities to build around. We’ve got incremental value on the enchantment side, with an end-step flicker which will be very welcome in Modern Soulherder and similar midrange value lists. The activated ability is quite a mana sink, but does the job well, buying time when you’re behind and potentially getting you over the finish line as well. In addition to her potential as a Commander and titan-enabler, Thassa’s apparently a real pleasure to date — I expect a lot of blue players to go steady with the Sea God in 2020!
If you’re not a fan of Thassa, that’s alright — the other blue mythic promotes the legend of her most famous embarrassment! This saga is an interesting one to evaluate: the mammoth mana cost offers essentially three big-time Commander sorceries stapled together. The value is certainly there, but can you afford to wait three turns after casting a seven-mana spell to get its full effect?
Perhaps the easier way to look at this card (especially outside Standard and Limited) is as a payoff for effects which can cheat enchantments into play. High-cost bombs like Griselbrand and Platinum Emperion show that being a best-in-type payoff is all a card needs to be viable. While not quite as impressive as Omniscience, Kiora Bests the Sea God does actually threaten to end the game by itself; plus, it’s more plausible to cast and works better in multiples. In Standard, it definitely looks like the big payoff for Archon of Falling Stars, Calix, Destiny’s Hand, or even Dance of the Manse.
It’s also worth noting that, as a saga, you can flicker it or otherwise mess with the counters to create a nearly unbeatable Kraken engine — or tap your opponent’s board forever. I look forward to experiencing both modes at a Commander table sometime soon.
Speaking of cards I expect to see in Commander, Nadir Kraken is the impatient mage’s Chasm Skulker, offering two additional power and toughness on the board as you draw cards. While it’s more vulnerable to removal than Drake Haven, it lacks that enchantment’s tight deck-building restrictions. I’m sure we’ll see Nadir Kraken in tempo/counter shells as well due to its low CMC, where it acts as a blue Nightpack Ambusher. Its ability can also be fully utilized by Fires of Invention decks as a mana sink!
Tempo/flash decks may not need green anymore given all the blue options that Wizards has offered us in Theros. Wavebreak Hippocamp is a little fragile in a meta starring Bonecrusher Giant, but the payoff for a deck that can protect it is definitely worthwhile. This is likely to play like Tireless Tracker or Dread Presence: you’re most likely to cast it on turn four so you can guarantee an Opt follow-up. Between countermagic, Brazen Borrower, and some of blue’s other new options, you should absolutely be able to get a card from this for every turn that it survives.
Into a crowded field of Standard X-cost draw spells strides Thassa’s Intervention, ready to scrap for its place in blue decks everywhere. While it’s tough to displace bombs like Hydroid Krasis and Gadwick, the Wizened, this Intervention could actually sneak in on its playability as a counterspell! Yes, a three-mana Quench is not the most on-rate answer, but the added flexibility makes this a great card for any flash deck.
Choosing between countering an opponent’s play or reloading the hand if they fail to produce a threat is the most classic game plan there is for control. Having both options at a playable rate in one card makes me very excited. People will absolutely sleep on this card until it starts showing up as a one-of from Standard to Modern to Highlander.
This card is one of my favorites in the whole set! There’s just so much that’s unique and cool about Thryx: the two relevant creature types, the size and abilities relative to its cost, and the explosive potential of the static ability as a build-around.
Thryx’s static ability makes it especially effective as a “bridging card” for ramp decks — like UGx Elementals! — and their payoffs. Notably, you can cast Thryx on your opponent’s turn, untap, and drop Kiora Bests the Sea God for a brutal one-two punch. In Simic Flash, Thryx essentially guarantees a resolved Nissa, Who Shakes the World — either they counter your Thryx on their end step and leave their shields down, or it resolves and you get to cast an uncounterable Nissa!
Blue is definitely winning the race in terms of fun and exciting card designs so far, and Medomai’s Prophecy at uncommon is going to be a blast for Limited… and maybe even for Standard, too! The amount of card selection here is not bad for two mana, and the flexibility of being able to just name a card in your hand if you don’t like the cards you scry means you’re nearly guaranteed to get that value.
The thing that really stands out about this card, though, is how open-ended it is in allowing big plays. Like the similar Omen of the Sea, Medomai’s Prophecy leaves a permanent to sacrifice or bounce afterwards (you don’t need the last chapter here). It also allows you to name any card, and I can’t wait to see what sort of mind games that freedom creates. When you consider that this already-good blue effect puts itself into the graveyard as an enchantment, it’s very likely that an Esper build of Dance of the Manse or an enchantment-focused Bant midrange deck will be sleeving up Medomai’s Prophecy.
In a highly entertaining and enlightening design article this week, Theros Beyond Death design lead Mark Gottlieb revealed that Thassa’s Oracle was nearly printed without its win-the-game clause. I’m very glad it wasn’t — that ability upgrades the card from barely-remarkable uncommon to disruptive consideration in multiple constructed formats!
It’s blasphemy to think this merfolk might fit better than the Lab Man for the Lab Plan, one executed by combo decks from Modern’s Cheerios and Ad Nauseam to Oops, All Spells in Legacy (and many, many Commander lists featuring Hermit Druid). But aside from costing less than Maniac, the Oracle critically does not ask you to actually draw on an empty deck — an action which, in most cases, leaves you vulnerable to losing the game should an opponent respond by removing Lab Man! Thassa’s Oracle doesn’t even need to be in play when its trigger resolves in order for you to win, and should someone Stifle your first attempt, you’re still in the game to try again.
As always in Magic, old cards give way to the new, and combo decks become very slightly stronger. At least Lab Man fans can hold out hope that its Human typing (for Angel of Glory’s Rise) and gentler color requirement will ensure there’s at least some argument to keep him around.
It’s an oddball for sure, but this uncommon has more going for it than just the excellent Clint Clearly artwork. It’s essentially both halves of the new Underworld Breach/Brain Freeze combo in one card, just in Standard instead of Legacy. Considering that Standard now has TWO self-mill win conditions, it would be foolish to go past a card which guarantees you can exile your library as soon as it’s drawn or milled. The bottleneck in this plan becomes your mana, making this a narrow but reliable payoff card for massive mana combos.
In Standard, our infinite mana options are limited, especially in blue. But if we look further to Pioneer, I can see a lot of potential for this as the end game of the Twiddle Storm deck! One of the soft points of current lists is their lack of a firm sink for their Lotus Field mana — Sweet Oblivion is the kind of slot-efficient and reliable kill a heavy combo deck loves to see.
Small brain: “Neat, a Flusterstorm alternative to help against Storm-like combos in Pioneer!”
Medium brain: “Hey, this is the best Limited counterspell we’ve had in a while! It’s pretty much splashable Cancel!”
It takes something special for a common to sneak into this sort of discussion, but Thirst for Meaning has an excellent pedigree as an instant draw spell. If this opens up enchantment builds (which traditionally struggle to see extra cards) while looking half as good as Thirst for Knowledge, it will have an impact. In Theros Beyond Death Limited, this will be a definitive effect, especially alongside the white and black cards that care about enchantments in graveyards.
Thirst for Meaning could also sneak into enchantment-heavy Standard builds (like Bant), but I would be most excited to see what this opens up in Pauper, where its rate is competitive and enchantments are underutilized.
As you can see, there’s a whole swath of blue cards I expect to make waves in different formats once Theros Beyond Death releases. If you want to see some of them in action, check out the Arena preview event tomorrow! (I’ll be playing, as will Card Kingdom, thanks to Wizards!) Then, on Thursday, we must make a journey to the underworld, where we’ll be looking at the best cards in black!
Tom’s fate was sealed in 7th grade when his friend lent him a pile of commons to play Magic. He quickly picked up Boros and Orzhov decks in Ravnica block and has remained a staunch white magician ever since. A fan of all Constructed formats, he enjoys studying the history of the tournament meta. He specializes in midrange decks, especially Death & Taxes and Martyr Proc. One day, he swears he will win an MCQ with Evershrike. Ask him how at @AWanderingBard, or watch him stream Magic at twitch.tv/TheWanderingBard.