Theros Beyond Death released today! New releases affect Standard more than any other format, but I’m here today to talk about which cards will break out of Standard and into Modern. While I don’t think we have a new Oko, Thief of Crowns in this set, we do get some powerful upgrades for existing decks. Let’s take a look!
A lifegain God seeing play in Modern? Surely other players looked at this as skeptically as I did at first, but Heliod has grown on me. For those that have been in the trenches of Modern for a while, you’ll remember the days of Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder teaming up to gain infinite life and +1/+1 counters. Heliod just happens to fill the Archangel of Thune role, but it’s two mana cheaper and much more resilient to removal spells. Heliod and Spike Feeder both cost three mana, so you can find them both with Collected Company and assemble the combo much more easily.
Heliod + Walking Ballista is another combo that players have been talking about, especially Pioneer players. This combo is viable in Modern as well, likely in a Devoted Druid shell. The Devoted Druid decks already plan on killing with Walking Ballista once they have infinite mana, but it seems easy to find room for a single copy of Heliod. Plus, if you can get five white devotion, Heliod is a real attacker and quite hard to race given the activated ability. This backdoor combo provides Devoted Druid with more options should its main game plan get disrupted.
Dredge seems to get a new toy with the printing of Ox of Agonas. However, I don’t think this card will single-handedly push Dredge to the top of the metagame like Cathartic Reunion did. Ox of Agonas isn’t a card designed for speed, but for longevity, similar to Conflagrate. Once you can escape Ox in the midgame, you likely get to dredge 12+ cards, triggering Creeping Chills and adding power to the board. Exiling eight cards to return Ox to the battlefield can be tricky, but Dredge will likely find room for 1-2 copies in of our new farmland friend.
Oh boy, Underworld Breach is a doozy. I’m sure this enchantment will find its way into a variety of different combo decks in the months to come. Its natural home is alongside Grinding Station: Underworld Breach + Grinding Station + a zero-mana artifact will let you mill your entire deck. Once you have no cards in library, Thassa’s Oracle is a win condition that must be countered. If you have an artifact that makes more mana than it costs, such as Mox Amber, you can make piles of mana; winning from that spot with a Grapeshot should be quite easy.
It’s relatively easy to put a lot of your own cards into the graveyard in Modern, but you need to have a payoff. Traditionally, players have turned to Laboratory Maniac or, more recently, Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. Thassa’s Oracle is very close to being a clean upgrade to Laboratory Maniac in all the decks that want it outside of Grishoalbrand. Two decks that would love this effect are Ad Nauseam and the Underworld Breach combo deck mentioned above.
People initially dismissed Dryad of the Ilysian Grove as just another over-costed green mana creature, given that it shares the same cost with Azusa, Lost but Seeking. As the days went by, the applications for Dryad became more obvious. Suddenly, it was showing up in Valakut lists as a replacement for Prismatic Omen, as it gives the ability to deal 36 damage on turn three, which will nearly always be lethal.
Turn 1: Land, Arboreal Grazer, Land
Turn 2 Land, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, Land
Turn 3: Land, Land, Scapeshift
The next innovation was one I didn’t expect: Amulet Titan lists with four Azusas, four Dryads, and two copies of Valakut. This deck also sports a total Mountain count of…zero, relying entirely on Dryad to make Valakut work. Dryad and Primeval Titan are also quite a scary duo to sit across from.
I’m certain we’ll see some other Theros Beyond Death cards pop up across Modern as time goes on, but these are the five that will have the most immediate impact. I’m also excited to see what homes these and many other cards will find across the format. If you think I nailed these predictions — or that I missed something — be sure to let me know on Twitter at @RappaciousOne.
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.