It feels like it’s been a decade since Throne of Eldraine had our brewer hearts all aflame, but finally the new set Theros Beyond Death is upon us. If you’re anything like me, you’ve had your eyes peeled for powerful cards and cool interactions and have been trying to figure out what improvements can be made to the Standard decks we already know and love (or hate.)
Slaughter-Priest of Mogis is the perfect partner for Priest of Forgotten Gods. You can tell just by looking at them that there will be sparks when these two meet – the chemistry is undeniable. With a single tap from Priest of Forgotten Gods, Slaughter-Priest of Mogis becomes a 6/2. And with the two mana you generate, you can activate Slaughter-Priest of Mogis to give it first strike?! Sign me up.
Slaughter-Priest of Mogis is an easy addition to the existing Rakdos Aristocrats deck. In addition to being a match made in heaven (or hell) for Priest of Forgotten Gods, it also pairs nicely with the Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven combo that’s been popping up all over Standard, as well as staples like Mayhem Devil, Midnight Reaper and even Cavalier of Night.
While White Weenie isn’t currently considered a top tier Standard strategy, the new additions from Theros Beyond Death might just change that. Cards like Reverent Hoplite, Banishing Light and Daxos, Blessed by the Sun are sure to make an impact, but the card that gives the deck the biggest boost is Taranika, Akroan Veteran. A three mana 3/3 with vigilance is already nice value, but it’s her ability to turn early one-drops into indestructible 4/4’s that has me excited. Pair that effect with cards like Venerated Loxodon and Unbreakable Formation, and you can race with the best of them. I can’t wait to target a Healers Hawk with this – attacking for upwards of seven on turn four, with four power of that having flying and vigilance, seems like my kind of nonsense.
The excitement was palpable as Gray Merchant of Asphodal was previewed, with many harkening back to the glory days of Mono-Black Devotion decks. While I don’t quite expect that power level for Gary (with Thoughtseize, Pack Rat and Underworld Connections notably absent), I do see a niche that he would be happy to fill.
Mono-Black decks featuring cards like Gutterbones, Knight of the Ebon Legion, Yarok’s Fenlurker and Rankle, Master of Pranks have seen a slight uptick in the past two months, but they can often fall short of the damage needed to close out a game as opponents stabilize and clog up the board. Here enters Gray Merchant of Asphodel, just the right envoy to take advantage of your… er, devotion. Gary is perched as precariously as the coins on his shoulders at the top of your deck’s curve, waiting to drain the last three to six points of your opponent’s life total.
If you had told me at the beginning of spoiler season that we were combining Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Prismatic Omen into one card — and that this card would cost only three mana and come with four mana — I would have laughed at the absurdity of the idea.
But here we are.
Not only does Dryad of the Ilysian Grove help you ramp to your top-end, it also lets you cast spells of any color. This is as an easy addition to Simic Ramp strategies, and it also means we’re likely to see those decks branch out into third or even fourth colors. Players will no longer have to worry about the poor mana-bases that have been plaguing Standard since rotation. Between this card, Gilded Goose and Paradise Druid, they’ll have all the fixing they need! (Well, green players will, at least.)
In a Standard format full of midrange decks, Gruul Aggro has proven that it has the combination of raw power and the ability to grind needed to become a Standard mainstay. For only three mana, Klothys, God of Destiny is anything but a grueling addition (see what I did there) to these aggressive strategies.
While you’re unlikely to be exiling a land with her second ability, simply dealing two damage to your opponent’s face and gaining two life each turn can be enough to swing a race into your favor. All it takes is curving a Zhur-Taa Goblin into a Gruul Spellbreaker into an Embercleave (or really, almost any three spells from your deck) and you’re swinging with an indestructible 4/5 for three. It seems like Klothys is destined to be included in this deck.
5. Nessian Boar
A five-mana 10/6 seems like a pretty good rate. “But Chantelle,” you say, “there must be some sort of drawback.” Why yes, if by “drawback” you mean “the ability to force through a bunch of damage from other creatures,” because Nessian Boar eats up all opposing blockers. And while your opponent may get to draw a few cards off of Nessian Boar’s triggered ability, card advantage matters very little when you’re dead.
I can see Nessian Boar in the sideboard (and maybe main deck) of any green strategy that needs to be able to push through a board stall and is looking to close out the game more quickly than opponents. This could be decks like Simic Ramp or even Golgari Food, but no deck is looking to do this more than the aforementioned Gruul Aggro. And did we mention Embercleave?
What’s this, another incredibly powerful green card? I’m starting to see a theme arise. Nyxbloom Ancient has Simic Ramp written all over it and will likely be the mirror breaker in that match-up, despite looking like a win-more card at first glance. Curving Nissa, Who Shakes the World into Nyxbloom Ancient means that every Forest taps for a whopping six mana, which translates into a lot of cards for you off of your Hydroid Krasis, a ludicrously large Finale of Devastation, stealing your opponents’ entire board with Mass Manipulation, or even a game-winning Finale of Revelation (because when you’re drawing that many cards off of Hydroid Krasis, you need to be sure you’re not going to deck yourself). Basically, all of that is a long way of saying that this card seems very good.
It has been a long, long, long, long time since we have had a four-mana mono-white Wrath in Standard. In fact, it was the previous Return to Ravnica that we got Supreme Verdict, of which Kaya’s Wrath is a pale imitation. Unlike Kaya’s Wrath, Shatter the Sky can easily slot into Jeskai Fires, which is currently the most popular deck in Standard. While the “Each player who controls a creature with power 4 or greater draws a card” clause could be viewed as a drawback, Jeskai Fires has traditionally struggled with decks that are able to get underneath of its Cavalier-full set up, and having a Wrath on turn four (with or without Fires of Invention in hand) can help shore that up nicely, as previously the deck would be forced to cast Deafening Clarion or use the Granted half of Fae of Wishes on that pivotal turn.
Other decks that have fallen by the wayside could also be reinvigorated by the addition of this card to Standard, such as the Blue-White Control deck that Alexander Hayne took to the most recent Mythic Championship, or even Esper Doom Foretold/Dance of the Manse strategies!
While Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger easily slots into the Rakdos Aristocrats deck we mentioned earlier, I’m most excited to see how it plays in the Jund Sacrifice decks popularized with Piotr Glogowski. The early sacrifice pairs nicely with Mayhem Devil, and a 6/6 for four mana that you can sacrifice to your Witch’s Oven if they ever attempt to remove it seems fantastic. Pair that with the fact that it can punish players with cards in hand to generate more card advantage, or effectively be attacking for nine points of damage, and this seems like exactly the type of mid-to late-game that can help bolster Jund Sacrifice.
Maybe a candidate for most-pushed card, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath has a text box that keeps on giving. Gain three life? Check. Draw a card? Check. Ramp by putting a land card from your hand onto the battlefield? Big check. And then you get to bring Uro back from your graveyard and do it again (and again, and again). The fact that Uro’s 6/6 body is one of the least egregious parts of the card speaks volumes to the power level. It easily slots into Simic Ramp and Simic Flash strategies, as well as decks like Temur Reclamation and Temur Adventures, which makes it an easy number one to top off this list.
One thing is for certain: Theros Beyond Death is one of the most powerful and synergistic sets we’ve seen in recent memory, maybe even paralleling Throne of Eldraine. I cannot wait to begin slotting these new cards into my Standard decks.
A Spike at heart, Chantelle spends her free time prepping for tournaments, working toward the ever-elusive Mythic Championship, and championing other competitive ladies. She’s a combo aficionado and seasoned aggro deck player, and Standard and Modern are her preferred formats. Growing and improving as a player, both technically and in her mental game, are of the utmost importance to her.