It’s taken quite a few weeks to gauge the impact of Theros Beyond Death on Standard. Magic’s most popular competitive format took a backseat to Pioneer in the week’s following Theros’s release due to a trio of highly-publicized Regional Player’s Tours. But last weekend, at the Magic World Championship in Hawaii, we saw long-forgotten strategies surge back to the forefront in Standard, thanks to Theros. Here are the top 10 cards that made the biggest splash on Magic’s most prestigious stage.
Thassa’s Intervention can be a tough sell because of its mana cost, but the flexibility it offers is undeniable. If any opponent plays around the counterspell you were holding up and you have nothing else to do, you’ve wasted your mana for the turn; if any opponent plays around the “counterspell” mode of Thassa’s Intervention, you can cast Dig Through Time instead. That second effect is especially powerful in a combo deck, which explains why both Autumn Burchett and Chris Kvartek opted for four copies in their Temur Reclamation lists. This spell has applications in both Standard and Pioneer, so don’t sleep on the sea god.
Uro was prominent in Blue-Green ramp decks in the early weeks of Standard, but he’s since found a home in Temur Reclamation. Uro provides several benefits to Reclamation players: card draw, ramp, a few points of life to stay afloat, and a slow but inevitable win condition. All four Reclamation players at Worlds opted for three copies of the Elder Giant, and he’s very likely to remain a staple of this strategy.
Of course, if you’re a Reclamation player facing down Mono-Red, a single Uro trigger might not be enough. Reclamation needs sweepers to level the playing field, and Storm’s Wrath matches up well against Mono-Red’s suite of creatures. While its mana cost may be prohibitive, a four-mana sweeper is exactly the release valve that Reclamation needs for aggro match-ups.
Okay, let’s look at things from another perspective: say you’re a Mono-Red player facing down a field of control decks. How will you ever come back after a board-wipe? Anax, Hardened in the Forge is your best bet. If your opponent destroys all your creatures, Anax replaces each one with a satyr token (or maybe two!) so you can cast that Embercleave with ease.
It may seem obvious that Shatter the Sky is a few places higher than Storm’s Wrath on this list – after all, it destroys a wider range of creatures. But Shatter is also a much-needed spell in the deck that wants it, namely Blue-White Control. Four-mana Wraths have been hard to come by in Standard in recent years; now, you won’t have to stretch your manabase to accommodate Kaya’s Wrath. Board-wipes are also more potent than ever in control decks because Teferi, Time Raveler allows you to cast them at instant speed, so think twice before casting that mid-combat Embercleave.
Omen of the Sea may not seem like a high-impact card – it’s an uncommon, after all. But for an initial two-mana investment, you get to dig two or three cards deeper into your deck; plus, you can pay three mana later and see two more cards. When you’re searching for a win condition or a much-needed counterspell, Omen of the Sea can make a huge difference. It also pairs nicely with spells that care about enchantments – more on that later!
Banishing Light is one of the most flexible enchantment-based removal spells ever printed. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa only played two copies in his winning decklist, but they proved to be an effective catch-all answer. Big creatures, Fires of Invention, and disruptive Teferi, Time Ravelers proved no match for Banishing Light.
When you’re playing a control mirror, Elspeth Conquers Death is one of the best tools you can have at your disposal. Exile a permanent, tax your opponents’ mana, and get back the best creature or Planeswalker in your graveyard – what more could you ask for? Players have been singing this card’s praises for weeks, and we’ve only seen a fraction of what it can do so far.
If you’re using Elspeth Conquers Death to get creatures back from your graveyard, Dream Trawler may be your best bet (assuming your opponent was able to answer it). This card is a force to be reckoned with in Theros Beyond Death Limited, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before it saw play in Constructed. Dream Trawler has made appearances in UW Control decks in Standard and Pioneer alike, taking advantage of cheap cantrips like Omen of the Sea and Opt. But even if you haven’t used Teferi’s -3 ability the turn you attack with it, you’re still draining your opponent for five life per turn.
One of the most memorable moments of the Grand Finals was watching a Dream Trawler fail to hold off a horde of flying horses. While it was only a one-of in Damo da Rosa’s main deck, Archon of Sun’s Grace helped the Hall of Famer take out Marcio Carvalho in two fell swoops in Game 1. Surround Archon with enough enchantments – like Omen of the Sea, Banishing Light, and Elspeth Conquers Death – and you’ll have enough Pegasus tokens to take down your next opponent.
Which Theros Beyond Death cards will you be playing in Standard? Let us know on Twitter at @Card_Kingdom!