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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
May 02 2014 1:27pm
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

> summary <

 Another block bites the dust. Journey into Nyx concludes our exploration of the plane of Theros (at least for now, but I can't really see such a top-down design spawning a sequel anytime soon), and to me it was an experience rich in flavor, but poor in the balance between what looks cool and what IS cool. Or better, what translates the fascination of a theme or trope into a fascinating game experience. Seeing the Werewolves undergo their transformation by physically changing the nature of their cards along their power level? That was cool. Seeing the mighty Greek heroes mostly getting a +1/+1 counter when you target them? Meh.

 Of course the biggest disappointment was that THIS picture by Clint Cearley didn't turn out to be part of the block.

Then again, maybe this means they won't be just a 1/2 enchantment creature with islandwalk and bestow 5.

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the focus is on all the Constructed applications, and the tribes are listed alphabetically, but you'll find a list by number of new additions at the end

 Infodump

  • Cards: 165
  • New cards: 161
  • New creatures: 87
  • Reprinted cards: 4
  • Reprinted creatures: 1 (Bladetusk Boar)
  • Creature types affected: 45

Archer: +1

> summary <

 Archer is not a very small tribe (this one gets them past 50 members online, but it doesn't get a new member often. This one is a double French vanilla sporting two relevant keywords. Could have been worse.


Beast: +3

  

> summary <

 Nothing particularly exciting on the Beast side of things. We got a monstrous quota filler, a bestow quota filler (not that bad, though, fellow Beasts like Uril can use a +4/+1 boost for 5 with added recursion, and the downside is negligible), and then Nessian Game Warden which might even see some play, because card selection is always interesting and the ratio between cost, body and effect is decent enough.


Cat: +3

  

> summary <

 Three white Cats, one vanilla with high power, two heroics with nice effects. And if Leonin Iconoclast (who's also a Monk) feels mostly useful in the block's meta, Tethmos High Priest (who's also a Cleric) is genuinely appealing: the CMC is moderate, and if you have some Rancor to slap on him (and in a Cat deck, you probably do), you get to resurrect a key member of your team like most notably Wild Nacatl and Qasali Pridemage. Worth considering.


Centaur: +3

> summary <

 Centaurs get a couple of bland heroic dudes, and... a Centaur lord! It's not a secret that I don't particularly like the kind of linear lord that just pumps its fellow tribesmen, but they're insanely popular and generally mark the moment when a tribe is perceived as such outside the Legacy Tribal Wars world as well, so Wizards has been typically eager to make its audience happy by printing more and more of them. Centaur was one of the tribes that got the spotlight in Theros block, growing from 33 to 47 members over the course of the three sets, and getting very interesting new additions like Fanatic of Xenagos and of course Courser of Kruphix. It clearly felt relatively big and well-known enough to need a lord already. And well, Pheres-Band Warchief, at the price of being maybe a bit slow and frail, at least doesn't stop at just a body boost, providing two relevant abilities like vigilance and trample as well. The latter being particularly welcome in its interaction with Stonebrow, Krosan Hero.


Chimera: +3

  

> summary <

 The last act in the big Chimera boost (the tribe passed from 4 to 12 members during Theros block) involves remembering that they were originally just a bunch of bad artifact creatures. So here's a new bad artifact Chimera to celebrate that notion! Also, an enchantment creature that's a fast flyer threatening to return itself to hand (but also promising combo enabling if you're clever), in the tradition of Esperzoa. Finally, one of those Izzet things that might do well occasionally (scry 1 for 4? eh, but what if you had Emrakul on top, right?), but probably won't.


Cleric: +2

> summary <

 Other than the Cat one, Clerics get... the constellation version of a Soul Sister? With some way to turn that life into damage. And it's a bear-level creature, after all. Might turn out useful, if narrow.


Cockatrice: +1

> summary <

 Behold the third Cockatrice in existence! They're a proper tribe now! We had gotten a new one in Magic 2014 last summer, and now this angry parrot, which might either be a very expensive pseudo-removal or a very expensive finisher. And now they are a double-green one, a double-black one and a Simic one. Good luck with that mana base, Cockatrice players. How is it that 20 years later, Cockatrice is now suddenly a thing again? Hard to tell.


Cyclops: +2

> summary <

 One of the two new Cyclops is a vanilla monstrous filler, but hey, the other is a new universal haste provider. Those are always welcome, but it's a big awkward in this case because Cyclops had Madrush Cyclops already, and that's 2 mana less and not boltable. This if for Standard, you say? Or just for straight mono-red builds? Well, that would be true if there weren't a certain thing called Hammer of Purphoros already. Aside from a Commander deck where you really need redundancy on universal haste, I can't even see this guy being favored over Urabrask or, you know, Maelstrom Wanderer.


Demon: +1

> summary <

 This is big, isn't it? I mean, he's a big, fat Demon for sure (with great flavor), but it's also one of those cards that immediately strike your inner Spike bell. Remember when people were crazy about a black 5/5 for 4 that would damage you at each upkeep? Other times for sure, but what we've got here is a 5/5 flyer for 3. We're in the kind of situation where if you don't immediately have a way to deal with him, your game starts looking dire (and quick). Granted, our chubby friend here is actively helping you to find removal. And he's card disadvantage on a stick. But I bet he will be played all the same. They're really trying to make Demon decks fast and faster.


Dragon: +1

> summary <

 You may know I have a big red type of deck that I cherish in Modern, and always try to improve since when they took Seething Song away from me. It's already based on the number of mountains due to Koth of the Hammer being one of the main ramp engines. So when I saw this Dragon (which is, make no mistake, very much an obligatory dragon), I wondered if it might have a place in a deck that ramps through mountains already. Probably not, though.


Elemental: +3

 

> summary <

 All the Elementals in Journey into Nyx are common, so we couldn't expect much. And indeed not much is exactly what we get: a vanilla dude and two uninspired constellation posterboys.


Elk: +1

> summary <

 So, Elk got a mana bear. It's a good thing for the tribe (that already had an excellent accelerator in Dawntreader Elk), so now they can, I don't know, drop Axebane Stag one turn earlier. The new setup of the tribe doesn't look that bad, anyway (considering we're talking Elk here), and Golden Hind is a pretty decent mana dork in general.


Giant: +4

   

> summary <

 The flavor of Giants as Titans has been rightfully played up in Theros block, that has ended up adding a total of 12 new members to the tribe. The last four are a kaleidoscope of colors, and interesting cards too. The most interesting of which is Bearer of Heavens, Theros's take on Atlas (who, it's worth reminding, has always held up the Heavens, not the Earth: that globe you see in his usual representations is meant to be the "celestial sphere"). It's sort of a more drastic Child of Alara, and it's bound to be used as an endgame enabler (probably after cheating him into play somehow), maybe paired up with something like (Great Gargadon). Doomwake Giant is one of the most rewarding application of the constellation mechanic, considering his cost is balanced, and you don't need to wait for another enchantment to trigger the effect, which is what makes constellation potentially worthwhile. Quarry Colossus goes for a similar ETB effect that turns your big guy into removal, but 7 mana are probably too many, and you have the annoying downside of not being able to drop him onto an empty board, because the effect is mandatory and he would just end up tucking himself away. Finally, Swarmborn Giant is surely impressive as a 6/6 for 4 (possibly becoming an 8/8 reach later). I don't know that that drawback can be really handled, though. In a world where Polukranos exists, Swarmborn Giant just manages to feel cute.


God: +5

  

 

> summary <

 I can't tell what's the deal with these last 5 Gods being some of the best of the entire tribe, but that's actually the case. In particular, Iroas the Boros God and Keranos the Izzet God, both essentially sporting a set of two abilities (wasn't that something only the major, monocolored Gods could do?) seem to be positioned to drive new builds, one where white and red creatures bring hell to the board, and the other where you get a free card or a free Lightning Bolt each turn, which yes, it's nuts. Kruphix the Simic God, with his Omnath-like eternal mana, is also potentially going to spearhead a new kind of ramp (in Commander for sure), much more than Karametra could (it's a bit disappointing that both the Selesnya and the Simic God are just about ramping, though. Shades of the fact that Theros felt like a very derivative and unoriginal design). And then we have two 3-mana Gods more (after Thassa), to Zur's great satisfaction. And if Pharika the Golgari God is probably the most underwhelming of the whole lot (just a strictly worse Necrogenesis, even if we still have to keep in mind that all these guys have the potential to turn into big indestructible finishers at a moment's notice), Athreos the Orzhov God sets the table for a combo deck that faces the opponent with the choice between losing 3 life or giving you infinitely recursive creatures. I don't know how that will actually play out, since it's a punisher mechanic after all, so the actual outcome is beyond the player's control; but just think what happens when those creatures you keep sacrificing have nasty ETB effects you aim to recur. It becomes a veritable trick or treat to the opponent.

 All in all, the 15 Gods left a mark in the game, and will show up in Standard decks while legal and in Modern decks for a long time afterwards. And I hope the subtype will now be visited upon each time in a plane there will be something godlike, even without the devotion mechanic (the Kamigawa Myojins and the Shadowmoor Demigods could all use a retroactive rebranding).


Hound: +3

  

> summary <

 Not a lot of good new stuff for the Hounds, but not terrible stuff either. Akroan Mastiff is certainly an overcosted tapper (the color-shifted functional reprint of Ostiary Thrull, no less), but Mogis's Warhound is a good bestow creature that works well in the kind of fast aggro red decks you can easily build with the Hounds. And Wildfire Cerberus has a monstrous monstrosity cost, but hey, that's a one-sided Pyroclasm you get (plus some damage to the opponent's dome).


Human: +16

> summary <

 The new Humans are one Archer, one Cleric, two Rogues, two Shamans, four Soldiers, two Warriors, and three Wizards. Plus the Theros plane's take on King Midas. With the difference that while the Midas of the Greek myth just died of starvation, this one has found out he can use his golden touch to kill his enemies. Good thinking, King Macar. The whole process involves an inspired trigger, which means you need to find a way to tap him that doesn't cause him to just go risk his precious life in combat (even better if you can tap AND untap him at will). The result is rewarding though, since you even get one of those sweet Gold tokens from Gild. Flavorful AND useful.


Hydra: +2

 

> summary <

 What a great year for the Hydras. Between M14 and Theros block the tribe has received 8 new members, and some of them were among the best ever, like Kalonian Hydra or Polukranos, World Eater. The Hydra tour ends with two other strong representative of the multi-necked family: Heroes' Bane is Chameleon Colossus that trades one point of CMC and the protection to make its geometrical boost permanent. In an era where green mana production is at an all-time high, and giving your creatures some form of evasion is easy enough, this extreme mana dump might be worth a shoot. Hydra Broodmaster takes a complementary approach: dumping mana into it results not in one giant creature, but in a swarm of cute little Hydras (how little, it depends on the size of the mana dump). It's a one-shoot deal, though, and until that you only get a vanilla 7/7 for 6, so the Broodmaster definitely ranks lower in the Hydra scale than her abovementioned companion.


Insect: +1

> summary <

 Who follows my articles probably knows that I have a fascination for the Insects (as a Magic tribe, I mean. I don't usually go around covered in cockroaches like some pretty lady). It's a big, weird, strangely underwhelming tribe that can do great things all the same. I'm always waiting for the next good member to show up, and Journey into Nyx slips a little nice Insect here with this Brain Maggot being a functional reprint of Mesmeric Fiend. It's certainly useful to have this kind of thing in your Insect arsenal, and probably in general, as this is now an enchantment (which, granted, might alternatively be a good or a bad thing), and Modern-legal.


Kraken: +1

> summary <

 All right, so there was a hidden cycle here, right? A series of monocolored big guys with a "our basic land type matters" ETB effect. A Beast for the forests, a Dragon of the mountains, a Giant for the plains, this Kraken for the islands... and where's the swamp guy? Oh, here it is, with a slightly different deal. This one isn't bad, anyway. If you manage to drop it late enough, it essentially comes with a built-in (and abusable) Cyclonic Rift for creatures. It'll see a lot of play in Commander. See how it uses the magical plural "opponents"?


Lamia: +1

> summary <

 Ladies and gentlemen... after 20 years of lacking the Lamia type, Magic: The Gathering has now fixed this oversight. Look, it's flavorful, with the mythical Lamia being of course from Greek mythology and all. But that's just one reason more to not really get why they felt like introducing this well-known monster (that populated uncountable paintings and poems and stories) to the galaxy of the MTG subtypes, but then they made her into a totally forgettable, overcosted and frail constellation creature. Once you bring such an iconic presence to your playground as a one-of (so far, but it's so strongly attached to the Greek setting that I don't know that we'll get more anytime soon), you might have wanted to make her a mythic rare, maybe. And maybe one that would do something actually connected with the Lamia of the myth.


Leech: +1

> summary <

 So, this is Leech number 10 (number 9 online). Leech was a tribe first seen in The Dark, then in Urza's Saga, but mostly in Invasion (where we got half of its lineup). In the past 14 years, we got a Leech in Time Spiral (Mana Skimmer), and then the most famed of all, Putrid Leech in Alara Reborn. And now this Squelching Leeches, which are a ground Nightmare and part of the "basic lands matter" cycle. Go Leeches?


Lizard: +1

> summary <

 I know this Lizard looks unassuming, and it is actually nothing particularly worthwhile, but you know, fast aggro, two-powered two-drop that fixes your deck while doing what it's supposed to do, which is turning sideways... I wouldn't be surprised to see it played. Sometimes you don't need flashy.


Merfolk: +3

  

> summary <

 The Merfolk have a few stuff going on here, most notably a universal looter where you choose, so it's sort of looting plus fatesealing somehow. I can't tell if it's actually effective or just a bit awkward. The heroic guy goes into a territory that Merfolk decks don't usually tread onto, which is recursion-based combo. Still, it's solid but a bit slow, and needs a heroic trigger, which is what typically kills all heroic cards that aren't just meant to wear auras and smash faces. And Triton Shorestalker looks like nothing new for the tribe, but it's actually the only unblockable 1-drop. Considering the Merfolk are always bound to become huge later, this guy can do some damage without resorting to islandwalk enablers.


Minotaur: +3

  

> summary <

 Final assessment of the Minotaur adventure in Theros block: +16 new members (that brought them over 50), several lords, an overall uptick in their power level and street cred. Among the last additions there's a good bestow guy that doubles as a strong one-drop for aggro builds that put emphasis on speed, and a deathtouch-providing lord for a fair price.


Nautilus: +1

> summary <

 Theros having a Greek setting, and Ancient Greece being strongly linked to the Mediterranean, resulted in a particular prominence of sea creatures. To be honest, I always felt like MTG designers have a weird obsession about sealife, what with all those creature types devoted to unlikely protagonists of a fantasy game like Oyster and Sponge and Starfish. And Nautilus, of course. So here's the second one ever (after Chambered Nautilus from Mercadian), which is actually a very solid bestow creature that steals the Illusion tribe's thunder as far as being an undercosted body that dies to any targeting goes. (In fact, this was so clearly designed to be an Illusion that it had to take a very strong will to involve an obscure, forgotten subtype to make it a Nautilus. I guess you can see it as hahttp://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=270959ving an apparently tough shell which is actually frail?)


Nymph: +5

  

 

> summary <

 After the first Nymph cycle in Theros, which was based on bestow, the tribe now gets 5 new members spanning the mana wheel, this time highlighting constellation, again at low rarity levels. They span from forgettable to serviceable, with the red one as possibly the best of the bunch. There's also still the problem of the green Nymphs all having the Dryad type, but not all the Dryads getting the Nymph type retroactively, which I strongly feel they should.


Octopus: +1

> summary <

 Speaking of sealife, here's the fourth Octopus to see print. And yeah, it's terrible.


Ox: +1

> summary <

 The Ox tribe got one of the clunkiest surrogate removal ever conceived. Remind me again why do we have an Ox tribe to begin with?


Rogue: +3

 

> summary <

 This serving of Rogues included the unblockable little Merfolk, and these two Humans, both using inspired to do some powerful stuff. Namely, Daring Thief exchanges control of permanents and Disciple of Deceit gives free transmute to all your cards. Considering they're both cheap enough to cast, they make strong arguments in favor of trying to make inspired work.


Satyr: +3

  

> summary <

 Another of the Theros's pupil tribes along with Centaur and Minotaur, the Satyrs were particularly blessed by the block because they started with just 2 members and now they leave the block with 18 (the same overall boost as Minotaur, but definitely not the same rate). To be honest, none of them especially stand out, but the tribe acquired the necessary backbone to operate within several different setups, from aggro to ramp. As confirmed by these latest three, all of different colors, and covering roles that span from a fast heroic aggressor to a self-milling Zombie.


Shaman: +3

 

> summary <

 Aside from that Satyr, and this peculiar spider-lady, the Shamans got the best mythic that's not a God. Builds exploiting Prophetic Flamespeaker are being brewed as we speak, lured in by the dream of double striking mad card advantage. It's not one of those immediately obvious mythics, which only reinforces the fact that we're in presence of a very good design. Something that, I'm afraid to admit, Theros block wasn't exactly filled of.


Sheep: +1

> summary <

 Baa! We got a Sheep. A sheep, you guys. It's not the first one, but this time at least it's a real sheep, not some strange artifact in the shape of a sheep (which had to be the most contrived way to force a new subtype until the whole Sable affaire. More so, it's a Sheep of the Gods! It's becoming more and more hilarious, isn't it? Well, joke's on us, though, because this little sheep is actually a pretty solid defensive creature, a 0/5 for 2 that gives you 1 life per turn (and it's not even a defender). I might actually play it! Baa!


Siren: +3

  

> summary <

 Siren is the tribe that got the highest rate of growth out of Theros (well, except for God, of course), since it went in with just one member and now has 8. Most of them were unremarkable like these last three. The only one even worth commenting on is Hypnotic Siren, that gives back the tribe some of their mind control flavor, by indeed being an overcosted Mind Control that doubles as Flying Men (well, flying lady, that is).


Soldier: +7

   

> summary <

 Merfolk, Satyr, and Siren apart, the Soldier tribe got a few notable Human Soldiers (it's a world of organized war, after all). Aegis of the Gods is a strictly better True Believer. Or not, since he gives hexproof rather than shroud, which might or might not be relevant, but he dies of 1 single damage. Still, it's something that doesn't go unnoticed. Bloodcrazed Hoplite is a heroic guy who steals the other heroic guys' counters, which is probably just cute but a funny concept. And Dawnbringer Charioteers is a particularly beefy heroic creature, with a big butt and evasion and lifelink. The guy for whom you want to make those heroic triggers happen.


Spider: +1

> summary <

 This is some strange Spider, that dredges you then gives you back one card. It has mostly nothing to do with the Spider tribe, and I'm not sure how effective it can be even in a self-milling strategy (then again, it mills for free and it's not expensive in itself, and puts up a decent defense), but it's surely original.


Spirit: +3

  

> summary <

 Here's three Spirits (or "eidolon", which makes them more conceptual) in different colors that aren't bound to go unnoticed. The green Eidolon of Blossoms is the constellation version of Verduran Enchantress and alike (I can't really say Argothian Enchantress, because that's just a whole other power level). Hard to tell if it'll create an archetype around itself, but it might. It's a bit slow to get going, and easy to deal with, but that kind of card advantage in a devoted build can be enough to justify hope. The white Eidolon of Rhetoric is more straightforward but possibly more powerful as it's Rule of Law on a stick. For the same cost, and with a 1/4 defensive body as a bonus. It might see play against storm in Modern. And the red Eidolon of the Great Revel feels even MORE powerful, since it taxes with damage all spells with CMC 3 or less. Not so easy to foretell which home this effect could have, though. Maybe a big red style of deck like the one I mentioned elsewhere? I just know the idea of punishing fast plays sits well with me.


Starfish: +1

> summary <

 Wait, did I mention Starfish earlier? They can't really help themselves, can they? So, here we are, Magic now has its second Starfish ever since Alliances, and it's a little defensive thing that does scry 1 for free, which is actually nice.


Warrior: +7

 

> summary <

 Warrior count: one Cat, two Centaurs, two Minotaurs, and these two Humans. Which are likely to be forgotten 5 minutes after you read their text. End of Warrior count.


Wizard: +4

 

> summary <

 The notable new Wizards (the remaining ones are a Merfolk and a very lame bear), are both blue and of high rarity. Battlefield Thaumaturge is mostly designed to help the strive mechanic. And Sage of Hours is a mythic because he tries to use heroic as a time walk. Will he succeed? Time will tell (okay, pun intended; let's say he's not likely to succeed with heroic alone, but it's good food for thought for Johnnies who like messing around with counters.)


Zombie: +3

 

> summary <

 Other than that one dead Satyr, Zombies have two constellation guys, one of which feels very topical, even if it's just an uncommon: I bet the repeatable, one-sided graveyard erasing of Agent of Erebos will have many fans this side of Legacy (where it clearly is too slow). Again, the fact that constellation doesn't make you wait for the next trigger to work is its saving grace, making Agent of Erebos worth even by itself in a deck that for the rest doesn't feature any other constellation trigger.


SUMMARY

> top <

 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here. The new quantities will be added only after the set will be released online.


BEST IN SHOW

  

  

> top < 


AJANI, MENTOR OF TRIBES

> top <

 Only a quick mention for the next best thing in the planeswalker world. Ajani number 4 is not a fast one, and has to rely on external factors for defense, but he rewards you with a pretty powerful card selection, or a permanent boost to his appointed bodyguard(s), all while constantly growing towards a redonkulous ultimate (which, granted, doesn't guarantee nothing, but it's still fun to see happen). On a side note, planeswalkers are more and more equaled to creatures in spells and effects these days. It's an interesting trend.


KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS

3 Comments

I think the new Cockatrice by Lord Erman at Sat, 05/03/2014 - 06:05
Lord Erman's picture
5

I think the new Cockatrice looks like an enraged Birds of Paradise. It's like BoP saying "So you guys tapped and untapped me for years without knowing my true nature. And now it's time to go berserk!! RAWRRR!!". Something like that.

I think you're undervaluing that two mana White Warrior (Sightless Brawler). A 3/2 for two is good no matter what and Warriors rarely attack alone. It may see play.

And I agree with the Lamia. It should have been mythic, doing something mythic-worthy.

Demons and Shamans look pretty scary right now.

Yeah, I made the Bird by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 05/03/2014 - 09:16
Kumagoro42's picture

Yeah, I made the angry Bird of Paradise joke myself in the Tribal article.

I guess a 3/2 for 2 is good. But white has so many good options at that point in the curve that the goblinoid clause of "can't attack alone" sounds almost insulting.

I really can't tell what their tribe policy is. I know the subtypes are mostly chosen by the creative team, not the R&D. Meaning that in certain cases the designers and developers might work with a card that they see as "big green dude", and then the creative team decides it'll be a Giant. They have some guidelines, but mostly it's about what happens in the ancillary material like the novels. There seems to be a plan for the focus tribes of a set/block. For instance, you can notice how Centaur, Satyr and Minotaur advanced equally over the course of the block. They made sure they all had an equal amount of new members.

But for the minor, unusual tribes, sometimes it looks like they're just using them for a joke, or to make someone in the team happy (not always MaRo, or there would be a lot more Squirrels). Like for the original Sheep, which was an artifact that could have easily been a Construct, but someone really wanted for it to be a Sheep. And it really doesn't get any more baffling than with Sable, where they took a real animal from Norther European cold climates and introduced it as a bronze statue in a Greek setting. I'd really like to know the chain of thoughts that lead to this result. There wasn't even any flavor to it, it was just a vanilla artifact. Why create a whole new subtype for such a thing?

:Why create a whole new by longtimegone at Sat, 05/03/2014 - 11:50
longtimegone's picture

:Why create a whole new subtype for such a thing?

You found them out. Wizards long awaited Mustelidae tribal block must be the next awaited set.