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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Feb 06 2020 1:00pm
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THEROS BEYOND DEATH

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 Theros Beyond Death has come, and everything feels more enchanted. The new trip to Gideon's home plane, depicting the mass escape of the creatures formerly trapped in the Underworld (including Elspeth), has regaled us with many new enchantment creatures, but only one artifact creature. Constellation and devotion are back, while escape is the new mechanic, sort of a cross between flashback and delve, but repeatable ad nauseam.

 Evergreen tribes like Elf, Goblin and Vampire take a vacation, while the main tribal groups are Centaur, Minotaur, Satyr, and Giant (which includes the Titans), on top of the "religious package" of God, Demigod, and Cleric. Some subtypes that are peculiar of Theros are also back, like Chimera, CyclopsGorgonLamia, and Nymph.

 For the first time, in addition to the eight exclusive cards from the Planeswalker Decks (there's two of them, one dedicated to Elspeth and the other to Ashiok), there are ten rares, two per color, that are found in Theme Boosters, but not in regular Draft Boosters. They're mostly Timmy/Tammy-esque creatures meant for casual play.

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 268 (+5 duplicated basic lands)
  • New cards: 246 (including 10 Theme Boosters exclusives, 8 Planeswalker Deck exclusives, 1 Buy-a-Box promo)
  • New creatures: 149
  • Reprinted cards: 22
  • Reprinted creatures: 2 (Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Heliod's Pilgrim)
  • New Legendary creatures: 27
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 1
  • New enchantment creatures: 50 of which Legendary
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0
  • Creature types affected: 59
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+31), Soldier (+13), Satyr (+10), Shaman (+9), Giant (+8), Minotaur (+8), Warrior (+8), Wizard (+8), God (+7), Merfolk (+7) 

Advisor: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 55, online: 43

 Related Tribes: Centaur, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: There are no Angels in ancient Greek mythology, therefore there are no Angels on Theros, which means we open with Advisors instead. And an oracle definitely qualifies for an advising job, so we can enjoy the delightful mindscrew created by Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths and his (her? The Pythia was historically a woman, but this looks like a man behind that mask) quasi-Fact or Fiction guessing-game ETB. Atris is mostly a four-mana card selection spell, which is valuable in Dimir Control even more than elsewhere, but the deal also includes a fairly reasonable menacing body, with enough power to cause some worries to opposing planeswalkers. You don't need prophetic powers to see that this is a midrange goodie.

 On the other hand, Lagonna-Band Storyteller might contribute to an "enchantments matter" strategy that relies on reusing a specific piece, but it's too slow to be taken into consideration even as a casual card, despite the accompanying body and incidental lifegain – and no, regrowing Omniscience for 10 life is still just a meme.


Archer: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 79, online: 75

 Related Tribes: Satyr

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Almost every ability word has a lifegain execution as part of the early exploration of its design space, and Underworld Coinsmith was that card, back when constellation was first introduced in Journey into Nyx. Remember Underworld Coinsmith? No? Well, chances are you won't remember Nexus Wardens either, six years from now. But you can be reassured knowing that the constellation lifegain trigger is now more appropriately in green, and its amount has doubled.


Archon: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 15

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: If Angels don't fit the Theros world-building, Archons do, because it's a Greek world, although in the sense of the supernatural creatures, it's not really a concept from the classical era, being more of a Gnosticism and Neoplatonism thing. Also, the Archons of mythology are more akin to demons than angels, so I'm not sure why Magic keeps adapting them mainly in white. Anyway, here's a couple of new iterations for these enigmatic riders of flying beasts. And while Archon of Falling Stars is mostly a Limited player, Archon of Sun's Grace is a legit payoff for constellation decks, a serviceable midrange flyer that creates an army of Pegasi, collectively supplying a ton of life. Of course any constellation card is strictly build-around, since the mechanic doesn't really come up on its own if you don't expressly force it; but within those builds, which could easily exist outside of Standard, this guy may shine.


Artificer: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 120, online: 116

 Related Tribes: Merfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Ah, Theros, the enchantments plane! What better environment for an "artifacts matter" card? To be fair, if you want to reference the myth of Daedalus, you can't help but associate him with artifacts. Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders is basically meant to ramp into Equipment and then enhance their effect. He also has a very robust body for a three-drop. Problem is, Equipment is not a theme in Standard right now (Embercleave doesn't really need help), and even in the game at large, it mostly means going Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull, or running Skullclamp in all Commander decks. So I can't see this guy becoming a huge success story – which maybe fits the character.

 By the way, Icarus is covered by Wings of Hubris, even though it's curiously a nombo with Dalakos, since he's already granting flying to the equipped creature. Also, if Dalakos is reimagined as a Merfolk, shouldn't his son be the same race as well? Did Dalakos adopt a human child?


Beast: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 378, online: 369

 Related Tribes: Snake

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Three common Beasts that are all excellent in Limited: a large escaping beater; an enchantment creature that provides universal trample; and an overcosted but still desirable devotion-based ETB killer that can potentially deal with the Gods themselves. Of course none of these has Constructed applications whatsoever.

 Blight-Breath Catoblepas marks the returns of the "African Gorgon" (more likely a fantastically aggrandized wildebeest) first described by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia (I know, Pliny was a Roman, not a Greek, but still); it previously appeared in Theros as Loathsome Catoblepas. Maybe one day we'll get a catoblepas that's not a six-mana common.


Berserker: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 78, online: 75

 Related Tribes: Minotaur, Satyr

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: More Limited fodder in the Berserker corner. At first Blood Aspirant looks like he could have a little something to add to sacrifice decks, but he's too clunky, having to tap and requiring mana to trigger the sacrifice, and not being able to ping the face.


Bird: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 253, online: 240

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Other filler commons. Thaumaturge's Familiar is unimpressive even for Limited, but somehow was given the honor of being the MTG Arena pet for Theros Beyond Death – possibly because it pays homage to Bubo, the mechanical owl Athena donates to Perseus in the original Clash of the Titans.


Boar: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 38, online: 36

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This big pig (which references the Calydonian Boar) has all the makings of a walking meme, but can surprisingly prove effective at times. After all, it's a 10-powered critter for five mana (sort of a Gigantosaurus that's also castable outside of monogreen) and comes with a free Lure on it. Granted, the card-drawing clause is pretty nuts, but if this giant swine is left unchecked, it may decimate the opposing board and/or enable lethal alpha strikes. Plus, you can give it trample, equip it with Embercleave, or Fling it; you can cheat it into play already in stampeding mode through its own veritable god, Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, the patron saint of ham; or through the other red god of cheats, Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded. Of course all these ideas sound ludicrous to some extent, but the casual crowd will both love their Nessian Boar and enjoy the occasional blowout with it. Oink!


Cat: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 185, online: 178

 Related Tribes: Soldier, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The only noteworthy new Cat, Bronzehide Lion, is a top-down design that alludes to the mythological Nemean lion. It's also pretty similar to Fleecemane Lion from the original Theros, which was modeled after the same source, so there are two different Nemean lions in Magic now. Both push the stats for a two-drop in the same way the old Watchwolf did in the first Ravnica, with Selesnya being the perfect color combination for this feat.

 Fleecemane indeed played as a Watchwolf until monstrosity was paid, after which it'd become very hard to get rid of. On the other hand, Bronzehide can become indestructible for a smaller investment of mana, but you'll have to pay that cost again and again, while hexproof got lost in the shuffle, replaced by a post-mortem ability that turns the Lion into an Aura (similar to a Licid, or bestow from the original Theros), granting the same indestructibility on demand. This process is both situational (there has to be a creature to attach the Aura to), and not immediately impactful (the Aura has no other benefits but the activation). It's a good two-drop, but possibly not good enough to find a home, which is in a nutshell the same assessment Fleecemace Lion received in 2013 and sadly lived up to.


Centaur: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 63

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Scout, Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Centaur is one of the signature tribes of Theros, with about one third of the existing ones hailing from this plane. Unfortunately, they've all been assigned Limited duty this time around, with just Nyx Herald as a Constructed semi-playable three-drop with a free trigger that might prove relevant in conjunction with a large body. Pheres-Band Brawler, as the name suggest, can be useful in Brawl for fight redundancy, the same way (Affectionate Indrik) is.


Chimera: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 19, online: 18

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Here's a brief history of the Chimera subtype in Magic: The Gathering. They first appeared as artifacts in 1997, when Visions had a cycle of four mechanical wonders, all finely illustrated by Mike Dringenberg, and that were almost, but not quite, entirely unlike their mythological counterpart. Then for 16 years the tribe appeared to have been retired, until the occasion arose to create a Magic product with an ancient Greek setting, and the Chimeras suddenly were back in play. Eight more of them were printed during Theros block, returning to their roots of animal hybrids. They later appeared on a couple of other planes (Fiora via Conspiracy: Take the Crown, Amonkhet via Hour of Devastation), but Theros remains their more fitting habitat.

 Which brings us to this latest quintet. Truth be told, Chimeras have rarely been incarnated into very playable cards – Horizon Chimera was kinda neat, but there have been only two cases of rarity going beyond uncommon (Volatile Chimera and the build-your-own-Chimera Majestic Myriarch, both underwhelming). Theros Beyond Death doesn't invert this trend, with most of them being good in Limited, but only Shimmerwing Chimera making a modicum amount of sense in Constructed too, as an exploiter of enchantments with an ETB trigger, like the Omen cycle or Starlit Mantle.

 And then there's Treeshaker Chimera, the third rare Chimeras ever, which is not part of the proper set as it's one of the ten unique rares exclusively found in the Theme Boosters. It's basically a more expensive, more polished version of Nessian Boar. I can't imagine it having any role in Standard, let alone in larger formats, but it can make a fun top-end for Brawl.


Cleric: +5

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 394, online: 369

 Related Tribes: Gorgon, Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: All planes with Gods running around are bound to have a robust dose of Clerics too, and some of these have nice Standard applications, particularly Acolyte of Affliction as a smaller but more easily castable Golgari Findbroker, and Dawn Evangel comboing with pernicious Auras like Dead Weight and Mire's Grasp, but also with pseudo-heroic, Aura-heavy decks in general.

 "Enchantments matter" builds can also find some use for the reprint of Heliod's Pilgrim from Magic 2015 (I bet many thought it was from the old Theros block), while Victory's Envoy comes from the Theme Boosters and generates a strong upkeep effect for free, but as a five-drop with subpar body, she's a bit too slow to be competitive.


Cyclops: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 28

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Cyclops is another creature type that, while widely accepted as generic fantasy fare by now, has strong ties to ancient Greek mythology, which makes it a Theros mainstay. Too bad these two single-eyed dorks are pretty terrible even for Limited.


Demigod: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 5

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: In hindsight, it seems weird that we had to wait for the fourth set taking place on Theros before getting such a no-brainer as the Demigod type. But they're here now, one per color, linked to devotion, and providing a healthy double dose of it, therefore inviting, if not even requiring, strictly monocolored builds. They all have one stat that grows according to the current devotion level (which they all increase by two), plus an additional ability that takes various forms and bears some synergy with their corresponding God. Some of them are characters we already knew and recently ascended to Demigod status, others are new creations devised for this set. And they all have gorgeous alternate showcase versions.

 Daxos, Blessed by the Sun is Elspeth's star-crossed lover. His saga is portrayed on cards: first he was Daxos of Meletis, then Elspeth unwillingly killed him after being tricked by Xenagos, so he suffered Daxos's Torment in the Underworld, before striking a deal with Erebos and becoming Daxos the Returned. Now Heliod took control of his fate and forced him to become his champion. On the battlefield, he's a sturdy defensive two-drop with a Soul Warden ability (limited to his own team, but encompassing a death trigger too), which interacts perfectly with Heliod, Sun-Crowned's lifegain-based ability. White devotion decks are more than happy to include him.

 Callaphe, Beloved of the Sea is a gender-flipped take on Odysseus, complete with her own epic poem describing her travels and tribulations, the Callapheia; but with a twist: unlike her analogous, she's actually favored by the sea god. Unfortunately, she's one of the less appealing Demigods; she puts some power on the battlefield, but her ability is merely a slight tax on removal targeted against creatures and enchantments on her side of the battlefield, so nothing you would especially crave.

 We had previously met Tymaret as Tymaret, the Murder King. He was already a Returned, i.e. a Zombie, so his Demigod incarnation, Tymaret, Chosen from Death, represents a natural progression in his cycle of loyalty to Erebos. He gets the same stats as Daxos, which doesn't make him very aggressive, and his activated ability is situationally useful but not crucial. This said, double black symbol on turn two builds nicely towards Gray Merchant of Asphodel, so black devotion lists may make room for a Tymaret or two.

 Definitely more explosive in red lists is Anax, Hardened in the Forge. The valiant king of Akros (which is Theros's Sparta, whereas Meletis is based on Athens) was once depicted alongside his queen as Anax and Cymede (inspired by Leonidas and Gorgo). After Cymede ascended to Nyx during The Akroan War, Anax became a devout of Purphoros, who turned him into his personal terminator. The quantity of devotion in Standard monored makes Anax into a threatening carrier of Embercleave, while his ability gives insurance against sweeper, greatly strengthening the deck's aggression. It's even extremely likely for Anax himself to create two tokens upon death, since he'd only need one or two other red permanents to meet the required 4 points of power. For the same reason, Anax is good in any sacrifice-based builds, with his Satyrs providing additional fodder per sacrificed creature. It remains to be seen if Anax will impact larger formats too, but given the minimum effort it takes to exploit his ability, he's definitely going to play a prominent role in Standard until he'll rotate out in Fall 2021.

 Finally, the debuting Renata, Called to the Hunt is just Nylea's favorite huntress. She has the same ETB trigger already seen on Grumgully, the Generous, and seems the least distinctive of the five Demigods. She's still playable enough, but as the only four-drop, it'll be harder for her to find a proper home.


Demon: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 107, online: 104

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Three new demonic fella in Theros Beyond Death. One, Demon of Loathing, is one of the overblown creatures only found in the Theme Boosters and mostly meant for casual play. Then again, Enemy of Enlightement is even worse, reading as something of a 3/3 flyer for six that also costs you a card per turn.

 But none of this matters because Nightmare Shepherd is on the contrary absolutely brilliant, a midrange flyer with a threatening body and an amazing static ability which, particularly when paired with a good sacrifice outlet (Viscera Seer and Woe Strider are his best friends), lets you essentially nullify removal against creatures with abilities that don't relate to their size, retrigger their ETB effects, and all-around exploit them once more (Gray Merchant of Asphodel is already enjoying the afterlife treatment). I also dig that sort of Hellenistic outfit. With Egyptian influences, almost? Or even Mesopotamian? I love it.

 I guess if one third of all new cards were this good, you could easily deal with the rest being useless junk.


Dragon: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 201, online: 199

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The Theme Boosters also contains the set's Obligatory Dragon. Which sort of looks designed by an algorithm, so we'll just move right past.


Druid: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 190, online: 186

 Related Tribes: Human, Satyr

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: If Nexus Wardens is lifegain applied to constellation, Setessan Petitioner is the analogous for devotion, and she's much more effective, because she grants a potentially high amount of life all at once and right away, and then you can take advantage of her body as you wish (uhm, this came out wrong). An useful one-of target for tutors like Green Sun's Zenith or Finale of Devastation in devotion lists.

 The function of Skola Grovedancer is less immediately clear, in that she mainly seems to be a mild self-mill enabler that also generates some lifegain when a land is sacced, discarded or milled (there could be a combo involving this, but the payoff seems really minimal). She's also an enchantment creature, therefore a constellation trigger in the form of an acceptable Grizzly Bears. So, all in all, not a terrible deal, but not something you'd feel the need to seek out even if these strategies were central to your build.


Elder: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 24

 Related Tribes: Giant

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Aside from Gods and Demigods, the most awe-inspiring creatures from Theros Beyond Death are definitely the two Titans. Based on the primordial godlike beings of the same name from ancient Greek mythology, Kroxa and Uro, whose names recall those of Kronos and his father Uranus, aren't supposed to represent the entirety of the existing Titans on the plane, nor of those who successfully escaped the Underworld. It's just a powerful pair of them that we get to take for a ride. And yes, they have the Elder type in addiction to the Giant type, which sets them apart from the classic Magic 2011 Titans, with which they nonetheless share power and toughness, as well as the fact of having an ETB trigger that gets repeated as an attack trigger.

 Following their lore (they were sealed in the Underworld by the gods of Theros aeons ago), both are escape creatures that comes back for the same cost of four mana and five exiled cards. Their main and extremely cheap casting cost doesn't drop them on the battlefield, if not for a moment, as it's instead used to send them to the graveyard. The process still nets you one trigger out of them, in a way that sort of reminds of a forced use of the old evoke mechanic from Lorwyn.

 So basically there are two steps in summoning these Titans: first you cast them as a surrogate spell for a one-shot effect, then you "escape" them from the graveyard, gets the effect again, and ends up with a 6/6 that can duplicate that outcome at every attack, not to mention recur after death, again and again. Now, four mana for such a large body and a meaningful trigger sound monstrously undercosted, but escape typically requires to have a good chunk of cards in the graveyard in order to work – five in this case, and that's hardly something you can conjure up on turn four. Still, they're both very appealing cards, only balanced by their legendary status preventing multiple copies of them to be on the board at once. Overall, Uro gets the nod over Kroxa, because three life and the card advantage cum ramp of its Explore trigger make for the superior payoff, whereas the forced discard from the Rakdos-colored Titan tends to get diminishing returns in the late game, and the loss of life is not a guaranteed element, although its likelihood is inversely proportional to the relevance of the discard, since an empty-handed opponent will just lose three life per attack.

 In summation, the titanic duo plays different roles in different decks, and they are individually far from broken (lacking any kind of combat abilities, their attacks are somewhat unimpressive, and their mechanical setup is laborious to some extent), but represent the pinnacle of the escape mechanic, and a perfect fit for most decks in their colors, even without a dedicated graveyard synergy: after all, cards are bound to naturally fill the graveyard as part of the proceedings in the average Magic game.


Elemental: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 430, online: 423

 Related Tribes: Giant, Hound

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Good showing for the Elemental tribe on Theros. Underworld Rage-Hound is just an aggressive escape creature for Limited, but the three rares showcase different colors and strategies. The most prominent is Nyxbloom Ancient, green's latest larger-than-life ramp card, raising the "double your mana" routine of predecessors like Mana Reflection to a jaw-dropping triple ratio. Clearly more fragile than the mentioned enchantment, and slightly more expensive, it's also easier to drop on the board in ways that don't involve hardcasting. It definitely approaches win-more territory, but can be a conduit to various finishing moves that require as much mana as possible, from Genesis Wave to one of the Finales (white, blue and green in particular), or just a giant Hydroid Krasis leading to a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries win, as aptly demonstrated here by Ali Aintrazi. Instant staple in Commander and Brawl, at the very least.

 Tectonic Giant is instead a versatile midrange aggressor that can either boost its damage output or provide some selected impulsive drawing, which is something that has become a key component of contemporary red identity, and largely responsible for its successes. This said, the four-drop slot is a highly competitive point in the red curve, and it's not clear exactly what kind of home Tectonic Giant is looking for; it could be simultaneously too slow for pure aggro, and too mild for big red.

 Thryx, the Sudden Storm has been more evidently devised as an evasive finisher for control decks, but he also has ambitions of being something more, perhaps the centerpiece in a creature-based blue build. He's not too easy to evaluate, as he might feel underwhelming as just a flashy ambusher, while he's missing the resilience necessary to be a true control finisher. At the same time, the discount and protection from countermagic he grants to expensive spells might be something to exploit, accelerating and insuring big creatures and planeswalkers, but also spells like Enter the God-Eternals, Commence the Endgame, Command the Dreadhorde, and Bolas's Citadel. He might be more at home in Commander-like formats.


Fish: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 36, online: 31

 Related Tribes: Horse

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Both new Fish from Theros Beyond Death adhere to the minor mechanical theme that's all about casting at least one spell in the opponent's turn, something that blue doesn't even really need to actively build around to enable. Stinging Lionfish rewards us with a tap and untap option, while the rare Wavebreak Hippocamp directly goes to the well of drawing cards. They're both cheap enough and well-structured enough to be playable in Constructed. They've also very bright and vibrant artwork; for being about nightmares and the Underworld, this set sure looks colorful.


Giant: +8

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 163, online: 157

 Related Tribes: Elder, Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The true stars of the Giant contingent are of course the Elder Titans, although the tribe has now Realm-Cloaked Giant as the main payoff, and white is the one color the two Titans don't cover. In fact, each of them has a color that plays well with Giants, namely Kroxa's red for Bonecrusher Giant and Uro's green for Beanstalk Giant, and another color that on the contrary doesn't fit the tribal identity as much. Playing both in the same deck also seems like an arduous proposition.

 Then we've got the Elemental crossovers, Tectonic Giant and Thryx, the Sudden Storm, both valid tactical options that however don't elicit extreme enthusiasm, even if Tectonic is at least in a friendly color. The rest is just filler. Grasping Giant is somewhat noteworthy for being a Theme Boosters exclusive, as well as a callback to the Hundred-Handed One. Like most of these Theme Boosters rares, it's theoretically a powerful top-ender, but lacking insurance against removal and bearing no immediate impact on the battlefield, it's sadly not worth the mana investment in a competitive environment.


God: +7

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 35

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Theros won't be Theros without its Gods, but of course a single set didn't have enough room for the entire pantheon of 15 divinities, so we only got the five monocolored ones, plus the red-green replacement for the deceased Xenagos (or better, the one whose place in the pantheon Xenagos had previously usurped), and Athreos as a Buy-a-Box promo, since he's the one who's most directly linked to the Underworld, right after Erebos. As a general disclaimer, let's establish that all the Gods this time around are pretty strong and fairly playable to some extent, even just as aggressively costed, indestructible beaters for monocolored builds. The required devotion quota has stayed the same: five for the monocolored gods, seven for the multicolored, a disparity I never exactly understood, since the multicolored gods aren't inherently more powerful than their monocolored counterparts, and in fact are already harder to cast. They do contribute two to the devotion count on their own, but there's still a one-point gap that doesn't seem justified.

 These new versions of the Gods have Homeric epithets in their names, since, with the exception of "newcomer" Klothys, we had already established their sphere of influence with the names of their previous incarnations, which allows them to be described more poetically this time. They're the veritable centerpiece creatures of the set, so let's examine them one by one and even give them a rating.

 Heliod, Sun-Crowned i.e. the Zeus of Theros: The insecure and duplicitous Heliod (it's so refreshing to have a monowhite villain once in a while) comes back as a much more appealing card than Heliod, God of the Sun ever was. Now he's cheaper, so he could even reasonably attack on turn four. But most importantly, his abilities have a clear place in the meta, chiefly within dedicated lifegaining builds, alongside other lifegain enablers like Daxos, Blessed by the Sun himself. Heliod rewards the lifegain with a steady flow of +1/+1 counters, while his lifelink-granting activation means the whole process can be self-sustaining, so any payoff card, like Ajani's Pridemate, will never lack an enabler. It also means Heliod is a perfectly legitimate addition to regular White Weenie decks as well, positioning himself as one of the reasons for the current resurgence of monowhite in Standard, as well as a dangerous combo piece in Modern and Pioneer, where sunny Heliod can propel Walking Ballista (or, I guess, Triskelion) into the infinite, eliciting heated discussions about a possible ban (which may have already happened by the time you read this). Grade: 9/10.

 Thassa, Deep-Dwelling i.e. the gender-flipped Poseidon of Theros: Despite Thassa's worst defeat being celebrated on the hilarious bas-relief depicted in Kiora Bests the Sea God (her followers really trust their goddess's sportsmanship), Theros's marine divinity arguably gets the best new incarnation of all the gods. The previous Thassa, God of the Sea would also mostly play as an enchantment more than a creature, but scrying has nothing on the free blinking ability of this new and improved Thassa (the replacement bident forged for her by Purphoros must be really potent). It's in the tradition of cards like Brago, King Eternal and Soulherder (none of which were ever in Standard), but arguably stronger, because Thassa is online right away without requiring an attack, and the source of the blinking is an indestructible body, not a fragile 1/1. Just slot Thassa into any deck that includes some worthy ETB triggers – like, say, Agent of Treachery! – and her synergies will quickly take over the game. The activated ability is also valuable, if expensive, keeping their best creature under the water, or even engulfing the entire opposing team if enough mana is available. And considering Thassa is able to re-trigger creatures like Corridor Monitor, which in turn will untap Nyx Lotus, she can solve her own mana issue in a roundabout way. Also, she's the only God, along with Purphoros, whose base stats has increased since the last incarnation, instead of being reduced. Thassa 2.0 is a whole lot of fun concealing a whole lot of power. Grade: 10/10.

 Erebos, Bleak-Hearted i.e. the Hades of Theros: The old Erebos, God of the Dead was just okay, and this new version remains at that same level of desirability. In fact, he even sort of does the same exact thing, which is drawing a card by paying two mana and two life. Neo-Erebos adds a sacrifice outlet to the deal, with the chance of killing a small creature along the way. This and the fact that the card-drawing is spontaneously triggered by any death in his team, a la Liliana, Dreadhorde General, suggests a sacrifice shell as the correct home for Erebos; however, such a deck doesn't particularly need another four-drop, and there are now much more productive alternatives even in Standard, like Woe Strider. Grade: 6/10.

 Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded i.e. the Hephaestus of Theros: At the risk of being blunt, this new Purphoros is little more than a necessarily inferior, Standard-friendly impression of Sneak Attack. The color restriction isn't actually too much of a factor, because red gives large dragons and artifact gives Blightsteel Colossus. But decks where Sneak Attack is legal will keep wanting Sneak Attack, because it's cheaper to cast and the activation requires one third of the mana Purphoros asks for (in order to do the trick the very turn he hits the battlefield, you would need a whopping eight mana. At that point, just hardcast the fattie!). Purphoros, God of the Forge was also a somewhat clunky combo piece that never really fulfilled his potential, but this one just doesn't seem to do enough outside the realm of jank builds stuffed with cards like Ilharg, the Raze-Boar and Drakuseth, Maw of Flames. It doesn't help that red, unlike all the other colors, doesn't lend itself to a proper devotion deck in Standard right now (after Goblin Chainwhirler's rotation, it's the only color missing a three-drop with all colored mana in its cost). Not that Monored Aggro would be too interested in a five-drop whose cheat-into-play activation costs more than the average CMC of its creatures. The Bronze-Blooded might have more value in just being an indestructible universal haste provider. Grade: 5/10.

 Nylea, Keen-Eyed i.e. the Artemis of Theros: Where Nylea, God of the Hunt was a tactical card for midrange Stompy, all about boosting your other creatures, this new incarnation of the fierce woodland goddess is a strategic piece in ramp decks. Her static discount already helps ramping out big creatures, or a plethora of smaller creatures; but, more importantly, she can dig for the finishing blow, once you have enough mana to dump into her activation, which is basically "explore for creatures". She plays in a similar way to Duskwatch Recruiter in Modern's Creatures Toolbox lists: with infinite or near infinite mana available, due for instance to the Vizier of Remedies combo, or just through a combination of Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Leyline of Abundance, (Wilderness Reclamation;GRN), and/or Nyxbloom Ancient, Nylea can put all the creatures into your hand, all the useless cards into the graveyard, and the one piece you needed (say, Finale of Devastation) on top of the library, ready to try and end the game. Not all decks want her, but those that do, really benefit from her presence, so she shouldn't be underrated. Grade: 8/10.

 Klothys, God of Destiny (the inspiration here seems to be Clotho, one of the Fates, although she wasn't actually a goddess): Let's put it this way: would you play an indestructible three-mana enchantment that said, "At the beginning of your upkeep, exile a card from the opponent's graveyard, gain 2 life, each opponent loses 2 life"? Klothys is a Gruul card, and Gruul is possibly the most dedicated aggro combination of them all, so the question immediately becomes: is such a card an efficient three-drop for Gruul decks? After all, it doesn't immediately affect the board, so it's more suitable for midrange versions of the color pair, which nonetheless exist. Considering that, in formats with more fetch lands than Standard, Klothys also offers some ramp capability, the most fitting comparison appears to be with Domri, Anarch of Bolas. Now, Domri's boost might result in a higher volume of damage than Klothys's draining (which, to be fair, is not 100% guaranteed, although not having anything to exile in any graveyard from turn four onward seems unlikely); but Domri is pretty bad on an empty board. Over time, Klothys is going to outrace Domri, as her damage source is as inescapable as, you know it, fate. On top of that, she can wake up and get her hands dirty, first-person. It's not even too otherworldly to think she might be active on curve; you just need any one-drop, then a gold two-drop like Zhur-Thaa Goblin, then any other Gruul-colored creature as a follow-up on turn four, maybe even one that's able to attack right away alongside Klothys, like Grull Spellbreaker. What I just described is an ideal chain of events, but if you add up Klothys's life swing, her graveyard hate (especially useful in an escape-heavy environment), her potential ramp, and her eventual 4/5 indestructible body for three, the end result is definitely remarkable. Grade: 8/10.

 Athreos, Shroud-Veiled i.e. the Charon of Theros (again, not technically a god): I don't know why, but in the past few years, the Buy-a-Box promos seem to have settled on weird, off-kilter cards that either don't really match the set's pulse or are just clunky – Nexus of Fate and Kenrith, the Returned King are the commendable exceptions, but just look at Firesong and Sunspeaker, Impervious Greatwurm, The Haunt of Hightower, Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge, and Rienne, Angel of Rebirth. Athreos vehemently subscribes to this trend, losing all the compact, swift inevitability of Athreos, God of Passage to become a bloated six-drop that ultimately just does what Thassa, Deep-Dwelling does (i.e. re-trigger ETBs), except in a more convoluted way that requires external factors to even produce an effect at all. There's the possibility of eternal chump-blocking thrown in the mix, and the coins that pay for the passage to the afterlife sure are flavorful (though, to be fair, the obol wasn't meant to result in the deceased returning to life, so what is Athreos even doing here?), but this whole affair isn't going to steal the spot of Liliana, Dreadhorde General or Ugin, the Ineffable anytime soon. Grade: 5/10.


Gorgon: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 18, online: 17

 Related Tribes: Cleric

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Gorgon is a staple of Greek mythology in pop culture (everybody fondly recalls Ray Harryhausen's Medusa from the original Clash of the Titans). These two are fine specimens for Limited. Venomous Hierophant is a midrange deathtoucher that enables escape, and Pharika's Spawn is an escape creature with an edict effect attached.

 By the way, Pharika, God of Affliction is one of the Gods that didn't get a new card. They're all at least mentioned in card names or flavor texts.


Griffin: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 48, online: 47

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: This guy isn't exactly a slam dunk, but it makes some sense in Aura-heavy decks, especially the more combo-oriented ones where you sacrifice and recast a large number of Auras in the same turn. Of course Starfield Mystic does the same and more. But, you know, Griffins. They've seen worse.


Harpy: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 11

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Aphemia, the Cacophony is the card to look at here, the first ever rare Harpy as well as the first legendary Harpy. And she's a good one, as a 2/1 flyer on turn two is already playable, and then you get to create Zombies for free if you're running enough disposable enchantments, like the Omens. It's not something you can count on every turn, except for super-dedicated dredge decks, and a Zombie tribal decks don't particularly need Aphemia as a token generator, but the free-of-charge aspect of the ability, paired with the decent body and early presence, is enough to earn Aphemia a spot in the "playable" category – the second time it happens within the tribe after Cavern Harpy, and that was almost twenty years ago!


Horror: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 197

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: One might have expected to see more Horrors in this set, given the Underworld theme, but the one we got is definitely memorable. Woe Strider plays like a more expensive but more versatile Viscera Seer – and every time a card comes with an infinitely repeatable sacrifice outlet, especially one that generates value on its own, we should stop and take notice. Other elements that make the Strider a great card: it's a decent body for its cost; it comes back as an even bigger body via escape; it gives us a handy token to sacrifice, so the first scry is entirely free, along with a chump-block or other exploitations of our poor, literal sacrificial goat (should we say, scapegoat?). In Standard, the interaction with Nightmare Shepherd has been immediately evident, and the two of them are forming a great partnership, winningly following each other on the curve of monoblack devotion decks.


Horse: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 34, online: 29

 Related Tribes: Fish, Nightmare

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Underworld Charger is a playable escape card in Limited, maybe leaning a tad too much on aggression, when black tends more towards control in Theros Beyond Death. But the more notable horsey here is of the water-dwelling variety (since Magic designers are still convinced seahorses are actually equines). Wavebreak Hippocamp has been obviously conceived with blue tempo decks in mind, and it doesn't disappoint its vocation, drawing a card every turn for basically just being on the battlefield within the right build. It could alternatively be deemed unnecessary or the missing piece that pushes those decks to the next level.


Hound: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 74, online: 70

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The original Theros had already offered its take on the mythological guard dog of the afterlife through the more assuredly yet generically named Underworld Cerberus. But now we get to meet the actual three-headed pet that belongs to Athreos (so he does contribute something useful to the set after all). Both Underworld Cerberus and Kunoros, Hound of Athreos have an ability that hinders the graveyard, but the former just prevented targeting, which wouldn't actually disrupt abilities that cast cards from the graveyard (such as escape, flashback, or unearth), nor untargeted mass reanimation like Living Death and Living End, whereas Kunoros comes equipped with its own Grafdigger's Cage. Of course, the older Cerberus was itself a way to return all the dead creatures to hand eventually (in a symmetrical way, which made it hard to exploit), and overall was a midrange semi-unblockable beater in Rakdos colors, so the two cards play very differently. Kunoros's anti-graveyard tech is the kind of incidental value that, paired with its aggressive cost, body and combat abilities, makes for a maindeckable card with multiple purposes rather than a mere sideboard option. As long as you're not planning to exploit the graveyard yourself, which is common in Orzhov lists, and might reposition this tripartite doggie as a card more appropriate for many-colored toolbox decks instead.


Human: +31

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2335, online: 2152

 Related Tribes: Advisor, Cleric, Druid, Rogue, Scout, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: Theros Beyond Death is one of those sets where we get Humans that have no other qualifications. One of them is Alirios, Enraptured, the set's reference to Narcissus. He's solid in Limited as two bodies for three mana, one of which needs external untapping but can still be useful for sacrificial purposes and the likes. There might be applications in Constructed too (as a passing station with residual value in Prime Speaker Vannifar decks, for instance), but he doesn't feel as appealing there.

 Destiny Spinner is a good two-mana enabler for constellation decks, with a relevant body, an occasional useful static ability, and an activation that could play a significant role in the late game. It's not clear why she's not a Druid like other land animators, though – I swear there was room for five more characters in that type line.


Hydra: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 47

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Ironscale Hydra is actually one of the most playable cards from the Theme Boosters, just because it's a five-drop instead of a seven-drop. Of course it's still tragically a poster picture for the "dies to removal" meme (is that an actual meme? It should be). Also, as much as that ability means the Hydra will grow bigger and bigger and will never know defeat at the hand of any adversary in combat (except, well, Questing Beast), it also means it'll never fail to be chump-blocked, unless Vivien, Arkbow Ranger or another trample provider are there to help.

 But we're burying the lede here: Polukranos, World Eater is back! The legendary Hydra, which was one of the better applications of monstrosity back in the original Theros, has not lost its taste for the fight, but is now a black-green escape creature, after being slain by Elspeth and sent to the Underworld (which, on Theros, is pretty much like ending up in jail at Monopoly). I'm not a fan of the "prevent damage and remove that many +1/+1 counters" mechanic (sort of the opposite of Ironscale Hydra, isn't it? I guess it's what sets apart living Hydras from Zombie Hydras), and I don't like too much the costly three-mana activation for the fight either. The latter means you'll likely have to wait a full turn for Polukranos to actually eat something, and the former essentially turns it into a temporary presence, doomed to be consumed by its thirst for blood sooner rather than later. Naturally, escape alleviates the issue, since Polukranos is going to come back again, bigger than ever. The 12/12 form for six is indeed what redeems the whole design (after all, that's going to fuel a lot of fights), as is the fact that the opponent will have to either exile it or be ready to face it multiple times during a single game. Polukranos with a vengeance!

 And now, unrequested rumination about the escape flavor. So the idea is that the Underworld, the place where the Therosian dead go, has been breached, and now the various monsters and other beings that were stored there are coming back to the world of the living. So far, so clear: you pay for the escape, and your deceased critter breaks free from the dark chains of death, returning from the graveyard to wreak havoc on the battlefield among the living (which is sort of how every undead works, anyway). But then what does the first casting represent? In the case of the Titans, you can't have them on the battlefield before you escaped them, because up until that point, they're still trapped in the Underworld, which makes sense. But what about Polukranos, for instance? He's already a Zombie when you hardcast it (since it's dead in the story), except smaller than it is after the escape? And that's true of every non-Titan escape creature, they're all smaller at first. They're, like, half-escaped? What's up with that?


Insect: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 166, online: 162

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Nessian Hornbeetle is sort of a callback to Scute Mob with some very crucial changes. The Zendikari Insect had the potential to grow in a much more dramatic fashion, but realistically only started doing it in the late game, and up until that point was just a puny 1/1. Instead, through its ferocious-like ability, the Hornbeetle can potentially begin accumulating +1/+1 counters right away. Even when played on turn two, there's a chance a 4/4 will show up on its side of the battlefield the turn after (large three-drops like Steel Leaf Champion or Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig are commonplace these days). And even in the absence of an enabler, it's still a dignified Grizzly Bears. Mind you, all of this doesn't exactly translate into a particularly playable creature (Scute Mob wasn't either), since the enabler is not something we cannot be sure to have around for long or at all, and the payoff is not exactly groundbreaking.


Kraken: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 14

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Nadir Kraken looks like a cool addition to the "draw two" archetype from Throne of Eldraine, even if it works in a slightly less efficient way than Improbable Alliance, because it requires mana and the tokens are ground-based. Furthermore, it's a creature, so easier to get rid of. On the plus side, the Kraken grows itself too, so you can go wide and tall at the same time, and the ability cares for any drawn card, not just the second one, so it can potentially triggers several times per turn, provided we have enough mana to sink into it. As a three-drop, this sea monster is probably less critical than the other payoffs in the archetype, which is fun, but not extremely competitive to begin with. This said, I must admit the flavor of each component (the central body on the card and each Tentacle token) being merely one part of a gigantic whole is very fascinating. This thing is so big, you'll never see all of it at once.


Lamia: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2

 Related Tribes: Snake

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Second Lamia ever, after the dire Thoughtrender Lamia from Journey into Nyx. This one is a bit better, and does several things at once: she's an enchantment creature for constellation; an acceptable 4/4 lifelinker for five; and good at tutoring up any card that you can cast from the graveyard, from flashblack to escape, and then reducing its cost. The various elements don't coalesce to make Gravebreaker Lamia a must-play card, but they're fairly adequate, so you can actually run her in your deck and don't feel too bad for yourself.


Manticore: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 10

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Consistently casting stuff in the opponent's turn is blue's domain more than red's, and this Manticore is very easy to Shock or trade for, so let's just take note of the fact that there's a new Manticore. They're a Persian monster, but they fit the setting because ancient Greek authors described them. Only one of the previous nine Manticores was a Theros dweller, though, namely Chromanticore from Born of the Gods. An exciting mythic rare then, a forgettable uncommon now: how far the lion-scorpions have fallen. "Purphoros forged the manticore's tail from bronze, its teeth from silver, and its heart from hate". Man, I'd like to know what tools Purphoros uses to mold hate; it must be awfully hard to work.


Merfolk: +7

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 221, online: 218

 Related Tribes: Artificer, Nightmare, Soldier, Wizard, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: There's a relatively substantial number of Merfolk in Theros Beyond Death, accounting for one of the plane's five major deities being aquatic. However, looking closely, there's not much to write home about here, as most of these are Limited fodder, plus one of Ashiok's Planeswalker Deck exclusives, and the oddity that is Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders. The only notable one is Thassa's Oracle, which is a very playable two-drop for devotion decks, sculpting your next draw, and providing a unique win condition in Standard for strategies that attempt to mill or draw the entire library, essentially working as a cheaper alternative to Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.


Minotaur: +8

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 86, online: 85

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: As we've already mentioned, Theros doesn't have Elves and Goblins, so the non-Human population takes the form of animal hybrids: horse people, goat people, and of course the very distinctive bull people. The Minotaurs have been around since Limited Edition Alpha, but it's the original Theros block that gave them a proper tribal identity and a few lords (Rageblood Shaman, Ragemonger, Kragma Warcaller). This time around, no new tribal synergies are provided, unfortunately, and the same kind of focus on Limited we already saw with the Centaurs applies here as well. Also, for some reason, most of these Minotaurs incorporate a sacrifice mechanic, with the most outré being Dreamshaper Shaman and its Polymorph.

 Warden of the Chained is a possible companion to Gruul Spellbreaker, but CMC 3 is a crowded slot in Gruul Aggro, so I can't see this guy being seriously considered. The prize for most flavorful goes instead to Skophos Maze-Warden: Minotaur and Maze, together at last!


Nightmare: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 33

 Related Tribes: Horse, Merfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Ashiok is one of the three planeswalkers in the set, and apparently spent most of the time creating Nightmares to torment Elspeth with. This doesn't translate into the tribe having a great showing, though. Devourer of Memory is a pretty clunky self-miller that can threaten some unblockable damage in a dedicated self-mill deck. Dealing combat damage isn't really what self-mill strategies aim for, but I guess it's a plan B, and you can still use it to handle planeswalkers.

 Also, behind the very obvious name of Swimmer in Nightmares hides the very first Nightmare Merfolk in existence, so there's that.


Nymph: +5

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 17

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The first thing that catch the eye (well, my eye at least) is that these new Nymphs don't have secondary subtypes. In particular, there's a Dryad that didn't get the Dryad type, which seems terribly confusing, particularly since the original Nymph cycle from Theros included Leafcrown Dryad, which was a Nymph Dryad. And then Oakheart Dryads in Journey into Nyx also had both types. Heck, even Shanodin Dryads from Alpha got retconned into a Nymph Dryad. So why is Dryad of the Ilysian Grove just a Nymph then? Unclear. I get that they went with "the Dryads are the green Nymphs", just like Alseid, Naiad, Lampad and Oread are the names for the Nymphs of the other colors. It checks, in Greek mythology dryads are in fact the "tree nymphs", with the nymphs being natural spirits dwelling in the most disparate places. But the Dryad type has a long history in Magic: The Gathering. They even have their own planeswalker in Wrenn and Six. Are the subtype retired now or what? It's very strange.

 Anyway, all the Nymphs from the previous cycle were common bestow creatures, and nobody much cared for them. These new ones are all wildly different, both mechanically and in rarity. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove is the best of the lot, possibly the best Dryad ever printed (give or take the Commander mythic Kestia, the Cultivator). We're reminded of Courser of Kruphix: same body, same cost, no lifegain and library manipulation, but overall superior ramping and fixing; a particularly excellent inclusion in Enigmatic Incarnation decks, where the Dryad can be fetched by sacrificing a two-mana enchantment, then in turn sacced to summon a four-drop, perhaps after dropping an additional land.

 Alseid of Life's Bounty is another of the group that's already seeing play as a one-shot Mother of Runes activation, which always come in handy to protect crucial permanents, or even produce a lethal attack if the occasion arises. The minimal cost and the lifegain complete the package, sending it straight into monowhite devotion, White Weenie and "lifegain matters" builds.

 The other three are more of a mixed bag. Naiad of Hidden Coves is decent in monoblue tempo lists, but unnecessary. A singular aspect of these new Nymphs is that some of them (the three mentioned, as fate would have it) are male, despite the Nymphs being traditionally female. I guess they emancipated the Sirens in the same way, but to associate the term "nymph" to a male feels a bit weird, I have to admit. As if we were using "mermaid" instead of "merfolk".


Ox: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 15, online: 12

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Who would have thought Ox would get a mythic one day? (They had one rare before, Charging Cinderhorn from Commander 2016). Although, to be honest, I don't even understand why we have an Ox tribe to begin with. Oxen definitely aren't battle worthy animals, it's kind of their whole point. In fact, I'm not sure the designers fully grasp what an ox is. Oxen don't get furious and violent. They're turned into oxen precisely to prevent that from happening! That thing up there? That's a bull! It's actually based on the Cretan Bull! And to classify a bull under the broader category "ox" is like classiflying a man under "eunuch".

 Bizarre categorizations aside, this guy is the escaper (escapist?) that requires the least mana investment, so he's meant to be discarded or milled within builds similar to those that run Arclight Phoenix, which typically have plenty of graveyard fodder that can fuel escape. Unlike the firebird, though, the Ox of Agonas is not evasive, so the damage output is not guaranteed, but a 5/3 body for two mana is still impressive, the discard clause is synergistic with the Phoenices and the jump-start cards, and the hand refueling is a critical factor. The Ox is not for any red deck, but where he's welcome, they throw parties for him. (I had a bit where I wrote they toast him with Red Bull, but just pretend you didn't read it).


Pegasus: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 15

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Yes, the impact of Theros Beyond Death on the Pegasus tribe is severe; not on account of this dorky dude, but because there's a brilliant off-tribe lord that goes by the name of Archon of Sun's Grace. It only gives lifelink, but it's more than what any other member of the tribe does for its companions. The Archon also creates more Pegasi, but that hardly means anything, since, again, there aren't synergies to exploit within the tribe – there are Pegasi that care for Humans and Pegasi that care for non-flyers, but none of them cares for their kind. They're selfless like that.


Phoenix: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 22, online: 21

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This Phoenix starts as a 2/2 haste for 3, then escapes as a 3/3 for 4. It can also pumps itself at the rate of one and a half mana for point of power. As far as Phoenices go, it's a good one.


Plant: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 49, online: 45

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Callback to Sylvan Caryatid. It loses hexproof, which is unfortunate, and its body is much more frail too. In exchange, it's able to attack and, more importantly, can double the mana production when in the presence of a big guy (another instance of ferocious smuggled into the set). It's serviceable, and supplies the tribe with another turn-two accelerant, but to be fair, it can't hold a candle to its predecessor.


Rogue: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 256, online: 241

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: This is just the embodiment of a concept strictly linked to the setting, akin to "protection from Zombies" in Innistrad or "deathtouch for Dinosaurs" in Ixalan: there's a lot of enchantment creatures and Auras in Theros Beyond Death, so let's create a bear that bypasses them. Done. We can proceed now.


Satyr: +10

   

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 29

 Related Tribes: Archer, Berserker, Druid, Scout, Shaman, Soldier, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Centaur didn't get a new lord, Minotaur didn't get a new lord... but Satyr did! The tribe that almost debuted in Theros (there were just two Satyrs before) is finally rewarded with a card that cares about them, and that card is the super-adorable Gallia of the Endless Dance. Look how happy she is! She just wants to partay! (Satyrs' Bacchanalia must be really something). She also wants to swing for two on turn two, if possible accompanied by two friends, so she can gain you two cards (two is definitely her number). But only after forcing you to discard one at random, because that's what happens when you drink and dance. Jokes aside, she's all right. Her card-drawing clause might feel nuts, but ultimately can prove effective, especially when you only have one land in hand; and she doesn't need to be one of the three attackers necessarily, so you can keep her safe and still trigger the ability. Also, she's bound to become better the more Satyrs get printed. This batch, for one, wasn't exactly amazing. Nessian Wanderer works as a constellation payoff that helps you hitting your land drops. Careless Celebrant is playable too, as she can trade for a four-toughness creature, or maybe finish off a planeswalker. Plus, Gallia might be cute, but the Celebrant is one gorgeous goat girl. Even Renata is impressed, apparently.

 For the rest, if we're feeling generous, maybe Blood Aspirant can get a nod; he's a sacrifice outlet with built-in payoff, but he's pretty clunky. And we should at least mention the Satyr-generating escape sorcery, Satyr's Cunning. It's the Chatter of the Squirrel of the Satyrs! Anax, Hardened in the Forge creates little Satyrs as well, for whatever reason. Maybe they're his wine consultants.

 


Scout: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 144, online: 138

 Related Tribes: Centaur, Human, Satyr

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Nessian Wanderer is the most representative Scout of this bunch, in that at least he actually searches for lands. Hyrax Tower Scout is useful to untap Prime Speaker Vannifar, though. That's a noble and praiseworthy job.


Serpent: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 34, online: 33

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: You know, this guy, which comes from the Theme Boosters, at first might appear totally laughable with its absurdly narrow and quite comical focus on all blue Timmy/Tammy favorites, but it's actually a pretty serious lord for the mentioned marine megafauna (they should batch all those tribes together at some point). Expensive, sure, but it's a lethal alpha strike on a stick, if your board is already populated with a couple of its thalassic comrades.


Shaman: +9

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 391, online: 386

 Related Tribes: Centaur, Human, Minotaur, Satyr

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Shamans encompass the four major humanoid groups of Theros, but Centaur, Minotaur and Satyr Shamans are mostly negligible, unless you want to build some jank Dreamshaper Shaman deck; and I guess Careless Celebrant is playable enough (the best card out of these three races is probably Gallia of the Endless Dance, but she doesn't have a class, because She. Doesn't. Care!)

 The Human Shamans don't offer much more. Arena Trickster returns us to the "casting in the opponent's turn matters" well, but he's too slow for Constructed. Incendiary Oracle also feels like a Limited-only card, while Storm Herald is a wannabe combo enabler, ideally setting up an alpha strike with him collecting a ton of Auras from the graveyard and turning into a Super Saiyan long enough to kill the opponent. More easily said than done, particularly in Standard, but it can be an entertaining, all-in build for larger formats.


Siren: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 14

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Most Nymphs in Theros Beyond Death are male, but the one Siren here is female. And pretty forgettable, I'm afraid.


Skeleton: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 52, online: 50

 Related Tribes: Soldier

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: You don't usually get such big Skeletons (size is a Theme Boosters leitmotif, apparently). In fact, this is the largest body found within the tribe, along with Bone Dragon and right after Skeletal Wurm (and those are a Dragon and a Wurm, after all). The ability is also worthy of a rare, but so incredibly slow and requiring so much setup (you need deserving creatures in your graveyard, and then Underworld Sentinel has to attack a few times, and then it has to die), only the jankiest of jank decks could ever attempt to build around it. The concept is pretty neat, though, with the Sentinel working as the last line of defense to contain the restless dead, until it falls and the gates of the Underworld open.


Snake: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 86, online: 78

 Related Tribes: Beast, Lamia

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Snakes contribute two prime Limited cards for green, with Moss Viper as the always welcome one-drop deathtoucher (it's a functional reprint of Sedge Scorpion), and Voracious Typhon as one of the most accomplished escape creatures at common. And then there's the Lamia, which is also a Snake somehow. Like, what's a non-snake Lamia? Aren't they all snake-like? Uh, apparently not, since Thoughtrender Lamia was not serpentine in appearance, so she didn't have the Snake subtype. I stand corrected; Lamias in Magic are whatever the artist feels like they are.


Soldier: +13

  

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 671, online: 613

 Related Tribes: Cat, Human, Merfolk, Satyr, Skeleton

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Conspicuous amount of new Soldiers in Theros, as the plane's setting supports the subtype well. Reverent Hoplite might be the more interesting, as a devotion payoff that could lead to devastating board states. You can see it in action here ("devotion to wide" indeed).

 The two legendary Soldiers are competent representatives of the tribe even without being too compelling. The Amazon-like Siona, Captain of the Pyleas wants to be the centerpiece of an Aura deck, but without good hexproof creatures currently in Standard (unfortunately Setessan Champion is no Argothian Enchantress), the archetype is kinda weak, and elsewhere Siona is probably not needed, since you'd rather go big with Auras, Bogle-style, than create an army of tokens.

 Taranika, Akroan Veteran, aka Gideon's number one fan, is an endearing reminder of the late Kytheon Iora, who appears immortalized as a statue in the background. But she's also a reasonable three-drop, with a sizeable body, vigilance, and the ability to "gideonize" another creature, although she has to put herself at risk in order to do it, in a similar manner to Geist of Saint Traft, but without being able to count on protection from targeted removal. All in all she's playable, but less efficient than other comparable creatures from the past, like Brimaz, King of Oreskos.

 Two more Soldiers come from Elspeth's Planeswalker Deck, and there's a bit of a hidden return of heroic (probably the most popular among the Theros mechanics that weren't officially brought back), with three cards, significantly referred to as "Heroes", that share the same ability to grant a temporary +1/+0 to all your creatures per "heroic" trigger. They seem designed for Limited.


Sphinx: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 56

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: What's stronger than a Titan, scarier than a Demon, more game-altering than a God? Meet Theros Beyond Death's best and brightest, Dream Trawler! This slender, sexy Sphinx combines the clock and lifegain power of Baneslayer Angel with the supernatural resilience of Sphinx of Jwar Isle and the insane card advantage of Consecrated Sphinx. Once she's on the battlefield and her controller has at least a card in hand, only a sweeper can save the opponent (short of byzantine ways to remove hexproof, like Shadowspear). Untap with this blue-skinned lady in play, and she'll be a 4/5; turn her sideways in the combat phase, she'll grow to 5/5, netting you one card in the process; connect, and you'll add 5 life to your total. Draw more cards at any point before that, the life swing will increase. Just outstanding.

 There aren't even flyers big enough to profitably block Dream Trawler in Theros Beyond Death's regular Draft Boosters. There are a few in the Theme Boosters, where Sphinx Mindbreaker lives. But it's hard to even look at that thing after standing in admiration of Dream Trawler: seven mana, does nothing, dies of a common cold. So pathetic. At least Witness of Tomorrows is a fine pick for Limited.


Spider: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 54, online: 53

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: A couple of quality Spiders here. Arasta of the Endless Web has the downside of being legendary, but it's otherwise a strictly better Mammoth Spider, although we shouldn't expect the triggered ability to come up too often (well, maybe against Simic Flash and other tempo decks). Being an enchantment creature makes it much more playable in Constructed than a regular, unexciting Spider. For instance, as a four-mana waypoint for Enigmatic Incarnation builds, or just as a constellation enabler that protects against flyers, so a possible consideration for a sideboard slot.

 Chainweb Aracnir is a small Spider that escapes as a big Spider. It's probably more suitable for Limited, but getting it back multiple times can make the difference in prolonged formats like Commander and Brawl. After all, there's no escape creature with flying, except for Phoenix of Ash, so this Aracnir can make sure we always have a shielding against pesky Birds and Spirits and those Angels and Demons that aren't too large.


Spirit: +4

   

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 New Tribal Total: 466, online: 459

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Ghosts in the ancient Greek mythology are called eidola, and Theros Beyond Death includes a few more of them. To note, Hateful Eidolon mainly combos with harmful Auras like Dead Weight and Mire's Grasp (much like Dawn Evangel), while Eidolon of Obstruction is an acceptable two-powered first striker on turn two, with the unique ability of taxing planeswalker activations; it could be a sideboard card against Superfriends lists, or the kind of incidental bonus added to a creature that's already good enough to be fielded in the main deck (think Tomik, Distinguished Advokist or Ash Zealot), even if white's two-drop slot is always extremely competitive.


Turtle: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 18, online: 16

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: You know, this Turtle is much nicer than a simple Wall of Mist, because draw-go decks can cast it while keeping countermagic open. Other than that, yeah, it's a Wall in the shape of a Turtle.


Unicorn: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 18, online: 15

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: There are flash enchantments in Theros Beyond Death (most notably, the Omens), to trigger this ability during the opponent's turn, when it counts the most, but it's still not reason enough to look kindly on this midrange clunker.


Warrior: +8

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 716, online: 699

 Related Tribes: Cat, Centaur, Human, Minotaur

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Only two of these Warriors deserve a shoutout, but it's a loud one. The overall impact of this whole set on Standard and beyond is mainly going to be linked to the devotion and escape mechanics, but if there's one card that almost singlehandedly makes the case for constellation, that's gotta be Setessan Champion. The previous iteration of the Greek plane had attempted the same with Eidolon of Blossoms, but the Champion offers many improvements on that recipe, the first clearly being a converted mana cost pared down to realign with the enchantress archetype they both belong to, and specifically with the original Verduran Enchantress. Admittedly, the two-mana, untargettable Argothian Enchantress was a pushed design that took the concept right into broken territory, but we can now argue Setessan Champion comes second after such illustrious ancestor.

 Something we can immediately notice is that our battle-ready enchantress who took arms and wears armor is not an enchantment herself. Reportedly, the old constellation cards triggering themselves caused balance concerns that ultimately prevented them from achieving a higher power level; now that they're just regular creatures that care about enchantments, like the Enchantresses of old, they can be given more leeway regarding their abilities. And that's why Setessan Champion doesn't merely draw cards in response to an enchantment hitting the battlefield; she grows too, creating a secondary payoff to the whole endeavor. And sure, she doesn't have shroud like that notorious Argothian lady with the pet squirrel, but at least her toughness starts higher than the green Eidolon's, and increases constantly. If constellation is ever going to work in Standard, Pioneer and even Modern, it'll be because the mechanic can now count on a card advantage engine that's already online on turn three, provides additional benefits and is harder to kill compared to the outdated Verduran Enchantress and her inferior clones.

 The other remarkable Warrior is more of a riddle. Haktos the Unscarred is a very flavorful rendition of the character of Achilles, but his "heel" being determined randomly makes impossible to predict how he'll perform in any given game, therefore what role is going to play in the meta at large. I'd hazard to say, no role at all, not last because there's no way around the clause (if you don't roll a number, he won't get any protection), and we're already sure he'll be averse to red and Boros staples like Embercleave and Gods Willing.


Wizard: +8

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 722, online: 604

 Related Tribes: Human, Merfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: We got a few intriguing Wizards too. Thassa's Oracle is a wonderful two-drop that makes your next draw better, confidently acts as a blocker (in the grand tradition of Augur of Bolas, whose blueprint is evident here), and can turn into a win condition in the late game, namely when you'll inevitably hit the last Oracle copy after having exhausted the cards in your library one way or another.

 Eutropia the Twice-Favored isn't quite on par with Setessan Champion, but she's still a decent constellation payoff, ranging from just creating a increasingly large flyer to attack with during every turn in which you can trigger the ability, to one-shot killing the opponent by making some big monster suddenly evasive. It's also nice to know that my favorite gods, Nylea and Thassa, share a communication channel.

 Finally, Protean Thaumaturge is the most unusual constellation card, despite coming under the guise of a very classic Magic notion. In fact, I bet that coming up with a viable clone variant is part of the test to become a designer, and indeed there's been a wide range of different applications of the clone mechanic throughout the years. The Thaumaturge is its iteration within an "enchantments matter" environment, but has some positive elements to him. First of all, his casting cost is very low, making it possible to trigger him early. And, crucially, he can copy any creature on the battlefield, not just those on his side, which has been a common restriction of all clones lately (cfr. Mirror Image, Quasiduplicate, Lazav, the Multifarious, Repudiate/Replicate, Spark Double). Here's something fun you can do with the Thaumaturge on the battlefield: cast Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, and in response to the sacrifice trigger, cast an enchantment with flash (an Omen will do), turning the Thaumaturge into a "free" Uro. You can see it demonstrated here. Good times.


Zombie: +4

    

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 New Tribal Total: 453, online: 446

 Related Tribes: Hydra, Merfolk, Satyr

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Let's be honest, the only Zombie that matters in Standard right now is the reprinted Gray Merchant of Asphodel, which carries the black devotion archetype on its sole shoulders (at least this time it's not common, sparing Limited players a few migraines). For the rest, Polukranos is part of the Zombie delegation too, and I guess Grim Physician gives the tribe their own Shambling Goblin, which is good sacrificial fodder. And that's it.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


BEST IN SHOW
(click on any them to go to their review)

   

   

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THE SHOWCASE GODS
(click here to go to their review)

  

  

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THE SHOWCASE DEMIGODS
(click here to go to their review)

  

 

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS


LET'S DANCE!