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By: gwyned, gwyned
Oct 11 2013 10:24am
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I. Introduction

The cards for the Greek mythology inspired world of Theros have finally been released on Magic Online, and so it's time to conclude my review of this new set for Standard Pauper. Like always, I leave the impact of these cards in Standard, Limited, or Pauper to those much better qualified than myself. Instead, this review will focus on how these Commons will play out in the Standard Pauper format with the forthcoming rotation of Standard. Last time, in Part Two, I reviewed all of the creatures in the set (save for those reviewed in Part One when I covered all of the Theros mechanic cards). Today, in Part Three, I cover the remaining Commons in the set and then give my overall first impression with the set as a whole.

Just like last time, rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead simply note each card as a "hit" or a "myth" and discuss why I believe this card will or will not be relevant. And again - credit where credit is due - I am indebted to ChannelFireball, which inspired the "hit or myth" categories as well as my own pathetic attempts at puns.

With all of the creatures and a good chunk of the spells already reviewed, we've just got the non-mechanic spells left. Here we go!

II. Non-Mechanic Spells and Lands

1. Annul is the latest in a recent trend of conditional counterspells for Blue. Given that Artifacts are not a major presence in the Standard Pauper metagame (and haven't been since Scars of Mirrodin), the usefulness of this card is restricted to its ability to stop Enchantments. Even in this 'Enchantments matter' set of Theros, this ability is probably still too narrow to be played maindeck. However, it seems like an excellent Sideboard option against not only Hexproof, but also against the Pacifism-style effects that are common in both White Weenie and Selesnya.

Verdict: Myth. Its restrictions nullify its usefulness against most archetypes, but could work as a Sideboard option.

2. Undying Evil returns, albeit in the less powerful Boon of Erebos. While the temporary Power boost helps ensure that you actually kill an opposing creature in blocking situations, typically you would prefer to gain a permanent +1/+1 counter. Similarly, Regeneration is not quite as good as Undying, since it fails to answer effects that add negative counters instead of dealing damage. Undying Evil saw some play, and at one time was quite strong in BlueBlue sacrifice decks. With that archetype depleted, I am not optimistic about this card.

Verdict: Myth. This is no boon but a bust.

3. Boulderfall is one of the most powerful Instants to be printed in Red in a very long time. The closest analog is Pyrotechnics, which was a Common printed back in 6th Edition and reprinted later as an Uncommon. Distributing 5 damage as you see fit among both creatures and players is extremely powerful, easily enabling a 2- or even 3-for-1 much of the time. And the fact that it is an Instant pushes it over the top. Of course, this effect comes at a back-breaking cost of BlueBlueBlue. Even in a dedicated ramp archetype, this is too expensive to see much if any play.

Verdict: Myth. Too often you will die with this in hand, making it a boulder-fail.





6. As is fitting for such a set, there is a cycle of 2 mana Enchantments at Common that each replace themselves when they enter the virtual battlefield. While any card that cycles for Blue isn't terrible, the effect that these Auras convey is pretty marginal. Chosen by Heliod is a worse Divine Favor, while Scourgemark is also essentially a worse Dark Favor. Likewise, neither the Fire-breathing effect of Dragon Mantle nor the extra card draw from Fate Foretold are effects that have seen much play. Only Nylea's Presence might be playable, replacing the rotated out Abundant Growth.

Verdict: Myth, save for Nylea's Presence, which earns a marginal Hit. Otherwise not a fan of this Cycle cycle.

 5. Beast Hunt, Grisly Salvage, Mulch and now Commune with the Gods, are all effects in Green that let you search through the top few cards in your library, draw a particular type or types, and then discard the rest. These cards have not seen much if any play in Standard Pauper. While such effects serve as both filtering and card-draw for Green, the relatively flat power-curve among the chosen type means that the ability to choose one card among many isn't a strong enough effect to be worth an entire card in your deck.

Verdict: Myth. Unless you receive divine communication otherwise, you probably shouldn't play this.

6. Sadly, it seems every set must have its Fog effect, and Defend the Hearth is the one for Theros. Except as a rare option in the Sideboard or in the once-popular Mill-Fog archetype, Fog-effects have not been popular choices in Standard Pauper, and for good reason. Most of the time, these effects only delay the inevitable, since they do nothing to change the state of the virtual battlefield. And while only prevent damage from unblocked creatures potentially has more utility, once again the effect just isn't powerful enough to earn a precious slot in your decklist.

Verdict: Myth. Go home and get back in the kitchen!

7. Speaking of bad cards that seem to find their way into every set, Demolish is also back for another set. Once upon a time, Land destruction was a viable archetype even at Common, but the sheer agony of playing against such strategies forced Wizards of the Coast to severely nerf such strategies. Even in a metagame dominated by the multi-colored Ravnica Gates, Demolish most of the time will be too late to be effective. And with the scarcity of relevant Artifacts in the format, there is even less use for its second mode.

Verdict: Myth. Demoralizing, yes; demolishing, no.

8. White has always been the color that seems to do it all, and removal spells such as Divine Verdict are a big part of the reason why. The ability to destroy any creature at Instant speed is obviously quite good, although its utility is weakened by both its expensive BlueBlue cost and its restriction to only attacking and blocking creatures. Rebuke saw some play, and Divine Verdict seems the most logical replacement for that effect. While Pacifism is still the premiere White removal spell, I expect to see this card to make the cut in White Weenie and Selesnya builds.

Verdict: Hit. But this assessment is hardly divinely-inspired.

9. With Hexproof a viable archetype in the format, Naturalize effects have been good enough to event warrant keeping in the main deck in recent times. With Auramancer returning to relevance with Theros, the ability of Fade into Antiquity to exile an Enchantment seems like it could be quite good. Of course, the fact that it's at Sorcery speed limits your ability to get as much value out of the effect, and so Instant speed options like Naturalize may still be the better choice. Time will tell, but either way this is still probably just a Sideboard card.

Verdict: Myth. But don't let it fade from memory, as it will be useful at times.

10. Feral Invocation is easily one of the best Auras in some time for Standard Pauper, hearkening back to Eel Umbra from Return of the Eldrazi. While lacking the Totem armor, this grants an additional 2 Power and Toughness, which is both a solid combat trick as well as sidestepping many forms of removal. At BlueBlue it's a little pricey, but having this effect at Instant speed means that much of the time you should get a corresponding amount of value for that cost. While not amazing, this is a solid trick for Green, and should see play.

Verdict: Hit. It's not crazy to call this playable.

11. Good Equipment is a rarity at Common nowadays. Granting both Flying and Haste is a neat effect for Fleetfeather Sandals, allowing you to attack with your creatures when they enter the battlefield for an additional Blue. However, this seems like it would be strongest in an aggressive archetype, where you typically don't have the extra mana to spend time equipping this or even casting cards that don't turn sidewise and attack on their own. Add that to the fact that it doesn't boost Power or Toughness, and I don't think this makes the cut.

Verdict: Myth. Lace up your shoes and run away!

12. Griptide is back, and in a metagame full of enchantments, this effect is quite strong, especially at Instant speed. It is competing with both Time Ebb and Voyage's End, which give similar benefits at a cheaper cost. But the ability to get rid of a pesky Enchantment and set your opponent back a turn on their draws is quite strong. Last time this was in the format, the metagame was simply too fast to allow this to make much of an impact. But in the new post-rotation Standard Pauper, this may now have a chance to really shine.

Verdict: Hit. I may be losing my grip, but I think the tide has turned on this one.

13. Grasp of Darkness this is not. Lash of the Whip has the exact same effect, but costs an additional Blue. It should go without saying that inflicting -4 / -4 on any creature is quite strong, and the ability to do so at instant speed makes this even better. But given its BlueBlue cost, Murder is clearly the better option is almost any situation. I sincerely hope that such nerfed Black removal spells at Common aren't a trend for the future, as a metagame without cheap and effective removal would make the format not only much faster, but less dynamic as well.

Verdict: Myth. Drop this so fast you'll get whiplash.

14. Last Breath is a reprint from Lorwyn block, and one that I don't recall seeing much play. Given that 2 Power or less is quite normal for creatures at Common, you might expect this to be good. It's cheap at BlueBlue, it's Instant speed, and it even exiles the creature. Unfortunately, it's targeting restriction means it rarely kills the most threatening creature on the other side of the battlefield, and allowing your opponent to gain 4 Life is quite painful. White continues to have interesting options for removal, but it's probably better to avoid this one.

Verdict: Myth. Take a deep breath and keep this out for last.

15. Incinerate is back in the functionally equivalent Lightning Strike. It's a shame that these two cards could exist in the format at the same time, since this effect is so strong in just about any deck that can run it. Removal cards like these go quite a long way in preventing early aggression and keeping the format more diverse overall. These have always been a staple in the format, seeing play in both Aggro and Control decks, and as such this will see widespread play no matter how the post-rotation Standard Pauper metagame develops.

Verdict: Hit. Apparently lightning (bolt) does strike twice.

16. March of the Returned is strictly worse than the recent Morbid Plunder, but acts a replacement for the rotated Gravepurge, which rarely returned more than two creatures anyway. Still, this is a 2-for-1, allowing you to get further value out of two of your more powerful creatures. It remains to be seen whether a mono-Black build will be strong in the new Standard Pauper format, but if so, this card might slot very well into such a deck, especially given the relevant 'enters the battlefield' effects that Black will have access to. Definitely worth considering.

Verdict: Hit. I don't know how far this will march, but I suspect it will earn a recurring role.

17. Even in this block, I have a hard time imagining any one mana Enchantment spells that would ever be relevant for the format. Messenger's Speed is a perfect example why. Trample and Haste are both fine abilities, but given that this card does nothing to boost Power or Toughness, the effect is just too marginal. Like other similar cards, this seems best in an aggressive build, in which case you probably won't get any value out of Trample, which is the stronger of the two abilities. Even with Heroic in the set, I don't think this card is worth playing.

Verdict: Myth. Here's the message: speed away from this card!

18. Welcome back, Sorin's Thirst. Pharika's Cure is another functional reprint, and one that saw a good deal of play in previous metagames. As mentioned earlier, 2 Power and Toughness is the average for creatures at Common, so you'll rarely lack a target. The fact that this also provides some minor Lifegain also makes this card better. While obviously there are a lot of creatures this doesn't kill, it that case it can still act as a relevant combat trick, sidestepping this weakness. While the BlueBlue is prohibitive, this is definitely still worth a slot.

Verdict: Hit. One man's thirst is another man's cure.

19. Just as Ray of Revelation rotates out, Ray of Dissolution rotates in. Not only is this new ray arguably worse than the old one, it also directly competes with Solemn Offering for the same slot. And here again, Ray of Dissolution suffers from the comparison. Although it does boast Instant speed, in all other ways Solemn Offering is better, targeting both Artifacts and Enchantments and gaining an additional point of Life. While the point is debatable, this probably isn't good enough for the main deck, but certainly seems a viable option out of the Sideboard.

Verdict: Myth. No ray seems to be the right way.

20. Savage Surge is a variant on Giant Growth, substituting a single point of Power and Toughness for the ability to untap the targeted creature. Given that better options typically exist in the format, Giant Growth hasn't seen much play. Better options to pump your creature still exist, but the ability to untap your creature and thus provide a surprise blocker could be a relevant combat trick. It's not amazing, but it seems like the developing metagame may support a Green based archetype that could want this type of effect. We'll see...

Verdict: Too close to call. It would have to be a savage metagame for this to surge in value.

21. In case you haven't notice, removal seems to have been nerfed significantly in Theros, probably to better support its Enchantments. Shredding Winds should see absolutely no play in Standard Pauper as long as Plummet continue to exist along with it. While most of the time their effects are functionally equivalent, Plummet can't be sidestepped by any pump effects, and is one mana cheaper as well. Had this targeted all Flying creatures instead, this would have been a much more interesting card, although probably too good for Common.

Verdict: Myth. The only shredding this will see is itself.

22. Speaking of nerfed removal spells, Sip of Hemlock seems another perfect example. This is an unconditional Hideous End, but at Sorcery speed and double the cost. Generally speaking, paying more to remove a creature than your opponent paid to cast it is a bad deal for you. And at BlueBlueBlue, this is just painfully expensive. It will be interesting to see which Black removal spells make the cut beyond Murder in the post-rotation Standard Pauper, but I have a hard time believing that this will be chosen from among the various options.

Verdict: Myth. Don't drink the Kool-aid.

23. Thassa's Bounty is exactly what you want to be doing for 6 mana. Not since Mysteries of the Deep have we had a Blue card draw spell at Common that allowed you to draw 3 cards without paying some significant additional cost. The ability to draw 3 cards has always been the gold standard of Blue (hence the bans/restrictions on Ancestral Recall), and getting this effect at Common is quite good. Of course, it remains to be seen whether this post-rotation format will be slow enough to reliably cast this card before the game is already over.

Verdict: Hit. Where else can you get a 3 card bounty?

24. With Prey Upon-effects firmly entrenched in Green, it seems every new set comes with a variant on this type of effect. In this case, you get the awkwardly worded Time to Feed, which for your additional Blue mana gains you a meager 3 Life, assuming of course that the targeted creature actually dies. While that's obviously a reasonable assumption, it's hard to make a case for why you would want to play this over Prey Upon, much less Pit Fight, which seems the best choice if you're looking for this sort of removal in Green.

Verdict: Myth. This is not the time to feed this beast of a card.

25. Traveler's Amulet followed us from Innistrad to Theros, but as long as Prophetic Prism is in the format, it will remain the premiere method to color-fix, since it is not only more flexible, but more importantly, it replaces itself when it enters the battlefield. Of course, there will come a time when the Return to Ravnica block rotates out of Standard, and at that point Traveler's Amulet may be worth another look. But until then, I can't imagine any deck needing additional color-fixing beyond what is already available between the Gates and Prophetic Prism.

Verdict: Myth. What's a traveler to do? Keep moving on!

26. Unknown Shores is yet another functional reprint, this time of Shimmering Grotto. Back before the release of Return to Ravnica, Evolving Wilds and Shimmering Grotto were two of the better options for color-fixing, and thus the latter did see some play, although it was hardly widespread. Again, much like Traveler's Amulet, better options exist in the current cardpool, and even with Evolving Wilds rotating out, the additional Blue mana you pay to fix any spell you cast with this makes this unlikely to see much play in the near future.

Verdict: Myth. These shores should remain unknown.

27. Viper's Kiss is much more akin to Weakness than it is to Dead Weight, and will probably be much less relevant as a result. There are surprisingly few activated abilities in the current Standard Pauper pool, making this card primarily just a -1 / -1 removal spell. The fact that it is an Enchantment shouldn't be overlooked, given the presence of Auramancer in the format, but this simply isn't as good as the Auramancer-Dead Weight combination. Unless a strong creature emerges with an activated ability, I doubt this will see much play.

Verdict: Myth. Like all good stories, this ends with a kiss.

III. Theros Summary

So, where does this leave us in the post-rotation Standard Pauper, as all of Innistrad block and Magic 2013 rotates out and the first set of Theros block rotates in? First, a caveat - at this point, everything I am about to say in conjecture. I have yet to play in the new format, but I have spent quite a bit of time looking over both what's been gained and what's been lost. But with that said, here's my summary of what I've observed thus far:

  1. Flicker-gate is dead. Ghostly Flicker is gone, along with its weaker cousin Cloudshift. No longer can you chain Archaeomancer together with 'enters the battlefield' type effects and scrape together a victory. The most popular, hated, and dominating archetype is dead and gone.
  2. Of the other major archetypes - MonoU Flyers, White Weenie, Selenya, Hexproof, and Izzet - none of them have come through intact. Major players have rotated out, and it simply isn't possible just to trade in other cards with similar effects. Major role-players like Curse of the Bloody Tome, Delver of Secrets, Forbidden Alchemy, Haunted Fengraf, Loyal Cathar, Mist Raven, Murder, One-Eyed Scarecrow, Primal Huntbeast, Sentinel Spider, Seraph of Dawn, Stitched Drake, Think Twice, Travel Preparations, and Victim of Night - just to name a few - are all gone.
  3. That said, Theros adds several very relevant creatures for each color. Blue seems particularly strong with Benthic Giant, Omenspeaker, Prescient Chimera, and Wavecrash Triton.
  4. Orzhov is the one archetype that has lost the fewest cards, and will probably still be a viable option.
  5. The strongest new cards in Theros seem to be congregated at the 3-5 drop range. While this may seem to favor Control builds, aggressive builds that can punish an opponent for getting off to a slow start is probably still very viable.
  6. Black has lost most of its cheap removal spells. Red removal is in better shape, but is much less able to deal with high Toughness creatures.
  7. Scry is going to see lots of play, and will tend to push the format more towards Control.
  8. New archetypes that could emerge as serious contenders include Boros, Gruul, MonoBlack, and Dimir Control. These are definitely worth testing as the new metagame shakes out.

There's a lot to consider and a great deal of testing that needs to be done!

IV. Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this detailed review of the Hits and Myths of Theros for Standard Pauper. Let me remind you that you can always check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at my matches from this event before they go live here at over on Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. Finally, you can keep up with everything I'm doing for this event on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow.

V. Bonus Content!

As promised, here is my video commentary of the semi-finals and finals of the Monday Pauper Deck Challenge Season 22 Worlds. Enjoy! 





Too often you will die with by MyGalaxy at Fri, 10/11/2013 - 11:33
MyGalaxy's picture

Too often you will die with this in hand, making it a boulder-fail - ahahah this is funny:))))

Lightning Strike... by Fred1160 at Fri, 10/11/2013 - 16:11
Fred1160's picture

Lightning Strike is not a functional reprint of Incinerate. Incinerate could prevent regeneration.
Lightning Strike is a functional reprint of Searing Spear.

Yup you're absolutely right. by gwyned at Fri, 10/11/2013 - 18:38
gwyned's picture

Yup you're absolutely right. Good catch.