gwyned's picture
By: gwyned, gwyned
Oct 04 2013 5:27pm
0
Login or register to post comments
4079 views


I. Introduction

The cards have all been spoiled for the Greek mythology inspired world of Theros, and so it's time once again for my review of a new set for Standard Pauper. As 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 One, I touched on the new and returning mechanics for Theros and then analyzed all of the Commons that make use of those mechanics. Today, in Part Two, I cover the remaining Commons in the set and discuss their likely impact in the format.

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.

We'll start off with a look at the most important type of cards in this set for Standard Pauper - the creatures!

II. Creatures

1. Agent of Horizons is the first of a double cycle of mono-colored creatures at Common with an off-color activated ability. A 3/2 for GreenGreen is certainly nothing exciting or new. While its low Toughness makes it very vulnerable to removal, the ability to make this creature unblockable, even for GreenGreen, does seem like a solid option for Green. Even better, this is a great target for Auras or Bestow cards, assuming you can protect it from removal. A Simic-themed deck hasn't really emerged in the format, but if one does, this would be a strong candidate.

Verdict: Hit. I certainly could see this on the horizon of the new metagame.


2. Theros seems to have an unusually high number of one-drops at Common. In both Limited and Constructed, one-drops are almost never relevant at Common, Looking at Asphodel Wanderer, Priest of Iroas, Sedge Scorpion, Triton Shorethief, and Yoked Ox, I don't see anything that contradicts that assessment.  Of these, Sedge Scorpion is fine as a 1/1 Deathtouch for Green, but can't compete with Deadly Recluse. Yoked Ox also isn't terrible in an extremely defense deck, but rarely if ever does White need access to a Kraken Hatchling.

Verdict: Myth. If these are in even one of your decks, you should drop it immediately.

3. Not since Aven Fleetwing has Blue had a creature with built-in Hexproof, and this large beater certainly seems a surprising inclusion in Blue. While Hexproof as a deck archetype is weakened by the expense of most of its creatures, Benthic Giant and Rubbleback Rhino seem like an obvious combination with Auras and Bestow creatures. Will the Bant Hexproof archetype reemerge? Perhaps, but even if it doesn't, this Hexproof giant is tough enough to survive just about anything in combat, and should prove a valuable finisher in any Blue-based deck.

Verdict: Hit. This should make gigantic waves in the format.

4. Black typically gets a 2/1 Flyer for GreenGreen in most sets (such as Gloomhunter or Searchlight Geist). Occasionally, these even include a relevant ability, which often makes the difference between the creature being playable or not. In my estimation, Blood-Toll Harpy's 'enters the battlefield' effect won't be all that relevant, with the possible exception of a hyper-aggressive Rakdos build. Otherwise, it's the rare 2/1 Flyer in Black that sees play in Standard Pauper, and I don't see anything in the upcoming metagame would change this assessment.

Verdict: Myth.This harpy is not one for whom the bell tolls.


5. Outside of particularly-efficiently costed creatures in Green, I can't recall the last time a plain vanilla creature made the cut in Standard Pauper. Borderland Minotaur, Bronze Sable, Felhide Minotaur, Nessian Courser, Silent Artisan, and Traveling Philosopher all fall under this dubious distinction. Of these, Borderland Minotaur might actually see some play, since in general even a vanilla 4 Power creature for 4 is borderline playable. But as for the rest, it should be no surprise that these are best left in your virtual binder.

Verdict: Myth. Vanilla is not a good flavor for Standard Pauper decks.

6. Looking at the art, you'd be forgiven for believing that Breaching Hippocamp could fly, which would make this card fantastic. While it does lack Flying, it does include a relevant ability that untaps any other creature you control. In the best case scenario, this could potentially setup two surprise blockers against an unsuspecting opponent - a potential blowout for sure! Of course, this requires you already have another solid creature on the battlefield and telegraph the play by leaving up the untapped mana. Probably still worth considering.

Verdict: Hit, although this barely breaches the barrier between unplayable and relevant.

7. Didn't I already mentioned that one-drops typically are unplayable? Calvary Pegasus seems like a one-drop for an additional mana, an obvious show-stopper. Prior to the rotation of Innistrad, one might have had visions of attacking with a whole host of White humans. Even then, the ensuing death of the pegasus means that such an attack is limited to enabling a powerful Alpha-strike as they all take to the air. But the ranks of White Humans has been greatly reduced with the rotation, making even the best-case scenario for this pegasus pretty lackluster.

Verdict: Myth. Don't call in the cavalry because I peg this as unplayable.

8. Two heads may be better than one, but I'm not sure that does much to help Coastline Chimera. Rarely if ever does Blue need strongly defensive creatures to deter attacks in the air. Furthermore, even five Toughness probably isn't enough most of the time for this to survive combat after blocking two creatures, and its paltry Power means it won't even trade with one of them. Factor in the sizable cost of GreenGreen, and it doesn't take an expert in the format to realize that this card is not just unplayable, but demonstrably terrible.

Verdict: Myth. Chime in - don't you think Wizards of the Coast could do better than this?

9. While it's no Steamcore Weird, Crackling Triton just might have a similar role to play. A 2/3 for GreenGreen with a relevant ability is par for the course in Standard Pauper, given how the format consists of so many 2 Power creatures. In this case, the strength of this card is in its versatility. It acts as a 2/3 for 3 in the early game, and can then be traded in for 2 damage either when it becomes otherwise irrelevant or at an opportune time. The biggest drawback is the GreenGreen to activate the ability, which may be too much to reliably keep open.

Verdict: Too close to call. I want to take a crack at this, but others will try to keep it on the sidelines.

10. Speaking of 2/3s, Deathbellow Raider is surprisingly efficient at GreenGreen, and has the correspondingly painful disadvantage of having to attack every turn. While the Regeneration clause can allow it to stay alive even through a ill-chosen attack, paying GreenGreen to keep this alive in such situations is pretty painful. Given that Regeneration is typically a more defensive ability, and that this minotaur will almost never be used in such a manner, I don't think this will see much play, despite its efficient cost and relevant Power and Toughness.

Verdict: Myth. I rate this as being very likely to see death, and thus keep it below the line of playability.

11. While tappers such as Gideon's Lawkeeper saw some play in White Weenie builds, other such creatures with a restriction on what they can tap are a different matter entirely. Such is the case with Ephara's Warden. While many relevant creatures in Standard Pauper have 3 Power or less, this still will often fail to tap a creature down when it really matters. But what's worse is its obscenely expensive cost. A 1/2 for GreenGreen is simply terrible except in a case where the ability itself is actually worth the cost of the card. Archaeomancer this is not.

Verdict: Myth. It may not be fair, but this warden needs to stay in prison.

12. Fleshmad Steed easily takes the prize for the worst creature in Theros. As was already mentioned, a vanilla 2/2 for 2 mana is simply not playable in Standard Pauper, or any Constructed format for that matter. But a 2/2 for 2 with a major drawback?! Why would you ever play this card? Even if it had a casting cost of Green, this steed simply isn't worth the cost of including it in your deck. Unless some strange combo comes into existence where tapping your own creature has some amazing effect, this should never ever see play.

Verdict: Myth. My flesh cries out in madness that such a card was even printed.

13. Wall of Tanglecord returns in the lackluster Guardians of Meletis, without the activated ability to block Flyers and costing an additional point of mana for your trouble. Wall of Tanglecord did see some play, but only in builds where your Artifact count mattered. Apart from such considerations, an 0/6 Defender is really only useful in an extremely defensive deck. While this may be another option in the GreenGreenGreen Defender-Mill deck, even there better options exist. As a result, this is another creature that will probably never see play in the format.

Verdict: Myth. Guard against the temptation to play this card.

14. Lagonna-Band Elder is an aggressive 3/2 for GreenGreen with the relevant ability to gain some incidental Life if you have an Enchantment on the battlefield when you cast it. Pacifism-effects are a staple in most White-based builds in the format, and in the 'Enchantments matter' set of Theros, it stands to reason that you should gain this 3 Life more often than not. On the other hand, this effect is much less likely to trigger on Turn 3, when this card is probably at its best. Both sides of this card seem marginal, and even in combination this doesn't seem good enough to me.

Verdict: Myth. If this is their elder, I don't think I want to see the rest of the band.

15. Leonin Snarecaster is nothing more than a White Goblin Shortcutter, a card which has seen virtually no play in Standard Pauper. Additionally, White already has access to repeatable methods of this same effect in both Court Street Denizen and Master of Diversion. With the disappearance of 'blink' effects like Ghostly Flicker and Cloudshift, there is little if any way to abuse this soldier's 'enters the battlefield' effect, and a 2/1 for GreenGreen is not what you want to be doing. For all these reasons, this card will almost certainly not see play.

Verdict: Myth. I'd be lyin' if I said you should cast this.

16. Loathsome Catoblepas is another in the Common cycle of creatures with an off-color activated ability. At first, it looks quite subpar. A 3/3 for GreenGreen is terribly expensive. However, the fact that when it dies it inflicts -3/-3 on one of your opponent's creatures when that this will always trade in combat, and at times will even threaten to kill two such creatures in the exchange. And assuming that you can activate its ability, your opponent even loses the option of not blocking it. Thus, though quite expensive, this card has enough going for it that it's certainly worth considering.

Verdict: Hit. Some may find it loathsome, but I'm going to pass this cat into the playable pile.

17. Viashino Firstblade, meet your long lost brother Minotaur Skullcleaver. While substituting the Green for a colorless mana robs it of the additional Toughness boost, these creatures are otherwise remarkably similar. Access to both of these gives the Boros deck a very consistent means of swinging for 4 on Turn 3, which is one of the most aggressive lines I can remember in the format in quite some time. Shuffle in the other strong Boros-colored creatures and some relevant combat tricks and removal, and you already have quite the potent deck.

Verdict: Hit. Get this through your thick skull - this card ain't no bull.

18. Mneomonic Wall returns from the world of Zendikar, but fortunately not until Ghostly Flicker has vanished from the format. While this is one mana more expensive than Archaeomancer, it has less stringent mana requirements, and certainly has more relevant stats for a controlling Blue-based deck poised to take advantage of the additional Instants and Sorceries. With this back in the format, I have a hard time seeing Archaeomancer seeing much play anymore. And even then, only a very controlling build will want to run this.

Verdict: Too close to call. Honestly I can't remember how good this wall really is.

19. Although it's been a while, it isn't unusual to find a 3 mana Artifact at Common that taps to add a single mana of any color such as Manalith. Typically though, neither the color-fixing nor the mana ramp have proven strong enough to justify including them. Enter Opaline Unicorn, which adds all the liabilities of being both a creature and artifact without providing any of the advantages of  relevant combat stats. Prophetic Prism has long been the best option for color-fixing in the format, and this card is certainly no threat to that fact.

Verdict: Myth. You have no hope of me throwing a line out to this card.

20. Pheres-Band Centaurs has a large name to go with its correspondingly large Toughness. While Green creatures with low Power and high Toughness once were a staple in Magic, their popularity seems to have waned with time. And in general that's a good thing, since Green rarely wants to be holding back its creatures to block. For the same cost, one could instead be playing an Armored Wolf-Rider or Golgari Longlegs, which while not as Tough, are both much more reasonable combatants. Since neither saw much play, I feel pretty safe saying this won't either.

Verdict: Myth. I cannot lie. I do not like big butts.

21. Earlier I mentioned the fringe GreenGreenGreen Mill deck, which just might be the only hope that Returned Centaur has of seeing play. There's nothing wrong in theory with a 2/4 for GreenGreen in Black, but unless you are playing a dedicated mill deck or have the ability to use your Graveyard as a resource, the 'enters the battlefield' effect is at best random and at worst has the possibility of actively helping your opponent. Would you run Ubul Sar Gatekeepers without any Gates in your decklist? If not, there's not any reason to run this creature either.

Verdict: Myth. Return this to sender.

22. The dead just keep on coming! Returned Phalanx is an interesting card, giving you the potential of a cheap, effective blocker to stall out early aggression that can later become a relevant attacker for the low cost of GreenGreen. Blue-Black Control has certainly been an effective archetype in the past, and this seems like it would slot into that sort of deck fairly well. Getting a 3/3 for GreenGreen is quite good, even with Defender. And if your opponent has to kill it to force through damage, so much the better for you that his or her removal was wasted on such a cheap creature.

Verdict: Too close to call. Once the format forms up, this will be a card to return to for another look.

23. Satyr Hedonist and Satyr Rambler are both a meager 2/1 for 2 mana, which is certainly not worth playing. Worse, neither ability is particularly relevant. The Hedonist is essentially just Infernal Plunge that supplies its own creature, while the Rambler's Trample is only useful when paired with an Aura.  Since neither the creature nor the effects are relevant, and since there is nothing gained by the synergy of the two, this is just another pair of cards that should never see the light of play.

Verdict: Myth. Enough rambling. I take great pleasure in saying, "Nay!"

24. It's as if Scholar of Atheros somehow got transported out of Orzhov in Ravnica and got trapped in Theros. Horned Turtles are increasingly being printed at White, which seems an odd development given White's typical martial nature. Its activated ability is identical to Extort, albeit at triple the cost. The Orzhov deck has been a good second tier archetype in Standard Pauper as of late, but a defensive creature is probably not want that deck is really looking for. While this card isn't terrible, it seems to lack a good fit anywhere.

Verdict: Myth. If you're smart, you'll look for other options.

25. 3-Powered Flyers are tough to come by in Standard Pauper for less than 5 mana, so by that scale Setessan Griffin is about what you would expect. For the additional Green more than Assault Griffin, you get an expensive activated ability that boosts this into a very sizable threat. Darkthicket Wolf saw play prior to rotation, and while you pay a much higher premium here, the threat of activation should be enough to deter most creatures from blocking it, especially in the air. While not amazing, this card is certainly worth testing in Selesnya.

Verdict: Too close to call. But I certainly want to be testin' this griffin.

26. Two-Headed Cerberus has the distinction of being the first Common with native Double Strike. While typically a 1/2 for GreenGreenGreen is pretty bad, with Double Strike it actually attacks as a 2/2, which is certainly more relevant. However, this creature is really only good when paired with a sizable Aura or Bestow card, or in a highly aggressive deck backed with decent combat tricks. Given the prevalence of removal in Standard Pauper, I predict it will be rare for this hound to survive becoming the target of such an effect. And if I'm right, this probably won't see much play.

Verdict: Myth. Two heads means that two strikes and you're already out.

27. Theros is haunted by Vaporkin, which apparently is nothing more than the spirit of Welkin Tern returned. While you might have expected this to make a strong showing in the monoBlue Flyers deck of late, the presence of Cloudfin Raptor in the format seems to have rendered Welkin Tern obsolete. On the one hand, with Delver of Secrets gone, this might be just the card to replace it. But on the other hand, unless the rotation has vastly changed the way that this and other aggressive Blue decks play out, I suspect this still won't be good enough.

Verdict: Myth. Like a vapor, it's kinda hard to see this being a solid option.

28. By now we've established that Satyrs are annoying little creatures with odd abilities. Fortunately, Voyaging Satyr seems to be the best of the herd. While the fact that it costs GreenGreen is somewhat of a liability, the fact that it acts like a pseudo-Arbor Elf that can untap any target Land actually seems pretty useful. However, it my experience there are rarely good enough things to do with quick mana to make ramping an effective strategy in Standard Pauper. So, while this is one of the more interesting ramp creatures to see print, it's still not likely to make much of an impact.

Verdict: Myth. Bon voyage!

29. Speaking of not having good things to do with mana ramp, Vulpine Goliath may be just what you're looking for! While Green creatures of this size are nothing unusual, it's Trample that makes this such an appealing card. While GreenGreenGreen is still a lot to pay, getting a 6/5 for that cost is very reasonable. Just compare it to Sentinel Spider, where the one additional colorless nets you two extra points of Power, one extra point of Toughness, and swaps Trample for Reach. Based on that assessment, any Green based deck should probably be running this.

Verdict: Hit. It's big, it's dumb, and it's foxy!

30. Manic Vandal brings some friends to the party, becoming the card Wild Celebrants. Several sets back, the ability to destroy an Artifact when a creature entered the battlefield was quite good. However, in the current Standard Pauper pool, there are virtually no playable Artifacts outside of Prophetic Prism. And, paying GreenGreenGreen for an otherwise vanilla 5/3 beater is not something you want to be doing in this format either. Unless the future holds a more relevant place for Artifacts, this card simply will not see much if any play.

Verdict: Myth. Take your wild celebrations elsewhere please!

Whew! It took two weeks, but we've managed to cover all of the Common creatures in Theros, along with a good chunk of the instants, enchantments, and sorceries. However, there are another 30 cards to cover, and space will not allow this article to expand any larger. Which means, unfortunately, that the final cards will have to wait until Part 3.

III. Conclusion

Next time, I'll finish up my review of the Theros Commons, then offer up some initial thoughts on where the Standard Pauper metagame is headed and which decks seem to show some early promise. Until then, 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 PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. 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.

And later this week I promise to have the long-delayed Week 5 and 6 update for the Hipsters of the Coast Standard Pauper event. See you then!

1 Comments

First of all, thanks, Gwyned, by MyGalaxy at Sun, 10/06/2013 - 05:50
MyGalaxy's picture

First of all, thanks, Gwyned, for this review!

I don't complete agree with you some calls:) Looks like you tend to name "hits" expensive cards with high */*.

Vulpine Goliath - i'm pretty sure any aggro can down you to 3-5 before you take this guy out. And flyers will just seal the deal, as this fox doesn't have reach.

Leonin Snarecaster is nothing more than a White Goblin Shortcutter, a card which has seen virtually no play in Standard Pauper - the reason for this was the existing of BUG flicker, which made almost all aggro decks unplayable. There it doesn't matter if the opponent block 5 damage or eats it, if he plays saruli next turn or flicks the creature, before the blocking step. I think now aggro can change into "you can not block this decks", as we have 3 creatures of this kind: arrester (detain), goblin and this new cat. Add haste to this and it could be dangerous.

Lagonna-Band Elder - I think it's a good card for anchants-based WW or selesnya. 3/2 is a good beater and blocker and 3 lives can give you an edge vs aggro. Definitely not bad in a selesnya-colored hexproof deck along with the centaur healer.