Theros Block….I Am Going to Miss You
First of all, Theros Block is the first block that I am SUPER SAD to see rotate out of standard. These are cards that I “just get.” Everything from the Greek Fantasy flavor and motif, to the moody standard environment that the block created, both with Ravnica Block and Khans of Tarkir Block, as well as with the associated core sets M14, M15, AND Magic Origins. Theros, Born of the Gods, and Journey Into Nyx have been terrific fun to play, study, and collect. The set has taught me a lot about what kind of Magic player I am. And it is the first set that I began to identify myself as a “serious player.” The cards here are rotating out of Standard to make way for The Battle for Zendikar Block, but they will continue to reverberate through Modern, Legacy, and maybe even Vintage. What cards will I miss? Here are some of my thoughts about the cards.
Wow. The first card I ever paid big bucks for. I opened two in booster packs, and paid $40 apiece for the other two. Why was/is this card so expensive? This card found its way into 90% of all of my standard decks over the past two years. And it has been a staple in Modern. Playable in a Rack deck, or Esper Control, Reanimator. This card is one of the “nuts and bolts” of Magic the Gathering. This card is similar to Snapcaster Mage….only “more available” currently.
I remember Thoughtsiezing out Stormbreath Dragons, Elspeth Sun’s Champion, all kinds of gods, other Thoughtsiezes, Pack Rats, Detention Spheres, and on and on the list goes. This card became an essential part of Abzan decks as Khans of Tarkir block unfolded. You could stop their Jeskai Ascendancy combo in its tracks, get rid of Ugin, get rid of Wingmate Roc, Siege Rhino, or Seeker of the Way.
In my circles, Modern tends to be a super fast format. Thoughtsieze is a great sideboard card to slow down some of those opponents…taking out their Tarmogoyfs or Snapcaster Mages before they can do any good. Someone offered me a trade for some of my Thoughtsiezes one day. No way! This card is currently “down in value,” which happens before rotation. But this card could only go up in value again as it become rare again.
The other thing about the card is it lets you see the opponents hand. I learned “write it down!”
Thoughtsieze, or as I have christened you, “Thought Sneeze, (even funnier because of the art), you will be missed in Standard. Duress and Despise are only shadows of what you were!
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
The card that got me my first ever TOP 8!. I actually made it to the final round…facing an esper control player who favored Sphynx’s Revelation. It was right after Born of the Gods came out…at the time, Ravnica Block also gave us Nightveil Spector, who was also an incredible card in the death machine that was Mono-Black Devotion. You basically Pack Rat and Mutavault, eventually getting out Nightveil Spectors, excellent flying things that exiled away the opponents cards, acquired new resources for you, and provided three devotion to blue or black. Then you dropped a Gray Merchant of Aspodel on the board, and GG.
When Ravnica Block rotated out, this strategy fought to remain in favor. The Spectors really made it work. Master of the Feast however usually proved unreliable because he would give them a card and they would either kill him, bounce him, tap him, or cancel your Gray Merchant. Mono Black has been further undercut by Sphynx’s Tutelage, sadness for the SpartanNerd, (who really favors black.)
Gray Merchant, you will be remembered. I don’t know that you will ever make waves again. But you will be remembered. I am storing away a playset in one binder slot for that off chance you actually do make a future splash!
Courser of Kruphix….
A card I’m not going to miss. And it’s not because I don’t own him. Or even because I don’t like him. (Either on my side of the field or theirs.) The Courser of Kruphix reminds me of the time that I decided to stop playing Standard. Why? Because EVERYONE WAS PLAYING THE SAME DECK. Abzan Aggro, Abzan Mid-Range, and Abzan Control all made use of the Courser. Want to build a warrior deck? Great. But the courser will outlast you. A burn deck (not the SpartanNerd.) But the Courser’s ability to gain you life for playing lands takes away the point. How about Jeskai decks with Prowess. The Courser is a 2/4 big blocker. In fact Some Jeskai players added green to their decks just because the Courser was so good.
I’ve said the downside of playing the Courser of Kruphix is that the opponent gets to see the top card of the library. And it’s true, this WAS RELEVANT when the card first came out and people were still figuring him out. But as Theros Block waxed long in the tooth, people figured out how to keep the revealed knowledge from being relevant.
The Courser of Kruphix was EVERYWHERE. Both it and the Sylvan Caryatid seemed to always be in the same deck.
Speaking of the Sylvan Carytid…
This is the next card on my list! I will not miss the Sylvan Carytid for the same reason I won’t be missing Thoughtsieze. Now this card isn’t that expensive, and it has seen multiple printings also, getting honored in Event Decks, and also in the Clash Pack with alternate art.
The Sylvan Carytid isn’t quite Noble Hierarch. But she approaches her. This is a source of mana of any color, that is difficult to remove. And it is also a big blocker on the ground for the early game. Will this card fetch $30 – $60 someday? I doubt it. Like I said, not QUITE Noble Hierarch, (one of the greatest mana ramp cards ever.)
The Sylvan Carytid has helped me learn to build a four-color deck for the first time. I decided to play in a PPTQ tournament at The Tangled Web Comic book store in Spartanburg SC, and I took my Esper “Gifts Ungiven” reanimator deck. I remember one player telling me…”Wow. This is a SLOW deck.” I went home with big losses….(I won’t be playing in any more of those for a LONG time.) But I decided to work on the problem. Why was the deck so slow? One of the reasons was the slow mana-base. Sylvan Caryatid helped me fix this. Not that it is a perfect deck yet…(I need at least two Snapcaster Mages and three Lilana, of the Veil.) Still, my four-color deck featuring the Carytid and also Fleecemane Lion is far faster. And the second claim I can make for it is that I have NEVER HAD MANA SCREW with the deck.
Thank you, Sylvan Carytid. Your teachings have been invaluable, and netted me two FNM tournament wins!
Ahhh….the first ever box of Magic cards that I ever pre-ordered. Born of the Gods. (WAA…Waaa…waa)
Out of Thirty Six packs of cards, I was very interested in getting two cards. Herald of Torment and Bile Blight.
I got NEITHER CARD. OK, so the Herald was a rare. I get that I wasn’t supposed to get him necessarily. But BILE BLIGHT! Uncommon. i SHOULD have gotten at least one copy!
Nope. I spent the whole weekend after I got my box going around Greenville, and even Hendersonville looking for copies of these cards. I was able to come up with TWO copies.
Why was this uncommon gem so hard to find, with its price of less than a dollar?
The Born of the Gods EVENT DECK had TWO COPIES. It is my theory, and just a theory, but probably a good one, that the Wizards held them back from he first wave of boxes, so that they could keep them uncommon and stuff them into the event decks.
Bile Blight is a super handy removal spell against token strategies. Yes, it costs two blacks, demanding you to play Mono-Black devotion or similar. And it was great in mirror matches. When Mono-Black devotion died down, it was semi-OK against Elspeth. The card is currently good against Hangarback Walker. (It worked great against Pack Rat.)
I don’t think this card is going anywhere. It is an efficient kill spell for one creature, or great at wiping out mana-elves, or hordes of tokens. It works great against Fleecemane lion as well. Even if one of them is Monstrous, if you play the card right. Have the Monstrous Fleecemane block some small critter and lose a little chunk, then hit a non-monstrous one on the battlefield with Bile Blight, and in perfect Magic World, you took care of a big problem.
For the rest of my story, I did eventually buy Herald of Torment…he never was expensive, and he really is just OK. It was good to bestow him onto a Siege Rhino and fly in for the kill. I eventually ordered the promo version of Bile Blight, which has creepier art with soldiers melting. (No stores around here got copies of the promo. I paid like $5 for it! But it is a card I really like.)
Bile Blight, I will keep you in my Modern toolbox. As a player closely identified with black, I consider you as better than Doom Blade, Smother, or even Murderous Cut, or just Murder. You can’t kill everything. But you can -3/-3 things with indestructible. And if played against the right deck, you can gain card advantage on the field. Thank you for your service!
I almost jumped for joy when the Wizards announced that Scry was going to become an evergreen ability. YAY!
Scry Lands, you are slow. Probably too slow for Modern, almost ever. Definitely not shock lands or fetch lands. Serum Visions kicks your butt.
But if you want fixing that you don’t miNd being a little slow with a small benefit attached, scry lands are better than say, “Refuges,” or “gain lands.” And light years better than guildgates. (shudder.)
I will keep you around. I expect you will be re-printed in the future, maybe with different art. And then the Theros block Scry Lands will see value again. We’ll see!
Erebos, God of the Dead
How could I create such a list and omit some Gods. The God cards were the flagships of the Theros block. There were five “major gods” and ten “minor gods.”
Here’s the list.
Heliod, God of the Sun
Thassa God of the Sea
Erebos, God of the Dead
Purphoros, God of the Forge
Nylea, God of the Hunt
Atheros, God of Passage
Ephara, God of the Polis
Iroas, God of Victory
Karametra, God of Harvests
Keranos, God of Storms
Kruphix, God of Horizons
Mogis, God of Slaughter
Pharika, God of Affliction
Phenax, God of Deception
Xenagos, God of Revels
There are only two truly significant cards on this list, Erebos and Thassa. Basically the others were played around with, but might have made a mark for about a week and then disappeared.
Each of the major gods, (the first five listed,) had a weapon, and the weapons saw more play than the gods themselves.
But Erebos really stands a head taller than all of the others. Mostly because of the Mono-Black Devotion deck. In such a deck, Erebos is an unstoppable death machine. If you can get him “turned on” by having five swamp symbols on the battlefield under your control, Erebos is incredible. And his card draw ability is also really good if you only wish to view him as an enchantment.
While Thassa and Nylea both THREATENED to create mono-colored devotion strategies, Erebos actually made it happen. (i’m not being fair entirely. Xenagos also sees a little bit of play.)
It seems like the Gods will be back whenever the Wizards bring Theros back in ten years or so. They might just shift the whole thing to reflect Rome instead of Greece. I wonder how they will change the gods?
The Whip of Erebos will also be missed. That card really could wreak havoc if you were able to whip a Siege Rhino, or even better a Gray Merchant out of your graveyard, letting you drain your opponent with evil black devotion. And the whip seems so innoccuous sometimes. And then BAM. Big problems.
Erebos, I will miss you and your whip. I don’t know if a mono-black strategy will ever resurge in Modern. It seems viable. There are plenty of cards that provide the devotion you need. Phylactery Lich, Geralf’s Messenger, and on and on I could name. The whip will find its way into reanimator decks I’m sure.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion (Not pictured)
Ah…Elspeth. The control card of choice for such a long time. You were expensive, then they re-printed you in the duel deck, Elspeth vs. Kiora. (The art in that deck is even prettier than the original.)
Elspeth was mainly used to create white-weenie chumps as a finishing move for a control deck. Occasionally, people would destroy a large creature with her roll-down ability. But usually, she would get nine chumps on the field, and then an emblem, and they would all hammer you hard.
Bile Blight was good against the chumps. But if you are in Bile Blight mode at that point in the game, it was usually over anyways. (Remember, you are playing a control player.)
It got to where Hero’s Downfall was needed…
Hero’s Downfall… (not pictured)
Similar to an earlier Rakdos card from Ravnica Block. (Dreadbore). This card was an instant kill for a creature or planeswalker. I think this card will become a staple against planeswalkers if people aren’t playing red for that other card…
Stormbreath Dragon (I don’t own a copy!)
I don’t own one of these. Never have. Never will I don’t think. (Not a red player.)
I won’t miss this guy beating my tail. Enough said!
I loved Despising him out of my opponents hand. This means I traded my 25-cent card for their $25 card. But only if I was lucky.
Now for a few other cards rotating out…
I literally SHOUTED when I saw they were re-printing Lilliana Vess for M15. And I opened her at the pre-release, and used her to bring home a win. (We actually split the box four ways…it was at a store at the beach that no longer has Magic tournaments, sadly.) Lilliana. I have this joke with my boys. “I AM Lilliana.” Which always gets a reaction from my youngest.
Few things are more satisfying in the game of Magic than re-animating every creature from every graveyard. Lilliana can do this with her ultimate ability. She is also a great card for tutoring up what you need.
I believe this to be her final re-print, unless they put her in some special set, reprint her for Commander, or similar. This was her fifth printing, more than almost any other Planeswalker card. (Lorwyn, M12, M13, Duel Decks Garruk vs. Lilliana, and M15. There are actually six re-prints if you count the Duel Deck Anthology version.)
If Magic the Gathering has a villain, it is likely Nicol Bolas. Lilliana is second place. (Maybe Ob-Nixilis.) (If not the Eldrazi)
I wish the Wizards had printed Lilliana of the Veil. And according to their Making Magic articles, they almost did. She would have been great!
I will set Lilliana back in her place of honor at the beginning of my Modern binder beside my other favorite cards, Grave Titan, and Elbrus, the Binding Blade.
and last but not least
Waste Not represents a card that can be a “sleeper.” One thing that I have learned from the Theros Block is about the “meta-game.” What cards do people play? What is popular? What is popular at the Tangled Web as opposed to other places? This is the meta-game. And I have only met one other player brave enough/ stupid enough to try and rip a hole in the meta-game by playing a Waste Not deck.
Waste Not isn’t a valuable card. I generally runs less than $5. It has the distinction of being designed by the Magic Community.
I played a Waste Not deck in response to the flood of Abzan Decks with some success. But I got tired of it. People started expecting me to play it. And then it was rendered pretty much useless by Sphynx’s Tutelage.
The point of the deck was load up stuff that forced the opponent to discard. Thoughtsieze of course, Despise, and Durress. There is an insane combo card for this in Dark Deal. When the opponent discarded cards, good things would happen for you if Waste Not was on the field, and even more good things if multiple copies were on the field. You would be generating Mana, drawing cards, or getting zombie tokens.
But zombie tokens don’t fly. You can’t force the opponent to ditch lands apart from Black Cat or Dark Deal. Too many discard spells become useless…if your opponent doesn’t have any cards in hand, then you have dead cards. If the opponent gets a choice to discard a card, then they usually ditch a land. (Kolaghan’s Command forces them to discard a card at instant speed, usually a land which generates mana that you usually can’t use.)
Waste Not was a fun card for me for awhile. But I was never able to top-8 with a Waste Not deck.
I belive Waste Not to still be useful in an 8rack deck…I am building one. But it just isn’t as fun as reanimator for me right now, so….
Hub City Geeks, what cards will you miss from the Theros Block (and M15.) Let me know in the comments!