Hello everyone! Now that the full set is released, we’re just a week or two away from Theros: Beyond Death releasing, here's our top ten cards to watch out for from the set in Standard. Without further ado, let's get into it!
10. Bronzehide Lion
Roar! We’re starting this list off with a bang, as the Lion is clearly pushed to be a Constructed-level card. A 3/3 for two mana is obviously a great rate, and having the ability to gain indestructible means this thing can attack pretty much unimpeded throughout the early turns. Even in the late game when a 3/3 might be outclassed, the Lion can block endlessly if you’ve got the extra mana. It even provides incidental value when it dies, protecting another key creature and giving you a free Constellation trigger. This card fits somewhat awkwardly into the current Green-White shell, Adventures, but I see a lot of solid support for an aggressive Constellation shell, and this is by far the best card to enable that strategy.
9. Thirst for Meaning
For those who don’t know, this is a reference to the ancient Magic card Thirst for Knowledge from all the way back in Mirrodin- the same effect but for artifacts. Any deck that wants card draw and happens to be running enchantments would be very happy to run this- control decks with enchantment-based removal, for instance. It’s also an instant in case some Flash decks that also happen to run enchantments want it, and it even can help fill up your graveyard if you’re trying to do some Escape shenanigans. Super solid card that will be played as an enabler in a wide variety of strategies.
8. Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Heliod definitely gives you the best rate among all the new Gods, as a 5/5 for three mana is just nuts (look at the success of old Thassa, God of the Sea). White Weenie was already a reasonably successful aggro deck, and Heliod slots into that shell pretty easily. He also combos well with stuff like lifelink creatures and the new Daxos. There are a lot of interlocking synergies in white with this set- Constellation/enchantment synergies, lifegain, and white devotion are all themes that can be supported in the same deck, even.
7. Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis
I think a lot of players are sleeping on this card because they’re underestimating the impact of the Escape effect, especially because her abilities are weaker than your average Planeswalker these days. First of all, let’s evaluate how she plays if you don’t even care about her Escape effect- she comes down, makes some tokens, and then either buffs them for a couple turns of attacking or gains you some life before kicking the bucket. That’s obviously not that great by itself- maybe an aggro deck would want it, maybe not.
However, the Escape ability changes everything drastically. Say you play Elspeth on turn 4, make some dudes, then use another ability on turn 5. On turn 6, you use her one more time, putting her in the graveyard- and hey, it’s turn 6, you can Escape her right away! Exiling four cards is easier than you'd expect- just by playing Magic, you get plenty of cards hitting the graveyard all the time, particularly when your deck is designed to do it. I could see a control deck recurring Elspeth 2-3 times in a single game fairly easily. You don’t even need to cast Elspeth to get value out of it. Imagine casting Thirst for Meaning and discarding Elspeth, then Escaping it on turn 6. It's really nice to have a win condition that you can freely discard in the early game and still get plenty of value out of it. Elspeth excels in both aggressive and controlling decks, which is the type of versatility you should look for in a Planeswalker.
6. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
Uro's floor is a 3-mana sorcery that draws you a card, ramps you, and gains you life, which is already quite a solid spell in its own right. In a dedicated deck, however, his ceiling is astronomical. It's possible to hit this guy's Escape on turn 4 with the help of a turn-1 Fabled Passage, in which case you probably win the game outright. He's huge, recursive, and continually ramps, draws cards, and heals you while smashing the opponent's face in. Really the only two things that could limit this guy in competitive Standard is the large amount of graveyard hate available and the somewhat limited self-milling tools that exist in the format. Still, we know Simic is the strongest color combination in the format right now, and it's very likely there's a good Simic or Sultai shell that can make Uro work.
5. Mischievous Chimera
Blue-red flash is an already solid archetype that’s receiving numerous new toys in THB, and I think this is definitely the best one. A 2/2 flyer for 2 is a solid rate, but it also burns opponents down and scries lands away while you mess with your opponent on their turn. This helps keep the counterspells coming while pressuring the opponent’s life total, and it’ll likely be a 4-of in the new Izzet Flash. It’s even an enchantment you can discard to Thirst for Meaning!
4. The Temples
We already have the enemy-colored versions of these in Standard right now, so most players are familiar with the consistency these lands bring to your mana base at little cost. These lands smooth out your draws and fix your mana at the same time. Any non-aggro deck that’s two colors should certainly be running at least two Temples, and they’ll only grow more popular once shock lands rotate out of Standard. You’ll probably also see mono-color Devotion decks running 4-5 Temples just for the additional Scries.
3. Nylea, Keen-Eyed
This is the best God for sure. Both abilities are super relevant, green is the best color in the format, and it also happens to be the best deck at getting devotion quickly. Nylea will almost always be online by turn 4-5, and she helps you power out a bunch more creatures, by both helping you draw additional copies and making them all cheaper. It’s not hard to build around her, either- just throw a bunch of Forests and green creatures in a deck and go nuts. It even helps stack your graveyard if that's also something your deck is interested in.
2. Tectonic Giant
This card is incredibly, incredibly powerful for a midrange red creature. Mono-red doesn't often get repeatable card advantage at such an efficient rate, especially not attached to a very reasonable body. The Giant just does everything, and it’s good in every situation. Ahead on board and want to put your opponent on a clock? He attacks for 6, 3 of which is unblockable. Your opponent killed your early creatures and you need more cards? You get to pick an extra card from the top 2 every turn. Behind on board? He’s actually a solid rate at 3/4 for 4, so he’ll block well against weenie decks. Opponent has a removal spell? Okay, but you either dome them for 3 or get another free card. The only way this card doesn’t two-for-one your opponent is if they have a sweeper. Expect the Giant to see play in pretty much every red deck- aggro, midrange, or control. It’s that good.
1. Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Gary’s back! Well-known by his affectionate community nickname "Gary," this card has quite the Standard pedigree. In the days of original Theros, this card singlehandedly enabled the mono-black Devotion deck and made it the boogeyman of the format. Besides Thoughtseize not being in the format anymore, there’s plenty of support for the deck this time too- and getting to drain your opponent for 6-8 life per Merchant is not that uncommon at all. Devotion decks this time around will likely run a LOT of enchantments with multiple black symbols, making it hard for your opponent to stop the drains unless they’ve got dedicated enchantment removal. Besides playing it “fairly,” there’s plenty of ways in the format to blink/bounce/recur him as well, making him a win condition all on his own. Prepare to see a lot of new players complaining on Reddit about this card.
Thanks for reading our Top 10 Theros: Beyond Death cards for Standard! What cards do you agree with? What cards do you think I missed? Let us know in the comments below.