Drifter’s Theros Beyond Death Limited Tier List Update – April 1, 2020
A wise man once told me a tier list is only as good as it is updated, so here I am! Theros: Beyond Death has cemented itself as one of my favourite newer formats, and as Ikoria approaches, I keep thinking I’m not ready to leave this amazing format behind yet… I kind of blame the fact that Ranked Draft kept rotating for that; I go over my reasons for switching from Bo3 to Bo1 Draft on Arena in this article. I’ve been playing a lot of Bo3 on MTGO instead because I still love to sideboard, so that platform will factor into my ratings somewhat also.
At this point, I think Azorius is currently the best colour combination both on MTGO and in the Arena format, and so I have amended some of my ratings accordingly. I still think Black is individually better than White or Blue as I’ve maintained throughout the format, but it’s overdrafted on MTGO and the Arena bots these days are prone to hating it out too, and that’s really led to a much more diverse format and helped it remain fresh and fun. Azorius is so good because White is the second-best colour and it synergises extremely well with Blue; I’ll talk about that in my adjustments to come! White Aggro in general has gotten far better with recent bot updates on Arena, and Boros Aggro & Azorius Aggro-Control especially are in a fantastic place. This is one of those rare formats where I’m many many drafts in and yet I feel as excited for my next Draft as I did in week 3!
Find my previous updates here; together they give a colossal amount of information on my overall view of the format. This is the third and final one before Compulsion’s and my Ikoria Limited Tier List releases (right before the set release itself), but I’ll continue updating on the fly without formal updates as and when I change my opinions on cards. When TBD returns as the Ranked Draft format, I may do another formal update so stay tuned for that!
- Archon of Falling Stars B -> A
- Commanding Presence C+ -> B
- Escape Velocity D -> F
- Flummoxed Cyclops D -> C
- Heliod’s Intervention A -> B
- Loathsome Chimera C -> C+
- Medomai’s Prophecy B -> C
- Nexus Wardens C+ -> C
- Nylea, Keen Eyed S -> A
- Nyxborn Courser C -> D
- Nyxborn Seaguard C -> D
- Phalanx Tactics C -> D
- Pharika’s Libation C -> D
- Pious Wayfarer D -> C
- Riptide Turtle C -> C+
- Stern Dismissal C+ -> C
- Triumphant Surge C+ -> C
Archon of Falling Stars B -> A
I thought that the amount of Enchantment/aura removal would hurt Archon of Falling Stars, but Black and Red let you sacrifice it with cards like Lampad of Death’s Vigil and Final Flare, which are cards you want anyway, so you end up getting something back a huge proportion of the time. When you get back something like Staggering Insight, Commanding Presence, or Dreadful Apathy, that just feels like cheating. A 4/4 flier is big enough in this format to outsize every other flier too, and it wears those auras well itself. This card is just absurd, and I find myself almost never passing it; I think it’s worse than Staggering Insight if you’re Azorius, but still a low A.
Cool side note: I recently beat Dream Trawler with Archon, and this is something to note that could come up in your games. If you have an aura in your graveyard and Archon dies, you can attach the aura directly to a creature and hexproof won’t prevent that, so even something as innocuous as Ichthymorphosis will take Dream Trawler right out!
Commanding Presence C+ -> B
This grade exemplifies this format for me, because it would be weird for this card to be a B in other formats, but I definitely consider it one here. That’s because Heliod’s Pilgrim, Karametra’s Blessing, and Transcendent Envoy just make this card absolutely absurd, and you generally want 1-2 in every White deck. At 3rd or 4th pick, I almost always take this card, and I’ve been extremely impressed; the 1/1s spiral out of control really quickly and ensure you get value even if the Presence dies. I’ve been telling the people I coach “If you slam Commanding Presence on a creature on turn 5 and have K Blessing up, you can’t lose” and I’m only being a bit hyperbolic there!
Heliod’s Intervention A -> B
The problem with Heliod’s Intervention is, while still really good, it’s an incredibly feast or famine card. Many of the auras in the set produce value before you kill them and you get into these awkward situations where you have it stuck in your hand. In my experience, you only want 1-2 Enchantment hate cards in this format, so it doesn’t pair well with Revoke (or Return to Nature/Mystical Dispute in Selesnya).
On the other hand, in some games it can be the easiest 3 for 1 ever and buy you gigantic tempo so it’s still a B but I do think at this point I would take Pharika’s Spawn, Staggering Insight, Archon of Falling Stars etc over it p1p1. Being amazing 20% of the time, reasonable 50% and really bad 30% adds up to a good card but not a standout when you’re comparing it to cards that are usually incredible.
Phalanx Tactics C -> D
Aggro is at its best, and yet Phalanx Tactics is still bad. It has a whole host of problems: a) +2/+1 just isn’t enough to eat creatures or affect that many combats in a strong way. b) Go-wide just hasn’t been good; the aggro decks are about stacking auras/buffs onto things and protecting them, or having powerful single threats like Favored of Iroas and Pious Wayfarer. c) decks only have room for a few tricks. In a format full of good removal, why bother with tricks unless they’re really exceptional in some way, like Karametra’s Blessing is, or they enable your synergies like Indomitable Will does? Ultimately, I’m lowering this card to D because I don’t end up playing it often and am unhappy when I do.
Pious Wayfarer D -> C
I leave Pious Wayfarer at high C despite aggro being so much better now, because a lot of decks in the format don’t care about beating down and rely on fantastic late game and good disruption instead; I strongly considered C+ overall but I don’t think that’s quite where I have it in terms of pick order. I didn’t realise originally just how many Enchantments the average deck has and I thought you would need like 10+ before Pious was good, but really it’s still fine with like 8 or so and 10+ is reachable for a lot of decks. Wayfarer combines really well with all Blue’s Enchantment creatures and especially cards like Stinging Lionfish and Favored of Iroas. It’s very easy to run your opponents over with Wayfarer, good auras and protection for them like Karametra’s Blessing and Starlit Mantle, and the ability to tap their stuff down. In any deck that’s looking to attack early and has enough Enchantments, Wayfarer is an easy C+. Still, don’t be afraid to cut it if you’re trying to overwhelm them with your late game, ramping, or playing a control game!
Nyxborn Courser C -> D
The more I play this format, the more I realise that Nyxborn Courser is barely ever worth putting in your deck. The card interferes with your splashes and warps your mana bases, is still a dead card in a good proportion of your hands, and the payoff is garbage – the statline is fine and the enchantment tag really isn’t worth much. Just don’t play this card unless you would be running 10 Plains without it!
Triumphant Surge C+ -> C
When I was rating, I knew removal was very good in this format and yet I still gave Triumphant Surge too high a grade. This is because I thought the instants matter archetype would matter more (it does a bit in Azorius but it’s really not that big a deal) and I thought that Enchantment removal would hurt the aura removal spells more. It doesn’t because Enchantment removal is being taken highly this late in the format, and there really isn’t tons of it; most decks don’t want to run more than two anyway. Surge is still a pretty good sideboard card to have access to against the green decks and some decks which didn’t get the better removal spells do play it, but it also tends to wheel on Arena a lot.
Medomai’s Prophecy B -> C
I think I made the mistake with this card of not taking into account just how long it takes to do anything and how mediocre a topdeck it is. The problem is twofold: a) the blue decks in this format have become quite tempo-oriented and much less controlling than I thought they would be – Dimir Control is still viable and good, but Azorius and Izzet both tend to be more aggro-controlly, and Simic tends to be a midrange beatdown deck (and not a particularly good one). Prophecy is too slow for all of the latter three decks; Blue doesn’t really have the tools to catch up on the board that much so it really needs Black’s help with that.
b) Blue has other better options for card draw this format – Thirst for Meaning gives the same amount of card advantage, will dig for lands when you need them, and doesn’t take ages to do anything. Omen of the Sea is a much better topdeck than Prophecy because you really don’t want to have to hold spells to draw cards in the late game – that’s a good way to fall really far behind if your opponent is also drawing spells, especially if you’re low on life. Most decks just don’t end up needing Prophecy.
All in all, I’ve massively lowered my Prophecy grade, but I do consider it still a C+ in Dimir and more controlling decks; I still wouldn’t take it all that highly in general unless you have Riptide Chimera (which combines really well with it) though.
Nyxborn Seaguard C -> D
This is a card that I meant to amend which kind of slipped the net. Early in the format, I thought the Enchantment tag would matter a bit more and overestimated how much devotion in Blue would matter; it only matters in White and Black. In Blue, it doesn’t at all unless you’ve opened a Thassa or something, in which case this card is actually good. I don’t think Nyxborn Seaguard is a terrible card per se, but a lot of the decks in this format want to play 10/7 mana bases if they have Tymaret or Daxos, and I think there doesn’t end up being room for it often. Additionally, I thought that the fliers decks would want good blockers like this, but Blue has Riptide Turtle, which is far better, so it doesn’t end up needing this that much. All in all, I should’ve made the switch from low C to high D a while ago.
Riptide Turtle C -> C+
This is a bit of an aggressive move up, but Shelly is fantastic this format and I think it deserves to be at low C+. The Blue decks often have plenty of fliers and so want good ground blockers like this, and it has great synergy with everything Blue is trying to do anyway. Not having to waste your mana when holding countermagic up is really a massive deal, and this format really has a lot of 4/xs like Captivating Unicorn and Voracious Typhon, which Riptide Turtle blanks completely (and it’ll even prevent Typhon from ever Escaping!). I would happily eschew my other 2 drops for Riptide Turtles; maybe have 1 Stinging Lionfish and 3 Shellies in each Blue deck if I could!
Stern Dismissal C+ -> C
With the amount I end up cutting this card, it was really only a matter of time… I like Stern Dismissal at C+ in Izzet and the more aggressive Azorius decks, such as those with Pious Wayfarer, but I’m really not a fan otherwise. This just isn’t a format where tempo is a big enough deal for most decks to want this; it puts puts you a card down too often. Most of the auras provide immediate value and there are a lot of creatures, even something as innocuous as Nylea’s Huntmaster, where bouncing them is really unappetising. The format can be very attritiony and come down to topdecks a lot, and bounce spells are awful there; not being able to bounce your own stuff hurts this even more since sometimes you want to bounce your own creature that’s being locked down by an aura, and instead this will just rot in your hand. I’ve almost never found myself wanting more than 1 in any deck, even Azorius Aggro decks, and been pretty happy to cut the 1 in any non-aggro deck.
Pharika’s Libation C -> D
This is a change that I think just slipped through the crack, and I should’ve made a long time ago… I almost never play Libation, because Black has so many other good removal options, and it has too many failcases. Edict effects are bad in Limited because it’s too easy for your opponents to have weak creatures like 2 drops lying around; every deck plays several and they make the average case of an edict really bad. I thought originally that hitting Enchantments might be worth something, but the combination of Omens and Auras like Aspect of Lamprey and Indomitable Will which have already done most of their work by the time you edict them means that Libation more than half the time just does nothing. It’s a card I sometimes board in against Green decks, but even then their Selesnya deck can just have Omen of the Sun in it and leave you with a dead card in hand… trading for 2 drops for 3 mana is really not where you want to be, and often Libation is even worse than that. This is a low D.
Escape Velocity D -> F
I think I’ve reached the point where I just don’t ever want to put Escape Velocity in a deck. It’s putting yourself a card down for a really situational effect that you won’t have to cause to use over and over, so the Escape doesn’t even help that much. The joke when I gave it a D was “sometimes you’re Boros and really want Heroic triggers/it can maybe do some damage!” but I’m a lot of Boros drafts in and have never had to resort to this card – this format is full of good heroic enablers and I wanted to dedicate cards to board stalls, not races because the majority of decks in this format are still on the slower side with good removal. Escape Velocity doesn’t do nothing, but I think it will almost always do less than whatever card you replace it with, even if that card is an 18th land – those don’t do nothing either!
Flummoxed Cyclops D -> C
I raise Flummoxed Cyclops because of its importance to the 4-power matters archetype in Gruul and sometimes Boros; those archetypes are much more viable now that Black is overdrafted. The card is still a low C and I’m never really excited to run it, but it does sure up some flying weaknesses; it’s sometimes hard for decks to attack with two fliers at once, and it really is a necessary evil when you’re trying to play cards like Furious Rise and Nessian Hornbeetle, or just to beat down. Still, you really need other good blockers with it if you’re not very aggressive, so don’t take it too highly!
Loathsome Chimera C -> C+
With Gruul being a lot more draftable now, the Chimera really pulls its weight – it combines really well with all the 4 power matters stuff the archetype is about. In other Green pairs, you really really want Escapes because Green has access to Relentless Pursuit to enable and dig for them well, and Green tends to have ramp and run out of stuff to do late; I’ve not been unhappy to have as many as 3 or 4 Escape cards in Green, because it’s really important to draw 1 every game. Chimera is a solid card even without all that – it forces trades, Escapes cheaply at only three cards, and its disposable nature makes it a good target for auras/decent sacrifice fodder.
Nexus Wardens C+ -> C
Nexus Wardens is a fine card, but I’ve found that it doesn’t do what I ideally want to be doing in Green. That’s ramping into big threats or playing a good midrange beatdown game, and Nexus Wardens has felt more like a necessary evil than a good tool for either of those plans. The problem is that a lot of fliers this format tend to have auras on them, and there are a lot of 4/x attackers out there. The card is a really ineffectual topdeck, and the format is attritiony so a large proportion of games comes down to that; you really don’t want to play multiple copies. Green doesn’t tend to have amazing late game either. Nexus Wardens is still a great tool for Selesnya and Golgari decks with good late game, and a good sideboard card but I don’t pick it highly enough to warrant the C+ grade anymore; it’s still a fairly high C though.
Nylea, Keen-Eyed S -> A
I overrated the ease at which you could reach five devotion in this format; I think in original Theros, it was much easier, but they’ve been quite careful to balance that this time round, which is great! Nylea is one of the easier Gods to do this for since Voracious Typhon and Nyxborn Colossus will get you a long way, but her grade falls here because she’s not worth splashing (while Heliod, Klothys, and Thassa all are) and she really doesn’t do that much until you get it; having to include Nyxborn Colossus in your deck and not have it die to the myriad removal spells that can hit big enchantment creatures isn’t ideal either. For many decks, Green will be their secondary colour so 5 devotion won’t be easy to reach, and it’s not trivial even in base Green decks.
Thanks for reading!
Tune in for my Limited Spotlight series; these are several smaller articles focusing on certain aspects of multiple Limited formats, which provide a lot of insight on what I consider the crucial factors in them. My latest is “Learning from your Draft Decks” , which breaks down and analyses several of my draft decks; what they did well and badly, and possible improvements I could make/things I can learn from them for next time.
- As always, you can find all my articles, the whole shebang from Limited Set Reviews to Draft Tier List to Strategy Articles to Deck Guides, at mtgazone.com/drifter. If you don’t see anything specific then I’d recommend Hypergeometric Calculator in Magic, my strategy article which teaches you how to tap into an invaluable resource pros already use, to assist in your deckbuilding and mulliganning decisions!
- I offer Limited coaching at negotiable rates. Learn some fundamental skills in a few short hours! Contact me through the discord/reddit for info.
- If you’re looking for a good draft streamer to watch, I recommend www.twitch.tv/justlolaman. Lola is a a strong Limited player and good teacher, and a long-time friend of mine!
- Feel free to follow me on Reddit here to be notified as many of my articles come out, or sign up for our site newsletter at the bottom of the home page for all of them!
- The MTG Arena Zone discord: https://discord.gg/SPYMExR. Engage with your favourite MTGAZone content creators there, myself included!