Theros Beyond Death Limited Set Review – Black
Theros Beyond Death Limited Set Reviews
Welcome back to our Limited Set Review! We’re doing Black today, shuddering at all manner of horrors escaping from the Underworld… I’m not sure the good guys will be making it out in one piece this time, since as befits such nightmarish creatures, Black is frightfully strong.
- S: Ridiculous bomb; has a huge effect on the game immediately, and threatens to dominate it if unanswered.
Examples: Oko, Thief of Crowns, Garruk, Cursed Huntsman, Lochmere Serpent
- A: Very powerful card, approaches bomb status, pulls you strongly into its colour.
Examples: Giant Killer, Epic Downfall, Stolen by the Fae
- B: Great playable, happy to first pick, pulls you into its colour.
Examples: Bake into a Pie, Fierce Witchstalker, Mysterious Pathlighter
- C+: Good playable that almost never gets cut.
Examples: Scorching Dragonfire, Tome Raider, Wintermoor Commander
- C: Fine playable or decent filler, sometimes gets cut.
Examples: Outflank, Maraleaf Rider, Foreboding Fruit
- D: Medium to bad filler, gets cut a lot.
Examples: Tall as a Beanstalk, All That Glitters, Claim the Firstborn
- F: Mostly to totally unplayable cards.
Examples: Happily Ever After, Fires of Invention, The Magic Mirror
The problem with discard spells in Limited is the games tend to go long and come down to topdecking and that the ones at common and uncommon tend to be inefficient or situational. While this one still has the first problem, unconditionality at 2 mana is strong and this is a format where Blue will be relying on countermagic and have cards in its hand well into the late game. Hosing Escape, even if the card is already in the graveyard, is great too.
Discard effects are usually bad in Limited, but this one has some advantages. It is cheap, exiles any non land, and even hits escape cards. It still has the drawback of being a dead card at times, but that is going to be much rarer than with a card like Duress, for example.
Aphemia, the Cacophony
Aphemia is great and will demand removal at any point in the game. She’s a very high A, and this format is especially good for her in that most of its removal doesn’t stop that incredible ability. She does require a steady stream of Enchantments in your graveyard, so she might only be making 2-3 zombies a lot of the time (which is still busted).
This is a fantastic card that you are always going to be happy to open. If it didn’t only hit your graveyard it would be an S.
Aspect of Lamprey
This card is a ton of value and adding lifelink to a creature is worth quite a lot. I look at this as “Mind Rot with huge upside” and it synergises very well with White, where you can pick this up with Heliod’s Pilgrim and it will trigger your heroic cards.
Cards like this do better in Sealed, but tend to be too slow for Draft. It is certainly possible to get a big swing out of this but you will miss just as often.
This is a gigantic beating – it won’t be hard to often reach 4 or 5 Black devotion (since this provides 2 by itself), and at that point you have 3/2 Ravenous Chupacabra for 6. Even if you’re only able to give -3/-3, the creatures in this set aren’t that big and you’ll often just pick up a small flier with it. This card is absurd at common and I think is actually closer to an A than a C+. This is the best black common and will define the Limited format; the only way this card isn’t absurd is if the format is really fast, and I really don’t believe that’s the case.
This is a real beast to rate. In some decks it will reliably be 6 mana for a 3/2 ‘destroy target creature.’ It’s no Ravenous Chupacabra but maybe a little better than Consign to the Pit. The question is whether or not the format will be slow enough for Black to run 6-drops like this. My prediction is this will be a good playable for some decks while more aggressive decks or decks that aren’t Black enough might take a pass.
Cling to Dust
This card is decent, but I don’t think there are enough Escape cards to make it really busted except against Black. It being black is a problem in itself because the more competition there are for cards in graveyard, the worse individual Escape cards become. I would rather be casting giant creatures than drawing a card late, and I think there are enough options to do so in this colour that the Escape isn’t really worth that much. This is a great sideboard card, so I’ll take it higher on that basis, but I’m not that excited to pick it highly.
Cling to Dust really depends on how prevalent Escape cards are going to be. It interacts particularly well with Escape non creatures as it replaces itself in the process, while using it on creatures will frequently put you behind depending on how the creature got into the graveyard in the first place. Having Escape itself (although at a steep cost) ensures it will create value in a drawn out game.
The base case of 2/1 for 2 that gains 4 life (from chumping with the goat) is already a good one, and that’s worst case scenario for this card. Best case scenario is you have some sacrifice payoffs, and then it’s immediately fantastic and a 2 drop you actively will be on the lookout for.
If your deck wants to sacrifice some goats (and Zombie Satyrs), this is your 2-drop. Otherwise I would consider this filler.
Drag to the Underworld
Unconditional instant removal that isn’t tied to Enchantments is going to be very important in this Limited format. It’s not hard to have this cost 2 a lot of the time, and that’s just great tempo as well.
Murder is an A and so is this. Premium removal is the life blood of most Limited decks.
Eat to Extinction
Unconditional instant removal that exiles, preventing Escape, and also surveils 1? Sign me up!
The second effect interacts really nicely with Escape. Only hitting the top card puts a low ceiling on the benefit, but it is still icing on a very good cake.
This is a great value card, but the second ability is kind of awkward since your opponent knows it’s coming and is incentivised to play their best spells immediately (and they will probably already have 4 mana to do so). The third ability won’t matter that much against opponents without Escapes. Still a great card, and is very likely to 2 for 1.
After I read #1 I thought this would be an A because of how many good cards it hits. There are some pesky 2 power creatures in this format. We have already seen Aphemia, the Cacophony in this section and Blue and White each had some prior. The problem is II and III are both highly situational and put a damper on things. This will sometimes live up to its name when it removes two of your opponents best cards from the game. In Sealed I am feeling an A on this. The non creature clause means it misses most bombs, but a higher curve makes it more likely to at least hit an expensive spell.
Enemy of Enlightenment
By turn 6 or later, your opponent isn’t likely to have very many cards in hand, and this ability will ensure they don’t. At that point, you just have a giant flier. Blue decks will be able to draw cards at an efficient rate in the format but it’s still pretty hard to have five by this stage in the game, and if they can’t actually kill it then this second ability is going to be very annoying for them. Against every other colour, this is just great.
The ‘Enemy of Enlightenment” is also at odds with draw spells. It gives your Opponent a turn to play around it but also powers it up the turn it attacks. My estimation is that it’ll be a little worse than a 4/4 on average. I am not thrilled with the 6-mana options in Black so far.
Erebos has a pair of really powerful abilities that synergise well with each other, and five Devotion is very reachable in Limited.
The Black God is a dream sacrifice engine, and there are a plethora of life gain options in this set to keep the cards flowing.
This is a fantastic removal spell, and the lifegain matters a lot on top. Giving something -4/-4 and gaining 4 life for 5 is just a great rate. You won’t use the second ability very often, but sometimes it’ll really be nice if they have some sort of Bomb escape card.
Yet another spectacular removal spell for Black. There are already several compelling reasons to at least splash this color and we are only at ‘E.’
5 mana is well worth it for unconditional instant speed removal that isn’t tied to Enchantments. It won’t always be a great tempo play or against aggro decks, but this will always be a good card.
You can do worse than this for hard removal and this is a perfectly acceptable consolation if you don’t find any of the premium removal spells in your Draft. Final Death is an A if you find it in your Sealed pool.
Fruit of Tizerus
I really don’t believe in this card at all – black has enough better Escapes that you shouldn’t need to run this. Even in your aggro deck, you’d much rather be bringing back a creature late. Spending four mana to deal two damage in the late game is an easy way to give your opponents time to just expand their board and kill you. This card is just far too situational and weak.
I can imagine a RB Aggro deck that may want a card that deals 4 damage, even if it takes some investment. I don’t think other archetypes will be interested at all. In Sealed this is not a playable card.
This effect is well worth the rate – there are enough Escapes in Black that milling the two cards is strong upside, and it’s just gravy on top of a nice Divination. I consider this a pretty low C+ since it’s bad if you’re behind and you don’t want too many, but it’s a pretty good card nonetheless.
Black is on point with the sacrifice (goats and life) and graveyard recursion themes in Theros Beyond Death. Representing +1 card in hand and 3 cards into the graveyard to empower Escape, it seems worth the cost. I would give it a C+ in Sealed and potentially will in Draft as well after I have a chance to play it in different contexts.
A 4/4 lifelink for 5 is already a fantastic rate in Draft – each hit with that creature is a massive life total swing, and it usually means they can’t attack with most of their creatures on the ground. Finding your Escapes for free is huge value on top in a colour with plenty.
This card is always good and can only get better if you end up with strong Escape cards to find with it.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Gary is great in every heavy black deck, a terrifying card in Limited that prevents races by himself and kills your opponent super quickly. Bouncing and flickering him will end games in short order; he’s a pretty high B.
I would love this at the top of my curve in an Aggro deck. An empty board brings this down quite a bit, but the upside here is quite high.
The ability to trade up with 2 drops means this card is reasonable to begin with, and there are some high value x/1s at common (here’s a full list) that can lead to some easy 2 for 1s if you can sacrifice this with Soul-Reaper of Mogis (or by blocking, gaining a bunch of life and then using the ability to kill them). I think a lot of decks will be in the market for this effect, especially since Black looks a bit vulnerable to aggro in this set and this card is good against that.
I do not think this always going to be worth a card. It is primarily just a 1 mana 1/1 that trades with X/2’s. Sacrifice mechanics are generally card disadvantage so you want to get more bang for your buck than this. That said, there are some 1 toughness things that this can snipe when you sacrifice Grim Physician to Soulreaper of Mogis, for example. If the sacrifice archetype comes together this may end up being a staple creature.
There are enough good auras that I would recommend taking this card highly, and taking auras a bit higher if you see them. It wears auras decently also; I think you want minimum 4 or 5 auras in a deck before this card becomes worth running, but it is exceptionally good in Orzhov with Heliod’s Pilgrim, for example (you can just count that as an aura for this purpose if you have a couple of others).
There are several Auras that can work with this but I wouldn’t go out of my way to create a deck that revolves around Hateful Eidolon. This is an early pick if you know you are going to be in Orzhov, however.
This is a pretty weak form of removal, especially in a format full of maindeck Enchantment hate and in a colour full of better options. Your opponent will often be able to sacrifice other creatures to leverage attacks when it’s good for them, and if they don’t want to then they just have the choice of sacrificing the creature you put this on.
Speaking of Auras that work with Hateful Eidolon, this is an interesting card. Usually the end will come quickly and it will immediately remove the creature you target. The fact that it gives your opponent options is a slight downside, though.
Lampad of Death’s Vigil
This is a solid 2 drop – it has a fine rate for blocking, it triggers your enchantment synergies and the ability can be some pretty sweet upside, especially with cards like Discordant Piper and Grim Physician. It lets you convert your creatures that have been Enchanted by your opponents into value and potentially use their Escapes, and it works great with Act of Treason effects especially; if you have 3-4 sac outlets, it’ll be worth maindecking those. There are enough cards you want to sacrifice to make this a pretty high pick in Draft.
Cards like this used to be so much better back when damage went on the stack. The common 2-drop options for Black are not exactly thrilling, but this is a decent enabler for sacrifice synergy and a 1/3 statline is not bad at all for two mana.
This card works exceptionally well in Dimir, where you’ll be holding your mana up anyway. In other colour pairs, having to hold up this effect when it costs 3 whole mana is really not worth it so I would only play this if I had a lot of some good sac outlets and cards with good enter the battlefield abilities. A lot of the removal in the format is Enchantment-based so without sac outlets, it can be hard to have your creature actually die. This will be a D in the average deck, so that’s what I gave it, but if the stuff I said applies to you then don’t be afraid to run it!
Here is another Aura that combos well with Hateful Eidolan. The thing about running combos like this is that with the number of games you play with the deck you are probably only going to see it once. The pieces have to still be good on their own, and I think Minion’s Return probably is. The fact that it has Flash is really intriguing to me as it gives you the ability to steal (or revive) a creature during combat or set up for a kill on your turn at the end of theirs. If the latter happens you are down a card though, so hopefully that creature was worth it!
This is a pretty low B, and I considered giving it only a C+, but I think it provides enough value to just about get there. Black has a bunch of good Escapes at common, and the incidental lifegain is great, and this card stays relevant into the late game.
This is a great creature to have. It threatens to trade on defense, and hits twice as hard as Foulmire Knight if it is let through on the attack. Even a modest trade puts you ahead with the incidental life gain and Escape enabling.
This card is a great answer to small creatures and still relevant against big ones, and it triggers Constellation to boot!
Scorching Dragonfire was a good card in ELD. Mire’s Grasp plays a little differently, but there are a lot of good targets for it in this format and I like that it can stick around to weaken stronger creatures and strengthen any enchantment/aura synergy you may have.
This has an efficient enough rate at 1 mana that I’m not unhappy maining 1 copy – you can also use it as a budget Bonesplitter to make any of your creatures (especially those with evasion) a solid threat or to trade up. Additionally, there are a lot of high value x/1s at common in the format (see here). This is a very cheap Escape cost and provides solid value in the late game also, and it is a good sideboard card. It sort of reminds me of a weird equipment that can double up as a removal spell. All in all, it’s still a fairly low C since it’s a pretty situational card, but being a solid Sideboard card pays dividends too.
This has sideboard potential against decks with a lot of low toughness creatures, but I don’t think this effect is strong enough to justify a card slot, even if you can potentially do it twice.
4/4 flier for 4 is a fantastic rate, and this effect is great with both enter the battlefield abilities and sacrifice effects. Even without those, making a 1/1 every time a creature you control dies is really solid and will gain you a lot of life and make combat a Nightmare for your opponents. This is a must remove bomb.
4/4 and Flying is an incredible deal at four mana, and the ability interacts nicely with sacrifice effects. It does have some counter-synergy with Escape but this is still a bomb.
This is a little understatted but a fine filler card. Being an Enchantment is nice, but will mean his marauding days may end when met with a Revoke Existence or a Return to Nature.
I really like the design of this card cycle beyond just the art and common flavor text. Even though they are vanilla creatures their power/toughness breakdown is on theme for their respective color. Card cycles have been pretty heavy-handed lately and it is nice to see something more understated. Anyway, Nyxborn Marauder is a perfectly fine 4-drop creature, but its inclusion likely means you couldn’t find anything better in that slot.
Omen of the Dead
This is a pretty low C. The effect is situational and ineffectual, and doesn’t provide value, unlike cards like Soul Salvage and Aid the Fallen. Scrying 2 in the late game, being a very cheap way to trigger Enchantment synergy and being very solid in Dimir (with the “cast first spell on each opponent’s turn” mechanic) are all factors that combine to save this card though.
This is likely playable if you have some bomb creatures in your deck, but I still think it is the worst of the Omens.
Edict effects are normally bad in Limited, as the board doesn’t really stay clear of small creatures as it does in Constructed. The ability to make them sacrifice an Enchantment makes this card solid though – some decks won’t have that many Enchantments, and you might well spike a high value one. It’s still not an amazing card but you should be looking to sideboard it in against people with only a few Enchantments.
Edicts are too situational to be more than filler. I like that it is instant speed and hits enchantments, but it is still too risky in my opinion to be any better than a low C.
This Escape is fantastic and will dominate the late game – it’s cheap at only three cards, and produces a gigantic threat that immediately takes out your opponent’s weakest creature. If that threat should die, it’ll just come right back. All that on a 3/4 for 4, an already okay rate? Sign me up!
I really like this card and would be happy to take it early. The value of getting a 3/4, a 5/6, and an edict all out of one card is well worth the mana/Escape investments.
This Minotaur is a fine rate in decks with a solid beatdown strategy, and is especially good with big creatures in Golgari, for example. It’s often a 5/4 that deals 4 or 5 damage or forces them to chump with their worst creature. It doesn’t have amazing stats and it won’t fit every deck, but it’s a pretty high C.
The ability makes this significantly better than Fire Elemental and I wouldn’t mind having one of these in a Black deck, especially if you’re in Golgari or Rakdos.
This is a bit of an awkward package but I think it has enough going on to merit a high C. A 3 mana 2/1 flier is nothing special by itself, but the ability to spike Escape cards can be very useful. I considered C+ but I think it’s a bit too ineffectual a body and too situational an ability, and as we saw earlier in this Black set review, there are a decent number of ping effects.
This is a ‘meh’ for me. I wouldn’t go out of my way to draft this, but it has some upside with all of the good Escape effects running around. The issue is you need to play it early to get value out of the 2/1 body and if you do that you are unlikely to hit anything meaningful with the ability.
Soulreaper of Mogis
Spark Reaper was a solid card, and this will be too. This is a great way to make use of your Grim Physicians and Discordant Pipers and to get value out of opposing removal in the late game.
This is one of the best Black commons. It is a key enabler for sacrifice synergy, and I suspect the format is going to be slow enough to generate a lot of card advantage with this thing.
I don’t think there are enough Enchantment creatures that this ability will mean that much, and it’s pretty easy to play around this with Auras. Still, it’s an okay 2 drop and wears auras well sometimes. I consider this a pretty low C.
This is rarely going to be better than a grizzly bear, but sometimes you will need it to fill out your curve. Cards like Duskmantle Operative are never exciting but sometimes necessary.
I think there aren’t enough ways to sacrifice Enchantments to make this a great card. This is a very painful ability and you only really want to cast this card very late game once you have no other cards, as if you’re spending your early turns doing this then your opponents are way more likely to be able to capitalise on the damage this will do you (and it will do you much more). I think the set has enough good late game that you can do better than this unless you do happen upon the rare deck that has enough ways to sacrifice Enchantments. You really don’t want to use Enchantment removal on this card – that’s just not a worthwhile use of a good removal spell.
This is another treacherous card to rate. There are going to be ways to make it work with all of the life gain, enchantment removal, sacrifice, etc.. Ultimately I can imagine too many scenarios where this sits in your hand or ends up being Divination with extra steps to rate it any higher.
Tymaret Calls the Dead
This card represents a ton of value – it will put tons of cards in your graveyard for Escape and it’s very easy to get two 2/2s out of this, at which point it’s really nuts. Scrying a few and gaining a few is solid upside on top. This is a high B.
This is a very good Saga that is a borderline A in my book. While it doesn’t take over the game by itself, it represents incredible value and enables Escape in a big way. I would happily first pick this card.
Tymaret, Chosen from Death
Tymaret is a solid 2 drop that is relevant at any point in the game, often becoming a 2/5 or a 2/6 later on and generating two black Devotion for your Catoblepases by itself. Its ability completely hoses Escape, and will gain a bunch of life. All in all, it will demand removal a lot of the time and is only held back by its tough casting cost – it gets a lot worse if you don’t have minimum 9 Black sources in your deck, and you should aim for that number.
Tymaret looks to interact really well with this set as long as your deck leans Black enough to support the cost. Shutting down Escape alone is going to be very impactful against a lot of decks, and you are also getting an enchantment, a high toughness creature, and +2 Devotion for just two mana.
This is a low C – I don’t think most decks in Black will want this, because not blocking is a huge drawback and Black isn’t particularly aggressive this set. In Rakdos or Orzhov, this could make it to high C or C+ – it’s a giant threat that Escapes cheaply over and over, and well-statted on either half but I wouldn’t take this very highly in the early stages of your Draft.
This is clearly an Aggro card, and I like Escape creatures as they are reminiscent of Adventure in terms of adding a lot of value to a given card. I just think Black is primarily going to want blockers in the 3 slot at this point.
I don’t really believe in this card, as it’s incredibly hard to cast. If you can get there and be the mono black deck, it can be pretty solid since it grows your Catoblepases a lot and does a medium Ill-Gotten Inheritance impression but even then, I would only be looking at like C for that card. Don’t play this outside of mono black – it’s not worth waiting until t6 or 7 to cast this at all. This is a low D.
This is playable in mono Black but still not good. If Black ends up being nearly as good as it looks I have serious doubts about it ever being open enough in Draft to support mono.
This is a very high C+. Deathtouch is a strong ability on a 3/3, and this is a fantastic way to enable your Escapes and other graveyard synergies.
Another Hill Giant with a decent ability, Venomous Hierophant does support Escape and trades with anything so I would consider this a high C.
Woe Strider is incredible. It does a million busted things – its base case is good as a 3/2 for 3 that gains 4 life (through chump blocking and scrying), unconditional sac outlets are amazing especially in an Enchantment set, and it represents a ton of late game value in preventing you drawing lands over and over. And then there’s the Escape ability which is absolutely crushing – a 5/4 that returns over and over will slaughter your opponents, you get a Goat every time, and you can use his sacrifice ability to fuel your graveyard to make Escaping easier. This is a high A.
This is the type of card that meets instant removal because your opponent doesn’t want to read all of the text and assumes it is good. Later, it returns from the grave as a 5/4 which prompts your opponent to take a closer look and realize that indeed it is very good!
I thought Blue looked fantastic in this set, but Black is actually a decent amount better. It combines great removal that’s not even very situational with a bunch of busted commons, including one that will singlehandedly define the Limited format in Blight-Breath Catoblepas. Blue’s synergies are better but Black has a huge amount of raw power and some synergy in its Sacrifice theme. Black has the same weakness to aggro as Blue has and has fewer tools at common to save it, making cards like Mire’s Grasp and Grim Physician very important. Orzhov and Rakdos look to synergise especially well; I suspect Black will want support colours more than just another main colour like Blue since its core is so strong. Black looks set to be the best colour by far in Sealed, and could easily be the best colour in Draft.
We still need to take a deep dive into Red and Green, but I would not be surprised if Black ends up being the strongest color. The sacrifice synergy looks very strong, and Black has many tools to prolong games and grind out advantages. I think Black has enough tools to pair well with any color, and should support grindy archetypes especially well. There are more removal options here than any set in recent memory, and the Escape and Devotion creatures can create some insane value. I very much looking forward to drafting Black, but am also hoping it isn’t so dominant that all we see are Black based decks in the format. Time will tell!