Theros Beyond Death Limited Set Review – Blue

Theros Beyond Death Limited Set Reviews

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Welcome back for the Blue set review, where the traditional Control colour revisits its roots and recaptures its identity! We will sometimes reference ‘draw-go’ which summarizes the classic Blue playstyle of having mana open to cast spells on the opponent’s turn, while simply drawing and passing (after attacking if applicable) on its own.

If you didn’t catch the first article (White), we introduce ourselves and give a lot of important info there so check it out!

Legend

Alirios, Enraptured

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Drifter: B

This is a lot of value on a card; it threatens to trade off for another 3 drop and then you just get a free 2/3 lying around.

Compulsion: B

A 3/2 and a 2/3 for three mana? Count me in! There don’t seem to be many ways to bounce him and create more value, but Alirios is still a great deal.

Ashiok’s Erasure

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Drifter: D

Pretty whatever – 4 mana counterspells aren’t good in all but the slowest Draft formats, because they’re terrible when you’re behind on board. This has some upside against Escape creatures, but that’s not really enough. This card is also very weak to Enchantment removal, which is maindeckable in this format. Erasure is a bit better than usual, since there are a lot of ways to use mana at instant speed in Blue this format, but I still think it’s just too inefficient and weak to justify a higher grade.

Compulsion: D

Ashiok’s Erasure is not a card I want in my Limited deck. You are not likely to 2-for-1 with it, so generally this will be an overcosted counterspell that is susceptible to removal.

Brine Giant

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Drifter: C

There are a lot of enchantments in this set, and the giant requires two in play by turn 5 to be good; that means you want 8 or 9 in your deck minimum. That’s going to be a lot more manageable in some decks than others, you should consider that your goal and take this card accordingly higher in the Draft if you’re on your way to reaching that easily.

Compulsion: C+

I am pretty high on this card cycle. It is not going to be difficult at all to hit 2 enchantments, so I would tend to think about these cards as costing -2, which seems to be the sweet spot for getting good value out of them.

Callaphe, Beloved of the Sea

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Drifter: C+

Callaphe will usually be a 3/3 for 3 that scales up to a 5/3 or 6/3 in the late game. That’s not honestly that much more exciting than just a 3/3; you’ll sometimes be able to trade her up which is nice, but it’s not a huge payoff. Their removal spells costing 1 more will be annoying sometimes, but won’t really be gamebreaking either. She is an Enchantment, which helps a bit.

Compulsion: C+

She has a high floor and low ceiling, which really isn’t a bad thing in Limited. This is going to be a consistently good card but will rarely be more than an annoyance to your opponent and enchantment/devotion ramp.

Chain to Memory

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Drifter: C

Chain to Memory has a bit of a situational effect that’s usually not amazing, but Blue decks will want a lot of instants and scry 2 is very solid upside.

Compulsion: D

Yet another combat trick to be aware of! This one is lackluster though. I think befuddle is a little better even though it costs a bit more, since chain of memory will often cost you card advantage despite the scry 2. Still, this is somewhere between a C and D for me because it can be fine filler if you are unable to find better instant speed spells.

Deny the Divine

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Drifter: C+

This is the ideal format for Deny the Divine, where you’re going to be holding up mana in Blue for your many other instants anyway, and it hits really a lot of the things you want to hit. It’s still not the most efficient so I’ve left it at high C+, but I could easily see moving it up to B.

Compulsion: C+

This is a counter spell I can get behind. It is a hard counter that hits nearly all relevant threats and comes with an efficient mana cost. As long as the ‘draw-go’ archetype proves viable this is going to be a format staple.

Eidolon of Philosophy

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Drifter: D

The base rate of this card is really bad, so you have to really want Enchantments for your synergies or the format has to be really slow for it to be good (it’s better in Sealed, where it makes it to C) and THB doesn’t look slow enough.

Compulsion: D

This is too slow and there are much better options for filling out your deck with enchantments.

Elite Instructor

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Drifter: D

This ability is good but in Blue, you’re going to be wanting to hold up a lot of mana for instants and you want the creatures you do play to be good blockers. This is very understatted and medium card to be tapping out for.

Compulsion: D

This is a ‘draw 2’ Izzet enabler from Throne of Eldraine that got lost and somehow found its way here.

Glimpse of Freedom

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Drifter: D

Escape cards have natural anti-synergy with each other as they use the same resource. There are plenty of other Escape cards in this set, and five is no small number. The base rate is very low tempo and bad without Escape, so I think you can do better and should only play this if you have 6+ “cast first spell on their turn” cards (which it’s fine to play this to enable).

Compulsion: C+

I actually think this card is good. Cycling is usually a nice effect in Limited, and Glimpse of Freedom ends up being a slow divination that also triggers your ‘cast first spell on opponents turn’ spells. In a deck that is crowded with Escape cards I might pass on this, but I suspect the format will be slow enough for this to be good in most Blue decks.

Ichthyomorphosis

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Drifter: C+

This card is decent removal, but isn’t a good answer to creatures with auras on them and people will be maindecking Enchantment removal this format, and that will lead to some big blowouts. Still, it’s a fairly high C+.

Compulsion: C

I don’t love Frogify effects, but this is a little better (and more expensive) than usual due to all of the enchantment synergy.

Kiora Bests the Sea God

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Drifter: S

It costs 7, so there have been some Draft formats where it’s only an A, but we haven’t had a format where you can’t reasonably reach 7 in most of your games for a long time, and the payoff is almost always gamewinning. The first two activations will be enough most of the time, they’ll break open any board stall, and you mostly won’t even need the third mode (which is also gamewinning). Remember, you should be playing 18 lands if you have a lot of high end. This may be the single best card you can open in Sealed.

Compulsion: S

This card is unbelievably good in Limited. It is better than seven mana spells like a Drakuseth, Maw of Flames or Sephara, Sky’s Blade because even if the enchantment meets instant removal, you still get an 8/8 hexproof out of it. If the second mode goes off you win right away on most boards. If you need to use this to stabilize from behind, stealing and untapping their best permanent should certainly help. Wow!

Medomai’s Prophecy

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Drifter: B

I’m starting this quite high, since this is often just a 2 mana Glimmer of Genius that takes a while to get going and enables your Enchantment synergies, and that’s a great rate. The scry 2 comes immediately, helps ensure you don’t miss land drops and means this is less of a bad topdeck. This card’s pretty bad when you’re behind, but the investment is low enough that not even that bad.

Compulsion: B

A 2 mana investment to scry 2 and draw 2 is always going to be good unless the format ends up being very fast. I see this as a slightly better Witching Well and at this point expect it to be a fairly early pick.

Memory Drain

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Drifter: D

4 mana Counterspells are generally bad in not Sealed. If the format is slower, this will be better, but I’m not too fond of it to start with. It does synergise with the “cast your first spell on your opponent’s turn” mechanic since it means if your opponent doesn’t throw their good cards into your counterspell, you might be able to cast other stuff and this format has a higher than average density of instant speed cards to support that mechanic. The scry 2 is decent upside in the late game, where this card is at its best. I was torn between high D and low C for this card but there are a bunch of better counterspells this set, so I’ll start with this.

Compulsion: D

If a ‘draw go’ deck ends up being viable in Theros I could see this going up to a C. That sort of deck hasn’t been too viable in recent Limited formats, however. In Sealed this is a good playable though!

Nadir Kraken

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Drifter: A

This card is efficient and an incredible rate, and will absolutely demand removal. It’s not as good a topdeck and takes a few turns before it’s really busted, so it’s not quite an S.

Compulsion: S

Nadir Kraken isn’t as game breaking as some of the other S cards in this set, but I consider Wildborn Preserver a bomb and this is no different.

Naiad of Hidden Coves

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Drifter: C+

There’s an entire Limited mechanic this set designed casting your first spell on your opponent’s turn to get additional value, and helps justify holding up the mana for expensive Counterspells and other instants/flash enchantments. This is a really bad body though. I consider this a pretty low C+.

Compulsion: C

I am not really sold on this Nymph. It boosts your enchantment and draw-go synergy, but I am skeptical of how often the ability is going to make a difference.

Nyxborn Seaguard

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Drifter: C

The Seaguard is a good blocker and is great with fliers – the plan of peck away in the air while having great blockers on the ground has been a good one since time immemorial, and blue has some really good fliers this set. It’s still a fairly ineffectual card by itself though, but it is an enchantment which adds a little also. I consider this a pretty low C.

Compulsion: D

A 2/5 for four is about as vanilla and boring as it gets. It can help fill in if your strong playables are sparse, but this isn’t a card to seek out.

Omen of the Sea

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Drifter: C+

The Omen is a very free way to boost your Enchantment synergy and enable your “Cast your first spell on your opponent’s turn” cards. It also provides a free mana sink late game, and is great with sacrifice effects in black, recursion and stuff like Shimmerwing Chimera. It’s a bit slow, so you should be boarding it out against some decks and might not want it in your aggressive decks, but it’s still good in and against most decks.

Compulsion: C+

On average I prefer Medomai’s Prophecy due to the card advantage, but Flash and/or Sacrifice synergy could give Omen of the Sea the edge in some decks.

One with the Stars

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Drifter: C+

This is fine removal, but the maindeckability of Enchantment removal hurts it and it’s not the most efficient. It is nice that it can also answer some opposing enchantments though – remember it’s a fine answer to other auras like it, but not to cards like Banishing Light.

Compulsion: C+

Enchanting an Enchantment to make it an Enchantment sure is strange but I guess it gets the job done! I think this ranks about the same as Dreadful Apathy.

Protean Thaumaturge

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Drifter: B

There are enough Enchantments that this will often just be 2 mana copy the best creature on the battlefield and continue to copy as that changes. It’s hurt a bit because you don’t get the enter the battlefield effects, but it’s still great.

Compulsion: B

This card will really shine in specific board states, which is well worth the investment. The other two drops in this set don’t seem overly aggressive, so I predict cards like this are going to have time to shine in most games.

Riptide Turtle

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Drifter: D

I think there are enough good blockers in this set that most decks won’t want this but in the draw go style of deck that I expect to be very draftable in the Blue of this format, this card will sometimes be reasonable. I consider it a pretty high D, all in all.

Compulsion: D

This is not the flash enabler you are looking for. Some Blue decks are going to need to play some defense though, so some turtle filler can get the job done if necessary.

Sage of Mysteries

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Drifter: D

This card is too ineffectual to be worth playing unless you have 7 or 8 Escape cards. It’s a pretty low D.

Compulsion: D

I said this in my ELD review and was dead wrong (at first), but I do not see Mill happening in this format either.

Sea God’s Scorn

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Drifter: C

Sea God’s Scorn is only really good when you’re ahead, but can be devastating if you are. It being sorcery speed hurts a lot, and I consider this a low C and would only really be happy to have it in decks with a good beatdown plan (not just aggressive, but decks that beat down well – better in Simic for example) or those with really a lot of good things of their own to bounce.

Compulsion: D

This is expensive and situational which is enough to keep away unless I see it late and have a deck conducive to it. There will be scenarios where you can save your creatures from pacifism auras or reuse enter the battlefield effects, so don’t underestimate the potential value here if you are playing Sealed or the overall format ends up being slow/swingy.

Shimmerwing Chimera

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Drifter: B

The Chimera is a great rate, having a solid flying body and providing potentially a lot of value at no downside – there’s an entire cycle of Omens that are great with this among many other cards. I consider it a high B, and would be happy to first pick it. In Sealed, this is a low A.

Compulsion: B

This will end up being one of the best Blue uncommons to find, especially in a Sealed pool. You will want to be mindful of shoring up some defenses on the ground to compliment this card, but luckily there are many options for that in Blue and White (the colors Shimmerwing Chimera fits most snugly into).

Shoal Kraken

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Drifter: C+

The Kraken is a fantastic card: it blocks well, digs to your good cards and staves off flood. I would give it a B if it triggered itself, but it’s still a high C+. There’s a lot of value not only in ditching spare lands, but random crappy 2 drops you included to stop yourself dying, or situational cards that don’t look likely to be good this game.

Compulsion: C+

It’s like Shimmerwing Chimera and Shoal Kraken were made for each other.

Sleep of the Dead

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Drifter: D

I don’t believe in this card in most decks – if you’re really very aggressive and in Izzet perhaps, you can consider it, but even then I wouldn’t be taking that highly. Being a sorcery hurts this sort of effect a lot.

Compulsion: D

I dont like this card at all. It does shut down a blocker for two attacks, but by the time you can use the escape cost it is unlikely to have the impact of a card like Sleep.

Starlit Mantle

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Drifter: C

This card has the potential to be a pretty big and common blowout if you’re holding up other instants and just get to protect your creatures for free alongside those. This sort of effect looks like it’ll be good in this format, especially when you add +1/+1 so sometimes you’ll get to blow out a block. The card’s still very situational and most decks won’t want more than 1, so I’ve left it at a pretty high C, but it is especially good in Azorius with the Heroic payoffs.

Compulsion: C+

This card does a lot of things for two mana. It boosts enchantment and flash synergy, works as a situational counterspell and/or wins combat. I see it as a better Lazotep Plating with even more synergy.

Stern Dismissal

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Drifter: C+

Unsummon comes in a new form that can also hit Enchantments! It’s usually a low to mid C in Limited, and better in aggressive/fliers decks that can use the tempo well. It’s better in this set, as if you bounce cards like Banishing Light or One with the Stars effects, that can be a real blowout and there are loads of those.

Compulsion: C+

This card represents great utility and is sure to interact nicely in a format filled with Auras.

Stinging Lionfish

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Drifter: B

The Lionfish has an okay body, enables your enchantment synergies, and has a strong ability that can really disrupt your opponents’ attackers and blockers – the ability to untap isn’t one we normally see and can be absolutely devastating if you attack with your biggest creature and then untap it after they’ve declared attackers. I consider this a low B, and this is a 2 drop I will take highly in decks where either of those two factors apply.

Compulsion: C+

There is a world where you curve out with this into Vexing Gull on the play, but oftentimes you will need to be clever to maximize its value. This is going to be a little worse than Law-Rune Enforcer, which has the advantage of being able to tap down two creatures (one end of turn and one before your attack phase), and does so without requiring an additional card for activation.

Sweet Oblivion

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Drifter: D

I think this is a pretty low D. You really need a lot of Escape cards for this to be worth it, and the Escape clause only does anything if you’re trying to mill them. It is nice that in the late game, you can sometimes just kill them by exiling 12 cards or whatever, but it’s too situational and ineffectual for most decks.

Compulsion: F

Wizards seems to have learned their lesson from Merfolk Secretkeeper and printed this at Uncommon to be safe. Sweet Oblivion is not a playable card.

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling

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Drifter: S

Zzz, Thassa has two great abilities that come for free on a gigantic body. She’s better if you can get five devotion and maybe only an A if you can’t easily, but honestly it’s not that hard to keep stuff around to do that in Limited – the various enchantment removals will not hinder your devotion, other than Banishing Light.

Compulsion: S

Wow these Gods are good. There are some BOMBS in this set, and this is one of them. I could see getting overwhelmed by aggro occassionally when playing this, but Thassa has a great toolset for taking over the game if you can establish any sort of board.

Thassa’s Intervention

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Drifter: C

This card isn’t great in Draft. 4 mana draw two isn’t a good rate, and Quench for 3 isn’t a good rate. Late game, this gets a bit better but still not nuts or anything. This card is a bit better this format, thanks to the “cast first spell on your opponent’s turn” making inefficient counterspells and expensive draw twos better and that’s why it still gets a pretty decent rating. It’s also nice that if you try to waste your mana on turn 4 by not playing anything, you can just cast this as a draw two. This card makes it to C+ in Sealed, and will be equally good in Draft if the format is on the slower side.

Compulsion: C+

This is the sort of Rare that you can pass to pick up key uncommons. That said, most Blue decks are going to want this. A card that can draw or counter at instant speed works very well with the cards that want you to play your stuff on the opponents turn. It is a card that will take up a 4-slot, but I like it a lot better than Memory Drain.

Thassa’s Oracle

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Drifter: C+

The base rate of Thassa’s Oracle is good, though she’s a bit hard to cast – Omenspeaker has been a solid card in most Draft formats and this scales up. She provides you two Devotion for other cards that care about that, and who knows maybe in the very late game you can pull off her wincon very rarely; there is most self-mill here than in most sets! You want about 9 blue sources for this card to be good, and she drops off a lot if you have less.

Compulsion: C

There is some upside here, but you are very unlikely to win the game with it which means you are just getting a 1/3 Scry 2+. It isn’t bad but if your deck isn’t leaning Blue the mana cost could get you in trouble as well.

Thirst for Meaning

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Drifter: C+

There are enough Enchantments in this set that this is a great rate, especially if you can ditch an Escape card or something. It’s also a strong way to enable your “cast first spell on your opponent’s turn” cards (feel like I’ve been saying that a lot today…). It’s not good when you’re behind, but cheap enough to still be fine there mostly. If the format is quite slow or you’re playing Sealed, this is an easy B.

Compulsion: B

This is likely going to be one of the crucial commons for the UW Enchantments deck. Even in other archetypes it provides incredible value and at instant speed.

Threnody Singer

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Drifter: B

Faerie Duelist with a much better body and the potential to be a much bigger blowout in the late game is a really good card, even when you don’t factor in all that “cast first spell on your opponent’s turn” stuff…

Compulsion: B

This trick is more effective than you might expect and Flash is extra good in this format, what is not to like?

Thryx, the Sudden Storm

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Drifter: S

Thryx’s body is enough to eat most creatures and they usually won’t be playing around it. Even if he doesn’t, well the body is still absolutely incredible… his text isn’t all that relevant, but hey maybe you wouldn’t otherwise have drawn that 6th mana for a while.

Compulsion: A

Thryx, the Sudden Storm is an awesome card that you will always first pick.

Triton Waverider

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Drifter: C

Flying that relies on having gas is a lot worse than just flying – this is a mediocre topdeck and can’t usually block or trade with other fliers. It is nice with flash enchantments though, and the potential to ambush a smaller flier with those will come up every so often, and your opponent has to worry about that – this is strong with Indomitable Will, for example.

Compulsion: C

Hill Giants with an okay ability are getting a little stale, but yeah this is good enough to make it into most Blue decks.

Towering-Wave Mystic

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Drifter: C

Towering-Wave Mystic is a pretty solid 2 drop, having a fine body and enabling your Escape cards for free. There aren’t a ton of Escapes in blue though – you really want to be blue black, so that hurts this card a bit.

Compulsion: C

I would only play this guy in a deck with several escape cards, and even then I think this is a pretty low C.

Vexing Gull

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Drifter: C+

I would ordinarily only give this a fairly high C, but with all the instant spell synergy in this set, it seems appropriate to raise it a bit. It combines really well with counterspells specifically, but is just good with other instants. Blue also seems like it has a lot of good ground blockers this set, which help it out.

Compulsion: C+

Wind Drakes are always fine and I am excited to see how well this plays in the ‘draw go’ archetype. Think twice about running 1/1 creatures into combat if your opponent has 2U untapped.

Wavebreak Hippocamp

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Drifter: A

There are really a lot of instants in blue, and this is great if you draw one card from it. It’s also nice that a lot of the removal in the set is Enchantment-based and won’t be able to stop this ability (and they will absolutely want to remove it immediately).

Compulsion: A

This strange armored horse fish is a wonderful build around for what Blue is trying to do in Theros Beyond Death. Damage based removal is less common in this set, so the 2/2 body won’t even be much of a liability.

Whirlwind Denial

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Drifter: C+

Convolute wasn’t good in previous formats, but I think there are actually enough instants and instant payoffs to make it good here. Remember that this falls off late game, so you want to use it before other Counterspells/before it’s too late. I was torn between high C and low C+, but I’m hopeful enough to start it high.

Compulsion: C+

I like this card and would play it in any Blue deck in this format. Having this and Vexing Gull in hand on your opponents turn with some payoffs on the board is going to feel great.

Witness of Tomorrows

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Drifter: B

The Sphinx is absolutely fantastic – it has a great body and if you untap with it, you can just hold up your countermagic and use your mana to avoid drawing lands if they don’t play into it. This ability is nuts in the late game.

Compulsion: C+

I wasn’t really a fan of Prized Griffin but the scry ability makes a big difference. What this comes down to is how fast the format is. If it is slow (or you are playing Sealed), this is going to end up a B. If it runs faster it will be a C. I went ahead and split the difference.

Conclusions

Drifter

Blue looks incredible this format, with a lot of inborn synergy and cards that are still individually powerful. Drafting control looks much more feasible this format than in others, with counterspells being at their best here and Blue having a ton of efficient card draw and great late game. I think you really want to be heavy Blue so you can gather a lot of payoffs and use your other colour to fill a more supporting role. Azorius seems like a natural and powerful pairing, as Blue takes good advantage of the tricks and flash auras White provides, but I suspect Dimir will also be strong as blue really wants access to hard removal that’s not vulnerable to Enchantment hate. Blue looks a bit slow so it might be preyed upon by aggro decks, but it also has access to a ton of good blockers and anti-aggro tools so I suspect it will just be great.

Compulsion

I am going to be really high on Blue in Theros, at least in the beginning. Its card draw and flyers look to pair really well with White or Black. If this set ends up being slow, Blue is going to absolutely dominate with all of its value spells. There are going to be many more counterspells flying around than usual and I am all for that. It is nice to see Blue back in a playstyle that is more natural for it. In addition to a solid set of high synergy commons, Blue has been graced with several great rares and uncommons so there will be a lot of compelling reasons to draft it.

mtgazone

Terence

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5 Responses

  1. Lena says:

    Lionfish only triggers during opponent’s turn, so you can’t use it twice.

  2. goat_token goat_token says:

    Great job! One card that sticks out in my mind here – One With the Stars. It costs 4, it’s sorcery-speed, it’s not even removal (the card stays on the field, as does its abilities). Not only that, being an enchantment isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Theros. It could easily be feeding into the synergy of the many enchantment-based decks that will floating around.
    Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way, but I don’t see how this card made it above D. Maybe even F.
    However, fantastic overall job and I look forward to reading the rest of the set review.

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