Hi everyone! Theros has been on the shelves for over a week now and as usual, I have used my time to get a bunch of drafts in. This format is awesome and there are a lot of different strategies that Theros Limited has to offer.
One thing I learned quickly about this format is that there are lots of combat tricks. Every color has great instants and it's very important to know what cards exist in order to play optimally. In previous formats, while combat tricks were good, they were totally outclassed by removal. In Theros, the instant speed removal is very limited and therefore the combat tricks are the dominant cards in the format.
The instant removal in this format is very situational. We have a few ways to kill little guys like Magma Jet and Spark Jolt, but it's really hard to remove a creature with toughness greater than four at instant speed. White has Vanquish the Foul but is very hard to cast as there are not many targets for it. In blue, there are some bounce spells but those cards can only remove a guy temporarily. There is also Hero's Downfall, but at rare that card is hardly something you need to play around because it is very unlikely that your opponent will even have it.
Today I'm going to discuss a few of the many archetypes in Theros draft. Keep in mind that I'm going to be talking about mostly commons, as they are what make up the archetype. I will only mention an uncommon if it is very important to the strategy. Generally, if you see one of these uncommons in your pack, it's likely that particular archetype is open and you may want to move in.
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Before we start, I just want to go over a few things I've learned about Theros Limited in the fifteen or so drafts that I've done:
· Bestow is awesome. We all knew it was good, mainly because the enchantment doesn't die if the creature it's enchanting goes away, but after playing with bestow a lot, it's definitely better than expected. All of the common Grey Ogre bestow creatures are relatively high picks.
· You want to maindeck your enchantment removal. You may not want to play more than one spell depending on what other removal you have, but playing one is always right. All decks will have bestow creatures, and there are enough other excellent enchantments where you will usually have a target for it.
· This format isn't too fast, but it can be. There are decks that can curve out and win on turn six, but generally games will last much longer than that. For example, most games will last long enough you to bestow one of your creatures, and those abilities are pretty expensive. While many of the decks are more midrangey than aggressive, you still need to be prepared for the aggro decks.
The black devotion deck is difficult to draft because the devotion creatures are pretty bad by themselves. When drafting this deck, it's really important to keep your mana curve in mind. You will get the most value out of your Disciple of Phenax or Gray Merchant of Asphodel if you play a black creature every turn. Without devotion, these creatures are very underwhelming and have little effect on the board. You never want to play a 1/3 for four or a 2/4 for five, so your devotion is very important.
This means that you will have to draft two- and three-drop black creatures relatively highly. Baleful Eidolon and Fleshmad Steed are the two drops you want. The Eidolon is a great creature but doesn't do a very good job at adding to your devotion. You will likely have to trade him early in the game in order to stay alive and he probably won't even be around on turn five. The horse is a fine grizzly bear but suffers from the same problem as the Eidolon. The aggressive decks will run you over and you will have a hard time keeping creatures around if you have to trade them off.
The uncommon devotion creature, Mogis's Maurauder, is insane in this deck and can outright win a game. Generally, you will play your horse, Felhide Maurauder, Disciple of Phenax, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel on turns one through four, but you probably won't be attacking as your guys are a bit on the small side. A turn six play of Mogis's Maurauder will allow you to attack for nine intimidate damage. Follow that up with another Merchant and the game is probably over.
Overall the black devotion deck is not my favorite deck to draft. It's really hard to find a balance of good creatures and removal in black. You need to draft a lot of creatures to add to your devotion count, but you need removal as well. Every turn you cast a creature is a turn where you're not using a removal spell and probably falling further and further behind. It's pretty hard to make this deck work but when it does it's quite powerful.
The red white heroic deck is one of the most synergistic decks in Theros draft. You have good creatures and great combat tricks to trigger your heroic guys. Attacking with a heroic guy is usually super awkward for your opponent as the fear of a combat trick will make blocking practically impossible.
At uncommon, there are some spectacular cards for the archetype. Phalanx Leader is a bomb in this type of deck, as it can turn your underwhelming two drops into huge threats later in the game. Favored Hoplite is another great card and the perfect one drop for the deck. He's really hard to block and is unkillable in combat as long as you have a trick. Even burn spells like Spark Jolt and Lightning Strike can pump your guy and will not kill him due to his trigger.
One card that I haven't been impressed with is Arena Athlete. Generally, most of your spells will be pump or ways to save your guys in combat. You really don't want to cast these cards before combat just to make something not block. Doing so is usually a waste of a card. This card gets better the more auras and bestow creatures you have. It can even be a late game finisher if your opponent is at a low life total and has few blockers, but overall this guy isn't going to trigger often. This guy is still good and worth a slot in your deck, but don't value him too highly and don't be afraid to trade him if you need to.
This deck is completely different from the red white version of this deck. UW Heroic is not nearly as fast as RW and is more like a traditional UW Skies deck with a heroic subtheme. While you will want as many Wingsteed Riders as you can get, you will be playing more defensive creatures like Wavecrash Triton and Omenspeaker. The most important card in the deck is Triton Fortune Hunter. You will want to target this guy with auras or pump spells in order to draw cards and establish a better board presence. Unlike RW Heroic, you really want this deck to get to the late game. Big flyers such as Prescient Chimera and Horizon Scholar will dominate the game.
One card that really shines in this deck is Triton Tactics. There is a lot of text on this card and you may even need to take a minute to read it, but despite the excessive amount of text this card does quite a lot. It untaps and gives +0/+3 to two creatures, and when they block opposing attackers, those attackers don't untap during their controller's next untap step, all for one blue mana. On top of that, it triggers heroic. It's easy to keep one blue untapped making this spell relatively hard for your opponent to play around.
The green ramp deck is a fun one but it's pretty hard to draft because it revolves around an uncommon: Karametra's Acolyte. There are other ways to ramp your mana in this format, such as Voyaging Satyr and Ordeal of Nylea, but the Acolyte is the key card in the archetype. This guy is capable of generating lots of mana, possibly even six extra mana by turn five.
Once you have your ramp cards, the next cards you should be looking for are mana sinks, specifically monstrosity. Nessian Asp and Ill-Tempered Cyclops are the top commons, while you should be picking up Nemesis of Mortals at uncommon. In addition to monstrosity, bestow is the other mechanic that really shines in this deck. The bestow cards cost between five and seven mana and are great at making a small mana ramp guy into a huge threat.
Finally, Nylea's Disciple is another important card in the archetype. It may just look like a generic Hill Giant, but it actually does so much more. This guy is very helpful at stabilizing against the more aggressive decks and the life he gains is very valuable. He's the midgame card that you need to set up for your more mana intensive, late-game plays. He also adds two mana to your Karametra's Acolyte.
The final archetype I'd like to discuss is UG Aggro/Tempo. This is one of my favorite archetypes to draft so far. It plays quick, aggressive creatures like Vaporkin and Nessian Courser, and it controls the board with Voyage's End, Griptide, and Counterspells. What really pushes this deck over the top is the bestow cards, especially Nimbus Naiad. In a deck with large ground pounders, Nimbus Naiad is capable of turning your big dumb green guy into a giant flyer.
The reason why I think this deck is great is because it can play both the roles of beatdown and control very well. You can beat down early and if your opponent is able to stabilize, you still have a very good late game with huge green creatures and blue flyers. The spells in this archetype are also very powerful. Between pump spells in green, bounce in blue, and even removal such as Time to Feed, you have a variety of options for any given situation.
This format is incredibly fun so far, and I'm looking forward to finding out about more draft archetypes in Theros limited. This week I am in Dublin testing with my team for the Pro Tour. You can read all about our team here. I'm fairly confident that we will come up with something spicy for Standard so be sure to check out the coverage on October 11th!
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