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Magic: the Gathering: Theros Prerelease Primer

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Now is a happy time for Magic players: the launch of a new block! The first stage of the launch are the Prerelease events, in the form of Sealed Deck tournaments. Sealed Deck format is a form of Limited where you are given 6 packs, and you have to build a 40 card deck. For the complete rules of Sealed and some basic pointers, check out this article. In this article, I will be focusing purely on Theros‘ Sealed environment, investigating each of the five colors’ viability in Limited.

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Theros, like all non-Core sets in the past year, will have a special gimmick at the Prerelease. This time around, the prerelease packs will include one seed booster of only one color with a playable, foil, and rare promo card and five regular packs of Theros, which you will use to construct a 40 card deck. Unlike previous Prereleases, such as Gatecrash or Return to Ravnica, where the seed boosters made it very easy to stick within your guild, the one seed booster combined with the rest of your packs will probably not have enough cards of a specific color to make a mono-colored deck, and thus it will be a bit more skill-testing format, since you have to be able to analyze your other colors for playables. The whole set can be found here.

Note: Aside from the promotional cards, I will be ignoring rare cards in my analysis, since the chances of pulling and using a rare are far slimmer than a common or uncommon card.

White

White Cards

Honestly, White is really weak in Theros, at least at the common and uncommon levels. The creatures are mostly overpriced for their abilities and power and toughness (such as Decorated Griffin and Setessan Battle Priest), and its removal is either niche to the point of near uselessness or very overcosted (Vanquish the Foul and Last Breath come to mind). There are some playable cards in White, but it’s eclipsed by almost all of the other colors. White’s promo, Celestial Archon, is one of these cards. Celestial Archon is a textbook bomb rare, and anyone who chooses White is guaranteed to get it. Additionally, the Bestow ability ensures that one of the biggest downsides of enchanting creatures (the fact that you spent two cards on only one creature, and you lose both when it dies) is mitigated by the fact that when the enchanted creature dies, your Archon will then be on the field and ready to kick some ass, necessitating even more removal or some unfavorable blocking. Other cards that work well from White in Theros are Wingsteed Rider, which can become a credible threat if you have enough Heroic support like Gods Willing and Divine Verdict, which, while expensive and niche, can be just what you need to save your bacon. Finally, there’s Heliod’s Emissary, who’s a great [card]Hill Giant[/card] with an ability that lets you punch through for damage, while the Bestow gives you something to do with your extra mana in the late game.

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Blue

Blue Cards

Blue in Theros Limited looks like a blast to play. The scry mechanic is seen here at massive levels in the common and uncommon slots, meaning that you have a great amount of topdeck manipulation, and you’ll be able to draw exactly what you need, when you need it. And the spells are definitely worth digging for. Between the evasive beaters like Nimbus Naiad, Vaporkin, and Horizon Scholar and excellent disruption like Voyage’s End, Dissolve, and the stellar finisher Sea God’s Revenge. Blue’s promo, Shipbreaker Kraken, is a pretty vanilla but still powerful beatstick until you can scrounge up the 8 mana needed to activate it’s Monstrosity cost (a feat made significantly easier by the amount of scry in Blue). Once you do, you’ll be well on your way to victory with a 10/10 that has also conveniently tapped down all or most of your foe’s blockers. A Blue player’s main plan will be to disrupt and counter his opponent at every turn until he can land a threat, be it a small flyer or a huge kraken.

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Black

Black Cards

Black is looking incredible in the common and uncommon slots for the Prerelease. The combination of great removal like Viper’s Kiss, Lash of the Whip, and Sip of Hemlock with powerful creatures like Keepsake Gorgon and Gray Merchant of Asphodel will make Black a force to be reckoned with (Read the Bones also deserves a mention here). While Black’s commons and uncommons aren’t as bonkers as Blue’s, the promo Abhorrent Overlord is a huge draw for choosing the Black seed pack. It’s a 6/6 flyer for seven mana, which is already a great bomb all by itself. The gravy is that it brings in a swarm of Harpies that also fly. You’re guaranteed at least eight flying damage if you cast the Overlord into an empty board, and it shouldn’t be too hard to get at least 4 harpies off of it in a developed board, meaning that you’d be playing 10 power’s worth of flying for only seven mana. The downside of having to sacrifice creatures is unfortunate, but you should be winning the game within two turns of you dropping the Overlord anyway, meaning you can just sac the harpies. The absence of [card]Pacifism[/card]-style effects means that you won’t be forced to sacrifice to a useless Overlord. The most unfortunate part of Abhorrent Overlord is that his requirement for devotion to Black discourages players from splashing other colors in their decks, which will be necessary unless you pull an incredibly good Black pool from your packs.

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Red

Red Cards

Red’s not straying very far from it’s basic archetype in Theros, and that’s a great thing. As usual, it’s getting a great set of creatures along the 1-4 converted mana cost curve, with some great burn backup. Some of the most notable creatures (on curve) include Akroan Crusader, Deathbellow Raider (excellent even if you’re not playing Black), Minotaur Skullcleaver, and Purphoros’s Emissary. All of this is backed up by a great burn suite of [card]Magma Jet[/card], Lightning Strike, Rage of Purphoros, and others. Finally, there’s Portent of Betrayal, which helps an aggro plan immensely by both removing a blocker and putting more power onto your field for the killing blow. I expect Theros‘ Red cards to make a huge impact on Standard, and hopefully they’ll be equally fun in Limited. Red’s promo, unfortunately, is pretty weak. Ember Swallower just does not have the oomph that the other colors’ promo cards do. A 4/5 for 4 is pretty decent, but it doesn’t do anything beyond that until you reach seven mana, and even then his Monstrous ability is really weak. The +1/+1 counters are always good to have, but forcing each player to sacrifice three lands when both are probably at at least seven means that, unless you activate the ability turn 7 on the play, before your opponent can play their bombs, it’s not going to do much. However, I think it’s better to have a subpar promo and awesome common/uncommons than to be like White and have a great promo with a very subpar common/uncommon pool to play with.

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Green

Green Cards

Green, like Red, has a great creature pool to play with. While they tend toward the higher end of the mana curve, Green in Theros has some good ramp to help it along it’s way to victory, specifically Voyaging Satyr and Karametra’s Acolyte, which can get you the mana necessary for a quick Vulpine Goliath or to make one of your creatures monstrous ahead of schedule. Additionally, Green is getting a good removal spell at common in the form of Time to Feed, with the added bonus of some life gain. Additionally, there’s some great mid-cost creatures like [card]Nessian Courser[/card] and Staunch-Hearted Warrior. Green’s promo, Anthousa, Setessan Hero, is rather unremarkable. Her Heroic ability is incredibly risky (unless you’re drawing a lot of lands and can spare a few on an attack), and requires you to build around her to get the best use out of her. We have to work with what we have, however. Some of Green’s better Hero-enabling cards are Savage Surge, Warriors’ Lesson, and Ordeal of Nylea, so keep your eyes out for those as you open your packs if you took the Green Path of Might.

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Fun Multicolor Combos

Since you’re most likely going to have to go multicolor anyway, here are some ideas for fun little combos in a few different color combinations:

Blue/Red

Blue/Red jumps immediately to my mind as a fun potential combo because of Flamespeaker Adept. This creature, combined with the sheer amount of scry in Blue, should lead to some fun shenanigans. When Spellheart Chimera is thrown into this mix, you have the potential of a real bomb on your hands!

Izzet

Blue/Green

The Simic colors have some pretty great evasion when paired together, specifically with Horizon Chimera and Agent of Horizons.

Simic

Black/Red

Hooray for Minotaurs! Kragma Warcaller looks like a blast to play, and with the good number of Minotaurs at common and uncommon in Red, a lucky player could put together a crushing Minotaur tribal deck.

Rakdos

That’s all, folks! I wish you all good luck at the Prerelease (you’re going to need it if you’re at mine)! Make sure to leave a comment if you agree/disagree with my analysis, and let us all know what color you’re playing, why, and how you did. As always, if you want to discuss my articles, Magic, or gaming in general, hit me up at Jake@Geekenstein.com!

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Jake Petersen

I am an avid video gamer and player of Magic: The Gathering. If you want to discuss either, or my articles, leave a comment or contact me at JakePPetersen@gmail.com. I love interfacing with fans, so feel free to hit me up.
  • tucsontwitchy

    I disagree about white. Celestial archon is the most versatile promo card as it can be dropped early or be played later for even better. Divine verdict is the best creature control card. Magma jet is overrated because there aren’t many wienies in Theros. I agree about blue but I don’t find scry as great as you do. Looking at your top card and deciding to put in on the bottom in no way guarantees that the next card is any way better for your current game situation. My real concern with blue isn’t for the prerelease. Its about how blue will change in standard. Blue now has what it never has before-viable big beasty creatures. Mix in card draw, game control, and now beasties and standard is about to become a blue fest again (sigh). I agree that white will need a secondary color of green, red, or black for strong success in the prerelease it is my first choice and not my last choice.

    On the flip side I think those who play in a 2-headed giant would be wise to pick blue and black as their two options. Blue because shipbreaker kraken and its huge monstrosity cost becomes much more viable in a slow 2 headed giant game. Also pulling off mono black is quite possible with one seeded booster and 8 random pack. That means your devotion to black will be huge and black has the most devotion related cards, of course starting with abhorrent overlord.

  • Jake Petersen

    Update: I took 5th of 44 at my local Prerelease with a mono-black deck featuring Erebos and two Abhorrent Overlords. Gray Merchant of Asphodel was also an all-star.