Theros Beyond Death Set Review – Artifacts and Lands

(Shadowspear | Art by Yeong-Hao Han)

Gear Up For the Twelve Labors of Hercules!

Greetings, everyone, and welcome back to the wrap-up of our preview week review season. In this article we’re going to cover the artifacts and lands featured in Theros Beyond Death, and while there aren’t that many, there are a few interesting picks worth going over. The set itself is a doozy through and through, so let’s get to it!


Rares


Nyx Lotus


I think people are a little too worried about Nyx Lotus. When first previewed, I remember hearing many people talk worriedly about how it can go infinite with Filigree Sages. While that certainly is true, it also requires a significant board state to fuel the required Devotion to make it happen. I’m not sold on how easy it is to have this reliably happen. Additionally, even if you pull it off, it just then becomes another two-card combo for infinite mana… one among many that blue already has access to. Filigree Sages is only in 233 decks right now, meaning if you’re trying to pull off that combo, you have to make two cuts to a deck rather than just one.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx this is not. I prefer my mana rocks to help me get back into the game when my board was wiped, not to help me out most when I already have a lot of cards in play. Currently, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is in almost 25,000 decks, and I don’t expect the Lotus’s numbers to flourish quite like that. There is lots of power here, but entering tapped, along with being closer to a “win-more” card, leads me to think this Lotus is a powerful-looking effect, but a bit overhyped.


Shadowspear


Goodness. This honestly might be a top five Equipment for Commander players. One mana to put this onto the battlefield is amazing. Two more and it’s Loxodon Warhammer Lite. The Warhammer is already played in a very healthy 11,619 decks. Add in a random Bonds of Mortality ability and you have a recipe for a new staple Equipment.
The important piece of Shadowspear’s ability to remember is it hits all of your opponents’ permanents. Not just one opponent. All of them. Even better, it doesn’t need to be equipped to activate this ability.


Dedicated Equipment decks will love this, and folks who love a little lifegain will, too. Frankly, though, I don’t think you even need to be playing a deck that cares about combat too much to see some use for it. This should be the most-played artifact from the set (not that there are many). This is much better than Glaring Spotlight and other such effects. Anyone playing Uril, the Miststalker or Sigarda, Host of Herons might find it a herculean task to beat this card.


Uncommons


Mirror Shield


Let me start this off by saying this: I don’t think this card is necessarily “good” by most criteria. It’s narrow, and four mana is a lot to get hexproof on a creature when Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves, and even Champion’s Helm are in the format to protect your important and legendary creatures.
I do, however, think the flavor is awesome on this card and can be hilarious in certain situations, like if a friend of yours has a Glissa, the Traitor deathtouch tribal deck. There aren’t many of those types out there, but if you see any out in the wild, this could be entertaining, at the very least. If you really wanted to dig deep, you could get all Rube Goldberg with Vial of Poison and give opponents’ creatures deathtouch for maximum blowouts, but it would take the Johnniest/Jenniest of Johnny/Jenny players to go that deep.


Soul-Guide Lantern


In what is actually getting to be a kind of crowded field for cheap graveyard hate artifacts, Soul-Guide Lantern does a pretty decent job at keeping up with the top dogs. Relic of Progenitus is probably still at the very top, since it does everything at once despite the tradeoff of hitting your own graveyard. It’ll be interesting to see how many players will value Relic’s cantrip effect over the Lantern’s preservation of one’s own yard. It could actually be a pretty decent amount.
This is far and away better than Sentinel Totem and some of the other second-tier grave-hate cards. The most interesting aspect of this card is that the first ability triggers upon entering the battlefield, allowing us to test how valuable a specific card is for the opponent and whether they want to save it. If they do make a move, you still can react with Soul-Guide Lantern and nuke the whole graveyard, if you choose, or play the long game and wait until later. Soul-Guide Lantern is one of the “boring, have to eat my vegetables” cards you should be playing more of, so expect to see it at tables of all power levels soon.


Commons


Altar of the Pantheon


Coming out of the gates on a strange note, a free Devotion is a nifty gift from a colorless artifact. There are a healthy 4,991 decks playing Manalith currently, and Altar of the Pantheon is indeed a “strictly better” version of the often outclassed and overplayed Manalith. Darksteel Ingot has gotten some preconstructed deck boosts in the numbers, but also shows up in 33,525 decks total and 13% of all decks out there, which might be a better comparison.
Having that many decks requires some of the aforementioned “precon effect,” but I think a cheap mana rock with upside for your Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx as an incidental bonus won’t be the worst thing you see at any given table. I know I won’t be running it, myself, though, especially if I’m playing one of the Gods as the commander, because I usually prefer for them to remain just an enchantment so they can’t be hit by Path to Exiles. Still, I’m sure it will show up as a placeholder card as a funny supplement for decks that play 3-5 Devotion payoff cards.


Wings of Hubris


Another card that I can’t envision myself running in many or even any of my decks, Valduk, Keeper of the Flame included. The flavor is amazing, though, and is another example of how the design team finds ways to shout out to the lore that inspired the different worlds we visit. If you play decks that only ever need one alpha strike with a big creature, this is fine, I guess. But really, you’re playing this because you’re running an Icarus deck and trying to touch the sun. I enjoy and appreciate this card, but I wouldn’t expect too many tuned decks to be including it. It will be included for fun and flavor, not to increase the win percentage.


Labyrinth of Skophos


We saved the land for last! Because it’s confusing!
The immediate comparison here is Maze of Ith. There are a few key differences, though, the biggest being that Maze of Ith does not tap for mana where Labyrinth of Skophos does. Is that worth paying effectively five mana to Fog an attacking creature versus the one tap required for Maze of Ith? It’s hard to tell. Many people advocate for playing Maze of Ith in a spell slot and not counting it as a land, and it’s currently showing up in over 12,000 decks.


For me, the mana ability on Labyrinth of Skophos is probably worth the slot and might be situationally better than Thaumatic Compass is, in that is has to flip over, which isn’t always a sure thing. Compass has found its way into over 9,000 decks, and Labyrinth of Skophos is probably somewhere in between it and Maze of Ith. Of course, this could also end up in the Mystifying Maze category, which is getting played in under half the number of decks as Compass. I don’t think Labyrinth of Skophos is that bad since Mystifying Maze can backfire if you target a creature with an ETB ability that would be detrimental to you, but that seems like the absolute floor here. Better than one Maze, worse than another.


I Think We’ll Skip Cleaning the Stables

That will wrap us up here for this portion of the set review of Theros Beyond Death! There wasn’t much in terms of artifacts or lands this time around, which is actually fine because the rest of the set happens to be absolutely loaded with goodies. I don’t mind one bit if we have a certain area that lacks when the overall set is as abundant with treasures as this one is.

What cards are you excited for from Theros Beyond Death? Let me know in the comments below, and watch out for Shadowspears!

Matt is a member of the EDHRECast, representing the 60-card formats and the Timmy's alike. He appreciates bad wordplay as much as a good alpha strike. A diverse nerd, you might also see him maining Lux support in League of Legends as well or on the deadlift platform at the gym.