Theros Beyond Death Set Review – Gold
(Ashiok, Nightmare Muse| Art by Raymond Swanland)
What's Over the Rainbow?
Welcome to the final portion of the Theros Beyond Death EDH set review! The set has some absolute monsters, and I'm pretty excited to update my collections with some of these goodies. Let's get right to it!
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
As a five-mana planeswalker, Ashiok, Nightmare Muse's kit is somewhat lackluster for most decks; while it does scale into multiplayer, Ashiok, Nightmare Muse just doesn't really provide any consistent value outside of the ultimate.
That aside, the Nightmare tokens are somewhat impressive. Their high toughness, for tokens, makes them a good enough early blocker/attacker, and they trigger both on attack and block, which can increase the number of exiled cards. However, the longer the game goes, the worse they get, because they start getting overshadowed by evasive bodies, die quicker when attacking, or simply get board wiped without providing any real value.
Ashiok, Nightmare Muse's ultimate can be devastatingly powerful since we can choose any three exiled cards, regardless of how they were brought there, and cast them for free. This still doesn't compensate for the lack of any type of consistent advantage before the ultimate, but it's cool.
These are some commanders that have some synergy with exile. As you can see, for Ashiok, Nightmare Muse to be truly useful, you'll need to include a lot of support (and probably a dedicated planswalker shell) to get the full value, and that's mostly just the ultimate.
Athreos, Shroud-Veiled might not be as explosive as his previous iteration (Athreos, God of Passage), trading both combo potential and a lower CMC for a more reliable way to get back his targets. New Athreos also gets the creatures back into play instead of to your hand, and can even steal our opponents' creatures. Athreos, Shroud-Veiled is quite a reanimator powerhouse, with the exile clause being the cherry on top.
However, there are still some major drawbacks: his high CMC is a real downside when considering that he still needs other removal effects to do his work for him, he can't steal enemy commanders (since they'll be replaced to the command zone instead of the grave or exile), and the coin trigger only happening on our end step can be underwhelming at times.
As a commander, it might be better to play him in slower decks, or decks that want to play bigger threats, since he comes in way too slow to provide a good grinding value for small creature shells. Control decks can also abuse the ability, giving the coin counter to an opponent's creature and then removing that creature; this plus the fact that it's quite difficult to remove an indestructible enchantment will make Athreos, Shroud-Veiled a resilient win condition.
Calix, Destiny's Hand
Calix, Destiny's Hand is a pretty straightforward planeswalker with a kit that means that it'll get slotted pretty much only into enchantment-heavy shells.
His first ability might not seem all that impressive since it has a not-so-low chance to completely whiff, but when considering that we're likely to put him into an enchantress shell, it might play better than it looks. The second ability is good but not great, but it's hard to go wrong with exile-based removal.
Finally, Calix, Destiny's Hand's ultimate is basically Replenish. However, it misses some of the most important aspects of the original effect: its explosiveness. One of the most important factors in spells like Replenish is the ability to completely ignore most sources of non-blue interaction. This is completely lost when ultimating a planeswalker.
I believe that Calix can shine quite well in more cutthroat, stax-y versions of enchantress, the ones where we lock the whole board and can afford to keep him around, getting some value from his first ability and removing problematic permanents when needed. Estrid, the Masked seems like a natural choice for this playstyle, as she helps us break the parity of our lock pieces, can provide some extra protection, and she's even a win condition.
Klothys, God of Destiny
Klothys, God of Destiny is an interesting take on the Gruul color pair. A low-costed, hard-to-remove hatebear that interacts with the graveyard is pretty new to the color combination. Even though Klothys, God of Destiny is not really scaled for EDH, and though she alone won't shut down all the possible graveyard Shenanigans out there, she's still cheap enough that aggressive decks might want to add to get that extra layer of redundancy.
Klothys, God of Destiny will probably be better-suited in the command zone than the 99, though. The cheap and reliable graveyard tax, paired with the ability to either ramp or deal damage, and constant access to her can give Gruul stompy/hatebears shells a reliable source of advantage/reach.
In the 99, she can still be another utility beater, but she loses some of her spark since her kit is more suited for the early game and for being out for multiple turns.
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger is a grind machine, using its ETB and attack trigger to make our opponents discard a card. Ironically enough, not being a symmetrical effect might have made the card weaker, since we could use the discard to feed its Escape cost.
The graveyard is such a precious resource these days, especially in black decks, that Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger's trigger doesn't feel all that impactful to be trying to cast it multiple times (unlike its Simic counterpart). That being said, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger can be quite devastating if we're able to stick them around for a few swings.
As a commander, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger finds itself as a the leader of an aggressive, resource-denying Rakdos shell that tries to slow opponents down just enough so that we beat them to a pulp with just a few attacks. It might not be the most competitive archetype, but it can be quite effective at lower-powered tables.
In the 99, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger can be a somewhat useful tool, as it's a cheap, recursive beater that has some really high power and toughness. Chainer, Nightmare Adept decks might have to adapt a bit to be able to better fit Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger in, but the synergy between both is pretty great, and Kresh the Bloodbraided will appreciate a cheap, high-powered threat that instantly dies!
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath's ability to develop is pretty much one of the best in the game. All aspects of the card combine well into a mid-range ramp strategy; even the lifegain, which might seem unimportant, is quite devastating to play against after a few triggers because it gives us the time we need to use all that sweet, sweet ramp and card advantage that Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath also provides. Uro's high power and toughness also means that we get a lot of use in plenty of great green staples, such as The Great Henge, Rishkar's Expertise, and even Greater Good.
In a lot of ways, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is comparable to Chulane, Teller of Tales: both of them provide tons of value for virtually no cost whatsoever. If you thought that triggering Chulane, Teller of Tales was too easy mode, how about not having to work at all for such a powerful effect?
An interesting parallel when comparing both Titans is to consider each other's play patterns. Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger is about resource denial, a strategy that can only slow our opponents down, meaning that we don't advance, either. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is more about drawing cards, putting mana into play, and giving us the time to use said cards and mana, which we can convert into more cards in the graveyard for us, then rinse and repeat. It's also worth noting that Uro isn't in black, a color which has access to many useful graveyard effects, which would make the choice of exiling away our graveyard a whole lot more manageable. Uro is good. In fact, Uro's hard to make bad.
Polukranos, Unchained is a grind machine, being a removal/beat stick hybrid that just keeps coming back for more. As a commander, there are plenty of ways to build Polukranos, Unchained: +1/+1 counters, Voltron, Dredge, attrition control... we can even mix them up!
One thing that we should consider is how to minimize Polukranos, Unchained's main downside. Vigor is a simple but effective way to deal with it, and Magebane Armor is a less Timmy way to do this too.
In the 99, its ability to keep coming back truly shines, and although it won't be as strong as a dedicated commander, having a 12/12 angry boi appear on the battlefield multiple times is still good enough. Kethis, the Hidden hand players might enjoy the removal stapled on the legendary creature body, while Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord players just want to fling it at people over and over.
Allure of the Unknown
Allure of the Unknown is not as bad of a card as it first seems. In fact, when we factor in the multiplayer aspect of the format, there's a lot of potential to help control decks both stabilize and dig for answers, while simultaneously gaining cards. Sure, we won't be able to play big splashy cards, like Eldrazi or Time Warps, but access to six fresh cards and the chance to free cast an answer to a problematic threat might make this card just strong enough. This card simply screams 'politics!'
Since we don't want our opponents to steal away our win cons, it might be wise to have reliable win conditions in the command zone, instead. Zurgo Helmsmasher is a notorious control/Voltron commander and, because of his high power, doesn't really need all that much support to win the game. Alternatively, both Kaervek the Merciless and Vial Smasher, the Fierce are good ways to deal damage on cast.
Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths
Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths is one of those cards that, given the social nature of the format, has a chance of seeing a fair amount of play. For four mana in Dimir, his ETB trigger isn't all that impressive, and being limited to either a one-time deal or having to jump through hoops to get to reuse it isn't worth all that much. However, the card provides a really fun mini-game with lots of room for some funny moments. This alone might make the card worth considering.
As a commander Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths is pretty boring, which is sometimes the nature of ETB-only commanders, so it's not surprising.
In the 99, he'll probably be played in decks that have some sort of recursion, again, to maximize the amount of fun. Marchesa, the Black Rose might be an okay home for Atris. After all, he's an evasive body with an ETB. The Scarab God can give Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths another round at his ETB, while also beefing him up to an 4/4 evasive body. Aminatou, the Fateshifter likes blinking Atris, too, and can even potentially set up the top of the deck for him so you can shift some of those half-truths closer to being full-truths.
Bronzehide Lion is a low-costed beater by day, and a support card by night. I'm not truly convinced about this one; sure, it can push some damage early on, but it seems like that'll bait us into keeping two mana up all the time. Otherwise it'll eat a board wipe and die.
This might be somewhat good if we're playing something like Arahbo, Roar of the World, which can grow Bronzehide Lion into a decent-sized kitty. Otherwise, I don't think it's worth it. Had this card been given Bestow, it would've been great. However, it's really hard to enchant a relevant creature with it since we need our opponents to kill the Bronzehide Lion while we have a good creature out. That's a tough sell.
Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders
At face value, Dalakos is more of a go-wide 'Equipment matters' commander. However, his mana-producing ability is strong enough, especially in non-green decks, to be simply a decent generic Izzet artifact commander.
The fact that Izzet got such an aggressive commander is pretty exciting, as this isn't like anything we've seen before in the color combination. One build that might seem particularly interesting is 'Living Weapon tribal', which allows for cards like Scytheclaw to become a hasty flyer. Grip of Phyresis also allows us to instant-speed animate one of our artifacts. The Kaldra trio from Darksteel (Helm of Kaldra, Sword of Kaldra, and Shield of Kaldra) are other fun effects that might have a home here, although we get a redundant source of haste.
In the 99, Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders is pretty much a mana dork with some possible upside, which is mediocre at best, but that's the price for being different. I would recommend going towards Jeskai colors since white gives a much better support for Equipment with cards like Puresteel Paladin.
Enigmatic Incarnation is a new take on good ol' Birthing Pod! All the first impressions aside, this will go into a completely different shell: Enchantress. This card allows us to sacrifice any of our low-value enchantments and tutor for one of our few key creatures. It'll be a solid card for more cutthroat types of pods since it promotes the use of powerful and expensive staples like Academy Rector. On a more casual side, it can be played along enchantment creatures to act as another copy of Birthing Pod.
This new trend of 'end step trigger' really is great; not only do we get the value on the same turn that we play it, it also protects us from sorcery-speed interaction.
Gallia of the Endless Dance
Gallia of the Endless Dance is an impressive two-drop with a bunch of relevant keywords stapled onto her. Sure, Satyr tribal might be an easy way to start, but her triggered ability is pretty impressive and gives her a lot of depth.
As a commander, Gallia of the Endless Dance will probably be locked into either Satyr tribal or Gruul go-wide aggro, or maybe even lightly-graveyard-based Gruul decks. The first is catering for those that wanted a Satyr commander, and it's pretty straightforward. The second will forgo the second line of the card and use it as a cheap way to get card advantage; this won't be the most competitive deck, but it probably can have some nice tricks with Madness cards... if it can reliably discard them at random.
Haktos, the Unscarred
Haktos, the Unscarred is a mini version of Progenitus, for better and for worse. At first glance, he seems like an okay Voltron commander with a high enough power and built-in protection and evasion. However, this protection from "almost everything" also makes it really difficult to build a Voltron suite for him, leaving only anthem effects as a reliable source of stats boost. Instead, it might be better to play him as an aggressive beater that's hard to interact with.
Boros aggro isn't a reliable archetype, and with the added randomness of Haktos, the Unscarred, it makes it even more difficult to be effective. This, plus the fact that he doesn't really contribute much for an aggro shell aside from being a beater, means that he might not be an effective aggro commander.
In the 99, Haktos, the Unscarred is much better since there'll be a surprise factor in our favor and we get support him with a better dedicated aggro commander. As a Warrior, he could also fit on some non-combo Najeela, the Blade Blossom shells. We just need to be careful with his our mana base to accommodate his heavy mana requirements.
Kunoros, Hound of Athreos
15/10 best boi in underworld <3
On a serious note, Kunoros, Hound of Athreos is an impressive card: a 3/3 for three with three relevant keywords? And on top of that it has a strong
hatedog hatebear effect stapled onto it? Graveyard hate is always useful, especially when it's in the command zone.
As a commander, Kunoros, Hound of Athreos can be great in an aggressive hatebear/stax-y shell that cares about both the body and its effect. Orzhov is a great color combination for this since it combines white's hate pieces and creature-based support with black's card advantage and tutors.
In the 99, Kunoros, Hound of Athreos is a great piece of disruption despite being much more vulnerable to removal, and can find home in decks that don't care about their graveyard, although it seems like a wasted potential for a black deck to not utilize its graveyard. For maximum saltiness from our opponents, there're even ways to break the symmetry of this effect with cards like Athreos, God of Passage and Ravos, Soultender.
Eutropia the Twice-Favored
Eutropia the Twice-Favored feels like a breath of fresh air after all the Simic madness that's been going on as of late. +1/+1 counters are back to the correct color combination, this time in the form of Constellation, and that does feel pretty good, since many of the key enablers for the strategies are themselves enchantments.
As a commander, Eutropia the Twice-Favored has a somewhat interesting take on being the middle of the road between an Enchantress and a 'counters matter' commander, which is kind of flavorful and works for her. The ability to grant flying to already beefy creatures is great since it allows us to push some damage early on.
In the 99 she loses some of the flavor, opting for going in more enchantment-heavy decks to trigger more consistently. Tuvasa the Sunlit might prove to be one of the better homes for Eutropia since the first provides a steady flow of cards and the second grants an easier way to Voltron people out.
In the realm of stacked cheap creatures, Mischievous Chimera may seem like not an impressive constructed card; however; paired with Curiosity effects, it makes our spells into draw three plus a scry whenever we cast them on our opponents' turns.
This might be a little bit narrow, but it could be a huge boost for the archetype since it can be fetched with the same enchantment tutors that can grab our Curiosity effects.
Siona, Captain of the Pyleas
Talk about power in the uncommon slot! Siona, Captain of the Pyleas is one interesting 'Auras matter' commander. Firstly, her ETB is a decent way to get a chain of Auras going. Second, my evaluation of her went from good to great once players realized that there's an infinite combo with her and Shielded by Faith. The access to green also helps the go-wide aspect of Siona, Captain of the Pyleas, granting both enablers and finisher along with a better Aura suite.
In the 99, Siona, Captain of the Pyleas has more of a supporting role, mostly giving extra bodies for Voltron commanders. Without a way to support the token generation, she's a lot less interesting, only maybe providing a few blockers to avoid some crack back (which shouldn't be all that much to begin with).
So many interesting new cards, don’t you think? Those were my impressions on the set, and now I want to hear yours! Did you agree with these assessments? Did I miss any cards or interactions? Please let me know in the comments below.