Theros Beyond Death Review for Commander, Part 2

Theros Beyond Death offers Commander players a number of new and exciting options, across all kinds of archetypes and playstyles, for leaders and the 99 both. For the second part of our review, we take a look at the spiciest of the remaining candidates likely to make a splash.

Welcome back to the Theros Beyond Death set review for Commander. Last time, we looked at the cycles and the obligatory green powerhouse. Make sure you read that article, before we continue here. I won't be looking at every single card in the set, but rather at cards that I personally found interesting to talk about, and I'll be looking at possible applications in our beloved format.

White


idyllic tutor idyllic tutor
  • I know Idyllic Tutor is not a new card, but it is a very deserving reprint. I'm happy to see it in this set and the artwork holds its own against the old one, which isn't always true for new art!

  • Archon of Sun's Grace is probably my favorite white card in the set. It's another card that perfectly plays with the enchantment theme, while being powerful enough on its own. I expect this to be an automatic inclusion in most enchantment decks.

  • Shatter the Sky is probably great in Standard, as it has been a while since we've had a 4-mana Wrath that was somewhat easy to cast — looking at you, Kaya's Wrath. Not sure if its additional effect is something you want in EDH, when every single 4-mana Wrath in the entire history of Magic is available to you.

  • Elspeth Conquers Death reminds me a lot of The Eldest Reborn. Ask yourself if you would play a card like that in your deck. If the answer is yes, this Saga is a better version of that. Otherwise, there are plenty of other cards that do what this card does, but a lot faster.

Blue


thassa's oracle
  • Kiora Bests the Sea God is the latest installment in the saga of "Stuff Timmy Likes." I'm not sure how I feel about a card like this. It has a pretty high ceiling and can severely knock out an opponent, but this is also where its inherent problem lies. It only targets one opponent. While this is not a bad thing — neither is getting an 8/8 with hexproof — I think there's already plenty of competition at the converted mana cost 6+ slot in blue Commander bombs.

  • I like cards like Nadir Kraken. They are somewhat unassuming but can carry a lot of weight. Drawing cards is something you with your blue deck were likely going to do anyway and getting a 1/1 every time you do makes this card a solid 3-mana investment.

  • Thryx, the Sudden Storm is interesting to say the least. This card is most likely at home in big-mana decks with a green-blue base. 5 for a flashy 4/5 flier is not that impressive in Commander, but the permanent cost reduction and counter protection make it worth a slot.

  • When I read the name and card types, and saw the art for the first time, I thought Thassa's Oracle was going to be Theros Beyond Death's addition to the Merfolk decks out there. Then I read the ability. While the Oracle has no real place in a Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca deck, it makes the heart of combo players beat faster. Laboratory Maniac remains a popular combo piece in Commander, and Thassa's Oracle makes winning this way that much easier, as you don't have to draw your last cards after setting up your library with something like Doomsday or Hermit Druid.

  • It seems that the new toys for green-blue-x decks just keep on coming. Wavebreak Hippocamp is another sweet card for decks that also run the likes of Vedalken Orrery and Leyline of Anticipation. But the applications don't stop there, flash decks such as Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage or spell slinger decks like Jori En, Ruin Diver also happily include this Horse Fish.

Black


Aphemia, the Cacophony
  • Tymaret Calls the Dead is another addition to the ever-growing army of Zombie support. While this card won't have a huge impact, it's cheap enough to include in budget Zombie builds, with Sidisi, Brood Tyrant or Gisa and Geralf as the perfect commanders.

  • Aphemia, the Cacophony is an interesting card. A cheap flier that makes Zombie tokens is a pretty good deal, but the cost of exiling enchantment cards is steeper in Commander than one might initially think. While I'm sure that this card can see play in Standard, I'm not 100% convinced it's good enough for Commander. As far as I can think, Daxos Returned seems to the best commander for this Harpy.

  • Gravebreaker Lamia is a very solid addition for the ever so powerful and popular commanders Kess, Dissident Mage and Muldrotha, the Gravetide. The recurrable Entomb reminds me a bit of Corpse Connoisseur, but this card has a better body, lifelink, and a continuous effect that is relevant for these types of decks.

  • I love Nightmare Shepherd, and I think it will do a lot of work in aristocrats-style decks, where it'll make it easy to abuse enter-the-battlefield abilities of creatures.

  • The final black card that drew my attention is Woe Strider. Token generation and a sacrifice outlet in one card, it only gets better the longer the game goes. Another solid addition to the aristocrats playbook.

Red


ox of agonas
  • Everybody's favorite red card from this set will also be very strong in Commander. I'm talking of course about Underworld Breach. While Storm isn't a popular archetype in casual Commander, there still are some decks that try to make it work, and Underworld Breach fits right in. But the applications don't end there, monored and Boros decks usually have trouble keeping up with green, blue, or black decks, and Underworld Breach can give those decks a second wind in the late game.

  • With the recent power creep for planeswalkers, Storm's Wrath is red's answer of dealing with go-wide boards while picking away at low-loyalty walkers. Even though 4 damage isn't the most impressive in Commander, I still think this card is good enough to play if you don't have access to the primary board wipe colors black or white.

  • I'm not convinced yet that Ox of Agonas is going to see a lot of play in EDH decks. While I'm aware of the applications this card has in competitive formats, discarding your hand to draw three isn't quite good enough even by monored's standards.

Green


dryad of the ilysian grove arasta of the endless web
  • Wait, we already talked about the green powerhouse. Oh, you meant the other one. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove combines the two Commander staples Exploration and Prismatic Omen and slaps them on a thick body for 3 mana. Nothing really to highlight here, as it's just a very good card. Too bad the art is terrible.

  • Arasta of the Endless Web is a pretty sweet card that is unassuming at first but will do a lot of work. It's cheap to cast and provides an excellent blocker. The longer it stays alive, the more value it gives. Overall a very solid addition to many decks.

  • Destiny Spinner has already achieved meme status as setting the bar for what a green uncommon can look like. Gaea's Herald saw some niche play in Timmy decks that got frustrated with the blue player countering all their big spells, and this 2-mana 2/3 is an immediate upgrade.

  • Setessan Champion's final few words make it a very solid card. Enchantment decks can never have enough enchantresses around and having one that grows with the amount of enchantments you play is a solid inclusion.

Multicolored


polukranos, unchained
  • Polukranos is back and brings even more to the table than the original. For 4 mana, Polukranos, Unchained gets a ton of stats, built-in removal, and synergy with +1/+1 counters. The fact that it escapes also lets it avoid the Commander tax after the first time you cast it. There's plenty of synergy with Polukranos as a commander, and if you don't know where to start, look at Vigor, Corpsejack Menace, Greater Good, and Doubling Season.

  • Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths could either lead the charge in a blue-black control deck or star in Esper Blink such as one built around Aminatou, the Fateshifter. While its ability is fun and interesting, it's not the first card to introduce this mechanic. With options like Fact or Fiction, Steam Augury, Epiphany at the Drownyard, Atris is not the most efficient way of generating card advantage. The fact that it has a body makes it easier to abuse, however.

  • I personally really dislike Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders. It does nothing I like in Izzet colors, and while I applaud Wizards' attempts to try something new, I doubt lots of people will be sleeving up equipment to make a deck with this Merfolk.

  • Dream Trawler is clearly a bomb in Limited and a serious control finisher in Standard and Pioneer. The issue with this card in Commander is that there's already a 6-mana Sphinx available that is vastly superior — Consecrated Sphinx says hi — leaving little room for Dream Trawler. Cool card, nonetheless.

  • I love Birthing Pod and similar effects like Eldritch Evolution, Natural Order, and the more recent Neoform. Enigmatic Incarnation is the next addition to this growing list of tutors. While Enigmatic Incarnation is far from broken, I can't wait to see people brew spicy value decks utilizing Hatching Plans.

  • It's my opinion there's an overall shortage of playable low-cost commanders. Fortunately, Gallia of the Endless Dance is exactly this. The ability is fun and random enough to make a deck that can go underneath a lot of slower, grindier Commander decks. It's a shame there aren't enough viable Satyrs that can make this commander work in a tribal deck.

  • Haktos the Unscarred wouldn't be Boros if it weren't a high-power, low-toughness creature with an overly complex ability that will likely end up doing nothing in a format stacked with board wipes. If you're looking for a good voltron commander, try Aurelia, Warleader, add black to play Zurgo Helmsmasher, or add green to play Uril Miststalker. If you want to force the Boros meme by building a deck that makes your opponents go crazy 10% of the time and be underwhelming the other 90%, Haktos is here to answer your calls.

Colorless


Nyx Lotus
  • Let's start with a card that is clearly designed for Commander, Nyx Lotus. I got excited when this card was previewed, but the longer I thought about it, the more I disliked it. Nyx Lotus is a card that looks solid on paper but will often disappoint. At 4 mana, it competes directly with Thran Dynamo and Hedron Archive, two cards that don't enter the battlefield tapped and provide unconditional mana. Keep in mind that Gilded Lotus too only costs 1 mana more. Sure, the ceiling on Nyx Lotus is higher than on the other mentioned cards, but you need at least a devotion of three already on the board and to untap with the Lotus for it to provide value. This also means that whenever the Lotus threatens to get out of control, your opponents can punish you by removing permanents, and it gets worse when you consider the large amount of board wipes in the format. Now if only there was a land that had the same ability …

  • Shadowspear is just a solid card. At converted mana cost 1 it's one of the most efficient equipment cards out there, and while providing lifelink is a nice bonus, trample is the real selling point here. Its ability to make creatures lose indestructible and hexproof is also very relevant in Commander, even more so than other formats, because cards such as Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Xenagos, God of Revels, Darksteel Forge, or Blightsteel Colossus often dominate the battlefield.

  • There is no shortage of mana rocks for 3 in Commander, but I do like Altar of the Pantheon's design. I'm not sure it'll show up in a lot of decks, but at least your five-color God tribal deck got a new addition.

What Lies Beyond Death

All in all, I think Theros Beyond Death is a solid addition to Commander. There's plenty of support for a variety of archetypes, and the Titans will surely stir up some deck choices. But the very next set will be Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and that one will likely be stuffed with Commander goodies. So, don't go to crazy with purchasing into Theros commanders.

What is your favorite Commander card from Theros Beyond Death? Do you think the Titans will show up in a lot of decks? Have you built a Haktos the Unscarred or Dalakos, Crafter of Wonders that I should look at? Let me know in the comments! As always, thanks for reading. Until next time!


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.



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