The Gods of Theros offer us some exciting possibilities as commanders for our decks. This week I’ll explore one of them with Heliod, who seems pretty Zeus-like. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Swans in mono-white. Additionally unfortunate is that Heliod creates Clerics and the best strategy for Clerics seems to be B/W. Although there are 190 Clerics to pick from in mono-white, as a tribe they’re not that exciting. Even if we’re going to use a few of them, I think we still just go with the extension of Heliod’s abilities, namely spitting out tokens and being indestructible.
This week’s episode is brought to you by my Astronomy class and its awesome professor Dr. Kevin Mackay. He manages to make some difficult material fun, interesting, and entertaining. He even organizes star-watching field trips. Just this last time we saw both Andromeda and the globular cluster M22. Pretty amazing stuff. If you ever find yourself taking classes at the University of South Florida, I highly recommend you investigate one of his courses.
Although Knights seem to cross mixaphorically with Heliod, the allure of the dapper (Dan) and potentially indestructible Knight Exemplar is strong. There is a host of cool Knights to want to play and equip with Swords. This would give us the added attraction of being able to Voltron up Heliod if we really want to get some commander killing going on. My first subset of cards included this saucy collection of Knights:
Accorder Paladin , Cavalry Master, Crusading Knight , Deathless Angel, Frontline Medic, Heliod’s Emissary, Hero of Bladehold , Kinsbaile Cavalier, Knight Exemplar, Knight of Meadowgrain, Knight of the White Orchid, Knight-Captain of Eos , Lightwielder Paladin, Mirran Crusader, Mirror Entity, Northern Paladin, Order of Leitbur, Order of the Sacred Torch, Order of the White Shield, Paladin en-Vec, Pentarch Paladin, Soltari Champion, Southern Paladin, Stoneforge Mystic, Stonehewer Giant, Transcendent Master, White Knight
And some legendary creatures:
Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile; Crovax, Ascendant Hero; Myojin of Cleansing Fire; Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant; Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
And some Swords:
Sword of Body and Mind, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Light and Shadow, Sword of Vengeance
Here’s where I started thinking about board control elements, such as Wrath of God, Planar Cleansing, and Austere Command. While that was going on, in the back of my mind I was starting to work out some of the inherent problems with mono-white, namely getting additional lands and card draw. At that point it occurred to me that significant board control elements would hurt because if I didn’t have indestructible, any sweeper effect would likely turn off my devotion to white. I started seen chinks in my Knights’ armor.
The answer came in thinking about which kind of mana symbol-carrying permanents get destroyed less often than others. The answer became as clear as a Caged Sun: enchantments. It occurred to me to use Heliod’s ability to pump out tokens and add Glorious Anthem style effects, and I could still have my own sweepers if need be. A few Gatherer searches later I arrived here:
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Catapult Master
- 1 Order of the Sacred Torch
- 1 Academy Rector
- 1 Crusading Knight
- 1 Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant
- 1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero
- 1 Mesa Enchantress
- 1 Cloudgoat Ranger
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 1 Knight of the White Orchid
- 1 Knight-Captain of Eos
- 1 Captain of the Watch
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Suture Priest
- 1 Heliod's Emissary
- 1 Evangel of Heliod
- 1 Silent Sentinel
- 1 Replenish
- 1 Glorious Anthem
- 1 Crusade
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Karma
- 1 Aura of Silence
- 1 Seal of Cleansing
- 1 Mobilization
- 1 Decree of Justice
- 1 Skull of Orm
- 1 Sword of Light and Shadow
- 1 Sword of Fire and Ice
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Honorable Passage
- 1 Mirror Strike
- 1 Samite Ministration
- 1 Karmic Justice
- 1 Condemn
- 1 Gauntlet of Power
- 1 Akroma's Memorial
- 1 Greater Auramancy
- 1 Mass Calcify
- 1 Honor of the Pure
- 1 Safe Passage
- 1 Day of Judgment
- 1 Luminarch Ascension
- 1 Marshal's Anthem
- 1 Sword of Body and Mind
- 1 True Conviction
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 1 White Sun's Zenith
- 1 Caged Sun
- 1 Intangible Virtue
- 1 Cathars' Crusade
- 1 Spear of Heliod
- 1 Dawn to Dusk
- 1 Dictate of Heliod
- 1 Starfield of Nyx
- 1 Stasis Snare
- 1 Grasp of Fate
- 1 Sigarda's Aid
Let’s look at how the individual cards break down and fit into the deck.
Caged Sun: Fits into the theme by making my creatures bigger and also helps pump out more of them.
Eldrazi Monument: Continues with both the indestructible theme and the anthem effects. There should always be something to sacrifice to it.
Gauntlet of Power: White might be the least offensive color to let someone else double up on. At least that’s what I’ll try telling the people I’m playing with.
Mycosynth Wellspring: Hoping to ensure some land-drop smoothness and create a savage combo with Trading Post.
Skull of Orm: Enchantments are really important to the deck, so a way to get them back is almost like card draw. In fact, it’s probably better than card draw since I get to choose which one comes back.
Sword of Body and Mind: Swords are so good and so cheap to cast and activate that putting them in the hands of random token creature is good enough. Letting Heliod carry them could be quite lethal. This one creates a token of its own. Have to be careful attacking the Karador player with this equipped.
Sword of Feast and Famine: Untapping to create more tokens is always a bonus.
Sword of Fire and Ice: One of the few card-draw elements in the deck, it will also help keep Heliod from getting stolen.
Sword of Light and Shadow: A little life gain, a little recursion.
Trading Post: Who doesn’t love making Goats?
Solemn Simulacrum: Mary McCormack is back on TV this fall!
Akroma’s Memorial: I’m a little worried about the mana cost, but the effect is absurdly good.
Spear of Heliod: Can’t have Heliod without his Spear. I considered adding Moonsilver Spear as well for hot double-Spear token-creating action. If I find Akroma’s Memorial a little too spend-y, Moonsilver Spear might be the replacement.
Angel of Jubilation: Anthem plus shutting down a popular mechanic made this one of the first cards I thought of.
Aven Mindcensor: I’m not searching my library much—once this comes out Land Tax will likely have done its work—and flashing in this in response to Tooth and Nail is always a chaos-embracing moment.
Captain of the Watch: The Captain will anthem up some of the creatures, give mine vigilance in case Heliod isn’t around, and bring along friends.
Celestial Crusader: The hope of playing this is to screw up someone’s damage math, either when they’re setting up blockers or in response to an Earthquake or some such.
Cloudgoat Ranger: Brings along Soldier buddies, which can also get fed to Knight-Captain of Eos.
Crusading Knight: A card I always want to play and keep forgetting, I’m not forgetting it now. From a stylistic point, I won’t play Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in a mono-white deck (although it’s perfectly legal to do so), but I’m pretty sure someone else will be playing it anyway.
Evangel of Heliod: The worst case is that it brings along two soldiers. Actually, the worst case is that it gets killed with the trigger on the stack, but if someone wants to use their targeted removal on my 1/3, more power to them.
Knight of the White Orchid: The card that must be played in white decks. One of the few ways of getting additional lands out.
Knight-Captain of Eos: You’ve heard me say before that in the world of Craterhoof Behemoth you need some Fog effects. Knight-Captain provides you with more than one.
Mesa Enchantress: Hopefully this will work out as decent card draw.
Mirror Entity: It’s kind of an anthem effect, although it costs mana. Sometimes the best use of this is to activate it for zero to keep yourself from getting killed with Repercussion and Blasphemous Act.
Order of the Sacred Torch: A holdover from the Knights, there are black spells that are definitely worth countering for one life: Exsanguinate, Decree of Pain, Damnation, Black Sun’s Zenith, and more. The double white in the mana cost is helpful for devotion.
Sunblast Angel: I’m pretty likely to have vigilance, so a nice little asymmetric sweeper effect seemed like a good idea.
Avacyn, Angel of Hope: There are a few cards in the deck that I’m waffling on, and this is one of them. For one, it’s expensive, so I’m pretty unlikely to see it without some help from Caged Sun. For two, with the new legend rule, all the blue players can have one as well.
Crovax, Ascendant Hero: Get out of here, Plant tokens! Get bigger, all my friends! Note that Goat Post tokens are white.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite: A second one that I’m iffy about again because of the blue players copying it or the black players resurrecting it. In multiples it really wrecks me.
Myojin of Cleansing Fire: Sweepers at instant are very, very helpful. Another one that’s a little pricey but probably worth it.
Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant: Keeping damage off of my vigilance creatures is a winner.
Aura of Silence: Having a little removal while slowing down crazy artifact decks makes Aura of Silence a must-play card. It’s removal that can be recurred with Skull of Orm in the late game. It’s another one that I’ll have to pay attention to with Heliod so that I don’t short circuit myself.
Cathars’ Crusade: Everyone already knows the insanity of Cathars’ Crusade. The worst thing about the card is the bookkeeping. Better have a bag of dice ready.
Crusade: I want to get my hands on the Duel Decks one with Elspeth in the art.
Glorious Anthem: Sorry to be a little greedy, but this only affects my team.
Greater Auramancy: I don’t want to get blown out by a well-timed Naturalize. I want to be the one screwing with the combat math.
Heliod’s Emissary: Seems right to play Heliod’s Emissary in a Heliod deck. I might end up having to make room for the Ordeal as well.
Honor of the Pure: Except for Jens I don’t have any nonwhite creatures, so our pure are quite honorable.
Intangible Virtue: Likewise a significant number of my creatures will end up being tokens.
Justice: Here’s a little Blasphemous Act protection, not to mention some retribution if someone wants to get crazy with Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author].
Karma: If something will come out for Heliod’s Ordeal, this will probably be it. I just want to make the Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth player twitchy.
Karmic Justice: Blowing up my enchantments is probably a good idea—but it’ll cost you.
Land Tax: Kind of mana smoothing, kind of card draw in that it gets lands out of your deck so that all you’re drawing later is gas.
Leyline of the Meek: More power to the tokens!!!
Luminarch Ascension: Cheap Angels? Yes please! Of course, this is also a card that if played early can just get you killed. Gotta be careful.
Marshal’s Anthem: Sometimes the right play with this will be unkicked just to get the anthem bonus, but most often it’s a late-game powerhouse, more in recovering from sweeper effects than having a bunch of spicy enters-the-battlefield triggers.
Mobilization: A little slower and more expensive than some other token generators, it nonetheless has a kind of inevitability.
Seal of Cleansing: Played early the Seal will help turn on my devotion to white. I’ll just have to be careful that I have five other (well, four since Heliod provides one of his own) white mana symbols hanging around to make sure I don’t dagger myself by activating this.
True Conviction: A Sworded Heliod with double strike might get quite lethal quite quickly. There isn’t much other life gain in the deck, but one or two shots with this in play should return my life total to healthiness rather quickly.
Angel’s Grace: I’ll admit that I’m a little scared of Purphoros. This will let me feel a little safer. It may end up just like TSA—it’ll let me feel safer but won’t actually make me safer. We’ll see.
Condemn: I’m not generally a fan of one-for-ones, but I’ve watched this do great work in our League, so I’m going to give it a try myself.
Honorable Passage: I’ve loved this card since Mirage days and continue to love it now. Because it doesn’t target, you can use it to kill someone with their own Uril, the Miststalker.
Mirror Strike: There have always been giant monsters running around this format. Post-Theros they’re even gianter. You might want to consider attacking someone else with them.
Return to Dust: In the ever more indestructible world, exile needs to be part of your arsenal. Getting a two-for-one is even better.
Safe Passage: A nice one-side Fog effect, as well as more Purphoros protection.
Samite Ministration: Too bad Exsanguinate isn’t damage.
White Sun’s Zenith: When I put this in, I was hoping it would create Cat Soldier tokens, but there’s no need to be greedy. It’s good enough as is. Strategically, there’s a temptation to hold on to it until you can get maximum value out of it, but I think you need to consider playing it early for a middling amount like three or four. You’ll shuffle it in and draw it later.
Elspeth, Knight-Errant: Original Elspeth will always have a place in my heart. She goes perfectly with the theme, and the jump ability might help Heliod get there.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: The emblem is good but not all that scary (not anywhere near as scary as original Elspeth’s), so we might actually see it happen more often.
Decree of Justice: I tried to recall if I’ve ever seen this played as a sorcery, and I absolutely couldn’t dredge up the memory of it happening.
Martial Coup: It doesn’t bother me to kill a bunch of my own creature tokens when they’re getting replaced by more creature tokens.
Replenish: Occasionally, all those cool enchantments are going to get blown up. Occasionally, I’ll want to resurrect them all.
Emeria, the Sky Ruin: An obvious inclusion in mono-white.
Kjeldoran Outpost: I want to see how this will play out. It might compromise an already delicate mana situation enough to make me want to take it back out.
Maze of Ith: When I’m doing land counts for decks, I make sure that I don’t actually count the Maze.
Mistveil Plains: This will most likely always be turned on. It won’t be as good in this deck as it is in a Sunforger package, but it will be good enough.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: I’ve read many opinions on this card, and many of them seem to think it will be as good as Cabal Coffers. I think that it will occasionally be more explosive but for the most part simply solid without being exceptional.
Secluded Steppe: On turn 1, unless my hand is full of lands, I play this. Otherwise, it nearly always gets cycled.
Sejiri Steppe: I’d like for people to get nervous about keeping only one blocker back.
Springjack Pasture: They’re white, and they’re Goats. What more could I ask for?
Windbrisk Heights: There will be attacking with many tokens. In this deck, I don’t think it will be as potentially game ending as it is in a Rith deck with Titanic Ultimatum underneath it, but it will be consistently solid. It will function more like card draw.
Kor Haven: Kor Haven can prevent damage to someone other than me. That might be a useful political tool.
Serra’s Sanctum: I expect this to produce serious amounts of mana. Tapping it to produce an increasing number of Cleric tokens will be spectacular.
All in all, I’m happy with the design. I’m looking forward to there being some more interesting enchantments in the rest of the Theros block to stuff into it. As I play it, I’ll let you know what’s working and what’s not.
To close, I want to give a shout out to the entire Pro Tour Theros coverage team. Due to school commitments, I won’t be attending. I’ll miss everyone, from my cohorts Brian, Marshall, Rich, Rashad, and Zac on the on-air team (break a leg, Tim!) to the remarkable text team to the incredible production staff, not to mention all the great players. The Pro Tour has been such a huge part of my life for so long that when I miss one I truly miss it. I’ll content myself with tuning in to all the great coverage for what I know will be an exciting weekend. Here’s hoping you’ll watch and listen along as well.
Embracing the Chaos,
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