Feeding Escape In Theros Beyond Death Limited

Ryan Saxe builds up his graveyard in Theros Beyond Death Draft! How does the escape mechanic change his card evaluations?

Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, illustrated by Vincent Proce

Theros Beyond Death has been a tough nut for me to crack. Sam Black seems to have a great hold on the format, and after reading his article everything really clicked. Initially, I thought escape would have an impact, but not such a drastic one that cards like The Binding of the Titans or Cling to Dust would be good. However, it turns out that the ability to interact with the opponent’s graveyard is basically worth a card in this format. Furthermore, the pace of the format is slow, and hence hasn’t been kind to my aggressive tendencies, but now I’m finally on board. There are many complex interactions and synergies, and it has been a blast discovering the nuances of the format.

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

Temple of Malice Dawn Evangel Renata, Called to the Hunt Underworld Dreams Bronze Sword Ichthyomorphosis Mire's Grasp Nyxborn Marauder Omen of the Forge Plummet Satyr's Cunning Setessan Training Sunmane Pegasus Warbriar Blessing

The Pick:

Warbriar Blessing, Omen of the Forge, Mire's Grasp
This pack has an abundance of common removal, as Warbriar Blessing, Omen of the Forge, and Mire’s Grasp are all great commons. Out of the three, Mire’s Grasp is the best of them and a card I’m happy to first-pick. However, I think both uncommon enchantment creatures are more powerful and hence better ways to start a draft.

Dawn Evangel
Dawn Evangel is an incredible engine in any white deck, but best in aggressive decks. At first, it looks like you need to pile up Auras on your own creatures — a strategy that is usually not very good — in order to maximize Dawn Evangel. However, this triggers when you cast Mire’s Grasp on an opponent’s creature as well. A 2/3 for three isn’t great as stats go, but being on an enchantment creature for constellation synergies helps balance that out. Overall, I think that this card can be extremely potent, and hence the value is much higher in Pack 1 when you can build around it.

Renata, Called to the Hunt
But Renata, Called to the Hunt is the pick here because I have been extremely impressed with it thus far. The value of the extra +1/+1 counters just really makes combat difficult. One thing I failed to notice was that escape greatly increases the potency of Renata as well. In most formats, it’s common to run out of gas and this card would just be a mediocre creature late-game. However, in Theros Beyond Death Limited, at that stage in the game there are often a couple of escape cards to recast. To put the nail in the coffin, I like green as a color much more than white thanks to how well it feeds the graveyard for escape.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

Renata, Called to the Hunt

The Pack:

Nyx Lotus Rise to Glory Sweet Oblivion Aspect of Lamprey Bronze Sword Incendiary Oracle Indomitable Will Nylea's Huntmaster Omen of the Dead Riptide Turtle Triumphant Surge Underworld Charger Venomous Hierophant

The Pick:

Nyx Lotus
While I’m usually an advocate for taking rares to learn about them at the beginning of a format, Nyx Lotus is not one of them. It’s just too clunky and I don’t think it should ever make a deck outside of highly anomalous cases.

Sweet Oblivion
Sweet Oblivion has surprised me. Milling four cards can be even better than drawing a card sometimes, and it’s an engine in itself. Having one copy in a control deck provides complete inevitability. And once you have eight mana, this card turns the corner very quickly. However, I don’t like taking it early. Only a portion of blue decks can utilize Sweet Oblivion and I would rather be in one of those decks before I pick it up.

Underworld Charger, Venomous Hierophant
Underworld Charger and Venomous Hierophant are both solid black commons. Initially I thought Underworld Charger would be amazing, but it has been underwhelming. Outside of very good Orzhov and Rakdos aggressive decks, there are just better cards to cast. Venomous Hierophant is a card I overlooked but now have as the third-best black common behind Mire’s Grasp and Final Death because of how good blocking is in this format. But it’s still not a powerful enough card to want to take it here when there’s another powerful option.

Rise to Glory
Rise to Glory is a real reason to be Orzhov. The first couple times I read this card, I thought it was just a glorified Zombify. It’s so much more than that. The card is basically Ravenous Chupacabra. Removal-based Auras like Mire’s Grasp, Dreadful Apathy, and Wolfbriar Blessing provide powerful texture to Rise to Glory, and I’m happy to pick it up here. It’s also easy to splash in a Selesnya or Golgari deck, so even though it’s a gold card, it can still go with my first pick.

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

Renata, Called to the Hunt Rise to Glory

The Pack:

Enigmatic Incarnation Daxos, Blessed by the Sun One with the Stars Hero of the Games Irreverent Revelers Moss Viper Rage-Scarred Berserker Skola Grovedancer Triton Waverider Underworld Charger Venomous Hierophant Wrap in Flames

The Pick:

Enigmatic Incarnation
I’m not willing to try out Enigmatic Incarnation just yet. While it could be cool, it asks for a few too many hoops to jump through. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the card is very good. If you have an awesome deck with it and want to prove me wrong, feel free to Tweet it at me!

One with the Stars
One with the Stars is a fine removal spell and goes well with Rise to Glory if I back into a Dimir control deck that splashes it. However, it’s not as good as I expected it to be. Unlike Ichthyomorphosis, it doesn’t remove all abilities. So while it can remove a creature, cards like Lampad of Death’s Vigil can still use their abilities. That makes the card noticeably worse.

Daxos, Blessed by the Sun
Daxos, Blessed by the Sun has also been worse than I expected. It looked like the stats would be phenomenal, the life would really add up, the enchantment theme would love it, and it would curve perfectly with Daybreak Chimera. In practice, that’s just not how Daxos plays out. Yes, the card is good, but the more I play it, the less I’m impressed. It’s just a fine-rate two-drop. That’s still a card to take reasonably highly, but not one I prioritize anymore.

Venomous Hierophant
So I ended up on Venomous Hierophant. As I previously mentioned, I like it over the Underworld Charger in the previous back due to the importance of both blocking and escape. And with a Rise to Glory, the self-mill value is even more important. It may seem odd to take a card like this above others that seem more powerful, but I promise that Venomous Hierophant is the real deal — it’s the bread and butter that keeps many black decks together.

Venomous Hierophant, continued
The best deck I’ve drafted in this format so far had three, and I gladly would have played five or even six. That deck was all about finding the most busted things to do with the graveyard and this demonstrates how well Venomous Hierophant scales. In a normal deck, with normal escape synergies, the card is a perfect bread-and-butter common. However, in decks built like machines to utilize their graveyards to win, this card is one of the best commons out there. It’s still early, and I could be wrong about this, but I have been quite impressed so far!