Re-Evaluating Theros Beyond Death Commons For Draft

Ryan Saxe corrects wrong ideas he had about Theros Beyond Death commons and puts his new knowledge to use on three tough picks!

Final Death, illustrated by Johann Bodin

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I’ve finally started getting the hang of the Theros Beyond Death Draft format. As I mentioned earlier this week, I spent a lot of time losing at the beginning of this format. With a couple of extra days of drafting, watching streams, and delving into my mistakes with other well-respected Limited players, I believe I have found the errors in my ways.

It was based in a fundamental misunderstanding of the commons. What I believed was mediocre filler is good filler, and what I believed was good filler is mediocre filler. This meant that, while I may have drafted synergistic decks with powerful cards, my average card quality was below par. And that showed in my results. This demonstrates the importance of understanding how to maximize the value of your commons. The majority of cards in any given Limited deck are commons, and hence discerning the proper collection of commons that make each archetype tick is paramount to success. Below are examples of my misevaluations:

  1. I believed there were diminishing returns on Final Death, and hence thought it was a good common, but not the best of the best. It’s actually in the top three commons in the set.
  2. Omen of the Sea is so much better than it looks. The flash synergy and enchantment synergy coupled on an efficient piece of card selection is unparalleled. It’s a top common overall and should be taken highly. 
  3. Daybreak Chimera is not as good as it looks. Yes, it’s still a fine rate, but if you can’t cast it on Turn 4 it very quickly falls off in efficiency. With the density of interaction in the set, it’s just not as easy as I expected to maintain devotion. I thought this was a first pickable card, and that Sunmane Pegasus was mediocre. It turns out that Sunmane Pegasus is pretty awesome, as it makes racing impossible, and Daybreak Chimera is clunky. Both are good playables, but they aren’t as far apart as I initially thought.
  4. Hero of the Pride is a phenomenal two-drop that should be taken highly. I originally didn’t see white decks as going wide, but rather going tall. This is wrong. I missed the fact that cards like Pious Wayfarer and Transcendent Envoy have value late through the heroic triggers. These are the filler spells that you want to go with premium two-drops like Hero of the Pride. That is unintuitive, and now that I’ve adjusted, my white decks feel much better and I’m winning more!
  5. Riptide Turtle is the removal spell that Ichthyomorphosis wants to be. The enchantment removal spell is still solid, but Riptide Turtle is impressive and enables slow blue decks to always hold up mana without worrying about the random ground creatures that resolve early. 

It might sound small, but these minor adjustments of common color evaluations made a large difference in the decks I could draft. Every little edge counts in Magic, and proper common evaluation is one of the most important edges in modern Limited.

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

Haktos the Unscarred Callaphe, Beloved of the Sea Mystic Repeal Shoal Kraken Arena Trickster Discordant Piper Inspire Awe Omen of the Forge Pious Wayfarer Sleep of the Dead Sunmane Pegasus Thirst for Meaning Thrill of Possibility Witness of Tomorrows

The Pick:

Callaphe, Beloved of the Sea; Witness of Tomorrows; Thirst for Meaning
Callaphe, Beloved of the Sea and Witness of Tomorrows have not impressed me. They are fine Magic cards, with the flyer noticeably better, but nothing exciting. Thirst for Meaning, on the other hand, is phenomenal. Blue decks just want to churn through their library and hold up instant-speed interaction. Thirst for Meaning and Omen of the Sea are the best blue commons because they’re the glue that holds together that strategy.

Omen of the Forge
Omen of the Forge is a fine card, but it’s worse than Thirst for Meaning. It only kills a small set of creatures and the enchantment synergies are located outside of red in most scenarios.

Mystic Repeal
Mystic Repeal is a card I used to be extremely high on, but I no longer put such a priority on enchantment interaction. With so many commons that interact, it’s not difficult to pick something up to interact with effectively any card type. And since enchantment removal has diminishing returns, I no longer take the first one highly.

Haktos the Unscarred
This pick boils down to Thirst for Meaning versus Haktos the Unscarred. While I think it’s likely that Thirst is the correct pick, I took Haktos. It’s a rare I don’t have a perfect grasp on and it’s quite powerful. Yes, it’s more committal than Thirst for Meaning, but I’m here to learn and improve first, win second. That means taking Haktos over Thirst until I get a full hang on the format.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

Haktos the Unscarred

The Pack:

Hateful Eidolon Klothys's Design Nessian Hornbeetle Aspect of Lamprey Chain to Memory Daybreak Chimera Hyrax Tower Scout Incendiary Oracle Iroas's Blessing Omen of the Sea Riptide Turtle Towering-Wave Mystic Triumphant Surge

The Pick:

Hateful Eidolon
Hateful Eidolon is a powerful card that provides direction. A couple of enchantment-based removal spells place an incredible ceiling on the card. However, I would rather already be in a deck that can capitalize on Eidolon before picking it up instead of starting with it and tuning my draft strategy to maximize Eidolon’s potential.

Omen of the Sea
Omen of the Sea, as I’ve mentioned, is the best blue common. That being said, it doesn’t go with my first pick and I think Nessian Hornbeetle and Iroas’s Blessing are better cards on average.

Nessian Hornbeetle
Nessian Hornbeetle is a phenomenal two-drop. Curving into Loathsome Chimera is one of the best things to do in this format. It plays both the defensive and offensive role much better than an average two-drop, which in my opinion yields a first-pickable card. Without Haktos in my pool, Nessian Hornbeetle would be my pick, but Haktos bolsters both the white and the red options in the pack. Does this mean it is correct to stay on color?

Iroas's Blessing
This pack has quite a few options. I think last week I would have taken Daybreak Chimera here. It’s a flyer with a high ceiling, and I originally thought that would be better than a Iroas’s Blessing, a four-mana removal spell. However, the flyer has underperformed and the removal Aura has overperformed. Auras have quite a large upside with commons like Heliod’s Pilgrim. It’s also arguably the best way to trigger heroic at common. These reasons make it the best follow-up to Haktos, even though Nessian Hornbeetle is the best card in the pack. The reason for this is that the delta between Blessing and Hornbeetle isn’t that large. If the Hornbeetle were a much better green card, then I would still take that.

Pack 1, Pick 5

The Picks So Far:

Haktos the Unscarred Iroas's Blessing Venomous Hierophant Daxos, Blessed by the Sun

The Pack:

Favored of Iroas Underworld Fires Deny the Divine Hero of the Pride Irreverent Revelers Nyxborn Courser Pious Wayfarer Relentless Pursuit Sleep of the Dead Unknown Shores

The Pick:

Favored of Iroas
A week ago, I wouldn’t have thought this pick was close. Favored of Iroas is just so much more powerful than the other options that it has to be the pick, right?

Pious Wayfarer
Pious Wayfarer has impressed me. I originally thought this card could only pump itself, but given that it can boost other creatures, it’s quite easy to use it to facilitate multiple attacks across the course of a game. That’s a lot more weight than a one-drop usually pulls and my best white decks have this card in multiples.

Hero of the Pride
But my best white decks also have multiples of Hero of the Pride. Certain variants will have more ways to target Hero, and other variants will have more enchantments to trigger constellation. On average, I believe Hero is a more useful card, and the basis behind this is that the floor of the card is serviceable, where the floor of Pious Wayfarer is not.

Hero VS Favored
The pick between Hero of the Pride and Favored of Iroas is quite close. I still believe that Favored of Iroas has a ceiling that is just too high to ignore, and I opted to take it here, however I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a mistake. White decks want as low of a curve as possible as well as multiple creatures that benefit from being targeted like Hero. It’s entirely possible that this supersedes the power-level discrepancy between Hero and Favored.

What Happened Next?
In the end, this deck turned out quite strong. A good curve, good removal, and multiple rares will always be a good recipe for success. If you’re curious about any of the other decisions during the draft, check out the draft log here.

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