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Tensions Between Gold Cards And Staying Open

Kunoros, Hound of Athreos, illustrated by Zezhou Chen

Theros Beyond Death is quite the complex format. Escape is a dominant aspect of it, and maximizing the value of escape cards over the course of the game is no easy feat. When is it correct to exile an escape card in order to cast a different escape card? When is it correct to make seamingly poor exchanges to have the perfect number of cards in the graveyard to cast an escape card the following turn?

Pack 1, Pick 1

The Pack:

The Pick:

Voracious Typhon
Voracious Typhon is the best green common. A four-mana 4/4 is awesome and coming back over and over again is complete gravy. This card incentivizes grindy gameplans with self-mill, but also can end the game quite quickly. It’s flexible and I don’t mind first-picking it. But this pack has better options.

Eutropia the Twice-Favored
Eutropia the Twice-Favored is incredible. Evasion is king when games go as long as they do in this format, and a repeatable source of counters and damage is nothing to scoff at. However, as amazing as it is, it’s a gold card. It’s first-pickable, and I would take it above Voracious Typhon, but I think there’s a monocolored card that’s a better first pick.

Medomai's Prophecy
Medomai’s Prophecy has impressed me. It’s surprising how many times I’ve seen players name cards not in their deck to bluff a card. I think that’s awesome. Overall, the format is slow and it’s easy to capitalize on the raw card advantage this card provides. I’m happy to first-pick it. But is it better than the rare?

Kunoros, Hound of Athreos
Kunoros, Hound of Athreos is a stat monster! Vigilance, menace, and lifelink is quite the text for a three-mana creature. But it is still a gold card, and so the value at Pack 1, Pick 1 is lower than normal. That being said, I believe that lifelink is the most powerful evergreen keyword in Limited — yes, better than flying — and that the efficient stat monster that also disrupts escape is the correct pick out of this pack.

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

Hero of the Pride, Lampad of Death's Vigil, Funeral Rites
None of the commons are even on my radar here, and I think taking them is the classic mistake of marrying the first pick.

Whirlwind Denial
Whirlwind Denial is the kind of counterspell that we see a lot; however, it is at its best in this format thanks to the instant-speed theme in blue. But it’s still not good enough to justify taking a card out of the color of a great first pick.

Careless Celebrant
Careless Celebrant is fantastic, and certainly good enough to speculate outside of Orzhov. And I think it would be the pick out of this pack without The Birth of Meletis; however, I think that card is quite good in specifically Orzhov and is at a similar power level to Careless Celebrant. It’s not marrying the first pick, but it is altering my prioritization slightly to bias towards a pretty good rare.

The Birth of Meletis
The reason I like The Birth of Meletis in Orzhov is because I have found the archetype to be incredibly grindy. It’s all about two-for-ones like Blight-Breath Catoblepas. The Saga plays perfectly into that plan!

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

Black Common, White Common
Again, I think taking a common out of this pack would be a mistake. While I currently have two cards that pull towards specifically Orzhov, it’s not worth taking such a large hit in power level to stay on that plan. Fateful End and Nyx Herald are too much better than the commons. But which is better?

Fateful End, Nyx Herald
Fateful End is a better Magic card than Nyx Herald; however, green is quite good at splashing in this format, and hence it’s possible to play Nyx Herald alongside the two cards in my pool already, whereas I believe that Fateful End will basically never be in the same deck as my current picks because The Birth of Meletis isn’t very good in Boros. Overall, I think Fateful End is too much better than Nyx Herald and so I’m taking the removal spell.

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

Impending Doom
The first thing to note out of this pack is that there are zero red commons, which raises an eyebrow. Normally I would consider following up my Fateful End with Impending Doom, but I don’t think it’s an option for this reason. It’s still possible that it’s correct to end up in a red archetype, but it’s clear there is a red drafter downstream, and so I will bias away from red if possible.

Mogis's Favor, Thirst for Meaning
Mogis’s Favor pushes back towards this Orzhov plan, and is certainly a good card in Rakdos if that’s where my seat is supposed to be. I wouldn’t fault anybody for taking it, but I still believe I should take the best card in the pack at this stage. Thirst for Meaning is the best blue common, and I actually just believe it’s a top common. It’s raw card advantage. It fuels escape. It plays into the instant-speed theme in blue, and is a phenomenal pairing alongside counterspells to make sure that mana isn’t wasted.

Pack 1, Pick 5

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

White Common
Have I beaten this to death yet? Don’t take a white common here just to pair with the rare. It’s worth figuring out what’s open.

Warbriar Blessing
Warbriar Blessing is a great common, but branching into the fifth color is a bit sketchy here. If this was Voracious Typhon, I would think about it as I believe that card is a top common. Warbriar Blessing is quite good, but I think it’s supposed to be picked around this junction and hence don’t feel the need to speculate on green.

Deny the Divine
Deny the Divine is actually a justifiable choice here even though in most formats it wouldn’t be. It’s so easy to hold up three mana in blue decks, and this could be a great start to either an Izzet or Azorius deck. I think it’s a bit too low-impact to take here when the uncommons are so powerful, but I think you could actually take it ahead of Warbriar’s Blessing in this pack, which is something I would have never guessed last week.

Hero of the Nyxborn, Mischievous Chimera
Between Hero of the Nyxborn and Mischievous Chimera, I’m taking the Chimera. It works incredibly well with my blue and red card so far, while Hero of the Nyxborn doesn’t work very well with my white card. While I just saw a pack lacking a red card, I don’t think the bias against red is strong enough to pass the Chimera here. It’s such a powerful card, and Izzet utilizes red cards that other red archetypes don’t want anyway.

What Happened Next?
Overall, picking up the Mischievous Chimera ended up being crucial to settling in the proper lane for this seat. I ended up with a pretty strong Izzet deck.