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The Great Theros Beyond Death Deck Update

Kunoros, Hound of Athreos, illustrated by Zezhou Chen

52 decks.  One of the most exciting sets ever for Commander.  Stuff’s going to happen.

The great deck update for each new set is alternately one of my favorite and least favorite times.  I’m thrilled about putting new cards into decks.  Doing the physical work of unsleeving old favorites and filing them leaves me a little cold.  It’s not the drudgery of the work, it’s that there are perfectly good cards that are getting put out to pasture because newer cards are coming along.  There’s probably some metaphor for the human experience here, but this column is about Commander, not philosophy.  It’s ever more difficult to find rooms in decks for these new cards.  Few, if any, of the cards getting removed are bad.  Some of them might not have fulfilled their promise in the deck in question, but it’s not like I’ve been putting jank into the decks (unless jank was the point).  Fortunately, some of them will be destined not for filing but slotting into other decks.  I noticed a few great cards that didn’t necessarily fit themes but were just there because they’re great. 

One of the things I’ve wanted to try with each new set is take my two or three favorite legendary creatures and build new decks from them, heavily leveraging the themes (and thereby the cards) from the set.  That way, I’d have to take out fewer favorites, the deck suite would swell, and everyone would be happy.  Ideally, I’d build those before choosing what to put into existing decks so as to not violate my self-imposed limitation of only putting one copy of a new card into he suite.  Unfortunately, building decks from scratch takes more time than doing the update, and I’m itching to play some of these new cards, so we’re going to do things in less-than-optimal order.  I’ll nonetheless be reserving some of the new cards for those decks, so you won’t have to wonder if you don’t see them here.

Before we get to the updates, here are my top picks for what to build from Theros Beyond Death:

This deck would feature a fair amount of reanimation and the size of the graveyard mattering.  I’d ideally find a way to get Atris into the graveyard and then bringing it back, like with Dawn of the Dead, instead of casting it multiple times from the command zone. 

My prior efforts to put together Izzet decks haven’t panned out as well as I had hoped.  One of the issues has always been keeping the commanders alive and the color combination not being great at producing the mana to continually cast them.  Dalakos being inexpensive helps.  Add to that the fact that I don’t really have a Voltron commander, and we could be going somewhere.

There’s a lifegain deck here that’s a good mono-white place to start.  Like with Izzet, re-casting mono-white commanders can get onerous.  This Heliod is tougher to get rid of. 

I have a comfort zone.  In that zone is Orzhov putting things back onto the battlefield from the graveyard.  I’d like to take a step outside of that spot and do something different.  Kunoros would ensure that I’d have to do it differently. 

White

Into:  Heliod, God of Enchantments  

For:  Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

The question isn’t if Archon of Sun’s Grace should go into an enchantment deck, but if Storm Herd should follow.  Elesh Norn is obviously one of those cards that’s just good anywhere.  It doesn’t have a specific purpose here, but it’ll be great in that Kunoros deck. 

Into:  Heliod, God of Enchantments

For:  Suture Priest

Sure, Daxos doesn’t quite do what Suture Priest does as far as draining other players.  It fits the theme better and gains life on creatures dying as well.  Because it’s an enchantment, good stuff happens with this deck (whose list I simply kept open, since I suspected these two cards wouldn’t be the only ones going in). 

Into:  Heliod, God of Enchantments        

For:  Karma

And there we are.  Elspeth Conquers Death and other Sagas are great to pair with Starfield of Nyx, which this deck has.  They would also be most excellent to pair with Emeria Shepherd, so it nearly went into my Trostani deck.  Perhaps there’s some exploration to be had there with a new deck that casts Sagas and brings them back again.

Into:  Ruhan Do-Over    

For:  Increasing Devotion 

The Ruhan Do-Over deck likes to attack, and certain artifacts and enchantments can ruin its day.  Having something able to take out the things that are really harshing my mellow without nuking my own stuff is what Heliod’s Intervention is all about. 

Into:  Trostani and Her Angels   

For:  March of Souls

I had to put Shatter the Sky into a deck that also has Avacyn, Angel of Hope into it so that I can draw the card and not have all my creatures destroyed.

Into:  Rith’s Tokens         

For:  Odric, Lunarch Marshal

Taranika is a Solider and the deck creates a fair number of 1/1 tokens, so the card fits both thematically and functionally.  Untapping a creature that’s attacking (pseudo-vigilance?) means that you can then tap it to activate an ability, which gives you additional combat trick options. 

Blue

Into:  The Threat of Yasova          

For:  Volcanic Offering

I don’t really have a “steal stuff” deck, but Yasova is pretty good at borrowing things.  It likes to create combat steps, so Act II has some pretty big implications and can lead to a pretty good alpha strike.  The card is expensive to cast, but you get immediate value from the huge Kraken and increasing value afterward. 

Into:  Lavinia Blinks         

For:  Oath of Teferi

I’m not always a fan of taking the obvious route with something, but sometimes it’s hard to argue against it.  This version of Thassa will give me more blink shenanigans than ever.  There was some argument to put the card into Yasova for even more tomfoolery; like with Conjurer’s Closet, you keep control of the thing you blink, even if you don’t own it.

Into:  Dreaming of Intet

For:  Champion of Rhonas

In a deck that loves to cast big Fireballs (even if they’re not Fireball anymore), not having to hold up counterspell mana is a pretty big deal.  Also, because Thryx has flash, holding up counterspell mana is a thing.  This is one of my favorite cards in the set, and it’s easy to see why.  It lets all the battlecruiser Magic happen that I want. 

Black

Into:  Halloween with Karador   

For:  Cavalier of Thorns

Erebos Bleak-Hearted slots right into this Karador deck, which loves to have sacrifice outlets and has enough lifegain to not care about paying the two life in order to draw a card.  While it might seem early to take out an M20 card, I have other plans for Cavalier of Thorns

Into:  Muldrotha, Speaking Primely         

For:  Praetor’s Counsel

More like Grave-filler Lamia, right? I like that Gravebreaker Lamia gets any card to Entomb (just like the original), even when most frequent option as it gets played in Commander is a creature.  This means that with Muldrotha on the battlefield, I have choices.  Sometimes that correct choice will be a land, sometimes Pernicious Deed, sometimes the right Massacre Girl at the right time. 

Into:  Gisa and Geralf Together Forever 

For:  Waste Not

Card that mills Zombies into my graveyard?  Check.  Card that combos Tombstone Stairwell?  Double check.  Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

Into:  The Mill-Meoplasm            

For:  Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

This Mimeoplasm deck has turned from a deck that milled in order to get juicy stuff into graveyards to being a mill deck.  When milling is your game plan, sometimes you need cards out of the opponents’ graveyards for good.  Some Eldrazi can be particularly annoying to your plan, so you need to catch them when they trigger.  Other times, they can be cards that you don’t want the opponent to be able to reanimate themselves.  Tymaret, Chosen from Death can hit a card each from two different graveyards, so it’s even more useful in the big-picture plan.  Since my graveyard is getting less full than it used to, Jarad was an easy cut.

Red

Into:  You Did This to Yourself    

For:  Cerebral Vortex

Few cards say You Did This to Yourself in more ways than The Akroan War.  Grabbing a dangerous creature is most excellent.  Making opponents attack into Deflecting Palm is great; it’s also fine if they just choose to attack each other instead.  Then comes the big blow of (nearly) everything punching itself in the head, and we’re golden. 

Into: Kresh Into the Red Zone    

For:  Bloodshot Cyclops

Sacrificing stuff for fun is what Kresh is all about.  Getting some extra profit isn’t all that bad, either.  It’ll be an unlikely scenario (unless it’s really late game) that Dreamshaper Shaman will be able to sacrifice something the turn it enters the battlefield, given that it’s a little spendy to cast, but if it stays online, it’s going to do some very nice work, especially in a deck that has Stalking Vengeance

Green

Into: Muldrotha, Speaking Primely           

For:  Springbloom Druid

There are a few things at work here.  First is that extra land drops are good, and it’s a struggle to not put Dryad of the Ilysian Grove into multiple decks.  Second is that because it’s an enchantment creature, it’s more vulnerable.  Muldrotha is likely to be able to cast it again, and if I really need to, I can cast it as the enchantment for the turn, saving the slot for another creature.  Winning all around. 

Into:  The Threat of Yasova          

For:  Shaman of the Great Hunt

My snap-call search here was for whatever deck I had playing Bow of Nylea, giving all my attacking creatures deathtouch.  I’m okay trading a card for a creature with defending players, especially if it opens the path for my other attackers.  The deck has Kessig Wolf Run in it for some extra flexibility, either killing more creatures if required or a bigger alpha strike from the unblocked attackers.  The very brave Boar will sacrifice itself for the good of the rest of the team—and sometimes, it’s just smacking people for ten. 

Into:  Muldrotha, Speaking Primely         

For:  Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Maybe I’m going too far in on Muldrotha, or maybe the new cards are going in because it’s a deck I love to play.  Either way, it’s the perfect deck to do cool stuff with.  It has some lovely creatures to cast more cheaply and which will be nice to draw with Nylea’s ability.  Furthermore, it has the resilience to be able to cast some of the noncreature cards that got milled.  There are plenty of green permanents in the deck, so Nylea will get into the battles pretty frequently as well.

Into:  Dreaming of Intet

For:  Mystic Snake

Intet is kind of my dumbest deck that does the biggest, splashiest things, and Nyxbloom Ancient is kind of the dumbest card from Theros Beyond Death, so they’re a match made in heaven.  It’s also the deck that has the most Clones in it as well as Rite of Replication.  The 729 mana per land or whatever other calculator-worthy stuf isn’t going to happen that often, but when it does, it’ll be glorious. 

Multicolored

Into:  Ikra and Kydele    

For:  Jace, Memory Adept

Ashiok does quite some stuff on its own, but when combined with other exile effects, like Oblivion Sower, it does even more.  Of course, mass exile effects, like Bojuka Bog or Relic of Progenitus will give you even more choice.  Ashiok makes me wonder if putting Tymaret, Chosen from Death into this deck instead might have been the cooler call.  We’ll see how it goes for now and then adjust fire if need be. 

Into:  Animar’s Swarm   

For:  Loyal Drake

Klothys provides Animar with one of the things its doesn’t have much of, namely graveyard control.  The deck doesn’t rely much on its own graveyard, so if forced to, removing a card won’t hurt that badly.  Otherwise, it can help keep some of the dredge decks in check, and just deal some damage/gain some life.  It won’t be that difficult in the deck for Klothys to be live and laying down beats itself.

Into:  Muldrotha, Speaking Primely         

For:  Treasure Keeper

I’m sure you saw this one coming a mile away.  Muldrotha is the perfect deck for the card, since you don’t have to have it escape to get continuous value out of it.  At certain point it might be worth eating the five cards, but I have a feeling I won’t be doing it that way with any frequency.  Also, thank you for not playing It That Betrays.

Artifact

Into:  Myths and Legends of Korvold       

For:  Treasure Map

I’m still marveling at how inexpensive Shadowspear is to cast and to equip.  Korvold doesn’t need too much help at being lethal, but trample puts it over the top.  It may challenge Loxodon Warhammer for a slot in many players’ decks, since the additional ability is strong in Commander. 

By my count, that’s 23 cards, plus the four commanders I’d like to build.  Adding the cards that will follow those commanders, we’re likely in the neighborhood of 40 from the set, well above my average in the high 20s.  That doesn’t even count the new basic lands, which are pure fire.  All in all, we have a most excellent representation from Theros Beyond Death into the ever-increasing deck suite, which is an ever-increasing challenge to update — and worth it every time.   

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