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Theros First Impressions (Review) September 5, 2013

Posted by James in : all, reviews, previews , trackback

The Theros Prerelease is in a little over two weeks (and it’s officially released in a little over three). Even so, we already have a lot of spoilers. I think we pretty much know about all the new mechanics already. (The visual spoiler can be found here.) I will discuss the mechanics, flavor, and some key cards.

Mechanics

Theros has four new major mechanics: Gods, bestow, heroic, and monstrous:

Gods

thassa god of the sea

The God cards are all enchantments that can become creatures. As enchantments, they are decent. Scrying every turn for only a three mana enchantment (and getting unblockable creatures for a cost) is all good. As creatures, they are incredibly powerful. A three mana 5/5 indistructible creature is very powerful. I am impressed with the God cards and they are likely to be best in aggro decks. I think they are perhaps the best selling point of the set.

In Greek mythology the God of the Sea was actually Poseidon, who is famous for his white beard and trident. It’s kind of weird that they didn’t base Thassa more on Poseidon. I think familiarity greatly helps flavor (and actual real world references are the best way to have familiarity).

Bestow

cavern lampad

We have had creatures that can become creature enchantments before (called Licids). Licids were fun. Now we have a creature that can be played as an enchant creature, and still become a creature again later on. The new mechanic (Bestow) seems decent (although mainly only good in Limited).

There were tons of different types of Nymphs in Greek Mythology including nymphs of the underworld called Lampads. (Dryads are also a type of Nymph.) They were actually a type of demigod similar to Valkyries. Of course, there are similiarities between nymphs and elves (and faeries).

Nymphs actually have nothing to do with enchanting creatures in the stories. Nonetheless, I think the flavor does make some sense.

Heroic

anthousa setessan hero

The Heroic Mechanic is technically not new, but it is obviously in the set to have more interactions with enchantments. So far I’m not overly impressed with this mechanic, but it might be fun for limited.

Not sure who Anthousa is based on. Perhaps an Amazon. Could be Penthesilea.

Monsterous

hundred handed one

I don’t think the Monstrous mechanic was necessary for this set. It has nothing to do with Greek mythology or enchantments. Even so, it is a good mechanic. It’s basically a simpler version of the Level Up mechanic.

There were giants with one hundred hands in Greek Mythology called Hekatonkheires. This creature is decent for the cost even without Monstrocity. However, the real fun is when it can block 100 creatures. I always loved Two-Headed Giants and this is the newest version of that card.

Flavor

The Flavor of Theros is basically a strange alternate reality for Greek Mythology. It annoys me that Wizards refuses to use real world references, but I appreciate that some clear fantasy setting is in mind. This set seems to have roughly as good of flavor as Innistrad. Even so, I think Arabian Nights still wins the prize for the best flavor, which included real world references and was very stylized. Real world references are a lot of fun. (There is still one card in Modern with a real world reference as well — Lord of Atlantis.)

Underworld Cerberus

underworld cerberus

Underworld Cerberus is based on the guardian of Hades (also called Cerberus). This card has great flavor. Hades is basically treated as the graveyard, and Cerberus does protect that. When he dies, all the dead creatures come back to life. I am hoping that “the underworld” will also be treated as a legendary land. We could also get Atlantis.

Titan of Eternal Fire

titan of eternal fire

Titan of Eternal Flame is roughly based on the Titan Prometheus who gave the gift of fire to human kind. However, the Titans in Greek mythology were actually a type of god. Wizards decided to now treat them as mere giants, which seems like a missed opportunity.

Rescue from the Underworld

rescue from the underworld

The story this card is based on is when Orpheus went into Hades to save his wife. It is one of the better myths from Greek mythology. This card has a great flavor to it. Both creatures are in the place of death (graveyard) while in Hades.

Key Cards

Xenagos the Reveler

zenagos the reveler

The first ability and second ability work very well together. The second ability is better than the 1/1 tokens most four cost planeswalkers make. The third ability is also likely to be really good in most situations, but will be a lot better in aggressive (or mid range) decks.

Elspeth Sun’s Champion

elspeth suns champion

All of these abilities are very powerful. The first ability would be a little weak on a five cost sorcery, but would probably see a little play in limited. It is so much better on a planeswalker. The second ability can be used right away and will be better than a Day of Judgment in the right deck. The fact that it can be used every few turns will prove to be very frustrating. The third ability is a decent finisher and will probably guarantee in win in almost every case.

Thoughtseize

thoughtseize

I like Thoughtseize and it’s worth way too much money right now. This should help lower the price.

Temple of Mystery

temple of mystery

My biggest complaint is that I am disappointed with the new dual lands. The new dual lands (or scry lands) are a huge wasted opportunity. These would have been great if they were uncommons, but they are probably not good enough for many standard decks. It is more important than Wizards of the Coast realizes to provide decided mana fixing for draft (and sealed), and making these rare will make them pretty much irrelevant for any predictable hope to get mana fixing during a draft.

Update (9/5/13):  I added the new dual lands to the review.

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