Now that Theros has been released after a tumultuous rumor season, it’s time once again for me to go through the latest set color by color and card by card, commenting on each one with serious opinions on Limited, Constructed, and other-formats efficacy and not-so-serious snark. First off, of course, we’ll start with collector number 1 – the first part of the white cards in Theros. Let’s begin:
Battlewise Valor – A mere +2/+2 for two mana may not look like much in a set that has a whole pump subtheme, much less in a Limited environment that’s explicitly about huge threatening creatures trading blows, but scrying to stack the next turn’s draw plus making a weenie marginally bigger will probably save so, so many asses in this Limited. Think of the value!
Cavalry Pegasus – It’s mass flying on a body for two mana – I can hardly see how you can go wrong with this in Limited, especially since most of Theros’s small white creatures are, in fact, Humans. The odd thing about this is the Human tribal subtheme it seems to imply, which only shows up on this card and Titan of Eternal Fire. That’s, aheh, REAL subtle foreshadowing of future stuff in this block.
Celestial Archon – Yeah, yeah, bestow costs are expensive, and this is the most expensive of all. Look, I get it, a lot of people are really not fans of bestow. To them I say – Would you complain about opening a 4/4 flying first striker for five mana? That’s a damn good beater, right? What about if it had an extra ability that was all upside? That would be better than the first thing, right?
Chained to the Rocks – The flavor on this might be beating-you-over-the-head-with-an-amphora unsubtle, but I dig it – it’s a top-down card for a top-down block. It’s also, incidentally, stupid powerful; I mentioned before how strong it makes Sacred Foundry.
Chosen by Heliod – There is an entire cycle of cantripping Auras in this set, one of the ways Theros block is trying to mitigate the inherent disadvantages of the subtype; this is the white entry in that cycle. Toughness pump is an underappreciated boost, I think – you laugh at +0/+2 but Wall of Denial was never funny, was it – but Heliod’s coming off as even more of a jerk if that’s all he’s willing to give to his “chosen” worshippers. Come on, not even +1/+2, the classic white Aura pump ratio?
Dauntless Onslaught – Sup, Symbiosis? I suppose this effect is worth more than two mana in this environment, but I still can’t help but think that white should have gotten a non-bland entry in THIS cycle. Two cycles and two cards of straight p/t pump in a row? Come on. Unrelatedly, this is just stupid with double strikers.
Decorated Griffin – That activated ability is a great mana sink late game and is particularly good against troublesome saboteur triggers. The problem is you have to spend five mana on a 2-power flyer to get it. This guy can save you from even the biggest of monsters, but don’t expect to do it cheap. Ehh, this is a slow Limited environment anyway – at least there’s some choice in what to fill the five-mana slot in your curve with.
Divine Verdict – You know, some players don’t like that white’s hard removal is restrictive. Only being able to target an attacker or blocker is hardly a restriction considering that’s what almost every creature is literally made to do. Anyway, Divine Verdict will never not be effective and will probably be in core sets from here to Kingdom Come.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion – New Elspeth’s got a pretty bland and underwhelming ultimate on paper, but considering she’s designed for swarmy weenie decks, +2/+2 and one of the game’s best evasion abilities to your entire army probably guarantees an alpha strike in a turn or two. Amusingly, she’s probably effective enough even without that; if you just keep spamming her +1 ability and throw in some populate effects from last block you’ve probably overwhelmed your opponents anyway. That -3 is a great counterpoint to the people who say that Theros is nothing but a big love letter to midrange.
Ephara’s Warden – Those of you who read my Gatecrash spoiler analysis will recall I had some choice things to say about Debtor’s Pulpit. I am here now to say that Ephara’s Warden is probably worse than that. The Pulpit at least serves the function of keeping a big threat consistently unable to attack or block late game, and enchantments and lands are two relatively hard-to-remove card types. Ephara’s Warden is cheaper and actually has a 1/2 body when the chips are down, yes, but it’s a 1/2 for four mana – that’s twice a Squire for those keeping track at home – and, infuriatingly, can only tap weenies. By the time turn four rolls around, I sincerely hope the thing you want most to keep tapped down does not have power 3 or less; if that’s so you’re probably winning anyway.
Evangel of Heliod – This is at least 3 power for six mana, which is pretty bad, but not nearly as bad as that last thing. Hopefully it’ll be way more than that – if you make all your drops and, say, half your guys get removed, this should be spitting out around six tokens, if not more. Obviously this is meant as a Limited finisher, but it also looks fun in Constructed – imagine it with Dawn Elemental.
Fabled Hero – This is the first heroic guy in the set numerically, and holy crap is it a doozy. A 2/2 double striker for 1WW is already pretty mean (obviously you get more than that for that cost, as Mirran Crusader shows), but let’s say as a thought experiment you swing with this and cast a Giant Growth targeting it. It gets +3/+3, and the +1/+1 counter, so it’s a 6/6, meaning that for one mana you just made it hit for 12 damage this turn.
Favored Hoplite – Heroic creature number two is also pretty good, if not quite as explosively nuts as Fabled Hero. A 1/2 body for one mana is always reassuring on turn one, and then there’s the matter of combat unkillability whenever you target it; a deck with Favored Hoplites and a lot of cheap Auras could be surprisingly threatening.