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Insider: Theros Prerelease Primer

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It’s that time again! Prerelease time, and I think it’s a safe bet there’s some new readers of this column who don’t know how I do these. So, before we go any farther, here’s the usual spiel.

For those of you not familiar with how I do set reviews, I start by giving you all a little credit. I don’t go card-by-card through the entire set and waste thousands of words telling you that obviously bulk rares are, in fact, bulk rares. Instead, I try to hit on the cards drawing the most hype as well as those I feel like you need to have on your radar for one reason or another, whether they be sleepers, overpriced, or so forth.

If you want to hear some financial thoughts besides mine on the new set, make sure to check out the latest episode of Brainstorm Brewery when it comes out on Friday at GatheringMagic.com.

Caveats

With that said, I want to take a moment for a brief aside. We’ve got a ton of new readers here on QS lately, and that’s great. It means more opinions in the forums and more collaboration in general. It also means that, as writers, we have to keep our game up because some people reading this have maybe never read a single thing I’ve written before.

I feel like I should make a point that I’ve made elsewhere but not necessarily in a while. Here goes.

Do not blindly trust me.

I’ve been doing this for a while. I’ve been a weekly columnist for more than three years and I’m highly active in the community. I’ve been responsible for some of the best call shots on here, from Stoneforge Mystic to Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells to Boros Reckoner. I like to think I’m pretty decent at this speculating game.

I take accountability very seriously. When I first began writing, back in the Wild West days of MTG finance, so to speak, no one was accountable in their articles. There’d be a ton of “I hope you took my advice on this card, it went up two dollars!” while never mentioning the $20 card they told you to buy into that dropped to $15.

So I started set reviews, and more importantly, looking back on those set reviews and grading myself, as I will do with M14 next week.

And guess what? I’m wrong, too. Everyone is. No one can bat 1.000, and in baseball you’re a pro if you’re successful one out of three times.

So don’t take my advice just because it’s my advice. Consider my reasoning on cards, take it into account along with what other people are saying, and at the end of the day make your own decision.

Theros Time

I’ve been playtesting the new Standard format a bit, mostly using G/W Midrange as my baseline. I’ve discovered that G/W in particular is extremely powerful, with cards like Gyre Sage and Advent of the Wurm, as well as Fleecemane Lion, all quite strong. So as I review the set here, that’s the experience I have so far. I think control will be good, but it’s not as prevalent as it was in the Pro Tour.

The Cards

Ashen Rider

$8 now, and the only way I see this being relevant is in some sort of Reanimator shell. Since all we have now is the Whip, whose exile clause doesn’t exactly work with the Rider, I’m calling this to fall. Probably to like $3-4, since it’s still relevant in EDH.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Good card, and certainly relevant in control mirrors, though I’m pretty sure that’s it. It likely has some casual appeal, but I’m certain it’s coming down from $25 long before we see any rise in it. The fact that it doesn’t protect itself means playing it without backup just sets up trouble.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Now here’s a Planeswalker I think is very good, and even though it’s preordering at $30 I think it’s the most likely to see a Jace-like jump to $50ish in the first few weeks. It creates a subgame where if the player doesn't very quickly handle Elspeth she takes over the game, not to mention she's a great stabilizer and helps to bring you back when behind.

That said, it’s more likely to settle at $15-20 in three months since it’s unlikely to be more than a two-of.

Gods

I want to address all of these together. I think they’re all solid, but overpriced at the moment.

I’ll leave it at that in terms of their current price, but these are difficult to evaluate because they’re novel in terms of Magic. This tripped me up with miracles a year ago, but I think the proper comparison is a kind of mini-Eldrazi.

I think they will be played in Standard, though in small enough numbers that the prices will all fall.

If there’s any target, I think it will be the white one, because the creature is more valuable than the ability.

That means you want stuff like Precinct Captain. The problem is I’m not positive the mana is there quite yet. Operating on the assumption that this god will be good but not until Born of the Gods comes out and we get more mana-fixing, it has an opportunity to dip but then pick back up, so it’s probably the best target if it goes cheap.

Master of Waves

I wish this was good, but it doesn’t pump Merfolk. While it’s a powerful effect and protection from red is nice, I don’t see it making a huge splash in older formats, and its prospects in Standard likely aren’t going to be enough to keep it $10.

Stormbreath Dragon

My pick for most overpriced card in the set. It’s cool and all, and protection from white is certainly relevant, but this thing is no Thundermaw Hellkite. Not only does it kill a turn slower (not counting monstrosity, which costs a million mana), but the monstrous effect has yet to deal more than one damage to me in test games.

This is certainly not a bulk dragon like we’re used to seeing, but $25 feels absurd, because this thing is no Thundermaw Hellkite, and unless Pro White really becomes that important I expect this thing will hit $15 before it hits $30, and I expect sub-$20 to be its eventual home.

Xenagos, the Reveler

I know I said the dragon is the most overpriced card, but this is close to it. $40 is clearly way too much, even for a powerful card.

The problem with Xenagos is this: it fights with Domri, and Domri wins that fight. Both want creatures in the deck, but you can only play so many non-creature spells in your Domri deck. I think it’s clear people will build Domri decks that may contain some Xenagos, rather than the other way around. It’s probably like a two-of in the Domri decks because the abilities are fine, but that’s about it.

Where this may be more likely to find a home is in the sideboards of said decks, because creating 2/2s for free was powerful when Garruk did it, and still is.

In the end, I’m calling $10-15 on this.

Anger of the Gods

Underpriced. This and Chained to the Rocks are the reasons I think RWU will be the dominant control weapon of choice, and it’s almost laughable how much better this is than even Supreme Verdict. I think the control decks will run both, but this actually deals with the problematic creatures way better than the more traditional Wrath.

I don’t think this hits $10 for more than a week, if that, but I do think it’s going to be more than $4 a month from now.

Boon Satyr

This is worth noting only because it has flash. It’s gotten almost no hype at $3, but against the control decks this is probably solid. Flash is super relevant, and along with Advent you get to play on your opponent’s turn. The bestow is just gravy here. It’s a fine pickup at $2 on the potential it hits $5+ in the first few weeks.

Bow of Nylea

Ryan and Jason are in deep on this card, but I don’t like it. Yes, it has five abilities, but none of them are game-breaking. It’s probably best used in some of the green creature mirrors, but even seeing play as a two-of or something doesn’t seem like to provide a ton of upside at $3.

Chained to the Rocks

Underpriced. $3-4 for this is really good, especially considering how many tools RWU (American) Control has right out the gates, notably with better mana than a lot of decks.

Curse of the Swine

For whatever reason, people are excited about this. But even at $3 I hate it. Sure, you may exile their god or whatever, but you’re gonna give them eight power worth of boars to kill you next turn, so who cares?

Fabled Hero

I don’t think this card is insane, but Wescoe will play the crap out of it, and he has proven he can win Pro Tours with such dudes. At $2, it’s a cheap buy-in that offers a high potential for profits.

Firedrinker Satyr

I don’t think this card is insane or anything, but it’s a two-power one-drop creature. We’ve seen these “RDW 1-drops” hit $6-8 in the first month in past sets, and this seems safe at $2.

Fleecemane Lion

Love the card, but overpriced at $8. Don’t think we’re going to see many rares sustain this price tag, much less ones as narrow as this awesome Watchwolf.

Hero's Downfall

$5-7 seems about right, but I want these in my binder this weekend. We have a new gold standard for removal, and these are sure to be popular.

Mistcutter Hydra

Don’t buy into the hype. Even $4 is too much. The abilities are cool, but it’s still basically just worse at every point on the curve than comparable creatures, which relegates it to possible sideboard use, and that’s it.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

$10 is nuts for this. The card is cool, but it’s going to crash hard. I think it’s probably a good long-term play at that point, but that’s it. You need a devotion of four or more before it even generates extra mana, and at that point you’re probably not super in need of one or two more mana.

Prognostic Sphinx

Scry 3 is a lot of scrying. I’m not sure this is better than Aetherling as a finisher (I doubt it), nor am I sure if there’s a deck that even wants it right now. But the power level is high enough that at a buck I’m all about grabbing this in trades.

Rageblood Shaman

A lord here, and at a dollar, the price of a throw-in, I don’t mind picking these up. They’ll probably trade well, and who knows, maybe we’ll have a minotaur deck by the end of the block. You’ve got to play something with those Didgeridoo, right?

Soldier of the Pantheon

Another card I think belongs around $4-6 (it’s $4 right now), but more importantly one I really want in my binder. This is very powerful and I expect it to see play in several decks. I know this will trade well even if the price doesn’t move a ton.

Steam Augury

Going for more on eBay than the $3 it’s at on SCG. If that isn’t an indication, the fact that I believe RWU has a lot of tools already makes me want to get in on this. Sure, there’s “free” money to be had by arbitraging right now, but it’s not enough. I’m not positive buying in for cash is the right play ($2 or less I’d consider it, though), but I’m definitely picking these up in trade.

Swan Song

Cool card that will probably see play, but I have hard time believing it will be enough to hold $5. Get out now, will probably end up like $2. Remember, Counterflux sees play but is nearly bulk.

Sylvan Caryatid

This blocks just about everything from aggressive decks, doesn’t die to removal and ramps you. That’s a lot to like, even if the $6 preorder price isn’t. I want this card in my binder, though I don’t think there’s a ton of upside. But remember that despite a million printings, Birds of Paradise is almost always $5 when it’s in Standard.

Scrylands

I like the red-white one the most at $6, but in general I think they probably fall to $4-5 and sit there for a while. I also like trading into them at that price.

Happy Prereleasing

That’ll do it. Again, I tried to hit on some of the more important cards rather than every one in the set. If there’s any in particular I missed that you’d like my opinion on, just let me know in the comments and I’ll make it happen. I’m looking forward to the prerelease, and I hope you have fun at yours!

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

9 thoughts on “Insider: Theros Prerelease Primer

  1. Regarding Stormbreath Dragon’s monstrous ability: if you testing against it with G/W, then yeah, the monstrous ability isn’t going to do much, as it’s meant to be good against a control deck.

    I think foil Swan Song is where you want to be, since it’s also going to see play in eternal formats.

    No thoughts on Underworld Cerberus? I like him, but I’m holding off on pickup him up until the meta stabilizes and not as much aggro is running around.

    1. Foil Swan Song is nice for sure, but it all depends on your entry point. Obviously people are thinking about this already, so it’s somewhat priced in now.

      I don’t love the Cerebrus. It’s a big dumb dude that, sure, is hard to block and if killed will get you back dudes. But considering how much RFG-removal is running around I’m not sure exactly how often that’ll happen, and those cards are the most likely to kill this anyway.

  2. Stormbreath is okay, the pro white does come in handy against things like Azorius Charm and Detention Sphere. It does have a glaring weakness to Mizzium Mortars, but some people are switching to Anger of the Gods anyways.

    I agree with most of what you said. I personally specced on Sylvan Caryatid ($3.5), Anger of the Gods ($3), Chained to the Rocks ($3). I disagree when it comes to Master of Waves ($6.5) and Nykthos ($7), both of which I bought quite a few. The Master makes 5+ tokens so readily it isn’t even funny, and any red or green decks can’t deal with him; although I agree that consistency needs to be tested. For Nykthos, my line of thought is that it has a flashy effect and counts 5x because all five devotion decks want some copies of it.

    I also bought lots of Hammer of Purphoros at $1.5 each. I think that card is insane, way better than Fires of Yavimaya. Play it in RDW and it basically wins the game against control if they can’t deal with it. And it is harder to deal with than the 2/2 haste-making Xenagos.

    1. Also I want to add one thing. It remains true that the supply is the lowest in the first few months of release, so prices will tend to drop from presale prices. There are exceptions like Deathrite Shaman and Sphinx’s Revelation from RTR and Boros Reckoner from Gatecrash, but those tend to be exceptions.

      1. That was my take on it as well on the cast, that it’s good against Control decks and mediocre otherwise. That makes it like a 2-of SB card, which I’m not sure is underpriced at the $3 preorder. $1.5 is obviously a much better buy-in price. I’m just not sure how “Devotion decks” are going to like a colorless mana source that doesn’t generate mana until like turn 4-5. At that point, if it’s generating mana, it’s probably not likely you need a ton more.

  3. Being a big Modern player, i think the Stormbreath Dragon is a lot better than you might think it is. In my opinion pro white makes it better than Hellkite, it still can’t be blocked by souls, nor can it be pathed

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