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Week One of Theros

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As much as I want to start cranking out Pauper decks, I think that it would be prudent to get a feel for the post-ban metagame before I start publishing lists. I also see Theros as having a reasonably significant impact on the format. Suffice to say, don’t be surprised if the deck I feature next week features Gray Merchant of Asphodel.

Instead, let’s take a look at week one of Theros Standard and talk about some cards that I see as as solid speculation targets.

Level Zero

It’s unsurprising to see monored place four decks in the top sixteen in Worcester- or in week one of any Standard format. There are usually enough tools for a decent red deck in Standard, and a good percentage of the field tends to be people playing under-tested piles. It just so happens that red decks prey on such opposition.

I don’t say this to mean that red decks will be a flash in the pan. I fully expect red decks- big and small- to have a lot of staying power in this format. It’s easily the fastest monocolor deck and also offers a lot of powerful tools to midrange/controlling strategies.

Esper was the other big winner of the weekend, again to the surprise of no one. Jace, Architect of Thought and Sphinx's Revelation are the real deal, and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Of course, the ship has long sailed on investing in any of the major players in the Esper deck. Jace has nearly tripled in recent months and Sphinx's Revelation has had a steep buy-in for some time- neither card showing much room to grow.

Midrange decks didn’t do particularly well in week one, but knowing the enemy clearly benefits them going forward. They’ll need enough cheap removal to beat a deck with 12 one drops and enough aggression to race Sphinx's Revelation. This might seem like obvious information, and it’s clearly an oversimplification, but the underlying point is that midrange decks rely on having carefully sculpted lists more than aggressive or control decks.

Anyhow, let’s just get down to brass tacks.

One Big Maybe

I haven’t been able to convince myself to pull the trigger on Boon Satyr yet, but I definitely see the card as undervalued at $2. Pat Chapin rated it as his pick for best green card out of Theros, but it seems to me that Theros is of a generally lower power level than Return to Ravnica block.

It’s very good at evolving creatures and contributes a lot of power at instant speed, but I’m just not sure that it fits into a very coherent deck at this point in time. As a three drop in an aggressive deck it dies to everything, and the more aggressive a deck is the less it wants a five-mana Aura. It also seems pretty low-impact for more midrange strategies.

Even still, I won’t be surprised to see the card find a home somewhere in the next year. As a regular rare though, it’s not a great spec at $2. I’ll be keeping an eye on them, and would easily buy a grip at 50 cents to a buck.

On Matters More Certain

Firedrinker Satyr

Jackal Pup is worse now than it’s ever been, but RDW is obviously a powerful strategy. The deck was strong in block, and an extra 2/1 for one never hurt anybody. Except your opponent… And in Firedrinker Satyr’s case it hurts you, too… but you see my point.

These guys go for $1-2, but given its role this looks to pretty easily be a $5 card. RDW will continue to be played by a lot of people, and some of these people are going to top eight and even win events.

Ember Swallower

Ember Swallower, as has been stated by many, is in something of a sweet spot being immune to both Mizzium Mortars and Selesnya Charm. I’ve seen lists cutting Ember Swallower entirely for more copies of Polukranos, World Eater. I don’t understand this for a few reasons.

Polukranos has somewhat significant drawbacks compared to Ember Swallower against aggressive decks and control decks. When it comes to controlling opponents, Ember Swallower has a dramatically more impactful ability. Against aggressive opponents being able to monstrous Polukranos is comparable to being able to play additional copies to block, but over the course of multiple turns the extra blocker matters more and more.

My testing has thus far has supported the claim that Theros is quite a bit weaker than RtR, and a ⅘ for four is more impactful than I initially gave it credit for. A few copies breached the top 16 in Worcester, and as midrange decks get hashed out I anticipate this card being a major player.

While Ember Swallower is both a prerelease promo and an intro pack rare, the price tag of less than a half-dollar that it currently carries is laughable. Not everybody who played a prerelease got an Ember Swallower and the intro pack just doesn’t have enough value to justify buying it over singles. This card has been an easy buy for me.

Rakdos's Return

This card has been $5 for a long time and that’s just a joke. People picked up on Obzedat when Gerry Thompson featured his BWR list on Starcity, but Rakdos's Return is only just starting to sell. If you’ve tested the deck at all, Obzedat is solid, but Rakdos's Return actually ends games. It’s the deck’s linchpin, and is a very easy 2-3 of in any midrange deck that generates black or red mana. It obviously isn’t what you want against aggressive decks, but it devastates midrange and control decks alike. Over the course of the weekend the card sold out on Star City, so pick them up at fives while you can.

Master of Waves

Another $5 mythic. If this card is at all playable, that price tag will never hold. That’s just not how mythic rares work. As of now, Frostburn Weird and Jace, Architect of Thought are the best ways to generate devotion to blue, and both are quite playable. I’m uncertain if the list Mark Nestico posted this week is the real deal or not, but every good blue permanent in Theros block will only make this card more viable. I’d be very comfortable buying these at fives.

~

I apologize for the brief delay that the bans have caused on my Pauper series, but I think that it’s for the best that I wait another week to provide the best possible lists. Thanks for bearing with me, and thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

3 thoughts on “Week One of Theros

  1. Why do the links never work for cards whose name contains an apostrophe? In this article, hover over “Sphinx’s Revelation” or “Rakdos’s Return”, and the card won’t be shown.

    1. So you board it out in the mirror. The most popular deck rarely makes up more than 30% of the metagame. At that point, you play against it maybe two or three times in an event. In every other matchup Firedrinker gives you the speed that can just shut other strategies out of the game.

      Even if it is bad, I still fully expect a lot of people to play it. I’m not telling you to play it, I’m saying that it’s probably smart to buy.

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