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Theros: Beyond Death spoilers are well underway. David covered the heavy-hitters earlier this week, but more cards have been revealed, and the set seems packed full of low-level goodies that stand to very marginally improve some of Modern's many strategies. Let's take a look at at some of the most underrated tech in the new set!
A House Is Not a Home
The following cards may already have homes in Modern, however fringe. I can see these spells slotting into existing archetypes right away, albeit with a little tweaking.
Gallia of the Endless Dance
"Other Satyrs you control get +1/+1 and have haste." Yawn! It's the rest of the text on Gallia that makes it interesting. Attacking with three creatures is par for the course in hyper-aggressive Zoo strains like 8-Whack, and that's exactly where I expect Gallia to end up. Even there, it's not realistically triggering until turn three. I still think that's enough to merit inclusion, as the looting effect is just bonkers in a deck that peters out so quickly.
Icing on the cake: if we do ever happen to get a Satyr on the level of pushed beaters like Hexdrinker or Grim Flayer, Gallia will start to look appealing as a build-around card.
Our first control card, Whirlwind Denial sets the bar high for stack wars, functioning as Flusterstorm that also hits creatures and, critically, planeswalkers—that's the type of card blue mages duke it out over. Three mana is a heck of a lot for a stack war, but considering Denial's other fringe applications (such as dealing with storm), I can see it making the cut as a tech choice in sideboards.
Yet another control card, Thassa's Intervention doesn't do one thing particularly well. But it offers players a choice between two extremely relevant effects. In a topdeck war, when opponents have little going on, or should players badly need an answer locked away within the deck, digging mode does an okay Dig Through Time impression. And otherwise, with a planeswalker on deck ticking up, counterspell mode says "no" and enables the snowball. Intervention offers enough utility for control mages to consider in the main.
And, I'd argue, Dream Trawler offers enough raw power to reshape how control players build their decks. Trawler is the Morphling Modern never had; a Baneslayer Angel that draws extra cards and can give itself hexproof at will, both without any mana investment. Six mana is a ton, but if players are happy to tap out for Lyra Dawnbringer, I don't see why they wouldn't be happy to invest in this guy. The drawing alone gives this thing a tool against attrition and control decks as gamebreaking as lifelink is for aggro ones.
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
It's not all control cards I'm excited about. This escape cycle of fatties seems promising, too. Especially Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, who I think fits pretty smoothly into Smallpox decks. We've seen these strategies have middling success in Modern, most recently with Rankle Pox. If they're up for splashing red, Kroxa provides inevitability and card neutrality while tapping the graveyard, a resource Pox players have otherwise struggled to capitalize on.
My favorite kinds of spoilers are ones for cards that don't necessarily turn archetypes on their heads or spawn new strategies. I prefer cards with specific, niche applications; ones that either replace or simply provide alternatives to existing role-players. The more novel the design philosophy in a given set, the likelier we are to see such spells, and Theros: Beyond Death has already given us five.
First up is Mire Triton, which packs a ton of potentially relevant text into one sleek design. Triton gains pilots life, self-mills, swings for a passable 2 damage, and provides a deathtouch body on defense. On top of all that, it's a Zombie Merfolk, supporting two beloved tribes.
If Triton ends up belonging to either clan, it should be to Zombies; that's a deck that appreciates self-mill and is already in black to begin with. Two mana's not a great rate for 2/1s in Modern, but this little guy does enough stuff to perhaps make the cut somewhere anyway.
Omen of the Sea
Speaking of two-drops, let's dive into escape, Magic's latest take on flashback. Omen of the Sea costs one more than the banned Preordain, but offers pilots flash; in instant-speed decks, spending mana on enemy turns can be quite similar to getting it for free. Additionally, Sea's extra effect lets pilots squeeze value out of the enchantment down the road, and its card type plays nice with certain mechanics (delirium, constellation, etc.).
I'm especially interested in how players will stack Sea's two abilities. With five mana available, pilots can cast Sea and respond to its enters-the-battlefield trigger by cracking it, yielding scry 2, scry 2, draw a card. This enchantment has a lot of modes and may be flying under the radar right now.
Anger might not be legal in Modern, but Escape Velocity gives players the possibility of having haste on all their guys thanks to a card in the graveyard. Sure, it costs mana to activate, and two can be a lot when a creature is also being cast that turn. But exiling just two cards is hardly a cost, meaning Escape Velocity will probably sit in the grave and threaten haste throughout a game. Plus, as an enchantment, the power boost lasts, and should add up over multiple attaches.
Cling to Dust
The last escape card we'll see today is my favorite design thus far. Early on, Cling to Dust provides cantripping (or life-gaining) grave disruption; on paper, it eventually morphs into a card advantage engine. Realistically, though, the spell sits somewhere in the middle, fronting a burst of value and then ensuring another one or two down the road. Escaping more than twice in a game should prove difficult with a five-card requirement.
Cantrips on passable effects are nothing to sneeze at, and neither is versatility. I love that Cling can function as lifegain or simply a cantrip in a pinch, but also blow opponents out in certain situations as well as just post a speed bump for anyone gently interacting with the graveyard (think Snapcaster Mage, Emry, Lurker of the Loch, or Unearth). This card's high floor and ceiling make it a winner in my book, even with with gold standards like Surgical Extraction legal.
This lamp isn't playing when it comes to the graveyard, either. An update to Scrabbling Claws, Soul-Guide Lantern also offers players plenty of options. It immediately removes a card, threatens a grave nuke at any time, and can be cashed in for a card as needed. The artifact reminds me too of Nihil Spellbomb, but more generic in that nonblack decks can play it. I wonder if it's generic enough to see mainboard use alongside Mox Opal and the rest of the artifact core propelling Oko decks to the top of the format.
There's No Escape!
From spoilers, that is! And as long as they keep flowing, we'll keep hot-taking. Which Theros: Beyond Death cards have you brewing?