Planeswalking – Welcome to Theros

For those new to Magic you might find the introduction of the Theros set a little jarring. While ‘core’ releases float about a bit within the overarching storyline block releases such as Theros focus on a very specific themed setting. In the past these have covered such traditional settings as horror (Innistrad) and Japanese mythology (Kamigawa) as well as some entirely original ideas such as the a city of guilds (Ravnica) and tribalism (Lorwyn). The Theros block is inspired by possibly the most recognisable theme of all: Greek mythology.

I recently took my first few steps into playing with the set with an Intro Deck and a Fatpack. We’ve looked at intro decks in the past with the core 2014 set but the release of Theros sees five new multicoloured Intro Decks. I went with the Black/Blue Devotion to Darkness deck. The deck is heavily weighted towards black creatures and for good reason – the foil rare you get in the pack is Abhorrent Overlord, a large flying black creature sporting the new Devotion mechanic. Put simply, the more black mana symbols you have on your cards in play the greater the Devotion effect is. In the case of the Overlord the effect spawns a small flying harpy for each symbol.

The theme of the deck is to stonewall your opponent with a strong defence while keeping your life topped up with a few Lifelinking creatures. Once you’ve built up enough of an army and have drawn your Overlord (with the help of Scry) you can go all out and unleash a sea of harpies to finish your opponent. The most noticeable element of this deck is how well it puts across the flavor of the block. Insatiable Harpy and Returned Phalanx neatly add elements of Magic to established legends while Rescue from the Underworld offers something new that is so flavorful it gave me a flashback to Disney’s Hercules. All Theros 60 card intro decks cost £12.99 and also include two Theros booster packs (usually £3.59 each) so you’re paying around £6 for the deck itself. So while it’s not crammed with rare cards that are going to win you tournaments they do offer a good value introduction to the block.

After some time with the intro deck I was ready to see more of what this new block had to offer, whereas in the past I’ve sung the virtues of the Deck Builders Toolkit for new players I have now ventured into the realms of Fat Packs. A less attractive name for sure but one for the player that has already build a sizable base for his collection and is in need of two things: powerful cards, and storage.

Theros Fat Packs cost £34.99 and contain nine booster booster packs, two small deck boxes, a block guide, some land, and a life counter. All of that is packaged in a large rigid storage box that is much more durable than those provided with the Deck Builders Toolkits. Essentially you are paying the price of ten booster packs but getting nine and a bunch of accessories, of which the storage box and life counter are the most desirable. Nine booster packs is quite a haul of cards and easily enough give you a nice spread of what a block has to offer.

While the new mechanics of Devotion, Bestow, Heroic, and Scry all seem well thought out, Heroic appeals the most to my style of play, specifically it’s implementation in white. Heroic is a creature ability that triggers whenever that creatures controller targets it with a spell, be it a sorcery, instant, or aura. Each colour has a theme to what actually happens when this triggers. In white the theme is +1/+1 counters being applied to the creature in question or, in the case of Phalanx Leader, all creatures you control. The low casting cost of the creatures coupled with a large number of low cost creature targeting spells means that you can very quickly build up a powerful creature base.

Dauntless Onslaught is clearly made to work with the Heroic mechanic offering a temporary boost to two targets while also triggering two separate instances of Heroic. Blue seems an obvious pair to white in this tactic hinted at by the blue/white Battlewise Hoplite and the dual targeting Triton Tactics. While the effect of Triton Tactics are fine it’s the ability to trigger two Heroic effects for a very low cost that sells it.

A personal favorite in this combo is Lost in a Labyrinth. Initially it seems like a useful nerf with the added bonus of Scry but, if you’ve mana to spare, playing it on one of your own creatures at the end of your opponent’s turn will trigger their Heroic ability and let you Scry the next card you’re going to draw. Your creature then gets -3/-0 but only till the end of the turn that is just about to finish. Heroic also works well with the ordeal cycle of cards allowing them to trigger early due to +1/+1 tokens already being present on the creature, a combo pointed out by Mark Rosewater when we spoke to him last week.

An ideal first few turns would play out like this (land drops assumed):

Turn 1: Summon Favored Hoplite.

Turn 2: Summon Battlewise Hoplite.

Turn 3: Summon Phalanx Leader and cast Triton Tactics targeting two creatures.

Assuming you targeted the Battlewise Hoplite and Phalanx Leader you now have a 2/3, a 2/2 & a 4/4 in play and you get to scry your next card. That’s from a nice draw but any combination of Heroics and cheap Instants can lead to situations like this early in the game. Late game you can look at using Bestow creatures as aura for more permanent boosts that also trigger Heroic.

There is a lot to play play with in Theros and this is just scratching the surface of a few colours but I’ll leave you with my favorite Heroic card from the set – the Double striking Fabled Hero that features some of the most arrogant flavor test I’ve seen in a while. Perfection.

You. Poet. Be sure to write this down.







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