Planeswalking – Theros, The Journey So Far

As we reach the halfway point between the debut of Theros and the release of the follow up set Born of the Gods I thought I’d take a look at how my perception of the set has evolved and how my own play style has changed over the past few months.

Theros was the first expansion released since my return to playing Magic and I was pretty excited for it. The reality has been a bit of an up and down experience. The initial excitement of intro decks and boosters was enjoyable but it was following with a nagging doubt; I couldn’t seem to make a deck based around the new mechanics that did anything special. It was clear that Heroic was my mechanic of choice but even in casual play it wasn’t working for me. This was compounded by my first draft tournament where my mono white Heroic deck that seemed so perfect during the draft just didn’t play out very well.

There are so many Heroic creatures and enablers in Theros that you can fill a mono or dual colored deck very easily and this was my mistake.

I soon found my problem. As I’ve mentioned before I love a good combo deck and I was trying too hard to make one using Heroic that I neglected to include any kind of support cards. You see normally a two or three card combo will only take up about 8 to 12 cards in a deck, leaving plenty of room for cards to support that combo, be that a nice sandbagging defense, something to keep your opponent in check, or some way of getting to your combo cards ahead of time. There are so many Heroic creatures and enablers in Theros that you can fill a mono or dual colored deck very easily and this was my mistake. I’d more or less given up on my Heroic deck being anything more than a bit of fun and decided to give the pre-build Theros Event deck a try.

Event decks differ from Intro decks in that they are more complex and generally stronger; built to be taken to a causal event and put up a good fight. They come packaged as a 60 card deck with a 15 card sideboard, for tuning your deck between matches and a block themed spindown life counter. At around £20 they cost a little more than Intro decks and don’t come packaged with any boosters but the cards you get are generally well worth the money and they are an excellent step up for newer players.

The Theros Event deck is White/Blue and aptly named Inspiring Heroics. A fact I only noticed when opening it up. Perhaps a little bit of blue would resolve the issues I’d hit with my mono-white attempts. As it happens the deck plays very well indeed and while the addition of another colour does help the Heroic mechanics get to work there is another aspect to the game plan that I’d overlooked: creature removal. With the help of Banisher Priests, Detention Spheres, and  Lyev Skyknights the deck offers both temporary and semi-permanent removal for your opponent’s creatures that can slow their progress to a crawl. Imposing Sovereign also helps ensure that any your opponent’s creatures offer no defensive barrier on their first turn in play giving you easy access to hit with your heroic forces and banish or detain them later.

I have made several changes to the deck and it’s become a firm favorite but more importantly it taught me a lesson in deck design. Support cards are not filler for once you’ve filled up on your core mechanics, they are essential. It’s also worth mentioning that the removal aspects of the deck are not supplied by Theros cards. Card sets are often designed to work with recent blocks and this should never be overlooked.

From a value point of view it’s worth noting that bought as singles the two Detention Spheres and the Hallowed Fountain would run you close to full retail price of the deck.

The other subject of Theros that I wanted to touch on was how rich the set flavor is. The foundation of Greek mythology spun into a magic plane is a simply a joy to play with. While it is usually the job of planeswalkers and creatures to set the tone of a block, Theros uses enchantments and divine weaponry to weave a story of adventure, trials, and heroics. I only really noticed how well this was done when playing against the Face the Hydra challenge deck. This launch event deck is still available to buy and offers a new way to play Magic cooperatively. You can face off against this self-playing deck alone but it’s far more fun to do some in a group or even in teams. As you might expect the Hydra has multiple heads that need to be destroyed and with each head destruction come the chance of growing another two. Heads come in various strengths and with different victory rewards.

The whole set up can be scaled for multiple players and varying experience levels and offers a nice break from standard play. If you happen to have earned any Hero cards during the Theros Hero’s Path pre-release they can also be played alongside the deck to give an advantage. The most enjoyable use I’ve found for the deck is to have prizes for the player that destroys the most heads in a multiplayer set up or the player that defeats the Hydra in the fewest number of turns while playing alone.

Barring the Holiday Gift box that we’ll be covering in our Christmas Gift Guide all the Theros products have now been released and we’re starting to see some high level use of the set in tournaments. It seems to be very well received and it’s certainly taught me a great deal about deck building. The second expansion of the Theros block, Born of the Gods, is due for release in February 2014.







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