Fortune Telling with Theros
Most of what we know about Standard with Theros is speculation at this point, but the StarCityGames.com Versus Series has given us a glimpse into the future. I grabbed two of StarCityGames.com’s part-time prophets to get their take on the issue. Brian Braun-Duin and Chris VanMeter have both had a good taste of Theros at this point, so I asked each of them to pick a couple cards they thought might be major players in Worcester.
“Shotgun Elspeth,” Chris said immediately—Brian allowed it. What makes the white planeswalker so powerful? “Her plus-one ability is just absurd. Elspeth Tirel was actually playable with the same ability at -2, and being able to go out of Warleader’s Helix range and make three creatures to protect her is insane! The only card that can actually threaten her is Ghor-Clan Rampager.”
The Rampager is sure to be a player in new Standard, of course, but Elspeth’s impact is incredible—far beyond just generating tokens. “On top of being able to make three dudes, her -3 is a relevant Wrath of God effect that lets her stick around to pump more guys out,” Chris added. “A lot of people don’t think she’s good because she costs six mana—but after playing with her, I think she’s great because she only costs six mana!”
A bold prediction followed from Chris. “I think she might overtake Aetherling as a finisher in control matchups, because you can play her on turn 6 and immediately impact the board.” If she’s capable of ousting the blue Shapeshifter, a holdover from Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze, then she’ll be one of the most powerful cards in Theros by a mile.
“Whip of Erebos is one of my favorites,” Brian said. “Black has a lot of powerful cards that come at the cost of life, so giving your creatures lifelink is extremely relevant in black.” Thinking back on other cards in Standard, that makes sense—Underworld Connections comes to mind immediately, but Theros is bringing along Thoughtseize and Read the Bones as well.
But wait—there’s more. “The activated ability on the card is just unreal. It has a nice combo with a couple cards, such as Obzedat and Aetherling, which you can rebuy and then use their abilities to keep forever.” That’s cute, but can adding “unearth” to your other creatures make the Whip worth its weight? “It still lets you get another trigger off Lifebane Zombie or hit them for six and gain six with Desecration Demon,” Brian said.
Clearly, he plans to Whip them good.
Amusingly, Chris VanMeter’s next pick plays reasonably well with the Whip—Read the Bones. “Read the Bones has been one of the most surprising cards we’ve played with,” he said, having expected the card to be decent but not great. “Divination and Preordain have both been playable cards in past formats, and this is just both of those cards supercharged. I compare it to Foresee, which would’ve been played very heavily at three mana.”
Well, when you put it like that...
“It competes with Underworld Connections, but after playing with both I just think it’s better,” Chris said. “The exception is that Underworld Connections can help give you devotion.” Depending on how important mana symbols wind up being in Standard, that could be a deal-breaker... but it’s safe to say that Read the Bones is a very real card-drawing effect in black.
Brian brought us home with a big name: Purphoros, God of the Forge. “Well, for one, he’s the God of the Forge, which is kind of cool,” Brian said. “Secondly, he’s a huge threat whether or not he’s a creature.”
I think that second one is probably more relevant, and certainly makes him unusual among the Gods—only Heliod can claim the same. “Even in enchantment form, Purphoros basically gives all your creatures haste by letting them deal damage the turn they come into play.” Of course, he’s got more text. “The boost effect is incredibly relevant with threats like Young Pyromancer in the format, and if you do end up getting his devotion he beats for six, which is a massive life swing.”
Chris couldn’t resist chiming in. “He also works well with Elspeth!”
Well, there you have it. Will their picks hold after a few weeks of Open Series play—or after Pro Tour Theros? Only time will tell...