02 Mar 2020 11:16 AM +00:00 UTC

Top 11 Theros Beyond Death Magic: The Gathering Cards For Standard

Credit: WotC

Magic: the Gathering’s latest set, Theros Beyond Death (THB), was released last January 24, 2020. While the set’s impact on Constructed has been felt most strongly in Pioneer and Modern, it’s been no slouch in Standard, either. 

Over the past month, Magic fans have been treated to tons of high-level Standard featuring THB in the form of the 2020 World Championship and the DreamHack Anaheim 2020 Arena Open. It seems like the new set has unlocked several new strategies and has revitalized old favorites. Standard may be more popular now than it was at any point in 2019.

Combo and ramp enthusiasts in older formats have enjoyed the introduction of Thassa’s Oracle, Underworld Breach, and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove to the eternal card pool. Standard players, on the other hand, get a slew of resilient threats that deliver value turn after turn, as well as powerful and versatile answers the likes of which have been absent for some time.

In this list, we’ll look at the top 11 cards from Theros: Beyond Death that have made the biggest splash in Standard.

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  1. Ally Temples

    Kicking off this list, we have the least flashy but most subtly important addition to Standard, the ally color Temples. 

    Nicknamed this way because the two colors each Temple produces lie next to each other on Magic’s Color Pie, these nonbasic lands complement the enemy colored Temples printed in Core Set 2020. The Temples are reprints from the original Theros block, so they also contribute to nostalgia on our return to the Greek mythology-inspired plane.

    Surprisingly, this ten-card cycle was received poorly by players when they were first printed. Standard battlers were used to having their dual color lands come into play untapped. Aggro players complained that Standard with tapped duals might slow the format down and advantage control players too much.

    Eventually, the Scry 1 rider proved too good to pass up, and we’ve seen today’s players adding the Ally Temples to their decks right away to improve color consistency and increase card selection. Scrying a land to the bottom of your deck in the late game can be so valuable that it can sometimes be correct to hold onto the Temple for as long as possible.     

  2. Ashiok, Nightmare Muse

    Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is undeniably one of the most powerful cards from Theros Beyond Death, but this mysterious Planeswalker lands pretty low on this list because they haven’t found a deck to truly run rampant in.

    When the set dropped, top players like Andrea Mengucci and Shaheen Soorani featured Ashiok prominently in their first drafts of Esper decks with either Hero of Precinct One or more controlling elements like Basilica Bell-Haunt. 

    Esper Hero actually did well in the first couple of weeks of THB Standard, earning several top finishes in Magic Online leagues. Unfortunately for fans of the deck (such as myself), the Esper shard proved to be outmatched by the tools and synergies available to Jund, Bant, Jeskai, Temur, and Azorius, the latter of which has become the premier control deck of the format.

    I still believe that Ashiok has what it takes to dominate the format, especially since it shares many similarities with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. All they need to haunt your nightmares are one or two good control cards in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths.

  3. Gray Merchant of Asphodel

    The second reprint on this list—or sixth, depending on how you count it, Gray Merchant of Asphodel is back to give Mono-Black decks some of the insane finishing power they had back in the days of Pack Rat and Thoughtseize. 

    Its 2/4 body may be underwhelming, but it isn’t hard to set up a board state in Standard where Gary, as the card is affectionately known, can drain the opponent for four to six life points and end the game. His stats won’t matter if the opponent is dead.

    Mono-Black is certainly a player in today’s Standard metagame, but Red offers sacrifice synergies like Mayhem Davil that make Rakdos a more appealing and therefore more common strategy. Even so, players who can’t resist jamming 20 Swamps and 4 Castle Locthwain can sleep well at night knowing that Gary has their backs at their next Standard tournament.

  4. Omen of the Sea

    It’s difficult to underestimate how much power Omen of the Sea has brought to Blue decks with the release of THB. Experienced players may remember how important the one-mana sorcery Preordain was to Standard and how it got banned in Modern, and Omen is cut from the same cloth.

    For just one more mana than Opt, Omen offers a potent one-two punch of card filter when you cast it and additional value later in the game. It’s an excellent play on turn two when you have nothing better to do with your mana, and if you’re desperate to find a card and have five mana to spare, the Omen gives you a whopping five looks at the top of your deck.

    This flashy enchantment has quickly found a home in all sorts of blue decks, including Temur Reclamation and Jeskai Fires. It’s most versatile, however, in Azorius Control, where its enchantment card type combos with Teferi, Time Raveler and Archon of Sun’s Grace.

     

  5. Shadowspear

    Shadowspear may not be one of the most played cards in Standard, but it still deserves a spot on the list for its versatile suite of abilities and because any deck can play it. 

    One month into its existence in the format, it’s probably most notable for giving Gruul decks the ability to gain huge amounts of life, something that color pair rarely has access to. The Legendary Equipment also gives trample, and Gruul makes the most of that by pairing it with Questing Beast. If you’ve ever assembled an impressive board of creatures but have been on the wrong side of a Spear-wielding three-headed Beast, then you’ll know how frightening the thought is.

    Aside from striking fear into the heart of Planeswalker lovers and control players, Elspeth’s weapon has even more text on it. It may not come up that often, but the first time your aggro deck gets to kill a Dream Trawler with Shadowspear’s last ability, you’ll be thanking Heliod.

  6. Storm’s Wrath

    When I wrote that THB has given decks access to tools that have been absent in Standard for a while, I definitely had Storm’s Wrath in Mind. 

    For what feels like eons, control-oriented Red mages have had to make do with small-ball sweeper effects like Flame Sweep and Fiery Cannonade to clear out pesky creatures and prolong the game. 

    Now, thanks to this efficient sorcery, decks like Temur Reclamation have a better chance of holding out against aggro decks and eventually blowing the opponent’s head up with an Explosion for 20. The fact that this Wrath also hits Planeswalkers means that it will be the go-to Red board clear effect for as long as it’s legal in Standard.

  7. Agonizing Remorse

    Another great addition to this Standard format is Agonizing Remorse, a versatile discard spell that complements the cheaper but more narrow Duress. 

    The format hasn’t seen such a potent targeted discard effect since the reprinting of Thoughtseize in original Theros. A meager two-mana investment lets Black mages deal with anything from a Dream Trawler to a Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Remorse deals with problem cards permanently, too, thanks to its exile clause. 

    Letting you choose a card in the opponent’s graveyard is just the cherry on top of this amazing spell. It means that the card has some value late in the game, when players are empty-handed and discard effects are awful top decks.

    Discard spells that can hit a broad range of cards in hand usually come with restrictions or drawbacks, but it’s unlikely people playing this card will feel remorse at paying one life point. Every black deck in Standard should be playing this card.

  8. Elspeth Conquers Death

    Elspeth Conquers Death reads like a laundry list of White’s best spell effects from Magic’s long history. It also looks like a carefully designed response to players’ complaints that White has been Standard’s weakest color for a long time.

    Everything about the card oozes power and value! Chapter 1 permanently deals with most threats, the finale brings your best card back to battle, and even Chapter 2 pulls its weight by taxing the opponent’s removal, counterspells, and Planeswalkers. 

    Its card type further contributes to its excellence by allowing you to rebuy it with Teferi, Time Raveler and reuse the removal. The card has been so amazing in Standard that in White mirrors, the correct play is often to exile your opponent’s Elspeth Conquers Death with your own, rather than dealing with a Teferi, Narset, or Nissa.

    If Wizards of the Coast plans on printing more White cards as strong as this Saga, then Magic players who love this color will enjoy their time in the Sun.

    It even has sick art!

     

  9. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

    Ranking Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath 3rd on a list of top Theros Beyond Death cards for Standard must mean that the set has had a huge impact on the format. He’d certainly be higher up if Standard had access to some of Pioneer’s self-mill tools like Satyr Wayfinder or Grisly Salvage.

    Uro may not top this list, but he’s still a beast in Standard. Sure, he’s a flashy and massively undercosted Mythic Rare that pushes the new set’s marquee mechanic to extremes. These types of cards usually make a splash.

    But what really makes Uro a powerhouse is that he’s both a set-up card and a finisher all rolled into one tight package. Uro is a perfect bridge from early to late game, helping you hit land drops, get ahead on mana, and even survive with nifty life gain. Then, if your opponent has somehow managed to survive your turn three Nissa or your giant Explosions, Uro launches back into the fray to clean up.

    Simic and three-color ramp decks, including honorary ramp deck Temur Reclamation, are playing anywhere between two and four copies of this Legendary Giant. It’s inevitable that a few people will get sick of him (and of his animation on Arena) and call for bans, but one more awesome thing about Uro is that he’s nowhere near as oppressive and dominant as Oko, Thief of Crowns was.

     

  10. Anax, Hardened in the Forge

    Lovers of underdog stories and Red decks alike will be pleased to see this scrappy uncommon Legend near the top of the list. Anax, Hardened in the Forge has almost single-handedly dragged Mono-Red up from the basement of mediocrity to the penthouse of the Standard metagame.

    Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Embercleave are certainly powerful and potentially game-ending cards when they hit the battlefield, but Anax gives Red aggro decks something that they’ve been lacking for ages: resilience to sweeper effects. Fire mages can now play out their board without worrying about a Shatter the Sky or Storm’s Wrath dousing their flame, as long as they make sure to get Anax down before turn four.

    Red decks have been so good at surviving sweepers that many top pros including Seth Manfield and Andrea Mengucci chose to pit the archetype against the many Azorius Control and Temur Reclamation decks at the 2020 World Championship.

    A Standard format where Mono Red can go toe-to-toe with the premier control deck is one that tends to be balanced and diverse, so we should all thank this guy for lending an axe to aggro.

  11. Dream Trawler

    I may have sung Anax’s praises just a second ago, but I’m really a control player at heart. I’m sure I speak for lovers of the archetype the world over when I say that what Dream Trawler and I experienced was love at first sight. 

    From the moment this wordy Sphinx was printed in THB, Azorius Control has been arguably the best deck in the format. Each of its abilities would already be powerful on their own, but the combination of resilience, card advantage, and the ability to catch you up make for one of the best finishers of all time. 

    I must also commend Wizards of the Coast R&D for turning the dials up to eleven for the Trawl-Father. One reason why a lot of players hate control decks is that they take forever to actually win, even if they already have the game locked up. Dreamy over here ensures that once the control player has their foot in the door, they can quickly proceed to slamming it in the opponent’s face.

    I’m mixing metaphors here, but that’s just the effect that this monster has on me. Dream Trawler is the most powerful card from Theros Beyond Death in Standard, and it will be until Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths shows us what it’s got.