Journey Into Nyx is the last set in the Theros block, and is looking to shake things up a bit more than Born of the Gods did with its generally middling power level. It’s not all good, though, as some of these cards are downright terrible. Keep reading to see what @encaen and @slycne think deserves your praise and what deserves your scorn.
Josh says: [mtg_card=Godsend] is going to be absolutely bonkers in Limited, it’ll be fairly amazing in casual play, and it’ll even be usable in Constructed. It doesn’t go away when the creature dies, and it makes your creature mostly unblockable. Strap it onto a Vigilance dude like [mtg_card=Brimaz, King of Oreskos] and you’re on the express train to value town. No, it won’t win you games on its own, but it will sure make your opponent think twice about attacking into your tiniest defender.
Justin says: Wouldn’t be a card evaluation piece if there wasn’t something we disagreed on. I actually put this in my disappointment category. While [mtg_card=Godsend] gets some major flavor points for working as both God-send and Gods-end, the rest of the text on the card ultimately boils down to basically unblockable until it matters. It’s more [mtg_card=Greatsword] with some fancy text than it is any of the Sword of blank and blank cycle.
Justin says: Also known as the “fixed” [mtg_card=Oblivion Ring]. [mtg_card=Oblivion Ring] has been a white staple for years now. Its catch-all quality of being able to answer basically anything in play makes it a valuable tool for a wide variety of decks, but due to the specific wording, the card never worked exactly as planned. The trick was to bounce, flicker, or remove [mtg_card=Oblivion Ring] in response to the first trigger. This would cause the second leaving play ability to happen first, returning nothing since it hasn’t removed anything yet, and the original target was then exiled forever. [mtg_card=Banishing Light] solves this by wrapping it all into one ability, but even without this rules and timing trick [mtg_card=Banishing Light] will still be an important card going forward. Versatility is king when it comes to Magic cards, the more options you have the more lines of play you can pursue. It’s also incredibly important when building a sideboard needs to be considered as it effectively frees up space for additional cards by being universally useful. Premium removal in any limited environment and expect to see [mtg_card=Banishing Light] out of white based control and aggro decks for the foreseeable future.
Josh says: I like [mtg_card=Oblivion Ring], and it’s definitely got its mono-whiteness going for it, but I’m still more about the value potential of [mtg_card=Detention Sphere] for as long as it’s available. [mtg_card=Banishing Light] will undoubtedly see a lot of play, but a “fixed” O-Ring just isn’t very exciting to me.
Josh says: You can’t really go wrong with “Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.” [mtg_card=Birds of Paradise] is still one of my all time favorite Magic cards. Sure, [mtg_card=Mana Confluence] pings you, but so does [mtg_card=City of Brass], and that still sees play. As long as people are playing multi-color decks, mana fixing will be essential. It might not be as nice as a 100% checkland/shockland manabase, but it’s what we’ve got.
Justin says: Agree 100%. It’s going to find a welcome space in aggressive two and three color decks that care more about consistency and less about the life loss.
Justin says: Green has a little bit of a problem at the moment; it sees very little constructed play. As I broke it down a few weeks ago, there were just as many [mtg_card=Dark Betrayal] being run as there were Forests. [mtg_card= Setessan Tactics] is not likely to suddenly turn the tables, but it’s still an important piece of the puzzle and another key card for Green’s tool box when building their 75. [mtg_card=Setessan Tactics] has all the makings of a cheap efficient and multifaceted card. It can be used as a heroic enabler, combat trick, alpha strike for lethal and spot or mass removal. Setting up favorable blocks and then casting this will often be an absolute blow out across both limited and constructed. Heck, that problematic match-up with Mono-Blue doesn’t seem so bad when your [mtg_card=Sylvan Caryatid] can punch out [mtg_card=Master of Waves].
Josh says: I started really big on this card, and it’s definitely got a ton of potential value, but my excitement has faded since I saw it spoiled. The +1/+1 is going to be relevant sometimes, but if you’re opponent’s playing anything other than little dudes, it’s probably not going to be all that relevant. I’d have preferred a slightly bigger buff at a higher mana premium.
[mtg_card=Dictate of Erebos]
Josh says: Edicts are hilarious. Sure, you don’t want your opponent to have choices, but the fact is that Hexproof critters and Protection from X are legitimate concerns when it comes to removing your opponent’s creatures, and sacrifice effects get around them entirely. You can edict away a [mtg_card=Progenitus] all day long. [mtg_card=Dictate of Erebos] is a great way to trade up in combat (it has Flash, so you can cast it after blocks are declared ensuring you kill at least as many of their creatures as they do of yours,) and has potential for even more in the right deck. I’m probably going to have to reassemble Zombies with this in mind, because nothing’s funnier than [mtg_card=Geralf’s Messenger] and [mtg_card=Gravecrawler] that force a sacrifice each time they die.
Justin says: I do agree there’s some potential to ‘build around’ with this. Flash makes getting 2-for-1s pretty readily available. Blocking with some 1/1 deathtoucher and flashing this in before damage seems pretty nasty for Theros block limited. The five mana casting cost likely pushes it from most constructed formats besides EDH, were it seems like you could do a lot of fun stuff with it and [mtg_card=Grave Pact] on the field.
Justin says: [mtg_card=Revoke Existence] is already a card seeing play, either in sideboards or as a one of in the main. Even if your opponent never plays a single god, the density of enchantments being played is still enough to ensure it’s not a dead card – even more so with all the enchantment creatures running around. [mtg_card=Deicide] is all but a strict upgrade, at least for Standard. What you lose in no longer being able to hit artifacts, not that there are really any seeing play that demand attention, is more than made up with the upgrade to instant speed. The god clause is just a nice additional layer of gravy on top, though don’t value it that highly. Seeing their hand and potentially how they sideboarded is probably better than getting all of that god out of their deck when the god is question isn’t some key combo piece. [mtg_card=Deicide] will see a fair amount of constructed play, certainly makes the maindeck of most sealed pools, but it’s probably not that high a pick in draft.
Josh says: No argument from me here. This is a great card, constructive, limited, competitive, or casual. Given how much fun it is to play Gods casually, and my personal valuation of [mtg_card=Iroas, God of Victory], [mtg_card=Deicide] is going to be a must-have in a lot of situations.
[mtg_card=Iroas, God of Victory]
Josh says: I’m confident that this will be controversial, but I have to say that [mtg_card=Iroas, God of Victory] is at the top of my list for most ridiculously powerful cards in this set. It might not be the Alpha and Omega of constructed play, but boy is this going to ruin some friendships in more casual environments. Let’s face it, non-expert players love creatures. They love combat. They love attacking and blocking. That is, they would love it, if it weren’t an entirely one-sided affair. Making your attackers de facto Indestructible is borderline evil. Boros decks will now invariably trump creature decks of all stripes, not only dominating casual tables, but keeping mid-range creature decks out of the competitive meta.
Justin says: It’s good, but there are a few reasons I’m less excited for [mtg_card=Iroas, God of Victory]. For starters, it’s basically a dead card against most control decks. They don’t really care about hindering blocking, and they have enough removal to stop him from every becoming a creature. Certainly that’s not reason enough alone, but I’m also not a fan of how it effectively works against one of its best enablers [mtg_card=Boros Reckoner]. [mtg_card=Iroas, God of Victory] wants to pair with an aggressive deck and I’d rather my four drop finishers ended the game right then.
Justin says: [mtg_card=Gnarled Scarhide] might look pretty unassuming next to some of these other powerhouses, but a 2/1 for one should never be ignored, especially if it has upside. No, it isn’t going to suddenly make tribal minotaur a real thing, but it does however combine nicely with [mtg_card=Tormented Hero] and [mtg_card=Rakdos Cackler] for the makings of a new version of the Mono-Black aggro deck that’s been ever so close to playable. The big upside here as well is that it’s a one drop that’s still useful in the lategame, getting to effectively play it as a two power haste that persists through removal or as a [mtg_card=Falter] on a big blocker. With many decks playing upwards of eight come into play tapped lands, curving one of your 12 one drops into something like [mtg_card=Spike Jester] looks to be very strong. The bestow ensure that even a timely [mtg_card=Supreme Verdict] and such later in the game isn’t always going to be enough to stabilize. A strong contender to help push black into the premiere base aggro color, unfortunately it’s less exciting in limited where it’s only a more efficient [mtg_card=Nyxborn Eidolon] with a pretty hefty drawback for those formats.
Josh says: Not my favorite, obviously, but I’m not one to snub my nose at a 2 power for one mana. Whether it’s a [mtg_card=Gravecrawler] or [mtg_card=Rakdos Cackler], aggro decks love the discounted power. I still want to see Minotaur Tribal, though.
[mtg_card=Hall of Triumph][mtg_card=Glorious Anthem] effects don’t always make waves in the competitive scene, and the fact that [mtg_card=Hall of Triumph] doesn’t add to your Devotion count won’t help its case, but in a format where almost all of your creatures will share at least one color, this can be a very powerful effect. Throw in other effects like [mtg_card=Archetype of Courage] with some Vigilance creatures and you’ll be sitting pretty during the combat phase. With [mtg_card=Iroas, God of Victory] out there, you’ll probably be racing, and [mtg_card=Hall of Triumph] helps ensure that your critters hit harder than your opponent’s.
Justin says: Not adding to devotion I feel is ultimately going to be the deciding factor for this card. It’s still a sure-in for any limited format though.
[mtg_card=Mana Confluence] Take 2
Justin says: Just reprinting [mtg_card=City of Brass] would have been noteworthy enough – though it was just seen in Modern Masters and might have lore and flavor conflicts with Theros, but [mtg_card= Mana Confluence] suddenly became a chase card from the set if for no other reason than having a different name and slightly different text. In formats with access to both, decks can either upgrade cards like [mtg_card=gemstone mine] or swap out for whichever one suits them better. There are cases where life loss as a cost or as a damage trigger on the stack for tapping are preferable, like [mtg_card=Lightning Bolt]ing someone for lethal in response to the trigger when you’re at 1 life. In standard there are plenty of decks that would gladly pay a bit more life for a smoother mana base, the GW aggressive decks have been continually plagued with having multiple one drops in split colors and nearly every two drop being green and white. We may even see a resurgence of decks like 4 color control, where the life loss is worth playing a more powerful suite of cards. This has always been one of the core of deck construction though, getting enough colored sources to be able to cast your spells on time.
Josh says: Couldn’t agree more. This is spot on. I love [mtg_card=Mana Confluence] because I hate color screw.
Josh says: I’m not strictly opposed to things that cost seven mana. [mtg_card=Angel of Serenity] clears the opponent’s board and/or gets a value creature out of my graveyard. [mtg_card=Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite] wipes the opponent’s smaller creatures and buffs my whole squad. [mtg_card=Karn Liberated] immediately exiles an opponent’s creature and eventually lets you restart the game with it. [mtg_card=Platinum Angel] says “You can’t lose the game.” [mtg_card=Spirit Away] gave +2/+2 and was still unplayable. [mtg_card=Hypnotic Siren] is even worse, with the minor upside of being a chump blocker in the likely scenario that you can’t get to seven mana in time to actually steal the opponent’s bomb. While an argument for Limited can be made, I’d rather have an actual bomb in my Rare slot than something that will occasionally allow me to steal a bomb, but will typically have me stealing a mediocre creature, just to keep it from bashing into my face.
Justin says: [mtg_card=Mind Control] no matter how bad or overcosted is still [mtg_card=Mind Control]. It’s one of the best plays possible, especially in limited, by trading your 1 card for both removing their best creature and you gaining a new awesome creature. That 2-for-1 advantage is often enough to swing games. That you still have the option of playing this one Turn One into an ordeal or if you desperately need a chump blocker in the air just sweetens the deal. It might see play in the Mono-Blue devotion deck and it’s a strong pick in limited.
Justin says: I’m sure there’s probably some way to break this in formats like EDH, but for everything else [mtg_card=Skybind] seems just plain bad. I fail to even see what this cards intended purpose in the set is since it can’t even help with bouncing your better Constellation creatures. There’s just so many conditions tacked on to this card to do much of anything, you’d be hard pressed to get a card’s worth of value out of it. Maybe if the card was cheaper I could see trying to craft a deck out of incidentally getting to reuse cards like [mtg_card= Gray Merchant of Asphodel], but that’s a big reach and operating under ideal circumstances, if your expected targets get removed or enablers stripped with sidecard you’ve then played out a useless card. If you’re interested in the kind of effect then [mtg_card=Flickerwisp] puts on a relevant body and [mtg_card=Conjurer’s Closet] is available at the same cost to any color.
Josh says: The worst part about this card is that it’s going to take up the rare slot in some of my booster packs. [mtg_card=Conjurer’s Closet] wasn’t all that playable (that didn’t stop me, though!), and it seems to be a much better flicker effect. Setting up end-of-turn flickers seems like a lot of work for a non-flicker-focused set.
[mtg_card=Rise of Eagles]
Josh says: [mtg_card=Talrand’s Invocation] cost two mana less and still wasn’t that great. Sure, [mtg_card=Rise of the Eagles] lets you Scry 1, but that’s just not enough upside for a two-mana cost difference. I want my token generators to be efficient, like [mtg_card=Lingering Souls] or even the instant-speed [mtg_card=Midnight Haunting]. This is neither instant nor efficient. Let’s be fair. This wouldn’t even be good in a Bird Tribal deck.
Justin says: Every set has it’s purely limited cards, so I think it’s a little unfair to compare [mtg_card=Rise of the Eagles] up with the uncommon [mtg_card=Talrand’s Invocation]. Theros block already had us paying six for 4 power in the air with [mtg_card=Horizon Chimera] and sometimes having that power split up is beneficial. Not a strong card that you’re every first picking, but it’s likely always going to be that 22nd or 23rd card in your limited decks.
[mtg_card=Interpret the Signs]
Justin says: There are a lot of cards in Magic that ask you to effectively take a turn off. You might not be impacting the board in a meaningful way, but the hope is set-up something that much more powerful or have more resources for the next several turns. However, not many of them ask as much or can fail as spectacularly as [mtg_card= Interpret the Signs] can though. At 6 mana sorcery [mtg_card= Interpret the Signs] is already pretty glacially slow with sorcery ensuring there’s not even the ability to hold up other spells for end of turn like [mtg_card=Sphinx’s Revelation] or [mtg_card=Opportunity]. This likely puts it right out of playable in any constructed format. Even if you’re in the market for an expensive draw spell there are better options. In limited [mtg_card= Interpret the Signs] scares me even more to run. While Scry 3 does let you see pretty deep into the deck, land, three drop and another land is a perfectly reasonable selection of cards to see off the top of your deck in sealed or draft. Do you gamble on the 4th card, if it’s a land you’re pretty boned, or take your three? There’s certainly upside here, in a late game situation you can potentially draw a ton and clear lands off the top, but the downside of this card are about as low as it can get.
Josh says: I was actually fairly excited when I saw this card spoiled. Then I [mtg_card=Ponder]ed it a little more and came to a very similar conclusion. If I’m spending six mana, I may as well just cast a [mtg_card=Sphinx’s Revelation] for three at instant speed and gain some life in the process. Sure you might Scry into a 6-drop. But you won’t.
Josh says: I’m all about some Auras with upside, like some of the Bestow creatures out there. Like any sane person, I hate getting 2-for-1’d by spot removal. Sadly, [mtg_card=Lightning Diadem] doesn’t really help with that, since it will fizzle if its target gets removed. Given that [mtg_card=Volcanic Strength] is a two-mana spell that isn’t amazing, a six-mana [mtg_card=Volcanic Strength] with a [mtg_card=Shock] built in just won’t ever measure up.
Justin says: Agreed. It’s not a great card, but six mana for essentially two power haste, a two point ping and a heroic trigger is starting to approach not being the worst card ever. You’d rather just have red bestow to top off your curve in a limited red-based aggressive deck, but I think it’s got a better chance of making a Theros block limited deck than say [mtg_card=Primal Visitation] did during Gatecrash.
[mtg_card=Riddle of Lightning]
Justin says: See much the same as above with [mtg_card= Interpret the Signs], five mana prices this out of most constructed decks and on top of all that [mtg_card=Riddle of Lightning] tacks on another variable to complicate matters. You’re forced to make decisions before even knowing the contents on the top of your deck. You might need to kill some big bomb, but do you risk not being able to reliably pull say four or five damage out of your deck? Whiffing on this is going to put you even further behind, and if all you can realistically aim this at is smaller creatures you’re not getting a good value on your five mana investment. Again, the upside is potentially there. As a red based aggressive deck in limited being able to peel the next few lands off the top and draw you into pure gas is pretty enticing in the right circumstances, but having your premium uncommon removal spell be so unreliable is pretty bad.
Josh says: [mtg_card=Riddle of Lightning] and [mtg_card=Starfall] were neck and neck. At least with [mtg_card=Riddle of Lightning] you could potentially kill a 4-toughness creature. Make no mistakes, though; they’re both terrible.
Josh says: [mtg_card=Starfall] falls into the same category as [mtg_card=Lightning Diadem], really. It’s a five-mana [mtg_card=Lightning Bolt] with dubious potential upside. In an ideal world, sure you can get your [mtg_card=Chandra’s Phoenix] back from your graveyard, but you sure won’t be able to cast it again this turn unless you’re sitting on a veritable mountain (ha!) of mana. Maybe if you could direct the extra damage to another creature… who am I kidding, it would still be bad.
Justin says: From a purely constructed view, I agree, but from limited sometimes you just need to run the removal you can get your hands on. Yeah, you’d rather have [mtg_card=Lightning Strike] or [mtg_card=Bolt of Keranos], but you’re seeing less of those packs in your sealed and draft pools.
Justin says: [mtg_card=Tormented Thoughts] is an excellent example of how a single word can make all the difference. Cards like [mtg_card=Perilous Research] and [mtg_card=Altar’s Reap] are not getting added to any ban lists, but they look a lot better when cast in response to removal. That creature’s dying regardless, might as well get some value out of it and sometimes this can be important for interacting with [mtg_card=Detention Sphere] and such. The key is being able to respond, something that [mtg_card=Tormented Thoughts] can’t be used for. You’re sacrificing a card from your hand and some of your boardstate in order to strip their hand, and it probably need to be something pretty decent in order to get their whole hand. It needs to be at least three power to start getting ahead on the exchange – your two cards for your opponents three. Your best cases for this card are late game cashing in a uselessly small creature during a stalled board state for the last few cards in their hand, hopefully a bomb or two, or getting some additional value from a creature that has an affect when it dies. Everything else is kind of downhill from there.
Josh says: I tend to like this card, actually. In Rakdos colors, you’ve got the [mtg_card=Firebreathing] option. Swing with a pumped creature like [mtg_card=Everflame Eidolon] or [mtg_card=Gateway Shade], then sac it after combat to strip your opponent’s entire hand. I’m a sucker for discard, though, so I may have rose-tinted glasses on this one. It’s no [mtg_card=Hymn to Tourach] (my all time favorite discard spell), but it’ll do in a pinch.
[mtg_card=Revel of the Fallen God]
Josh says: [mtg_card=Revel of the Fallen God] is admittedly the best of The Bad here, but at seven mana, it’s still fairly awful. Ultimately, it’s an inefficient token generator. Just look at [mtg_card=Advent of the Wurm] for an example of how to do tokens. Four mana for a 5/5 at instant speed is good. Seven mana for 8 power at sorcery speed is not. The only decks that can consistently rely on getting to seven mana are control decks, and Gruul control just ain’t what it used to be. I’d value this quite a bit higher than the also-seven-mana-rare [mtg_card=Hypnotic Siren], but I don’t expect to see much of this out in the wild. Maybe if they were Enchantment Creatures that would proc [mtg_card=Eidolon of Blossoms]… nope, still no.
Justin says: Eight hasted power is still nothing to wave your hand at. Yeah it’s expensive, and the double red and double green is awkward, but even outside limited is not a bad [mtg_card=Ruric Thar, the Unbowed]-esque card to have against say a control deck. You get your damage in either way.
Justin says: Yep, we’re going there, because where would a Magic card summary be without ripping on a controversial card? While I think it’s unfair to call [mtg_card=Godsend] a bad card, I do think it’s much worse than is initially apparent. First the pros, good equipment is almost universally playable. Being able to make any of your creatures into a decent threat is usually well worth the card, from limited mainstays like [mtg_card=Bonesplitter] to constructed monsters like [mtg_card=Sword of Fire and Ice]. As long as you’re getting favorable returns on your mana and the equip cost isn’t too expensive, you’re generally going to sleeve it up, especially for limited formats. At three mana to cast three to equip and giving the creature +3/+3 [mtg_card=Godsend] is decent though not exciting. So it really comes down to the other abilities to make up the difference, it is a legendary mythic weapon after all. [mtg_card=Godsend] has a bunch of wordy text that basically reads, this creature is unblockable until it matters. Vigilance or having enough mana to move it around can begin to complicate matters, but in a vacuum this card simply reads as “don’t block me, but PS if it’s that or lose then you still have the option to block.” You might live the dream and exile a [mtg_card=Progenitus] with this, and yes due to the wording that does work, but it’s only ever going to be on your opponent’s terms. In the immortal words of a certain admiral, “It’s a trap.”
Josh says: I was only lukewarm on [mtg_card=Tormented Thoughts], but this is just crazy talk. For a paltry three mana each turn, you can basically prevent your opponent from attacking or blocking. It sticks around through removal, and it’s brilliant on anything with Vigilance. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to equip [mtg_card=Brimaz, King of Oreskos] with this thing? Or [mtg_card=Aurelia, the Warleader]. Or anything at all if you’re running [mtg_card=Heliod, God of the Sun]. The options are limitless and hilarious.