The new Theros set promises to be one of the most exciting sets for Magic the Gathering in a long time. One of its most interesting features is that it calls upon existing lore/mythology from the past, rather than making up new cultures and characters out of whole cloth. Only two sets in Magic the Gathering have ever done this: Arabian Nights and the Kamigawa block. The theme of Theros — Greek mythology, the realm of heroes, gods, and monsters — is one I've waited many years to see.
Wotc has not simply looked up a bunch of Greek names and slapped them on random cards. They've done much, much better: add new mechanics that are strongly in theme.
Reportedly, there will initially be one god leading each color. Naturally, each will be legendary and a mythic rare. This makes sense. Even if you're a Greek hero or mighty warlord, you don't just come across a god every day as you're strolling along the Mediterranean. (Admittedly, Odysseus WAS in pretty tight with Athena, but that's a special case.) So far, one god has been spoiled: the sea god… or rather goddess, I think.
My first question upon seeing this card was: why is this not Poseidon? Apparently, Wotc has gone back to even earlier deities and — at least for this set — is not calling upon the Olympian gods. But who knows what an expansion might bring?
In any case, Thassa is a wonderful card. I'd love to have her now. This god — or rather goddess — is not always a creature when she hits the table… but did you really expect to automatically get a 5/5 indestructible creature, along with bonuses, for three mana??
Rather, think of this as an indestructible enchantment you can play on turn 3 that gives immediate benefits — and then sometimes is a creature. Consider her ability to make anyone on your side unblockable at will, and to do this multiple times if you have sufficient mana. Sounds good to me!
Another ability, "scry 1", is not to be sneezed at. Scry 1 means you can look at your top card during upkeep and optionally put it on the bottom. When you are in top-deck mode… or even if you're not… this can be almost as good as drawing an extra card sometimes. Because if you're not happy with your draws, you get through the bad draws twice as fast.
But the best way to think of Thassa — and I suspect other gods will be similar — is that of a helpful deity who sometimes materializes and becomes a "creature" to aid you in person. When does the deity decide to materialize? When you have enough devotion, of course!! In this case, you need 5 devotion to blue. That means you can count 5 or more blue mana symbols on the cost of your permanents, including the one blue on Thassa herself.
This card seems tailor made for a new "fish" (merfolk) or faerie deck that hits hard with blue creatures from turn one onward.
Remember Poseidon or Neptune with his trident? Well poor old Thassa only has a "bident", which means two prongs rather than three.
And yet this card is sweet. To begin with, it's nearly a reprint of Coastal Piracy, which was a very powerful card in blue aggro decks back in 8th edition and Mercadian Masques. Put down a bunch of early flyers… then BAM! Play the enchantment and draw a bunch of cards. Even if opponent wipes your side the next turn, you're okay, because you've refilled your hand.
Although the Bident has the exact same cost and effect as Coastal Piracy, it does have some drawbacks: it's an artifact (and therefore easier to destroy) and it is legendary. This is unfortunate, because you may not want to play four copies of a legend, for that risks building up useless duplicates in your hand. Two or three should be optimal.
But on the plus side, the Bident brings a new ability: tap and pay 2U to make opponent's creatures attack, whether they want to or not.
This is almost always a good ability. In forcing opponent to attack, you are never giving him new options. You are only taking options away. You might dread his attack, but if attacking all out was to opponent's advantage, he was going to do it anyway. In many situations, forcing an all-out attack can cause bad combat situations for your opponent. For example, you can force his Young Pryomancer (a 2/1) to run right into a big blocker that will kill him.
More importantly, using this ability will typically leave opponent wide open for a return strike on your part that will draw several cards — thanks to the Bident itself. (Unless of course he's playing with walls… but a deck with a lot of walls is usually weak anyway.)
It's interesting to note, as well, how the Bident works nicely with Thassa herself. Thassa makes creatures unblockable; the Bident then draws you cards as a result.
One of the themes in this set is that players are being encouraged to play legendary everything: legendary creatures, enchantments, artifacts, and so on. Now, I've never been happy about legendary things… Even with the new, more favorable legend rule, it's tough to justify playing four of a legendary card because — as they say in the Highlander movies — "there can be only one." The risk of having useless dups in hand is annoying. Therefore, it's rare to justify playing four copies of a legend (Mox Opal in affinity being one of those rare exceptions). You usually make do with two or three.
To offset the drawbacks of something being legendary, Wotc — at least in this set — seems committed to making the new legends more powerful for their cost than non-legends. Here's an example that could be a nice boost to aggro decks playing red and white:
Hey, is this one hero or TWO? I suppose that's quibbling… this must be one of those legendary pairs of friends/relatives/lovers/whatever that are inseparable… you know, like Achilles and Patroclus. Although these two are man and woman, so there must be some legendary love affair. Regardless, this card is one creature as far as Magic the Gathering is concerned.
What's nice is that you only have to target the card to trigger the "heroic" effect. Even if the hero is killed in response, the effect still goes on the stack. If you can land a nice aura on the hero, so much the better, but you get a benefit in any case.
This will likely be a strong mechanic in Limited, but it remains to be seen whether it can be viable in Constructed. The Bant Aura deck is highly competitive precisely because it runs so many hexproof creatures. Unfortunately, with a hero theme you have to target something that is not hexproof (the hero) and — although you still get the bonus — there's that old problem of opponent scoring a 2-for-1 effect by removing your hero in response to your targeting it.
Monsters — i.e. large scary creatures — have long been a part of the MTG world, but in Theros they get a new twist. The "monstrousity" mechanic, which can be activated at instant speed, makes a big creature even bigger — with bonuses! A nice example is Polukranos, World Eater:
This is a bomb in Limited, and might possibly make the cut in a Constructed green creature deck. Remember that it's a legend, so you probably wouldn't want to run more than one or two anyway.
But, that being said, a 5/5 for four mana, with no drawbacks — other than the legend rule — and with bonuses, is always nice, even though we've seen such stats before (as on Advent of the Wurm, for example). This guy doesn't pose the game-winning threat that the Kalonian Hydra does — it doesn't even have trample — but it is one mana cheaper, and hey, you can only run four Kalonian Hydras in any case.
In Limited this is very strong, because you likely will get to the point that you can set off the "monstrous" mechanic to good effect, taking out some annoying small-to-medium creatures on opponent's side… say, a hero or mana elf or two. The combination of becoming bigger PLUS removing opponent's creatures makes it a high pick for draft.
Remember, also, that the "monstrousity" effect can be done at instant speed, so you can activate in the middle of combat or in response to a big burn spell trying to take the Hydra out.
For Constructed, I can imagine some situations this creature might be useful. Imagine playing an elf themed mana-ramped deck in a mirror match. If you get your hydra down first, you can, on the following turn, use your mana to wipe out at least two of opponent's elves, maybe more. And then of course you're left with a 7/7 or even bigger. (But again, one misses trample.)
The word "bestow," like "devotion" suggests the theme of trying to winning the favor of the gods. This next card shows a nice demonstration of it. It is, in my opinion, over-costed for Constructed.
This is yet another attempt by Wotc to make auras more playble. Unfortunately, to play as an aura, you have to spend a huge amount of mana.
This is a sweet card for Limited, although not necessarily a first pick if, say, a god or a good removal card is available. In Limited, it's often the case that the game will go on long enough for you to have seven mana. At that point, you can create a potentially game-winning flyer with the "bestow" mechanic… and if the creature goes away, the aura reverts back to being a 4/4 flyer, in effect giving you card advantage — or at least preventing opponent from gaining advantage by removing the creature you attempted to put an aura on.
But as for Constructed: how often are you going to have seven mana free? A control deck can aspire to seven mana, but then do you want to tap out during your turn? Especially considering that this typically isn't powerful enough to win games?
This Archon is a nice pick for draft if there is no bomb in the pack and you're looking for a flyer. A 4/4 first-striking flyer is always nice. Although, if you compare feature-for-feature, there have been better "angels" for the exact same mana cost.
So far, I'm barely scratching the surface, but the cards shown here at least provide a taste of what's to come. By Zeus, I'm ready to see the rest of the set!