Drafting in Theros
When I first started playing Magic: the Gathering, I was overwhelmed by the strategic maneuvers required to play a successful game against a worthy opponent. The more I played, the easier it became to understand the aspects of strategy in Magic.
Then I encountered the Theros block. It was completely different from what I was used to, and I again became frustrated, because I wasn’t drafting great, or even solid, decks. They were ho-hum. I realized that Theros required a little something extra to counter the heroic aspects of the block. So I started thinking. And thinking. And thinking some more. This is what I came up with.
There are so many strategies I can utilize for drafting in the Theros block, I can’t even begin to touch on them all. Here are, however, a few strategies I find exciting, and that seem to be useful when I play are as follows: heroic with enablers, control for card advantage, and mono devotion. All of them have strengths and all have weaknesses, but they are usually pretty solid performers when playing limited.
If I’m aiming for an aggressive strategy, I really like drafting G/W heroic. It allows me to play lots of little creatures early in the game, and also beef them up for later play. Heroic creatures like Wingsteed Rider, Phalanx Leader, and Fabled Hero tend to be among my first picks, but I’m also on the lookout for other heroics like Favored Hoplite, Staunch-Hearted Warrior, and Centaur Battlemaster in later picks.
I want to find heroic enablers like Ordeal of Heliod or Ordeal of Nylea. In addition, I like pump spells like Battlewise Valor, Chosen by Heliod, or Feral Invocation. I do want to be careful to pay attention to my mana curve when I’m drafting heroic, because some of these cards can get expensive to play.
When employing the control strategy, I can use card advantage to great benefit with a little forethought. Some control players like to go for spells like Divination, but while they are immediately useful in that you now have two cards in your hand, they don’t advance the game or affect the board at all. I want to look for cards that are efficient and affect the game board. What I mean by that is, these cards should be able to remove at least two of my opponent’s spells for my one instant, giving me card advantage.
I also look for cards with multiple abilities, such as Azorius Charm or Sphinx’s Revelation. Detention Sphere is great for destroying multiple cards; Voyage’s End and Griptide are both good cards for getting rid of an opponent’s massive creatures that would otherwise overwhelm me. U/B control tends to be a favored deck for me, because there are a few great spells that complement those last two: Lash of the Whip and Sip of Hemlock, while expensive, serve their purpose. Pharika’s Cure is a great two-mana removal spell, with the bonus of life gain.
There are other effective uses for removal spells in a control deck. I look for spells that remove my opponent’s creatures from battle or library. They allow me to stay alive early in the game if I come across an opponent playing an aggressive deck. I might use them aggressively, ignoring card advantage, if I find myself in a situation where I am stomping all over my opponent, to win the game before he can build his board.
Sometimes I have the opportunity to build a great mono color devotion deck. In Theros, the strongest mono deck I’ve found is black. If I see a Gray Merchant of Asphodel, I take him right away and build my deck around him. He is my game-ender. Then I want Disciple of Phenax, because it helps me to control the game board by whittling down my opponent’s deck and denying him a chance to play some potentially icky cards.
I look for removal cards like Pharika’s Cure, Lash of the Whip, or Viper’s Kiss, which is a nice little one-mana card that cuts down my opponent’s power and also prevents activated abilities. I want some cards with Deathtouch like Keepsake Gorgon and Baleful Eidolon, to stall the board and buy some time to find and set up my Gray Merchants. Cards like Read the Bones help to dig in my library to find the cards I need.
There are many ways to draft a great deck in the Theros block. I’ve only touched on a few of those strategies here, and I’ve no doubt only scratched the surface. Theros is a block rife with heroes and crazy monsters and wonderful, helpful spells to help you combat your enemies, and it is certainly rich in mythological archetypes. I found drafting in Theros an interesting, stimulating challenge. If you have other ideas or have found a tried-and-true strategy that works every time, I’d love to hear about it.