Theros: Beyond Death Cube Review: White, Blue, and Black

With a new set comes new cube cards, and Theros: Beyond Death does not disappoint. Let’s get right into it!

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

Heliod and Walking Ballista is the new hotness overtaking all formats. This combo is relevant in cube as well because 26.4% of all cubes play Walking Ballista, and Heliod is an easy addition for a Splinter Twin esque combo in white. If your cube has a life gain theme, Heliod is a slam dunk as a payoff. Without lifegain, and without Walking Ballista is this card still good enough to make the cut? I would say that it probably isn’t worth it over other amazing 3 drops, but as long as you have one of the above Heliod can become a powerful and unique card for white. A-

Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis

This is the first Planeswalker that essentially has flashback, and this has a lot of potential. We’ve never really seen what it’s like to constantly recur walkers and this Elspeth has a lot of potential in control decks. My main gripe with her is that the escape cost is unusually high and the abilities are not fitting for a Planeswalker of that CMC typically. (Compare the minus two with Gideon’s 0). But, constantly having an extra card in your hand as long as you have 4 cards in your graveyard is appealing, and having that card be a Planeswalker may make it worth it. B

Shatter the Sky

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a card that cleanly destroys everything for 4 mana. This Day of Judgment comes with what could be considered a downside or an upside, depending on what deck you are playing. If you have any Gideon on the battlefield, this card just becomes a 4 mana draw a card and clear the way for your 4/4 which is pretty insane. If you cast this to get rid of a single Questing Beast it’s a lot worse, but typically you’ll be trading 3-4 cards for 2 cards which is a pretty fair exchange. This Day of Judgment variant has very interesting gameplay and is a great addition to white wraths. A-

Elspeth Conquers Death

First off I have to say that art is gorgeous. As for the card itself, I’m pretty underwhelmed. Compare to The Eldest Reborn and you might see where I’m getting at. This card has a more restrictive mana cost, has a second ability that is very likely to be irrelevant by turn 6, and can only target cards in your graveyard. Sure, you can exile any permanent (except it had to have the clause of CMC 3 or greater to make it balanced I guess?) but a five mana sorcery speed removal spell is not what cube is in the market for. D

Eidolon of Obstruction

Obvious disclaimer that if you aren’t playing many Planeswalkers you don’t need this card. Let’s assume you are playing the amount of Planeswalkers that the last vintage cube ran which is 6.7% of the cube. I personally love Thalia effects and think that more effects like it (especially at cmc 2 or less) is incredibly healthy for a cube as it means there can be more pressure on durdle decks. As we’ve seen with Thalia, a 2/1 first strike is not bad but where Thalia shines is her tax hitting so many cards. This spirit won’t tax nearly as often, but has the advantage of taxing a walker that already resolved. Ultimately it’s a worse Thalia but I’ll happily play more Thalias. B-

Taranika, Akroan Veteran

Remember that Thalia-ish card I was just talking about? Now imagine it’s a 4/4 vigilance indestructible first strike. The closest comparison to this card is the other beater from the last Theros set, Brimaz, King of Oreskos. I find Brimaz to be a better card as he is good in a white weenie deck, and as the only creature in a control deck. This card, however, can end games much quicker for the weenie deck and could enable some turn 4 kills however. If you’re in the market for more weenies it’s hard to think that this will disappoint. B

Heliod’s Intervention

Whether or not you play this card is really dependent on how many artifacts and enchantments your cube plays. If you have a vintage environment this card is very powerful, and can balance the playing field after they drop a few moxen. Outside of that, this card becomes a more expensive Disenchant with the possibility to hit more if the need arises. The lifegain mode, while good against Mono-Red (provided they don’t have Sulfuric Vortex or Rampaging Ferocidon) doesn’t seem relevant against many other decks. I think this card is really situational, and is fitting for cubes that run Return to Dust, but I’m still not sure I’m convinced. C+

Heliod’s Punishment

This is a removal spell that only aggro decks will want to play. Being able to blank the removal spell after a few turns is really bad for a control deck, and even if it will give them time to find an answer that means they will have to spend two cards to permanently answer one threat. If you want an Arrest effect it would probably be better to play actual Arrest, and other 2 cmc removal such as Journey to Nowhere and Declaration in Stone can have more viability outside of aggro. Removal is still removal, however, and 4 turns is a long time. I’d only go for this with a really large cube. C

Thassa, Deep Dwelling

Now that’s what I like to call a God! If you have a blink theme in your cube, this is your second copy of Soulherder that is much harder to get rid of. And just like Soulherder, if you give her enough time she’ll be swinging in as well. Thassa also does a great job of controlling opposing creatures, which can help to bluff counterspells on your opponents turn. If you aren’t supporting flicker directly, this card can probably make a flicker deck appear on her own which is the sign of a great cube card to me. A+

Thassa’s Intervention

This is not a card that is relevant in the early turns. It can certainly catch people curving out, but a bad Quench or drawing the top card of your library just aren’t worth it. At 5 mana, getting to look at top 3 and draw 2 is a worse Jace’s Ingenuity and countering unless they pay 6 probably means you got to play a 5 mana (nearly) unconditional counterspell. As a bad Dig Through Time and an ok Clash of Wills I don’t see this making the cut. Versatility is nice, as seen with Supreme Will, but when that versatility doesn’t matter unless you are paying 5+ mana for it I’d rather have specific cards that do the job better. F+

Nadir Kraken

If this card makes it into my cube, there is nothing stopping me from loudly proclaiming “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!” every time I cast it, and there is a very good chance I’ll be saying that at my next cube draft. For one mana each turn you can create a 2/2 worth of stats, and if you are casting any cantrips you can easily grow the Kraken further. If they decide to kill the Kraken the tentacles don’t go away, which means that paying mana into this isn’t a waste of time. If you’re trying to curve out, this card can be bad but it can quickly become a must answer threat. A

Thassa’s Oracle

With this card, I think that Laboratory Maniac might actually be a viable card in cube. With Jace, Lab Man, and this there are now 3 cards that help you win the game if you mill yourself which gives the deck enough payoffs to work. Add in cross synergy with graveyard matters and this could make for some really sweet draft decks. Not every cube will want this card, but for the ones who are already playing Jace, Wielder of Mysteries this card is a great fit. B+

Thryx, the Sudden Storm

Cavalier of Gales was one of the better 5 drops that blue has gotten in a while, and I’m happy to see another good 5 drop. This card is going to function mostly as a 4/5 flash flyer with it’s second ability coming up a few times but ultimately not mattering that much. Getting to ambush any attacking creatures with a pretty beefy blocker seems good, and a 4/5 is a decent clock. The biggest crime of this card is that it’s boring. If your cube needs a 4/5 flash flyer, this can fill your strangely specific request but otherwise I’m not interested. B-

Wavebreak Hippocamp

As someone who supports flash in my cube, this card has a lot of potential. The body is less than ideal, but this is a clear signpost card that can become a Phyrexian Arena in the right decks. Turning all of your counterspells into Dismiss is fantastic on it’s own, and if you can flash in cards like Venser, Shaper Savant you’ll be ahead of the curve. I’d only play this card if you are supporting flash, as it is a pretty mediocre card if you can’t trigger it every turn. B-

Erebos, Bleak-Hearted

The god of aristocrats has arrived, and it’s going to cost you. Drawing a card every time one of your creatures dies is nice, but paying 2 life to do will add up very quickly. The removal aspect of Erebos is nice, threat of activation may keep your opponent from making blocks they otherwise would, but you wont’ have a limitless supply of creatures and -2/-1 is not exactly hard removal. Compared to Yawgmoth, Thran Physician this feels like a watered down standard version which is fine if you want more effects like it in cube. C+

Erebos’s Intervention

Removal and graveyard hate rolled into one is very good for a format that can’t usually run graveyard hate. Paying 3 mana to kill a Goblin Guide and gain 2 life isn’t the most efficient removal spell, but is a hard stop against the aggro deck. Exiling cards will also be relevant a lot of time, especially in more powerful cubes because if you can snipe Griselbrand with Reanimate on the stack, you’ll be saving yourself a huge headache. This card may be inefficient, but it provides a needed sideboard effect to cube while still being playable in any deck. B-

Nightmare Shepherd

Erebos may not make the cut as the aristocrat card of the set, but Nightmare Shepherd has a lot more potential in my eyes. For creatures with good etb effects, this combined with a sac outlet means you will have a free way to flicker your creatures. Evoking a Shriekmaw will let you kill two creatures, and leave you with a 1/1 blocker. If it didn’t exile this would be insane, but even without broken combos this card still provides a really unique effect that I believe is cube worthy. B

Woe Strider

Who doesn’t love free sac outlets? This guy even comes with a little goat to boot. If this card were just the goat and the sac outlet I don’t think it would make the cut. Viscera Seer is a one mana card that more or less does the same thing. But with escape (especially because escape makes it bigger) this card gets elevated to a whole new level. Getting a 3/2 in the early game and a 5/4 in the late game that is your free sac outlet, and it comes with a token is just fantastic value that shouldn’t be passed up. A

Eat to Extinction

It’s Vraska’s Contempt but easier to cast and lets you surveil instead of gaining life. I love Hero’s Downfall effects in cube and I’m very happy to see this card. It may not be at the most efficient rate, but unconditional exile with upside is a clean design that can fit in many cubes across different power levels. B

I’ll get the rest of the set review posted as soon as possible. If there is anything I missed that you’d like to see mentioned feel free to comment below.

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