Expansion time is an exciting time for any card game player as a lot of new and exciting toys are put into the game to play and experiment with. The competitive Magic the Gathering: Arena community is always excited to see what archetypes will survive and what new ones will come around when the new expansion meta settles. We really won’t know for sure until professional tournament results start coming out, but until then, we can make bold predictions for what will be the best from this exciting new set.
Esper Manse was a deck that only really existed for a short period of time at the beginning of Throne of Eldraine Standard. It popped up a few times but couldn’t quite break into the powerful meta of Oko or Jund food. However, it’s gotten a lot of strong tools, especially since Theros Beyond Death is centered around Enchantments being the main theme. Cards like Thirst for Meaning, Idyllic Tutor or even Treacherous Blessing can give the deck a lot of draw power and help a player find the cards they need like Danse of the Manse or Doom Foretold. I believe the deck has a lot of tools to break into any meta going forward if you combine it with the potential some of the Sagas have and Shatter the Sky.
I remember waking up on Christmas Day and finding out we were getting Gray Merchant of Asphodel (fondly known in the community as “Gary”) back. There’s further support for Mono-Black too with cards like Drag to the Underworld, Erebos, Bleak-Hearted, and Nightmare Shepherd. With amazing black cards that we already have like Murderous Rider, Midnight Reaper, Rankle, Master of Pranks, Cavalier of Knights, Ayara, First of Locthwain and even Dread Presence, I think this archetype will be an absolute powerhouse in the meta. Gray Merchant will definitely be the closer that the decks need and most builds will revolve around that. The Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven can also slot into this deck and combine with some of the sacrifice synergies. I think everyone will be working on Mono-Black Devotion as it was a powerhouse in the original Theros set, and there are many people excited to see that it has returned to Standard.
Simic Ramp is the archetype that already exists, but it was pushed out by the much more powerful Simic Flash. However, the deck has a huge game-changer coming in Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. It also received a few cards that I think could make the cut in Nyxbloom Ancient, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, and Nylea, Keen Eyed. All of these cards seem like they were made to support an already established ramp archetype. Uro is especially insane. He’s a 3-mana version of the card Growth Spiral that also gains life and later in the game comes back as a 6/6. When he comes back or attacks, he continues to draw cards, gain life and put lands onto the battlefield. The fact that escape cards can keep escaping every time they die is also something that I think is extremely underrated. In long games where games slow to a crawl, Oro will completely dominate and take over in your favor. Combined with an already powerful ramp package consisting of Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Hydroid Krasis and Cavalier of Thorns, I think this will be THE meta deck, at least when the set first releases.
Cat Food has established itself as one of the most predominant powerhouses at the end of the Throne of Eldraine meta. But, with the addition of a lot of enchantments and escape cards in Theros, we’ll see Graveyard Hate and Artifact/Enchantment Hate rise in popularity as people try to take advantage of the higher density of such cards. Cat Food decks need Witch’s Oven and a functional graveyard to function, and I fear disruption to that game plan can really hurt the deck if these types of Hate become popular amongst players in the upcoming meta. I think the deck will survive, but it won’t be as strong. The interactions with Mayhem Devil and Korvold, Fae Cursed King are still insane and are still super powerful cards, but the cat and oven combination is what puts the deck over the top. I fear having a lot more Hate for that will push the deck out of Tier 1 contention.
Now it may seem odd to clump these together, but I have a good reason. Similar to the Cat Food decks, both of these strategies revolve around cards that are Artifacts or Enchantments. They face the same Hate that Cat Food will in the increasing presence of cards like Thrashing Brontodon, Assasin’s Trophy, and return to nature as answers to the potential amount of enchantment decks that will be in the meta. All the good aggro decks in the meta use Embercleave as their big closer when the opponent has a board state and Fires of Invention heavily relies on having the enchantment on the field to be able to efficiently cast its payoffs. If Hate increases, then these decks will struggle to close out matches, especially post-board. However, the good news is that these decks can kill fast and out of nowhere. A Fires of Invention or aggro deck left unchecked can end games fast without giving the opponent a chance to interact or stabilize. It’ll just be much more difficult with players on the lookout for strategies where Artifacts or Enchantments are pivotal to their gameplan.
UW control was a deck that’s been popping in and out of the meta but still shows its face every once in a while to ruin your day. However, I expect it to be doing a lot less of that when the meta rolls around. Sure, it got a 4-mana wrath with a minor downside in Shatter the Sky, but it’s the meta that most concerns me about the deck. Two of the decks that we expect will be a majority of the meta will be Ramp and Mono-Black. These new decks have a lot of really good threats and the Archetypes seem much more supported than Control variants in the set. Escape also is a bad sign for the deck as being able to recast threats is not what the deck wants to have to deal with when it’s trying to stabilize in the mid to late game. There’s also still no good win condition as I don’t believe Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is strong enough to close out games. Overall, the archetype has been struggling since Teferi, Hero of Dominaria rotated out of Standard and I think it’ll continue to struggle moving forward. We’ll have to watch if Ashiok, Nightmare Muse and Dream Trawler can act as good closers for the deck, and if they are, then the deck will definitely be capable of being meta.
There’s a lot to look forward to in Theros Beyond Death as there is with every expansion. Some old archetypes are getting support while completely new ones will be entering standard. While nobody can predict the exact future of what’s in store for this expansion, there’s definitely a lot that Wizards of the Coast has made that’s exciting and fun to play. I’m excited to test these new decks and I’m sure a lot of these new cards will break the meta in unexpected ways.
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