THS: Combat damage triggers

I drafted a fairly weak W/U deck last week. It had a couple of heroic creatures, 3 Fate Foretold*, and 2 Thassa’s Emissary. Once I picked up the second Emissary, I started keeping an eye out for cards that could grant them evasion. I drafted a Nimbus Naiad, took a Sea God’s Revenge over an Aqueous Form, and then didn’t see any other cards that would have allowed the Emissaries to get through.

Theros also has several other cards that have combat damage triggers, such as Daxos of Meletis (which I’ve been passed multiple times previously, but unfortunately not this time). In order to better understand how likely it is that I can make these abilities trigger, I decided to make a spreadsheet of all the cards in Theros with such triggers, all the cards that grant evasion, and also all the cards that have evasion (since Bident of Thassa and Warriors’ Lesson let you draw a card if any creatures get through), sorted by color and rarity. Here are some notes on interpreting this spreadsheet:

  • In the Combat Damage Triggers column, italics mean the card doesn’t actually have a combat damage trigger, but has the potential to do a lot of damage if it get through, usually due to Firebreathing or double strike. I have not listed creatures with monstrous, mostly because they’re too many of them and they would dominate the list. Yellow highlight means that the effect can trigger multiple times if 2+ creatures get through.
  • In the Grants Evasion column (which also includes cards that prevent an opponent’s creature(s) from blocking), italics mean that the card grants evasion as a one-time effect. This includes cards like Arena Athlete that can be triggered multiple times, but require a spell to target them for each use. Yellow highlight means that the effect grants evasion to 2+ creature.
  • In the Has Evasion column, italics mean that the creature has a form of evasion other than flying, e.g., intimidate. I have not listed effects that grant trample because it is not a reliable way to trigger these abilities. Yellow highlight means the card gives you 2+ creature with evasion.
  • Red text means that the card appears in more than one column, e.g., Nimbus Naiad has evasion but can also grant evasion to other creatures if played as an Aura.

From the spreadsheet, we can see that blue has the most cards with combat damage triggers: Thassa’s Emissary (uncommon) and Bident of Thassa (rare), as well as the multicolor cards Daxos of Meletis (W/U rare) and Medomai the Ageless (W/U mythic). Red has most of the italicized cards in this column: Dragon Mantle (common), Two-Headed Cerberus (common), and Firedrinker Satyr (rare), as well as the multicolor cards Akroan Hoplite (R/W uncommon) and Polis Crusher (R/G rare with an actual combat damage trigger).

Looking at the next column, white has 2 cards that grant evasion permanently + 1 that grants evasion temporarily (sort of; it only taps one creature). Blue has 3 + 1, black has 0 + 1, red has 1 + 2, green and multicolor have none, and there are 2 + 0 artifacts that grant evasion**. So blue also has the most number of ways to give creatures evasion.

Finally, white has 3 commons + 1 uncommon + 1 rare with evasion (8.7 in an average 8-person draft), blue has 4 + 1 + 1 (11.1), black has 2 + 1 + 1 (6.3), red has 1 uncommon and 1 mythic (1.4), green has 1 common (2.4), and there are 0 + 4 + 1 + 3 (5.8) multicolor cards with evasion and 1 uncommon artifact. Once again, blue leads the pack, but it followed very closely by white.

If you are trying to build around some cards with combat damage triggers but aren’t able to draft a monoblue deck, what is the best color to pair it with? Red seems like it would go well in this deck since it provides a few ways to give creatures evasion, multiple removal spells that allow creatures to get through, as well some creatures that can get through for a lot of damage if unblocked. In particular, Nimbus Naiad on a Two-Headed Cerberus can make short work of an opponent. And you can splash green for Warriors’ Lesson, Polis Crusher, Horizon Chimera, and perhaps Agent of Horizons.

The other possibility is W/U, either a flyers deck or a heroic deck. Since the deck runs several creatures with evasion anyway and has ways to give more creatures evasion, killing your opponent with flyers is a great plan B (or even plan A) for this deck. A heroic deck also has potential since some of the effects that grant evasion also trigger heroic. White also gives you access to Daxos of Meletis and has Gods Willing to protect your creatures once they have been given evasion or a combat damage trigger. As above, you can also splash green for Warriors’ Lesson, Horizon Chimera, and perhaps Agent of Horizons.

* This was my first time playing Fate Foretold and I was not impressed. However, that may have been because I only had a couple of heroic creatures and/or because I played against a lot of blue decks with bounce + Griptides.

** Note that Theros has only 1 Wall, so Prowler’s Helm essentially makes your creature unblockable. It’s very similar to Fleetfeather Sandals, except that it gives up haste in exchange for a near guarantee that the creature will be unblockable.

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