THS: Flamespeaker Adept

I’d evaluated Flamespeaker Adept as exceptional in both my original and updated evaluations. However, it’s never actually been stellar for me in practice because I’ve never had enough scry effects to go with it. I’ve wondered whether this is because I haven’t been valuing scry effects highly enough, whether I haven’t been in the right color pairs to make best use of the card, or whether it is unavoidable because Limited deck cannot run enough instants/sorceries to make good use of the card.

Here are the scry effects in Theros by color. They’re common instants with one-time effects unless otherwise noted:

  • White (2 commons + 1 uncommon): Battlewise Valor, Gods Willing, Vanquish the Foul (uncommon sorcery)
  • Blue (6 + 3 + 1 rare + 1 mythic): Aqueous Form (enchantment/recurring), Lost in Labyrinth, Omenspeaker (creature), Prescient Chimera (creature/recurring), Stymied Hopes, Voyage’s End, Dissolve (uncommon), Horizon Scholar (uncommon creature), Sea God’s Revenge (uncommon sorcery), Prognostic Sphinx (rare creature/recurring), Thassa God of the Sea (mythic enchantment creature/recurring)
  • Black (1): Read the Bones (sorcery)
  • Red (4 + 1): Portent of Betrayal (sorcery), Rage of Purphoros (sorcery), Spark Jolt, Titan’s Strength, Magma Jet (uncommon)
  • Green (0 + 1): Artisan’s Sorrow (uncommon)
  • Multicolor (0 + 1 + 1): Battlewise Hoplite (uncommon creature/recurring), Reaper of the Wilds (rare creature/recurring)
  • Artifact (0 + 1): Witches’ Eye (uncommon artifact/recurring)
  • Land (0 + 0 + 5): 5 Temples (rare lands)

I’m usually not excited to be playing Vanquish the Foul, Lost in Labyrinth, Stymied Hopes, Rage of Purphoros, Spark Jolt, or Witches’ Eye maindeck. Excluding those cards, blue has the most scry effects by far (13.7 in the average draft), followed by red (6) and white (4.8). Blue also has 5 of the 7 recurring scry effects in Theros: Aqueous Form, Prescient Chimera, Prognostic Sphinx, Thassa God of the Sea, and the multicolor Battlewise Hoplite. Perhaps most importantly, blue has all but 1 of the creatures with scry effects and it is these creatures that allow you to get a critical mass of scry effects while still running enough creatures.

It might be possible to draft an occasional R/W deck that makes good use of Flamespeaker Adept, but it seems that the best color pair for it is U/R, perhaps in a deck that also runs Spellheart Chimera, Mnemonic Wall, and Meletis Charlatan to take advantage of the higher than usual number of instants and sorceries in the deck. If you’re drafting that deck, keep an eye out for Aqueous Form and Prescient Chimera once you have a couple of Flamespeaker Adepts. (Aqueous Form turns Flamespeaker Adepts into an unblockable 4/3 that scrys on each attack, which seems strong in a format that has relatively little removal.) However, this deck is specific enough that Flamespeaker Adept probably just merits a rating of good rather than exceptional.

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THS: Tap abilities and untap effects

Theros has a number of untap effects, all of which are in blue and green: Breaching Hippocamp, Triton Tactics, Savage Surge, and Prophet of Kruphix. (There is also Portent of Betrayal in red, but it will rarely be used just to untap a creature you control.) However, the set seems to lack creatures with powerful tap abilities that you can reuse with these untap effects. Let’s examine the tap abilities in the set to determine whether that perception is correct.

Here’s a list of all the creatures in Theros that have activated abilities that involve tapping the creature:

  • White: Ephara’s Warden (common) which is unplayable
  • Blue: Meletis Charlatan (rare) which is sufficiently mana intensive that you can’t usually use it twice in a turn
  • Red: Titan of Eternal Fire (rare) which allows Humans to tap for 1 damage
  • Green: Voyaging Satyr (common), Karametra’s Acolyte (uncommon), Sylvan Caryatid (rare)
  • W/B: Triad of Fates (rare)
  • U/B: Shipwreck Singer (uncommon)
  • Artifact: Opaline Unicorn (common), Witches’ Eye (uncommon)

Of these, the only cards whose effects are particularly compelling are Karametra’s Acolyte, Triad of Fates, and Shipwreck Singer, although reusing Titan of Eternal Fire’s effect is reasonable if you don’t have enough Humans. Triad of Fates offers the most interesting interaction since you can exile or save a creature that doesn’t already have a fate counter on it, but it also requires a 3-color deck (W/U/B or G/W/B) which is not a common occurrence in Theros drafts. I once used Shipwreck Singer + Triton Tactics to wipe out much of an opponent’s army so I know that combo has potential, but Breaching Hippocamp costs too much mana to be an effective combo with it and the other untap effects require green mana and so also require a 3-color deck.

If your devotion to green is 3 or more, Karametra’s Acolyte can generate additional mana using Savage Surge. However, Karametra’s Acolyte costs 4 mana, so this means you already have access to at least 7 mana, which is enough for most effects in Theros. The set only has 3 spells that cost more than 7: Ashen Riders, Boulderfall, and Colossus of Akros. No bestow abilities cost more than 7, and only 6 monstrosity abilities cost than much: Shipbreaker Kraken (8), Hythonia the Cruel (8), Stoneshock Giant (8), Nemesis of Mortals (9, although it will usually cost 7 or less), Colossus of Akros (10), and Polukranos World Eater (XXG, although spending less mana on its monstrosity ability will still usually win you the game). This means that Karametra’s Acolyte + Savage Surge will only prove useful in the rare occasion where your green devotion count is exactly 3 and you really need the 8th mana, or if you have Karametra’s Acolyte + Triton Tactics and your green devotion count is 2 or 3 and you really need the 7th or 8th mana.

So Shipwreck Singer + Triton Tactics is the only such “combo” that really stands out to me. If you’re U/B, you should consider drafting Triton Tactics a bit more highly than in other U/X decks, especially if you’ve already drafted 1 or more Shipwreck Singers.

EDIT: Triton Tactics and Savage Surge are both cheap enough that they should work quite well with Meletis Charlatan. With Triton Tactics, you can untap an additional creature for every 3 mana you have available after casting it and give Meletis Charlatan an additional +0/+3, making it a formidable blocker. With Savage Surge, you can give Meletis Charlatan +2/+2 for every 3 mana you have available after casting it. (This is mostly useful on defense; on offense, you’d have to cast Savage Surge before attacking, otherwise Meletis Charlatan would be tapped while the spell is on the stack and the spell would no longer be available to be copied once Meletis Charlatan is untapped. However, in the unlikely situation that your opponent has no untapped creatures and you have Meletis Charlatan, Savage Surge, and a lot of mana, you might be attack for lethal even if your opponent is at a healthy life total.)

THS: Casting costs and 5cc spells

Over the course of many drafts, I’ve noticed that Theros has a lot of good creatures that cost 5 mana. In a recent draft, I had 2 Gray Merchant, a Keepsake Gorgon, and 4 Prescient Chimera (I was only able to play 2 of the latter). And in my G/U Sealed deck from the PTQ, I had 5 5cc creatures — Prophet of Kruphix, Anthousa Setessan Hero, Nessian Asp, Centaur Battlemaster, and Prescient Chimera — 2 of which were bombs. I’d like to determine whether the format actually has a glut of good creatures at 5cc. If it is, I can deprioritize 5cc creatures while drafting and/or value Opaline Unicorn more highly.

This spreadsheet looks at bomb, exceptional, and playable creatures by color, rarity, and CMC, and then computes the number of creatures in each color/CMC combination in an average draft. The numbers do not indicate a glut at 5cc except in black, and only if you include all black spells (the All tab) instead of just looking at black creatures (the Creatures tab). Apparently, my hypothesis does not hold for the other 4 colors and, therefore, for most color pairs. And black decks rarely want Opaline Unicorn because it doesn’t add to the black devotion count for Gray Merchant.

Let’s look at this from a slightly different angle by enumerating the playable 5cc spells in the format:

  • White: Celestial Archon (rare)
  • Blue: Prescient Chimera (common), Prognostic Sphinx (rare)
  • Black: Gray Merchant of Asphodel (common), Lash of the Whip (common), Keepsake Gorgon (uncommon)
  • Red: Rage of Purphoros (common), Stoneshock Giant (uncommon), Stormbreath Dragon (mythic)
  • Green: Nessian Asp (common), Centaur Battlemaster (uncommon), Anthousa Setessan Hero (rare), Arbor Colossus (rare)
  • Multicolor: Kragma Warcaller (B/R uncommon), Pharika’s Mender (B/G uncommon), Sentry of the Underworld (W/B uncommon), Prophet of Kruphix (G/U rare), Underworld Cerberus (B/R mythic)

Note that all but 2 of the spells listed are creatures. Black is the only color with 2 playable 5cc spells at common. However, red and green also have excellent 5cc spells at common and uncommon, so you should probably not go out of your way to pick up 5cc spells early in the draft if you’re in one of those colors, and you might want to actively avoid all but the best 5cc spells if you’re B/R, B/G, or R/G. B/G players should be especially wary since Gray Merchant and Nessian Asp are 2 of the most powerful commons in the format and you won’t want to leave any copies of either of them in your sideboard, regardless of what the spreadsheet says.

Some other observations from the spreadsheet:

  • White: Most of the good creatures are 2cc and 3cc. This makes Divine Verdict more playable in Theros than in other formats.
  • Blue: There are plenty of good creatures at 3cc and 4cc, so you should prioritize the good 2cc commons (Omenspeaker and Vaporkin).
  • Black: Baleful Eidolon is the only 2-drop that’s always playable (although Returned Phalanx is good in a control deck and Fleshmad Steed is good in an aggro deck), so it should be valued highly. Otherwise, black creatures seem to be spread fairly evenly across the mana curve, except for a bit of a glut at 5cc.
  • Red: There are plenty of good creatures at 3cc and 4cc, so you should prioritize the good 2-drops (Deathbellow Raider and Arena Athlete).
  • Green: The creatures are well distributed across the spectrum so there’s less need to prioritize creatures at a particular casting cost than for other colors.
  • U/R: Blue and red both have a lot of good creatures at 3cc and 4cc, so creatures at those casting costs should be especially deprioritized in U/R, or the color combination should be avoided if there isn’t a good reason to go into it. (U/R also has the weakest multicolor cards in Theros.)
  • B/G: This is a especially slow color combination so Sedge Scorpion and Baleful Eidolon should be valued even more highly than usual in B/G.

THS: Multicolor cards and color pairs

This spreadsheet lists the cards in Theros that are either multicolored or that get better if a player is playing a specific color pair. Some of these cards are perfectly playable on their own, e.g., Agent of Horizons is still a 3/2 for 3 mana, even if you’re not playing blue; but it’s quite a bit better if you’re also playing, or even splashing, blue. Note that this list does not include cards like Rageblood Shaman which is best in a R/B Minotaurs deck, but does not require Swamps or black mana/creatures itself.

W/U, W/B, U/B, B/R, R/G, and R/W have 4 such cards each, while the remaining 4 color pairs have 3 such cards each. Looking at the cards that are exceptional or bombs (since cards that are merely good aren’t sufficient reason to play a color pair), we see that the 5 colors with the highest average number of exceptional/bomb cards in a typical draft are also the 5 color pairs with an exceptional uncommon:

  • W/U: Battlewise Hoplite
  • U/B: Shipwreck Singer
  • B/R: Kragma Warcaller
  • B/G: Pharika’s Mender
  • G/U: Horizon Chimera

In this list, white and red occur once, blue and black occur thrice, and green occurs twice. This means that if you’re white or red, you’re least likely to open or be passed a very strong W/X or R/X multicolor card, so it’s safer to commit to a second color sooner. If you’re blue or black, you should try to delay jumping into a second color as long as possible so you can pick up exceptional multicolor cards that are being passed late when no one else is able to play them. Doing this enabled me to get triple Shipwreck Singer in one draft, and double Kragma Warcaller in another.

Also, 6 of the 10 color combinations have more good/exceptional/bomb multicolor cards, so there’s more incentive to draft them. On the other hand, U/B, U/R, B/G, and R/G have few such cards (even though there are dual lands for U/B and R/G in Theros), so there’s less incentive to draft these color pairs unless you get a multicolor bomb in that color pair or are being passed particularly strong/synergistic cards in both colors.

THS: Sealed pool #2

For those who haven’t seen it yet, I posted my build of the previous sealed pool in the comments section of that post. (I prefer that to a separate post so people reading this later don’t see my build before they see the pool.) While most people who looked at that pool came up with the same build, a few of us later found a build that seemed to do better, and that build is also included in the comments.

I played at another sealed deck PTQ this weekend. I opened an amazing pool with Abhorrent Overlord and Whip of Erebos, so of course it didn’t come back to me, unlike the crappy pool I opened last week. In its place, I got a pool with 2 bomb but little removal. I did only slightly better this time, going 1-2 drop, even though I always chose to play first. I’d like to blame opposing bombs (my round 1 opponent killed me from 17 life on turn 5 with just Anax and Cymede and Labyrinth Champion on the table, although this was my fault as I should have realized he could do 17 damage and should have blocked the Champion to force a trick) and bad luck (missing my third land drop in round 3 when I’d kept a 2-land-plus-cantrip hand on the play). Here’s my pool, which I’ve also posted on TappedOut. How would you have built it? Post your builds in the comments and I’ll post the build I played at the PTQ, and how I’d build it today, in the comments section a couple of days from now.

Artifact
Bronze Sable
Flamecast Wheel
2 Fleetfeather Sandals
Opaline Unicorn
Prowler’s Helm
Traveler’s Amulet

White
Battlewise Valor
Cavalry Pegasus
Divine Verdict
Ephara’s Warden
Favored Hoplite
Glare of Heresy
Gods Willing
3 Lagonna-Band Elder
Ordeal of Heliod
3 Setessan Battle Priest
Silent Artisan
Traveling Philosopher
Wingsteed Rider

Blue
Aqueous Form
Breaching Hippocamp
Fate Foretold
Griptide
Lost in a Labyrinth
Meletis Charlatan
Mnemonic Wall
Omenspeaker
Prescient Chimera
Thassa’s Bounty
Thassa’s Emissary
Triton Shorethief
Vaporkin

Black
Baleful Eidolon
Boon of Erebos
Cutthroat Maneuver
Dark Betrayal
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Keepsake Gorgon
2 Ordeal of Erebos
Pharika’s Cure
Returned Centaur
Returned Phalanx

Red
Arena Athlete
Boulderfall
Coordinated Assault
Deathbellow Raider
Demolish
Dragon Mantle
Messenger’s Speed
2 Priest of Iroas
Purphoros’s Emissary
Spearpoint Oread
Titan of Eternal Fire
Two-Headed Cerberus
Wild Celebrants

Green
Anthousa, Setessan Hero
Centaur Battlemaster
Commune with the Gods
2 Fade into Antiquity
Feral Invocation
Leafcrown Dryad
Nemesis of Mortals
Nessian Asp
Nessian Courser
Nylea’s Presence
Savage Surge
Sedge Scorpion
Shredding Winds
Staunch-Hearted Warrior
Time to Feed
Vulpine Goliath

Multicolor
Battlewise Hoplite
Kragma Warcaller
Polis Crusher
Prophet of Kruphix

Land
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx