THS: The heroic deck

Theros has 18 creatures with the heroic keyword, but how good are they? I did an initial evaluation of them, along with all other cards in Theros, in a recent post, but their valuation also depends to an extent on the number of targeting spells available in Theros. In particular, it depends on the number of beneficial targeting spells, i.e., targeting spells that you would like (or at least not mind) casting on your own creatures. In turn, the value of those spells also depends, on an extent, to how many good creatures with heroic are available in Theros.

Let’s start by looking at the creatures with heroic. Blue, red, and green each have a common, an uncommon, and a rare creature with heroic, so they will each have 4 creatures with heroic in an average draft. Black has only an uncommon and a rare with heroic and so will have only 1.6 creatures with heroic on average, and white has 2 commons, 2 uncommons, and a rare and so will have 7.5 creatures with heroic on average. A color is typically shared by 3 drafters at a table, so even a W/X deck will only usually have 4 creatures with heroic, so it does not make sense to try to pick up good beneficial targeting spells in anticipation of being passed good creatures with heroic.

This is especially true since many of the heroic creatures are playable even with few or no beneficial targeting spells in a deck. However, there are some exceptions:

  • White: Favored Hoplite (uncommon), Phalanx Leader (uncommon)
  • Blue: Triton Fortune Hunter (uncommon), Artisan of Forms (rare)
  • Red: Akroan Crusader (common), Labyrinth Chamption (rare)
  • Green: Staunch-Hearted Warrior (common), Centaur Battlemaster (uncommon)

So while white has the most number of heroic creatures, it is green and (to a lesser extent) red whose heroic creatures need to be accompanied by beneficial targeting spells in order to really shine.

Next, let’s take a look at which colors have the best beneficial targeting spells. This spreadsheet lists all the beneficial targeting spells available in Theros, including all instants, sorceries, enchant creatures, and enchantment creatures with bestow that help your creatures. The table on the left summarizes them by color, rarity, and quality, and the total row for each color computes the number of cards of that color and quality that you’re likely to see in an 8-person draft.

Looking at the total column, we see that white has the most number of beneficial targeting spells at 16, followed by black and red at 13, and then blue and green at 11. However, quality is more important than raw numbers, so let’s only look at spells that are playable (/) or better. It turns out that most colors have about 10 beneficial targeting spells in an average draft, while black has only about 6. Consequently, the average 8-person draft will have 46 such spells, or about 6 per player. (It is worth noting here that blue has more exceptional targeting spells than the other colors.)

This means that red and green decks will usually have access to enough good beneficial targeting spells that you can draft good heroic cards and expect to pick up some beneficial targeting spells later. However, most heroic decks are likely to be W/X since white has the most number of heroic creatures and the most number of beneficial targeting spells in Theros.

M14: Dismiss into Dream

As a precursor to determining whether it’s worth running enchantment removal maindeck, let’s complete evaluating the remaining enchantments whose quality is still to be determined (listed as “?” in the spreadsheet).

The first of these is Dismiss into Dream. 7 mana is a pretty hefty price tag for a enchantment that probably won’t affect the board on the turn you play it, and may not affect it at all unless you have the right cards to go with it. If you get passed it late, you can determine whether your deck has is sufficiently slow and has enought targeting effects to take advantage of this, but I’d like to determine whether it’s worth taking a little earlier in the draft.

Let’s start by looking at the reusable targeting effects in the format, along with their rarity and the mana cost associated with the ability and any restrictions:

  • White: Master of Diversion (common, 0), Ajani Caler of the Price (mythic, 0)
  • Blue: Zephyr Charge (common, 2), Air Servant (uncommon, 3, flyers only)
  • Black: Blightcaster (uncommon, 0, when you cast an enchantment spell), Liliana of the Dark Realms (mythic, 0, if she has 3+ loyalty counters)
  • Red: Barrage of Expendables (uncommon, 1, requires sacrificing a creature), Chandra Pyromaster (mythic, 0), Scourge of Valkas (mythic, X, when a Dragon enters the battlefield under your control)
  • Green: Oath of the Ancient Wood (rare, X, when an enchantment enters the battlefield under your control)
  • Artifact: Rod of Ruin (uncommon, 3)

So there are 2 common and 3 uncommon reusable targeting effects. The 2 commons are in white and blue, but a W/U deck would prefer to run tempo spells like Disperse, Frost Breath, and Time Ebb to fend off the largest creatures temporarily while it wins in the air. There are also 3 uncommons, but Rod of Ruin is the only one I’d be happy to use with Dismiss into Dream, and it won’t usually kill a creature until the turn after Dismiss into Dream is played.

Let’s look at the remaining targeting effects. I won’t list removal that can usually handle large creatures by turn 8, even if it is slightly conditional (e.g., Doom Blade), requires a permanent to remain in play (e.g., Banisher Priest, Pacifism) or requires a condition that can usually be met on turn 8 (e.g., Hunt the Weak), since those would often be just as effective without Dismiss into Dream.

  • White: Divine Favor (common, 2), Show of Valor (common, 2), Blessing (uncommon, 2), Indestructibility (rare, 4)
  • Blue: Disperse (common, 2), Frost Breath (common, 3), Time Ebb (common, 3), Illusionary Armor (uncommon, 5), Domestication (rare, 4)
  • Black: Dark Favor (common, 2), Festering Newt (common, 1, has to die for effect), Mark of the Vampire (common, 4), Wring Flesh (common, 1)
  • Red: Act of Treason (common, 3), Goblin Shortcutter (common, 2), Lightning Talons (common, 3), Pitchburn Devils (common, 5, has to die for effect), Shock (common, 1), Thunder Strike (common, 2), Flames of the Firebrand (uncommon, 3), Shiv’s Embrace (uncommon, 4), Thorncaster Sliver (rare, 5)
  • Green: Giant Growth (common, 1), Trollhide (common, 3), Briarpack Alpha (uncommon, 4), Enlarge (uncommon, 5)
  • Artifact: Vial of Poison (uncommon, 1+1)

Blue and red have the most number of playable targeting effects at common, but M14 U/R decks are usually aggressive and would prefer to use cards like Goblin Shortcutter, Trained Condor, Lightning Talons, Seismic Stomp, Disperse, Frost Breath, and Time Ebb, to underrun the opponent, than to cast a 7-mana enchantment that allows you to remove the opponent’s creatures permanently.

In short, M14 does not have a lot of cheap, reusable targeting effects to support Dismiss into Dreams. It may be playable as a sideboard card in certain control mirrors, but is otherwise just as unplayable as you probably think it is.