BNG: Tap abilities and untap effects — and the inspired deck

During THS/THS/THS, I’d noted that the set had a number of untap effects in blue and green — Breaching Hippocamp, Triton Tactics, Savage Surge, and Prophet of Kruphix — but not many powerful tap abilities to abuse with them. I’d concluded that the only tap ability that seemed worth trying to abuse with the untap effects was Shipwreck Singer and Meletis Charlatan, and possibly Triad of Fates in a 3-color deck.

BNG adds the inspired ability to the mix, thereby giving us a reason to revisit this set of cards. The set also brings a few more untap effects to the table — Crypsis, Kiora’s Follower — as well as several ways to tap your own creatures (they’re commons unless specified otherwise):

  • White: Ephara’s Radiance, Elite Skirmisher, Glimpse the Sun God (uncommon)
  • Blue: Retraction Helix, Evanescent Intellect, Oracle’s Insight (uncommon)
  • Black: Claim of Erebos, Black Oak of Odunos (uncommon)
  • Red: Epiphany Storm, Lightning Volley (uncommon)
  • Green: Karametra’s Favor
  • Multicolor: Phenax God of Deception (mythic)
  • Artifact: Siren Song Lyre (uncommon), Springleaf Drum (uncommon)

Unlike bestow creatures and cantrip Auras, most of the Auras in this list open you up to card disadvantage if the creature they enchant is killed, without providing the raw power of the Ordeals. Elite Skirmisher belongs in an aggressive deck and would much rather be used against opposing creatures. And Glimpse the Sun God and Lightning Volley are one-time effects. That leaves Retraction Helix, Oracle’s Insight, Black Oak of Odunos, Karametra’s Favor, Phenax God of Deception, Siren Song Lyre, and Springleaf Drum. With the exception of Karametra’s Favor and the artifacts, all these spells are blue and/or black. Obviously, you wouldn’t typically use an untap effect to enable Black Oak of Odunos, Karametra’s Favor, or Springleaf Drum, but those cards are relevant if you’re trying to enable inspired.

In addition to these, there’re also 5 cards in Theros that grant evasion, allowing you to trigger inspired more reliably: Stratus Walk, Flitterstep Eidolon (uncommon), and Archetype of Imagination (uncommon) in blue, Grisly Transformation in black, and the W/U Ephara’s Enlightenment (uncommon). These are in addition to Nimbus Naiad, Cavern Lampad, Fleetfeather Sandals, and Prowler’s Helm (uncommon) from Theros. As before, these cards are primarily blue or black, or artifacts.

This would lead us to believe that the inspired deck is likely to be U/B even though the untap effects are in blue and green. Let’s take a look at the creatures with inspired to see whether this is the case:

  • White: Oreskos Sun Guide, God-Favored General (uncommon)
  • Blue: Deepwater Hypnotist, Sphinx’s Disciple, Aerie Worshippers (uncommon), Arbiter of the Ideal (rare)
  • Black: Servant of Tymaret, Warchanter of Mogis, Forlorn Pseudamma (uncommon), Pain Seer (rare)
  • Red: Kragma Butcher, Satyr Nyx-Smith (uncommon), Felhide Spiritbinder (rare)
  • Green: Pheres-Band Tromper, Pheres-Band Raiders (uncommon)
  • Multicolor: Siren of the Silent Song (uncommon)

As we might expect, the majority of the inspired cards, and most of the strongest ones, are in blue and/or black. The only inspired cards not in those colors that I’m excited to play that are Kragma Butcher and Felhide Spiritbinder (rare), although it’s possible I’m undervaluing one or both of the green ones (I am not a fan of green in Theros).

Since the best tap abilities and untap effects in Theros are also in U/B, it makes sense that these are the colors that allow you to best abuse the inspired mechanic. However, that does not mean that these are the only colors for this mechanic; I won more than one game at the prerelease by enchanting Kragma Butcher with Grisly Transformation.

Finally, it’s worth noting that these untap effects also allow you to protect creatures from Excoriate, and also potentially from a Glimpse the Sun God or Siren Song Lyre enabled alpha strike. Similarly, the tap effects allow you to protect creatures from Asphyxiate.

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.)