In Throne of Eldraine, food was the order of the day. Magic: The Gathering's next upcoming set, Theros Beyond Death, is a little less whimsical than that. We've got two cards from the new set to show off, a rare and an uncommon.
Beyond Death, which launches first through Magic Online on January 16 ahead of prerelease events that weekend, is all about the Gods. The set takes place in Theros, with the whole set themed on Greek gods and Greek mythology, specifically the Theros Underworld. Narratively, it follows on from Throne of Eldraine, and Elspeth Tirel, who has been laying dormant in the underworld since she was fatally wounded in the Journey into Nyx storyline.
For this preview, we've got two cards highlighting one of the gods from the forces of light: Heliod, God of the Sun on Theros and a force for justice, law and, naturally, retribution.
Heliod's main weapon is Khrusor, the Sun Spear, which can be pitched down to any point on Theros from the heavens. And the first card, the 1W Heliod's Punishment, is a direct representation of being smote from the heavens by way of Enchantment.
"Enchanted creature can't attack or block. It loses all abilities and has "[Tap]: Remove a task counter from Heliod's Punishment"," the card reads. It's not direct board removal, but it does lockdown a creature for four turns, and in limited formats that's about as good as you can get for the cost.
For a more comprehensive view on the card, however, it's better to ask an expert. So I reached out to Kyle Gibson, winner of the Magic Brisbane Grand Prix last month, which earned him a spot at the Players Tour Asia-Pacific event in Japan next month and the Players Tour Finals in April. Gibson has featured on the pro circuit before, grinding through qualifiers to appear in the Mythic Championship stop in Cleveland last year and finishing in the Top 64 at Modern Grand Prix Los Angeles 2019.
"Heliod’s Punishment shows the most promise as an efficient removal spell in limited that can debilitate even the strongest creatures your opponents could present," Gibson told Kotaku Australia over email. He reasoned that it'll mostly appear in aggressive or tempo-oriented decks, but the card might have some extra value in other ways because of the devotion and constellation mechanics in Beyond Death.
"However, it only does so for a short time, because of this I expect it to be best utilised in aggressive or tempo-oriented decks ... despite being at its best in decks seeking to win as fast as possible, it will be a highly sought-after card for all white decks in limited," Gibson explained.
The second card is the rare Heliod's Intervention which does what it says on the box: it's a big board wipe. This XWW card has one of two effects: it wipes out artifacts or enchantments. If you've been out of Magic for a while, that might not sound that threatening, until you realise that most of the big creatures in Beyond Death are listed as Enchantment Creature or Legendary Enchantment Creatures.
That means Heliod's Intervention can hit beasts like the green Arasta of the Endless Web, a 3/5 which spawns a 1/2 green Spider whenever an opponent casts an instant or sorcery. There's Athreos, a 4WB mythic god that bounces other creatures back into the battlefield under you control. Any creature you put a coin token on. And you get to place a fresh coin counter at the end of every turn.
There's a green Dryad that costs bugger all and lets you play two lands every turn. Nyxbloom Ancient costs 7 mana to get out, but every permanent you tap after that gives you three times as much mana afterwards. And it's still a 5/5 with trample. Oh, and there's more Saga cards. And that's not even factoring in the rest of the current standard block, or what happens when Beyond Death cards are added into Modern decks.
Naturally, having a board wipe that can deal with all of that is pretty handy. Life gain is generally an afterthought for most competitive decks and magic - although Gibson notes having that option "will sometimes be literally lifesaving" - but it's the removal at scale that gives Heliod's Intervention a lot of value.
"Heliod’s Intervention has the potential to become a staple sideboard card in standard if the new Theros Beyond Death enchantments start to run rampant," Gibson said. "In destroying one artifact or enchantment the cost is slightly above the expected rate. However, the ability to scale as necessary in addition to providing a cheap answer delivers the versatility sought after in a flexible card." Heliod's Intervention might also initially see life as a sideboard card for eternal formats, Gibson added, which includes Pauper, Legacy and Vintage.
With these cards, the full Beyond Death set is just about released. You can play with the cards from January 16 when the set launches digitally through Magic Arena and Magic Online. Prerelease events will kick off worldwide and across Australian game stores from January 17, with the set launching officially on January 24.