Theros Beyond Death Set Review – White

(Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis l Art by Chuck Lukacs)

Allow Me to White You an Epic Saga…

Hello everyone! Your friendly neighborhood Jesguy here, and welcome to the Theros Beyond Death: White Set Review!

You might be wondering how I got myself into reviewing white for this set. Well, the higher-ups told me I talk about Jeskai too much, so they threw me down deep into EDHREC’s underworld with the likes of Torsten Von Ursus and Matt Morgan. They promised to let me out if I wrote this set review, but as we all know, Gods are fickle creatures… who knows if I will ever Escape…?


Mythics


Heliod, Sun-Crowned

Speaking of Gods, let’s start off with the most capricious God of Theros’ pantheon: Heliod, Sun-Crowned. In a world of people asking for powerful white cards, Heliod is a great answer to them.

He isn’t flashy, but Heliod leans into what white wants to do and rewards you quite well for it. Ajani’s Pridemate is a beloved card, so a Pridemate that’s also a God and can also grant lifelink to another creature seems awesome, and that’s without even mentioning Heliod’s combo potential.

Heliod can easily go infinite with Walking Ballista or Triskelion, or even with Spike Feeder in a green-inclusive build. I’m always happy to see white bear its teeth and weaponize lifegain since it’s something it does so well.

God-Eternal Oketra and Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle are both commanding around 330 decks each at time of writing, and I fully expect this iteration of Heliod to exceed those numbers after we have some time to play with him.


Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis

Elspeth, betrayed by the God she trusted, fallen from grace, struggling to return to the life she once knew. Her new card reflects her struggle perfectly, as it is a far cry from the Commander powerhouse that her previous iteration turned out to be. New Elspeth is by no means bad, but she is considerably more niche this time around. Her former version would shake the board once it resolved, turning most games in your favor. Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis reminds me quite a bit of Elspeth Tirel: a solid card, but meant to supplement a deck as opposed to being a haymaker in its own right.

I want to give Elspeth her due, despite my criticism. What’s important to note here is that she is technically a form of card advantage in white. A planeswalker that can consistently return to the battlefield by eating useless cards from the yard? Sign me up! She isn’t splashy, but she can fit into a plethora of different strategies. Token decks, lifegain, Superfriends, aggressive strategies, there’s quite a list that can welcome her. A lot of folks are lukewarm on Elspeth, but I’ll be personally happy to try her out.


Planeswalker Deck Cards

I won’t spend too much time on the four new cards from the planeswalker decks, as they are a bit underwhelming, but they’re still worth mentioning, especially for newer players looking to add them into their Commander decks:

  • Elspeth Undaunted Hero is surprisingly efficient. She helps +1/+1 counter strategies and aggressive decks, giving you a solid way to close out the game if she ever reaches her ultimate. Tutoring up a creature on command can also be helpful, as well.
  • Elspeth’s Devotee is a Hill Giant that draws you a planeswalker. It isn’t a bad card if you’re running Elspeth, Undaunted Hero, already, but don’t be so devoted to it that you think it should always make the cut.
  • Sunlit Hoplite is a cute, aggressive creature that can be a 3 power first striker on your turn. It’s not great. but if you can get some counters on it, or if you run some anthems, I’d give it a shot, but only if you’re already running Elspeth.
  • Eidolon of Inspiration is a solid little Spirit that can help push damage through each combat. It combos well in a deck with double strikers or fliers, but isn’t particularly inspiring on its own.

Rares

Taranika, Akroan Veteran

Where Heliod (above) and Daxos (below) double down on what white does well, Taranika takes things in a slightly different direction. Instead of giving a power/toughness buff like most white cards, she instead modifies another creature’s base power and toughness. On average, giving +3/+3 would have been more powerful, but pumping up a 1/1 to a 4/4 is still a significant stat boost. She’s also able to give a creature pseudo-vigilance as well as indestructible. This makes sure the creature can perform double duty by both pressuring your opponents and untapped to block.

I think Taranika works better in the 99 as opposed to being the commander of a deck, but she does add some pressure to aggressive decks, so she may find her way into those decks, though she won’t lead many of her own.


Archon of Sun’s Grace

Now this is podracing! an Enchantress payoff!

Archon of Sun’s Grace is another version of Sigil of the Empty Throne, except it doesn’t care about casting enchantments, just whether they enter the battlefield. This is a great distinction to note, especially when we talk about Archon of Falling Stars below. Archon of Sun’s Grace fondly reminds me of Ajani’s Chosen and would definitely work well together in the same deck.

Archon of Sun’s Grace seems like a solid addition to enchantress decks like Daxos, the Returned, Tuvasa, the Sunlit, or the three of us who play Elsha of the Infinite as Jeskai Enchantress. I’d even think about slotting Archon into non-enchantment decks, as even if you’re only able to make one to two Pegasi, that will pay for the cost of Archon on its own.


Eidolon of Obstruction

Eidolon of Obstruction is awesome. This little fella may not seem like much, but it’s the first card since The Immortal Sun that looks to obstruct wanton use of planeswalkers. This is a huge piece of design space that has been underutilized.

A lot of decks may not be interested in a small body that lightly taxes walkers, but there are over 400 Hatebear Decks on EDHREC that would love to see this card slotted in to their 99. What makes this card better than a lot of hatebear cards is that this effect is entirely asymmetrical. Your walkers aren’t taxed, and you’re free to downtick on your Elspeth, Sun’s Champion or ult your Gideon, Ally of Zendikar as you please. Eidolon is a tad narrow, but there are certainly decks that want it. I’d especially try it in your deck if your playgroup is walker-heavy and you’re already running cards like Sun Titan or Bishop of Rebirth.


Elspeth Conquers Death

This is one of my favorite cards in the entire set. Not only is Elspeth Conquers Death strong, but it also has absolutely fantastic art by Ryan Yee to boot!

Elspeth Conquer’s Death is exactly what I want to see in terms of white card advantage, and I think this is white’s most ambitiously designed card from Theros Beyond Death. The versatility of this card is strong. It’s basically three different spells on a single enchantment: removal, disruption, and reanimation.

As powerful as this card is, you’ll need to be careful about your graveyard being exiled before you get to chapter three, since your gameplan to reanimate your biggest threat is well-telegraphed. Elspeth Conquers Death isn’t beholden to some narrow strategy like most of the cards we’ve talked about up until now, and most mono-white or two-color decks would be interested in playing this.

Will white conquer card advantage? With cards like this, it seems like more of a reality.


Heliod’s Intervention

Put away those Sanguine Sacraments, friends, because here’s one of the best white cards in the set! Heliod’s Intervention is exactly what I like to see in cards: power and versatility.

The main reason to run this card is for its first effect, since crippling your opponents by blowing up their much-needed artifacts and enchantments can put them behind indefinitely. The lifegain mode is just a nice added bonus for those times when you might need it! By simply putting two mana into Heliod’s Intervention, you’re already on par with Return to Dust and Crush Contraband, two staples of the format. Any more mana than that, and you’re practically mimicking an instant-speed Vandalblast. And it hits enchantments!

Heliod’s Intervention is exactly the kind of card I want to see out of white moving forward. We’re often told that white’s strength comes from it having the best and most versatile answers to enemy threats, but we haven’t seen it flex that muscle much in these past few sets. Hopefully we’ll see strong, flexible spells like this from white in future expansions.


Idyllic Tutor

Idyllic Tutor is a great reprint. I don’t know what else I need to say about a card that’s included in nearly 4,000 decks here on EDHREC, except that I expect that number to increase drastically. Sure, it isn’t Enlightened Tutor, but Idyllic Tutor is a powerful card that was in need of reissue. Prior to this printing, Idyllic Tutor was closing in on $30. I’m no MTG financier, but this printing should make it widely available for anyone who wants it and at a reasonable price.

I’m not usually one to endorse tutors, but having an extra copy of Smothering Tithe or Dawn of Hope in a white deck is something that I can’t not mention. When we look outside of mono-white, of course, there are even more backbreaking enchantments to tutor up, like Dictate of Erebos, Mirari’s Wake, and Thousand-Year Storm. I’m always happy to see fantastic reprints of Commander staples in Standard products.


Grasping Giant

A 5/7 for six mana is a pretty decent stat-to-cost ratio, but I’m grasping for reasons to play this tall friend.

Oblivion Rings have never been particularly popular in our format, as they’re often only a temporary respite from our problems. Grasping Giant might be incredibly hard to block, sure, but I usually want my 5/7s actually killing the creature it’s in combat with instead of just holding onto them for later. Couple this with all the creatures with good enter-the-battlefield effects nowadays, and there’s a good chance you’ll actually be helping your opponents out when you exile their creatures. If you want to exile creatures in white, may I suggest format staples Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile? If you’re dead set on using an O-Ring ability, play Grasp of Fate, since it’ll hit a permanent from each of your opponents.

Grasping Giant will often become a piñata of sadness and a giant liability.


Shatter the Sky

There’s been quite a bit of talk about this card since it was previewed, some good, some bad. After engaging in conversation about it, I don’t think I’m a fan of it, especially for Commander.

Our format already has a number of board wipes that we want to use over this: Wrath of God, Day of Judgment, Fumigate, Austere Command, Cleansing Nova, the list goes on. Yes, this can draw us a card if we have a creature with power four or more, but I really don’t want to have my opponents draw cards while I’m wiping their board.

Wrath effects like this is one of white’s very few ways to accrue card advantage. Did my one card destroy ten different creatures from my opponents? Then I’m coming out ahead on that exchange. That is card advantage. By having the potential to allow our opponents to draw a card, Shatter the Sky lessens that advantage to a considerable degree, especially in a format where larger creatures are preferred and thus run rampant. There are better board wipes out there for us.


Victory’s Envoy

Victory’s Envoy would theoretically want to see play in +1+1 counter decks or go-wide decks. The issue is, you’re overpaying for an underpowered body and for a trigger that happens on your next upkeep.

I’m not a fan of this. If the counters went on the team at the beginning of combat, then we could talk, but I’m going to have to give this a hard pass. It’s too slow and doesn’t keep up with common threats in our format. If you want to play a five-mana spell that pumps your team, play Dictate of Heliod, or Cathar’s Crusade if the +1/+1 counters matter to you.

This card will be the envoy of more victories if she is in your bulk bin as opposed to in your 99.


Uncommons


Daxos, Blessed by the Sun

In my article a few weeks ago, I broke down cards that do nothing except gain life. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that I would dislike Daxos, Blessed by the Sun since he fits that description.

Well, surprisingly, I like him quite a bit.

Daxos’s ability may only gain life, but he can be an engine all on his own. White has cards like Soul Warden which synergize well with Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Ajani’s Pridemate. These cards fill the vital role of weaponizing our lifegain. The reason why I like Daxos so much is because he’s essentially a legendary “Soul Sister”, and we can build these kind of synergies into our deck. I don’t know if Daxos is potent enough to overthrow a commander like Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, who provides a similar effect, but decks like Karlov of the Ghost Council and Regna, the Redeemer + Krav, the Unredeemed seem like likely homes where he will flourish. We are blessed to have Daxos back once again.


Archon of Falling Stars

Archon of Falling Stars is a neat little addition to enchantment decks; it’ll Reanimate an enchantment when it dies, and it’s the second Archon that’s part cow!

Archon straddles the line between value and combo, providing you an advantage once it’s killed, or being able to go infinite with a couple of pieces. Animate Dead, Kaya’s Ghostform, and Gift of Immortality alongside a sacrifice outlet like Phyrexian Altar will allow you to loop Archon indefinitely. Combine this with Daxos, Blessed by the Sun for an arbitrarily high life total, Eidolon of Blossoms to draw out your deck, or Purphoros, God of the Forge/Grim Guardian to kill the whole table. I don’t want to keep milking it, but there is a surprising amount of potential with this innocuous uncommon.


Dawn Evangel

I’m going to level with you all: I don’t know what to make of Dawn Evangel. I’ve done research and I’ve talked to people, yet I still can’t make heads or tails of this card.

Anyone who knows me on Twitter or read my other set review knows that I love Sevinne’s Reclamation, as well as the idea of reanimation being part of the way white accrues card advantage. Evangel falls into that category, but it’s also super narrow and a bit clunky. What is nice about Evangel is that it doesn’t just trigger off of your own creatures dying. This works well with enchantments like Dead Weight and Boon of Emrakul, allowing you to use them as removal and ways to buy back integral cards like Sram, Senior Edificer and Kor Spiritsancer. That being said, I’m not sure how useful it is outside of these niche situations.

I wanted to make sure to highlight this card, as I am a huge proponent of this kind of effect; I’m just not sure what to think. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or cool tech ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!


Heliod’s Punishment

Heliod’s Punishment is another Pacifism effect, but with a huge distinction: it takes away the affected creature’s abilities. This is great for Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker and Enchantress decks who want to use enchantment-based removal to stop or slow down huge threats. It’ll never be as good on average as Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile, but it is worth noting that white has another version of Darksteel Mutation and Reprobation, in case you were in the market for a third one.


Reverent Hoplite

Reverent Hoplite is Evangel of Heliod-lite, a card that only shows up in 917 decks. If I wanted to have this kind of effect, I would definitely run Evangel over the Hoplite, since it has a larger body and will give me two Soldiers when it enters. Conversely, with Hoplite, five mana only gets me a 1/1 and a 1/2 if I have no other sources of Devotion. Yes, that is obviously a worst-case scenario, but most decks that want to include Hoplite will be go-wide strategies that are often susceptible to board wipes, meaning we need to prepare for those kinds of situations.

Regardless, the fact that it creates Human Soldiers can be an enticing reason to run it over Evangel in certain decks, since Evangel is a Cleric that makes race-less Soldiers. For the vast majority of decks, this is a pass, but in niche cases like Human or Soldier tribal, this is an acceptable inclusion.


The Birth of Meletis

I originally wasn’t going to talk about this card, but after a brief discussion with Loreley Weisel on Twitter, I thought it was worth a mention.

The Birth of Meletis in Defender decks like Arcades, the Strategist and Pramikon, Sky Rampart, is basically another version of Wall of Omens. The only difference is instead of drawing a random card you’ll always draw a land. It’s not backbreaking by any means, but there are homes for this card. It may be narrow, but this card can see some use if you have need for a 0/4 defender.


Commons


Sentinel’s Eyes

Look Sentinel, look with your special eyes!

I absolutely adore cards that can’t be played multiple times, and Sentinel’s Eyes is the kind of innocuous little card that I often fall in love with.

This card won’t be blowing anything out of the water, but it is a cog in the machine of your deck that can help it run smoother. A card like Sentinel’s Eyes can give you repeatable triggers on Constellation creatures like Archon of Sun’s Grace, more triggers on Mesa Enchantress, or provide constant boosts to commanders like Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, or Uril, the Miststalker, both of which enjoy repeatable buffs.

I think there’s always more value to be had with a high-floor, low-ceiling card like Sentinel’s Eyes than there is with something as risky as Celestial Mantle. Sentinel’s Eyes doesn’t break any deck wide open, but I’m going to be looking to slot it into my own Tuvasa, the Sunlit deck when I have the chance.


The Sun Sets on our Tale

It’s been increasingly noticeable (and increasingly talked about, if you ever look at Twitter) that white has been coming up short in our format over the past few years. While Theros Beyond Death by no means fixes any of the issues, I think that this set shows us a promising future for white.

While there are a few new designs that show some cool space that white can work with, what I find to be the most exciting is the doubling down on white’s strengths. Heliod, Sun Crowned, Heliod’s Intervention, Archon of Sun’s Grace, Elspeth Conquers Death… all of these cards do what white wants to do, and they do it well. I appreciate powerful white cards, and I think that designs like the ones listed will go a long way in helping the color stabilize over time once we get more new, interesting cards to flesh it out. Overall, I feel quite positive about the white selection in Theros Beyond Death, despite some cards playing it safe with their power level.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, though! What are your favorite white cards from the set? Least favorite cards? Most interesting design? Was there a card that I didn’t talk about that you think I should have? Let me know in the comments below, and we’ll get a discussion going!

As always, thank you for your time, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next week!

Angelo is a Connecticut native who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. With at least 20 EDH decks constructed at all times, it's an understatement to say that he loves Commander. Angelo trusts counterspells over creatures, and is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation rotation out of Standard.