This weekend, Magic’s latest set, Theros Beyond Death, will be hitting the shelves, and the meta of multiple formats will never be the same again. After playing with some of the new cards during the Theros Preview Stream Event, I can say that the power level of the set is pretty high, and I’m looking forward to brewing new and exciting decks for all of you fine people. But before all that, I want to take one last dive into the mythological inspiration for some of my favourite flavourful cards.
In the last two instalments, we had a look at monsters, titans, and the doom of all mankind. Today I want to look at a couple of cards that bring some of the heroes/characters of ancient Greece to life – some of the Legendary Creatures that may start to crop up at your local Commander tables. So whether they are leading the charge or part of the ninety-nine, you will know the stories that inspired them.
Beauty is only Skin Deep.
It’s interesting how modern words we use in our every day lives come into being. Characters of legends and lore have often end up being used as shorthand to describe a particular character flaw, such as is the case in today’s first myth. You may have, at one point or another, called someone a narcissist (a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves). You may also know that the word is Greek in origin, but many don’t know the tale of the man who inspired the term.
Narcissus was a beautiful and skilled hunter, who himself loved everything beautiful. However, Narcissus was firmly in the camp of “I’m sexy and I know it”, and as a result was more interested in himself than any of his many suitors. In fact, many myths paint him as having disdain for those who loved him, causing some to take their own life to prove their devotion to his striking beauty.
Now, depending on who is telling the story, who was in love with Narcissus varies greatly. One tale tells of the nymph Echo (another modern word with Greek origins) who was cursed to only repeat what she had heard. She saw and fell deeply in love with the beautiful hunter. But when she revealed herself to Narcissus and attempted to embrace him, he rejected her and told her to leave him alone. She was so heartbroken that she spent the rest of her life alone until she faded away from the word leaving nothing but her voice.
Another tale tells of a young man named Ameinias, who also fell in love with Narcissus. However, Narcissus also rejected him, taking it a step further and handing him a sword. Ameinias then committed suicide at Narcissus’s doorstep by running himself through with the blade. As he died, he had prayed to the gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he had caused.
Regardless of who’s death he causes, the story goes that Nemesis (the goddess of revenge), punishes Narcissus by leading him to a pool of water when he became thirsty on a hunt. When he gazes into the pool, he becomes entranced by his own reflection. Unable to look away, he eventually dies and is transformed into a flower, unsurprisingly named the Narcissus.
This image and story are captured beautifully by the Legendary Creature, Alirios, Enraptured. Luckily for Alirios, if his reflection is destroyed he becomes untapped and useful again. If not, well at least you have a 3/2.
Protect your Heel
Another tale that has entered modern language (more as a saying than a singular word, mind you), is the concept of an Achilles Heel. Used nowadays as a shorthand for someone’s weakness, the tale of the warrior Achilles is probably the most well-known myth I have covered in this series of articles. But if you’re one of the few who doesn’t know of the story of one of the greatest warriors in the Trojan war, allow me to enlighten you.
Son of the minor deity Thetis and Peleus, king of Phthia, Achilles was a young but exceptionally gifted warrior. He was also the source of one of his mother prophecies, as it was said that her son’s fate was either to gain glory and die young, or to live a long but uneventful life in obscurity. This prophecy was to ring true when Achilles decided to take part in the Trojan war.
However, during the start of the war, Agamemnon (leader of the Greek forces) had taken a woman named Chryseis as his slave. Her father Chryses, a priest of Apollo, begs Agamemnon to return her to him. Agamemnon refuses, and Apollo sends a plague amongst the Greeks. Agamemnon later yields, promising to give back Chryseis to her father, but then commands that Achilles’ battle prize Briseis, the daughter of Briseus, be brought to the priest as a replacement. From that point onwards, Achilles refuses to fight or lead his troops alongside the other Greek forces. At the same time, Achilles prays to his mother to convince Zeus to help the Trojans gain ground in the war.
And so, Achilles may never have fought again, if it wasn’t for the death of his beloved friend Patroclus. In an attempt to stop the Trojans from destroying the Greek ships, Achilles’ battlefield companion leads the Greeks in a counter charge, disguised as Achilles himself. This would be the death of the young soldier, however, as he was killed by the leader of the Trojan army Hector. Enraged, Achilles went on a murderous rampage, killing Hector in the process. Achilles would eventually meet his end when he was shot in his heel by the Trojan prince Paris.
This myth is brought to life wonderfully by the card Haktos the Unscarred. A powerful and almost unstoppable Human Warrior, Haktos represents the near-invincible Achilles quite well. With protection from almost everything except a randomly determined CMC, this hero will be the bane of most Commander games. That is, of course, until he takes an arrow to the heel.
That will about do it for this miniseries. We hope you have enjoyed this dive into the mythological tales that have inspired the cards of Theros Beyond Death. There were so many to choose from that I didn’t even get a chance to talk about them all. Hopefully, these articles have been as entertaining for you to read as they have been for me to write.
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If you have any ideas for new and exciting decks you want me to look at you can contact me directly @MTGTengu over on Twitter. But until next time, remember: no matter the game you play or where you play it, good luck and have fun.