Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
– Theros Beyond Death
January 3, 2020
Commander [EDH]: 3.67
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I don’t know how much you all have been following the Theros Beyond Death story posts, but one of the plot points involves the way that Ashiok’s manipulation of nightmares is affecting the Underworld. Much like Elspeth’s new status as the Sun’s Nemesis, this raises some incredibly scary metaphysical questions. What might the dead have nightmares about? What might gods have nightmares about? And given that gods have power over reality, what else happens when they have nightmares?
And speaking of scary, Ashiok’s first ability that creates a Nightmare token is an unusual and powerful way to protect themselves. A lot of its value will come from mind games: everybody is going to be reluctant to risk having you steal one of their best spells for free, especially when Ashiok’s ultimate can become available very fast by the standards of recent planeswalkers. While the “story” of their abilities seems to be about building towards devastating your opponent with their deck’s best spells, I really like that Ashiok has at least two ways to win, as a flood of Nightmare tokens has a great chance to kill the opponent through either damage or milling. And again, note that they create said tokens while increasing loyalty – that makes them very deserving of attention and worth building a deck around.
After a brief stint on Ravnica to do Things and Stuff during War of the Spark, Ashiok went back home to Theros to do the things they like doing best: terrorizing the populace. They’re leaning again into the blue-black “mill” strategy, albeit with the twists that the nightmare-weaving menace brings to the board.
Ashiok’s thing has usually been bringing a dash of exile to the mill, and their abilities lean into that rather hard. Their +1 makes a 2/3 Nightmare that threatens to shred libraries to pieces, and their -3 is good for getting rid of a threatening permanent (even if temporarily). If nothing else, Ashiok, Nightmare Muse meets the bar of being able to protect itself, and it can do so even with both of its default abilities! (That 5 loyalty doesn’t hurt, either.) Their ultimate is actually really interesting in conjunction with graveyard hate and their abilities: three free spells is very promising, and they don’t need to be spells that Ashiok has exiled off of their other abilities (or via Nightmare). Pair it with proliferate or even just normal control shenanigans, and you have a potent win condition for a more controlling deck.
The one major issue I see with Ashiok is the “dead zone” mana cost, though I’d say Ashiok definitely is on the more powerful end of the five-mana planeswalker power scale. They’re a way to grind out a game if you can protect them (and also a good check to troubling permanents, particularly if they’re in a topdeck situation), and I’m a bit more optimistic about Ashiok’s prospects than I was about Elspeth’s.
Hello and welcome back to Pojo’s Card of the Day! We’re taking a look at some of the new spoiled cards that are coming out in Theros and Ashiok seems to be the starring villain of this set!
Ashiok’s previous incarnation was a terror to behold against control decks during it’s time in standard so let’s see what two extra mana gets us. Now there’s a big difference between three and five mana planeswalkers, like T3feri and Papa Teferi. One alters the state of the game with subtle benefits, and the larger one tends to be used as a finisher.
The case is true for the Ashioks as well. Three mana Ashiok slowly built up while this one hits the ground running. Dropping in at 5 loyalty, 6 if you bump it to create a 2/3 horror token, so let’s talk about this token.
A 2/3 token that when it attacks, or blocks, each opponent exiles the top two cards of their library. Oooh, Each Opponent? A subtle nod to the Multiplayer and Commander format while not targeting the player. I like it!
The -3 is pretty good as well, Recoil a non-land permanent to it’s owners hand and then they exile a card from it instead of discarding? Pretty good against an empty hand, meaning that most players are going to want to start holding back a land if this guy gets popular.
The ultimate, -7, You may cast up to 3 face up cards your opponents own from Exile without paying their mana costs. This is pretty awesome since you’re going to be doing a lot of exiling with those nightmare tokens!
In Standard it might be a bit of a hard sell as a 5 drop, but I could see it in one or two decks, especially with cards like Lochmere Serpent which can exile stuff from their ‘yard as part of bringing it back to your hand.
I think this guy is going to be great for multiplayer and Commander especially, it’s going to paint a target on your head of course, but it’s a ‘fair’ political card as it doesn’t target people with the nightmare’s ability. The ultimate is also great with all the stuff that gets exiled with StP, PtE, and various effects in that borderline vintage format.
In Cube I’m exceptionally excited to test Ashiok given how strong it’s smaller counterpart can be, big boi Ashiok may not be as great as the 3mana one, but I still think it could be a fine finisher for the UB/x Control decks.
Constructed 3/5 – There’s a lot of competition for this spot, he probably won’t see play in Pioneer but he might have a day in Standard.
Multiplayer 4/5 – The game has to end somehow and I can see this guy closing it out.
Commander 4/5 – Much stronger here than in Constructed where 5 mana is easily achievable on turn 3 for lots of decks.
Cube 3.5/5 – Big spells should usually be game winning, but control decks play long and they always need a good finisher. ..Oh and his ultimate works with smol Ashiok too!
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