Erebos, God of the Dead
September 24, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Before I heard that we were going to be visiting Theros’ underworld soon, I hadn’t looked at this card in a while. I was immediately struck by how ominous and intimidating his art feels. He looks exactly how you would expect from his name and title, looming and inevitable and incomprehensible. He’ll undoubtedly play a major role in the upcoming set, but I’m also curious about who is going to be the point of comparison for Elspeth. Orpheus? Persephone? Rhadamanthos?
Aside from questions like that, Erebos has a lot of subtly powerful elements to him which may or may not present themselves on your first reading. Remember that the strongest black deck in Theros Standard was based around Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and included a lot of similar abilities relating to life drain. Erebos powers up your own effects of this type and weakens your opponent’s, meaning you can strengthen certain matchups without shifting the focus of your deck (and before you even get to the sideboard). The Greed effect attached to him increases the synergy in those kinds of decks, and is of value even in black decks with other themes. Even when you only use it a couple of times, that’s a couple of extra options or a couple of cards closer to your key spells; it may not be able to keep up with some decks’ endless card drawing, but it always helps.
His creature manifestation looks a little less powerful in a world that now has more Oblivion Ring effects and isn’t quite as spectacular as some of the multicolored gods’, but still shouldn’t be underestimated. Mono-green and mono-red, among others, really struggle to deal with him.
A return to Theros looms on the horizon, and what better to mark it with than a look back at one of the original gods: Erebos, God of the Dead. Part of a five-card cycle in its set and a fifteen-card megacycle over the Theros block, Erebos has a good amount to offer in terms of what it does passively and actively.
So, Erebos is normally an indestructible enchantment that passively blocks lifegain by your opponents and can act as a slightly-overcosted Greed effect, all for four mana. That’s a pretty decent deal, if not a bit underwhelming; that said, there’s a lot of passive lifegain going around, and being able to draw cards in an emergency or when you have nothing better to do is a good use of resources. Erebos isn’t amazing on its own, but it does subtly powerful things for a fair mana cost.
Of course, the other thing is that Erebos becomes a creature if you believe hard enough, taking to the field as a 5/7 with indestructible if you have enough devotion. He’s not the biggest or baddest creature, but he can end games in short order if you keep smashing in, and indestructible reduces the answers to him. His creature “toggle” is both good and bad: good in that you can reduce his susceptibility to spells like Path to Exile, bad in that you can check him by killing the creatures that believe in him. It’s still an elegant way to provide checks to the otherwise unkillable gods, though.
Erebos is like all five of the Theros gods in presenting a clear and present threat when they resolve; regardless of being a creature or not, they do demand answers. Erebos has a hard time winning games on his own, but a bit of support can get him there all the same.
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