Gray Merchant of Asphodel
January 9, 2020
Commander [EDH]: 4.25
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
oh my gawd Gaaaaaaaaary
While getting some reprints from the original Theros block wasn’t completely unexpected, I’ll hazard a guess and say this reprint was unexpected! Gray Merchant of Asphodel might have a legitimate claim as one of the strongest commons ever printed, and it was a star of both Constructed and Limited in its first outing and was one of the cards that made Mono-Black Devotion a real and present Thing. Not bad at all.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel’s drain effect scales very quickly into being a large swing. Draining all opponents for 2 is a fairly decent thing when attached to a serviceable body, but it was rarely just a swing for that. Black was definitely one of Theros/Return to Ravnica‘s stronger colors on its own, thanks to the likes of Deathrite Shaman, Underworld Connections, Desecration Demon, Thoughtseize, and Pack Rrrrrrrat, and all of them liked having the Merchant as a potential kill switch when the game goes long. Being a Zombie wasn’t hugely relevant in Theros block itself, but it’s a well-supported tribe that he benefits greatly from, and he scales brutally to multiplayer games because it has the old drain text. You gain the sum of all life lost, not just what you do to one person!
That brings us to Theros Beyond Death, where Gray Merchant of Asphodel makes a triumphant return as an uncommon. Throne of Eldraine already gave us the promising mono-black shell that a finisher would slot beautifully into, which means the creature sometimes known as Gary will likely have a welcome home in Standard again. It’s definitely too slow for Modern and other non-rotating formats, as five mana is way too steep a cost unless you can win the game on the spot (which makes him a bit inconsistent as a finisher), but Standard is likely to have a spot for the little scrappy Zombie drainer again.
Hello everyone and welcome back to Pojo’s Card of the day, we’re looking at some of the new cards coming out in Theros Beyond Death and today is another preview from the new set!
Today we’re looking at a new card in the set that was an old card! Grey Merchant of Asphodel, also known as Gary.
Gary was a thick bodied drainer that worked with Underworld Connections and Pack Rat that could deal a dealth blow or bolster your life total to make more work of those Underworld Connections! Now while Underworld Connections hasn’t been reprinted, or announced in Theros Beyond Death, (Fingers Crossed!) Gary already has a best friend from the War of the Spark Set.
Imagine this, Drop Bolas Citadel, top of the library is Gray Merchant, play it off the top, pay five life, drain 5. This gets so much better with the more devotion you have and with how quickly Bolas’ Citadel can storm off and how much life you can gain off of Gray Merchant this guy will easily be in one of the top decks this coming Standard Season.
In Multiplayer this guy is fairly strong for the Mono Black Decks and in Commander you’ll have access to all sorts of goodies like Phyrexian Arena and Underworld Connections among other powerful black enchantments.
In Cube this guy is simply too much work to invest in as an archetype, and the payoff for five mana to get a drainlife for 5 or 6 isn’t enough where as Five Mana should bring you much closer to finishing off the game
In draft though, this guy is a powerhouse since a board stall only benefits you the later it goes and this guy can suddenly blow out the game.
Constructed 5/5 – He’s going to be a monster with Bolas’ Citadel. Count on it.
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Today we’ve got a rather unexpected reprint – Gray Merchant of Asphodel was a key part of the first mono-black devotion deck from Return to Ravnica / Theros Standard, which was an absolute powerhouse. While a lot of the parts from that deck are not returning, I expect the Merchant to be a powerful card in Standard once again. He’ll play great with Throne of Eldraine‘s mono-colored themes, and the devotion mechanic is a major feature of Theros once again. I also really like how surprisingly versatile the Merchant is: while he’s obviously good as a game-ending play in an aggressive midrange start, he can be a very effective comeback tool when you’re on the back foot. Four toughness is hard for some decks to get past, and a big life swing buys you time to get your other cards online.
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