Article I wrote about Giant Growth, Heroic and Cube


The formatting is pretty non-existent, but try to enjoy it anyway!

Live Big, Live Heroic

If you are like me, you like casting giant growth. Unfortunately in most cubes, there are a lot of reasons not to cast giant growth. Value creatures say, “Why not just play more dudes with etb abilities?” Efficient removal says, “Who needs to be tricky when you can just kill there guy?” Instant speed removal says, “Get 2-for-1’d n00blord.” Slotting in giant growth can be a depressing proposition.

Well, good news. Theros has introduced a mechanic that rewards you for casting giant growth (and many other spells) on your creatures: Heroic. Heroic creatures love to be targeted by friendly effects and play dividend when you do. But, is this good enough? Should you include the heroic creatures in your cube? What cards that trigger heroic are worth playing? What design considerations need to be examined to ensure casting giant growth can be a rewarding experience? This guide might be able to give some ideas.

The Heroic Creatures
Like any type of card, not every creature with the word heroic on it is created equal. First, let’s examine what we’re working with.


Fabled Hero: Let’s start with a bang. Fabled Hero is an amazing creature and has amazing synergy with everything you want to do. His heroic ability is not unlike that of most white creatures: he gets a +1/+1 counter, but doublestrike makes this extra enticing. Beyond this, many of the cards you will use to trigger heroic will be more valuable on your Fabled Hero. This card has little subtlety in his role: he kills your opponent very quickly. Connected with a giant growth on him will take a cool 12 life from your opponent. Putting an armadillo cloak on him and swinging even once can make racing absolutely impossible. I don't know why I’m even typing this, it’s all pretty obvious. This guy is decent without heroic, with heroic and in a cube designed around giant growth, he’s a centerpiece.

Favored Hoplite: This is a solid 1 drop, if you trigger him. He builds value, dodges burn and puts down pressure. Unfortunately, a lot of the cards that trigger heroic are reactive in nature. Until you make him heroic, Favored Hoplite isn’t doing much of anything. If the heroic trigger you drew is Rancor or Unstable Mutation, you really don’t care, just cast it and start swinging. If the heroic trigger you drew is Shelter or Vines of Vastwood, your opponent probably isn’t going to block or target the Favored Hoplite to allow you to cast these favorably. This certainly isn’t the best one drop ever printed, but decent one drops are scarce enough and it is useful and in theme, so it’s a win.

Phalanx Leader: This guy is a heroic anthem. The bad news is that he starts well below the curve and that even triggering his heroic doesn’t get him onto the curve. You absolutely need to trigger him with people on the board. Unfortunately, he dies to every removal spell ever printed outside of Sunlance, Reprisal and Seize the Soul which aren’t even in the removal suites of most cubes. You would need to run an obscenely low curve with lots of token makers and little removal to make this guy pay dividends with frequency.

Setessan Battle Priest: I love Seacoast Drake with a passion few will ever understand. That said, this card doublestuffs agro without remorse. The decks that want this card probably don’t want heroic enables. This is pretty much a lose-lose. I wouldn’t go near this.

Wingsteed Rider: It’s a got evasion and gets on curve with one activation. Not interesting, but can certainly play a budget filler role if you want to go deep on heroic.


Artisan of Forms: An adjustable clone for two mana is pretty great. Getting value out of this card will take a little work, but the playmaking potential here is high. The problem is the card is basically useless until you trigger the heroic, but being able to invest your turn 2 to preemptively trump an opponent’s fatty is mean. It can’t copy etb abilities, though. This is a reasonable addition.

Triton Fortune Hunter: If you can stomach playing a grey ogre, you can ensure that you don’t get doubled up on your enchantments and pumps. With enough tempo disruption, this could be a winning proposition, but have to cast your spells on a grey ogre. This is an option if you want to go deep.

Wavecrash Triton: Another mediocre choice. There are plenty of cards that do a similar effect and more aggressive bodies that don’t require a heroic trigger. I wouldn’t go near this, even if it is hilarious with Hidden Strings.


Agent of the Fates: This is an absolute beating of a card. The base body is certainly not amazing, but it gets work done. The heroic trigger, however, is stellar. Diabolic Edict is already a good card, now you can have other cards do double duty as diabolic edicts while putting pressure on the opponent’s life total. This is a hands down amazing card that is worth playing if you pay any attention to heroic triggers.

Tormented Hero: This is a generic beatdown down tool. His heroic granted you a little reach and a little life that black decks love converting into advantages. People stuffing agro creatures will run this without heroic, even if he is below the curve. You should definitely run it because your heroic minded cube might get more value out of this, though he is a nonbo with Grave Servitude and Funeral Charm which are two of black’s most reliable heroic triggers.


Akroan Crusader: We love one drops. Like Favored Hoplite, this card is well below the curve if you don’t trigger heroic. One trigger makes him equal to a dragon fodder, but there will be many times you don’t want to use a card on his awful base stats just to get another card with awful base stats. There is certainly some silliness that can arise of this guy, but most of it is far-fetched. This card is good by virtue of its spot on the mana curve, but certainly expendable.

Arena Athlete: There are cards that do similar things without heroic. This is really bad.

Labyrinth Champion: Absolutely terrible base stats. Don’t go near.


Anthousa, Setessan Hero: This is a tough one. She clearly has huge impact if you trigger her, but in terms of raw power, she doesn’t hold up in a post-Kalonian Hydra world unless you have an anthem on the table. I personally think Kalonian Hydra is one of the worst cards ever printed and that Anthousa is a much better example of what I want out of a raw power 5 drop (see also Archangel of Thune vs. Baneslayer Angel). Anthousa is a game ending powerhouse that can easily find a home if you don’t like the Hydra or need two cards with that sort of function for some reason.

Centaur Battlemaster: Unfortunately this has terrible base stats and an uninteresting heroic ability. You’d have to go extremely deep to play this.

Staunch Hearted Warrior: You can repeat the above comments here.


Anax and Cymede: Unlike many of the other cards we’ve seen, Anax and Cymede start with good combat stats. There heroic pumps up your whole team and adds an ability that is potentially relevant even without a single other creature on the board. While is lacks Fabled Hero’s potential to solowin you the game, Anex and Cymede give a tool for applying lots of pressure and reach over chump blockers. This pair is exactly what you want in a heroic creature.

Battlewise Hoplite: Let’s face the sad truth: a 2/2 for 2 colored mana is below the curve. After one activation, Battlewise Hoplite is on curve and has scryed one card, which may or may not have helped you and can do it again later. This card is absolutely nothing special and is only good for going deep on the theme.

Heroic Enablers

Now that we have a few heroes, we need cards to trigger them. There are obviously a lot of cards in Magic’s history that can do this, so this is not comprehensive.

White Notable Cards

Emerge Unscathed: This triggers heroic twice, which is a significant advantage. At one mana, this card counters removal, gets creatures unblocked and messes up combats. Like its unappreciated sibling Shelter (and to some extent Cho Manno’s Blessing), most people don’t cube this, but it consistently makes an impact.

Angelic Destiny: It’s not rancor, but rancor is just nuts. Making the creature more survivable helps make up for the casting cost difference. This card is very underrated.

Shelter, Harm’s Way, Embolden, Hopeful Eidolon,Gift of Immortality, Guided Strike, Griffin Guide, Hyena Umbra, Empyreal Armor

Blue Notable Cards

Hidden Strings: Due to the way Cipher works, this card can trigger heroic every single time cipher is triggered. The tap ability also helps get your creature in the first time.

Curiosity, Spectral Flight, Unstable Mutation, Piracy Charm, Distortion Strike, Fate Foretold, False Demise

Black Notable cards (This section is lacking)

Funeral Charm, Grim Servitude, Undying Evil, Profane Command, Nighthowler, Boon of Erebus

Red Notable Cards (This section is lacking)

Reckless Charge,Brute Force, Dragon Mantle, Seething Anger, Bloodlust, Madcap Skills, Mark of Fury, Ancient Teachings

Green Cards

Prey Upon, Giant Growth, Keen Sense, Vines of Vastwood, Rancor, Boar Umbra, Spider Umbra, Snake Umbra, Sylvan Might, Elvish Fury, Prey’s Vengeance, Boon Satyr, Increasing Savagery, Stonewood Invocation, Might of Oaks, Resize


Simic Charm, Boros Charm, Pit Fight, Double Cleave, Gift of Orzhova, Armadillo Cloak, Squee’s Embrace, Shielding Plax, Armed // Dangerous

Any Color

Mutagenic Growth

Other Considerations

Obviously there aren’t very many strong heroic cards. Only 7 would I qualify as good and only a few more are playable if you want to go deep. However, we must remember that our goal is not to push heroic as a cube concept. Rather, we are using heroic to help push cards like Giant Growth and the gameplay including such cards entails. Doing so requires not just trying to slot and some enablers and calling it a day, but also ensuring your environment supports this type of gameplay. Here are some areas to focus on.

Redundancy in Value Slots: If you have so many high value creatures that everyone has access to as many as they can feasibly jam into their decks, auras and combat tricks look a lot less attractive. Reducing the redundancy in these slots makes combat tricks look more attractive. Furthermore, reducing the number of high value 3-5 drops and replacing them with low cost auras and instants had the extremely desirable side effect of dropping down your mana curve. This redundancy is problematic in its own right already and fuel for the fire that is “midrange beats agro”. Basically, make sure there aren't enough mid cost. all upside value cards to go around so that people actually have to fight for them, then fill out their decks with more situational picks. Another nice upside of this approach is that agro decks will actually have a fighting chance against control decks without having to rely on cards that remove the opponent's ability to play the game.

In summary, aggressively lower your curve by taking out redundant value cards!

Your Removal: Apparently Searing Spear is a good, playable, cubeworthy piece of removal. And yet, people still run lightning bolt. Efficient instant speed removal makes a lot of these cards losing propositions, particularly when the removal lacks restrictions. While undesirable, getting in one hit with a Gift of Orhovaed Markhov Blademaster might cause an acceptable life swing that can help recover from the card loss. When it gets bolted mid-flight it is totally backbreaking in terms of tempo and card advantage, plus it requires basically zero risk on the part of the reacting player. Replacing some of this extremely good removal with more narrow, more costly or slower options will really help. Cards like Diabolic Edict (can be played around), Tragic Slip(potentially narrow) and Hero’s Demise (high cost) are all extremely good removal cards that still let auras and combat tricks play the game while keeping problematic creatures in check.

Avoiding Poisonous Design: One thing we don’t want to end up is only one deck type wanting these cards. As such, we need overlapping value. While pure control decks won’t want most of this stuff, basically everyone else can get value from it. A couple of card types benefit a little more and create synergies for competition.

Double Strikers love a lot of these cards. Look to Silverblade Paladin, Mirran Crusader, Fencing Ace, Markov Blademaster, Ajani, Caller of the Pride, Armed and Dangerous, Hound of Griselbrand, Savageborn Hydra, Viashino Slaughtmaster, Wrecking Ogre and Kruin Outlaw. Red and White have basically all the support here.

Hexproof loves these cards too. Although some hate it, hexproof without a doubt is a huge boon to auras and combat tricks. Look to Slippery Boggle, Troll Ascetic, Thrun, the Last Troll, Geist of Saint Traft, Invisible Stalker, Witchstalker, Silhana Ledgewalker, Swiftfoot Boots, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, Sigarda, Host of Herons and Lumberknot. Green and Blue have basically all the support here.

Black? Black probably has the best heroic card (at least tied with Fabled Hero), but it has very few enablers or other cards that work well with auras and combat tricks. It also has many of the better cards for blowing out these situations, putting them in role of the spoiler.


No discussion of double strikers would be complete without


"Smoke weed everyday."


Berserk is a great card to target Heroics with!
No doubt! I had no idea this was going to be front paged, if I had I would have probably tried to be more thorough. Although, if I had tried to be more thorough, I probably would have never finished it, so it would never have been on the front page! As it is, it really needs a conclusion, it just sort of ends suddenly.

Some other awesome cards I forgot to mention include elephant guide, ethereal armor and soul kiss.

Soul Kiss was so extremely good in its day, thinking about it makes me smile. Too bad it was in Ice Age which was absolutely no fun to draft.
(I'm fuly aware that that answer to this question is mostly depended on the power level of the cube you're playing in, but how much additional value do would you have to be getting out of a buyback spell to consider it as a heroic enabler?

Clockspinning seems like it may be close based on its general utility. It interacts with persist/undying, cards that wind up/down to things, suspend, and dozens of other random things. You can even target a heroic guy that gains counters to put his first counter on him, then add another counter when clockspinning resolves. (You know, for value.)

Most of the buyback spells that target look like they're too expense and low impact to consider, with Seething Anger probably being the closest to playable (think of it as the top end of an aggro-red curve, +3 dps every turn except when you can do something better). But the idea of going deep on Whim of Volrath . . . .


Clockspinning is an excellent suggestion. The Slight Curve Cube needs more blue one drops. Not that clockspinning is a blue one drop at any level other then the purely conceptual one. Are there any cube usable one or two drops that etb with +1/+1 counters?

Seething Anger and Elvish Fury were both on my enablers list and are both mediocre, but playable.

You know us Riptidelab Scrooges aren't too fond of protection, so I think Whim of Volrath is going to stay bindered for another long window.

Anyway off to find my copy of buy a copy of clockspinning because I don't feel like looking!


I assume one could. You could target squire and replace all instances of red with blue. The fact that "all instances" happens to be "no instances" isn't relevant as it is "target permanent" not "target permanent with a color word or basic land type in its text box."

Dom Harvey

So now that we have all the cards from Theros block, what more can you do with this? Hero of Iroas, Battlefield Thaumaturge, Sage of Hours, Tethmos High Priest, and Meletis Astronomer all seem really fun but each requires building around in a certain way; there are no slam-dunk Heroic cards like Fabled Hero or Agent.

Dom Harvey

^that's a nice one too

My reservation about trying to support this as a theme is that there just aren't many actual Heroic cards. You could triple up on Hero of Iroas, Ajani's Pridemate-style, but if it's going to work the enablers have to pull their weight in non-Heroic decks and my Cube isn't at that stage yet. Maybe there's some intersection with a +1/+1 counter theme?


i think the trick is including heroic guys that could go in other decks and heroic enablers that could go in other decks. there really aren't that many of either, like all the heroic dudes are questionable already--

agent of the fates
artisan of forms
fabled hero
tethmos high priest
tormented hero

and then the enablers require a little commitment too:

mogis's warhound
boon satyr
eidolon of countless battles
setessan tactics

one super-strong card that probably doesn't work here just due to the nature of devotion's design and development is Aspect of Hydra.


Well, this is very well timed. I've been looking to run some combat tricks to help the aggressive players generate tempo later in the game.

I could imagine doing this in a cube that is having an issue like that, and running a few decent heroic cards in slots where it makes sense to do so because of the incidental synergy. Anax and Cymede, Anthousa, Setessan Hero, fabled hero, agent of fates, and tormented hero all seem reasonable in the right cube. Gnarled scarhide and herald of torment can also fit into most cubes as enablers. Some of us already runboon satyr and nighthowler. Running the supporting double strikers seems like good overlap. I can even see some of the hexproof guys: I like witchstalker, and fleecemane lion is great. Then fill in with some powered combat tricks and you are set.

Have you considered any of the new strive cards? Phalanx Formation seems ideal. Perhaps ajani's presence, and maybe colossal heroics? I don't know, i've not played with these cards yet. This also seems like another environment where dictate of heliod would be a nasty trick. Carin waunderer also might be powerful here.


My Journey cards arrived and I'm fiddling with the design, which currently is trying to incorporate "enchantress" as well. Currently I'm in the "O.M.G. THERE ARE SO MANY CARDS I WANT TO PLAY" phase, so I''l probably bust out a 450 list first then see what I do from there.

Eric Chan

Hyalopterous Lemure
Staff member
Speaking of which, has anybody tried this? Seems like it could be promising, even if it's at the dreaded four mana slot.