One of the answers that I've gotten with regards to one of the best commons in Theros Sealed has been fairly consistent through the Theros Sealed season: Nessian Asp. While many players have differing opinions, and certainly opinions that change based on their experience with the Theros Sealed format as the perceptions of the populace evolve, this was the one card that most players quickly gravitated toward and respected from the start.
But why? Was it just because it was a big creature with reach? Or was it because of its ability, like many creatures in this format, to grow to monstrous levels thanks to its monstrosity effect? While the Nessian Asp stands above the rest as one of the most powerful commons in the set, given its size and relevant text, the monstrosity mechanic has proven to be one of the most pivotal mechanics of Theros Sealed.
I spoke to Limited expert and Grand Prix Indianapolis 2012 Finalist Chris Fennell about the impact of monstrosity when it comes to building a deck out of a Sealed pool. Earlier in the season, at Grand Prix Toronto, Fennell had mentioned in conversation that monstrosity is a key part of Theros, and that opinion has been held in place even today.
"It's quite format defining because this format is all about having the biggest creature," Fennell said. "In Sealed deck, generally it is all about having the best top-decks in your deck, and usually you and your opponent keep opening hands that interact somewhat with each other, so it comes down to whose draw steps are going to be better once you're both in the mid game."
"Monstrosity top-decks are enormous. If you top-deck them and play them, then on the next turn, instead of hoping for another spell off the top, you can use your monstrosity and just have a big creature that's really hard to deal with."
One example Fennell brought up specifically that he feels many players overlook, in both Sealed as well as Booster Draft, is red's four-mana monster.
"I really like Ill-Tempered Cyclops. I think that guy goes entirely too late on Magic Online in Booster Draft," Fennell said, advocating the power of the Cyclops. The red creature is a testament to the strength of monstrosity. The ability to go big an instant speed effect, meaning that when the Cyclops attacks in against a board featuring larger creatures, the opponent is put in a spot where they can't simply block it. Losing their creature to a monstrosity activation is essentially throwing the game away, and when they don't block, you are often free to cast whatever spells are in your hand after combat.
However, sometimes having a big monster is good enough in this format.
"I'm a big advocate of going monstrous really soon," Fennell said. "It just puts them in a really bad situation. You're trying to make huge creatures, your opponent is trying to make huge creatures, and nobody can really deal with huge creatures!"
Fennell warned against doing so hastily against blue decks, given their access to cards like Griptide and Voyage's End, but is a huge advocate for making his monsters enormous against the other colors, where having the biggest creature puts you in the best spot to win.
Monstrosity's impact on Sealed deck has been apparent over the months. When it comes to playing in removal-light formats like Theros Sealed, it is often the person with the largest monster that comes out on top. It's the reason why players value Nessian Asp so highly, and it's why players like Fennell give high regard to any creature that has monstrosity when building a Sealed deck.