It's that time again! Another Full Set Review by yours truly.
I'm going to be upfront and honest and say this had to be one of the hardest, and most fun Set Reviews thus far. I really enjoy this set, and as I looked each card and gathered information - I realized that most of the cards in the set are not bad by any stretch. That of course doesn't always translate to financial relevance, and you can fully expect a number of the cards to decrease in value.
The one caveat here is the set being wedged between Eternal Masters, and Conspiracy: Take the Crown. We'll have to monitor that going forward, because it could be a factor on how much product is opened, and the impact on the set's EV. Some may have made the decision to forgo purchasing product for this set in favor of the other summer releases.
I decided to merge both lists into one article this time around - for everyone's convenience. I also want to apologize for being a tad bit late on this. The upside of this is that I get to see the set in action early on. I think the preliminary results confirmed a lot of what I thought about the set and overall which cards were likely to perform. But, before we get into the goods of the article let's briefly recap Shadows Over Innistrad:
- Very much missed the real potency of Nahiri, the Harbinger. Put way too much stock into Arlinn Kord // Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon and it turned out to be quite the opposite.
- Despite the set not having to contend with Expeditions, a fair bit of cards dropped considerably since release. It was only recently that cards such as Relentless Dead and similarly Nahiri increased in price.
I think my inclination of high initial prices with drastic drop-off is starting to pan out. This will likely continue as 2-set blocks continue to release.
- Not many cards panned out financially, Hasbro has indicated that SOI performed extremely well on their report. Which is likely a very large contributing factor.
- SOI will continue to be a backbone of Standard, and is a widely well received set. As Standard progresses, we may see new interactions that could spark a price increase. Other than that, refer back to my note about price drop-off after release. In addition read my Standard diversity article.
The Tier System
Breaking the cards down into a tiered list makes it easier to determine what will hold the majority of the set’s value. I will most likely use this methodology going forward in evaluating future sets. I also wanted to do it this way because I don’t like attaching a future value to any of these cards. I feel like that method is a tad inefficient, and doesn’t take into account future card printings that could potentially make these cards better. It’s really all based around what’s in the card pool. So instead, I like to display a snapshot baseline power for these.
So, in that regard I wouldn’t want to attach a low value to a card that’s inherently powerful, or attach a high price tag to a card that looks good on the surface, but just isn’t good in the pool around it. (Underworld Cerberus anyone?). That will happen when we look at a card without any context. The truth is that while a card may look terrible right now, we don’t know the future and how this card could interact with cards that are printed after them. Any one of these could suddenly become much better- or much worse.
As an avid player of fighting games, the tiered method makes the most sense to me, since it also allows for cards to move around, which undoubtedly will happen as time goes on. This happens all the time in many of the fighting games in their life cycles as well.
This is my explanation for each tier in the list:
- Top Tier is reserved for the cards that will most likely hold the majority of the value in the set. More commonly known as the “chase cards.”
- Mid Tier is reserved for the cards that aren’t necessarily bad but may be overshadowed at this current point. These could easily jump to top tier in the future, or vise versa.
- Low Tier is reserved for the cards that will most likely be near bulk. Like Mid Tier these cards could easily jump up to higher tiers but the road traveled will be harder. Again, I don’t think these cards are necessarily bad but my analysis is that they will be the cheapest cards in the set.
These tiers are built primarily for Standard, however if a card has clear implications in Modern or beyond, it will also appear in a higher tier. Commander and casual appeal are not factored heavily into these ratings.
Top Tier Mythics
Top Tier Rares
Mid Tier Mythics
Mid Tier Rares
Bruna, the Fading Light
Coax from the Blind Eternities
Heron's Grace Champion
Imprisoned in the Moon
Niblis of Frost
Oath of Liliana
Bottom Tier Mythics
Bottom Tier Rares
Docent of Perfection // Final Iteration
Gier Reach Sanitarium
Sanctifier of Souls
Spirit of the Hunt
Top Tier Mythics and Rares:
Gisela, the Broken Blade - highly efficient, part of a fairly easy meld, and in the most supported (and quite frankly the best) color in Standard right now. I simply can't ignore the sheer potency of Gisela. It can slot into almost any deck playing white, just because it's that efficient. The additional ability of melding with it's counterpart is just gravy, and forming Brisela should be relatively easy. Bruna may be 7CMC, but Gisela can easily hold her own until a point in the game where it's possible to meld.
Liliana, the Last Hope - So, it's not LotV 2.0, but that's quite alright. I think we will see that this Liliana is another great and subtly powerful card. Liliana can slot into almost any deck playing black, but also has the added benefit of being especially good in Delirium strategies. Following cards like Grim Flayer and/or Sylvan Advocate on turn three can really carve a path to victory. Alternatively, it can slow opposing copies of these cards, and can deal with stray spirits and/or humans.
I think the initial mis-evaluation of this card likely came from too high of expectations in the player-base. Everyone wanted a card that could rival Liliana of the Veil - and that's just plain greedy. This version could have applications outside of Standard, and we for sure know it's good in Standard. Isn't that enough? Sure, we all weren't knocked off our feet, but I think we truly forget the successful track record of 3 CMC Walkers. It's almost as if we need to have this conversation every single time. This is likely to be a firm staple from this set, and will continue to fetch premium prices. It was a fairly easy decision for me to list Liliana in this tier.
I decided to group these together because they're both extremely powerful, and will likely both emerge into the scene of Standard (and perhaps other formats). Elder Deep-Fiend is just plain unreal, and when I look at it I'm reminded of the days of Faeries taking over Standard and deploying Mistbind Clique to essentially end games on turn four.
I'm very confident both of these will find a roll, and both of them deserve to be chase rares that players will need as long as they are in Standard. Deep Fiend already can play well with other blue staples such as Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound, Reflector Mage and the like. It's wild to think players will be able to Emerge a Deep-Fiend as early as turn four just by sacrificing a Reflector Mage.
We asked for other spirits that Rattlechains can play along with, and wow did we get them. These have sparked a lot of interest already, and as a side effect Rattlechains has gone from a paltry .50c to almost $4. Other writers here at QS, especially Ryan Overturf (as well as the general Magic community), have already largely agreed that Spell Queller will be doing some good things. If you haven't already - I would check out his articles on the site for further evaluation of the card. Whether these translate to other formats remains to be seen, but a viable blue tribe by default sends players running with their wallets open.
I don't see a time when having any extra copies of these cards would be bad. They're all just simply fantastic, and while the Wanderer may not translate to decks that aren't strictly Spirits the others certainly can. The price tag on Spell Queller will likely always be justified, and I don't see many other cards contending with it to soak up a good amount of the value in Eldritch Moon.
Almost any deck running blue and white can justify adding Spell Queller, and would almost always be better for doing so. It's the sort of card that defines formats, and it will likely do just that.
We shore up the rest of the high end of this set with this group.
Cryptbreaker - I love how they continued the trend of extremely viable one drop Zombies the second time around. It may not be Gravecrawler, but it's still is plenty powerful, and is more than capable of carrying it's weight in a zombie list. In fact, it would be because of this card that Zombies would be viable at all. I always love aggressive creatures that are relevant at every stage of the game, and Cryptbreaker delivers on that front in spades.
It also just works well with every other Zombie card, and would likely be the center of the list. While it may not put on immediate and recurring pressure like Gravecrawler, it does so in its own way. With the added benefit of restocking your hand. That's an overwhelming amount of value packed into a 1-drop.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar - All around powerful multi-format card. The praise for Thalia 2.0 knows no bounds, and it's all 100% justified. This is making waves in all the Magic circles, and the community at large. Each group of players has been discussing this card in all formats. It doesn't legend rule the previous version, rather it works well with it, and it's asymmetrical design truly puts this firmly in the "Death and Taxes" theme.
Outside of that, it's just a great tool for Collected Company players to incorporate to try and bury opponents with tempo advantage. If an opponent falls behind during the match, this essentially ensures they never crawl back into the game.
Hanweir Garrison - The second coming of Goblin Rabblemaster! Well, sort of. In any event, this would be a large reason Red becomes anywhere close to viable again. Until the time where Red can actually compete this will likely see a supporting role somewhere in a W/R Humans list.
It plays extremely well alongside Thalia's Lieutenant, and is basically a self-contained army that needs to be dealt with almost immediately. It's meld is honestly gravy, and I've said this a few times now. I like the fact that this is part of a meld that isn't mandatory, which will likely work in it's favor. I do think this card could decrease from here, but it honestly couldn't decrease much more. In order to have a good financial outlook, this would have to get leaps and bounds more relevant in the metagame. My guess is October, but until then I don't think it's a bad idea at all to own this card. Something tells me this will be a rare everyone is relieved they owned in the near future.
Eldritch Evolution- I think this is a great card, I think it's also a powerful card - but it doesn't look very good with Spell Queller running rampant. I honestly think this is better in other formats, but perhaps it is just good enough to jam in Standard despite Spell Queller. If it's not banned in Modern, I think it's a great longer term hold, and there will likely be a good opportunity to grab them and not have to worry about paying more for them at a later date.
Middle Tier Rares and Mythics
Instead of focusing on all of these, I want to talk about a few that could potentially move up from here. We should keep tabs on these specific cards, and may not stick around in this Tier for very long with more results coming in.
So, these are likely the big candidates of cards that can easily shift from relevant to obscure. It really all depends on the viability, and consistency of Delirium. I'm with Ryan Overturf here on both parts, and I think the caveat is very much needed when evaluating these cards.
They're both extremely powerful, especially Ishkanah. I don't think there's ever a bad time to cast this when it has Delirium, and always looks insanely powerful when it's on. The same can be said with Grim Flayer, and how it squares off against cards like Sylvan Advocate. The fact that is that it could almost be straight up replaced by Advocate, and that's troubling. At the same time, it can be played alongside it, and could be looking sharp when it has Liliana back up and powering down opposing Sylvan Advocates.
If you're looking for a good list I very much liked Ryan's direction, and it seems others agree on certain cards like Grapple with the Past and of course Liliana, the Last Hope. It's something I recommend sleeving it up, and it's a deck that can likely make a name for itself in EMN Standard.
Ishkanah has already increased drastically from it's original $2.99 pre-order price, a price that looks almost hysterical now that we look back. Luckily myself and other writers here felt strongly enough to alert folks ahead of time in order to save themselves the hassle of paying new prices.
These are also each inherently powerful cards that I wouldn't write off from swinging directly into the forefront of EMN Standard. I understand Gisa and Geralf may not be obvious on the surface - but I think it's powerful and well costed for it's CMC. It's one of those cards that provides an engine for an archetype- in this case Zombies. It's the perfect top-end for an aggressive strategy, and keeps a never ending stream of zombies if left unchecked. I guess that's by design, right?
Decimator of the Provinces is something I have to give the nod to - I was around for Craterhoof Behemoth in Standard. Many players and the community at large never would have thought that could be a viable strategy until "Hoof there it Is" took over Standard. Decimator has that X factor, and is arguably much easier to pull off alongside cards like Cryptolith Rite, and Foul Emissary. It seems like there's something there, and it's looking to break out in a Rites go-wide strategy. It's been declining rapidly since pre-orders, and I feel like it would be great to hold on to a set just in case. I doubt any deck would play 4, but that gives players a chance to extract some extra value out of the copies they're not using.
I really think Bruna is fantastic, and much more fantastic than the sub-dollar going rate. I understand it will likely only be a 1-2 of copy max in a deck, but I think that might be irrelevant here. Bruna supersedes the typical endgame finisher, and is a really potent part of the Brisela meld. It plays well with so many other cards in Standard, and can easily be thrown together with the likes of Gisela, and Thalia's Lancers in a top-end toolbox style Midrange list. We've seen early success already, and I think that success will continue. I know I don't factor casual formats into my reviews too much (because I don't know a sufficient amount about them) but I know that this particular card has all that going for it as well.
Bedlam Reveler can be another one of those swingy cards - it's either going to spark an archtype around it, or it could fade into obscurity. I wonder if this card is good enough for older formats. It would be interesting to see if it can do something alongside cards such as Brainstorm, Spell Pierce, Force of Will, and the like.
I'd love to see a UR list focused around spells. It can easily play along with Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror as well. I don't know if regular copies will end up being worthwhile, but foils could be a sneaky pickup to stash away.
I also wanted to touch briefly on my favorite "sleeper" of the set. I don't think it's a sleeper in terms of financial relevance, but I love Voldaren Pariah // Abolisher of Bloodlines. I can't explain it other than it does really powerful things in the right circumstances, and I want it to have a place in Standard. I know that's a tall order - but I'm going to remain optimistic.
It just seems great in a GB Artistocrats list that we've been accustumed to seeing since the SOI Pro Tour, and if there's some viable way to cheat it into play with Madness that could be extremely potent as a "flash" effect. In the meantime, 5 CMC is nothing when we have Cryptolith Rite to help. Again, I know it's grasping, but I just really think the card is neat, and I don't think it's "bulk rare" bad. I love these at .50c or under, and I have no problem stashing a couple sets away for a rainy day. I think as long as we have a GB Rites style list, I wouldn't count out the Pariah to be played in some fashion.
Well, there we have it folks. This set is really awesome, and I think it was a phenomenal way to wrap up the return back to Innistrad. The Review was extremely tough, and like I mentioned earlier - every card has a purpose and I don't feel like any card really is bad (okay except maybe most the intro pack rares). Each card in this set can swing wildly from obscure to viable.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to comment below or message me via social media. Hopefully this list is helpful going forward to decide what’s worth trading for or buying