Magic set design has progressed immensely in the past five years. Gone are the days when there were only a few impactful cards. Now we live in a world where, just like the Lego Movie told us, everything is awesome.
Each set brings a plentiful bounty of treasures ready to transform formats. Just as Oath of the Gatewatch and other recent sets have done, Eldritch Moon is continuing that trend.
In the past I've included the best aspects of each set within the Top 10 article in the Honorable Mention section. Today's article is an expansion of this concept. In my spoiler articles I've discussed some of the best cards in the set. Next week I will continue that idea in my regularly scheduled and much anticipated Top 10 article.
Today, let's delve into the building blocks we are about to be able to utilize from Eldritch Moon. We're going to break down some great cards today so let's dive right in!
First up is the meat and potatoes of the set: the bland but impactful, the cards we need but which aren’t flashy. Cards like these mentioned below are the ones we all know looking back on a format that were auto-inclusions in a wide array of decks because they are efficient and effective at what they do.
In Standard right now these would be cards like Transgress the Mind, Negate or Duskwatch Recruiter // Krallenhorde Howler. Often these cards tend to be overlooked on the initial pass of the set due to their seemingly innocent nature.
Murder is illegal but this card is a necessary evil. It may only be an unflashy reprint, but it should see play in a variety of archetypes due to its utility.
We do have Ruinous Path for the added modes of killing planeswalkers or kicking it as a win condition, but what we really need is the Hero's Downfall downgrade. The main reason it will see play is based on its instant-speed capabilities. The presence of this removal spell will also dictate the flow of the format.
Now this is one we haven’t seen for a while now. Incendiary Flow may only be worse version of Incinerate, but an efficient burn spell is one of the things that’s been absent from the format for a while. There are some other options at the three mana spot in your curve, but recently we’ve had to jump through hoops to make our two-mana red removal playable. Now we don’t have to make that sacrifice any longer. We get the always-good three damage for two mana.
While Incendiary Flow does have the same weakness as Ruinous Path in that it’s only a sorcery, the efficiency of the card will certainly get many players on board. Additionally, we do have the minor upgrade of exiling a creature with it instead of preventing it from regenerating. This is one of the cards I believe will break out similar to how Duskwatch Recruiter // Krallenhorde Howler did a couple months ago.
Whispers of Emrakul
Random discard like that from Whispers of Emrakul hasn’t been a part of Standard many times in Magic’s history. Originally we had Hymn to Tourach, Mind Twist, and Hypnotic Specter to tear opponents’ hands apart and potentially remove critical cards without regard to their type, like Duress or Ostracize would accomplish later.
Dissension started us off with Rise // Fall, Time Spiral gave us Stupor and M10 brought back a Mind Twist downgrade with Mind Shatter, but none of those were positioned correctly to make waves in Standard. I think this time, Whispers of Emrakul has the tools surrounding it to remind us why random discard has been so limited in our game’s history.
There seems to be a true Delirium deck brewing within the walls of Standard, and what better way to take advantage of this mechanic than with a Legacy staple like Hymn to Tourach? Even if the graveyard isn’t full of variety, we can still have the underappreciated Mind Knives to aid in our quest for tournament dominance.
Succumb to Temptation
Last up, we all need to just give in and Succumb to Temptation already. The only thing we will be giving into though is to play this unprecedented card. This gem has been hiding in the last spoiler update but it won’t stay hidden for long. Succumb to Temptation follows the tried and tested formula of black card drawing but this time we can cast it any time we want.
To gain this benefit we had to tack on an additional mana to its cost but that’s well worth the price. In this case, three mana is a small price to pay for instant-speed card draw.
We know this style card to be great from Abzan Charm last year. Abzan Midrange decks abused the card-drawing mode on that spell repeatedly. Rather than having the added utility of a modal card though, Tempt grants us the freedom to pair this draw spell with colors other than green and white. Even blue hasn’t been getting efficient card draw like this in recent years so don’t be fooled by this common. Let yourself be tempted into playing this instant and you won’t be sorry you did.
None of these cards are the ones you’ll make money on, but knowledge is power. Foils of these new spells could be a nice pick-up though, so keep your eyes out for those copies and hold them until they start seeing play in Standard.
Just like in the previous section, most of these escalate cards might be initially overlooked, as each mode seems overcosted and not likely to majorly affect the outcome of games. But make no mistake, the mechanic's presence will be felt not just in Limited but in Standard as well. It’s a shame this slick new Mardu-only mechanic is prejudiced against blue and green, but hopefully we will have more in this line in future sets.
While they may seem innocent, the versatility these cards provide is the same as the charms that have been printed in the past. But these are unique in the way they scale up in the late-game, becoming more potent the longer the game progresses. There may only be eight cards of this design currently on the printing press but many of them will help shape the new format.
Blessed Alliance is great because its main mode is as a decent removal spell in the vein of Celestial Flare or Immolating Glare. Cards like this see play intermittently but often end up as sideboard-only spells. With Blessed Alliance we can utilize this effect while also being able to cast it as a combat trick or to gain some life.
Rather than added mana cost for the kicker, Collective Brutality requires the caster to discard another card to add in another mode. This could be taken advantage of with some of the madness cards in Standard, but even if that doesn’t pan out I think this sorcery will be slotted into a lot of decklists.
The main problem with a card like Duress or Transgress the Mind has always been what to do with the card against a fast aggressive deck with few to no targets. Collective Brutality solves this problem with modes for multiple archetypes. Against aggro you can kill a small creature but against another midrange or control deck you can mess with their hand and hopefully their game plan.
Another aspect I like is that you can hold onto an extra land or a card you won’t be able to use in the matchup and discard it for a minor change in life totals.
Burn spells are back in season and Collective Defiance is primed and ready to assist Incendiary Flow in burning out the competition. This is yet another sorcery-speed removal spell, but Defiance also does everything you could want a red card to do. It can kill a creature, burn a player, or find you the other resources you are looking for.
Collective Defiance reminds me of Barbed Lightning from all the way back in Darksteel. That format was blisteringly fast and few archetypes were viable, vet this three-mana burn spell won Pro Tour Kobe in 2004 bases on its versatility.
It’s been over a decade since that spell saw sleeved-up competition, but we have that same card back in a new package once again. I already think it’s a crime that Exquisite Firecraft hasn’t seen more play, but Collective Defiance demands to be included in decks.
Last up in this section is the white rare Collective Effort. While this card in the "collective" mini-cycle follows the same formula of utility as the other two, this one has to deal with the awkwardness of tapping your creatures to escalate the spell.
Because these three options are so great, that might make this spell worthy of inclusion, but I dislike the tapping requirement for multiple modes. It reminds me of Obelisk of Urd, which was often clunky. That card saw tons of play and allowed for quick kills, but this new sorcery doesn’t have the same enormous potential impact on the board.
As much as incomplete cycles like this bother me, especially the fact there is no black uncommon, you can see the options these cards provide are too good to pass up. So, just like Dromoka's Command, the escalate cards should help provide any Mardu-colored deck with the right tools for the right time.
All of these rares should be low cost but I doubt they will go much higher or fall much lower than their initial price points. That’s always a nice sweet spot to be in because you can buy in whenever and if you need to.
The emerge cycle is similarly small like that of the escalate spells, but these Eldrazi are ready to let you cheat them into play. Any time Wizards gives us ways to reduce mana costs of powerful spells, we need to pay special attention.
They even gave us a card specifically designed to enable this mechanic with Foul Emissary. Personally I like pairing these giant Eldrazi with Matter Reshaper or Eldrazi Skyspawner, but Foul Emissary gives us more options to get the job done.
My hesitation with these Eldrazi is that you won’t be able to consistently cheat them into play like a combo that requires too many things to make work. If that’s the case, these guys will just seem like pricey win conditions. If the Eldrazi are going to further infiltrate Magic though, I think pairing the seven-mana emerge-cost creatures with the three-mana guys mentioned above are going to be the best way to abuse this new mechanic.
To this end, Abundant Maw, Distended Mindbender, and Elder Deep-Fiend are the ones I’ve been eyeing up and trying to brew with. Abundant Maw will bring back nightmares of Siege Rhino, Distended Mindbender will help rip apart any hand in Standard, and Elder Deep-Fiend can Time Walk your opponent for a turn by tapping their lands. These are very potent effects that you can cheat into playing turn four and that’s a goal worth striving for.
Decimator of the Provinces could also be a great semi-Craterhoof Behemoth. I don’t like that its cast trigger prevents it from pumping itself, but additionally, sacrificing one of your creatures means that you have even less in play to benefit from Decimator's power boost.
Maybe this is the trump we’ve been looking for to end Collected Company mirrors quicker and for G/W Tokens to be able to close a game quickly. An emerge cost of nine makes it much harder to cheat into play as well. There are so many factors facing Decimator if he is going to make a breakthrough but the sacrifice is well worth the reward.
I think these emerge cards could be a great buy for anyone interested in speculating on this set. Elder Deep-Fiend in particular seems like an initially low card that could jump once a deck is formed with it. If you can get these cheaply, I’d recommend it.
To finish up the article today, I want to discuss what our new tribal options are from this set. Myself and many others have worked on trying to make Vampires and Zombies playable in Standard. I’m not sure we have the tools yet but maybe what we got will prove good enough.
Take Olivia's Dragoon for example. This might be the vampire we’ve been needing all along. It gives us a free discard outlet so we can abuse the madness from cards like Bloodhall Priest or Voldaren Pariah // Abolisher of Bloodlines. I even think Dragoon is better than the rare version Stromkirk Condemned because you can discard an unlimited number of times.
Maybe the missing piece of the vampire puzzle was a madness outlet like Wild Mongrel to enable the cheaper costs and instant-speed casting of the other vampires. We may not have gotten a powerful tool like Captivating Vampire, but we may have gotten enough.
What about Zombies though? I know a lot of us have been looking to abuse Diregraf Colossus and Prized Amalgam for a couple months now. We’ve all been waiting for the price trajectory of Relentless Dead and Risen Executioner to skyrocket but our new tools are less exciting than the possibilities we were dreaming of.
Liliana's Elite and Gisa and Geralf make a great team together and they could pair well with the zombies we already have. But what would this zombie deck start the game out doing? I think the critical piece we’re missing is either a late-game win condition or early-game pressure. As of right now, I don’t think these cards are going to be enough to make the tribe into a playable Standard deck.
I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on these two tribes going forward. Is there a card you think will allow the archetype to succeed? These two tribes would be a gold mine for Magic finance if they ever take off. At this point I’m hesitant to endorse buying in on any of these cards though, unless they drop to bulk status.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force!
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