The wait is over! Wizards has unveiled the full Eldritch Moon list (and story), and now it's time to start brewing. Also, time to either keep complaining about the big Emrakul reveal and Gatewatch resolution, or keep defending Wizards' story department.
Over the last few weeks, I've been evaluating and testing various Moon staples for Modern, most recently Eldritch Evolution over on Modern Nexus. Although we haven't yet found a new Tier 1 staple like Shadows' Nahiri, the Harbinger, Moon's early reception suggests a lot of Modern potential in Magic's newest set.
The Eldritch Moon prerelease is next weekend, but we're already seeing Moon pre-sale prices jumping up to impressive levels. As usual, this movement is focused around the new set's rares and mythics, which comprise a disproportionate share of Moon's value. Today, I'm going to go through all the Moon rares and mythics looking for valuable pre-sale targets, focusing the analysis around their playability in Modern.
I'm not personally one for pre-sale speculation, but I know many investors rely on early playability assessments to make their major financial moves. Although I haven't tested literally every card in this review, you can rest assured the evaluations will be grounded in the current Modern metagame context and its extensive history of booms (Nahiri! Ulamog 2.0!) and busts (remember Thing in the Ice?).
I'll be giving each card a rating using the following categories:
- Buy now: the card is playable and undervalued at its current pre-sale price. Get them early.
- Buy later: the card is playable but overvalued at its current pre-sale price. Snipe them later.
- Gamble: the card might be playable and is reasonably priced. If you have extra capital, these are acceptable risks.
- Stay away: the card is not playable regardless of its price. Avoid these.
I'm not giving any explicit advice about selling cards, but you can easily invert the categories to figure out how you should sell cards you pick up. For example, a "Buy now" shouldn't be sold at all. A "Buy later" should get offloaded as soon as possible. As usual, if you have any questions about specific cards or want more information, hit me up in the comments.
Bruna, the Fading Light
Big, expensive white creatures rarely pan out in Modern, and Bruna is no exception. You'll hear people talking about a hypothetical "White Tron" deck to abuse this, but that's more fantasy than reality; you would never play that deck over the existing U/W Gifts Ungiven Tron, let alone the Tier 1 R/G Tron.
At around $2, Effort is a decent buy if you think white-based decks might use this in their sideboard or maindeck. Great with dorks like Noble Hierarch and/or past turn three, when you can play a creature and then play Effort for at least two modes without losing tempo. Kills Tarmogoyfs and larger and pumps the team.
Deploy the Gatewatch
Gimmicky Superfriends decks are nowhere near functional in Modern. Doesn't even work in the hypothetical White Tron list because you need double-white, which Chromatic Sphere and Star can't consistently achieve. The flip chance on Deploy isn't bad, but that's only if you pack your deck with walkers; not a winning Modern recipe in a fast format.
Gisela, the Broken Blade
Great in Standard, terrible in Modern. Four-mana creatures cannot die to Lightning Bolt unless they win on the spot or have a powerful effect regardless of their death. Gisela doesn't accomplish either.
Extremely underpriced at just $0.50. Providence is one of those free Leyline-style effects which could get broken in Modern down the line. You could do much worse than gambling on a bunch of these for a few bucks.
Sanctifier of Souls
Even worse than Gisela on the Bolt Test scale because his impact is even more minimal (at least Gisela lifelinks).
This is an excellent card in Abzan Company, Kiki Chord, Elves, and any other Collected Company/Chord of Calling decks that exist (or could exist) in Modern. Burrenton Forge-Tender has an edge at just one-mana and with other Burn applications, but Sanctifier stops even proper Wrath effects and can create combat blowouts. $3 is a steal for this kind of effect.
This is a very unique effect that just gets better with time. It's also excellent in the Puresteel Paladin Modern Cheerios deck, as well as the more value-driven Stone Haven Outfitter lists. That said, this is overpriced at $2.50 - $3; Moon is going to see lots of packs opened, and a niche rare like this is sure to fall. Once they do, be there to pick up the pieces.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Thalia is good but not $9 good. That would be a tough sell even if she weren't a promotional card, a status which dooms her to a lower price-tag once Moon packs get opened in earnest. That said, she's quite decent in Modern Hatebears, Abzan Liege, and other decks relying on turn one dork into turn two big play. When you see that price falling, get in around the $2-$4 range.
Strong effect, unplayable casting-cost. Time of Need sees no play, which suggests this effect just isn't worth it period, let alone on a five-mana body.
Coax from the Blind Eternities
Three-mana tutors are bad, but this is secretly a two-mana tutor in blue-based Tron lists (courtesy of the Tron lands themselves). Given the synergy between colorless Eldrazi cards and the Urzatron engine, I wouldn't bet against this in the long term. Wait for this card to lose value and then jump in around $1.
Docent of Perfection
Dragonlord Ojutai sees some scattered play in blue-white decks and Docent does a similar impression. Docent actually generates value better than Ojutai, even if he's more vulnerable without hexproof. That said, the little 1/1 Wizards clog up the board against aggressive strategies, and the $1 price-tag means a low risk. If this ever became a Grixis or other blue-based control top-ender, it could easily double or triple in value. Also, how can you not want to buy this card? The flavor is so brilliant.
Stay (far) away
Easily the worst blue rare in the set, and in the running for one of the worst Moon rares in any color. Great art and name, but the mechanics just aren't there.
Imprisoned in the Moon
Buy later (but not much later)
For me, this is one of the most undervalued cards of the set. Blue-white decks were already running Detention Sphere, and although Imprisoned doesn't hit as many targets in one cast, it stops some of the biggest threats to UWx. This includes a maindeck catchall to Liliana of the Veil, Urzatron lands, Inkmoth Nexus, enemy Nahiris, etc. $2 feels a bit high for a rare in a Standard season dominated by green-white and not blue, but once this drops by a dollar it's a solid pickup.
If Modern Esper Spirits ever becomes a thing, Wanderer will be a staple card. The Spirit Cursecatcher is a bit high at around $3, but once it falls you'll want to make a move in the event Spirits ever gets the boost to Tier 3 it needs.
Eldritch Moon's obligatory flashy and terrible blue mythic doesn't disappoint, at least not on the "flashy and terrible" scale. This wouldn't be playable if it triggered for every single spell, let alone just the one on its textbox.
Niblis of Frost
The Bolt Test does in another Moon four-drop. Niblis would have had promise as a two-drop or maybe a three-drop, but four just doesn't cut it.
I can't see this card in Standard, which means it's only going to go down from its current $1 price-tag. At sub-$1, however, it's got some investment potential. Dismissal is no Cryptic Command, but it does stop Eldrazi triggers and doubles as a versatile catchall against Expedition Map triggers, Abzan Company sacrifice and persist effects, Nahiri ultimates, and much more. Probably not playable, but there are metagames where you could see 1-2 of these between the main and sideboard of blue-based decks.
If the token generation didn't a) come with a cost and b) restrict itself to creature-card discards, this could have been a decent tempo two-drop. Unfortunately, Infiltrator fails on both a) and b), relegating it to the bulk bin.
I can't tell if $3 is over- or underpriced for this card, but I can tell Brutality is playable. Turn two Brutality pitching a Lingering Souls in Abzan is excellent, killing a dork or Infect creature and removing a pump-spell and Company/Chord. Grixis can also use this as a versatile, but powerful, anti-Burn card; the deck historically lacks playable lifegain and Brutality fixes that. Whether you bite the bullet and buy now or wait until it drops to the $1.50 range, look to get these soon.
Modern Zombies needs something to work, but Cryptbreaker isn't that something. The slow one-drop doesn't cut it in the speedy Modern metagame.
Way too expensive for a minimal effect. It's okay-ish against decks with one-drops, but underwhelming if those one-drops have already swung. Also, playing this on turn three feels bad when you could play Maelstrom Pulse, Tasigur or Kolaghan's Command instead.
Liliana, the Last Hope
Is new Liliana playable? Yes; a number of decks, including the underrated but also underpowered Faeries, wants this effect. Is new Liliana a $25-$30 card? Absolutely not. Standard is so dominated by green-white decks right now that it can't drive Liliana's price, and neither Legacy nor other formats really want her. She's at her best in Modern, but even there, $30 is more than three times what she's probably worth. Pick these up when the price is more realistic.
It's too bad this card is six mana. As a smaller two- or three-drop, this would have been playable, dodging removal by creating tokens to replace it. Six-mana, however, is a killer in Modern unless you're Primeval Titan and similar effects.
Oath of Liliana
None of the sacrifice effects are playable in Modern at any competitive level, outside of the original Liliana of the Veil herself. That's why we needed Innocent Blood! Instead, we got Liliana's Oath, and the result is a mediocre Standard card with no chance in Modern.
If only the Condemned could be activated twice per turn. Just twice! That would have brought the Vampire lord out of Bolt range and made the tribe quite a bit better with a two-drop, madness-enabling leader. As written, however, the best this is going to do is Standard roleplayer.
Tree of Perdition
Corrupt Tree of Redemption is one of my favorite cards in the set, but not one of its best for Modern. The Triskaidekaphobia combo is silly in Standard, let alone in high-powered Modern, and the Tree's only redeeming quality is beating Abzan Company after they're at thirty trillion life. That said, if you are still interested in the combo, the MTG Salvation brewers have been hard at work on the wonderfully-named TreesKaidekaphobia since late June.
When I first listed all the red cards, I literally forgot about Alphas and only caught it when I double-checked the official list. That should give you some sense of its Modern prospects.
Earlier this week, Reveler would have been a "Buy now," but $5-$6 is a bit optimistic for a card that is unlikely to see Standard play. That said, this is a very strong card and not because it does a Treasure Cruise impression in Burn. The average Burn game is never going to see that many lands, instants, and sorceries in play if you haven't already won or are so far behind that not even Reveler will save you. URx Delver decks, however, could definitely welcome Reveler to the fold. Buy once they hit the $3 range.
Fixed Goblin Rabblemaster is probably going to see Standard play, but with Rabblemaster not even cutting it in Modern, the extra toughness on Garrison isn't going to get the card there. Humans doesn't make the Modern cut as-is, and Garrison doesn't even race like Rabblemaster does (nor can it sit back and throw tokens).
Red Donate is eventually going to get broken in Modern, slotting into a Tier 2 or Tier 3 deck that sees occasional (or even regular) Modern play. We're just missing the proverbial Illusions of Grandeur to Donate. I'm going to pick these up just out of principle; I always like to be on the cutting edge of any new combo deck, and Offering is just waiting for another piece before it goes big.
Ball Lighting creatures don't make it in Modern because you can't pay 3-4 mana for a burn spell that dies to a Bolt. Devils doesn't change that reality.
Blue gets the obligatory mythic enchantment and red gets the obligatory mythic dragon. Mirrorwing is significantly better than the terrible Mind's Dilation, but still doesn't make it in Modern; five-mana is too much for a creature that doesn't actually have protection from Path and Terminate. Even if we do treat the mirroring ability as a virtual hexproof, a 4/5 flying, hexproof for five still wouldn't make it. As for Mirrorwing's combo applications, if the cheaper Zada, Hedron Grinder sucked in that department, Dragon probably will too.
I have a bad but fun Breaking // Entering reanimator deck tucked away in my Magic shelf, and Wrath is exactly what the deck wanted instead of the erratic Kindle the Carnage. Wrath's effect is unique and powerful, and I can see other discard-matters decks wanting the massive sweeper. Once this card falls, it becomes a decent grab.
Vampire Madness might be a deck in Standard but it sure won't be in Modern. Jund Madness might become a Modern deck, in no small part due to Noose Constrictor, but the Condemned is still too slow even for that strategy.
Evolution is an excellent card that I expect will see Modern play. That said, I don't think we're going to see it in a big way in Standard, and Standard success is the only way this sorcery is going to sustain a $10+ price-tag. Once this drops to the sub-$8 mark, Evolution becomes a much more attractive target, and that's where I suggest investors wait until they buy.
You can't pay three-mana for a Boltable three-drop that doesn't have an immediate game impact or threaten to win the game next turn. Evangel does neither, and doesn't even synergize well with token decks because he kills the tokens to remove any of their amassed +1/+1 counters courtesy of Township or other effects.
Flavor home-run, playability strike-out. Delirium is surprisingly difficult to turn on in Modern (although Noose Constrictor changes that to some extent), and Grafwidow isn't the payoff you want if you do achieve the keyword.
I've seen a lot of players evaluating this as a great chump-blocker for Modern's biggest threats like Tarmogoyf. The thing is, there's no reason to play this over something like Wasteland Viper, which actually kills the bigger creatures outright. Mass is a bit better against stuff like Goblin Guide and Monastery Swiftspear, where it survives to block again, but that's still a liability with Atarka's Command in the mix.
Spirit of the Hunt
The Spirit insulates the Werewolf Company/Vial deck against damage-based sweepers, not to mention wrecking combat math and defeating Bolt. At just $1 with a lot of room to keep falling when the deck invariably flounders in Standard, Spirit has a lot of potential to jump. Even a spike to $2 would be a 100% return on your investment!
This card is going to see about zero Standard play, which means its $4-$5 value is entirely based on optimistic Legacy and Modern speculation. That's bad for a rare from a set that is going to see a lot of openings, which is why I wouldn't touch this right now. That said, this is the kind of card which will invariably create some kind of strong (or broken) synergy down the road. This makes Reclamation a solid pickup when it gets to the $2-$3 range.
For 4GG, I expect Primeval Titan. If you have multiple creatures with 4+ toughness to benefit from Observer, you should be winning anyway.
In the event we see a viable red-based madness deck emerge in Modern, Priest will be center-stage in the strategy. I would have rated this an unplayable "Stay away" a week ago, but once I saw Noose Constrictor in the mix, hellbent became a much more realistic proposition. Priest is only $1-$2 right now, which is a small price to pay for a potentially swingy rare.
Gisa and Geralf
Four-mana 4/4s aren't a bad rate, but the squabbling siblings don't do enough once they hit play. An unconditional Zombie cast would have been interesting, but once-per-turn is just not a great payoff.
As we talked about earlier, delirium is much harder to achieve in Modern than many assumed. Tarfire, Mishra's Bauble, and others only go so far. Thankfully for Flayer, Mongrel 2.0 goes a long way to turning on the Tarmogoyf-lite, and the three-card selectivity is huge if you're looking for specific pieces. I believe this card is going to see Modern play, but buying at $10+ is a recipe for financial loss. Wait for the dip then move in.
Heron's Grace Champion
Collected Company can't flip this and Aether Vial at four is too slow for Modern. Those two synergies could have made the card, but its current text doesn't cut it. Flashing this in against an aggro deck is still powerful, but he really needed the added Company boost to make the Human team.
I'm really bullish on Quellers because they promise to see Standard play alongside Collected Company and are likely to make it in Modern. This is a big tempo play alongside Delver of Secrets, and it gets bonus points for taking care of Abrupt Decay. You can also pitch this to Disrupting Shoal, which further helps the blue-based tempo lineup in Modern. The chances of this dropping to $5-$6 feel much lower than the chances of it going up to $10 or staying in the $8 range, so buying now seems like the right move.
Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Only one Bant deck has ever made it in Modern, and that's Bant Eldrazi. Bant Eldrazi doesn't want Tamiyo, which means we're back to running her in the same, tired, ineffective Bant shell we've seen fail for years. Nahiri was a great example of what a new Standard planeswalker needs to make the Modern roster, and Tamiyo is no Nahiri.
Ulrich of the Krallenhorde
Slow and clunky red-green mythics have no home in Modern, especially without a trigger like the superior Huntmaster of the Fells, which you'd play over Ulrich any day of the week.
Decimator of the Provinces
When I'm analyzing any of the Eldrazi, I'm thinking of how they play with a combination of Eldrazi Temple and Matter Reshaper, in R/G Eldrazi, B/W Eldrazi, or Bant Eldrazi. That's bad news for Decimator, an expensive clunker that requires way too much colored mana. Even with Reshaper and Temple contributing five mana, you'd still need another four mana, three of which would have to be green. That's too restrictive even as a curve-topper; Reality Smasher already does a great job closing games.
Just $2 for a card that basically ends the game if you're on B/W Eldrazi? Call me interested! Turn two Reshaper into turn three Mindbender is a huge beating on the play, especially on a massive 5/5 body. Control decks can't even counter the discard, unlike the trigger on the almighty Thought-Knot Seer. That's a knockout against grindy decks and a win for the $1-$2 Eldrazi.
Great card, questionable price-tag. $4-$5 is a bit high for a creature that probably won't make it in Standard and is only a niche rare in Modern. That said, getting Time Walked by this is disgusting, especially off a Matter Reshaper. You also can't even counter the Time Walk!
Emrakul, the Promised End
This is not a $25 card. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger couldn't hold a $15 price-tag and Emrakul is no better than that. Indeed, Emrakul is probably a tiny bit more niche than Ulamog, which all but assured her falling to a lower value. You're going to want Emrakul for your R/G Tron arsenal, but not at this current price.
Does Modern want an unkillable 3/3? I'm not sure, but if it costs a virtual two mana off Eldrazi Temple, I'm more hopeful than not. Sweepers are bad news for Scourge, but spot removal is much more common in Modern anyway and can't keep this Eldrazi down. At $1-$2, consider me an optimistic buyer.
Artifacts and Lands
The monstrous two-drop might make it in Affinity, but I've played against Affinity enough times to know its hand doesn't empty that quickly. Even so, this enormous body and tiny cost feel undervalued at $1-$2, which is why I'd be more aggressive with picking these up. As an added bonus, this makes Affinity's mulligans a bit better, which encourages you to dig for more action-packed hands.
Prohibitive mana costs make Separator unplayable, even if it presents some exciting options in the abstract.
Vanilla pump equipment are never going to get the job done in Modern, even with Graft's relatively aggressive costs.
Geier Reach Sanitarium
In some cases, this is a better Mikokoro, Center of the Sea because it confers no advantage on a hellbent opponent. In many cases, however, it will play out exactly like Mikokoro, or worse if your opponent can abuse binned cards with Snapcaster, Kolaghan's, or something else. Count me out.
Fun fact: Battlements is the cheapest land-based mechanism to give a creature haste in Modern. Slayers' Stronghold does it for an additional mana, but we all know that one and two mana are worlds apart in Modern, especially when you have to tap a land to get the ability. As printed, Battlements effectively costs two-mana (you need to tap the land itself), but I can see certain decks wanting the extra aggression to close out a match. As the price invariably falls, it becomes a better buy.
Phew! That was a long one, even by the standards of my usual word counts. Hopefully it proves useful as you figure out where in Eldritch Moon to put your money, and I look forward to seeing how Moon unfolds in Modern once it hits tournament tables at the end of July. I'll certainly be testing a number of these cards, particularly Queller, Evolution, and a number of the emerge Eldrazi, to see if they have what it takes in our powerful format.
Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments if you have any questions about other cards or those listed today. I'll also be on vacation for the next few weeks, so you'll have to wait for your Monday dose of Modern finance until August 8. Until then, enjoy Eldritch Moon, enjoy Modern, and keep on enjoying this diverse and exciting format we've gotten in the wake of the April banlist changes.