A Brewer Studies Eldritch Moon

Chris Lansdell isn’t ready to brew just yet; there’s still too much set we don’t know! But we’ve got quite a bit of Eldritch Moon so far, and he’s examining some of the combos and deck ideas that could lead to big things in the near future!

What’s that? Preview season? Oh, sure, I know. There are some sweet cards in Eldritch Moon and we’ve had but a few days of spoilers. I’m hyped too, believe me. And yes, the brewing has started in earnest. The problem is, we barely have a third of the set so far. Any brewing we do right now is going to be missing a piece at best and woefully uninformed at worst. Giving you decklists now is just not a responsible way to be.

But this is the LAB, right? Lansdell’s Always Brewing? So what is a mad brewer to do when decklists for Standard aren’t in the cards? Well, we could talk Modern, I suppose; although the same caveat applies, the odds are substantially lower that any unspoiled cards would have an impact on the larger card pool in that format. Usually that’s a safe bet, but we haven’t even seen all the set’s planeswalkers yet. If the power mythics are being held back until the last week of previews, then the chances of a Modern-altering card still being out there are higher than normal.

It’s okay, though, friends. We might not be in a position to brew actual decks yet, but we can certainly theorycraft based on the cards we do have. Let’s dive in!

There was never any chance I would start with anything but One-Shot Pod. There’s no doubt this card is substantially worse than the overpowered consistency machine that is Birthing Pod, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or even close to it. Without the restrictions imposed by Collected Company but still imposing some conditions, it’s very possible the Abzan Company decks adopt some number of this card to help them combo off.

The key words here are “X or less,” which gives us much greater flexibility regarding what we sacrifice to find the missing combo piece. Any creature we have will allow us to find any piece but Murderous Redcap, and we have plenty of choices to find that even. Because of the way the rules work, we can even add a fifth counter to our Wall of Roots and still use it as our sacrificial creature.

Staying with Modern, some of the most powerful starts in the format involve a turn 1 mana creature into a turn 2 three-drop. The clear drawback to that line is needing to have the three-drop in hand. Well, now we can have four more copies of it. Turn 1 Birds of Paradise, turn 2 Eldritch Evolution into Magus of the Moon? Geist of Saint Traft? Thalia, Heretic Cathar? We can basically make this work any way we want with a toolbox-type deck, and the lack of restrictions on the converted mana cost lets us go in directions that Collected Company doesn’t allow.

There might also be a Goryo’s Vengeance shell that makes use of Eldritch Evolution to turn our one-shot giant beatstick into a permanent giant beatstick. Attacking with Griselbrand and drawing a bunch of cards is great, but doing that and then getting to keep a Griselbrand is probably even better, right? Or turning Griselbrand into Borborygmos Enraged and then pelting a bunch of lands at the oppponent’s face…also good? Seems like it could be good. How about sacrificing our Worldspine Wurm to get a Craterhoof Behemoth? That one is probably “win more,” but as I always say, it sure beats winning less.

Nahiri, the Harbinger has had a huge impact on Modern already with her ultimate’s ability to go find an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn (flavor win) and smack people in the face with it, but in Standard the choices for that ultimate are somewhat less impressive and game-winning. Does that change with Eldritch Evolution? We get to attack with something huge and then turn it into something potentially even bigger that we can keep forever.

Although Standard lacks the variety of toolbox options that Modern has, there are still situational creatures we can run that are more viable with the ability to tutor them up at will. A Naya Allies deck, for example, would greatly enjoy the ability to turn any random creature into Resolute Blademaster or Tajuru Warcaller. That doesn’t even take into account any other Rally triggers we might have lying around. A deck with Odric, Lunarch Marshal can go find a flying creature to make the team unblockable before an alpha strike.

Where I really like this in Standard is in a possible G/B Rock-style deck. We get to turn Matter Reshaper into Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. A late-game Deathcap Cultivator can similarly become a four-drop with major impact. Once the game is more in control or we draw a second Kalitas, we can go looking for something like an Ulvenwald Hydra. Possibly my favorite play here is to turn a huge Hangarback Walker into a Sylvan Advocate and a bunch of Thopters.

Just thank your lucky stars that this card both exiles itself and is a sorcery. Being able to respond to removal with this would be nuts, not to mention things like Evoke in Modern. And if we could recur it with Den Protector, Eternal Witness, or Goblin Dark-Dwellers? Absurd.

Good sweet merciful MaRo. Just our third three-color planeswalker, but likely on a par with the other one in Standard and definitely enough to make my eyes bug out on sight. This card is sweet, but I am approaching it with the knowledge that sweet-looking planeswalkers often end up looking sweet in trade binders.

The first thing that came to mind was that this might be the card that takes the Doubling Season planeswalker deck to the next level. That deck was already decent and was all but guaranteed to win if it resolved a Jace, Architect of Thought with a Doubling Season on the battlefield. Now, with a second way to play out as many cards as needed, we have some redundancy. Even without a Doubling Season, Tamiyo gives us both defense and a way to draw more cards and find Doubling Season. I think that deck was best as a Bant deck anyway, and now we have even more reason to play it.

We may not have access to Doubling Season in Standard, but we do have Oath of Gideon, which curves nicely into Tamiyo and does a great job of protecting her. Using her +1 on the tokens made by the Oath will almost guarantee both two cards and being able to untap with Tamiyo. She can even give you a chance to stay alive with her -2 before your fifth land drop lets you clean up with a Planar Outburst. We also have Oath of Nissa, in case we are feeling Raphael Levy levels of greedy and want to try to play Sarkhan Unbroken as well. Because of course we do.

It would be remiss of me not to mention how well Tamiyo fits in the existing Bant Company shell. Although that deck is exactly the kind of deck I avoid playing at all costs, it is no doubt powerful and can win the game in several ways. Tamiyo, Field Researcher adds another dimension as she can fuel your hand and also help beat the mirror with her -2. Whatever else happens, I predict Tamiyo and Oath of Nissa will be very close friends.

I think there’s a deck here. Although we may never reach U/W Delver levels of obscenity, both of these cards are very strong in any deck that can run fifteen or more spells. The mono-blue Prison deck is already well above that number, and although Engulf the Shore is not exactly great in tandem with a flipped Docent in particular, we often won’t have both an army of tokens and a need to bounce the opponent’s team.

The key question is which one we choose, or whether we play both. Although the Niblis allows us to lock down the opposing team and get in for large chunks of damage, Docent of Perfection makes an army. A large, dangerous army. Sadly, we can’t play Thing in the Ice with either card, but I think a 2/3 split in favor of Docent of Perfection might be possible. After all, if we ever have two flipped Docents at the same time, we are going to have some massive Wizards…

Oh, hello honey. Welcome home. Can we start by drooling over that gorgeous art for a moment? Artist Magali Villeneuve, who is rapidly becoming my favorite active artist (and is catching up with Richard Kane Ferguson for favorite ever), tweeted this last week:

So gorgeous. The detail in the sword handle, which matches Steve Argyle’s beautiful promo art, is just amazing. The glimmer on the sword edge, the flow of her hair…I could go on, but then how would I get to talk about her applications in Death and Taxes?

Unlike most cards in new sets, Thalia seems to have been designed for non-rotating formats. Fetchlands enter the battlefield tapped, making them much worse. Should they be used to fetch up another nonbasic, the opponent loses even more time. In the Legacy version of the deck, other Wasteland decks are at a huge disadvantage as theirs enter the battlefield tapped and vulnerable to our own Wastelands. As if the Sneak and Show matchup were not already good, new Thalia makes it even better. Even normally terrible matchups like MUD and Lands get significantly better when they are slowed down this much. Add in her not-insignificant clock and we have an extremely solid addition to my favorite deck in the format.

Modern has many of the same benefits. Although we don’t have Wasteland or Sneak Attack, we do have Jeskai Nahiri. I’m aware Thalia dies to Lightning Bolt, but they only have so many of those and we have a bunch of threats…and Sword of War and Peace. Nahiri’s ultimate is a lot less exciting if it just puts an Emrakul in the opponent’s hand. Similarly, Through the Breach and Goryo’s Vengeance are both substantially worse in the face of a Heretic Cathar.

I’m a lot less excited about her applications in Standard. She does make the already-slow Evolving Wilds even slower, and she can protect you from getting your Reality Smashed by surprise. In planeswalker decks that protection could be key. Sadly, she can’t help you much against an Ormendahl, Profane Prince, as that particular Demon is already on the battlefield when it transforms. I don’t think she’s bad in Standard, and the Humans decks might be able to make use of the Root Maze effect to both hold Languish at bay and slow down blockers from the likes of Collected Company, but she definitely has more strength in Legacy and Modern.

Escalate started off rather inauspiciously in the previews, with Borrowed Malevolence seeming to be the worst Zealous Persecution ever and Blessed Alliance feeling okay at best, but Collective Brutality quickly turned that feeling around. At the 1B cost, all the modes are slightly above rate. We’re used to that on things like Commands and Charms because we have to pay for the flexibility.

The cost to escalate this card is an absolute delight. With madness and delirium both in the format, we could conceivably end up in a position where on turn 3 we want to cast this with all three modes, discarding a Fiery Temper and some giant creature to reanimate later. Even the first two modes can finish off or dissuade ubiquitous anti-aggro creatures like Sylvan Advocate and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet from blocking. If the Zombie deck becomes a thing, this could well be a part of it.

I can see a place for this in Modern as well. Modern Reanimator, for example, has a really tough time beating Gaddock Teeg. Right now the deck tends to play Lightning Axe as an answer, but I think this might be a better answer. For only one mana more we can kill Gaddock Teeg and take a Path to Exile or countermagic out of their hand. It also kills a fresh Scavenging Ooze, another card that spells trouble for the deck. Could Jund play this to win Tarmogoyf mirrors, kill an infect creature while making them discard a pump spell, and give the deck something else to do with dead discard spells? That might be more of a stretch, but I like it.

There’s just something about this card that tickles me. It might be tickling my feet, actually, which is mildly terrifying. Aside from the obvious reanimation interactions, this is the card I most want in a Zombie deck. The discard trigger happens whether from the loot from our Infiltrator or from any other source, like Collective Brutality or reanimating a Stitchwing Skaab…that we previously discarded to the Infiltrator. Without good graveyard hate in the format, cards like this can really fuel the Zombie deck without the Zombies having to actually die, thereby making them vulnerable to Kalitas.

Comments from Last Week

Scott Wilson Jr.

I don’t know if this has been theorized yet, but what if Nahiri, Sorin, and Ugin become the Big Three. The “gender identifications” are there, the fact that Nahiri can “summon” Emrakul could mean she has a connection with her, and if they continue to live for thousands of years surely at some point they will cross the line between right and wrong and they will have to be stopped.

They could get thrown into the Blind Eternities, but rather than them being obliterated they are mutated into Em, Ul, and Koz. Then possibly they are time shifted back the beginning and face their former selves.

Just some thoughts. What do you think?

It’s an interesting theory, but it seems like it would involve too much time travel for R&D to approve. We just did that with Khans of Tarkir block and we still aren’t sure what impact that had on the Multiverse, if any. We know it affected Sarkhan and probably Ugin, though. I like the thought but it might be a little far to stretch.

Greg Creswell

Great article!

One thing that I just don’t like is the whole Gatewatch thing… From a real life stand point, if feels like an attempt to cash in on the superhero hype. And from a quality standpoint, it’s definitely more new Fantastic 4 than it is Avengers. From a story standpoint, I just don’t see any positives about it. With so many planes and so many planeswalkers, who really wants to see the same ones over and over and over again, hoping plane to plane. I mean, since Origins, we have had these guys thrown in our faces so much, that I personally don’t really even like any of them anymore. Especially Jace.

I just hope after this that they give us all a break from the Gatewatch and the Eldrazi.

Glad you liked the article, Greg. I don’t mind the Gatewatch story so much because one thing this game needs is characters. We need it in the story, we need it on the SCG Tour®, we need it on the Pro Tour. People buy into characters more than cards. I think once they establish that the Gatewatch is more than a single-block thing, we will see one of them at a time in a block as we get others introduced or re-introduced. We’d be hard-pressed to argue about the lack of planeswalkers in this block, for example. So many!

Damian Fielding

Was there anyone who was surprised it was Emrakul? Seemed obvious from the start when you saw what happened to Markov Manor, Nahiri being the Harbinger, and a number of other things.

The awesome Tamiyo’s Journal & Clues thing just confirmed it, and is probably the most impressive thing wizards have ever done in terms of secret hints.

I don’t know if anyone was surprised, but I know I was disappointed. The Clues all fit, but now we know the answer and it is easy to say that. There were also people pushing square pegs into round holes to confirm Emrakul from things that were almost definitely not clues.

The Clue campaign was great and I really enjoyed it, but the marketing for Conspiracy 2 has been as good or better so far, I think.

Erik Wong

What would be really fun is if Wizards gets halfway through the spoiler season, hits the big J/K button, and all of this was a lie because we’re Jace going crazy on Innistrad with Eldrazi fresh on our minds. Then the real baddie reveal happens and we can spend the next six years arguing over whether this was a genius marketing campaign or a cheap ploy.

It would be hilarious but I doubt they would reveal so many cards and then pull the rug out from under us. What a waste of designs! No, I think they could pull a fun twist still by making Ashiok the other planeswalker in the set and having Ashiok twist the minds and dreams of the Gatewatch members into thinking Emrakul was on Innistrad. Why would Ashiok do that? Who knows, but it would be fun!

Well, folks, that’s all I have for this week. As always, thanks for stopping by and until next time…

Brew On!