Feature Article – Rise of the Eldrazi Limited Impressions

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Wednesday, May 5th – Rise of the Eldrazi Limited is proving to be great fun, and everyone is looking for a leg up in the forty-card formats. Today, Limited expert Quentin Martin provides a selection of interesting takes on Rise of the Eldrazi cards that are currently overrated or underrated. Do you agree with his assessments?

New cards to play with! New cards to think about, to try out together, to find new uses for! By now, of course, most of us have played around with Rise of the Eldrazi cards, some more than others. Some cards are obviously fantastic, like Vendetta and Staggershot. These aren’t really the cards I’m interested in today. I’m here to talk about the cards that I / we have undervalued/overvalued, cards that surprised us. And in no particular order, let’s get to it!

Oh yeah, and this is all about Limited!

Aura Gnarlid

Wow! I had this guy pegged as subpar, average at best. My first experience of it was when I had drafted a super defensive WUG deck with a few Umbras too many. All my creatures, for the most part, were defensive in nature and lacking any real power. Gnarlid trounced all over me. This is the card that I undervalued the most. Not only does it combo fantastically with Snake Umbra (and the Spider one to boot), but he can deter your opponent from using his auras. When paired with Blue, Narcolepsy becomes even better; or if you’re White with a few Totem-Guide Hartebeest. This guy is often a 3/3 close to unblockable for just three mana, and can often be utterly ridiculous.

Battle-Rattle Shaman

At worst, he’s a 4/2 for four. But he’s so much more than that. He lets your Eldrazi Spawn attack for value; he lets your three-drop attack for massive amounts of damage; he means you almost always have an attacker that can get through any opposing walls. He gets better in multiples — attacking with 4/1 Spawn is immense!

Rage Nimbus

This caught me by surprise. I figured it was obviously good, but this card is the real deal. Its stats are the real deal, and I’m not even going to mention living the dream with Warmonger’s Chariot. This guy demands to be answered on sight. If you manage to untap with it, or are just sensible and cast it on turn 5, it will munch a guy almost every turn.

Kor Line-Slinger and Puncturing Light

First off, I misread Puncturing Light and thought it was a Smother-like effect. Disappointed at first, especially after I had first played around it by not attacking with my levelled up Guul Draz Assassin and later when I revealed I had it in my hand when trying to kill an Arrogant Bloodlord, I soon became even more despondent. The Light spent most of the time failing to kill any card I actually cared about. It’s obviously playable and there will be plenty of matchups where it will be good, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it won’t be an auto-include and that you will often be sideboarding it in. Kor Line-Slinger, though I haven’t played with it myself, seems to do exactly the same thing every time I’ve seen it. Both are obviously good cards, but nowhere near as good as they would have been in Zendikar.


I still can’t believe this card is common. Like Mulldrifter before it – and whilst we’re here, Pyrohemia – this card has the wrong rarity.

Pretty much any Leveller

You’ll all have figured this out by now, but these guys are almost all amazing. They can be cast early and give you something to do/stay alive in the early game. After that, the majority of their ultimates threaten to win the game quickly. I’ve not tried it yet, but I think a UW aggressive deck heavily featuring levellers will be one of the dominating draft archetypes (this deck also benefits from picking up what will surely be some bombtastic Champion’s Drakes and Venerated Teachers late). Levellers can be difficult to play around. If your opponent opens with one, or heaven forbid two, early levellers, you have a tricky option. If you play around them levelling up, they can just cast something else. Now for a couple of special Leveller mentions:

Hedron-Field Purists

I’ve been around long enough that this fell into the ‘duh!’ category, but for those of you don’t know how powerful this effect is, give this guy a whirl. He also slows down the game enough so that you can reach his max level fairly easily and from then on, losing should be difficult.

Enclave Cryptologist

Slam this guy! Looters are back! They might have taken their first ever hiatus in Zendikar, but this might be the best looter ever, given the format it’s in. With a casting cost of 1UU that can be staggered, it’s far from too expensive. If you spend 2UU more, you are left with a card that will win you the game if left unchecked. Up until now, I’ve not thought up any really contentious picks. But I will dare to question if you might, first pick first pack, want to pick this over Staggershock

Halimar Wavewatch

I love cards like this — namely, cards that help me survive in the early game. He does exactly what you want for 1U. When your opponent starts casting cards that beat up a 0/3, he does exactly what you want for 2. When the game no longer calls for a 0/6, instead it wants a big threat — this guy delivers again!

Zulaport Enforcer

This guy is also very high up on my list of most underrated cards. He’s more of a threat in Sealed than Draft but far from it for me to rule him out there. His ultimate reminds me a little of Anurid Murkdiver in the Black mirror back in the day — he is just so difficult to kill and becomes a very fast clock to boot. Nor is his ultimate out of reach or ineffectual (like Ikiral Outrider).


Cards with effect are almost always good. However, Bramblesnap exists in a format full of Eldrazi Spawn. This makes him very abusable.

Haze Frog

Why couldn’t they have had the balls to actually call this ‘Fog Frog’?!

Mnemonic Wall and Regress

This might seem like an odd pairing asides from the fact that they combo together. The Wall is not as exciting as I thought it would be. I’m sure I will be playing a lot of it, even drafting decks based around it. However, I thought it would be better, but there aren’t as many Blue cards that you actually want to return with it. Obviously at its best when paired with either Red or Black, you’ll need around five or more good targets to make it worthwhile.

Regress, on the other hand, is much better. With expensive Eldrazi, a plethora of Umbras, and all those mana intensive levellers around, you won’t be shy of targets. However, there’s something about this format, more than these factors, that I can’t quite pin down, that makes Regress better than it used to be. Maybe there’s a lack of solid answers (there are plenty of cards that deal two damage, for example), but either way, don’t feel embarrassed to be running it.

Essence Feed

I’m still not entirely sure about this card, and that’s often a good thing. It can be a finisher, but not a very good one. I see it finding a place in two decks — both are likely to be UB. The first is one that is just looking to survive for longer. Here, Essence Feed gains you three life and gives you three chump blockers. This kind of deck will probably be full of bombs or full of card draw to make the most of the time Feed buys you. The other type of deck will be racing with either flyers or unblockable creatures like Hada Spy Patrol. In this deck, every aspect of Essence Feed finds a home — it speeds up the clock and it gives you more time. I think Essence Feed is far from unplayable; as with many Magic cards, it’s all about finding the right home for them.


This card is weak. It is so conditional. A lot of the cards you want to use creature removal to kill are those creatures have evasion — those that you couldn’t block in the first place! Sure, you can’t be two-for-oned, but it will often, much like Puncturing Light, sit in your hand before you eventually burn it on a card you didn’t really care too much about.

Pelakka Wurm

Woot! You’ve got to love a late game card that makes up for being late game. The life gain ensures that he’s seldom too late for his 7/7 trampling body to finish the job. And just in case, you might even get a card out of him too!


Don’t expect to be casting Deprive in the early game. Deprive’s Limited strength is caused by being in a format where lots of decks are trying to resolve some big threats and against those that aren’t, it is a cheap cover-all. Keeping two mana up is soooo much easier than when you’re holding a Cancel. It can be used to protect your best guy or stop their bomb. I’ve happily run two Deprives, and I can see myself doing it again.

Emrakul’s Hatcher

I still can’t believe this guy is common. It takes an idiot to conclude that this, Nest Invader, and Kozilek’s Predator aren’t simply fantastic.

Snake Umbra

This card is deceptively powerful. In Limited, you often tap out in your turn for a creature with the intention of it either trading with your opponent’s attacker or possessing of one toughness more than that attacker’s power to deter the attack entirely. Snake Umbra, in the first instance, will push your attack through, net you a free card, and leave you with hefty, protected threat on the board; in the second instance, you almost always turn it into a removal spell. When you factor creatures with evasion and Aura Gnarlid, it’s easy to see that Snake Umbra might prove a very popular pick.

Soulsurge Elemental

Outside of a dedicated Spawn deck, this guy isn’t very good. But I want to use him to demonstrate the power of Totem Armor. Remember that, unlike Regenerate effects, a creature that is saved an Umbra is not removed from combat. This means that an Umbra enchanted blocker’s natural power is enough, they can beat up first strikers like Soulsurge Elemental!

Ondu Giant

This is fast becoming my favorite common in the set. Its stats are formidable in ways that Kor Cartographer can only be jealous of. It provides the defence, acceleration, and color fixing that any deck trying to do anything tricky needs, and as such it will be a high pick.

Dreamstone Hedron

A lot of people are drafting the expensive Eldrazi Spawn decks. One of the problems I’ve seen it having is the lack of actual ‘big’ cards they sometimes wind up with. The Hedron lets them both accelerate into their fatties and then, when their opponent burns all their resources to kill the Eldrazi creature, the Hedron then provides you with more fuel. Against slow Spawn decks, a sideboarded Hedron can provide you with some late game gas that will hopefully let you finish them before they get out of hand.

Artisan of Kosilek, Ulamog’s Crusher, and Hand of Emrakul

All is Dust and Eldrazi Conscription aside, these are the three most common Eldrazi cards I expect to realistically make people’s decks. I don’t think the Hand is too fantastic, but it might turn out to be the Eldrazi Frogmite in a dedicated enough deck. The Artisan is absolutely phenomenal but can sometimes be too expensive. The Crusher is the most balanced — eight mana is perfectly reasonable, if you didn’t want to be attacking with him every turn then you would be doing something wrong (which is one reason why I actually hate to see this kind of ability on cards, like making Nezumi Cutthroat unable to block actually meant that bad players couldn’t misplay), and Annihilator 2 can actually have an impact whereas the Hand’s is just an annoyance.

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

These guys are good, but ONLY in the right deck. Your average deck will prefer them to be a Grizzly Bear or a Grey Ogre or a Hill Giant or a Sea Snidd every day of the week. Those are cards that might actually have an effect on the game… for a normal deck. However, in a dedicated Eldrazi deck (I’m surprised that the Eldrazi Temple isn’t uncommon, other than for financial reasons), they are not too expensive for their awesome power to find a home.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Limited fail.

All in all, I think Rise of the Eldrazi promises to be a fun, varied, and skill-based Limited format. The Eldrazi decks seem like they might be quite high variance (so draft them accordingly) whilst, in contrast, Leveller decks seem incredibly consistent. I am also sure that there will be plenty of other options too, maybe even some quirky Chariot-fuelled Defender decks! I am really looking to delving into the format in more detail when I start practicing for Nationals.

Do your best…


PS: Vengevine

This is the only card I want to talk about in Constructed. I’m here to give it the ‘Most Over-Hyped Constructed Card’ award. This is mainly in regards to Standard, but might well spill over to other formats (though I can see it doing some almost Ichorid-esque things in Extended one day). In Standard, I keep hearing people say how awesome it is — especially as you can play both Bloodbraid Elf and Ranger of Eos to trigger its reanimation effect. Newsflash, people — both of these cards are a) better than Vengevine, and b) also cost four mana, and c) will probably win you the late game by themselves anyway! All three of these are factors for why it is unlikely that Vengevine will make any real impact in Standard.

PSS: Obviously in Limited, Vengevine is a bit good.