Limited Lessons – Eventide First Impressions

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Tuesday, July 15th – We all had fun at the Eventide prerelease this past weekend, but now it’s time to knuckle down to the serious work of evaluating the new cards for Limited play. Nick Eisel brings us his preliminary impressions on single cards and new strategies for forty-card Magic. If you’re looking for an edge in your next draft, look no further!

I was far more excited about this prerelease than its Shadowmoor equivalent, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out so well. The set is definitely awesome, and I’m looking forward to exploring the new draft format, but I didn’t play my best Magic. Also, one of my best friends had his bag stolen, which is always a downer.

Before I get into some impressions, let me list my Sealed Deck and some of the relevant cards that didn’t make the cut into the maindeck.

Safehold Elite
Duergar Mine-Captain
Oracle of Nectars
Hoof Skulkin
Wilt-Leaf Liege
Safehold Duo
Belligerent Hatchling
Raven’s Run Dragoon
Canker Abomination
Scuzzback Marauders
Aerie Ouphes
Kulrath Knight
Foxfire Oak
Roughshod Mentor
Elsewhere Flask
Soul Rend
2 Snakeform
Ember Gale
Biting Tether
Flame Javelin
Unwilling Recruit
8 Forest
7 Mountain
Graven Cairns

Relevant Sideboard
Mudbrawler Raiders
Flame Jab
Odious Troll
Consign to Dream
Silkbind Faerie
Cinder Pyromancer
Mudbrawler Cohort
Double Cleave
Runes of the Deus
Tilling Treefolk
Duergar Cave-Guard
2 Nettle Sentinel

These colors were definitely the way to go, as the rest of my card pool was essentially trash. Some of you may think a build like this is too greedy for a prerelease, and while I think that’s possibly true, I have Elsewhere Flask and Scuttlemutt to help with my little double splash of Soul Rend and Biting Tether.

This is one of my favorite cards in the new set, and it is absolutely sick in a format full of cards that come into play with -1/-1 counters. Three mana Annihilate, you say? Sounds like a deal. This is even better than that in Sealed, where everyone has bombs…this is a sound answer to any of them. This definitely gets my vote for one of the top commons in the set.

Unwilling Recruit
My first draft of the deck was only splashing Soul Rend (because it was essentially free with Graven Cairns), and was based more in Green/Red with Cinder Pyromancer and Flame Jab in the maindeck. When I finally switched over to the build I ended up playing, this somehow still made the cut, and I can say this was surely a mistake in retrospect. This is a fine card, but I think I was overrating it quite a bit, and it also just makes the mana bad in my deck. This probably should’ve been Flame Jab.

I saw a ton of players running this card, and my opinion of it is that it’s very weak unless you have a very specific game plan. That plan just happens to be tons of creatures with Trample, and while I had Scuzzback Marauders and Roughshod Mentor, I didn’t think it would be enough to warrant playing this. This will be pretty bad in draft in most cases, unless you have a very specific reason for playing it.

I went 4-2 with this deck before dropping, and lost largely because I was playing sloppily and was too often stuck with a do-nothing Unwilling Recruit in my hand. Now I’m going to move on to some impressions on new mechanics and specific cards.

The Quillspike Dilemma
Okay, so this isn’t really a dilemma at all. It just sounded good at the time… you got me.

If you haven’t read BDM’s article from last week, you should go do that because he was the first (to my knowledge) to write about the infinite combo with Quillspike and Devoted Druid. The main problem with the combo is that it’s hard to ever get through with the Quillspike, and if you have to wait then they have many chances to draw removal for the Druid. Not that putting them in The Abyss is bad, but there are tons of Persist guys that can buy extra time.

Anyway, my answer to this problem is Rites of Consumption. The idea is that if you find yourself with a Devoted Druid or two, you should try to pick up a Rites or two in the late picks of pack 1 and 2. This way you’re prepared for the Quillspike if it comes, and if not then Devoted Druid is plenty awesome by himself. The beauty of the strategy is that there’s essentially no risk involved, since Druid is a great card on its own and nobody in the world takes Rites of Consumption (at least before I’ve written this).

I think this is one of the best new mechanics in a while, and it’s definitely very powerful in Limited. I played multiple games at the prerelease where I was far ahead on cards since my opponent was flooded, and then he drew Raven’s Crime and emptied my hand. Flame Jab has been solid so far as well, as it can totally destroy some decks. As far as playing 18+ lands goes, I think you really need a few good Retrace options to consider something like that unless your deck already has a high curve. One thing that’s for sure is that you better hold those extra lands if you have a Retrace spell in your deck that you could topdeck and cast a few times. An interesting side effect of Retrace is that it makes cards like Oracle of Nectars go down in value, since the Oracle wants you to play out all your land and you won’t be happy when you rip that Flame Jab and have no lands in hand to abuse it.

Ballynock Trapper
As if the aggressive strategies needed more help in this format. This guy is absolutely sick, and could keep UW around as a serious contender in the new format. Casting a single Niveous Wisps or Somnomancer with this guy active should easily tap down an opponent’s whole army and leave you free to bash through. It’s nice too that this guy can tap someone and then untap and get in there himself. It’s very possible this is the best tapper we’ve ever seen for Limited play.

Cenn’s Enlistment
This is very strong in Sealed, and I think it will still be pretty strong in Draft. It’s obviously nuts if you have a Liege or Duergar Mine-Captain. In general I think this will be a solid finisher for UW or GW aggro, since you can create a swarm if you start to get flooded and get in the final few points that way.

Wilderness Hypnotist
Let’s not make the same mistake that many of us did with Saltfield Recluse. Granted, this guy is a little less reliable, but with Hybrid being the main theme he should still be able to activate in most games. He does have that extra point of toughness, which is very helpful in a format full of 2/1s.

Puncture Blast
I’m not mentioning this card for the obvious reason that it’s totally insane and wrecks Persist. I’m mentioning it because I got completely destroyed by this and Flourishing Defenses in Sealed, and it may make the Defenses more valuable.

Beckon Apparition
This card should almost always be maindeck. With Retrace and Persist being such strong mechanics, this card is a decent answer to both and still playable as a 1/1 flier.

Noggle Bandit
This guy is pretty comparable to Neurok Spy, and seems like a great addition to the Mono-Blue deck. If you somehow get Clout of the Dominus on this guy, the game should be over in most instances.

Aerie Ouphes
This guy may be better than Matsu-Tribe Sniper. That’s saying something as far as anti-Flying cards go. The Sniper probably still wins out because it only costs two mana, but the Ouphes totally destroys archetypes all by itself. Hoof Skulkin is also an awesome common way to boost this guy up so that he can take down bigger men.

Desecrator Hag
This guy alters the format for the simple reasons that decks like Green/Red will now have access to a Gravedigger, which is pretty unfair.

Smoldering Butcher
This guy may look like an ordinary Giant Cockroach on paper, but I assure you he is so much more. Four power and Wither should handle just about anything on the ground, and it’s nice that he nullifies Persist. Black is notoriously weak against Green, and this guy fills a hole in that matchup.

Cinder Pyromancer
An awesome addition to mono-Red, I have a feeling this card may be overplayed in the first few weeks of drafting. It really is a niche card, and you can’t just throw it in any deck with Mountains as you can with basically every other pinger in existence.

Fire at Will
I’m not sure what to think of this one yet. I definitely like it more than Aethertow if you can cast it reliably, since it’s really hard to Convoke the ‘Tow on offense. If nothing else, it’s yet another card that you have to consider playing around, along with ‘Tow and Inquisitor’s Snare.

Inside Out
I got totally wrecked by this card in the prerelease (though I wasn’t playing well so it probably could’ve been avoided). It should usually have uses, and if nothing else it cantrips pretty easily. You can also use it on offense. It’s no Snakeform, but it definitely should make the maindeck in most drafts.

Wickerbough Elder
This guy is a total house. There are so many good Artifacts and Enchantments in this format, and in the worst case scenario he is still a Hill Giant and an insurance policy against Steel of the Godhead and friends.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about (and had conversations with other good players about) is the fact that Wither seems a lot better now. There are more guys with Persist, and the -1/-1 counter theme is just stronger overall. Ember Gale is better overall because there are more playable X/1s it can kill now. Black is actually a color again thanks to both Unmake and Soul Rend being common, as well as a slew of other strong cards in BG and BW.

As far as the next few weeks are concerned, I’d like to get some ideas and opinions from you guys in the forums on how exactly you want me to cover the new format. I can break the cards down into guild and try to mesh that with the Shadowmoor cards. I can simply review the new cards by guild along with some thoughts on how they fit in with the old format. I’m totally open to suggestions. Hopefully this was a good starting point, and I’ll have drafted a good deal more before next week and have some new insights. See you in the forums, and please post your opinion on the direction this column should take if you have one.

Nick Eisel
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