We have been toiling in what seems to be a degenerate Block Constructed format, living in a world where Faeries wins more than half the PTQs, and attendance is beginning to dip as we grow bored of trying to combat The Faerie Menace. Eventide’s impending release fleshes out the world of Block Constructed, completing the card-pool and either giving the hope of unhorsing the big bully of the format once and for all… or killing it. I think we are getting enough out of it to let us live in a world where more-than-three decks are viable and good. And sadly the initial response seems to be that this hope is dim, and the future grim.
But let us try to be optimistic for once, and not just call everything terrible and play Faeries. After all, we saw how well that worked at Pro Tour: Hollywood for everyone not named Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa… all it takes is a little bit of pressure, and the Faerie Menace can be overcome. “Clever” beatdown decks instead of “dumb” ones (like Kithkin) might make all the difference in the world, and thus it is with great relief I welcome the newfound playability of the B/G Elves archetype: beatdown critters and Thoughtseize, working together again for great justice.
It’s not the most exciting set of all time. In fact, it rates pretty near to the bottom, to be honest. Much like Shadowmoor, many of the cards seem formulaic or just weren’t designed with Constructed on their mind (… I’m looking at you, “God” Auras… ), and with so very few cards to choose from we have a really shallow “linear” for each of the five enemy-color hybrid combinations. The Mimics would be great if there were more Hybrid cards to pick and choose from, after all. But it’s what we have, and it might just be that we have to embody the change we want to make in the world.
This, then, is going to be a Constructed review of Eventide, specifically for Lorwyn Block Constructed purposes. Some very simple changes to the format come from the fact that good mana fixing (and thus good dual lands) open up the channels for creativity… it just happens to be that too much of a good thing lets everyone play whatever they want and thus only the strongest cards survive. Lorwyn Block Constructed is somewhere between the two — tribal synergies seem to be keeping it from just mashing all the best cards together, because some of those best cards are only â€˜best’ in context. Good dual lands enable â€˜fair’ decks that aren’t trying to go crazy in that color, as well as really letting manabase-tweakers shine in the latest updates to Quick n’ Toast Five-Color Control Colonel Sanders Extra Crispy Edition.
The existence of a true Blue/Red dual land has to be important. Elemental decks have been â€˜cheating’ for some time now, using Primal Beyond as a faux U/R Dual, but without a more consistent land than Primal Beyond that archetype has sadly been denied access to Cryptic Command, one of the format’s most defining spells. This land helps us to correct that oversight, letting the Elementals play all five colors of Elementals and Cryptic Command, too. After all, it’s at its most potent in a beatdown deck, and Elementals is quite a potent beatdown deck.
This might also enable a more controlling U/R deck, as it is a direct link between Firespout and Cryptic Command, which are among the very best spells in the format. Whether that deck wants to cut colors from the existing Quick n’ Toast control decks remains to be seen, however… if it does, a land specifically for its color pair will help. Trying just the Elementals we have today, combined to play Cryptic Command in a beatdown-ish deck, we get the following:
Modify to taste, as after all these things are pretty mutable and you can mix it up to get the balance right against a variety of different decks. The concept is more important than the presumption this is anywhere near a tuned list, and showing “Incandescent Soulstoke” next to “Cryptic Command” is the important part.
Again we see a new Blue dual land, giving Green access to Cryptic Command… or is it finally giving Blue access to Chameleon Colossus, who might just be the most awesome Merfolk ever? Blue-Green Merfolk might just be awesome, and the mana doesn’t stretch too far because it generally lacks a one-drop and thus can afford Vivid lands, the â€˜cheap’ dual lands of the format. Whether this is giving Merfolk their Colossus and finally something that isn’t just embarrassing next to a Bitterblossom token, or giving Elves or Treefolk access to Cryptic Command, I can’t rightly say. This does however link up two color combinations that otherwise had no overlap for â€˜fair’ decks so far, and does so at a cost that an aggressive deck can realistically pay.
I had in recent weeks been working on the following, knowing that we would be getting a land to help out with it in the new set:
Whether it is ideal, though, I can’t say… I knew a dual land was coming, but not whether there would be any other Elves I would be happy to add to the team. See later in the article for a better update.
And sure, there are three other dual lands. Rugged Prairie is a much-needed addition for the Giants colors, and was one of the check-marks I was watching for before saying there might be a Giants deck in Block that was worth playing. Twilight Mire is likewise awesome because you can now play B/G Elves with two dual lands, making it reasonable to play that color combination as an aggressive deck… a deck aggressive enough to keep Fairies reeling, and with enough disruption to prevent them from sneaking back into the game. And Fetid Heath… well, Black/White is a little embarrassing, has no Tribal overlap besides Treefolk, and its other dual land asks you why you weren’t playing Green, which means that Black-White will be overshadowed by Black-Green-White, which will be competing with B/G Elves for â€˜best Black-Green deck.’ At Worlds it happened to win that fight, at Hollywood it lost that fight, and here we just don’t know. My suspicion then is that Fetid Heath will be a role-playing dual land, fixing mana for a three-color deck, but not a two-color deck by itself.
By Tribe —
With no really playable Giants in Eventide, Shadowmoor/Eventide has failed to follow through on the much-needed good low-cost Giants that would let this tribe shine as a playable deck. The addition of a dual land certainly does help, and Giants certainly can be playable… it just leans very heavily on Shapeshifters to get there. Consider the following:
The deck thrives in-context in Block Constructed as a potential spoiler against Kithkin and Faeries while being a powerful deck in its own regard, just with a few silly card choices that get you the â€˜nice draft deck’ look. I’d really wanted a better three-drop Giant than Taurean Mauler in the deck, but it wasn’t a necessity, and as the weak spot in the deck it really isn’t that bad. A non-Giant option is still reasonable to consider, and thus we have all of White and Red to consider for lowering the curve of the deck with that slot, but part of the idea was to play cards that didn’t die to my own mass removal spells. Figure of Destiny is worth considering in that spot, as he can easily be made a 4/4 prior to Firespout and Thundercloud Shaman, and is quite a reasonable attacker as well as something worthwhile to do with your mana. The deck thrives off its mass-removal overload and Countryside Crusher’s ability in the late-game, and Figure of Destiny isn’t stepped on by any of those facets of the deck plus gives you something more useful to do with six mana than twiddle your thumbs. Still, the addition of a new dual land alone gives the deck some new life, and is worth a fresh look.
Treefolk as a deck doesn’t really exist… conceptually it overlaps with a B/G/W controllish deck, and can certainly be made to work, but unlike other â€˜linears’ it is not really pushed by anything to really play all Treefolk. Besides that fact, however, we see a few worthwhile cards that deserve attention: Sapling of Colfenor and Wickerbough Elder. While the Saproling only has two power, it is also very difficult indeed to remove from play and can provide both cards and life (if inconsistently). Five mana is a hefty price but it helps to suggest both Bosk Banneret and Treefolk Harbinger as playable cards in the right deck, as the first cuts your costs and the second tutors for the right spell while also providing potential acceleration (tutoring for turn 2 Bosk Banneret) or just plain mana (it also looks for Forest) and color fixing (Murmuring Bosk is a Forest). While we are potentially tutoring, Wickerbough Elder is a Treefolk Shaman as well, and one that comes with a built-in Disenchant for cards like Bitterblossom and Oblivion Ring.
In addition to really benefiting from the addition of a U/R dual land, there are a few new interesting Elementals to pay attention to. Ashling the Extinguisher is an impressive body that puts the opponent in the Abyss, which is very rarely a Bad Thing (TM). Thunderblust is a high-powered hasty man with Persist and Trample the second time around, which is a pretty potent thing to have in your arsenal even though it’s wearing an expensive five-mana price tag. I feel somehow that it is everything Nova Chaser really wanted to be, mostly because it attacks from surprise and that is something Nova Chaser only does if Incandescent Soulstoke is involved. And there are other Elementals to build around, across all five colors, like White’s Momentary Blink Man, Flickerwisp… pretty good with a bunch of comes-into-play effects, as Elementals tend to have. Elementals lack focus but have plenty of things to play with, presumably making them the hardest tribe to tune and the most versatile one to design now that we have the mana of God at our fingertips.
No love for you, Goblins… you have no playables in Eventide. Sorry.
Oh, the Merfolk we get to add in this set. Selkie Hedge-Mage gives us an almost-Man-â€˜o-War in the set, limited by the fact that you can only bounce tapped creatures, but still something in the neighborhood of a Man-â€˜o-War. We don’t have to squint so very hard, though I am told in good confidence she looks much better after four drinks. Wistful Selkie is color-intensive but gives Merfolk access to Silvergill Adepts #5-8, giving Merfolk some impressive card-flow plans with eight cantrip fish, four Ponders, and eight Dismisses among their arsenal. On top of these options, we have two potent Merfolk that ask you to build around them: Cold-Eyed Selkie as an islandwalking Ophidian, and Wake Thrasher as a rumbling 4/4 or better creature. Add to that the fact that Flooded Grove gives Merfolk access to Chameleon Colossus as a Fish and we have quite a lot to think about. The White splash for Sygg is a free addition even if you play Green for Colossal-sized Merfolk, and there are several good additions to Merfolk with the new set, and two new colors of potential Merfolk splashing thanks to U/R and U/G dual lands. It’s a good day to be a fish.
Kithkin get to add one obviously awesome card, Figure of Destiny, to help their aggressive curve… and after that start thinking about some sketchy cards like Patrol Signaler or Gwyllion Hedge-Mage that won’t make the cut. They also get a B/W and R/W dual land to consider branching out into more options, like Kithkin with Flame Javelin, but for its current iteration as a mono-White deck it only adds the Figure of Destiny. “Only” getting the best nonland card in the set is still pretty good.
Eventide only has four Faeries, and two of them are easy to forget about from the get-go. Indigo Faerie is just not worthy of noting, while Dream Thief could easily fill the same conceptual space as Latchkey Faerie, a card we are not actually considering playing in any deck, Faeries or Rogues. Glen Elendra Archmage is gaining a bit of attention but is actually just a sorcery-speed double-use Negate, which is frankly just not that good. Interesting, sure, but not good, not when it gets in the way of so many other things the deck is trying to do right.
However, Groundling Pouncer is quite worthy of consideration. As a two-power two-drop it only maybe earns your attention, and considering it has neither flash nor flying it is hard to classify as a â€˜real’ Faerie. Against a Bitterblossom, though, it’s a 3/4 dude for a mere one-mana investment each turn, bigger than anything in the Faerie deck other than Mistbind Clique. Its stats are quite potent against a single flier on the opponent’s side of the board, and that is something you can expect to see a considerable amount of time in Block Constructed between Spectral Procession and Bitterblossom. Perhaps this doesn’t fit in U/B Faeries… but as a very different style of deck, U/G Faeries might just exist and want another creature that fills the curve and works with an aggressive stance. Again, the U/G dual land gives us another option, though one I don’t expect to see as long as Bitterblossom remains legal for the Faerie deck to play. Fingers crossed on that one.
And then there were Elves. We only have four Elves in the set, but they are the right kinds of Elves: ones that require attention, and are cheap enough to fit a beatdown curve. Bloom Tender is an explosive mana producer, much like Devoted Druid, and can easily be asked to tap for three mana on turn 3 if you stroke it the right way. Ramping up directly to six on turn 3 can be an impressive feat, but as a two-mana 1/1 it may just be destined to die, much as Smokebraiders are doomed from the outset.
It’s the other three that really get my attention. Talara’s Batallion is currently selling on this here website here for $12 pre-ordered. I think the undercosted frame asks you to jump through too many hoops for a body that still dies to Firespout. All that work for plus one power on your Wren’s Run Vanquisher, when it will be far less consistent than Vanquisher, just doesn’t strike me as worthwhile, at least for Block Constructed. As a playable in Standard (where you have Elves that tap for mana on turn 1) I can understand that the hype might not be overrated, but for Block Constructed I see this mostly as a do-nothing. Yes, you can play it with Manamorphose and sometimes go crazy and have +1 power on your Vanquisher, but… then you have Manamorphose in your deck, and unless you are going to tell me â€˜it helps me play Cryptic Command!’ I am not really interested in listening to the argument. (Even then, I still have to wonder… after all, Elsewhere Flask likewise fixes mana for Cryptic Commands, and puts the card back into your hand immediately instead of waiting around for when you are ready to cast Cryptic Command.)
The other two Elves however cost one mana, and can attack for more than one damage. Nettle Sentinel is straight up a two-power man for one mana, requiring care and feeding as the game progresses to attack but that’s the kind of care and feeding you can live with for a good while anyway. Twinblade Slasher is a Basking Rootwalla re-envisioned as an Elf and with Wither instead of Madness, like we had anything to use the Madness with to begin with. As a Basking Rootwalla it is a dude that can attack for three damage a turn starting early in the game, and is a curve-filling one-drop that can still be potent even later in the game. The problem with Elves conceptually is running into Firespout, and Nettle Sentinel is no help at avoiding doing that… but Twinblade Slasher lets you turn your mana into bonus damage, helping you to keep up pressure with fewer bodies on the table for Firespout to wreck. Less overextended means more men for the second wave, and with a new Wrath in the format as well that is a good thing to keep in mind.
Add a B/G dual land and suddenly B/G Elves becomes consistent and aggressive, the two things that gave it the nod in Standard and helped it to win a Pro Tour that pundits had predicted would be won by the Fae… myself included. A quick look:
To avoid the Firespout problem, well… Chameleon Colossus and Mutavault survive it, and Wolf-Skull Shaman gives you a lethal board presence without overspending cards in hand, as a full half of the cards in the deck count as Elves. Thoughtseize can steal it from their hand, and Twinblade Slasher can pump for extra damage so you are still applying pressure without adding more threats to the board. Firespout is a problem, but it’s a known issue we are designing around, and thus are using Wolf-Skull Shaman instead of the potentially more aggressively-minded Bramblewood Paragon. To sideboard against Firespout decks, Obsidian Battle-Axe deserves consideration, as all the creatures save for Wolf-Skull Shaman just happen to be Warriors as well and the Axe is something that helps to add damage before a Firespout and immediately adds damage the turn after. That it helps Vanquishers and Slashers survive Firespout (the latter if you have two mana open, that is) is worth remembering, because Haste and two points of power is what we remember… but a bonus point of toughness exists and is not meaningless.
Elves now have the ability to fill a niche that they were too underpowered to fill earlier, aided by the addition of not one but two quality one-drops and a new dual land besides.
Leaving the tribes at last, then, we get to look at The Rest:
Hallowed Burial: The addition of an affordable high-quality Wrath is something I would assume rocks the format, allowing for Blue-White Control to exist as an archetype, perhaps something along the lines of Patrick Chapin Solar Flare list. The difference between five mana and six for Austere Command is quite large, and while it is less versatile against a Bitterblossom it is better against Persist creatures. Gaining another useful sweeper effect besides Firespout and the less-good Commands is something that definitely warrants attention.
Recumbent Bliss: It’s cute. It’s controlling. It might help drag a control deck back into the game over the long-term, and so should at least get a nod as a â€˜better O-Ring’ against attack decks.
Oona’s Grace: A powerful spell for control decks, who like lands but need to draw real cards later in the game. It’s a single-use card-draw spell that then is an enchantment that sits in your graveyard, giving all of your lands Cycling: 2U. You don’t need more than two copies, usually, to have a potent effect in a control deck, and thus it deserves mention as we really don’t have that many good card drawers in the format. It will likely be playable in Five-Color Control, whose greatest shortcoming is its inability to really control the fact that it floods out in the late-game. Mind Springs can be countered, while this will always at least ensure that you have all spells as the game progresses.
Necroskitter: Someone will build a deck around it. They might even win sometimes. I am dubious of the idea that it is really worthwhile however.
Raven’s Crime: The right cost and potentially a strong effect. It doesn’t fit into an existing deck, but a nonexistent future deck might be glad to see it.
Soul Snuffers: Perhaps just the right answer to where the format is right now, as a reasonable creature that coincidentally murders most if not all Faeries barring double-Scion draws, and good against Kithkin’s hordes of tokens besides. All that and only an Uncommon to boot, so it at least shouldn’t hit the ten-dollar mark… as a rare I suspect it would have. What excites me the most is that it is a Firespout-level answer to Faeries and Kithkin tokens that doesn’t stink like Festercreep does, and which is the same color as Makeshift Mannequin.
Talara’s Bane: A worthy sideboard card for consideration in Faeries, because Green and White creatures are the most problematic ones for them to kill, and gaining life to recover from early pressure is just what the Bitterblossom deck ordered. While the card is unlikely to be format-warping, it’s still a card that exists and is worth considering.
Puncture Blast: Good burn tends to get played. This is reasonably good burn.
Stigma Lasher: If there is a goofy Red deck waiting out there, this will be in it somewhere.
Batwing Brume: A Pollen Remedy that might just kill the opponent in Kithkin mirrors, if you can stretch and sometimes pay the Black mana to punish your opponent for their attack. If you can’t reasonably stretch the mana to get there, it’s a worse one… Remedy has a chance of skipping their next untap, even if it is only a 25% chance of doing so (or however the numbers work out). Stretching that logic further, it’s a Black burn spell if inflicting life-loss on an attack is any good, and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see something weird like Elves or Rogues sideboarding this particular Black card. Seeing it often, well, that would surprise me… but the idea is not completely unreasonable, simply on its face.
Divinity of Pride: This is surprisingly like an Exalted Angel, and has four toughness and is Black, so it hits many of the required traits to survive in this format. It also costs five hybrid mana of the wrong colors, since a good controlling deck would be Blue/White not Black/White. Whether the deck that might want it can actually cast it depends, since they could if they really wanted to, but might not be willing to pay the costs that incurs upon their manabase.
Deity of Scars: An impressive man but the question again comes down to â€˜in a deck that can cast it.’ For Black/Green it is him or Mutavault; I know who wins that fight. I quite like this guy however, and we should tuck his existence away in the back of our heads.
Quillspike: Quillspike plus Devoted Druid is an infinite-infinite creature able to attack on turn 4. Add in Rite of Consumption and suddenly the attack phase is no longer required, and thus subject to infinite chumpblocking of your infinite/infinite man by a lowly non-comboing Bitterblossom. Whether it is good enough to spawn a new archetype, I don’t know, but it is likely the best â€˜pure combo’ in Block Constructed. It is sadly a combo that is interrupted by a Nameless Inversion or Lash Out, however, as the Quillspike needs his Druid friend to be anything more than an embarrassment.
Duergar Hedge-Mage: This Dwarf is no Kithkin but he is a reasonable three-drop that answers a Bitterblossom, and thus is possibly better (at least in Kithkin) than Wispmare for that function out of the sideboard. As a Disenchant creature he will likely be overlooked more often than not, and doesn’t deserve to be.
Snakeform: It’s a stretch for a removal spell but it can serve as a removal spell for the removal-poor. It will probably never see Constructed play, but it will at least deserve to be thought about some while you consider the format.
And that is Eventide in a nutshell, for Block Constructed. We didn’t get as much as we wanted, but we might have gotten enough to unhorse the frontrunner. Hopefully the new tools will actually let us play interesting Magic again, instead of just Bitterblossom wars and ten-round lucksack contests. I am personally not sold on the fact that this is even what we have at the moment… but numbers do not lie, and the Faeries are winning more or less every PTQ nowadays. The Phantom Menace is for real, and unless there is a change (be it Eventide or a banning) the cake in fact is not a lie.
s_mckeown @ hotmail.com