Peebles Primers – Eventide in Limited

Read Benjamin Peebles-Mundy every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Wednesday, July 16th – With Eventide fresh in everyone’s minds, and the Constructed applications of the new cards and mechanics slowly filtering through our collective unconsciousness, Benjamin Peebles-Mundy takes a break from the sixty-card formats for a stroll through the forty-card farmlands. He brings us his preliminary rankings for the best commons by color, and shares a few tips and tricks picked up at the prerelease…

Last week, in my article forums, I mentioned that I wanted to write about the Quillspike/Devoted Druid combo deck. Unfortunately, I was operating under the impression that Eventide was legal for my PTQ this coming weekend, and that the people I would playtest with would therefore be interested in exploring the new format. Apparently I was wrong. It’s still something that I’d like to take a real look at, but it’s not something that I’ll be able to do immediately. Perhaps once there’s some real motivation, the others will see things my way.

What I do have for you today, though, is something that I’ve been aching to write for a long time now: an article on Limited. I usually try to leave this topic for Nick and others, but I love Limited and I got my start writing about it, so it’s been hard to keep my hands off for so long. With Tom gone, I figured that this was my chance to dip my toes back into the water.

I’m going to cover the obvious first, and list what I perceive to be the top commons in each color, along with the top commons overall. I’m also going to talk a little bit about some themes and cycles that have changed with the replacement of a pack of Shadowmoor, and then go over the sealed deck I received at this weekend’s Prerelease. Hopefully these thoughts will help you out in your upcoming forty-card battles.

Top Commons

It’s obviously very early on in Eventide’s lifespan, so it’s almost certain that I’ll make a mistake or two in my rankings. However, I have talked to many people I respect about these cards, and I think that we’ve correctly identified the cream of the crop. The ordering might trickle up or down, but you won’t go wrong by playing these guys.

Recumbent Bliss
Ballynock Trapper
Fire at Will
Harvest Gwyllion

I believed that the tough decision on ordering was Bliss versus Unmake, while one of my friends objected to the fact that I put the Trapper as low as third. My reasoning for this order is pretty straightforward, though: the removal is ordered by how versatile it is. Unmake will take care of whatever problem you have, regardless of Persist, Indestructible, or a lack of interest in the red zone. Recumbent Bliss will do the same, and comes with a significant upside, but it doesn’t deal with utility creatures the way Unmake does. Trapper also provides the lock-down on whatever’s ailing you, though it similarly doesn’t stop utility creatures, and is more fragile than the Bliss. Fire at Will can range from complete blowout to decent trick, but cards that can be complete blowouts are usually cards that you’d like to play with. Harvest Gwyllion is the only card up there that I don’t think of as removal, and even there it’s one of the best defenders you can hope for, which is very strong in a Limited world where you’re trying to avoid getting run over by 3/3s.

Noggle Bandit
Dream Thief
Banishing Knack
Shorecrasher Mimic

Blue seems to me like it got the short end of the Eventide stick. The first three cards are quite good, but after that the quality seems to drop off steeply. My pick for the top, Snakeform, is a card that I heard lauded as the best overall common in the format by many players at the Prerelease. While I don’t quite agree with that statement, the fact is that you will often find yourself killing a guy and drawing a card. It’s good against both sides of Persist, can ruin some Hybrid auras, and is generally just a great card to have. Noggle Bandit and Dream Thief are both nice three-drop evasion creatures, but I am initially giving the nod to the Bandit because of its better evasion and higher toughness, even if it doesn’t have the ability to give you a free card. After that, I think that Banishing Knack is a good card to have to cheaply handle problems like Hybrid auras, and that it can go wild with something like Pili-Pala or Patrol Signaller if you’ve got the time. I gave the last slot to the Blue/Green Mimic, but as a friend of mine said, you know you’re looking at a shallow color when a 2/1 is a “top common,” even if there’s a potential upside.

Soul Reap
Desecrator Hag
Rendclaw Trow
Harvest Gwyllion

Two Black/White Hybrids are making a reappearance here, as you likely expected. As for the new players, Soul Reap is a great cheap removal spell. Living in a multicolor block makes it worse than something like Death Rattle, but you will rarely find a deck against which it is a truly dead card, and its low cost means that it’s not unlikely you’ll be able to give yourself the kicker. Desecrator Hag is not quite Gravedigger, but chances are good that the creature card with the highest power in your graveyard is the card you wanted, so you shouldn’t feel too bad about the restriction, and instead look at the fact that you’re getting to regrow the threat that got killed. Rendclaw Trow plays the same sort of game as Harvest Gwyllion; it’s a great blocker the first time around, and then it comes back for another round playing Scar. It doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the best targets around for the Black/Green Hybrid aura, since suiciding him in to the other side will still leave you with the Persistent remnants.

Puncture Blast
Fire at Will
Noggle Bandit
Flame Jab
Duergar Assailant

Again, two previously-seen Hybrids have made the cut, but the real story here is Puncture Blast. In my opinion, this is hands-down better than Snakeform and Unmake. Every time I look at it I think of Last Gasp, except the -3/-3 is permanent and it can go to the face, and I’m pretty sure those are two things that I like. Not only that, but it’s easy on the mana, and can still cripple whatever it can’t outright kill. Flame Jab is a nice one for picking off smaller men, but you’re still only getting one damage per card, and it’s not like you’ll always have five lands sitting in your hand. That’s not to say that it’s bad, though, just that you likely won’t find yourself machine-gunning 3/3s and 4/4s too often. Duergar Assailant is Red’s Shorecrasher Mimic; I couldn’t find anything to get excited about and it seemed like a fine nomination for the top of the list. It will usually get a few damage in early and then either trade up or pick off a free guy. It is nice that there are quite a few x/1 creatures for it to discourage in Eventide.

Aerie Ouphes
Rendclaw Trow
Desecrator Hag
Wickerbough Elder

To the surprise of no one, there are three repeat appearances here. The Aerie Ouphes are a card that I might be overrating early, but I definitely felt the lack of a nice Giant Spider or Cloudcrown Oak in Shadowmoor, and the Ouphes give you that class of card along with a decent-size Persist body. Wickerbough Elder is at least going to be a 3/3 for four, with the added benefit of giving you a -1/-1 counter to play with. Other times you’ll have what is essentially an Indrik Stomphowler with the option to play for him in installments, and that is another deal that I’d like to take.

Puncture Blast
Recumbent Bliss
Ballynock Trapper

It is worth noting that the Black/White/Red slice of the pie has an obscene number of high-quality removal spells these days. In addition to the four cards up here, you’ve got Flame Jab and Fire at Will, all to go with hot ones from Shadowmoor such as Burn Trail, Silkbind Faerie, and Gloomlance.

In addition, the opinion that I’ve come to agree with is that Black is no longer the worst color in draft. Two new removal spells, two nice card-advantage creatures, and a host of other goodies have let it leapfrog over Blue, which suffers from a big lack of non-Snakeform power commons. Again, it’s pretty early for that sort of conclusion, but I think that there’s quite a bit of truth here.

Hybrid Auras

The CMU wisdom in triple-Shadowmoor was that you should expect your suited-up guy to be around for just a single turn; the other guy was going to have an answer for it if he was prepared to actually win a draft. That meant that Runes of the Deus and Steel of the Godhead were the two that you wanted most, because the single shot you got out of either was extremely powerful. It also meant that Shield of the Oversoul was pretty strong, as chances were good that the worst thing that was going to happen was losing your Shield but not your creature.

All of the old Hybrid auras took a hit with the release of Eventide, and they took that hit on two levels. First of all, there’s now approximately two-thirds as many targets as there were before, so it’ll be harder to really have enough men to suit up to make them worth it. This is less true for the Shield because it is pretty good on a mono-Green creature, but it’s still a consideration. The other way in which they took a hit is the fact that there are a ton of new ways for your enchanted creature to get blown away. Unmake and Recumbent Bliss both completely ignore the presence of the aura, Banishing Knack is a cheap way to ruin the surprise value and buy a lot of time, and Wickerbough Elder will love the chance to upgrade. Snakeform deserves its own mention here, since it’s a little bit tricky. You’re going to get a 1/1 Green Snake, which means it’ll be a 2/2 if it’s wearing any of the Green auras. It does lose all abilities, but “Indestructible” is not an ability, so Shield of the Oversoul is immune to this particular trick.

Finally, many of the new Hybrid auras are just not good enough to make the cut. The Shroud you get from the Blue/Red aura is nice, but a simple +2/+2 is only going to be good when you’re putting it on something like Noggle Bandit. The only new one with the same one-shot punch as Runes or Steel is the Green/Black aura, which you can likely use as a two-card Plague Wind, or at least something close. If you manage to land it on a guy with Persist, all the better.


It’s my opinion that the Mimics were being vastly overrated at the Prerelease, and this opinion is shared by a few people I’ve talked to. In my evaluation, these cards must be treated as 2/1s that will only rarely trigger. In addition, if you’re planning on sitting on something like Unmake to kill a creature and ambush a flier, it can be pretty obvious what’s up when you fail to attack with your Mimic and pass the turn with three mana up.

However, I don’t want to sound like I’m saying that they’ll never trigger. However, I do believe that the best way to look at the trigger’s power is to look at that (Hybrid) color’s three-drops. After all, this format is still about racing out of the gates, and so the best time to hit someone with a pumped up Mimic is when you follow it with a nice curve drop. By this logic, the Blue/Red and Black/Green Mimics are the best, as you’ll be very happy to swing for three or four the same turn you play your Noggle or your Trow. The others do have common three-cost removal spells waiting, but the only one I’d be happy to use on the third turn would be a Snakeform that let me draw a card, kill a guy, and deal four damage; I’d rather save my Unmakes for higher-impact creatures.

I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that you should try to look at the triggers as a bonus for attacking, and not as a bonus for the middle of combat where you manage to pull off a nice two-for-one. I’m sure that it will happen from time to time, and you’ll be happy about it, but I think that the usual trigger scenario is simply a third-turn creature and a pumped-up swing.

Prerelease Sealed

This is the sealed pool that awaited me when I sat down for a thirty-two player flight. I don’t usually play in Prerelease flights, preferring the big “main event,” but apparently that’s a feature local to Pittsburgh and PES, and not an option every time in Boston.

The thing that jumped out at me first were the doubles of Flame Jab, Unmake, and Snakeform. When I also saw Hatchet Bully and Crackleburr, I thought that I was definitely going to find myself playing something like Blue/Red. However, I was noticing that most of my straight-Blue cards were pretty mediocre, as were my Red cards. However, by playing with Black and Green, I’d get to maximize my Liege, use three of my other rares, and still find room for four of the above removal spells (and the best four at that).

When I decided to take a serious look at Black/Green, I cut the pool down to the following cards:

Beckon Apparition
Nightsky Mimic
2 Unmake
Voracious Hatchling
Inkfathom Infiltrator
Torpor Dust
Wasp Lancer
Corrosive Mentor
Creakwood Ghoul
Dusk Urchins
Faerie Macabre
Soul Reap
Creakwood Liege
2 Woodlurker Mimic
Flame Javelin
Loamdragger Giant
Scuzzback Marauders
Aerie Ouphes
Bloom Tender
Tower Above
Medicine Runner
Raven’s Run Dragoon
Grazing Kelpie
Shorecrasher Mimic
2 Snakeform
Elsewhere Flask
Trip Noose

That’s thirty-three right there, so I knew that I was going to have a powerful deck on my hands. After sorting it by mana cost, I decided that I was looking at far too many early drops, so I trimmed away Beckon Apparition, Nightsky Mimic, Medicine Runner, Shorecrasher Mimic, Pili-Pala, and Elsewhere Flask. That got me to twenty-seven, and usually I’d be looking to trim five more, but the presence of Bloom Tender and two cantripping Snakeforms meant that I felt comfortable running only seventeen lands.

At this point I decided that I was going to play at least ten Swamps, so I wanted to cut down on my mono-Green commitment. This brought the departure of Loamdragger Giant and Raven’s Run Dragoons, leaving me with two more cuts to make. The last two out were Torpor Dust, which I decided simply wasn’t needed alongside my eight other removal spells, and Creakwood Ghoul. I spent a large amount of time trying to decide between the Ghoul and Corrosive Mentor, but I eventually decided that I did not want to be stuck with a five-mana 3/3 when I thought that I would be facing quite a few fast but inconsistent decks in my flight. I did make a note that it remained in my board, though, in cast I ran across someone who threatened to overpower me with Retrace spells.

My final list, then:

1 Inkfathom Infiltrator
2 Woodlurker Mimic
1 Bloom Tender
1 Wasp Lancer
1 Dusk Urchins
1 Faerie Macabre
1 Corrosive Mentor
1 Creakwood Liege
1 Heartmender
1 Grazing Kelpie
1 Voracious Hatchling
1 Scuzzback Marauders
1 Aerie Ouphes
1 Trip Noose
1 Soul Reap
2 Unmake
2 Snakeform
1 Tower Above
1 Gloomlance
1 Flame Javelin
10 Swamp
7 Forest

Throughout the day I wished that I’d played eleven Swamps, but perhaps I was simply being too greedy with my Heartmender and Tower. Still, even ten sources made it less than easy to cast Unmake at every moment I would have liked to. I did not include Sapseep Forest because I had very few Green creatures, but I likely would have sidelined it either way, as I expected my deck to be generally slower than those of my opposition, and I wouldn’t want to miss a curve drop and be crippled if I drew it as my third or fourth land for the game.

I quickly blew through the flight on the back of my massive amounts of removal and lategame win conditions like the Liege and Heartmender. Wasp Lancer was a card that I’ve heard debated in the build, but it provided me with at least three game wins as a nice fourth- or fifth-turn flier that just squeaked a few attacks in and brought the game home. Grazing Kelpie was very nice in one match where my opponent had at least four Retrace spells (two Enlistment, one Savage Conception, and one Monstrify), and was generally strong with Heartmender on my side.

I’ve discussed a few ways to lay out the cards during deckbuilding if you’re a very visual person, and I think I’ve come up with a contender for best method, though it does take up a lot of room. If you do build this way, you’re just going to use it for a quick scan, and then adjust in the future. The layout is pretty simple: you stack up your mono-White cards, then your White/Blues, and finally your White/Blacks in a row. Then stack your mono-Blue cards below the White/Blues, with the Blue/Blacks and Blue/Reds to the right of that pile. The next row is Black, Black/Red, and Black Green, and so on. This leaves you with a table looking something like:


If you want to eyeball your Black cards, for instance, you just look at the Black pile and anything in the same row or column. The only part that’s a little weird is that the White and Blue columns wrap around to the bottom. Still, it’s a nice way to just see how everything lies, before you really dive in.

Anyhow, I hope that all this has been of value. I’ll likely go back to leaving limited articles to Nick, unless there’s a huge demand for the opposite.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM