At this point, while we don’t really have enough information to know which specific archetypes will be pushed in Constructed, we’re starting to have a good
idea of what Eldritch Moon will look like as a set. We’re seeing continued support for Eldrazi and Humans, which have both already been successful
strategies in Standard, as well as Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies, which have been pretty far from good enough for Standard, so they’ll need a lot of
support to get there, but we’ve already seen some of the right kinds of things, so I wouldn’t rule any of them out yet.
On the Eldrazi front, they’re clearly going pretty far into making this an Eldrazi set. I’d have preferred a little bit less in the way of space in the set
dedicated to Eldrazi creatures that feel roughly like what we may have expected from a third set in Battle for Zendikar, but it’s clear that
Eldrazi outside of Emrakul play a large role here.
Emerge seems to be a dedicated Eldrazi mechanic, and it plays really well with the seven-cost mechanic from the previous sets. Previously, if you wanted to
trigger Sanctum of Ugin or Kozilek’s Return, you had to spend seven mana. With emerge, that’s no longer the case. I’m not exactly sure that we’ll want to
be sacrificing Sanctum of Ugin when we only have four or five lands on the battlefield and maybe finding something like Thought-Knot Seer or Eldrazi
Displacer to cast after casting an emerge creature, but it’s not out of the question.
Kozilek’s Return might be the more important card to take advantage of this mechanic. Getting to build one of the best sweepers in Standard for less than
seven mana is potentially a big deal. You have to sacrifice a creature, but if that creature was going to get killed by the Kozilek’s return anyway, that’s
no big loss.
Emerge is kind of like the “champion an X” mechanic from Lorwyn, in that you get a large creature, but you have to lose a creature you already have.
However, this one wants you to lose expensive creatures, and you don’t risk losing your card if your opponent kills your creature in response. Okay, maybe
it’s not that similar, but I bring up the comparison because Elder Deep-Fiend kind of reminds me of Mistbind Clique.
If you have a three-mana creature to sacrifice, Elder Deep-Fiend is a four-mana 5/6 flash creature that taps your opponent down (if it’s their upkeep on
turn 4, you’re probably tapping all their lands, but in reality, I think this is going to tap creatures more often than lands). A 5/6 creature is in a
similar ballpark quality-wise to a 4/4 flier.
If we can really compare this card to Mistbind Clique, this could really be a card to watch. Yes, you lose your creature forever, but playing Mistbind
Clique around removal was always kind of a pain, and this has a lot of other things going for it: it doesn’t have tribal requirements, it triggers
Kozilek’s Return, it can tap things other than lands, and there’s even some fringe stuff, like how it lets you sacrifice a creature to trigger Archangel
Avacyn. It also doesn’t always cost four. Sometimes it costs as little as UU. You have to sacrifice a creature that costs five or more for that, but maybe
it was dying anyway. This does have flash, after all.
If you’re building a deck to support emerge, you want to find creatures that are good to sacrifice. Typically, when looking for creatures to sacrifice, we
look for cheap creatures and tokens, but here, we want creatures that cost a lot of mana. Generally, sacrificing expensive creatures is pretty painful, but
sometimes, the body is only part of what you’re paying for.
Here, I’d start by looking for creatures that do something when they enter the battlefield, or when they die, or creatures that come back. Reflector Mage
plays really well with Elder Deep-Fiend: bounce their creature, they can’t replay it, and next turn, sacrifice Reflector Mage to Elder Deep-Fiend to tap
their lands, and they won’t be able to replay it again because they don’t have the mana. Prized Amalgam is another good one, if you can bring it back
easily. This could even finally be Greenwarden of Murasa’s time to shine: I’m happy to use a card to get two Regrowths if I’m getting the mana I spent on
it back in savings on my giant Eldrazi.
Cost reduction mechanics also play well with emerge. In Modern, this means things like affinity or delve, but we have fewer options in Standard. Amusingly,
the biggest takeaway there is that emerge plays well with emerge, especially if there ends up being a really expensive emerge creature, so that you can use
another as a jumping off point to get there early; they seem to all have cast triggers, so you’re also benefitting from some of your value being
It’s not exactly an Eldrazi, but Eldritch Evolution looks for similar creatures to fuel it. This smaller Natural Order is a lot more flexible, since it
doesn’t require either creature to be green, but it can’t generate the massive mana disparity that Natural Order does when you convert something that costs
one or zero into something that costs eight or ten for four mana. Here, you’re spending three to gain two, but you get a tutor out of it, and, as we’ve
been discussing, a creature on the battlefield isn’t always worth the mana put into it if we’ve already gotten something from it.
I suspect this card will be more important in Modern, where it can find creatures like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or Primeval Titan, or where it can
sacrifice Hooting Mandrils or Myr Enforcer to find almost anything, than in Standard, where it’s hard to do much better than Dragonlord Atarka, but it’s a
powerful card, so it doesn’t take that much to go right to break it.
Humans, both in Bant and White forms, are already pretty great in Standard, so any upgrades to the archetype are likely to be relatively incremental unless
we see a substantial upgrade to their manabase, which I don’t really expect (maybe a R/W land like the Shadow lands could help with the Reckless
Lone Rider almost certainly takes too much work; assuming you just tried to add it to Mono-White Humans, you’d need to either connect with two of them, at
least one of which has been pumped by Thalia’s Lieutenant, Gryff’s Boon, or Always Watching, or combine two of those effects with one of them. If it
weren’t for Gryff’s Boon I wouldn’t really be tempted, but if you do have Lone Rider with Always Watching and Gryff’s Boon, after it connects once, it
becomes a 6/5 with vigilance, flying, first strike, lifelink, and trample. Still, that’s a lot of things that have to go right, and if we’re playing
Mono-White Humans and everything’s going right, I really don’t know why we need a super Baneslayer Angel.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar at three mana is a little too expensive for Mono-White Humans, but the perfect cost for Collected Company. It’s also nice in the
mirror, where it makes it impossible for your opponent to ambush you with Collected Company, since their creatures will enter the battlefield tapped.
Without playing with it, I’m not sure that that’s enough to earn a slot, since, as mentioned, the deck’s already great, but I think it’s close enough to be
worth trying out.
Vampires in this set seem to be going even further down the path of pigeonholing Vampires to a dedicated madness strategy. This can be tricky to pull off,
since you need a hand that’s a good mix of enablers and payoffs, cards with madness and cards that let you discard, but it has been done successfully in
U/G Madness with Odyssey cards (a million years ago, but the proof of concept is still valid).
The real problem here is that all the good payoffs and enablers are split between red and black, and I don’t know that we’re going to get to be choosy
about them, and WotC’s gone really extreme on the colored mana requirements. I’d like to use Insolent Neonate to tie my madness deck together, but it’s not
the easiest to cast that on turn 1 and then have BBB available on turn 3 for Voldaren Pariah.
I feel like Vampires need enough to go right in terms of getting their cards to line up to a reasonable curve and a good mix of enabler and payoffs without
exceptionally steep mana requirements, but R&D seems to feel differently on this one.
Stromkirk Condemned is the exact card that Vampires needs aside from the BB casting cost, though. A reuseable, free discard outlet that also helps with the
fact that, in a world with Always Watching, Vampires end up looking very small.
Geier Reach Sanitarium would be an interesting late-game offering for Vampires, where they get to break the symmetry by discarding cards with madness, but,
aside from the fact that it takes a lot of lands to have the mana to cast a madness spell after tapping three lands to draw and discard, I really can’t see
them supporting a colorless land unless they end up with enough cards to be a lot more selective than it currently looks like they’ll have.
I like that Vampires in this block are doing something unique, but it really looks like they’ve been given too many hurdles and set up to fail.
Kessig Prowler is a big step in the right direction. The nature of the color combination and the creatures themselves really force Werewolves as a deck to
be aggressive, and that means they need good one- and two-mana creatures. A 2/1 for one isn’t exceptional these days, but it’s a lot better than nothing.
This new kind of Werewolf that costs mana to flip and never flips back really pushes the utlity of Vildin-Pack Alpha. Geier Reach Bandit had already been
one of the more realistically playable Werewolves, and now it looks like it’s set up to be the cornerstone of the archetype, if it’s successful. If your
draw happens to line up to let you hold a Kessig Prowler, or better yet, multiples, until flipping Geier Reach Bandit, you get an exceptionally good value
on some creatures in the mid-game.
I’m skeptical that any of this will outweigh the sheer number of Werewolves that are clearly designed exclusively for Limited play. The archetype’s been
far from good enough, so a couple of key cards won’t actually get it there, even if a few of the payoff cards, like Howlpack Resurgence, are quite good.
We haven’t seen any moves to addressing the biggest issue with Zombies, which is the complete absence of playable one- or two-mana Zombies outside of
Relentless Dead to get the party started. We have a lot of infrastructure for a persistent attack through the mid-game, but, especially with so many
entering the battlefield tapped, Zombies are structurally horrible at playing from behind, which is where they always find themselves after taking the
first turn or two off.
Gisa and Geralf is a great enabler for something I have no interest in doing (casting Zombie creature cards) and something I’m a little more interested in
(turning on delirium), but the rate isn’t good enough if I’m not taking advantage of the Zombie portion of the card, and it’s hard to see how to do that.
Still, Gisa and Geralf are a solid size for the cost, and even if they’re dealt with, the enters-the-battlefield ability is potentially very useful for
setting up Relentless Dead, Diregraf Colossus, Prized Amalgam, and whatever else you might be trying to do with Zombies. Overall, I’d call this a pretty
strong start, but I’m still counting on Liliana’s role in this set to imply a few cheap Zombies to round things out.
Spirits are historically a supported tribe in Innistrad, but the support in Shadows over Innistrad is minimal, and we haven’t seen anything for it
in Eldritch Moon yet, so I’m guess it’s just not going to be a supported tribe in Standard.
There’s a lot going on in Eldritch Moon already, so I needed to find some way to break it down, but there’s a lot to be excited about outside of
the tribes. I’m particularly excited about escalate, a simple, crunchy (rules rather than flavor-heavy) mechanic that I think will be a lot of fun to play