The Wescoe Connection – The Best New Cards in Rise of the Eldrazi (Part I of II)

The StarCityGames.com Open Series returns to Atlanta!
Thursday, April 22nd – Rise of the Eldrazi is causing quite a stir, and everyone is looking for the next breakout Constructed card. Today, Craig Wescoe looks at the best of what White, Blue, and Colorless has to offer, hyping cards that have avoided examination, and busting the bubbles of a few that have been highly hyped…

In last week’s article I discussed some of the new directions Standard will likely take once Rise of the Eldrazi becomes legal, including five new deck lists. This week I will continue to talk primarily about the new set, but instead of focusing on deck lists I will examine individual cards and what I take to be the cream of the crop from the new set.

In this two-part series I will rank the best cards of each color, in order (1 = best), and explain why they are the best, including a number of specific applications. I will also mention specific cards that are not good and why they are not good, so that you don’t fall into the trap of playing bad cards in your deck that you mistakenly thought were good cards. This week I will do colorless, White, and Blue. Next week I will do everything else.

Colorless Cards

1. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is legit. He is a contender across multiple formats, as well as being a one-of in the dedicated Eldrazi deck (to tutor for with Eye of Ugin when you need him). All things considered, he is better than Progenitus if your plan is to cheat him into play (i.e. via Polymorph or Hypergenesis or whatever) and is easily the most powerful creature to be attacking with via Sneak Attack (annihilate all your permanents, take 15, can’t target him with your instants. Good luck!). He may still be worse than Terastadon (and possibly Iona) in Oath, but he certainly looks good in Hypergenesis, Polymorph, and Sneak Attack decks.

2. All is Dust is being highly overrated right now. Some people have suggested this card will see play in control decks as a catch-all to creatures and planeswalkers. They are wrong. Planar Cleansing had similar hype and saw almost no play. Even in non-White decks, better options exist, and that is assuming there is a deck that even wants a 7-mana board clearer. Remember how little play Jokulhaups saw? I think it was in one deck. This card may see some fringe uses in sideboards, but the real use for this card is in a dedicated Eldrazi ramp deck, and in that deck it is the centerpiece. The deck will start off ramping its mana via Everflowing Chalice and possibly Explore and/or Rampant Growth and/or Growth Spasm. Then once it gets to five or six lands, likely including an Eye of Ugin or Eldrazi Temple, it will rely on this card to remove all the progress the opponent was making to his board while the Eldrazi deck was setting up its mana. Then the way will be clear for giant aliens to come down and begin annihilating the opponent’s board and life total. It will be a four-of in that one deck and will scarcely see play in sideboards of a couple other decks.

3. Eldrazi Temple should only see play in the dedicated Eldrazi deck. Some people believe that there will be control decks that want to play All is Dust and fuel it with Eldrazi Temple. I cannot buy into this belief. If the control deck can afford colorless mana, it would probably rather have Tectonic Edge before any copies of this card. And if it has even more slots for colorless mana (somehow, despite 4 Everflowing Chalice and 4 Tectonic Edge), it would probably be better served by Dread Statuary. But this card will be the best land and an automatic four-of in the dedicated Eldrazi deck, and there will be a dedicated Eldrazi deck, both in Block Constructed and in Standard.

4. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth is the most undercosted of the bunch, and will certainly be included in the Eldrazi deck, but unlike Emrakul, he will only see play in the dedicated Eldrazi deck. Drawing 4 cards means you have enough action to power out the next monster whether they deal with him or not. And 10 power is enough to win in 2 hits. Very solid, but only for the dedicated Eldrazi deck.

5. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre is the third Eldrazi creature that will be played in the dedicated Eldrazi deck. The ability to Vindicate a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Oblivion Ring and then live through a Day of Judgment makes him the third best of the bunch, behind only Kozilek and Emrakul. But like Kozilek, he will only see play in one deck.

6. Evolving Wilds is also worth mentioning. It is obviously a functional reprint of Terramorphic Expanse, but some decks in Standard want more than 4 Terramorphic Expanses. With all the Rampant Growth effects running around, it may be time for a multicolor deck immune to Goblin Ruinblaster to step into the limelight. Likely not, but it’s nice having cards like this in the format.

Artisan of Kozilek is pretty much garbage. Since the Eldrazi creatures that you want to be playing with each have the Gaea’s Blessing effect, they will never be in your graveyard when you play this guy. So don’t play him.

Eldrazi Conscription is pretty bad as well. The temptation is to put it on a spawn token and basically get a 10/11 haste trampler with annihilator 1, but that basically costs 9 (with is fine) and can immediately get killed by Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Smother, or any other instant that can off an 0/1 at instant speed (which is not fine). For that much mana investment you’re better off getting a real creature, preferably with a positive added benefit when you cast it — you know, like Time Walking or cantrip Ancestral Recalling, or at least vindicating.

I doubt Skittering Invasion will make the cut in the dedicated Eldrazi deck. If it cost 5-6 mana and made one less token, I would be on board, but at seven mana you want to be casting All is Dust, which means this card will not get cast until the following turn, and at 8 mana you are already in Eldrazi territory. The mana acceleration for the deck needs to be cheaper and at this cost you’re better off just casting an alien like Ulamog’s Crusher, which probably isn’t quite good enough for the deck either.

Most of the colorless cards are specifically tailored to one specific archetype (the dedicated Eldrazi deck), just as most of the affinity cards in Mirrodin are tailored to one archetype (Affinity). Unlike Affinity, the Eldrazi deck is not going to be format-warping. Rather it will be more of a deck among decks. Its presence will be most strongly felt in Block Constructed, but will exist in Standard as well. All the artifacts in the set are basically the nut low and none of them are even really worth mentioning, which is rare. I can’t imagine playing any of them in a Constructed deck, barring new cards being printed that make some of them worthwhile. Besides Evolving Wilds, Emrakul is basically the only colorless card that will see play in decks other than the dedicated Eldrazi deck, and will be the only card seeing play in older formats, but it sure is powerful and will certainly deliver on expectations.

White Cards

1. Oust is basically what Deathmark would be if Deathmark could target any color creature. Unlike Deathmark, Sprouting Thrinax does not trigger. Also unlike Deathmark, it ensures that they are drawing a one-drop on turn 3 (i.e. typically the most inopportune time), shuffle effects aside. In a linear aggro deck like White Weenie, you generally don’t want to give the opponent 3 life, but all things considered I would rather give, say, Jund 3 life than a free Rampant Growth on the second or third turn (as Path to Exile would give them). Furthermore, if we compare it to Oblivion Ring, you might be giving them 3 life up front, but with only 1 mana invested you can now play another threat or level up your Student of Warfare, so the 3 life in many cases will pay for itself in a couple of turns. So if Oust is this good for aggro decks, just imagine how phenomenal it can be for decks that do not care if the opponent gains 3 life! Decks running Wall of Omens, Planeswalkers, and late game control elements just got upgraded. Yes, it is not an instant, but neither is Vindicate, Maelstrom Pulse, Deathmark, or Oblivion Ring — and all of those are staples because of their extremely high efficiency at what they do.

2. Student of Warfare is the one-drop that White Weenie decks have been waiting for. Now Steppe Lynx has a partner in crime and the white decks just got a lot faster, and a reason to play Ranger of Eos! In Standard (not Extended), because of the shaky mana, this creature is better than Wild Nacatl. So fetching two Students with Ranger of Eos is more powerful than fetching two Wild Nacatls. Combine this guy with the usually creature bonuses in an aggro White deck and you have a quick powerhouse. I talked enough about this guy last week not to repeat myself too much again this week. Suffice to say, don’t be afraid to play this guy. He is very good.

3. Wall of Omens is third on my list among White cards, not because it isn’t amazing but rather because the two cards above it are so good and already have homes. Wall of Omens is a natural fit for Blue/White Control decks, but aside from that one archetype I’m not sure this card will see a whole lot of play. Wall of Blossoms was a perfect fit for Blue/Green Tradewind Rider decks and also for Green/Black/x Living Death, and shortly thereafter, RecSur decks. I would not be surprised if new decks pop up that want this card, but I think for now I cannot justify ranking it above either of the other two cards. It’s better than most cards in the set though.

4. Gideon Jura is a very good card. It particularly excels against creature decks, but even against non-creature strategies it can attack as a 6/6 for 5 mana. If Baneslayer Angel does not get reprinted in M11, this card will explode in popularity, but as is, it will be relegated to sideboards and 2-ofs maindeck, I think. It has a lot of synergy with Wall of Omens and Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and I have already shown you some applications for this card last week. It’s not the best card in the world, but it is good enough to see a substantial amount of play, even while competing with Baneslayer Angel for the same mana cost slot.

5. Linvala, Keeper of Silence is marginally playable. It’s basically a cross between Stoic Angel and Burning-Tree Shaman, neither of which was terribly exciting. Sure, it turns off mana creatures too, but I’d much rather be casting Elspeth, Knight-Errant or Ranger of Eos in a dedicated White deck, and there are plenty of better options at four mana in multi-color White decks. If this card ends up seeing a substantial amount of play it will be solely due to metagame considerations, but I doubt that will happen. Still playable, but far from good. I rate it only because it is among the best options for White decks in Block Constructed and possibly post-rotation Standard.

Transcendent Master is not a card I am sold on. I have been testing him this past week and I have been unimpressed. He stays vanilla for too long and requires a heavy investment (usually your entire turn 4 and turn 5) to gain an advantage out of him. Trained Armodons just aren’t what they used to be, and unlike Student of Warfare, a Path to Exile on this guy is actually a blowout since you are not getting ramped to 4 mana for Planeswalkers and Rangers of Eos — you are getting ramped to seven mana for… exactly, you just got double Time Walked. He is just too fragile and requires too much investment to compensate for the times he gets you blown out.

Demystify is underwhelming. The fact that Disenchant effects cost 3 (Oblivion Ring) and 4 (Kor Sanctifiers) and are sorcery speed makes a one mana instant answer to enchantments very appealing, assuming that is what you are looking to accomplish. The fact that it does not hit artifacts, however, makes it much inferior to Disenchant. I can see this card seeing some fringe sideboard play in non-Green decks (since Naturalize is a thousand times better), but any card that is a thousand times less exciting than a card that barely sees any play doesn’t have a whole lot going for it.

Lightmine Field is a card I am sort of going out on a limb with and saying should not be played. It feels kind of like a Moat, combos really well with Gideon Jura, but ultimately I believe is not worth the downside. The downside of this card is that you pay four mana for a card that never affects the board in a meaningful way, even against a creature-based deck. Naya and Bant are fine with only attacking with one dude, since they have exalted creatures. White Weenie is fine with only attack with a couple dudes since they have equipment spells. And Jund doesn’t need to attack with anything other than 4/4 Dragons anyway. Having multiples in play makes it a little more enticing, but then there is Maelstrom Pulse. I just cannot envision wanting to play a deck that wants this card in its 75.

Deathless Angel is terrible. Against the decks where indestructibility matters, the Angel is vulnerable the turn you cast it (unless you wait for 8 mana, which seems even worse). And even if you do manage to untap with it against such decks, what are you going to do, sit there on defense with WW open to block Baneslayer Angel and lose your creature to Lightning Bolt? This card is garbage; don’t be fooled.

Guard Duty is bad. Oust, Path to Exile, and Oblivion Ring are each better options. At least when Oblivion Ring gets removed, the creature will come back with summoning sickness and not be able to attack until next turn. This card is basically Pacifism for control decks, and I can’t remember a control deck, or any deck for that matter, that wanted Pacifism. Don’t play this card; people will make fun of you, and for good reason — you will look like the dumb oaf in the picture, holding that puny shield.

Hyena Umbra may be the best Umbra in the set for Constructed play (which isn’t saying much, because they are all pretty bad for Constructed), and I’m sure there will be some deck somewhere that makes Top 8 of a tournament and all the advocates of this card will rejoice and say “See, I knew it!” But come on, let’s be honest with ourselves. Is this card really worth an entire card? Is risking a blowout in response worth +1/+1 and first strike? Is the creature you’re enchanting really important enough that you want it to come back when it dies to a destroy effect? If you want your creatures to gain bonuses, play real cards like planeswalkers (Ajani Goldmane), enchantments (Honor of the Pure) or equipment (Trusty Machete… err, I mean Sigil of Distinction).

Lone Missionary will keep you company while you’re at the bottom tables of the tournament since you’re playing terrible cards in your deck. Let’s consider this card. A 2/1 is about half the size you would expect from your two-drop. And gaining 4 life is really only a good enough stat if you’re playing against a Red burn deck. And against Red burn, Kor Firewalker is a million times better. Sure, it’s a cutesy combo with Survival Cache, but at this point you are playing 8 really bad cards in your deck in hopes of spending your first 3 turns drawing an extra card and gaining 8 life. And this is assuming you drew ‘the nuts.’ Nice deck.

White made out better than any other color in the new set. It gained a high quality removal spell (Oust), an offensive powerhouse (Student of Warfare), a defensive powerhouse (Wall of Omens), a solid Planeswalker (Gideon Jura), and a few other cards that will see some play. I’m excited to see how the format will change now that White has so much to offer.

Blue Cards

1. See Beyond has been given a lot of praise, and for good reason. Adrian Sullivan in his recent article compared it to Lat-Nam’s Legacy, a card that keeps almost seeing playing in Legacy. Any time you play cards in your deck that you don’t want to draw, the ‘drawback’ of shuffling a card back can actually be used as an advantage. Consider decks like Flash Hulk, Counter-Rebel, Tinker, Oath of Druids, and Polymorph that would often rather shuffle a card back into their deck than keep it in their hand. I predict this card will not see much play in decks that cannot turn this drawback into a benefit, but there are enough decks that can for this card to see a tremendous amount of play across, well, every format.

2. Seagate Oracle is a card I can definitely get behind. In a world where everything dies, and that seems to be the world we live in with Jund dominating, a 1/3 that replaces itself seems worthwhile. And unlike Wall of Omens (which is fantastic) and Elvish Visionary (which also sees play in various formats), this card gives you a choice of which card to draw. Comparisons to Court Hussar are a bit unfair since each card has its own context. Between Wall of Omens, Stoneforge Mystic, and this guy, a deck can be made that primarily consists of creatures that replace themselves. This may prove to be a strategy that can compete against Jund’s 1-for-1 removal plan as well as against the rest of the field. Sometimes you just want a body to buy time while you sift for what you’re looking for. He gives you access to the same options as Divination while affecting the board. Besides, who doesn’t like to draw cards? I would be more surprised if this card only saw fringe play than if it saw rampant play.

3. Deprive is a decent card that probably deserved to see some play, but it is being way overvalued right now. The best upside of Counterspell is being able to cast it on the second turn to negate the opponent’s early play. The second best upside is that, unlike Force Spike and Mana Leak and Rune Snag, Counterspell is just as effective in the late game. When Blue Mages bemoaned the lack of Counterspell and gnashed their teeth at having to put Cancel in their decks, it was not because they had to wait until turn 8 to play Baneslayer Angel with counter backup, it was because they had to wait until turn 3 instead of turn 2 to start playing permission. Deprive does not fix this problem. This card is more like a confused marriage between Cancel and Daze, where you have to pay both costs of Daze to get the effect of Cancel. It might prove to be better than Cancel in the end, which I am skeptical of, but that still isn’t saying much for the card.

4. Mnemonic Wall is an interesting card. In most contexts a 0/4 Scrivener is pretty bad, but in the world of Eldrazi this card may be a niche card. Returning things like Explore, Treasure Hunt or Growth Spasm in the early turns is reasonable, and returning All is Dust in the later turns starts to get pretty exciting. This card may not pan out, but I have my eye on it.

5. Unified Will is another card that looks appealing and may end up finding a deck for itself, but I doubt I will be sleeving up this card anytime soon. In order for it to be turned on by the second turn, you have to have played a one-drop AND your opponent did not play a one-drop AND either you were on the play or your opponent did not play a two-drop. In a format where half your lands enter the battlefield tapped (unless you are mono color, in which case you would have to be a mono Blue deck with one-drops… good luck), relying on having a one-drop for this to work out is just asking too much. The best use I can think of for this card is in a Green/x strategy, possibly Bant, where your plan is to spend the early turn playing Green mana creatures like Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise. In this style of deck, you can reliably get ahead on creatures and turn on this spell, and since it is 1U instead of UU you can easily cast it. But for the times when you would want this card, Negate might just be better. I would not be surprised if it succeeds in this style deck, but anywhere else would certainly surprise me.

Lighthouse Chronologist is one of those cards that looks really good and you can envision scenarios where it wins you the game, but when all is said and done, a 1/3 for 2 that requires a substantial mana investment just to have any significant impact on the game state is simply too high a cost. Sure, there may be a place for it in control matchups, but I’d be willing to wager that there are better options for whatever you are trying to accomplish.

Shared Discovery is unplayable. Yeah, it’s cute with spawn tokens, but don’t kid yourself, this is a Concentration that you have to work really hard for. It will not help you one bit when you are behind, and even when you are ahead and have four creatures on the board, tapping them all at sorcery speed leaves your defenses down for an entire turn… all for just three cards. There are better options at every corner. Don’t be the guy trying to make this card work. You will fail.

Sadly, Blue did not come out so well in this set. It got so much from Worldwake in the form of Jace, the Mind Sculptor that it was probably due for another lackluster set. It did gain See Beyond, which for Legacy and Vintage players should be well-received. That card will see a lot of play across many formats, and I believe Seagate Oracle will have his time as well, at least in Standard. Deprive and Mnemonic Wall each serve a purpose and although the former will be overplayed initially, each will settle down as niche cards, joined to a lesser extent by Unified Will.

That’s it for this week. Next week I will round out the rest of the set and tell you everything you need to know about which cards you should be playing with and which cards you should avoid at all costs. That’s my job, to keep you well-connected on the things that matter.

Craig Wescoe