The Rise of the Eldrazi Prerelease is but days away, and by now it should be abundantly clear what this set is bringing to the table: the biggest, baddest fatties the game has ever seen. It comes as no surprise that cards like Emrakul and Ulamog shatter our preconceptions about what is possible from a creature in Magic, and I for one am pretty optimistic about their impact on all aspects of play — from Limited all the way to Constructed, specifically the Standard format.
Let’s face it, where there are big creatures there will undoubtedly be those who will try to play with them. Now, in the past we’ve had big creatures that didn’t need to be cheated into play. Creatures like, say, Spiritmonger or even Abyssal Persecutor, to name a few. Creatures like Iona, though, are a little bit different in that they cost a bit too much for competitive play, but have such a game-breaking effect that they become superb targets for spells like Reanimate and Dread Return. Reanimation has long been the go-to tactic when it comes to getting enormous dudes into play, and Iona in particular was fortunate to be printed around the same time that Entomb was unbanned in Legacy. However, the Eldrazi “lords” (Ulamog, Emrakul, and Kozilek) all share the “shuffle your graveyard into your library” clause regarding their placement into your graveyard, and thus happily dance around the reanimation strategy. But we still should want to use these creatures. Not doing so is a pretty large waste, in my opinion.
In Extended, we can Hypergenesis them all into play pretty easily. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that some number of Emrakuls will sneak into next season’s Hypergenesis decks, and even Legacy may adopt the monsters in some type of Eureka build. But what about Standard? How can we skip out on paying 15 mana for our behemoths? Realistically, I figure there are three ways:
I won’t insult anyone with this: 15 mana is a lot. In the last few weeks, a few authors have discussed just how to evaluate a 10+ mana creature, and why it is so complicated. As tournament players, we are not used playing more than seven or eight for any of our spells, as even just a year ago we were stressing about how playable Cruel Ultimatum was because it “cost too much.” However, much like Cruel Ultimatum, the Eldrazi spells more or less seal up a game when they hit the table, probably even more adamantly than even a Cruel can. That is, last summer when Five Color was the deck to beat it was pretty standard for one player to Cruel the other and then start a chain of Crueling, which only ended when one player finally ran out of them. If I actually cast an Emrakul against you in a sanctioned match, you’re not going to win. I’d literally say that about 99% of the time that will be enough to wrap things up. I suppose they might have a bunch of, say, Faerie Rogue tokens in play and a bunch of lands to sacrifice to annihilator, but in the current Standard I would argue that Time Walking into a 15/15 flier is usually good enough.
But casting a spell of such magnitude isn’t easy. We have to be realistic don’t we? I can tell you for certain that at this weekend’s Prerelease, I will be casting 12+ mana spells without thinking too much about it. But in Standard? How can we reasonably get to 12 mana or more when we have Blightnings and Bloodbraid Elves aimed at us? Harrow, Rampant Growth, Everflowing Chalice, Overgrown Battlement, etc are actually some of the most efficient mana-producers we’ve seen in a long time, and I don’t think that that is any sort of coincidence. Still, casting Emrakul is an absurd notion, but I’d say that Kozilek or the other nonlegendary Eldrazi are pretty safe bets. It’s also worth noting that the Spawn generators should not be overlooked, as despite the existence of Day of Judgment and company I find it hard to believe that UW will keep in sweepers against a deck that simply wants to ramp mana. I mean, I suppose in the event that the ramp decks vomits out an Emrakul then maybe Day would be the sickest, but all the other Eldrazi can be sent packing by a Path. Doesn’t seem worth it to me. That being said, I would not say that the Spawn mechanic is unplayable in Standard. Maybe less so now than when Bloodbraid Elf is gone, but at some point I would expect to see these cards in competitive decks.
I won’t try and make a strong case for Polymorph, but that is primarily because it just isn’t that great. Polymorph has a few obvious flaws, one of which is that you can effectively counter it with a removal spell. And, because most of your deck revolves around Polymorph rather than generating lots of mana, you don’t really have much of a Plan B. I mean, any deck can just keep removal spells in against you and keep you off your combo while they smash away at their own free will. Granted, the Polymorph deck has the benefit of being able to play Blue cards like Cancel and Negate, but let’s be honest: how good is Khalni Garden? How much do you really want to Polymorph Elspeth tokens? How solid of a strategy is that against Jund, specifically in the first game? I’m personally going to pass on this one, since surviving against Jund without 0/4s seems fairly impossible.
When this card was first released back in the fall, I told my playtesting group that I was really fond of it. It allowed you to cast huge spells for a nice discount, and it didn’t suffer from what Dramatic Entrance did because the card wasn’t in your hand. It also was free if one of your creatures was ever countered! That’s so insane!
Well, as time went by it appeared that Summoning Trap just wasn’t as good as Bloodbraid Elf. And yeah, that was never being argued. Still, I was pretty convinced that the card had more potential than that, and now it might finally be able to realize some of it. Now it has better creatures to put into play, and now there are more blue decks to counter our creature spells. Oh, and Jace is now in the format, which completely solves the issue concerning what happens if we draw a 15-mana creature.
So where do we start? Well, let’s first take a look at a preexisting list of Summoning Trap:
This deck has a simple game plan: play an early Trap and hope Sphinx or Iona is in there somewhere. Sphinx is very much a great creature against Jund, but Emrakul is miles ahead of it considering that against everything else in the format it’s just plain better. You can’t Path Emrakul, and you certainly aren’t going to be blocking it for all that long. Sweepers got you down? The deck is blue, so Negate might work out pretty well for you.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s think for a second about how this deck can change. The strength of the current Trap deck is that we can cast our spells even in the absence of Summoning Trap, whereas with Emrakul and other Eldrazi we’re probably going to be a tad more hard-pressed to pull that off. Instead of fretting over that, though, we could focus our deck more on the idea of Summoning Trap — much like a true combo deck. Since in every single game we want to resolve a Trap and put an enormous creature into play, why not just ensure that we do that?
Now, in order to get that done, we’re going to need to defend ourselves. Finding and resolving a Summoning Trap won’t always be a turn 4 affair, and so proper preparation is necessary. Overgrown Battlement and Wall of Omens are the best candidates in my opinion, as all we really want to be doing is keeping 3/Xs at bay and getting mana/drawing cards. The pair also has synergy together, which is never something to disregard. Mnemonic Wall is another card that I really like, and one I wager will be often dismissed too early. If it is in your Summoning Trap 7 and something like Iona or Emrakul is not, you can Trap it into play and then Trap again the following turn. It also fights counterspells well, since with only four Traps you may need to get one back quickly. It also happens to have defender, and I don’t think I need to reiterate why that is a good thing.
Lotus Cobra is a fine man, but he’s quite a bit worse than the Walls if we’re trying to defend ourselves while we set up. Noble Hierarch is fine, however, as it gives us a strong play on the first turn and lets us skip quickly to three mana. Why is that necessary, though? One card that I feel is going to be fine in this deck is Awakening Zone, as ramping while also making a possible defensive line isn’t something that I’d want to shy away from in this deck. You either get a free mana each turn, or you soak up swings from Bloodbraids. Sign me up.
Before we go much further, let’s look at a possible list:
Let me be clear: this is very rough. Finals are fast-approaching, and as a result I haven’t been able to play around with these ideas much. However, if we are to utilize the powerful creatures in this set, this is the way we’re going to do it. The numbers aren’t right yet, and some of the cards just might not work. Ultimately, this is probably a pretty premature way to present my thoughts — but, the way I see it, it’s better to share what I’m thinking about rather than just throw out a set review of something.
That being said, I don’t think this list is that bad, whether it is mostly untested or otherwise. The pieces are here, and while it’s true that we could make an “Eldrazi” deck with Temples and Eyes, I’m not sure how good such a deck would be in practice. If we want to swing with 15/15s, Summoning Trap is the card to make it happen in Standard. I’m not saying the list that I’m toying with is anywhere near correct (I’ll update it is I develop it), but I will say this: pick up Summoning Traps while they’re $2. I have a hunch you’ll be glad you did.
In the coming weeks I’ll do my best to brew up some interesting decks for the Standard PTQ season, because now is the time to find the decks to beat Jund. Now is the time to put all of our ideas to good use, and consider all of our options. Is one of them Summoning Trap? I really think it could be, and all that we need is the right list. I’ll be hard at work!
Have a good time at your prereleases this weekend, and may you annihilate opponents all day long!
Until next time…
Shinjutsei on MTGO