Eldritch Moon has almost completely eclipsed Innistrad with its release being a few weeks out. A major shift in power might be on the horizon as more and more cards get spoiled each day. The only way to tell is to take a look back at where we have been to better understand what will be important moving forward. Today we explore the shadows.
It's difficult for me to confess this, but I was wrong for most of this format. Once G/W Tokens was crowned “Best in Show," I should have just played it instead of trying to defeat it. It was difficult to admit this to myself before my final fight at #GPPITT this past weekend, but now I see the mistakes of my ways.
I ended up playing Sultai Midrange this past weekend. I chose this deck thanks to its exceptional win rate against everything but G/W Tokens. Early in testing I discovered a sideboard strategy based around Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector that excelled against decks like Bant Humans, W/R Humans, other midrange decks, and Cryptolith Rite strategies.
Sultai Midrange wasn't even testing that poorly against G/W Tokens, but that was before the common strategy was for G/W Tokens to turn into a control deck. Once that was the case, knowing how to sideboard became more difficult. At that point it became a guessing game for Sultai Midrange, since the Megamorph plan was good against their controlling builds but did very little to help out against the more normalized draws from the deck.
It was a blast to play with Deathmist Raptor for maybe the last time, but it still wasn't a better choice than just playing Bant Humans or G/W Tokens. Now, this version of Sultai couldn't really lose to Bant Humans, but I still think Bant Humans was both good and fun, which would have made for a great deck choice for me.
Even though I didn't do well with the deck, my EUreka teammate Aleksa Telerov took it all the way to the Top 8, which got him Gold status for next year. I couldn't be happier for him and I' glad that I get to test with him more times than just once.
- 2 Den Protector
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 4 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Dragonlord Silumgar
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 3 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- 2 The Gitrog Monster
On the eve of Shadows over Innistrad Standard, it's safe to say the best decks in the format are currently Bant Humans and G/W Tokens. Both of these decks have an exceptional early-game while also playing Magic for many turns after that. They stand atop of the format together, while many of the other decks in the format beat one, the other, or neither.
Both of these decks share the ability to clutter the battlefield in the early-game while also having staying power to continue playing Magic long after that. This gives them free wins when their opponents stumble and game even after those stages have passed. They are well-rounded decks in a format that caters to exactly that.
So what does Eldritch Moon need to gift us with so we may combat these two powerhouses? Many different cards could be used to answer that question, but one already exists. She has existed for some time and has already done so much. Again, we ask her for help in defeated those who are hungry for power.
This card is bonkers good!
She's playable on just her base stats alone, thanks to being a Human. She is a three-mana, three-power first striker in a format full of three-toughness creatures. Her ability to battle against all of the early creatures in the format could change things on its own. That said, Thalia's playability was never tied into how well she could rumble with other creatures. It's how annoying she is to play against that makes her good, and this version of Thalia will be as annoying in Standard as her previous self is in older formats.
Let's start with how powerful forcing creatures to enter the battlefield tapped can be. This ability alone negates the protective traits of the planeswalkers in G/W Tokens. Without a wall of pawns ready to be sacrificed, the Ally and Voice of Zendikar will be easily defeated. The G/W Tokens army of fodder is what forces the opposition to be aggressive and sometimes knowingly walk them right into an Avacyn. Now it will be quite easy to dispatch planeswalkers as they come down, allowing for a much less stressful game plan.
We will see a resurgence of removal-based strategies arise if Thalia, Heretic Cathar is as good I think she will be. Using creatures to block other creatures doesn't really work when she is leading the ambush. It will be crucial for your own survival that she does not live through the day. This might cause for cards like Fiery Impulse and Ultimate Price to once again be played in higher numbers.
Next up is her ability to mess with nonbasic lands. One-color decks will be able to ignore her for the most part, two-color decks will run into minimal issues, but three-color decks will be in trouble. First off, Evolving Wilds is an embarrassment in the eyes of Thalia.
Well, doesn't Evolving Wilds enter the battlefield on turn 1?
Why, yes, yes it does. That's because these manabases are designed to play out two basic lands in the first couple of turns, breaking the chains on Battle lands for the rest of the game. That doesn't really work anymore. Turn four Collected Company doesn't seem that reliable anymore thanks to Thalia, Heretic Cathar's mischievous ways. She is ruining all the fun, and quite honestly I'm thankful for that!
Now, we might see her simply join Bant Humans instead of just preying on it, or maybe she'll just live with Mono-White Humans, but we at least know she will not become homeless like she was last time around in Standard. She will see play and she will shake things up.
The next card that I'm confident will see standard play has the coolest creature type to be influenced by the Eldrazi.
This card was recently spoiled but quickly became my favorite card out of Eldritch Moon. I loved Faeries back in the day, mainly due to the power of Mistbind Clique. Being able to disrupt your opponent's lands in this way was and still is one of the most powerful tempo boosts that can happen in Standard.
You'd better be ready to hear “I have effects before your draw step” and then promptly start picking up your permanents. Winter has come and it's brought Elder Deep-Fiend with it!
Emerge is a pretty sweet ability. Being able to sacrifice a creature to cheapen another is something I never thought I would see again, or think would be good, but here we are. This Standard format has battlefield stalls, cards that scale up and down in relevancy dependant of circumstances, and Reflector Mages that needed even more validation for their existence. Emerge also makes cards like Kozilek's Return better, which isn't something we really needed to happen but are okay with now that it's a reality.
What sets Elder Deep-Fiend apart from other emerge cards already spoiled is it having Flash. This allows for it to be cast in response to creature removal, disrupting attackers or blockers, and tapping an opponent's lands during their upkeep to keep them from casting a powerful spell to catch up. This card's versatility while also being able to end games makes me believe it will be highly played in Standard.
The first place I would look for finding its home is a U/W deck. Reflector Mage, Eldrazi Skyspawner, and Archangel Avacyn: all three of these creatures play an important role at helping Elder Deep-Fiend find its potential in various ways. Reflector Mage and Eldrazi Skyspawner can be used as perfect fodder for its emerge cost, while Archangel Avacyn will love having an easy way to transform.
Next up is a card I like and hope sees play, but I'm not holding my breath due to how many times Gruul cards have disappointed me in the past.
On the surface he's an unimpressive 4/4 for five mana. His enters-the-battlefield ability reminds me of Wolfir Silverheart, but even then the ability is worse, since it doesn't stick around to protect him from cards like Dromoka's Command or Grasp of Darkness on the following turn. I predict this card to combine well with Den Protector, allowing for large amounts of uncontested damage to either steal games or kill planeswalkers. Even in the late-game, a Den Protector can pick up a fallen Ulrich of the Krallenhorde and deal seven damage! Outside of that, it will sometimes cause chump blocks earlier in a game than expected.
This ability alone doesn't define Urlich of the Krallenhorde, which is why I believe this card has promise. His perceived weakness on the front side is due to balancing what might be one of the most powerful transform abilities to date.
“You got nothing on me, Huntmaster!”
Now that's a Werewolf! I love that Ulrich, Uncontested Alpha's ability to fight restricts him from fighting other Werewolves. This lets you cast your own Ulrich of the Krallenhorde into one and not fear your opponent simply saying "go" and killing yours with theirs. This was how Huntmaster of the Fells worked, and I don't think anyone liked that aspect of the card.
Ulrich, Uncontested Alpha is a hell of a card and something his colors needed. It's rare that this color combination can take down larger creatures, and cards capable of doing so are highly played because of their rarity. Roast is a prime example. Sadly, Roast didn't kill flying creatures, even though the flavor of the card was a flying dragon breathing fire on the victim.
Ulrich, Uncontested Alpha luckily doesn't have this restriction, even though it's a humanoid Wolf. It doesn't fly or have massive stature like a Giant Spider spinning webs as traps. You really think Archangel Avacyn will just fly down and let this thing beat her into a bloody pulp? I call flavor foul!
My guess is that Ulrich of the Krallenhorde will be a part of the creation of a new archetype. It might even revitalize G/R Megamorph, since we already know how well he will work with Den Protector. It's not that far off to say that the Megamorph combo would be perfect in this deck. Deathmist Raptor lives again!
Like I've already said, Thalia, Heretic Cathar is going to cause decks to play more cheap removal, since blocking is out of the question. Red has great cheap removal, efficient creatures, and now a powerful way to kill problematic creatures like Archangel Avacyn. Ulrich of the Krallenhorde even has an ability that can ignore Thalia, Heretic Cathar when on the offensive!
I really hope I get to play the next Pro Tour with Forests and Mountains for a second time in a row!
By this time next week, we will have a much better idea about where this set is taking us. I have no idea what will emerge from this set, but I can assure you that the decks of old will not be as dominant as they have been. Eldritch Moon looks to be an exceptionally powerful set with enough tools to get us out of this funky Standard format we have been suffering in for the past month. I sure as hell want a shakeup and I think this set is bringing one.