The Eldritch Moon spoilers are upon us. Maybe you're waiting for the full spoiler. Maybe you're like me and the brewing wheels have already begun turning.
Early on in the spoiler season, I like to slot the few available cards into existing decks that I have experience playing. This means I'll be going over some of the cards that could possibly go into W/R Humans or at least are close somewhat. Humans and white cards will be my focus.
I really, really like the card Arctic Wolves. A little-known fact is that is one of my all-time favorite cards and the card behind me first learning the concept of card advantage. Striped Bears is not far behind.
We've come a long way since Weatherlight, and a lot needs to be going on with a five-drop to be playable. Tutoring up a legendary creature is way better than drawing a random card, and of course a 4/4 first striker is better than a 4/5 with cumulative upkeep. Thalia's Lancers warms my heart and will likely be a card I try to slip a couple copies into Standard decks just for nostalgic value. My brain speaks differently from my heart and says this just isn't efficient enough, at least for the white Standard decks I like to play.
The next coming of Otherworldly Journey. During the last few months I've been torn over whether Eerie Interlude deserved a spot in the W/R Humans sideboard. Three mana is incredibly tough to leave up. Two mana is much more manageable.
The main target for mid-game removal will be a large Thalia's Lieutenant, which Long Road Home is perfect for. Even other targets like Knight of the White Orchid or Thraben Inspector will gain net sum value out of Long Road Home, even as just a means to “cycle." The gains from responding to a removal spell could be devastating.
Exiling an opposing creature isn't something you want to do to get a few points of damage in. As for the possible last turn of the game, Long Road Home could prove to be just as valuable as a Declaration in Stone. It doesn't matter if the creature would come back with a +1/+1 counter if its controller dies before the return home.
Much like Unsubstantiate: the corner-case, yet important case where you're potentially losing card-advantage for short-term tempo gains in tight situations will come up, which adds extra value to the card. The jury is still out if all of the small uses add up to a playable Standard card, but I'm leaning towards Long Road Home being more useful than at first glance.
The easiest comparison of Hanweir Battlements is to Slayers' Stronghold. Slayers' Stronghold didn't see much “fair” play outside of showing up sparingly in Avacyn Restored Block Constructed aggressive R/W decklists. Most of Slayers' Stronghold's time in the spotlight was simply as a means to give Primeval Titan haste out of Amulet Bloom decks. Sure, the vigilance and +2/+0 were nice, but the haste is really what the card was played for.
As for the current builds of W/R Humans, I don't believe this card belongs. Remember, it's not just an extra red mana to give your creature haste: it's a red mana plus tapping Hanweir Battlements, which would otherwise yield a colorless mana. This means the haste “kicker” costs 1R. For that price we already have Reckless Bushwhacker.
A touch weaker on its own than either. However, it is a Human, which means a lot when Thalia's Lieutenant exists. On the surface it's a 4/5 for 2R split among three attackers, which is a decent rate. Red is currently the weakest color in Standard, which would pose a problem.
I do like Hanweir Battlements with its obvious combo with Hanweir Garrison. 3RR for four power split among three creatures is a nice surprise on turn 5 if you have even a small amount of setup. Of course, that leads into the also obvious and clearly designed curve of activating Hanweir Garrison on turn 6.
I was working on G/R Tokens at the start of the current Standard season. Now it might be time to take another look.
- 2 Den Protector
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Loam Dryad
- 4 Thopter Engineer
- 2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
- 1 Zurgo Bellstriker
Add four Hanweir Garrison to the above list for the full 60.
A big question we need to ask is, as a red creature that costs 2R and needs to live a turn to see real value, how does this compare next to Sin Prodder? I think it lines up marginally better, which may be enough.
The new Thalia, however, might be worth reworking W/R Humans for.
- 2 Anointer of Champions
- 3 Dragon Hunter
- 3 Expedition Envoy
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Town Gossipmonger
- 3 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
- 3 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Three of the new Thalia may be one too many, but I want to start with three so as to draw her more often for testing purposes. My concern with having Thalia as a three-of legend is that she's much worse in multiples of opening hands than Kytheon, Hero of Akros is. Kytheon is easier to trade off if you want and is apt to eat a removal spell anyway. Also, if Kytheon dies to removal, it's almost always a trade-down on mana from the opponent's perspective. Thalia will be the most important creature on the battlefield for the opponent to remove and will likely trade up with their removal, as most in Standard right now costs two mana. Then again, Thalia, Heretic Cathar may just be so insane that it's an easy four-of.
Next is the best white uncommon to come out since Valorous Stance.
I liked Valorous Stance for its versatility. I also liked Ajani's Presence for its scalability. Blessed Alliance is a little more defensive than I like in a card, but still, three modes on a mono-colored card is a lot.
Of the modes, the “target opponent sacrifices an attacking creature” will be the most useful. Notably, just like with Celestial Flare, you can cast Blessed Alliance during the end of combat step after some attacking creatures have died in combat, narrowing down the selection.
All three modes will influence a race in your favor. When cast for four or six mana, the race will be greatly influenced. I expect Blessed Alliance to lead to some huge blowout situations. While it's unclear if it belongs in a dedicated beatdown deck like W/R Humans, I can see Blessed Alliance being a role-player in many different midrange white decks.
Unless there's more of a lifegain subtheme pushed out of Eldritch Moon, Lone Rider will be quite lonely. However, Lone Rider could be a thing in Modern...
- 4 Ajani's Pridemate
- 3 Archangel of Thune
- 1 Cathedral Sanctifier
- 4 Lone Rider
- 4 Ranger of Eos
- 1 Serra Ascendant
- 4 Soul Warden
- 4 Soul's Attendant
- 2 Thraben Inspector
You see that this version of Soul Sisters isn't the Martyr of Sands version. I prefer to play more of a “lifegain trigger” version rather than a “jump to 30 life” version. I like using the life total as a resource and to use Horizon Canopy to smooth out the late-game. There weren't too many achievable payoffs for lifegain other than Ajani's Pridemate and Archangel of Thune. Lone Rider could be the cheap payoff the deck needs.
Creating a 4/4 that survives Lightning Bolt is rather nice. Their Lightning Bolts will be overloaded, increasing the likelihood that Lone Rider will transform. Once it becomes It That Rides As One, it's roughly on the same power-level as a 6/6 Serra Ascendant or a huge Ajani's Pridemate.
The “nut draw” for Soul Sisters used to be the following:
Turn 1: Soul Warden
Turn 2: Ajani's Pridemate
Turn 3: Spectral Procession, attack for six
The hole in this strategy used to be the lack of another two-drop payoff. It sucks a little that Lone Rider doesn't transform until the end of the turn, but we take what we can get.
I expect Cryptolith Fragment to be a role-player in a bunch of decks. It's the mana-rock that non-green decks have always wanted. The best part about it is it closes out games quickly, both by transforming into a “4/4” creature and by the mutual life drain. Any card that leads to matches finishing faster is fine by me!
I was working on a R/W Goggles/Nahiri deck with Todd Anderson shortly before Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. Nahiri, the Harbinger seemed great as a means to tutor up Linvala, the Preserver or Pyromancer's Goggles. We wanted a two-drop accelerant but were unhappy with both Hedron Crawler and Corrupted Grafstone, so we scrapped the idea. Now, with Cryptolith Fragment, I think the deck has some legs.
We see the Gisela and Bruna pair show up in the sideboard. Discarding Gisela, the Broken Blade to Nahiri, the Harbinger and then later tutoring up Bruna, the Fading Light does seems pretty great. As good as Gisela, the Broken Blade seems like a solid maindeck card, my first instinct is to want to blank my opponent's removal spells and a turn 3 or 4 Gisela, the Broken Blade is just begging to get nabbed by one.
Brisela, Voice of Nightmares is quite the big deal. I can't wait to see my opponent's face when a 9/10 shows up out of nowhere.
I think I've seen Brisela, Voice of Nightmares somewhere before…