The full Eldritch Moon spoiler is out, and I'm excited to get my hands on the set.
Today I will be covering what I believe will be the top twenty Standard cards in the set. It's impossible to predict where the metagame will end up, so I know my list won't be 100% correct by the time Eldritch Moon leaves Standard, but this should be a fun feature to show what cards I believe will have the greatest impact on Standard. I'm planning on making this column a feature for future sets as well, and I will track the hits and misses in future set reviews.
I picked a difficult set to start with, as there are still many cards outside of the top twenty that will see plenty of Standard play. Some cards on the list here will create new archetypes, while others may fit nicely into existing ones. Whether you're bringing a proven archetype or a brand new one to #SCGCOL, make sure you are prepared for these cards!
20. Hanweir Garrison
Starting off our list today is Hanweir Garrison, which can slot in to multiple types of decks. A red aggressive shell is the most obvious, but not the one I'm most excited about. I believe Hanweir Garrison will be a perfect sideboard strategy for Grixis or Mardu control decks as a threat that can end the game quickly against ramp strategies.
Four mana is a ton for a counterspell, so it had better do something else to justify its cost. Summary Dismissal is much more, as it not only exiles all other spells but also counters all other abilities. This is huge in a Standard format with an abundance of Eldrazi creatures that have devastating abilities that are triggered when they are cast. Control decks absolutely needed this card to have a chance at thriving in this format, and I could see it being played in midrange decks as well.
On her own, Bruna, the Fading Light is a 5/7 flyer for seven mana, which is not a great rate. However, the strength of her cast trigger as well as being melded with Gisela, the Broken Blade will make Bruna a Standard staple. I don't think she will ever appear as a four-of because of being a legend with her casting cost, but I still expect plenty of Standard games to end when Bruna is cast.
17. Grim Flayer
One of my personal favorites of the set, Grim Flayer is currently held back by matching up poorly against Sylvan Advocate. However, Liliana, the Last Hope pairs perfectly with Grim Flayer in this situation by shrinking the Sylvan Advocate. The faster you can turn on delirium, the better Grim Flayer will be.
I'm not sure if Zombies will be a strong enough tribe to compete in Standard, but if they are, then Cryptbreaker will be a big reason why. Cryptbreaker has the ability to draw extra cards as well as generate additional creatures, which is a very rare combination for a one mana creature.
Wow, that's one ugly pig. Decimator of the Provinces is basically a Reality Smasher that gives all of your creatures +2/+2. Although I believe the emerge trigger is one of the most powerful abilities in recent memory, Decimator of the Provinces may be too expensive for Standard. Time will tell, but I don't see many games being won because of the Decimator that couldn't be won otherwise.
Collective Brutality wasn't on my radar immediately, but with each match I play with the card I'm becoming more of a believer. Very strong in a madness deck. While most successful when paired with a deck that is built so that the additional cost of discarding a card is turned into a positive, Collective Brutality is similar to Dromoka's Command by being a two-casting-cost spell with versatility.
Speaking of versatile spells, Collective Effort has a little of everything. White is not struggling for good removal these days, but Collective Effort can do more than simply destroy an Archangel Avacyn or a powered-up Sylvan Advocate. Thalia's Lieutenant demonstrates the power of putting +1/+1 counters on your creatures in Standard. The middle option, "destroy target enchantment," is subtle but very important, as the targeting allows you to destroy an Always Watching or Evolutionary Leap even with a Gryff's Boon or Oath of Nissa on the battlefield.
A role-player in a Spirits deck, Mausoleum Wanderer fills the all-important one-drop slot. Judge's Familiar was a Standard staple in Mono-Blue Devotion, and I expect Mausoleum Wanderer to fill a similar role in Standard now. You have to be very careful to play around the Wanderer, as it can be flashed onto the battlefield with help from Rattlechains, which also has flash and can lead to a particularly surprising Force Spike.
11. Selfless Spirit
Again, U/W Spirits will absolutely be a pillar of the format now, and Selfless Spirit will fit right in with an acceptable body and a good ability. Selfless Spirit may even see play outside of Spirits decks, but there are two problems with the card right now. First off, it is extremely vulnerable to the plus ability from Liliana, the Last Hope. Second, the most-played sweeper effect in Standard currently is Languish, and even indestructible creatures can have their toughness reduced to zero.
Gisela, the Broken Blade was much higher on my first draft of this list, but she has been underwhelming so far. Unfortunately, Gisela is vulnerable to almost every removal spell in the format and does not match up well against Reflector Mage or Archangel Avacyn. If Gisela does see a lot of play, it will be with Bruna, the Fading Light and not on her own.
The power level of Tamiyo, Field Researcher is unbelievably high, but I don't believe she will see as much play in Standard as many others. Tamiyo absolutely dominates a battlefield filled with creatures, and if the format revolves around creatures, then this rating may end up way too low. However, if there are not creatures on the battlefield, then Tamiyo doesn't do a whole lot. Pair this with a restrictive mana cost of three different colors, and maybe Tamiyo won't see as much play as her power level suggests.
Another probably surprising ranking, Eldritch Evolution also has an extremely high ceiling and could end up being the best card in the set, depending on what is printed in future sets. Eldritch Moon has so many good cards, though! I do think Eldritch Evolution will find a home in Modern quite quickly, and Legacy playability isn't off the table. However I just don't see where it fits currently in Standard. It's completely possible I haven't found the Eldritch Evolution deck and that the card is actually busted.
So you're telling me I get Elvish Visionary and Matter Reshaper in the same card? I'll take it. Without good emerge cards, Foul Emissary would not be ranked nearly this high. Spoiler alert: there may be some emerge cards higher up in these rankings. I expect Foul Emissary to become an unheralded Standard staple like Lambholt Pacifist. Blink this with Eldrazi Displacer for an even better Duskwatch Recruiter activation.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar has a lot going for herself. A 3/2 first striker matches up perfectly against other early game creatures these days. Having your opponent's creatures and nonbasic lands enter the battlefield tapped is perfect with and against Collected Company. The only thing that may hold Thalia back is the fact that she is Legendary, which may restrict the number of copies in decks of her to two or three instead of being a four of.
So you're telling me I can play Foul Emissary on turn 3, reveal Distorted Mindbender, and then on turn 4 I can cast the Mindbender for four mana, emerging the Emissary, and I'm allowed to exile two cards from my opponent's hand while having a 5/5 and a 3/2 on the battlefield? All of this from just having the Foul Emissary and four lands? This seems insane to me, and I'm expecting emerge to completely warp Standard as we know it.
In most normal sets, Liliana, the Last Hope would be number one. I expect to see Liliana in all sorts of different decks, as she can fit into aggressive, midrange, and control shells. Delirium decks have picked up some new tools in the set as well, and Liliana is perfect in them. Three-mana planeswalkers have traditionally been very powerful in Standard, and I'm expecting more of the same from Liliana, who protects herself as well as or better than any of the previous ones.
I didn't think it was remotely possible to make a card that was better than Reflector Mage at the same casting cost, yet we may have one in Spell Queller. This is an auto-include in any Bant Collected Company deck, and the fun doesn't stop there. As mentioned earlier, U/W Spirits will become a pillar of the format and Spell Queller will be the reason why. The number of instants being cast at sorcery speed will be at an all-time high to play around Spell Queller. Although it's not my favorite card of the set, Spell Queller is extremely skill-intensive and will reward intuitive play, especially when paired with Collective Company and Eldrazi Displacer.
What. How is this a card? Seriously. There is a good chance that Elder Deep-Fiend should be number one on my list and that it will be the most-played card in Standard from Eldritch Moon. Interested in tapping your opponent's lands during their upkeep to Time Walk them? I have just the card for you. Interested in tapping your opponent's creatures and attacking them for lethal? Can do! Are you behind and need something to tap down a handful of attackers so you can stabilize? Well, do I have the Octopus for you! Just in case Elder Deep-Fiend wasn't good enough on its own, we now have Foul Emissary that is just a perfect pair with it.
The Promised End of my list, the end boss of Standard. It's entirely possible that Elder Deep-Fiend should occupy this slot, but taking an opponent's turn for them is just too romantic to pass up. I can't wait to jam Emrakul, the Promised End in many different decks with the goal of casting it as early as possible. Emrakul feels very similar to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to me, as it usually cost about eight mana and will be extremely difficult to beat after it's cast. By only costing generic mana, Emrakul will be able to fit in many different decks, just as Ugin did.
Comments from Last Week
I'll end by discussing a couple of the comments from my previous article about the Legacy format. Want to be featured in Comments from Last Week? Just leave a question in the comments section below. Clear, concise, one- or two-part questions are preferred. And don't forget to check back next week to see if you made the cut!
While not as competitive as the decks listed, I feel it may be remiss not to mention the Legacy Burn deck. It's not the most consistent deck to Top 8 with but I've never played in a Legacy tournament where I didn't see at least one next to or across the table from me. It's the only true "budget" option in the format and should be covered if only to cover the field.
- Ryan Freeburger
As a fan of Burn in Legacy, it saddens me to say that it has not been a very good deck in 2016. My article touched on the top thirteen decks of the year by number of Top 8s, and unfortunately Burn did not make the cut. However, I agree with you that Burn is still a popular deck because it is a budget option, and you should be prepared for it when playing a Legacy tournament.
What a great overview for those of us who don't play Legacy regularly! Bravo.
- Craig Spooner
I'm glad you enjoyed the article, and for those of you who aren't too familiar with Legacy as well, I recommend trying the format out. I had a great time at #SCGWOR last weekend and can't wait until the next Legacy Open.
The SCG Tour® is coming to Columbus in two weeks for #SCGCOL and it will be the debut of Eldritch Moon in Standard. Which cards from the new set am I over- or underrating? Only time will tell, and I can't wait!