Set evaluation ain't easy, but it sure is fun.
There are cards from sets that are easy to slot into decks or even build around. Everyone knows that Gisela, the Broken Blade is great from her stats. Liliana, the Last Hope will be great, just like other high-profile three-mana planeswalkers before her. Spell Queller goes into Collected Company decks, and U/W Spirits, and probably a bunch of other decks. Some cards practically evaluate themselves.
Today I'll be mentioning some of the cards from Eldritch Moon that many be undervalued or overlooked, but that I think have a good chance to make it into tournament-worthy Standard decks.
The more I look at Ishkanah, Grafwidow, the more I've come around to it. You need to get a lot out of a five-mana creature for it to be playable, and I think Ishkanah meets the criteria. My initial concern was how it competes with The Gitrog Monster, a five-drop that rarely sees play even in delirium decks.
Once delirium is acquired (which I think should happen on the regular by turn 5), you get six power and eleven toughness across four creatures. You can block forever, and very well at that. Ishkanah is great at stalling the battlefield. That's where the activated ability for 6B comes in. While it looked out-of-place and kinda useless at first glance, I believe many games will actually play out where the opponent just can't attack into you and they eventually get drained out of the game.
Foul Emissary is basically an Elvish Visionary that offers better selection at the risk of bricking off. It also costs a full mana more. Not really good enough of a rate as just a three-drop value creature.
Foul Emissary is competing with a lot of very good three-drops in the Collected Company decks. However, the best spot of Foul Emissary is probably not with Collected Company but with Elder Deep-Fiend and a few of the lower-rarity emerge creatures like Wretched Gryff or Lashweed Lurker.
Summary Dismissal is an important tool for blue mages to beat creatures with “on cast” triggers. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is the biggest offender. The new cycle of emerge Eldrazi creates greater need for such an effect out of hard control decks. In Modern I can see Summary Dismissal being a reasonable sideboard card against G/R Tron and their Ulamogs.
These are multi-modal rares that have utility against any deck. Like with the Command cycle from Dragons of Tarkir, it's tough to really know the value of these cards until we're faced with surprise situations. We didn't expect for Dromoka's Command to be killing as many enchantments as it does, and it would likely still see a ton of play if it didn't, but I know those players are happy to have it when facing down an Always Watching. Same goes for the freebie enchantment removal part of Collective Effort.
Terrarion kinda snuck in the set at the end of the spoiler season and is probably overlooked by most people. It's a powerful delirium enabler at a low cost. Previously Hangarback Walker was the best option to get an artifact into the deck. Now you no longer have to play a random artifact creature that otherwise had no synergy with the deck.
The new “Loot House.”
Any deck with madness wants Geier Reach Sanitarium for sure. It's essentially like drawing a card for yourself while giving your opponent some filtering for their cards.
Geier Reach Sanitarium is currently the only legendary land in Standard, which means it's the only land that Thalia's Lancers can fetch up. I don't know if there's a midrange white deck that would want Thalia's Lancers instead of Archangel Avacyn, but it's worth noting at least.
Much like the “Collected” cycle, the Alliances are good for their versatility. I don't believe that they will prominently be maindeck cards but rather sideboard cards where one or two of their modes are good for a given matchup. I do like Blessed Alliance with Lone Rider, but that's a gimmicky combo that's unlikely to work out in practice.
The ability to make 3/2 Eldrazi Horrors is huge, as they will be significant threats most of the time. You don't even have to discard using Wharf Infiltrator's combat trigger to get the 3/2. Something like Jace, Vryn's Prodigy does the trick just fine. Also, if you discard a creature with madness, you can cast it for madness and still pay two colorless for a 3/2 Eldrazi Horror!
The last word is the most important in the textbox of Repel the Abominable:
Prevent all damage that would be dealt this turn by non-Human sources.
Oh, and I guess it could be used as a Fog to prevent some damage to you too in a pinch.
There was a small push for Equipment in Shadows over Innistrad that never caught on. Now, with the block complete, some strategies that only had halfway support will now have enough pieces.
Stitcher's Graft isn't quite good enough on its own, but it has a few cards to go with it. Getting around the “doesn't untap” part is the most obvious. Vigilance can be key here on Sylvan Advocate or Always Watching. Untapping with cards that you may play anyway, like Blessed Alliance, is another route.
Notably, when the equipped creature attacks, it just doesn't untap during your next untap step and will untap the following turn. Slow, but serviceable. Alternatively, you could simply give a blocker +3/+3 at worst.
Did you know this card was in the set? Otherworldly Outburst is easily my favorite card from the set. When I tell people that ask me what my favorite card is, they generally have no clue what the card does.
Otherworldly Outburst does exactly what I like in a Magic card.
I like decks with a lot of cheap tricks with good rates. I also like combat. Otherworldly Outburst lets me fine-tune combat a touch like Titan's Strength or Defiant Strike. Otherworldly Outburst enables better attacks, like a Falkenrath Gorger into a Sylvan Advocate. Otherworldly Outburst can be used anytime a creature is about to die, like in response to a removal spell, to get a 3/2 Eldrazi Horror for only one mana.
While likely unnecessary, Otherworld Outburst can be combined with creatures that you can count on dying, like Insolent Neonate.
Green hasn't gotten a two-power one-drop with no downside and no extra gimmicks needed since…. almost ever? Kessig Prowler comes at a time when the green strategies of Standard are midrange, which leaves the card in an awkward spot, because it's unclear if a green deck wants it and Kessig Prowler may play poorly against said green decks.
Oh, it becomes a 4/4 later in the game! That's pretty good when your 2/1 can upgrade into something that significantly fights back when the smaller body is irrelevant.
Two key Vampires that up the count of playable red Vampire cards enough to have a Mono-Red version. In my very humble opinion, Reckless Bloodseeker and Bloodmad Vampire are just too weak for the Constructed world. Furyblade Vampire and Stromkirk Occultist are nice upgrades to those. Along with Collective Defiance and Incendiary Flow, you have enough reach to get the job done. Mono-Red Vampires is unlikely to be a Tier 1 deck, but at least it will be a playable deck.
Voldaren Pariah is basically the black Archangel Avacyn. Think about it. You lose a bunch of small creatures and they lose their entire battlefield… or at least a bunch of small creatures. Then the 6/5 kills them.
Voldaren Pariah also works nicely with the emerge mechanic, namely with Distended Mindbender. Much like with delve, you're casting Voldaren Pariah for a cheaper cost than what's printed on the card, enabling faster emerging. Typically this means a turn 4 Distended Mindbender plus something else that costs two mana.
I remember happily putting Goblin War Drums into my deck. It was a mistake, but I was happy.
Menace is a deceptively powerful mechanic. Insolent Neonate would be much worse if it couldn't get in for a few uncontested points now and then. Making all your Zombies very difficult to block is kind of a big deal.
I also used to happily play Centaur Glade. Centaur Glade could make unlimited creatures!
Of course, Graf Harvest isn't infinite creatures. It is a lot of potential value though. One mana is just so cheap for both menace and a repeatable source of creatures on a permanent that's difficult to remove.
It's entirely possible that Graf Harvest could fall to the wayside, like the other mediocre tribal enchantments such as Stensia Masquerade and Full Moon's Rise. I also recommend only running one copy, two at most. They're useless in multiples except as insurance, like for not getting blown out in combat after attackers but before blockers.
By now I'm sure that Selfless Spirit is a playable card in the U/W Spirits deck. What really gets me is seeing lists with less than four copies. I used to play four copies of Dauntless Escort and it was awesome.
I think Selfless Spirit is good enough to go into a variety of white decks. It's a minimum it's a must-kill a la Flagbearers / Spellskite. The flying allowing you to have a nice attacking threat is sweet. If the best sweeper of Standard weren't Languish, it'd be even better. I can see Selfless Spirit shooting up in value once the top-dog sweeper in Languish gets dethroned by a damage-based sweeper or one that destroys like Wrath of God.
A 2/2 and a 1/1 flying creature is a nice split of creatures that will rarely both be blanked in a given situation. They block well and sacrifice well to Voldaren Pariah. And, of course, you can sacrifice the Haunted Dead to an emerge creature and still have a Spirit token to show for it.
New Standard Next Weekend
So far this season I have 86 SCG Points: two from the Invitational, one from #SCGWOR last weekend, and the rest from Standard.
I'm sick of Standard.
#SCGCOL will bring a breath of fresh air to the stale format. Hopefully new decks will emerge to fend off G/W Tokens and the various Collected Company decks. I'm nearly certain that I'll be playing an aggressive deck. Just a question of which one.