*Cue music* It's the most wonderful time of the year
Luckily, the most wonderful time of the year happens every couple months! The weeks before a set releases is exciting. There's so much anticipation. What will be good? Will the format be aggressive? Can you draft a five-color deck? Nobody knows. But there's more to do than blind speculation. The mechanics of a set have a large impact on all the features of the overarching environment, and Throne of Eldraine has some new mechanics that are quite difficult to evaluate.
Adventure may appear as split cards, but they function quite differently. These are creatures that have an Adventure spell attached. If you cast the Adventure spell first, you can also cast the creature spell later from exile. Otherwise, you can still just cast the creature.
Adventure is card advantage. I think the best way to evaluate Adventure cards are as the instant/sorcery with "draw a card" tacked onto it. It just so happens that the card you draw is the creature part of the card. Beanstalk Giant isn't a seven-mana creature, it's actually a three-mana ramp spell that draws a top-end threat. In fact, Adventure cards are even better than that, because you can always cast the creature side if you need to! Foulmire Knight is impressive. It would be wonderful to draw a card before playing that deathtouch creature, however sometimes a one-mana blocker is what you need, and the Knight can function that way as well.
At this point it is unclear if there will be "Adventure-matters" cards, and to be honest, I hope there aren't. Given that this mechanic is a card advantage variant, I expect these cards to be sought after in every color. An "Adventure deck" would be difficult to get all the pieces for.
There is something subtle to understand about what this mechanic brings to Throne of Eldraine Limited. Consider the following excerpt from the mechanics article from Wizards of the Coast:
When you resolve an Adventure, that card is now exiled without any counter to remind you that you can cast it. It is rare for a mechanic like this to lack a physical reminder, and because of this, I believe there will be little to no effects in Throne of Eldraine that exile cards from anywhere as it would cause a lot of confusion for a creature with an Adventure spell to be in the exile zone and not "on an Adventure".
Many cards in the set create Food tokens. A Food token is an artifact that you can pay two mana to sacrifice and gain three life.
I have a suspicion that many players will under-value this mechanic because "life gain is bad". Cards like Life Goes On are often the worst cards in the set. However, incidental life gain is good. This is why lifelink is one of the best Limited mechanics of all time. Playing creatures is how you win and tacking on additional life buffers is surprisingly powerful. Creating food isn't as powerful as lifelink, but don't underestimate a card like a three mana 3/3 that creates a Food token when it enters the battlefield.
Gaining life tends to only matter in the long run, so the fact that food is a mana investment isn't as much of a downside. Think about Clue tokens. Drawing a card is substantially more powerful than gaining three life, however the function of when to crack it is very different. Drawing a card can change the scope of the game at any time, and hence when evaluating cards like Drownyard Explorers, it's necessary to consider when sacrificing the Clue happens. With Food, this is no longer a concern. It shouldn't be difficult to find a window to sacrifice a Food token, and hence I believe cards that create Food can be evaluated as better than if the life is gained without the mana investment.
In fact, it's possible that creating a Food token is better than gaining the life straight away. Because it is a hallmark mechanic of the set, I expect a variety of cards like Savvy Hunter that can turn Food into resources and hopefully more cards like Witch's Oven (and better than Witch's Oven) that function as Food engines.
I expect Food to have a large impact on the speed of the set, and the best case of this is that it provides tension. If the existence of Food means that aggressive decks struggle to close, then the speed of the format will become way too slow, as slower midrange decks will clash with a higher lifetotal on average. However, if the aggressive decks have enough legs that there is a tension between when to sacrifice a Food token and when to cast other spells due to fear of lethal, then this set will have a wonderful balance. It can't be too fast given the impact of food, but it can't be too slow because of this tension. This is my hope.
I enjoy when Limited formats provide incentives for builds of mana bases. Adamant is a mechanic that rewards you for spending at least three of a specific color of many on the card with Adamant.
While all the cards above get a boost from Adamant, that boost isn't that large. A 5/2 haste is substantially better than a 4/1 haste, but both trade down too consistently. Three damage to four damage from Slaying Fire is a meaningful difference, but both cards are good in the same way for the same reasons. I don't actually see incentive to skew my mana base for these cards, and hence it appears the mechanic may be geared towards scalability. If you cast this card on curve, you don't get the bonus, but you will later in the game. I hope however that more cards with this mechanic do provide mono-colored (potentially with a light splash) incentives. I believe that this incentive could increase the speed of the format in a manner that provides the tension I describe in the food section of this article.
Overall, the feature that strings together these mechanics is speed/time. With more time, Adamant is live, Food is consumed, and Adventures are completed. So, my first question about the Throne of Eldraine Limited environment is...