Welcome to my set review for Throne of Eldraine! I’m breaking down my review into three parts: The Command Zone, Artifacts and Land, and The Rest, including Adventures and Food. Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here. Part 3 covers:
- Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After
- Adventure cards
- If a card is only available in a specific release, it will be noted. Enjoy!
Once Upon a Time is an extremely important addition to Magic. You might say, well, I’ve heard that this could enable some degenerate first turns and such in Vintage/Legacy/Modern/Standard… is that what you mean by important? Can Commander get in on some of that? I suppose. Having degenerate first turns is not really what Commander is all about. Luckily. Most of the time. I talked to a fellow player last weekend about him getting whacked by turn 0 Ad Nauseum in Commander.
Maybe Once Upon a Time will somehow contribute to that, who knows. But that’s not what I’m interested in, here. The other day I wrote about a couple of troubled storytelling decks. Storytelling decks need help. They don’t quite play the same game as the rest of us. A lot of them fold to boardwipes, or a non-interactive plan that kills quickly. In the case of the storytelling decks I wrote about, their commanders were a problem, specifically Brago and Zurgo. Neither of them can play Once Upon a Time, but other storytelling decks can. These decks now have an opening move that establishes what they are. I’ll give you a example. I go out and watch the old-school Jungle Book movie, and get hooked on the music of Louis Prima, who plays King Louie, the Monkey King who wants to be human. I realize that Grunn, the Lonely King would be a great Commander for my King Louie deck. I get some apes, and all the musical reference cards. I’ve even got the Un cards that make you sing, for a ‘sideboard’ that I’ll ask my opponents if I can play before games.
There’s just one problem: a lot of people see Grunn as a fast, out of nowhere, voltron-style killer. Somebody ran this deck in my area, and there’s some salt. Every time I play this deck, I try to explain that I want my deck to tell a story, but it’s tricky, and not everybody believes me. Enter Once Upon a Time. I can play this turn 1, and introduce my deck like it is a story. Once upon a time (play spell) there was a great ape king, who lived in the jungles of India (play forest). His name was Louie, and his greatest desire was to be human (play human card). And so on. This is infinitely more likely to establish you as a storytelling deck than ‘Don’t worry, I’m not trying to kill you on turn 4 with commander damage somehow.’ An opponent who appreciates your story will want to hear more of the story, and can help accommodate that by not killing you or your stuff before you can tell some of it. This is more than a Vorthos card, it’s a trope card, hopefully one of many going forward.
Happily Ever After is sort of a trope card, too. If you use this as your story deck wincon, I’ll applaud you. This takes a lot of work. You need all the colours, and I’m not sure just playing Transguild Courier or Sphinx of the Guildpact is going to win you points. Though it does mean you can pull this off in mono-white if need be.
The life total thing is pretty easy to do, but the different permanent types in the graveyard could be pretty hard. Hermit Druid can get you there fast, but if you’re a storytelling deck, this is going to take a lot of work. That’s actually a good thing. It’s a big reward for that lot of work, and watching a storytelling deck do that work, and then end with this will be well worth it. You can also pair this with Tainted Remedy, copy and or/ blink effects to nuke the table. Have fun!
Brazen Borrower is an extreme flavour fail. The card’s function doesn’t represent the themes at all. There’s a fair amount of talk about this being a powerhouse in Constructed formats. Maybe. I think both halves are somewhat playable, but not in Commander. Single target bounce spells have to be pretty special to make the cut. Capsize is a far superior bounce spell, among others. This can’t even save your own stuff. It’s an inferior Disperse. The Borrower doesn’t offer much more than a surprise chump. It doesn’t even block well. I think this is a hard pass for me.
Harmonious Archon is pretty cool. This isn’t quite Humility, or anything like that, but it’s an unusual symmetrical effect that you can absolutely exploit. This guy suffers from a bad CMC. 6 is bad for white unless it has help from green. Luckily, a lot of token strategies start with those colours. Making 2 humans is good. Lots of cards like humans and tokens and human tokens. The base P&T 3/3 ability is where the money is, however. This can be a number of things in your favour. If your creatures are all under 3/3, they get bigger. If your creatures use +1/+1 counters, they stack up on top of base P&T, so you have the edge. If you have a reliable way to reduce toughness by 3, you can kill anything on the board, even if it’s indestructible. Serrated Arrows is a super derpy way to do this, but it’s an example.
Having a set P&T for all or most of the creatures on the field interacts with all sorts of strange cards. Want to keep everything tapped down with Meekstone? Sure. Want to leverage Changelings as Archons while you’re at it? Why not? Warstorm Surge and Kher Keep for a bad DYI lightning kobolt? I’ll be keeping my eyes out for weird and wonderful ways to use this card.
Outlaws’ Merriment is not Assemble the Legion.
These two cards look similar, but they are not. Assemble the Legion is a serious token-generating engine, and Outlaws’ Merriment is a silly one. Assemble the Legion gets out of hand in a few short turns, or in a few proliferate activations. Merriment maxes out on one creature token per turn, and even though they have some utility, not controlling which one appears makes that less of a toolbox and more of a scratch and win. Assemble goes wide, can work with a plan, gets crazy with Purphoros, and wins the occasional game. Unless you’re looking to Outlaws’ Merriment for fun, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. None of these tokens is good enough, and not at one per turn at random. In Brawl, however, I take that all back. Armies in a can are a tried and true Commander tactic, and without much competition in that respect, this card could be a big player in Brawl if the Chulane decks let anyone else have a chance.
I’m a little disappointed that Eldraine’s token white sweeper, Realm-Cloaked Giant, is a mythic. I like those cards at rare. The CMC of these cards is well established by now. Your basic Day of Judgment costs 2WW as the floor. Wrath of God, the antiquated version that also shuts down Regeneration, can be a slight up or downgrade, depending on what you’re doing. Occasionally something like Kaya’s Wrath comes up that keeps the 4 CMC, but makes it tricky by changing 2 to BB. Most of the current ones cost 3WW, and destroy all creatures, but tack on some ability or other to justify the extra mana. Cleansing Nova was a recent example.
Sweepers (or Wraths, as they get called sometimes) are an essential staple of Commander play, even if you make tons of creatures yourself. You know those games where you get way ahead and have a massive swarm? Other people have them too, and having one card that resets all that is invaluable. If you don’t play any sweepers in your decks, I hope it’s because you have too much flavour. Back to our Giant. This is a conditional sweeper, so if we have Giants, we come out ahead. But our opponent might, too, and that includes Changelings (This is great sweeper option for Changelings, who have mostly Whelming Wave), so this might not always be the sweeper we need. The 7/7 body is our upside. For 7 mana, I don’t see this getting cast much unless everybody has stalled. I think it’s a weak upside, and overall not worthy of mythic rarity. Unless you’re giants or Changelings, you can get much better sweepers in a rare-level price range.
Robin Hood, or Robber of the Rich is not a legend. I have mixed feelings on that. Is Questing Beast more of a legend than what is clearly a character that has dozens of books and movies, etc. about him? Whatever. That means he can’t be your Commander, which is too bad, because he looks like he’d be fun and a Rogue tribal enabler. Grenzo wants him, and so does Marisi, Breaker of the Coil. Cards like Grenzo and Etali, Primal Storm can be great fun to toss into decks. Stolen Strategy, too. Casting your opponents’ stuff is fun. You don’t have to build around them, and it’s sometimes less of trigger snafu to sort out anyway. Robber of the Rich is another one of those cards. If you play red, try him out. He gets down early enough that he should get an attack in before there’re too many chumps in the way. He’s a good chump, too. Note that you can’t use him to play lands, which is really too bad, because he could have been a sneaky source of ramp for red, which really needs it. Rogue tribal gets one more good piece. Would be good with Cloak and Dagger.
Acclaimed Contender has an annoying condition in needing another Knight, but getting a 3/3 body and one of the cards listed from your top 5 is great stuff. Knights will need card draw. Blink this often, knight player.
Charming Prince has a lot going on, even though the effects are rather small. The best ability is blinking, but it only targets your own stuff, which is a substantial drawback for Commander. Scry is great, and lifegain is a fallback when you have already scryed, but this seems like a maybe for white decks like Death and Taxes in 60 card formats. I think it’s too little for Commander (2/2 is still big for a human, though) and not impactful enough compared to cards like Flickerwisp.
Chittering Witch is okay. It probably doesn’t make most rat tribal builds, as those are more about critical mass of synergy rats. But a rat tribal that makes a ton of tokens can be a thing too, and this gives you a bit of removal and a sac outlet in one. This is only available in the Chulane Brawl deck.
Clackbridge Troll is a pretty good Magic card. The haste is a big reason why. We’ve seen the hunted creatures before, and they can be useful if you can make opponents suffer for making creatures. If your creature, like the Troll here, easily goes over the top, that’s good too. And if they choose to shut him down, you gain life and draw. That’s solid. When opponents get a choice, you usually come out with the worst outcome, and giving free creatures to Commander players can be a recipe for disaster, but I still think this is worth trying out. I think it’ll be fun, and it gets past some of the obstacles of similar designs that have failed in the past. 8 power is a 5 turn clock against 1 opponent. Flavourful black goodstuff.
Embereth Skyblazer could totally be a dragoon. I like dragoons, all the way back to Kain in Final Fantasy VI. This guy has good stats, evasion, and an optional mini-overrun sorta thing. Could be good. Definitely one of the better knights. Only available in the knight Brawl precon.
Faeburrow Elder is one heck of a mana dork! Bloom Tender is pretty valuable, and this might be, too. At base, he taps for WG. That alone is pretty great. Vigilance is icing on the cake. Mycosynth Lattice kills this guy right away, though. Should see tons of play in any deck that can cast him. The more colours, the better.
Faerie Formation should fit well into Alela, Artful Provocateur decks, but might struggle to find homes elsewhere. If you need a 5/4 flyer, a 1/1 flyer and a drawn card, is 7UU the price you’d pay? 7UU can do much better than that, and 4U can probably do better than this.
Feasting Troll King feels legendary. How many feasting Troll kings can there be? I guess the Standard number is 4. How Modern. Anyway, stupid jokes aside, this might offer a lot for 6 mana. Green should have no problem casting it, even with all the Gs. It would be so much better, though, if it were blinkable. The Food is essentially a one-time shot, as the reanimation does not count as cast from hand, and will not replenish the tokens. The King here is one of the best Food payoffs, and making 3 artifacts when ETBing and cast is strong, but overall, this isn’t going to make the cut for most green decks. This boils down to a big body with marginal abilities, recursive or not.
We can all wish Fervent Champion had our faces on it, but like in Highlander, there can only be one. Congratulations Javier Dominguez. This card seems like a good agro red card for standard, and might make knight tribal by virture of the equip-cost reduction. It’s pretty small, though. What makes this 1/1 and Syr Gwyn 5/4?
I don’t think Gilded Goose is playable. I think that extends to Standard, but I’m probably wrong. I think it gets outclassed by Llanowar Elves, not to mention Birds of Paradise. Why? Consuming a resource you might not have every turn in order to make mana is weak. Super weak. You don’t play the Goose for the Goose, you play it for what you can accelerate into. The Goose gives you a single activation (unless the Food gets killed) but nothing beyond that is guaranteed. It has evasion and can block a little, but given that the main function is mana, those seem like failure cases. Having the mana ability and the make Food ability both tap, meaning they can’t be activated on the same turn without help, is just bad. Hard, hard pass.
Gluttonous Troll is almost half of what we want from Food. This can generate more than one Food in a repeatable (ETB) fashion. It’s very limited though, and it really sucks that this is only in the Brawl precon, as the main set doesn’t have enough Food generators at all. The body, type and trample are semi-relevant, more so to Brawl, and the sac outlet is fair to poor. Pass.
Hushbringer is a massively powerful card. Shutting down ETB and death triggers is enormous. It can shut off entire strategies by itself. The CMC is excellent, and having flying and lifelink is just cherries on top of cherries. This is great. 60 card Death and Taxes decks are going to love this, and while it doesn’t have a specific home in Commander, it can be a powerful meta choice. You can also stuff it into a deck that simply has no ETB or death triggers and rely on the fact that so many other decks do. Top marks!
What you want to focus on with Irencrag Pyromancer are ‘each turn’ and ‘any target’. Those make this playable in a format like Commander. Without maximizing those phrases, this is probably not good enough. Maybe if it was blue, but good luck with that. This probably shines best in Izzet (red/blue) decks.
This set is rife with weird creature types. Noble, Peasant, Warlock, Serpent, etc. People love to do X tribal, so if X is serpent, here’s another payoff. I don’t see Lochmere Serpent in Commander. Who wants to sacrifice lands? and those abilities can be had easier. The recursion brings this guy to hand, but not to the field. Not good enough.
What does it mean to have 0/0 P&T but have some +1/+1 counters on you? I mean from a physiological perspective? I think Oathsworn Knight is supposed to be the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who fights on and on despite losing his limbs in combat. Fun, but I don’t think it’s good. It feels like a zombie as well. If knights could add +1/+1 counters easily, this could be in knight tribal.
Opportunistic Dragon is terrific. This a good evasive body for a decent cost, and will fit in nicely with dragon tribal. What makes it playable beyond that is tons and tons of great targets for the theft ability. Snagging a Sol Ring is more than good enough, but being able to shut down human and artifact creature Commanders is very strong. It’s a no-brainer to suggest blinking it with a sacrifice outlet on board.
Piper of the Swarm falls flat for me. If it made rats when it ETBed or something, it would be better. Having the abilities require a tap holds this back, even though it can sometimes steal stuff. I’m not sure why this is a warlock and the card Musician is a wizard. Rat tribal for the theft ability, the bulk box otherwise.
Shimmer Dragon frustrates me. It’s a reasonable Standard control finisher. Very reasonable. And Standard legal. Just not available in packs. You have to buy Brawl precons for this. That sucks. I hope this isn’t the best option in Standard. It could be. This is a good dragon. Hexproof is always awesome, and card draw that is not pinched by summoning sickness or a mana cost is also awesome. Blue isn’t really so much of a dragon colour in Commander, but this could make the cut on card draw alone. It’s likely you’ll have a few mana rocks like Dragon’s Hoard around. It strikes me this could have been a card that referenced Food, considering it references artifacts in a Food set. Swing and a miss.
Another Brawl precon card, Silverwing Squadron is a decent finisher in the air. Making repeatable Knight tokens makes this great for tribal, and a good card for white goodstuff decks in general. Lots to like for 6 mana.
Steelbane Hydra adds to the Hydra toolbox. Killing artifacts and enchantments is something nearly every deck wants to do, and while the activation isn’t cheap, green is the best way to get past that. And cool art. Also, I love turtles! Brawl precon only.
Stormfist Crusader offers Damage over Time, plus card draw symmetry that is a little broken from the get-go because it’s your upkeep when it happens. This feels like a Nekusar card, but it feels fragile, too. Knight tribal might want this just to draw cards, but it might help the opposition too much. I don’t think it gets there.
I don’t know about Thorn Mammoth. It’s a neat design, with the repeat fight and all, but it’s awfully expensive at 7 mana, and the body isn’t big enough to make the fighting effective enough. Shrug. Brawl precon only.
Wicked Wolf feels pushed for Standard, in an effort to make Food more relevant. Anyone expecting this to be Ravenous Chupacabra is going to be disappointed. This fall short for wolf/werewolf tribal as it doesn’t connect to Food enough. We are loading up on creatures who fight on ETB, so a Fight Club deck design might be in my future.
Wildborn Preserver is a pretty fantastic mana sink in any format. Some elf decks can fizzle, and do little more than play an elf for G or so every turn. This helps those games, turning your cheap elves and the leftover mana into a big boost for the Preserver.
Apparently Workshop Elders is a top-down Geppetto design. I’m just confused. 7 CMC? Seriously? More 4/4 humans? Why? Flying artifacts? 4/4 artifact creatures? This is Overcosted BFF of Tezzeret, not Geppetto. This is a complete and utter fail, as far as I’m concerned. Flavour, design, utility, the works. Just for starters, the dominant artifact creature in magic is probably the thopter. I wouldn’t pay 7 mana for this, nor should you. Brawl precon only.
Worthy Knight is barely worthy of Knight tribal. Being cast and not ETB is a real drag. Brawl knight decks at most. Probably amazing in Standard.
Archon of Absolution adds pro-white to a mini Ghostly Prison effect. That’s not nothing, as it’s an awesome blocker and avoids Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. This is way better for multiplayer than most of this set’s rares. Go figure. At least it’ll be easy to get. A likely Brawl staple.
Belle of the Brawl is probably fun to slap down in Brawl. It’s solid in Knight tribal, like the following cards I don’t feel I need to comment on much. Burning-Yard Trainer, Deathless Knight, Elite Headhunter, and Inspiring Veteran are all weaker versions of other cards you can play in Commander, but they’re all knights, and legal in Brawl. Here they are:
One of the biggest draws for cards and decks like these is that they’re cheap to put together and usually a bunch of fun. People like knights, and I’m glad there’s lots of role players to be found.
Keeper of Fables is another Brawl staple type card that gives easily achieved card-draw to green. It can be a source of that in Commander, especially for cat tribal, though there are other, better options that trigger on every hit to a player, not for each player that gets hit. The new Ohran Frostfang is that card. This is an ok option and great for the budget.
Loch Dragon gets a mention because a lot of dragons can put cards in your yard, and that might mean that dragon reanimator is a thing. I plan to try this, as my dragon deck has been boring for a long time.
Holy bats, Ratman! Mad Ratter can make a lot of rats. This would be better with a lower CMC, but getting 2 tokens for doing nothing more than drawing a second card is awesome. Rakdos sac decks like Judith, the Scourge Diva are salivating over this.
Maraleaf Pixie is a pretty good mana dork. Many mana dorks scale poorly into the late game, but with evasion and 2 power, this is alright. Faerie tribal for sure.
Maybe it’s just me, but Overwhelmed Apprentice seems like he’s punching way above his teeny tiny U CMC. Solid mill, only for opponents, plus scry, plus 2 toughness? Blink this guy please. It might still be too small to be playable, but this is a lot for U.
While expensive to cast, Sage of the Falls can be premium filtration for your deck, especially if you’re Merfolk. He doesn’t care if the creature coming in is a token, so long as it’s not human. Survivable and decent blocker, which is value for a filtration engine. Sneaky solid card.
Skullknocker Ogre gets a mention because random discard might be a legit brawl tactic to deal with nasty opponents. Might be. They do get to replace the card. This does not require combat damage.
Thunderous Snapper is an okay body, fun types, and repeatable card draw. A solid Simic card, and playable in all sorts of budget decks.
Like the utility Knights above, Wintermoor Commander is a solid role player. This rises slightly above the rest with the indestructible ability, which has a variety of useful applications, including fighting and having a creature survive a boardwipe. Good for use on your Commander.
A big flavour win and a decent, tough to block dork for decks like Marisi. Beloved Princess is perfect for sacrifice outlets.
Seven Dwarves is a flavour card. Dwarfball could be a thing in Standard maybe (no) but seven of something isn’t enough for Commander. Spy Kit, a card that equips to give a creature all the names of all creatures (it’s from Conspiracy 2, not Unstable) makes this slightly better. If they do more ‘name matters’ cards, this could get there. You might have a strategy that involves cloning one of these a few dozen times. In which case I salute you. Seven Seven Dwarves could go in the Depala vehicles decks, which aren’t that strong anyway.
Wicked Guardian works pretty well with enrage. The colours don’t quite work, but smacking my lazy, no-good stepdaughter dinosaur for a card and an enrage trigger makes me smile.
I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s going to be confused by Doom Foretold. What does it do, exactly? Well, the long story short is that it forces each player, even you, to sac a permanent on your upkeep. No land, no tokens. Not bad, not great. When a player has nothing to sac, they discard, you draw, you drain 2 from them, and you make a 2/2. That goes for you too. Some games, the opponent will sac a dork, kill your thing, and you’ll be forced to loot and make a 2/2 knight on your upkeep. And Doom Foretold goes away. Maybe in multiplayer games this is enough for your 2WB investment, but I’d rather have one cast of Utter End to know I’m getting the job done.
Whoa Nelly, Fires of Invention looks spicy! Extra spicy! It has some serious drawbacks, but there’s some sneaky ways to make this great. Way #1 – kicker! Cast your spell for free and use the mana to pay the kicker! Nice! Way #2 – Mirari and friends! Cast your spell for free and use the mana to make a copy! This does not count as a cast spell, so it doesn’t count towards your cap. Way #3 – bounce or flicker Fires of Invention to reset your spell cap after two free casts. Way #4 – Manabarbs and Winter Orb! Penalize opponents for tapping their lands. Way #5 – Lots of activated abilities. I like this, and while I feel like somebody is going to break it at some point, I think it’s fun and powerful.
Knights’ Charge is only in the knight Brawl precon. Too bad. I love this. I don’t care about knights so much though, and will be trying this out in Changeling tribal. This does tons of work in either deck, and the reanimator effect is costly but gets all the knights. Narrow, but excellent.
Mirrormade is possibly the best card in the whole set for Commander. Copy Artifact, Copy Enchantment and big brother Clever Impersonator are all staples, despite all being kind of expensive. It will be rare to find a game where this can’t make a great copy of something. Staple staple staple. Even better in artifact and enchantment-focused decks.
All That Glitters is a fairly efficient voltron option for aura-heavy decks. Even equipment-heavy voltron decks can make this a massive bonus for 1W. A great budget card, probably amazing in knight Brawl.
Deafening Silence looks to be a big time player for Constructed sideboards. Any powerful effect for 1 mana gets a look. In Commander, this is a speed trap. Lots of decks will run smack into this and have to slow their game right down. That can be really good, but you have to be careful. It will be effective, but expect it to be killed quickly and to get hate for playing it. It’s less oppressive as it doesn’t affect creature spells, but also less effective as a result.
Ferocity of the Wilds adds trample plus a power boost, and because it’s on an enchantment, doesn’t die to the boardwipe an opponent will have to respond with. The cost is good here, as is the bonus, and it helps with rebuilding. Solid. Will probably be good in Brawl.
Frogify isn’t Darksteel Mutation, but in Brawl it might be close enough. Take that Chulane. A budget Commander option at best.
Improbable Alliance suffers from only being able to make one Faerie per turn, but it’s each turn if you can draw that much, and the upside of an expensive loot for late game is okay. Weird that this can’t be played with Alela, Artful Provocateur. Probably not powerful enough, but fun for budget Jori En, Ruin Diver decks.
Like Frogify, Kenrith’s Transformation might be close enough to Darksteel Mutation to play in Brawl. Commander is another story, though the card draw helps a lot. Careful giving an opponent a 3/3, but if you promptly hunt the Elk token with a noble, you get a flavour win.
Revenge of Ravens gets a mention because it adds a lifegain element to a common effect. We already have Missing Miasma and the excellent Marchesa’s Decree, but for decks that want repeatable lifegain and a rattlesnake effect, this might be worth a look. Damage over time decks can stack quite a few of these up now. It’s slow, and commits you to a lot of midrange, but you never know.
So Tiny! So not playable outside of maybe Brawl, but OMG! So Tiny!
I could carp about how Banish into Fable gets the flavour wrong, but they already took bounce and called it theft, so in this set, bounce is anything you want it to be. I find it’s okay for softening my fabrics. This is a Brawl precon card. Despite the best case scenario, where you cast this on an endstep, bounce three permanents, make three knights and somehow profit from copying a spell twice, this does not do enough for the cost. I bet this is a fine removal option for Brawl, but Commander needs better than triple bounce or banish or whatever.
Oko’s Hospitality should make Food, going by the name. There’s weird applications for specific P&T, as I mentioned above. This does that again, and at instant speed. Even if you don’t play the Planeswalker, you might be able to use that, plus a free shuffle. This is found only in the Oko Planeswalker deck.
Return of the Wildspeaker is a story card. Spoiler alert. Too late. It lets you choose a decent enough team buff or a potentially excellent source of card draw. Can green muster up a 5 power creature, because drawing five cards for five mana at instant speed with a green spell is hot gas. It seems easy to push that higher. Could be awesome.
While Drown in the Loch is a bit meta-dependent and may not be able to do anything when you need it most, the efficiency on this card is worth a look. Mill decks can get plenty of mileage out of this, but still run into the terrible worst case scenario where someone discards Kozilek, Butcher of Truth at instant speed and screws up all your hard work. But that’s mill.
If you’re a storytelling deck, asking your opponents if they’re Into the Story, then drawing 4 cards for 5 mana at instant speed is a big time play. If you play it on their endstep, it will fuel your next turn for more story. This is great. 4 for 5 at instant speed is very playable, and lots of opponents fill their yards. If you’re mill, this is terrific. I’m sure the art, like with a lot of this set, is awesome in foil.
There seems to be a lot of really interesting instants in this set that may escape first glance. Once and Future is one of those. Don’t let the CMC fool you. You get 2 cards back with this, and you can play around with what goes where, if that matters. Clash is a thing. Getting a card from the grave and putting your CMC 8 creature on top of the deck in response to a Clash is cool. This being instant speed makes it so playable, and 4CMC for 2 cards recurred is fantastic. Even if you can’t make the GGG, you can play this on endstep to draw into the second card. Very good.
I wouldn’t mention Rally for the Throne if there wasn’t some trick to make it greater than the sum of its parts. There is. Remember old Firesong and Sunspeaker? The Spellcows of Dominaria? Here they are.
There was a Spellcow craze briefly, then it turned out the deck was boring and linear. I’m sure some people still play it however. The Spellcow decks tend to love having bodies in play to up the return of spells like Earthquake. Even bodies on your own side. Rally for the Throne adds bodies while being a white spell that gains life. Spellcows has played worse cards than this.
Return to Nature is a recent upgrade to Nature’s Claim. Disenchant variants have been playable for decades, and graveyard hate is always welcome. The art is where the biggest appeal is, however, especially as we move into October.
I’m so happy that Run Away Together is actually a pretty good magic card. It’s flavourful enough to run, but the effect works really well in multiplayer. There should always be targets, and you can have fun speculating about the unlikely pairing you’ve made. How great is it that they made this an instant?
We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel now, but I have to mention True Love’s Kiss. While I don’t think the flavour and the function quite match up (I know it’s supposed to be about a cursebreaking kiss, but it seems like it’s more of an exiling kiss), exile is no joke. Brawl might have to lean on this, and it’s good enough. Instant speed, draw a card, and exile make this a solid budget Commander card too.
Danse of the Manse is so good. Do I need to spend time drooling over how great it is to recur both Artifacts and Enchantments from the grave to play? How about the X of CMC X of less? What’s the worst this could be? If you do 2 and get back your Signet and your Sol Ring, this is amazing. 3 adds that Rhystic Study your friend hates. 4 or 5 and this is out of control. Once you get to 6, though, things change. You may not want those Artifacts and/or Enchantments to be creatures, even though 4/4 is fairly big. Or maybe you do, and this is an Alpha Strike. This card’s range is really impressive. Anything that already plays Starfield of Nyx, or Goblin Welder, will eat this up.
Gorgeous card is gorgeous. Escape to the Wilds is best with ways to play multiple lands, even beyond what the card offers. This is clearly a Lord Windgrace card, although the exile is a teeny bit scary. If you play this too early, you might say goodbye to something you can’t replace. There’s no real ‘too late’ to cast this, however, as the more mana you have, the more this starts to look a lot like ‘draw 5’. These colours can use it. Brawl staple.
Irencrag Feat is part of the same corner of design space that Fires of Invention is exploring, where you get a gigantic red effect but you’re limited by how many spells you can play for the rest of the turn. As above, there are ways around this, although it gets tougher when you can’t bounce or destroy the source of the restriction, like after you’ve cast this spell. If you can use Mirari to copy this, and then cast and copy some big burn spell like Comet Storm, you’re laughing. But this might be just plain playable. A lot of turns don’t see you play more than a couple of spells anyway, and if you sequence this right, you can play all sorts of other spells first, then this right before the big finale. Storm decks will like this, but any deck that can produce RRR should give this a look.
While I’m not high on single target bounce unless there’s a pretty significant upside, I think Stolen by the Fae qualifies. Flying tokens are no joke, and there’s a new Faerie Commander that loves flyers. This is great for Alela. The downside here is that you may get stuck wanting to make a bunch of Faeries, but settling for a less-than-optimal target. Since sorcery speed bounce isn’t great removal anyway, make the faeries and don’t worry so much about the creature. Find a way to bounce your own thing for value.
Sundering Stroke is the super Adamant spell that’s not Adamant. Adamant is 3 and 3 only. Sigh. Could’ve made room for flavour text. Ah well. This is powerful. A couple of copies of this and you’ll end the game, even if the copies didn’t get cast for any red mana. A Legitimate finisher for red burn decks. Some decks can use stuff like Mana Geyser and Dockside Extortionist to make a ton of red really quickly. It’s not a stretch for multicolour decks to get full value out of this. Enough multicolour lands and it’s moot anyway. Ireancrag Feat likes this a lot as the next spell.
Taste of Death is a Brawl precon only card. The art is so cool, and a great idea for RL Hallowe’en decor. RL is Real Life. Do I have to explain that? This card isn’t too bad, but man is it pretty niche. You have to be running tons of chumps to sac, or no creatures at all to be on the best side of this, and your opponents basically all have to have 3 creatures or less, otherwise this starts to slide into crummy. The CMC is too high, sorcery speed stinks, and the overall payoff isn’t great, but this will still be playable in Brawl. If you have no creatures and your opponent(s) have more than none, this will at least help you out. A long shot for Commander.
Witch’s Vengeance looks like a lot of similar cards that give -X/-X to all creatures as a mini-sweeper for black. But this only does a type. In 60 card Constructed, that means sideboard. In Commander and Brawl, it’s a meta call. Probably good in Cubes.
We’ve seen all sorts of variations on Cauldron’s Gift since Wizards decided that 4B was the going rate for a reanimator spell. This is a good one of those, as you get the +1/+1 counter regardless of Adamant. Having an ability like self mill stapled to Adamant is fantastic, and something I wish they’d done more of. I feel like Adamant is filler, and not given its due. It adds nothing at all to this set, and could be on any plane. That being said, it has potential for complexity that’s hinted at here. You don’t always want to self mill, even when you have the mana for Adamant. Cool design.
Claim the Firstborn doesn’t do anything new, but it does it for R. That’s new. This probably doesn’t affect Commander or even Brawl, but could this be something for other formats?
Covetous Urge casts a spell from an opponent’s exile. The rest we’ve seen before. You can Path to Exile their threat, then cast it with this. Exile is getting less and less exiley. This could be a player. It definitely looks good in Brawl with the next card.
Epic Downfall is just good. Maybe not Commander good, but probably Brawl good. Are there other exile options for 2 mana? This hits all the Brawl commanders and dozens of threats across all formats. Being a sorcery hurts, but this should still see Brawl play. An okay budget Commander spell, since it does exile. Then you can cast Covetous Urge and take that thing for yourself.
Joust combines a few interesting tricks in a nicely costed package. It sucks that this is a Sorcery, but it might be too good otherwise. At base, a fight spell has potential. Green gets most of them, so adding more to red gives red fighters more options. This gets better if your creature is a knight, but the really sneaky thing you can do with this is use it kill your own Varchild.
Varchild is a knight anyway, so this is a real removal spell in that deck, in addition to being a way to take all the survivors at once. Points for killing both Varchild and the thing she fights. This would be so good at instant speed.
As a removal spell, Outmuscle is a crummy option. Brawl might want it if there’s not much else. The indestructible element makes this worth looking at, but the CMC and sorcery speed might make you look away immediately.
Wolf’s Quarry is terribly overcosted, but making creature tokens that become other tokens when they die has some applications. I’m not sure what they are, but if you need six permanents to sacrifice, a Three Little Pigs reference is a cool way to do it.
I’m of two minds with Adventures. I’m sure you’ve seen a few by now, and like me, you might be thinking that they’re mostly 2 inferior cards stapled together to try and make some value. Are we right? Well, even if we are, things change with inferior spells when you get a payoff. Krenkos make bad Goblins look good. Atla Palani makes Roc Egg playable. If we have a great payoff, bad Adventure spells can be good no matter what they do. Here’s the payoffs, rapid fire. Ready?
Biiiiiiiiiig dropoff after those first two. And yes, that is 5 total payoffs. Did you see the cool legendary creature with the repeatable Adventure payoff? Me neither. I mean, it’s not like they were focused on Brawl or anything for this set. What really digs me are the bland legendaries and Planeswalkers we got from a certain royal family. I’m looking at you, Kenriths. By which I mean design team.
Why couldn’t any of the Kenrith cards have anything to do with Adventures? The Queen and Rowan Sparkmage are particularly embarrassing design wastelands. I’m sad, because Adventure as a deck trope is virtually unplayable in Commander, and unfortunately also Brawl. Some of the Adventures are okay, though these will do better in Standard:
They are all very pretty to look at in these alt forms. Of these, I think Murderous Rider and Beanstalk Giant are both playable to some degree in Commander. Zombie decks can use the Rider where they might have run Hero’s Downfall, getting a half decent Zombie and a good removal spell out of it as well. Beanstalk Giant happens to be part-ramp, and there’s always a need for ramp. Bonecrusher Giant looks fine for Giant tribal, and maybe some burn, mainly because of the damage prevention ability.
I would have wanted to use the Adventure cards to tell a story, but they have no focus, and no unity to access. The two decent payoffs include a very fragile creature. It’s just not happening. Fail, Wizards.
I said I’m of two minds here, and the other part of me sees Adventure for the format upside it was created to provide: in Limited. Adventure is great for drafting, because a couple of marginal cards stapled together is way better than the singly marginal cards you usually have to play.
I don’t draft much, but a lot of people do, and love it. Adventure will be great for them. Draft also moves packs for Wizards, so they’ll push mechanics that benefit it, even if they fall down in other formats.
I feel like Food wasn’t thought through. Food is top-down design that never hit bottom. This is the best Food card by a million miles.
Why is Hilda the best (and why not a legendary cow?)? Because she sorta reads (functionally, anyway) Madness 0: create an artifact token. If you follow the history of Magic you can see Basking Rootwallas, Narcomoebas, and even Urza’s Baubles enabling big time strategies. This is not my insight, BTW. I didn’t see the discard part initially. I saw it on another site or three. Hilda may turn out to be a mistake. Maybe Hilda will be the ultimate death of Mox Opal in Modern. They just ditched Faithless Looting, so there’s one less easy discard outlet that everybody was already playing, but….. Yikes. She’s just a cow. In Commander, Hilda probably will have no impact. I may regret typing that.
I wrote a sentence or two about this yesterday. It is a repeatable source of Food. It requires a combat step and damage specifically to a creature, so it’s pretty narrow. This should not have been narrow. But I’m sure they worried about critical mass of artifact tokens on some level and decided that Food would have a low power level. Here’s the Food payoffs.
What’s playable here? Well, I don’t know about in Standard or other 60 card formats. When you can play 4 of any of these cards, everything changes. I played with Clues when they were in Standard, and exactly one Clue card, Tireless Tracker, was anything. There was a wacky Grafmole deck briefly, but that was best in Limited. Clues didn’t get themselves. If a better artifact token didn’t get there, I feel like Food won’t either.
What about Commander, and Brawl? Well we have about 10 total payoffs here, and Oko is only a payoff because he makes the Food tokens and it’s implied that you can trade them or turn them into Elk. The cat isn’t terrible. If you have a sac outlet and a dozen Foods, you can drain a pile of life. Trail of Crumbs has the highest ceiling of the lot by far, giving you some card draw with filtration. But it requires some fiddly timing that’s going to hold it back. Savvy hunter draws cards, but a rate of two Food per. Instant speed and no mana cost though. The rest is not Commander playable. I hope not in Brawl either.
What this leaves us with is really unfortunate. Above is Marionette Master. She’s a good use of Food tokens. But she’s good for all artifact tokens that can be sacrificed natively. Treasure’s the best. The point is that Food is at best the worst of a bunch of artifact tokens. It’s clunky. Eating is not easy. It has minimal payoffs, and it’s hard to imagine building a Commander, or even Brawl deck around Food that could accomplish anything.
There are a few Food and Adventure cards that will break through, but I feel like this yet another set where Wizards felt compelled to do three mechanics, but didn’t do any of them full justice. Adventure is the best because of Limited, and Adamant is perfectly serviceable and bland, but Food sucks. We could easily have done without Adamant, and without all the Planeswalkers (another what, 6?) and had that creative effort go into Food. Food is life, and it got the shaft here.
Summation on the full set tomorrow. Thanks as always for reading!