Over the last three days, I wrote a pretty detailed, in-depth review of the upcoming Magic the Gathering set release, Throne of Eldraine. Part 1 dealt with Legendary creatures and Planeswalkers, Part 2 was about Artifacts and Lands, and Part 3 was about the rest, with a spotlight on Adventures and Food. Today I’m going to do an Overview of the set. Sort of a big picture thing, or TL, DR for my previous posts.
1 – The two land cycles: the Castles and basic-types. These are all excellent, and can be played in almost any deck that runs their colours. Commander staples for years to come. Fabled Passage can be mentioned here, too. Instant staple.
2 – King Kenrith, the Returned. The King is a whole lot of great abilities, but a blank canvas of deckbuilding at the same time. While he enables all sorts of incredible flavourful builds, the King might be expensive due to being a Buy-a-box promo. Check out part 1 of my review for ideas.
3 – Storytelling cards. Once Upon a Time might terrify the 60 card formats, but in Commander it can introduce your storytelling deck like nothing else. Into the Story and Happily Ever After are more examples of cards that are great for theme and have a worthwhile payoff, too. Check out part 3 of my review for more about how this can work for you.
4 – New twists on design space. Gingerbrute shows us how putting haste and unblockable together can produce a whole new design palette. Covetous Urge casts from your opponent’s exile. Irencrag Feat and Fires of Invention offer huge payoffs for a new limitation. These are all great steps forward for Magic, even if they are tiny.
5 – Red. Red got a pile of goodies in this set. I already mentioned two of them in the previous paragraph. Syr Carah and Torbran look to be great Commanders that will give you some building options. Embercleave is the biggest, splashiest piece of bling in a while. Robber of the Rich and Opportunistic Dragon lead an impressive group of fun roleplayers. Any time red gets thrown a bone in Commander, it’s worth noting, and I think red did really well here.
1 – Solid rares in every colour. While you might not be thrilled to open a Castle in your sealed pool this weekend, there aren’t many crummy rares in this set. I feel like some of the Mythics, however, didn’t get there.
2 – Knights. The tribe got a huge boost, and a Commander to try out. While the worst of the Brawl Commanders by way of CMC in non-ramping colours, Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale looks to be fun in Commander. Knights’ Charge looks awesome.
3 – Roleplayers. Tons of decks got solid cards to add or try out. With Brawl being a design consideration going forward, there will be more cards properly scaled for multiplayer. Whatever deck you play, you’ll find something worthwhile in Throne of Eldraine. I’m especially excited by the commons, mainly the land cycle. I profiled plenty of commons and uncommons across my reviews. Budget brewers rejoice!
4 – The Mythic rare artifact cycle. While the white one is a bit… niche… the others are all big game. The Great Henge is probably the best, and might be broken to boot. The Magic Mirror and Embercleave are both strong and flavourful. The Cauldron of Eternity looks a bit more fiddly to make into a great card, but the power level is there. These will all be exciting to open, and fit into many decks.
5 – Staples. Fabled Passage, Faeburrow Elder, Hushbringer, Mirrormade, Return of the Wildspeaker, Once and Future, Dance of the Manse, and Escape to the Wilds are all real cards, and might all be played competitively. These, alongside the Castles, will be high demand and maybe expensive cards, I think. In foil for sure.
1 – Food. When Food was spoiled, I thought it was going to be bad. Hahaha. Well, it turns out it mostly is. I’ve seen a few competitive Standard builds, but Commander is not Standard. A huge chunk of powerful cards are not going to rotate from Commander next week and leave us struggling to find what’s powerful. Food may make for a few decks in 60 card formats, but without many real payoffs, and being inferior to the already underplayed Clues, Food is a fail. I think a lot of players were excited to make Food decks, and they were given too few options. Not having a marquee Food legendary creature is a big miss.
2 – Adventures in Commander. Similar to Food, Adventures don’t offer much to Commander. They will be much better in Standard and Limited, however, and can make a big mark there. Adventures also suffer from limited payoffs, and no unifying legendary creature to build around.
3 – Bland legendaries. Questing Beast has lots of words, but they don’t add up to that much. Rankle, Emry and Gadwick do their thing, but lack flavour text to explain why they’re more than just design exploration. Linden, the Steadfast Queen and Syr Alin are pretty wretched. Yorvo isn’t much better.
4 – Lack of payoff mentality. I mentioned this above. Having minimal payoffs for a new mechanic like Food do a lot of damage to the playability of that mechanic. Players want to make decks based around the new thing. Food and Adventures are exciting in concept, and were hyped by the company. I don’t get why both have such little support. I mentioned it in part 3, but I think we could have done without the equally bland Adamant mechanic, and bland Kenrith Planeswalkers, and put all that creativity into making Food playable in Commander and Brawl.
5 – Flavour fails. The worst offender is bounce, ie. returning a permanent to a player’s hand. We already have mechanics for theft and banishment, but bounce is those things in this set too, apparently. See the card below. Power and Toughness are a mess across the set, leading to weird proportions for everything. Humans are sometimes bigger than giants, and sometimes trade with Mouse tokens. Many humans are depicted with mounts that add no type, and seem to add no consideration for P&T. Changelings are Eggs, but not Food, and we have an artifact Egg that’s not Food if it’s animated. You can still eat eggs made of gold, produced by the Gilded Goose, but they aren’t Egg type, however. Some cards, like Thorn Mammoth, do not really belong on the plane, and make Eldraine too much like Dominaria or any other ‘core-set’ style plane. Adamant offers no flavour at all.
1 – Arcane Signet. Currently trading at about the price of a Brawl precon. I broke down what I feel is wrong with this card in Part 2. Basically everything. At least Commander has decades of other options. I hate how this is a must-have for Brawl because the mana-fixing and ramp are so bad.
2 – Brawl’s future. I’m not optimistic for Brawl. Arcane Signet sucks for paper Brawl, and might mean there’s no precons left to buy in your area because speculators and Commander players bought them out. Arena doesn’t do multiplayer, which is the best way to Brawl, and makes all those multiplayer oriented cards a fail on that platform. Chulane is the best Brawl Commander, and unless some mono-colour deck like Baral arises to make everyone equally miserable, there aren’t many playable decks beside. A lot of dual lands rotate without replacements, remember. Wizards is desperate to monetize Brawl in the same way they did Commander, and help prop up what seems like an endless series of toxic Standard environments, so we’ll probably see products rolled out for a while at least. I expect Brawl to fail.
3 – Planeswalkers. More Planeswalkers! Hooray! We’re saturated, and some of these are just 3 spells in the colour identity stapled together. I can imagine that’s probably how it will be going forward. One or two Planeswalkers per set will be a rehash of some spells, until they run out of spells or stop saturating us with these stupid cards. I’m so over Planeswalkers. They marginalize creatures so badly. Look at how many Teferis and Narsets see play across the formats. What’s a CMC 3+ creature to do if it doesn’t win the game immediately or ETB with value? And Planeswalkers eat 3 chunks of design or more at a time. Why? Doesn’t the complete fail of the Gatewatch as the faces of Magic tell anybody anything? These cards do not make Magic better.
4 – The Bolas plan. I wrote about this already, too. Every planeswalker that gets printed going forward might undermine Bolas’ grand plans just be being somewhere else during the War of the Spark. I mean the walkers that had their spark before the War of the Spark cycle. The ones that weren’t pulled off to Ravnica with the rest. We have a growing number of those. Bolas put this plan together for millenia. His net caught a few dozen walkers. Now we have a few in the very next set that weren’t affected. I assume a Deus Ex Machina like ‘faerie magic’ which plays by its own rules was responsible. Well, it sure makes Bolas’ plan look like hot garbage if it can’t fight through ‘faerie magic.’ Spent millenia on that, did you Bolas? Well I also feel a bit like hot garbage, because I invested in that storyline. I don’t care what the reason was, faerie magic or whatever. It fizzles the big story.
5 – Oppressive Commanders and other cards. Grumgully, the Generous is a problem because he goes infinite with a sac outlet and a persist creature. He’s not the only way to do this, but his low CMC and tutorable combo pieces make this a potential oppressor. Too bad, as it will probably kill all casual builds of Grumgully. Chulane, Teller of Tales is too much value for its own good, and will be a major eye-roller of a combo machine. Emry, Gadwick and even Torbran might be broken badly. The Great Henge does what Grumgully does with persist. Quick, linear, homogenous games are the chief complaint I hear from players regarding their beloved format. These are the new Bogeymen.
I think Throne of Eldraine’s good points outweigh the bad. We didn’t get a useful way to do Food or Adventures in Commander, but there are a lot of great cards to play with. I don’t think Brawl will make it, but I also don’t think that’s much of a loss to anyone but some optimistic marketing people at Hasbro.
If you are a casual player looking to get the most out of this set, as I am, check out my set reviews, linked at the top of this post. If that’s too much reading, focus on the cycles: the Mythic artifacts, the Rare Castles, and the basic-type common lands. Pick up lots of the common lands. Grab a few copies of Fabled Passage if you can, and Mirrormade and Once and Future. You won’t be disappointed. Thanks for reading!