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Welcome to the Eldritch Moon Constructed Set Review. I’m subbing in for LSV for this set and, just like for Limited, I’ll be using the framework he already has in place.
I do things a little differently than in the Limited review:
I evaluate the cards that have a shot at seeing play in Constructed. Sorry, Cathar’s Companion, you’re in the doghouse when it comes to Constructed. Sometimes I leave a card off that ends up seeing play, but I try to cast a wide net.
I talk about non-Standard formats if applicable. If I don’t mention a specific format, assume I’m talking about Standard.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). I believe it was tech vs. Howling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.
Coax from the Blind Eternities
Spending 3 additional mana on your spell is a tremendous cost to pay in Constructed, but so is putting many copies of 8-, 9-, and 10-mana spells into your deck. I envision Coax from the Blind Eternities having a home in a blue ramp deck, where casting spells like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Emrakul, the Promised End is a major part of your game plan.
The advantage of Coax is that you get to choose which Eldrazi you want to put in your hand. Usually, once you have enough mana, either Emrakul or Ulamog will lead to a win. But earlier in the game you might want to search for Thought-Knot Seer, Conduit of Ruin, or Drowner of Hope.
Taigam’s Scheming saw fringe Constructed play in combo decks, but that was in a format with delve spells. Contingency Plan is a bad card and you’d have to be really, really interested in self-mill before you’d consider something like this.
Curious Homunculus // Voracious Reader
Curious Homunculus is exactly what you want in a spell-heavy deck. Unlike Limited, the front side can actually be very helpful if you play it on turn 2 and it helps you ramp to your more expensive instants and sorceries (or simply helps you cast 2 spells in the same turn). Also, in Constructed, it’s trivially easy to get 3 instants and sorceries into the graveyard, meaning that you can have a Voracious Reader ready to attack for healthy chunks of damage (or block) starting as early as turn 4.
The Homunculus is a perfect example of a build-around card. It can’t go in many decks, but it’s going to be very powerful when it actually does see play.
Docent of Perfection // Final Iteration
Docent of Perfection is powerful, and will typically win the game within 2 turns of it sticking on the battlefield. The question is, will a deck packing enough instants and sorceries to make Docent powerful be in the market for a 5-drop creature at all? My answer: probably, but I’m not completely sure (and probably not in large numbers).
I think Niblis of Frost is better than Docent of Perfection as a Constructed card. Both creatures will win you the game if they survive for a few turns, and you have a healthy number of spells to back them up. So the fact that Niblis costs 1 mana less makes it more appealing to me. That said, I do think both cards are extremely powerful, and are worth keeping an eye on.
Repulse was a Constructed-playable card, but downgrading to sorcery speed makes this something you’re probably not very interested in. Still, this is a spell that replaces itself while affecting the board, so it can’t be that bad. It’s a card you’d turn to if you have a way of tearing through your library very quickly, as with Jace’s Sanctum.
3 mana for a 2/2 creature and a card is a fair, baseline rate. So if you’re pretty sure Exultant Cultist is going to be dying (maybe because you’re planning to sacrifice it to emerge), then this could be a consideration. It suffers from the fact that Matter Reshaper is almost strictly better. But if you either can’t afford the colorless mana, or are in the market for more than just four 3-drop creatures to use as emerge fodder, then you might turn to the Cultist.
Clone is decent in Constructed, but unfortunately, Identity Thief is just a cheap impostor. Being fragile, not getting an enters-the-battlefield trigger, and having to wait a turn before it does anything are all strikes against Identity Thief.
All that said, it has the very cool use of being able to retrigger a different creature’s enters-the-battlefield trigger every single turn. If you have one powerful enough, and can be sure of both Identity Thief and its target surviving, then this could be a Constructed card.
Imprisoned in the Moon
I hate the idea of giving my opponent a free land, especially in a format as mana hungry as Standard. But this is a flexible removal spell that can answer planeswalkers in addition to creatures. If there’s a problem that you desperately need to answer, and you don’t have access to black mana, you might turn to Imprisoned in the Moon.
You now have a Spirit to wander in the footsteps of Cursecatcher and Judge’s Familiar. While I can’t claim that Spirits will have the same multiformat appeal as Merfolk, I will say that Mausoleum Wanderer is a better card individually than either of them.
Like Judge’s Familiar it has flying, and like Cursecatcher it has important tribal synergies. It will attack for 2 damage on many turns, and if you’re creative, it can force the opponent to pay more than just 1 mana to resolve his or her spell. Combining Mausoleum Wanderer with Rattlechains is powerful not just because you can flash in the Wanderer as a surprise, but also because you can threaten to pump it up at instant speed.
Expect to see Mausoleum Wanderer a lot in Standard, and a little bit in Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage.
I’m not sure exactly what the Spirits deck will look like, but Nebelgast Herald is a Constructed-quality 3-drop if you’re in the market for a blue Spirit (or just a flying creature).
Niblis of Frost
I probably should’ve given Niblis of Frost a 2.5 rating because it might not see widespread play. But it felt cold-hearted not to pump the rating up a bit due to the incredible raw power level of this card.
If you build your deck around Niblis of Frost and it remains in play against an opposing creature deck, you’re going to win. Period. And that’s a very special quality.
It’s virtually impossible to block the Niblis, which means that it’ll be adept at taking down opposing planeswalkers. It also locks down opposing creatures, making it difficult to race and giving you an outstanding amount of control over the battlefield.
It’s unfortunate that Niblis of Frost is at odds with Collected Company, both due to being a 4-drop, and because Collected Company decks cannot play with a lot of instants and sorceries. But if you’re playing a non-Collected-Company blue creature deck, you should strongly consider the Niblis. Expect this to show up in either the main deck or sideboard of some builds of Spirits.
Scour the Laboratory
If you can count on having an instant-speed Concentrate, then Scour the Laboratory is excellent. One problem, though, is that you’d like your 4-mana card draw spells to help you smooth your draws and hit your land drops. If you can’t count on casting Scour the Laboratory until turn 6 or 7 anyway, then it won’t help you on that front.
But I can easily envision blue control decks playing as many as 3 copies of Scour the Laboratory, perhaps splitting them with a card like Epiphany at the Drownyard in order to help achieve delirium.
Just shrinking a creature’s power isn’t exactly what you’re looking for in your removal spell, especially when so many of the popular creatures in Standard have non-combat abilities (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Tireless Tracker, Duskwatch Recruiter, etc.). But on raw efficiency, Spontaneous Mutation can rival Swords to Plowshares.
As a sideboard card out of a blue control deck, or the main deck in some type of combo deck, Spontaneous Mutation can be a great way to buy time, and save you from losing to quick beatdown from a Lambholt Pacifist or a Dragon Hunter.
Despite not being an efficient card, I know that control purists like Andrew Cuneo will be happy about the printing of Summary Dismissal. This is control’s way to combat the Eldrazi titans—Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Kozilek, the Great Distortion, and Emrakul, the Promised End. You get to use 1 card to deal with the creature and its gamebreaking “when you cast” trigger. Exiling also means that you don’t have to worry about Den Protector shenanigans or the like.
In the absence of these giant, uncounterable effects, permission decks ought to have an easy time dismantling ramp decks. Due to their high concentration of mana, the control player can simply save permission for their small handful of threats, and Summary Dismissal is way to ensure that you have the right tool for the right job.
Take Inventory isn’t good enough to simply play for value. You won’t draw 3 copies often enough to make it worthwhile, and spending 2 mana at sorcery speed to net 0 cards, or 4 mana at sorcery speed to net 1 card is poor.
But in decks that really want spells, or decks that have a special ability to fill their graveyards quickly, Take Inventory is going to be great. When you see cards like Thing in the Ice or Jace’s Sanctum, you’re going to see Take Inventory.
Normally, Tattered Haunter would be a bit below Constructed power level. But if Spirits or any other type of blue flyers deck is in the market for an extra 2-drop, you might see this make an appearance.
I’m skeptical of Turn Aside, especially in a format where Dispel and Negate are both legal. But I’ll certainly admit that I’ve seen stranger cards get Constructed play, and that Turn Aside can be legitimately great under the right circumstances.
If your opponents are spending a lot of mana on spells that can be countered by Turn Aside, then it’s a card well worth paying attention to. It’s a blowout if you can counter an awakened Ruinous Path, for example. It’s a shame that subtleties of wording make it unable to stop cards like Stasis Snare and Quarantine Field.
A comparison I’m hearing a lot is between Unsubstantiate and Remand, and I’d like to go on record saying that Remand is far better. In certain situations, either card will be able to win you the game or offer you a crucial tempo advantage. The difference is that you can’t simply jam 4 Unsubstantiates in your deck and plan on it being your turn-2 play.
Imagine an opening hand of 4 lands, 1 creature, and 2 Remands. Great hand! The 2 Remands will buy you time, cycle into more action, and keep you at parity when it comes to card advantage. Now imagine the same hand with 2 Unsubstantiates. You can delay your opponent’s spells for a couple turns, but when the dust settles you’ll be down 2 cards out of your hand, and if you haven’t drawn into action, you’re going to lose horribly.
So that’s my rant about why Unsubstantiate isn’t the second coming of Remand, and why you probably shouldn’t play 4 copies. Now I’d like to move on to why it’s still a good Constructed card, and why I think it might be a near-staple card in Standard.
Unsubstantiate is a powerful and flexible tempo card, and tempo decides games of Constructed Magic. Just like with Remand, there will be games where delaying a game-changing Languish or Chandra, Flamecaller will allow you to leverage a board advantage into a win. There will also be games where cashing it in on turn 2 will allow you to fill out your own mana curve while ruining the opponent’s.
The traditional weakness of permission spells is that they must be used in a narrow window, and if you miss that window, they can’t help you claw back from behind. Unsubstaniate corrects that weakness by allowing you to bounce a creature in order to protect yourself or swing board position back in your favor. If you have to let your shields down for a turn, at least you know that Unsubstantiate will do something for you later, instead of possibly rotting in your hand while you’re losing on the board.
Unsubstantiate looks like a good card to me. I recommend starting with 2 or 3 copies instead of the full 4 that many players seem excited to jam.
Wharf Infiltrator reminds me a lot of Looter Il-Kor, which was a solid Constructed card. Wharf Infiltrator is a little easier to block, but you can also cash it in for a chump block later in the game if you need to. Add on the bonus ability to make 3/2 Eldrazi tokens, and you have a card that seems relatively powerful in Constructed.
Unfortunately, Wharf Infiltrator is going to remain the second-best 2-drop looter behind Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Fortunately, though, the 2 cards pair well together, and could easily go in the same deck. Remember, Wharf Infiltrator’s ability triggers on any discard, not just its own looting ability. Even if you can’t connect in combat, Wharf Infiltrator can just sit there and help your Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy churn out Eldrazi tokens.
Top 5 Blue Cards
- Mausoleum Wanderer
- Curious Homunculus // Voracious Reader
- Niblis of Frost
- Summary Dismissal
The Constructed-quality blue cards largely fall into one of two categories. The first is Spirits, which seems very likely to be a competitive deck, and is why Mausoleum Wanderer earns my highest rating. The second is “spells-matter,” which includes everything from payoff cards like Niblis of Frost and Docent of Perfection, to bread-and-butter cards like Take Inventory, to defensive cards like Spontaneous Mutation.
The spells matter decks are the biggest question marks to me. Will they be aggressive decks, hoping to attack with Voracious Readers and Awoken Horrors as quickly as possible? Will they be controlling decks, hoping to earn card advantage and neutralize what the opponent’s doing? Or will they be combo-esque decks using Jace’s Sanctum to shoot through their library?
Finally, the color is rounded out by some interesting tools for more “normal” decks. Summary Dismissal is sure to see play, at least in sideboards of control decks, and Scour the Laboratory might make its way into the card-draw suite of the same decks. Unsubstantiate looks like a powerful tool for tempo-based creature decks. Finally, there are some powerful cards like Wharf Infiltrator and Coax from the Blind Eternities that might make a splash if they can find a home.