Previous Set Reviews
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.
Decimator of the Provinces
Decimator of the Provinces looks a lot like Craterhoof Behemoth. For most creatures, being colorless is upside—it makes them easier to cast and immune to Ultimate Price and color-hoser cards. But it’s actually a bit of a strike against Decimator of the Provinces since it means that you can’t search it up with Green Sun’s Zenith and Natural Order. Even if you could, pumping the rest of your team is a trigger upon casting Decimator. All things considered, I doubt that this card will supplant Craterhoof Behemoth in Eternal formats as a card for creature-based combo decks.
What Decimator of the Provinces lacks in the potential to be cheated into play it makes up for in the power level of actually casting it. The emerge cost makes it a lot more affordable than Craterhoof Behemoth, and sacrificing a creature should be a trivial cost for decks that would play with this. Also, where Craterhoof Behemoth might not get the job done on its own, the higher stats on Decimator of the Provinces make you very likely to win the game when it hits, regardless of what else is going on on the battlefield.
This is an outrageously powerful card, and is worth going out of your way for. Casting it after Ishkanah, Grafwidow is close to lethal even without any other support. It might also be a good addition to BG Aristocrats to increase the speed and explosiveness of the deck. Who knows what other green-based swarm decks might pop out of the woodwork to make use of Decimator of the Provinces?
Unlike Decimator of the Provinces, you might not win the game immediately when you cast Distended Mindbender, but it’s a lot more affordable, and curving out into a turn-4 emerge with this card ought to put you on an excellent track toward winning the game.
Forcing the opponent to discard an expensive card is awesome, as this can come down fast enough to snipe anything from Collected Company to Archangel Avacyn to Emrakul, the Promised End. Getting the cheap card as well will help you ride the Mindbender itself to victory, since most of Standard’s removal spells cost 3 or less mana.
This is a card that all black creature decks should consider, and one that might even spawn some new archetypes. Any deck that can curve Matter Reshaper into Distended Mindbender is a deck I’ll be interested in.
Some players have been comparing Elder Deep-Fiend to Mistbind Clique, which seems apt both in terms of the templating of the card and how miserable it will be to play against. Just like Distended Mindbender, you can realistically emerge this on the fourth turn of the game. It can ambush an attacker, tap the opponent out in his or her upkeep, or tap blockers at the end of the turn in order to unload damage on the opponent or one of their planeswalkers.
Between Mindbender and Elder Deep-Fiend, the stock of Matter Reshaper seems to have gone up with the printing of Eldritch Moon. But Elder Deep-Fiend need not be limited to Eldrazi decks, as it’s also excellent with Reflector Mage and Eldrazi Skyspawner. This could be a curve-topper in Bant Collected Company, or even have a home in some builds of Spirits.
Emrakul, the Promised End
Emrakul is the flagship character of Eldritch Moon (arguably of the entire last 2 blocks!), and she’s as good as promised. In Constructed, it’s within the realm of possibility to cast Emrakul for the low, low price of 7 or 8 mana!
Realistically speaking, it will still only be ramp decks and slow, controlling decks that can play with Emrakul, the Promised End, since aggressive decks aren’t in the market for a card this expensive, even if they can substantially discount it. I do think that this card will prove to be an excellent card for slower decks. Given her naturally synergy with Traverse the Ulvenwald, I predict that Emrakul will be cast often in Standard, even if the total number of copies in decks isn’t particularly high.
So what exactly does Emrakul, the Promised End do? Well, for starters, she’s a 13/13 flying trampler. That’s a pretty good start. More than that, the fact that you get to control your opponent’s turn will allow you to intentionally waste any card—say Quarantine Field—that might’ve had the potential to answer Emrakul. You can also suicide attack the opponent’s creatures. Cast their other spells in the most wasteful (or harmful) way, or straight-up kill them if they’re packing certain dangerous cards like Demonic Pact.
The opponent still gets a turn afterwards, but in a complex board state, you ought to be able to decimate them such that it won’t matter. I expect casting Emrakul to convert into a win a huge portion of the time. If you want to make it even easier, you can pair her with the ultimate on Nahiri, the Harbinger to simply swing in for 13.
The only thing that prevents me from calling Emrakul, the Promised End a “format staple” is her similarity to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Emrakul will be better in a lot of decks, but the cards have a lot of overlap, and there are plenty of games where either Eldrazi Titan will comfortably get the job done.
Eternal Scourge looks a bit like Deathmist Raptor in the sense that it’s a 3/3 for 3 mana that keeps coming back to annoy the opponent. The main difference is that you always have to spend the mana on Eternal Scourge, whereas you could sometimes get your Raptors back as collateral damage for an effect you already wanted.
Eternal Scourge is persistent, and becomes kind of exciting if you have ways to exile it from your own graveyard or library. Unfortunately, the fact is that 3 mana for a 3/3 isn’t a particularly impressive rate in Constructed, even when it’s a free card. I see this as a fringe card.
I think Lashweed Lurker is worse than Elder Deep-Fiend and Distended Mindbender, so I don’t expect it to see widespread play. But if you actually wanted to build a dedicated emerge deck in blue and green—perhaps going as far as to play with Foul Emissary, then Lashweed Lurker might be something you’d play a few copies of to complement your Elder Deep-Fiends.
Mockery of Nature
The same is true of Mockery of Nature. The emerge cost is so high on this card that I question why you wouldn’t simply be playing with Conclave Naturalists. But if you’re really setting yourself up to benefit from emerge, then I could see it.
My analysis of this card is much the same in Constructed as it was in Limited. It takes a lot of factors to line up before a deck would be interested in Cryptolith Fragment, but if those factors do line up, then it’s a powerful card.
First, you need to be ramping to something. This rules out most aggressive decks. Second, you need to be willing to pay life yourself, and to take advantage of the pressure on your opponent’s life total. This rules out control decks.
Where I could see the Fragment is in a “big aggro” deck like Eldrazi or Dragons. Turn-4 Reality Smasher off of turn-3 Cryptolith Fragment might be a beating.
Lupine Prototype looks quite powerful to me, although its best home might not be in Standard. This is an aggressive card for decks that can dump their hands quickly. The fact that it’s colorless (and an artifact) makes it playable in a wide variety of strategies. I could see this anywhere from Modern Affinity to midrange decks with Liliana of the Veil to Legacy Eldrazi off of an Ancient Tomb.
I think one of the keys to Lupine Prototype is to have a low land count. It doesn’t matter how fast and aggressive your deck is—if you’re playing with 24+ lands, then you’re going to have games where you draw 6 lands. Being unable to attack with your 2-drop until turn 6 is unacceptable. Unfortunately, this probably rules it out for the Standard Eldrazi decks.
Being able to discard extra lands helps with this problem, so one natural home for Lupine Prototype in Standard might be RB Vampires. This deck wants to unload damage fast, and so would be in the market for an underpriced 5/5. The Vampire player can also use cards like Stromkirk Condemned to empty their hand quickly, and start attacking as early as turn 4.
I don’t know exactly where you’ll see Lupine Prototype, but the power level is definitely here, and this card is potentially playable across many formats and archetypes.
Stitcher’s Graft offers an impressive rate for a cheap equipment. I think this card is good enough that you could consider playing it fair and square, just to put it on 1-drop creatures and attack every other turn. But more likely you’ll be using this to enable equipment synergies with Weapons Trainer. It’s particularly great with Stone Haven Outfitter, making what begins as a troublesome downside into a pseudo-Skullclamp.
Perhaps the best home for Stitcher’s Graft is alongside vigilance creatures. Equipping a Sylvan Advocate on turn 3 offers you a creature that can both attack and block every turn, and it fairly likely to be the biggest thing on the battlefield for the duration of the game. Stitcher’s Graft will also be a natural fit in decks playing cheap creatures and Always Watching.
I’m not a huge fan of Terrarion. Unlike Chromatic Sphere and Chromatic Star, you can’t cycle Terrarion right away when you topdeck it in the late game. This changes a card that would otherwise cost you virtually nothing into a bit of a liability.
That said, delirium is very important in Standard, so an artifact that can go to the graveyard at little cost (but not quite no cost) is appealing. The fact that it offers 2 colored mana might allow you to pair it with Oath of Nissa to take splashing an off-color Chandra from something completely crazy to something just a little bit crazy…
I must confess that when I reviewed Bloodhall Priest for Limited that I didn’t realize that its 2 damage ability could trigger when it attacked as well as when it entered the battlefield. This makes it a borderline bomb in Limited, and a pretty strong card in Constructed.
Since Lupine Prototype is also a Standard-legal card, you have two pretty decent incentives to empty your hands, and a lot of Vampires that can help you do so. I don’t know that Bloodhall Priest will necessarily be a staple in RB Vampires, but the power level is high enough that it should certainly be a consideration. I envision this being played in numbers between 0 and 4.
Gisa and Geralf
It hurts a lot when your tribal payoff card doesn’t actually belong to the tribe it’s paying off. But Gisa and Geralf have respectable stats on their own, and do fit well into a UB Zombie deck. The self-mill will be valuable, even outside of Gisa and Geralf’s own passive ability, and they’re particularly strong when you consider the free bonus of Prized Amalgam coming back alongside the Zombie you cast from your graveyard.
Grim Flayer seems worse than Sylvan Advocate, even in dedicated GB Delirium decks. That said, creature decks tend to want more than four 2-drops, and Grim Flayer is still quite good. As a 2/2 trample, he doesn’t dish out a ton of punishment, and can get blocked by most creatures in the format. He does have a triggered ability that can help to level him up, and gives you other benefits in a self-mill deck.
If you can actually get this to be a 4/4 consistently around the fourth turn of the game, then you have a nice start to an aggressively slanted GB midrange deck.
Heron’s Grace Champion
Heron’s Grace Champion is an aggro mirror-breaker if I’ve ever seen one. Against control decks, you won’t care a ton about the lifelink, and might not be able to amass a large enough army to make the +1/+1 very exciting (although flash threats do tend to be good against control). In a creature standoff, having Heron’s Grace Champion can help you win a big combat step, and will make you virtually impossible to race.
Expect to see this in Bant Humans, at least in the sideboard.
I’m doubtful that there will be a successful GB Aggro deck, and Mournwillow also drew the short straw when it comes to creature types. But Grim Flayer is a strong card, and if there is a GB Aggro Delirium deck, then I guess Mournwillow might make a fine sidekick.
What the heck is a Plant Skeleton anyway?
Ride Down didn’t really see play the last time it was legal, but I always felt that it was close. Also, with so many of Standard’s best decks being based around Collected Company, more players are relying on blocking as their way to beat aggressive decks. Certainly keep an eye on this if you find yourself playing a RW Beatdown deck.
I’ve been conservative with my 4.0 ratings (this is actually the first one!), but Spell Queller looks like the real deal. As a player who’s used Languish as my anti-aggro measure for much of Shadows over Innistrad Standard, I’m terrified.
3 mana for a 2/3 flying with flash is already pushing the limits. The ability to counter the opponent’s spell along with it makes this card outrageous! It’s like a Spellstutter Sprite that doesn’t require any work.
Yes, you can sometimes get the spell back later, but many decks simply don’t run that many removal spells. Even for the ones that do, the damage might be done by the time you actually get around to killing the Spell Queller. Sometimes all it takes is delaying the crucial Languish for a turn for an aggro deck to win the game.
This seems like it will slot into both the classic Bant Company decks and into WU Humans as a countermeasure against Languish and Radiant Flames. By the way, if you Spell Queller a Radiant Flames or Painful Truths, your opponent will only ever get to cast them for 0. It will also be the best card in UW Spirits, which is an archetype that scares me a lot in Eldritch Moon Standard.
Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Tamiyo, Field Researcher looks like a great planeswalker. She offers guaranteed card advantage when her +1 targets your own creatures. She puts the opponent to tough decisions when her +1 targets their creatures. She defends herself (and you) with her -2. Finally, she has an ultimate that’s very likely to win you the game if you can get her up to 7 loyalty.
Clearly, Tamiyo will be at her best in a creature deck. In a control mirror where neither player has creatures, she’ll do very little. Since Bant Humans and classic Bant Company are both excellent existing decks, I’m sure that Tamiyo will have a home. Beyond that, her mana requirements are very demanding, and I’m not completely sure what other archetypes will be interested.
Ulrich of the Krallenhorde
Ulrich is a Limited powerhouse, but I’m a bit disappointed in his potential for Constructed. In a fast format with Reflector Mage, 5-mana sorcery-speed creatures have it rough. Ulrich doesn’t even do that much unless he survives to transform uncontested—a tall order.
I’m not saying this is unplayable, just that it’s not good enough to make me want to build an RG midrange deck to support him.
Geier Reach Sanitarium
Desolate Lighthouse gives you a huge advantage over a stalled game. The fact that Geier Reach Sanitarium is a symmetric effect makes it much less appealing. But it’s still a land with a very relevant activated ability, and those tend to be good Constructed cards. It’s also colorless, which makes it playable in a wider variety of decks than Desolate Lighthouse.
Often, lands like Hanweir Battlements don’t start out as the most exciting cards in a set, but then prove to be among the most widely played. The reason is that the marginal difference in upgrading your basic Mountain to a Hanweir Battlements can be much larger than the marginal difference in upgrading your Fiery Impulse to a Galvanic Bombardment. There are no shortage of powerful creatures and spells in Standard, but there are no lands that can do what Hanweir Battlements can do.
This card is great. When you’re playing an aggressive red deck, the ability to look down in the midgame and find a land that can translate into extra damage on the opponent is incredible! It’s most exciting to imagine giving a big creature haste, so this might be great in a Dragons or Eldrazi deck. Just giving a 1-drop creature haste in a red aggro deck is plenty good enough. I expect Hanweir Battlements to see play—at least in small numbers—in every red deck that has smooth mana and a handful of creatures.
Battlements also has a pretty unique effect in Modern and Legacy. We saw Slayer’s Stronghold shine in the prebanning Amulet Bloom deck, so it’s not a big leap to imagine Hanweir Battlements seeing play also. It’s a land that you can search for with Knight of the Reliquary, or just play for value in some red creature decks.
Nephalia Academy has a fairly specific and narrow effect, but is powerful when it’s an effect you want. It won’t stop discard spells from putting you down on cards, but it will stop them from stripping away your very important individual cards, or your combo pieces. The fact that you get to choose whether the card winds up in your graveyard or on top of your library is actually a huge advantage.
Nephalia Academy works against Duress, Whispers of Emrakul, and Distended Mindbender. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work against Transgress the Mind, which is currently the most widely played discard spell in Standard. I think this will make its function in Standard fairly limited right now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up once in a while as a sideboard card in Modern.
Top 10 Constructed Cards
- Spell Queller
- Mausoleum Wanderer
- Elder-Deep Fiend
- Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- Emrakul, the Promised End
- Incendiary Flow
- Distended Mindbender
- Lupine Prototype
- Noose Constrictor
- Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Eldritch Moon is very deep in Constructed playable cards. It was a challenge to limit myself to a top 10 list when I easily could’ve stretched all the way to 20 cards that I’m excited to try out in Standard!
I believe that the best Constructed cards to come out of this set are the UW Spirits cards. Spell Queller looks outrageous, and Mausoleum Wanderer is much better than we could’ve hoped for as a 1-drop tribal creature. Both of these cards also have applications in Eternal formats, particularly the Wanderer.
The second best category of cards are the emerge creatures. In 20 years of watching new Magic sets come and go, I’ve learned to keep a very close eye on any mechanic that lets you cast expensive cards at a discount (anybody remember delve? How about affinity and madness?).
Beyond that, there are a ton of individually powerful cards, and upgrades to existing decks. If Vampires, Zombies, or Werewolves prove to be Constructed-playable tribes, then there will be tons more.
Overall, Eldritch Moon has a lot to be excited about. As I write the last words of this set review, I’m already looking forward to shifting my attention to preparing for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, and finding out everything that the new Standard and Draft formats have to offer.