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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.
It’s a tough world for creatures lacking noncombat abilities, no matter how high their power and toughness can get. Bloodbriar also suffers from the additional risk of having its +1/+1 counters reset by Reflector Mage and Unsubstantiate.
That said, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for this to see play as a fringe card. There are a ton of ways to sacrifice permanents, from Eldrazi Scions to Clues, to Tragic Arrogance, to the legend rule. Bloodbriar also has that magical mana cost that makes it great with Collected Company. I wouldn’t go too far out of my way for this, but I suppose it’s worth paying attention to.
Crop Sigil is extremely slow, but it helps with delirium and other self-mill concerns, and does offer both card advantage and card selection in the late game. It also happens to be a cheap enchantment, which some decks will be in the market for.
I’m not so sure about Eldritch Evolution. It resembles Chord of Calling (this is a much better comparison than Birthing Pod, for the record), but requires you to sacrifice a creature. This might not sound difficult for an Aristocrats-style deck with cards like Catacomb Sifter (in Standard) or Kitchen Finks (in Modern). But there absolutely will be games where your creatures are getting killed or countered, or where you simply don’t draw the ones you’d really like to be sacrificing. This type of effect also suffers from being a sorcery since you can’t find the perfect creature to react to what your opponent is doing.
Now that I’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, Eldritch Evolution is the type of card that can really break formats. Perhaps the fact that I so badly underestimated Collected Company has me shell-shocked, but I want to keep a close eye on this card. It can help you assemble creature-based combos like Eldrazi Displacer plus Brood Monitor in Standard or Restoration Angel plus Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in Modern. You can also simply use it for value, cashing in an Eldrazi Skyspawner for an Archangel Avacyn, or whichever powerhouse creature the situation calls for.
For me, this is a “wait and see” type of card. For now, I’ll give it a high rating due to the potential it holds.
The non-Eldrazi clause is more annoying in Constructed than in Limited, since Eldrazi Scions are arguably the easiest way to produce cheap bodies in Standard right now. But there are plenty more, such as the Plants from Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and the Warriors from Secure the Wastes.
In the grand scheme of things, I think there are both better 3-drop creatures and better ways to take advantage of tokens than Emrakul’s Evangel. But given its ability to slot into both roles, I could see this getting a bit of play.
The best way to emerge in Limited is also the best way to emerge in Constructed. Foul Emissary digs you to your emerge creature, gives you a convenient body to emerge on turn 4, replaces itself, and gives you a ton of value when you sacrifice it. Of course, it will require a fairly dedicated emerge deck before it’ll be playable (meaning a Constructed deck with more than 4 emerge creatures).
Sedge Scorpion and Typhoid Rats can once in a long while play niche roles in Constructed. They’re cheap ways of defending against ground creatures, and can sometimes answer creatures that are resilient against removal spells (Gaea’s Revenge, for example).
Gnarlwood Dryad also does a Wild Nacatl impression, albeit a poor one. You’ll basically never be attacking for 3 on the second turn of the game, and I question whether delirium decks will be aggressive enough to want a 1-drop creature like this. But the raw power level is there, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dryad make an appearance.
Grapple with the Past
This reminds me a bit of Mulch, a card that graveyard decks latched onto previously. The new version is a little bit toned down as a graveyard enabler, but a little bit improved by the standards of “normal cards.” This makes Grapple with the Past a little bit worse than Mulch, because in Constructed Magic, you generally prefer cards to be specialists that are great at one job.
Still, a lot of the time you cast this, it’s going to be Regrowth with upside. Regrowth is a card that was once banned in Legacy and restricted in Vintage.
Hamlet Captain isn’t strong enough to make me want to build a green-based Humans deck, but if I was playing a green Humans deck anyway, I would strongly consider it. It’s unclear to me whether or not Hamlet Captain will make the cut in the existing Bant Humans deck. It would make your fastest draws even more brutal, but is not a strong standalone card.
For many of these cards, I feel like I can’t perfectly encapsulate the card using LSV’s rating scale. But Ishkanah, Grafwidow seems to be the perfect example of a 3.0 rating, being an “archetype staple” in any dedicated delirium deck.
You can expect green delirium decks to be packing Traverse the Ulvenwald, but I think the Grafwidow will be more than just some spicy 1-of. I’d be inclined to start multiple copies of Ishkanah, and treat her as an integral part of my game plan against a lot of decks.
Against grindy decks, you get a creature with tremendous guaranteed value, even if she eats a removal spell. Against weenie creature decks—and even Spirits—you stabilize the board immediately, and present 4 blockers for the opponent to slog through. She matches up well against Archangel Avacyn, lives through Languish, and generally looks to be stellar in Standard right now.
Given my affinity for grindy GB decks, it’s no surprise that Ishkanah, Grafwidow is among my favorite cards from Eldritch Moon.
It’s been a while since either green stompy or Wolf tribal decks have been viable, but maybe this is the type of card they’ve been missing. Kessig Prowler is an aggressive 1-drop to get the ball rolling early. It’s also reminiscent of such hits as Experiment One and Fleecemane Lion in the sense that it’s a cheap beater that becomes more powerful in the late game.
If the right deck appears to use Kessig Prowler, it will be a very important 4-of.
Wild Mongrel is back, and with a new ability (reach) that looks incredibly important in Eldritch Moon Standard. The only downside is that green isn’t one of the madness colors anymore, so curving Wild Mongrel into Arrogant Wurm will remain a thing of the past.
Even without madness—and let’s keep in mind that you could build a GR or GB Madness deck—Noose Constrictor is great just on face value. It won’t hit the opponent for a ton of damage, but the ability threatens to let it beat comparable creatures in combat, and massacre planeswalkers when it goes unblocked.
In particular, one of Noose Constrictor’s greatest strengths is protecting planeswalkers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it slotted right into WG Tokens as a defensive measure against Spirits. I also suspect that Noose Constrictor will have a home in BG/x midrange decks as one more defensive 2-drop for the early game. Expect to see Noose Constrictor a lot in a variety of green-based creature decks.
Much like Gnarlwood Dryad, Permeating Mass can be a 1-drop creature that protects you on the ground. In particular, Permeating Mass matches up well against the 2/1 creatures of White Weenie (at least until Thalia’s Lieutenant or Always Watching hits the battlefield). This might be a fringe card for players looking for cheap defense.
If you can be sure of having the biggest creatures on the battlefield, then Prey Upon is a hyper-efficient removal spell. Unfortunately, it’s hurt by the existence of Dromoka’s Command, which is far better, and the fact that some of the most important creatures to remove come down at instant speed. Still, Prey Upon might see some small amount of play in Mono-Green or GR beatdown decks.
Primal Druid is yet another fringe-playable defensive green creature. This one is a tiny bit better due to the synergy with emerge and other ways to sacrifice your own creatures. I could also see it as a sideboard card in dedicated Eldrazi Ramp decks, as it can ramp you while providing a great road block against decks trying to attack on the ground. You can also pair the Druid with Radiant Flames or Languish in order to have more control over its fate.
Keep in mind that despite having 0 power, Primal Druid can attack. This might be relevant if you play it alongside Decimator of the Provinces, or in a deck with Human synergies.
Spirit of the Hunt
3 mana for a 3/3 flash is a near-Constructed playable card, as Wolfir Avenger and Bounding Krasis have shown us. As a standalone card, Spirit of the Hunt is worse than those two, so will only be exciting if there is actually a Wolf/Werewolf tribal deck.
This could serve as a placeholder in some non-tribal green beatdown decks. If Werewolves actually prove to be a viable tribe for Constructed, then Spirit of the Hunt is very likely to be a part of that.
I didn’t give Splendid Reclamation any love in Limited (I gave it 0.0 love, to be precise). But this is an extremely unique and powerful card, and unique and powerful cards are how Constructed formats get broken.
In order to use Splendid Reclamation, you’ll need to meet two basic requirements: First, you’ll have to be able to put a lot of lands into your graveyard, and second, you’ll have to be able to do something with all that mana that makes it worth it.
Those aren’t particularly easy requirements to meet in Standard. The most powerful thing you really have access to is the Eldrazi Titans, and normal ramp decks can probably do that a lot faster and easier than Splendid Reclamation combo decks. But for the extremely creative deck builder, this is a card that might hold some promise.
Maybe a sideboard 1-of under some very specific circumstances.
Ulvenwald Captive is going to be worse than Deathcap Cultivator most of the time. But I could see some very unique situations where you’d prefer to play the Captive. Or, you might want more than four 2-drop mana dorks. Either way, you might see this out of captivity every once in a long while.
Top 5 Green Cards
It looks to me like pretty slim pickings for green this time around. I expect Noose Constrictor to see a lot of play, but more as a minor-upgrade-type of card than as one that will change the landscape of Standard. Ishkanah, Grafwidow is awesome, and Kessig Prowler is good, but both of those cards can only see play in pretty specific decks. Finally, Eldritch Evolution is a powerful and unique card, but I’m actually more excited for it in Modern than I am in Standard.
The good news is that green was arguably the strongest color in Shadows over Innistrad Standard, featuring many of the absolute best cards in the format, including Collected Company, Duskwatch Recruiter, Sylvan Advocate, and Tireless Tracker. If you start with something great and give it some minor upgrades, it’s still going to be great.
Expect WG Tokens and Collected Company decks to remain major players. Also keep an eye out for Ramp, Delirium, and maybe even a Wolf tribal deck to stick their noses into things as well.