Previous Set Reviews
Blue | Black | Red | Green | Colorless, Lands, and Gold
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.
The same qualities that make escalate good in Limited—flexibility, utility at all points in the game—mean escalate is going to be great in Constructed.
I always keep a close eye on defensive white removal spells. The last couple—Puncturing Light, Divine Reckoning, Celestial Flare—mostly flopped. But that’s mostly due to the absence of a dedicated white control deck, and not because the card type isn’t useful.
There could be a UW Control deck in Standard. Mana fixing isn’t great right now, which means that it isn’t trivial for a UW deck to splash black for Ultimate Price, or red for burn spells. Plus, Blessed Alliance is probably the best defensive removal spell printed in recent memory. 2 mana to kill a creature with incidental life gain stapled on to it is exactly what these types of decks want.
If there is a good UW Control deck in Standard, Blessed Alliance is going to be a good card. If there’s a good UW Control deck and a good burn deck, Blessed Alliance is going to be a great card.
Bruna, the Fading Light
Bruna is a high-powered flying creature, and pairs well with some of the most powerful existing creatures in Standard like Archangel Avacyn and Linvala, the Preserver. But at 7 mana, I think you’ll only be interested in Bruna, the Fading Light if you’re actually trying to meld her with Gisela, the Broken Blade.
Thankfully, Bruna is a reasonable Constructed card on her own, Gisela is a strong Constructed card on her own, and Brisela, Voice of Nightmares is a game-winner! I wouldn’t be surprised if the cookie-cutter white Angel deck actually proves to be quite good in Standard.
It takes effort to collect the necessary conditions for this to be good. Individually, none of the modes would be worthwhile on their own. Your opponent needs either big creatures or enchantments before you can kill something. You need to be playing either a weenie deck or a token deck before you care much about giving your creatures +1/+1.
That said, if things do line up such that you can profit from 2 (let alone 3!) of the modes on Collective Effort, then it’s quite powerful. If there are matchups where you only need your removal to kill creatures with 4 toughness or greater then this might be perfect. I’d be starting this as a 1- or 2-of in the sideboard of White Weenie and WG Tokens, and looking for where else it might have applications.
As a side note, I think this card will suffer a little bit from being unable to kill Dragonlord Silumgar.
A 4-mana white card for a creature deck certainly has a lot to prove before it can be Standard playable since it has Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Collected Company to compete with. But this is a reasonable body that replaces itself and can dig to find your important creatures (like Thalia’s Lieutenant). I won’t exactly be looking to play with this, but I’m also not willing to completely ignore it.
Deploy the Gatewatch
Deploy the Gatewatch looks like it will settle into the role of being an incredible card in bad decks. The problem is that Constructed Magic is fast and unforgiving. Building your deck with the goal of resolving a 6-mana spell is already hard enough. But a 6-mana spell that requires you to play over a dozen other cards that cost 5+ mana might be close to impossible!
Some quick math has me thinking that you need something in the ballpark of 14 planeswalkers before you’re happy to be playing Deploy the Gatewatch (at 14, you won’t hit 2 planeswalkers all the time, but the chance of completely bricking will be sufficiently small). That number is complicated by the legend rule. If your top 7 cards include 2 copies of Sorin, Grim Nemesis, then you can’t put both into play. If you already have a Sorin, Grim Nemesis on the battlefield, then you can’t put either into play! Realistically, if you’re playing a couple of 4-ofs, you might want closer to 17 planeswalkers to be happy with Deploy the Gatewatch (again, these numbers are my first instincts, not scientifically proven).
So 17 planeswalkers, many of which cost you 5 or 6 mana. Now are you going to add 4 copies of Deploy the Gatewatch to the top of your mana curve? Maybe you decide not to play the full 4. But then is it even worth building your deck around?
In Modern and Legacy, it’s tempting to try to Deploy into Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Karn Liberated. Again, though, in a format where half the decks are killing you on turn 4, can you really afford to be playing with over a dozen cards that cost 6+ mana?
The most realistic way I can envision using Deploy the Gatewatch is as part of a post-sideboard configuration for very grindy matchups in Standard. Maybe you’re playing a Mardu planeswalker deck against WB Control, and you feel like you can afford to slow your deck down enough that you have multiple copies each of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Nahiri, the Harbinger, Ob Nixilis, Reignited, Sorin, Grim Nemesis, and Chandra, Flamecaller. Maybe then you could squeeze a copy or 2 of Deploy the Gatewatch into your sideboard to go along with them (as an aside, the printing of Oath of Liliana might make the existence of a deck like this a bit more realistic).
I’m not trying to be the fun police here. I recognize that Deploy the Gatewatch is a very powerful, unique, and fun card. If it’s calling out to you, then I encourage you to try it out for yourself. I’m just saying that I’ll need some convincing before I’ll believe that a deck based around this card can have success at the highest levels of competition.
Extricator of Sin // Extricator of Flesh
If there’s a white delirium deck, Extricator of Sin will be in it. The front side alone won’t be worth it, although there are some nice combos (like with Oath of Nissa), and it can help you get delirium. But if you can feel confident in transforming this by the 4th or 5th turn of the game, then you’ll have a giant vigilance creature that has a powerful activated ability and lives through Languish.
Faith Unbroken is close to being playable just on power level, although I suspect it will come up a bit short. But if there’s some kind of enchantment or Aura-based deck in Standard, this could be a useful role player. The fact that you can now play 8 copies between Auramancer and Ironclad Slayer makes this more interesting than it’s been in the past.
Geist of the Lonely Vigil
Defensive white 2-drops are more valuable than they appear because of the existence of Ojutai’s Command. Geist of the Lonely Vigil can do a fine job of holding off white weenies, or cheap red creatures if those enter Standard at some point. What really interests me, however, is the ability to brick-wall cheap Spirits like Rattlechains, since UW Flyers looks like it might be one of the scarier aggressive decks in the new format.
Achieving delirium also helps out the Geist because, even in the most defensive of decks, it can do a nice job of managing planeswalkers in the midgame.
Gisela, the Broken Blade // Brisela, Voice of Nightmares
When I wrote about Courageous Outrider, I mentioned the intense competition that a 4-mana white creature has to overcome before earning its place in Standard. But where Courageous Outrider seems relatively unlikely to supplant Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Gisela might have what it takes.
As a 4/3 flying, lifelinker, you have a creature that’s basically impossible to race, and threatens to massacre planeswalkers every turn that she gets to attack. I can envision Gisela as a main-deck card in just about any white deck, or as a sideboard card for controlling decks to take advantage of opponents who sideboard out their removal.
The only thing that might keep Gisela from being great in older formats is her vulnerability to Lightning Bolt.
As mentioned, Gisela also melds with Bruna, the Fading Light to make Brisela, Voice of Nightmares. Any deck playing a couple copies of Gisela should also consider Bruna—at least as a 1-of—in order to live the dream of actually getting Brisela into play.
I was once given a very intriguing piece of deckbuilding advice, which is that whenever you have access to 8 copies of a unique effect, you ought to ask yourself what you can do with that effect.
Last month, if I’d tried to build a deck around Auramancer, it’s likely that my deck wouldn’t have been very consistent because some games, I simply wouldn’t have drawn my Auramancer. Now, with Ironclad Slayer in addition, I can ensure that I’ll draw one virtually every game, and typically in multiples!
Now, I’ll leave it to you to decide exactly what an Ironclad Slayer + Auramancer deck might look like. I simply want to point out that the Slayer is a unique card, and has a decent supporting cast if you decided to build around it.
Naturally, the extra point of power and the ability to return equipment often make the Slayer even better than Auramancer (with the downside that it cannot return non-Aura enchantments from your graveyard).
Lone Rider // It That Rides as One
Lone Rider is a build-around card. My main complaint about it in Limited was the risk of getting one copy, lacking the proper incentives to build around it, and being stuck with a measly 1/1 lifelinker. In Constructed, you need not fear that.
You can use equipment or other cards that buff creatures to help Lone Rider deal its necessary 3 damage. You can also pair it with different life gain cards to help it transform without needing to attack. If you can construct your deck to have It That Rides as One attacking by the 4th turn of the game, then you have a powerful card that can score you some easy wins.
Look for Lone Rider as an option for Modern Soul Sisters as well.
Long Road Home
Otherworldly Journey saw a bit of Constructed play. The applications of Long Road Home include: retriggering an enters-the-battlefield trigger, saving a creature from spot removal, allowing one creature to live through a board sweeper, temporarily removing a blocker, permanently dealing with a token or an Ormendahl, Profane Prince, and of course, adding a +1/+1 counter to a creature.
Peace of Mind
Peace of Mind is an interesting mix of absolutely horrible most of the time, and absolutely insane when you’re in the exact situation where you need it.
If there’s a dedicated burn deck that’s really centered on directly damaging the opponent’s life total (as opposed to attacking with creatures), then Peace of Mind could be a great sideboard card.
If you somehow end up with a white madness or delirium deck where you desperately need a repeatable life gain outlet, then you might turn to Peace of Mind.
Finally, if you have some kind of crazy combo deck where you wind up with 20 cards in your hand, then you might use Peace of Mind to help you pull the game out of reach.
On the topic of life gain cards, Providence would be the best card in Standard if your only goal was to gain life. I like both sides of this card—the first being free value if it’s in your opening hand, and the second being the ability to reset your life total if you reach 7 mana before dying. I think this is powerful enough to be a 1- or 2-of in a white control deck, either main deck or sideboard.
Repel the Abominable
Repel the Abominable can either be a Fog against non-Human decks, or a way for a Human tribal deck to gain an edge in a big combat step. White Weenie seems to be in the best position to take advantage of this since you can use it to counter a Radiant Flames or Chandra, Flamecaller activation, or use it to blow out a Vampire deck in combat (or any other creature deck, really).
As a 2-mana 2/1 flyer, Selfless Spirit already has the stats to make it into aggressive white decks. Its activated ability can save other creatures from removal, or from Planar Outburst and damage-based sweepers. It’s unfortunate that it matches up so poorly against Languish, Tragic Arrogance, and Descend Upon the Sinful.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this creature, though, is its ability to fit into a Spirit tribal deck, and to combo with Rattlechains for major blowouts. I expect UW Spirits to be a real deck in Standard, and I expect Selfless Spirit to be a part of it.
Like Ironclad Slayer, Sigarda’s Aid is a unique card that’s worth paying attention to (it might even be good in the same deck as Ironclad Slayer). For Constructed, the best line of text on Sigarda’s Aid is probably the one that gives you a free attach every time you cast an equipment. This could make it powerful with something like Slayer’s Plate, which is a game-winning equipment, but typically requires too much of a mana investment to be playable.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Thalia, in her Guardian of Thraben form, is high in the rankings of best creatures ever printed, being a format staple in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage, even after rotating out of Standard. Now you have Thalia, Heretic Cathar, which seems poised to carry on the tradition.
As a 3/2 first strike, Thalia unloads damage at a reasonable rate, and is better in combat than most creatures that cost less than 4 mana. Making opposing creatures enter the battlefield tapped is great at forcing extra damage past would-be blockers, and gives you a level of security against flash creatures like Archangel Avacyn. Forcing nonbasic lands to enter the battlefield tapped will cut most opponents off of nearly a full mana per turn, which is the type of advantage that will decide a lot of games of Constructed. Even forgetting about long-term advantage, simply delaying that crucial Languish by one turn can often decide a game!
For the same reasons, Thalia, Heretic Cathar probably also has applications in Modern and Legacy (though I’d be surprised to see her alongside Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in Vintage).
I made the claim that Thalia’s Lancers would be a Limited bomb when you had a legendary card in your deck to go find. In Constructed, the 4/4 first strike body is below par for a 5-mana creature, but the ability to search for a legendary card is much, much stronger.
Some natural pairings for Thalia’s Lancers include Archangel Avacyn, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. I’d also like to point out that the Lancers can find any legendary permanent, not just creatures. In Standard, this includes some niche cards like Pyromancer’s Goggles and Oath of Liliana. In older formats, it extends to legendary lands and some silver-bullet cards like Umezawa’s Jitte.
I think Thalia’s Lancers might be a sleeper card for the upcoming Standard season.
Top 5 White Cards
The cards that made my Top 5 list are the ones that look like they can fill an important niche in Constructed and do their job well. White has plenty of other cards—like Deploy the Gatewatch—that look to be on Constructed power level, but might not have a clear home at this point in time.
Remember that Eldritch Moon is a small set, so you’re not necessarily looking to revolutionize things here, but instead to plug holes and upgrade existing cards. Thalia, Heretic Cathar is going to be a major player. Spirits in general and Selfless Spirit in particular are going to be change the landscape of Standard.
Beyond that, will there be a white control deck? Is it worth trying to meld two powerful Angels into a game-winning Eldrazi? What about decks based around enchantments and equipment? White offers a few surefire Standard playables as well as a toolbox of other toys to play around with.