I’m excited to finally draft this set with release weekend coming up, and I’ve been thinking more about how archetypes will look once I’m playing with the set even more. If you want the best chance to take down your early Drafts, read on! Allied color pairs can be found here.
UG is still about sacrificing permanents, but has trended away from that focus being on Clues. The color combination has moved up to bigger permanents, with giant Eldrazi horrors becoming the focus of the color pair. Bloodbriar works as the perfect bridge between old and new since its best friend is Clue tokens. Sacrificing Clues to draw cards and put +1/+1 counters on a creature sounds like a pure delight, and I’m excited to put this new powerhouse common to work.
Of course, emerge also works with this creature. To really enable emerge though, you’ll want access to creatures that pay you for sacrificing them. There are two flavors of these. The first are creatures that have inflated converted mana costs and act more like spells. Enlightened Maniac is a great example. The 3/2 that it comes with is what you’re paying for, and then you have this husk of a 3U creature that is primed for sacrifice. Curving the Maniac into a Wretched Gryff is a powerful sequence that maintains tempo without incurring card disadvantage.
There are going to be plenty of times when you don’t have a good emerge setup, though. You’ll have a very real creature in play like a Hermit of the Natterknolls and a Wretched Gryff staring back at you on turn 4 with no other play. Sacrificing the Hermit doesn’t exactly sound like you’re upgrading much, so you’ll just end up passing to flip your Werewolf and waiting several turns until you can actually get some decent value off the Gryff. This is the downside of emerge creatures—thus, it’s important to try and set yourself up as best you can during the draft such that you have a sufficient number of support creatures and emerge creatures themselves. The problem with this is that there are some emerge elements to UG but they are only part of the color pair’s identity.
I think this means that drafting UG decks will be similar to triple-SOI. Most of them won’t actually be all-in on the theme. There simply aren’t enough cards to have an “emerge deck,” though that will be part of the focus of UG almost every time. Some drafts will have the support at the table to pick up enough setup creatures and emerge cards to enable more of a focused shell, and I think that will be powerful even if it isn’t all that common in practice.
Now: The same.
Previous delirium decks suffered from being too all-in. They would routinely draw a ton of cards as they quickly lost to some flying Spirits or overly large Werewolves. But EMN looks to be just slightly slower this time around thanks to the new Werewolves, and a supporting cast of large Eldrazi creatures pulling a good chunk of focus. This gives me hope that GB decks will be much better now since the delirium payoffs were quite good before, but not truly worth the time.
This time you have Grapple with the Past as the replacement for Vessel of Nascency. Overall, I think Grapple is quite a bit worse, but it does have the upside of returning a powerful creature in the late game or one that you happened to incidentally mill. Because it can hit creatures and lands it should be safe enough to just cast on turn 2, and will still do a decent job filling up the graveyard. Also note that Grapple is an instant for delirium purposes. In SOI, I’d say the easiest types to get into your graveyard for GB decks were creature, land, and enchantment. Now that there are more instants as enablers, perhaps it will be easier to get a good mix of spell types to turn on delirium with, despite the Grapple downgrade from the Vessel.
If this set makes it more difficult to get enchantments into the graveyard, then Boon of Emrakul will be an even more important piece to the deck. The problem with this is that every black deck will want to pick Boon early on since it is comparable to Complete Disregard at sorcery speed. Getting a good mix of enchantments, sorceries, instants, and artifacts while still retaining a high enough creature count will still be GB’s struggle. Terrarion does fill a nice role as an artifact that you can play that fuels delirium easily and also replaces itself. In addition, GB decks were more often looking to splash big bombs before and Terrarion helps work toward that goal.
GB also offers up some decent discard outlets to help get the last couple card types needed to reach delirium. Skirsdag Supplicant and Olivia’s Dragoon are very good at getting your 4th type into the graveyard at instant speed, and could end up being even more important for GB decks than RB decks. Crop Sigil looks like it will be another key way to slowly build delirium, and is a nice early play that still has relevance in the late game.
Once you have delirium, you get access to a couple of solid creatures. Thraben Foulbloods is a reasonably-sized creature that trades early and applies real pressure once you have delirium. This is a huge upgrade over Hound of the Farbogs since that simply costs too much mana and always traded down without delirium. Backwoods Survivalists is similarly nice since a 5/4 trample will often demand double-blocks and can end games quickly if left unchecked. This leads me to believe that GB will be capable of quickly turning the corner now, and is only really looking to get value early on until its delirium engines are online, at which point the deck is no longer looking to win through grindy advantage but instead with pure efficiency.
Previously: Midrange delirium.
Now: The same.
WB really fell flat in triple-SOI. It looked like it would focus on a small creature plan that flooded the board, got value off delirium, and then would be able to close games with Behind the Scenes. In reality, it played as a poor delirium deck that you drafted when white and black were open in your draft seat and you got passed a ton of premium first-pick removal spells. I fear that the deck is going to operate similarly this time, since I scrolled through the white and black cards again and again, trying to see connections between the colors to no avail. Though I will say Boon of Emrakul and Ironclad Slayer is a nice little combination.
Unfortunately, white is Spirit- and Human-focused while black wants to flood the board with Zombies. Any payoffs for those tribes are very all-in, and thus you won’t want to draft any of them when you’re playing WB. Campaign of Vengeance points to the color pair as a go-wide strategy though, so that’s all I can truly advocate as an actual strategy and focus for your drafts. Don’t worry much about tribal synergies and instead prioritize making multiple creatures through single cards, and hold your opponent at bay with your powerful first picks.
Now: The same.
GW decks were full of great creatures backed by combat tricks, and I think that plan has shifted to WR. White has a good number of efficient beatdown creatures, and red works nicely to complement that plan with good tricks, alongside a few good threats of its own. Fiend Binder will always trade down in this format, yet when it’s backed up by a combat trick it can be a complete blowout since it practically demands a block or will simply run away with the game. It’s not too long ago you had access to Goblin Heelcutter, and while Fiend Binder is nowhere near that level, I’ve hardcast enough Heelcutters in my time to know that’s still a strong amount of pressure, even on its own.
Abandon Reason has madness, but that’s just gravy for an RW deck. I’d be happy to play this if I had 0 ways to enable the madness, and in fact having 0 outlets in play disguises this card a little since it will often be thought of as a madness trick. This card is nowhere as efficient as Coordinated Assault and there’s no heroic creatures to target with it, but creatures are more expensive now and less voltron-focused than in Theros, and I think Abandon Reason can be quite a bit worse than Coordinated Assault while still being quite a good card.
Borrowed Hostility is just extremely flexible and lets you both win combats while trading up, or cast cheaply to deploy another threat post-combat. It’s really the perfect type of card for escalate because you can just use it whenever a prime opportunity presents itself, which should be relatively easy to find since combat happens on most turns.
All in all I’m excited for WR beatdown decks and I think they will simply build upon their success from triple-SOI. There’s really nothing fancy about the deck’s game plan, but it works efficiently and as long as you focus on building a deck with a good mana curve with balance between your creatures and tricks then you’ll be set up for success.
Previously: Spell-based Rise from the Tides.
Now: Spell-based creatures.
I saved the best for last. UR spells was my favorite archetype pre-EMN, and it looks to retain a ton of its sweetness moving forward. The deck almost single-handedly revolved around Rise from the Tides in its previous iteration but now its power is much more spread out among a variety of creatures. Instead of trying to buy time then make a slew of Zombies, the new UR deck is about incremental advantage.
Many of the deck’s effects focus on slowly killing your opponent while also playing defense. Weaver of Lightning has the key 4th toughness to defend against the many 3/2 Eldrazi Horror Tokens and can ensure that you won’t get killed by small pesky flying creatures while also slowly killing off those annoyances. Ingenious Skaab looks like it will do a lot of the heavy lifting and can easily hit for huge amounts of damage though that is extremely mana intensive. Think of it like a cheaper Pyre Hound that lacks trample but brawls better on its own.
Like pre-EMN, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough spells that your payoff creatures are fully powered up, but because you aren’t simply digging to Rise from the Tides, you’ll need to make a few adjustments. UR decks will be more incentivized to play more creatures now simply because they need to be in play over many turns to actually start snowballing. Topdecking one on turn 7 isn’t going to be as meaningful as it was when you topdecked a game-breaking Rise. This means a careful balance between creatures and spells is required and that the deck will need to draw the right mix of spells and creatures to really get going. This is certainly a weakness of the deck, but the reward is absolutely explosive turns that let UR come back from way behind.
Card draw and filtering are extremely useful to help keep a steady flow of these key ingredients, and also to help find the right quantities of both halves of your deck. If you can manage to draft 3 Take Inventory or more, then that will be quite an effective plan, and there’s even the upside that many other decks don’t want it. The downside is that it’s not even guaranteed that 3 Take Inventory will even be opened, and playing 1 or 2 copies just doesn’t do it for me, though I suppose if you’re triggering enough creatures off each spell you cast that running 2 is acceptable.
Drafting can’t get here soon enough because I’m absolutely salivating at the promise of UR. What decks are you excited about?