Previous Set Reviews

Limited

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green

Constructed

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Colorless, Lands, and Gold

Eldritch Moon is here, and it’s time for me to review each and every card, starting with Limited. A few quick notes before I get to the reviews:

The grade on each card is much less important than the analysis. It’s a good shorthand, but what I write about each card gives a lot more context to the grades, and goes deeper on cards that defy a simple grade (such as situational cards).

Some set specific mechanics (emerge, escalate, and meld) are hard to understand until you get to see them in action. It’s also not completely clear how Eldritch Moon will change Shadows over Innistrad’s existing mechanics (delirium, madness, tribal synergies, etc.). I’ll provide my best estimate as to how good the cards that relate to these abilities are, and I like to assume that all of a set’s themes are well-supported.

LSV’s are some big shoes to fill, but I’ll do my absolute best. He’s a genius when it comes to evaluating new cards on the fly, but I think I can do well enough to give you a solid starting point with Eldritch Moon. He’s also a great, entertaining writer when he’s not making us all cringe. Sorry (but not sorry) if I can’t continue his proud tradition of a pun in every single card review.

Ratings Scale

Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte.
5.0: The best of the best. (Archangel Avacyn. Sorin, Grim Nemesis.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (The Gitrog Monster. Descend Upon the Sinful. Jace, Unraveller of Secrets. Avacyn’s Judgment.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Burn from Within. Devil’s Playground. Elusive Tormentor.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Declaration in Stone. Breakneck Rider. Fiery Temper.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Graf Mole. Dauntless Cathar. Niblis of Dusk.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Nephalia Moondrakes. Stormrider Spirit. Reduce to Ashes.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Expose Evil. Inspiring Captain. Lamplighter of Selhoff.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Fork in the Road. Convicted Killer. Militant Inquisitor.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Moldgraf Scavenger. Vampire Noble. Seagraf Skaab.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Invasive Surgery. Ethereal Guidance. Open the Armory.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Harness the Storm. Vessel of Volatility.)

Colorless

Abundant Maw

Limited Rating: 2.5

I like emerge as a quite a lot. As a general rule when evaluating new Magic cards, anything that lets you cast expensive spells for cheaper is worth paying close attention to. Emerge can lead to some easy wins when you put a giant monster into play quickly and it goes unanswered. In Limited it’s important to put yourself in a position to earn easy wins.

But be aware that the cost of emerge is card disadvantage. You spend 2 cards (the Eldrazi in your hand and the creature on the battlefield) to result in 1 new creature on the battlefield. There’s a risk of falling behind if the opponent can answer your Eldrazi with a removal or bounce spell.

Abundant Maw isn’t quite the payoff I’d hope for for an emerge creature. Since it puts you down on card advantage, I’m looking for an immediate impact on the battlefield, which this card doesn’t have. Granted, the 6 point life swing gives you breathing room, and ensures that things can’t go too horribly wrong. The power level is high enough that I think you’re happy to play with Abundant Maw in your black decks.

Decimator of the Provinces

Limited Rating: 4.5

10 mana is quite a lot, so you should only be excited about Decimator of the Provinces in a deck that can pay its emerge cost. But this card is very likely to win you the game immediately when you cast it. I envision plenty of games where you emerge this out on turn 6 or 7 for a quick win. I envision even more where the board stalls out and you’re simply waiting to draw it to win the game.

Overall, Decimator of the Provinces seems noticeably better than Overrun, which has traditionally helped set the bar for broken Limited cards.

Distended Mindbender

Limited Rating: 3.0

By the time turn 8 rolls around, your opponent’s hand will often be empty. So you have another emerge card that’s unexciting to hardcast. Casting Distended Mindbender ahead of schedule for its emerge cost can be more powerful. You can feel a lot better sacrificing board presence for a creature like this when you know you can strip away your opponent’s removal spell.

You should evaluate this card assuming you’ll strip 1 card out of your opponent’s hand. Even by turn 5, the odds of actually sniping 2 spells will be relatively low. Overall, the Mindbender looks like something you’re always happy to play in a black deck, but not exactly a bomb. That said, it’s also a bit matchup dependent and can be absolutely devastating against slow, control decks. Despite not having the highest power and toughness, the Mindbender is great at trumping other emerge creatures by taking them out of the opponent’s hand before they can hit the battlefield.

Drownyard Behemoth

Limited Rating: 2.5

Because of its strange 1-turn-hexproof clause, Drownyard Behemoth is a foolproof way to ambush a ground attacker. Almost nothing can beat a 5/7 in combat, and the opponent can’t use instant-speed bounce or removal to trump the Behemoth. This is its way of guaranteeing value and paying for the creature you sacrificed to emerge. Looks pretty solid to me.

Elder Deep-Fiend

Limited Rating: 4.0

When you’re winning, Elder Deep-Fiend will usually win you the game by tapping down opposing blockers at the end of the turn. When you’re losing, it can ambush a creature in combat, or fog for a turn (but unfortunately not both). Being helpful in a wide variety of situations is exactly what I look for in an expensive card, and this one seems to fit that bill.

Note also that it can tap any permanent, including lands. This can help you clear the way for a safe, clean combat step where you’ll know exactly what your opponent can and can’t do.

Elder Deep-Fiend earns its high rating based on being able to cast it for its emerge cost in a blue deck. But I think it stands out from the other emerge creatures in that its rate is good enough to be playable “off color.” Of course, your WR Beatdown decks don’t want an 8-mana spell for any reason. I can easily see playing this in a slow GB delirium deck.

Emrakul, the Promised End

Limited Rating: 3.0

By the time you’re ready to cast Emrakul, the Promised End, she’ll probably only cost between 8 and 10 mana, and will very likely win you the game on the spot. Spending that much mana for an auto-win card is an effect that some, but not all, decks will be interested in.

Building a self-mill deck that gets delirium quickly is a little helpful. But the more important build-around aspect of Emrakul is having a slow deck that promises to survive deep into the game, while actually being able to get to 8+ mana.

If you open Emrakul, the Promised End, I think it’s reasonable to pick her and build around her. I also think it would be reasonable to start instead with a removal spell or a premium cheaper card in order to keep the door open for an aggressive deck.

Eternal Scourge

Limited Rating: 2.0

For most practical purposes, Eternal Scourge is a colorless Nessian Courser. If you can’t exile it from your own graveyard (which is difficult), then its ability is a minor downfall, since it gives your opponent more options. It can always come back, but they might use their instants and sorceries to tempo you out, or they might have a permanent that can repeatedly target it. Overall, not a high draft pick.

It of the Horrid Swarm

Limited Rating: 2.5

It of the Horrid Swarm is 1 of only 2 common emerge creatures. I like this card, and I like its immediate impact on the battlefield. You can think about it as a very affordable 4/4 creature that replaces whatever you sacrificed with 2 Insect tokens. That alone is a strong card and if you allow for the possibility of “value emerges” like with Foul Emissary, then you have a card that’s worth picking up relatively early.

Lashweed Lurker

Limited Rating: 3.0

Having a multicolored emerge cost makes Lashweed Lurker slightly more difficult to use well. But the power level is still definitely there, as it has a large, immediate impact on the board, and won’t leave you down on card advantage even when paying the emerge cost.

Mockery of Nature

Limited Rating: 2.5

There are enough artifacts and enchantments in this Limited format that you’ll kill something with Mockery of Nature a reasonable portion of the time. When it destroys something relevant, this card is going to be great. When it doesn’t, it’s still okay, but is a little on the expensive and vanilla side.

I’d be inclined to maindeck Mockery of Nature, but would be willing to sideboard it out if the opponent doesn’t have artifacts or enchantments and I don’t have combos with emerge.

Vexing Scuttler

Limited Rating: 3.5

Of the non-rare emerge creatures, Vexing Scuttler is my favorite. Returning an instant or sorcery from your graveyard to your hand replaces the creature that you sacrificed to emerge. It’s also pretty affordable by Eldrazi standards, and it’s not far-fetched that you could cast this and whatever spell you return both in the same turn.

I like the card advantage, the flexibility, and the giant monster that you get out of casting Vexing Scuttler. Look for this to be an especially powerful card in a Sealed deck.

Wretched Gryff

Limited Rating: 3.0

Mulldrifter this is not. But a threatening body that replaces itself it is! Wretched Gryff looks like a good addition to any blue deck, and some, slow nonblue decks.

For practical purposes, Wretched Gryff might prove to be one of the best “blue” commons. Pairing this with Exultant Cultist or Enlightened Maniac will probably be one of the bread-and-butter synergies that blue decks will want in Eldritch Moon Limited.

Artifacts

Cathar’s Shield

Limited Rating: 0.5

Cathar’s Shield has an annoyingly high equip cost, and doesn’t help you unload extra damage on the opponent. On the whole, this is a poor card. I could see playing it if you have a ton of equipment synergies, but there are enough common equipment in Eldritch Moon/Shadows over Innistrad that you shouldn’t have to stoop this low.

Cryptolith Fragment // Aurora of Emrakul

Limited Rating: 1.5

Cryptolith Fragment is a unique and reasonably powerful card, but whether or not you can use it well will depend largely on your deck. The challenge is that ramp decks want to protect their own life total, and they do not attack the opponent’s life total quickly. Aggressive decks that attack the opponent’s life total might not be able to make use of the extra mana (or count on their own life total going down to 10).

I see Cryptolith Fragment being best in something like a big RG Werewolves deck where you’re reasonably aggressive, and casting a 5-drop ahead of schedule is appealing to you.

At its best, the Fragment could easily be as high as a 2.5, but don’t be afraid to leave it on the sidelines when it’s not a good fit for your deck.

Cultist’s Staff

Limited Rating: 2.0

Cultist’s Staff, unlike the mediocre Cathar’s Shield, is a decently strong equipment. Vulshok Morningstar stands as a baseline for great equipment in Limited, and the Staff comes reasonably close to matching it.

I’d usually stick to 1 copy of Cultist’s Staff, but I think this is a card you’ll want if you specifically have equipment synergies (like Avacynian Missionaries), or if you’re just looking for a little extra support for your evasion creatures.

Field Creeper

Limited Rating: 1.5

2-drops are important. Field Creeper’s stats aren’t exciting, but a 2-drop that can go in any deck and contributes an extra card type for delirium is totally fine in my book.

Geist-Fueled Scarecrow

Limited Rating: 2.5

You’re going to get sick of me talking about fueling delirium, but it’s going to be a legitimate appeal of all of these artifact creatures. Geist-Fueled Scarecrow is a body that’s more efficient than you’re likely to find in any of the 5 colors. The drawback is not even that bad since you can cast this as one of the last creatures in your hand and you’ll often have the option to trade it off once it’s on the board. Granted, it will be very annoying to have this locked down by a Choking Tethers (you can consider sideboarding it out if your opponent has a lot of cards like that).

Unlike a Steel Golem, you can still cast your creatures—it just becomes minorly annoying to do so. The only place you might want to avoid Geist-Fueled Scarecrow is in a deck like RG Werewolves, where you actually have a healthy number of 5-drop creatures that you’d like to play on curve. Outside of that, I envision this being a solid playable for most decks in this Limited format.

Lupine Prototype

Limited Rating: 2.0

Play with Lupine Prototype if you’re planning to eventually empty your own hand, as you would with most normal, aggressively slanted decks. It often won’t be attacking until turn 6 or so, but that still makes it as good as most creatures you’d tap out for on turn 5. The advantage of the Lupine isn’t its speed, but the fact that it requires such a small investment of mana. You can cast this and another spell in the same turn, and then cash in once you finally do empty your hand.

Avoid this card in blue decks with card drawing, counterspells, or other situational instants.

Slayer’s Cleaver

Limited Rating: 1.0

I prefer the more affordable Cultist’s Staff over Slayer’s Cleaver. Investing 4 mana to equip a creature, only to have that creature trade in combat is a real bummer. That’s why expensive equipment that doesn’t pump toughness (or offer evasion, trample, or another helpful ability), is usually disappointing.

Soul Separator

Limited Rating: 1.0

Soul Separator has excellent flavor, and some interesting potential uses, but I think it costs too much mana to be very good. If you have some self-mill, you can dump a giant monster in your graveyard and then use Soul Separator to make a big threat. But for 8 mana, why aren’t you just casting Cemetery Recruitment and recasting your creature? It’s a real shame that this can’t even target creatures in the opponent’s graveyard.

As someone pointed out in the comments section of the black review, the sweetest combo with Soul Separator is Tree of Perdition. This will give you a 0/13 ground blocker and a 1/1 Spirit with the ability to set your opponent’s life total at 1!

Stitcher’s Graft

Limited Rating: 2.5

Stitcher’s Graft is very slow and a bit dangerous, but I think the rate is good enough that it’s still a useful card. You won’t want to put this on your giant green Werewolves, but in an RB or WR weenie deck, you can start attacking for big damage very quickly, and make your 1- and 2-drop creatures into very real threats.

Imagine, for example, equipping an Insolent Neonate on turn 3. Even attacking every other turn, you’re unloading damage at a highly increased rate, and your opponent won’t ever have profitable blocks. If the Neonate ever dies (you can sacrifice it any time you like), you can re-equip Stitcher’s Graft and keep the pressure on.

Terrarion

Limited Rating: 1.5

Terrarion isn’t exactly exciting, but it offers mana fixing and a contribution to delirium at a very, very low cost. You’ll be happy to play this virtually any time your deck is 3 colors, or any time you’re going for delirium (and don’t already have a handful of artifacts in your deck).

Thirsting Axe

Limited Rating: 1.5

More than the other common and uncommon equipment, I like both the flavor and the strategy questions represented by Thirsting Axe. For a pretty affordable rate, you can put your opponent to the test of trading for your weakest creatures every turn, or taking massive damage.

Thirsting Axe is a pretty strong card for decks that aggressively attack the opponent’s life total. It’s good with evasion creatures, even though they’ll go unblocked. Having the option to unload damage is a good thing. More importantly, it’s good in decks with a lot of cheap creatures. Cheaper creatures are more expendable if you have to sacrifice them to the Axe’s triggered ability. They also don’t demand large mana investments, meaning you can use your mana on re-equiping each turn instead.

Gold

Following LSV’s guidelines, the rating for multi-color cards assumes that you are in those colors. Early in a draft, you will sometimes want to take a weaker mono-color card over a multicolored card because of the risk of committing—that isn’t factored in here. Think of these as a “Pack 2 Pick 1” rating, once you’re already in the right colors.

Bloodhall Priest

Limited Rating: 3.5

Well-above-average stats and madness make Bloodhall Priest a card to be excited about in any RB deck. The ability to sometimes kill a creature when it enters the battlefield is a big bonus on an already-good card.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to get both the “kill a creature” value and the “big creature ahead of schedule” value at the same time since you’ll rarely be hellbent by turn 4. But jamming Bloodhall Priest right away or waiting to empty your hand is a choice that can be made case-by-case. It’s also a problem I’ll be happy to have.

Campaign of Vengeance

Limited Rating: 2.5

Campaign of Vengeance does a reasonable impression of Glorious Anthem and is quite a powerful card. Where it doesn’t help you on defense, the life gain can make you difficult to race. Where it doesn’t help your creatures win in combat, it works well with skulk and can allow you to bleed out an opponent who might’ve otherwise stabilized.

Campaign of Vengeance will make the cut in all but the most controlling of BW decks, and it’s even a draw toward the color combination. But noncreature, nonremoval card that commits me to 2 colors is not how I would hope to start a draft.

Gisa and Geralf

Limited Rating: 4.0

Just like Bloodhall Priest, Gisa and Geralf offer a 4-mana 4/4 with tons of upside. Blue and black are the Zombie colors, and even without trying you’re going to end up with a decent handful of creatures that you can cast from your graveyard. The self-mill ability finds you Zombies to cast, helps with delirium, and can offer plenty of other benefits in this color combination.

Grim Flayer

Limited Rating: 3.0

Grim Flayer is efficiently costed, but “efficiently costed” usually isn’t a great reason to commit to a 2-color combination early in the draft. That said, if you’re GB already, then a 2-mana creature that becomes a 4/4 trampler and can help with delirium is something you’ll always be happy to have.

Heron’s Grace Champion

Limited Rating: 4.0

Heron’s Grace Champion is exactly what your WG creature decks will be looking for. Those are the colors with the most Humans anyway, so you can use the Champion as Tenacity in a big combat step (plus a 3/3 lifelink that sticks around for later). He also stands on his own extremely well, being a solid body that can ambush an attacker. Built-in lifelink also makes him carry equipment, Auras, and combat tricks particularly well.

Mercurial Geists

Limited Rating: 3.0

Mercurial Geists has the potential to hit incredibly hard, but I usually hope for my 4-mana gold uncommon to have a bit more standalone power than this. If you can’t offer it much help, it’s a fragile creature that might only average about 2 damage per turn.

Thankfully, blue and red are the “spells matter” colors, and you’ll usually have enough that, when you’re drawing well, Mercurial Geists will be a deadly threat.

Mournwillow

Limited Rating: 2.5

The stats and text on Mournwillow are similar (likely a little worse) than Voldaren Duelist. Its converted mana cost is 1 less, but it’s a gold card in a combination that’s not always aggressive. On efficiency, this is a card you’ll always play in your BG decks, but it’s not the payoff you want for committing your colors early in the draft.

Ride Down

Limited Rating: 3.0

When you’re playing WR aggro, this is a card you can ride to victory. When you’re attacking, Ride Down is a premium removal spell with a healthy chunk of damage attached to it. These decks are in the market for any card that lets them keep attacking, and Ride Down might just be the best one out there.

Note that it can give trample to all 8 creatures blocked by an opposing Watcher in the Web!

Spell Queller

Limited Rating: 4.0

In terms of power level, Spell Queller is pushed to the limit on virtually every axis! A 2/3 with flying for 3 mana has great stats. Flash gives it the potential to ambush a creature if you choose, or keeps your mana open for other options. The ability to (temporarily) counter a spell while adding an evasive attacker to the board is a huge swing. It’s also a Spirit, which is the creature type the UW color combination wants.

Granted, Spell Queller does have its limits. If it gets killed later in the game, the opponent will finally get their spell. But if it’s a cheap creature you’re countering, delaying it by a few turns has already taken away a ton of its value—it might be outclassed by the time it finally hits the battlefield. If it’s a situational spell like a combat trick, the opponent might not find as good a use for it.

Spell Queller can’t counter any spell, but hitting anything that costs 4 or less mana means you should have no trouble finding a target. At any rate, this seems like a creature that you want to get onto the board early to push a tempo advantage, not save in your hand forever to counter their late-game bomb.

Tamiyo, Field Researcher

Limited Rating: 4.5

We all know how powerful planeswalkers are in Limited, and you’re going to win most games that you cast Tamiyo on an even board. In Limited, both players are going to have creatures, so you can use the +1 ability on your own guys to draw cards, or on your opponent’s to make combat more difficult for them. If you’re far ahead, the -2 ability ought to effectively win the game. If you’re far behind, it ought to buy you enough time to get right back in it.

One strike against the Field Researcher is that her ultimate isn’t particularly great in Limited (I doubt you’ll ever really want to cash her in for the emblem and 3 random cards). The other is her demanding 3-color requirement. This is a 2-color format, and splashing comes at a very high cost. If you’re drafting WG, WU, or GU already, then the rewards are high enough to consider splashing, but decreasing the consistency of your WG Beatdown deck is something that should make you cringe. A lot has to go right for Tamiyo to fit into your deck, and a lot more has to go right before you can smoothly curve into casting her on turn 4.

Ulrich of the Krallenhorde // Ulrich, Uncontested Alpha

Limited Rating: 4.5

Ulrich of the Krallenhorde is one of the major characters in Shadows over Innistrad, being referenced in the names and flavor texts of a lot of the Werewolves. He also seems to be the only “traditional” Werewolf in Eldritch Moon who hasn’t been corrupted by Emrakul. I had pretty high expectations for him when he finally got printed as his own card.

The Human side is actually a bit lackluster. When he enters the battlefield, he can help one of your other creatures attack for a big chunk of damage, but there’s nothing to stop the opponent from chump-blocking anyway.

But the Werewolf side does not disappoint in the slightest. A 6/6 that gets to kill off one of the opponent’s best creatures is a game-winner. The fact that you might actually get to make this happen more than once in a game is truly beastly.

Lands

Geier Reach Sanitarium

Limited Rating: 1.0

Geier Reach Sanitarium offers a relatively powerful symmetrical effect, and having control over it is appealing. That said, Eldritch Moon/Shadows over Innistrad is a fast Limited format with poor mana fixing, and the costs of adding a colorless land to your deck are high.

I’d never call somebody crazy for playing with this card, but I think you’re only excited about it in dedicated madness decks, or decks with extremely good mana (for example, if you’re mostly one color with a light splash).

Hanweir Battlements // Hanweir, the Writhing Township

Limited Rating: 2.5

Hanweir Battlements is a bit more powerful because its effect only benefits you. Any red deck that can afford it will want Hanweir Battlements. Very aggressive red decks like WR will want to pick it relatively highly.

Nephalia Academy

Limited Rating: 0.0

Nephalia Academy’s ability simply doesn’t do enough in Limited. You’re almost always going to be better off with a basic land from the land box.

So that’s it for Eldritch Moon’s Limited cards! Much like Shadows over Innistrad, there seem to be a lot of powerful rares which, even if they’re not bombs, can be picked highly and give your draft some direction. The multicolored rares are great examples.

As of now, I see no reason not to believe that all 10 color combinations will be viable in draft. In particular, UW Spirits and RB Vampires seem to have gotten a lot stronger. If the emerge mechanic is as powerful as it looks like it might be, then there might be big rewards in finding the perfect way to build a UG Emerge deck.

Shadows over Innistrad was already a fun and popular Limited format. Let’s hope that Eldritch Moon only adds to it!