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Limited

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

Constructed

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

I’m subbing in for LSV to review Eldritch Moon. Just like Mr. Scott-Vargas does, I’ll be covering every card in the set for Limited, and next week, all of those that I think might have potential in Constructed.

Luis already has a great framework in place for these set reviews, so I’ll try to stick as close to his formula as I can. I’ll even recycle his introductory disclaimer!

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. (Duskwatch Recruiter. 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.)

Blessed Alliance

Limited: 2.5

Escalate is one of the new mechanics in Eldritch Moon. Cards with escalate are extremely flexible; you can sink varying amounts of mana into them, and they have multiple modes to choose from. Most of the cards have one or two bread-and-butter modes that you’ll be using most of the time in Limited. The rest are situational, bonus modes that can be nice, but shouldn’t drastically change your valuation of the cards.

In the case of Blessed Alliance, the bread and butter ability is making the opponent sacrifice an attacking creature (this is the only mode that gives you a card’s worth of value). However, the two bonus abilities make it a reasonably powerful utility spell.

It’s difficult to kill two attackers with Blessed Alliance, because if you escalate and try to untap creatures for an ambush, your opponent can choose to sacrifice a weaker or non-evasive attacker. That said, you can certainly contrive situations where you can kill multiple attackers, and sometimes the stars do align.

Finally, while you should basically never play with a card that does nothing but gain you life, having the gain-4 option tacked on to this card at such a low cost is also fantastic.

Borrowed Grace

Limited Rating: 2.0

I’m not a fan of Trumpet Blast. But Borrowed Grace will be Trumpet Blast when Trumpet Blast is good (a.k.a. lethal). It gives your team the full +2/+2 when the game stalls out, and every now and then it will save a creature for 3 mana. Escalate is a powerful ability, and Borrowed Grace is a very good version of what it does.

Not every deck will be interested in Borrowed Grace, and it’s not the type of card you’ll want more than 1 or 2 copies of. But when you have an aggressive, white, creature-swarm deck, Borrowed Grace will be a great addition.

Bruna, the Fading Light // Brisela, Voice of Nightmares

Limited: 4.0

When you can spend 7 mana on a 5/7 flyer plus another relevant body, you have a Limited bomb. The only reason Bruna doesn’t earn a 4.5 rating is because every once in a while you won’t have an Angel or Human in your graveyard to return.

Still, I think you’ll get max value from Bruna often enough that you should pick her highly, and not worry too much about drafting around her.

Oh, also, she can meld with a mythic rare bomb when you draft both, draw them both together, and they both survive. This should not factor into your Limited evaluation.

Choking Restraints

Limited Rating: 3.5

Choking Restraints is Eldritch Moon’s version of the Pacifism, Arrest, and Bound by Moonsilver category of removal. These cards are typically excellent, and tend to rank higher than the vast majority of white commons.

The weakness of Choking Restraints is that it cannot stop a creature with an annoying noncombat ability, such as Reckless Scholar. Its second ability somewhat corrects that weakness if you have the time and mana to spend on it. Most of the time, you’ll simply use this to remove a blocker. But some games do play out where you simply need to remove an opposing Drogskol Cavalry from the battlefield at any cost, and the fact that Choking Restraints can do it is certainly a plus. The activated ability can help it combo with Ironclad Slayer as well!

Choking Restraints is marginally worse than Bound by Moonsilver, but is still excellent. It’s a card you should be happy to pick highly, and should play in as many copies as you can get.

Collective Effort

Limited Rating: 4.0

You’ll most commonly use the Smite the Monstrous and the “Nissa -2” modes on Collective Effort. In doing so, you combine a solid removal spell with a free, permanent power and toughness bonus to your whole team. The result is a great Limited card. The ability to sometimes tack on destroying an enchantment is just gravy!

Courageous Outrider

Limited Rating: 2.5

With only 5 other Humans in your deck, you’ll hit with Courageous Outrider close to 50% of the time. In a white-based creature deck, you’ll have a good chance of having more than 5 other Humans, and the odds will go further in your favor.

Courageous Outrider isn’t quite as good as a 4-mana 3/4 that draws a card, but it’s pretty close. When you do find a creature, the ability winds up being better than drawing a card because you know you’re getting action instead of something random (which could be a land).

Dawn Gryff

Limited Rating: 2.0

Wind Drake is an oldie but a goodie. Dawn Gryff also fits white’s theme of evasive beatdown, and is good in a deck with equipment or other ways to buff creatures. This is a solid card, but might once in a while get cut from more defensive white decks.

Deploy the Gatewatch

Limited Rating: 0.0

If you somehow end up with 3 planeswalkers and Deploy the Gatewatch in Limited—congratulations, everybody hates you.

Desperate Sentry

Limited Rating: 2.0

Desperate Sentry does a lot, and has a pretty high raw power level for a common. It’s fantastic in a deck that can count on getting delirium. It’s also solid in a defensive deck that simply wants to block with it (3 mana for a 3/2 is a baseline rate, and getting a free chump-block from Desperate Sentry makes it a little better than that). It also does a nice job holding equipment, which is a bit of a theme in white.

Don’t play this in an aggressive, non-delirium deck unless you’re desperate. In such a deck, you’ll have trouble getting him to die, and pecking away for 1 damage at a time is not what you want to get from your 3-drop creature.

Drogskol Shieldmate

Limited Rating: 2.0

Flash is quite a powerful ability in Limited, giving you the potential to ambush a smaller attacking creature. But all of the flash creatures in Eldritch Moon and Shadows over Innistrad are hurt by the fact that there are so many of them. Players will quickly learn to be wary of attacking small ground creatures into open mana, and so the number of times Drogskol Shieldmate will successfully ambush a 2-drop won’t be quite as high as you would like.

Drogskol Shieldmate also has a minor combat-trick element, offering the possibility of saving one of your creatures. 1 toughness isn’t much, and again, it might end up being harder to get full value from Drogskol Shieldmate in practice than you would like in theory.

All told, the Shieldmate is going to be an average body (very slightly below average), with two outside chances at giving you extra value. This amounts to a creature you’ll be happy to play with. Some drafters will also be in the market for a Spirit creature type.

Extricator of Sin // Extricator of Flesh

Limited Rating: 2.5

There’s a lot going on with Extricator of Sin, and it’s not the easiest card to evaluate. Looking at it as a 3-drop in an average deck, it’s not that appealing. You won’t want to sacrifice a land early in the game, and it would only offer a marginal upgrade to your 2-drop creature. If you’re not trying for it, you usually don’t achieve delirium until turn 7 or 8, at which point Extricator of Flesh won’t be the most powerful creature on the battlefield.

Looking at it as a late-game play, it gets a bit more appealing. On the one hand, 3/2 Eldrazi start to get outclassed deep into the game, but you’re also more likely to have a disposable permanent (like an extra land or a creature with Choking Restraints on it), and the sacrifice effect can help you get delirium. Now you have a threatening body on the table that the opponent might need to spend removal on to prevent you from transforming into Extricator of Flesh.

Finally, if you look at Extricator of Sin in the context of a dedicated delirium deck, it looks pretty great. The front side can help you get your last card type for delirium, and then transforms very quickly into a big creature with a powerful ability.

You have to do a little bit of work to make good use of Extricator of Sin, but the power level is high, and I’ve given it a very solid rating. You won’t want this in your most aggressive decks, but it’s great if you’re going for delirium, and I think it’s good enough to just play for value in decks of average speed.

Faith Unbroken

Limited Rating: 2.5

I don’t love putting my faith in a card this swingy, but the power level breaks through the roof. When it works, you’ll eliminate your opponent’s best creature—no questions asked—while simultaneously creating a giant threat on the battlefield (with the benefit of some immediate damage coming through).

When it doesn’t work, Faith Unbroken creates a 2-for-1 in the opponent’s favor just like any other Aura. The good news is that you can cast it when the opponent is tapped out for a huge board-presence swing that might allow you to either win the game or unload a ton of damage immediately.

Because the downside is higher, Faith Unbroken is a bit worse than Banisher Priest. But it’s still a powerful card that aggressive white decks will be very interested in. When it goes unanswered, Faith Unbroken will lead to some easy and convincing wins.

Faithbearer Paladin

Limited Rating: 1.5

Faithbearer Paladin is basically my definition of a filler card. Lifelink on a creature this size is roughly equal to having an extra +1/+1, which makes Faithbearer Paladin equal on power level to Thornhide Wolves. Both creatures will continue to make the cut in my decks a little more than half the time.

Fiend Binder

Limited Rating: 1.5

Fiend Binder looked like a great card when I thought it was 3 mana. When I reread it, I became much less excited. Even with tapping down one blocker, a 2-toughness creature often won’t make it out of the red zone alive on the fifth turn of the game.

Getting this effect as an attack trigger is about equal to the enters-the-battlefield trigger on Voldaren Duelist. The fact that Fiend Binder lacks haste makes it far worse.

Fiend Binder offers a powerful effect if it can successfully attack for a few turns in a row. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that its stats are simply too far below par for your 4-drop creature to be an exciting card. This is filler for aggressive decks, and should be avoided in defensive decks.

Geist of the Lonely Vigil

Limited Rating: 1.0

A 2-drop creature that can’t attack is fairly unappealing, and a 2/3 attacker in the late game isn’t exactly a big payoff. There will be some middle ground—defensive delirium decks—where getting both is good enough. But Geist of the Lonely Vigil is a fairly unexciting card that won’t wind up as a high pick.

Gisela, the Broken Blade // Brisela, Voice of Nightmares

Limited Rating: 4.5

Gisela is the closest thing you’re going to get to Baneslayer Angel on Innistrad, and she sure looks broken to me. She’s cheap to cast and virtually impossible to race or beat in combat. What keeps her from earning the perfect 5.0 is her vulnerability to many of the format’s common removal spells.

Gisela should be one of the cards you’re most excited to open in Draft or Sealed Deck.

Give No Ground

Limited Rating: 1.0

Defensive combat tricks are a particularly unloved category of cards. Are you really going to pass the turn with 4 mana open for Give No Ground, just in case your opponent goes for a big attack? Are you really going to cast it into your opponent’s open mana and risk getting blown out by a removal spell? Sure, sometimes you’ll do these things, and sometimes it will work out nicely, but Give No Ground is the type of card that you should not be planning your strategy around.

Guardian of Pilgrims

Limited Rating: 2.5

2-drops are incredibly important for white aggressive decks, and Guardian of Pilgrims is a good, efficient one. Grizzly Bears is solid enough that you’re happy to play this on turn 2 just to get something on the board. If you draw it on turn 5, you can get a bit of extra value, letting one of your creatures attack into a bigger blocker. Add the fact that it has a relevant creature type, and you have a solid card that you’ll be happy to snatch up during the middle picks of the draft, once you’ve solidified yourself in white.

Ironclad Slayer

Limited Rating: 2.0

Choking Restraints is a premium common that might wind up in your graveyard in the very late game. Beyond that, it doesn’t look like it will be particularly easy or convenient to get Auras and equipments into your graveyard for the purposes of Ironclad Slayer. There are ways to mill yourself in Eldritch Moon/Shadows over Innistrad Limited, but that doesn’t seem to be a major theme of white.

Ironclad Slayer is an average creature that offers the potential for some late game value. Even if you’re only returning an Aura 20% of the time, this is still a solid filler card.

Ironwright’s Cleansing

Limited Rating: 1.0

Try not to maindeck Ironwright’s Cleansing, but there seem to be enough artifacts and enchantments in this Limited format that it wouldn’t be a complete catastrophe if you had to do so. Beyond that, it looks like a solid sideboard card.

Lone Rider // It That Rides as One

Limited Rating: 1.5

Lone Rider is weak on the front side, and requires a bit of effort to transform. This is the type of card that will become very fun if you happen to pick up multiples early and can draft around them. But a lone Lone Rider isn’t someone you particularly need on your team.

Long Road Home

Limited Rating: 1.5

If you’ve read much of my writing on Limited, you’ll know that I have a strong tendency to dislike cards that are not creatures or removal spells. I’m going to err toward giving cards like Long Road Home low ratings. But where that means you shouldn’t be spending high draft picks on them, there can certainly still be a time and place for playing with them.

Put Long Road Home in your deck main deck when you have several creatures with powerful enters-the-battlefield triggers. Sideboard it in to beat pesky Auras like Sleep Paralysis and Bound by Moonsilver. You can also use it to save your creature from a removal spell, or to remove a blocker on the turn you attack for lethal, but if those are the only things you can do, you’re better off leaving this at home.

Lunarch Mantle

Limited Rating: 1.0

Lunarch Mantle is an average Aura, and average Auras are generally weak in Limited. If this was Spectral Flight, I’d be interested, and Lunarch Mantle can help you with a few corner-case situations, like getting delirium. Unfortunately, having to both spend mana and sacrifice a permanent means that you can’t keep giving your creature flying turn after turn.

Lunarch Mantle is a decent rate for an aggressive deck, and there are a few cards (like Ironclad Slayer) that incentivize you to play with Auras. All told, I’d say this is a below-average filler card.

Peace of Mind

Limited Rating: 1.0

A reusable discard outlet is appealing in a madness set. Unfortunately, Peace of Mind doesn’t replace itself, doesn’t affect the board, and doesn’t really do much at all. Combine that with the fact that white is a color with no madness cards and you have a goofy enchantment that should largely be ignored.

Providence

Limited Rating: 2.0

I guess the original name of hexkaidodekaphilia didn’t have a great ring to it, but I like both the flavor and the function of this card.

I’ve spent much of today’s review bashing life-gain cards, and Providence is a card that doesn’t replace itself, and does nothing other than gain you life. That said, it’s a pretty darn powerful life gain card! If it’s in your opening hand, you get 6 life for free, and it still hangs out in your hand to be cast later! This makes it worth as many as 31 life points at its absolute best.

Don’t get me wrong—this is by no means a premium card, and you need a very slow and controlling deck to be interested in it. It strikes me as the type of card that many players would immediately dismiss, but it may prove to be a lot more useful than you think.

Limited Rating: 1.0

Every color has a lot of Humans in this Limited format, so Repel the Abominable will wind up being about 2/3 of a Fog. The upside is that white has the most Humans, you can build your deck around Repel the Abominable, and you can sculpt your game plan around it. This will certainly make for some blowouts, but I’d be more interested in it as a sideboard card after seeing a lot of combat tricks out of my opponent.

Sanctifier of Souls

Limited Rating: 3.0

Token generators are traditionally powerful in Limited. Sanctifier of Souls is a repeatable token maker, but is limited to the number of creatures you can get into your graveyard. This is a card that will have a big impact on a protracted game, and I can’t imagine cutting it from a white deck. That said, I don’t see it as being one of the strongest rares in the set.

Selfless Spirit

Limited Rating: 3.0

Selfless Spirit is not a bomb, but it is a supremely good and efficient card. 2 mana, 2-power flyers are already premium cards in Limited, and this has the additional ability to save a better creature from removal or to bail you out of an otherwise-disastrous combat step.

Sigarda’s Aid

Limited Rating: 0.0

If you have so much equipment in your deck that you’re considering Sigarda’s Aid, you’ve probably already done something very wrong. What’s worse is that this is card disadvantage, and does nothing as a late-game topdeck. If you work hard, you might be able to dream up a game that plays out in such a way where Sigarda’s Aid is decent, but trust me when I say that you’ll win a lot more if you ignore this card.

Sigardian Priest

Limited Rating: 3.0

Sigardian Priest is a functional reprint (and a fairly uncreative one at that) of Avacynian Priest, which was one of the best white commons in original Innistrad. A lot of creatures are Humans, but a lot are not, and Sigardian Priest gives you control over the battlefield.

Tappers tend to be excellent in Limited, and Sigardian Priest is a very good, efficient tapper.

Spectral Reserves

Limited Rating: 2.0

You’d rather have a Courier Griffin than Spectral Reserves, but Courier Griffin was a strong filler card that would rarely get cut from a deck. Spectral Reserves seems like a completely fine, bread-and-butter card. You won’t want it in super-aggressive decks, but in average or controlling decks, this can buy you time, offer you value, and present some flying attackers.

I’d also mention that Spectral Reserves gives you two bodies to hold equipment, but that would be a bit of a flavor fail…

Steadfast Cathar

Limited Rating: 2.0

Aggressive white decks want 2-drops, and attacking as a 2/3 is a very solid rate for a 2-drop. Unfortunately, sitting around as a 2/1 creature also makes Steadfast Cathar vulnerable to the pinging effects (think Tooth Collector) that are reasonably prevalent in Eldritch Moon and Shadows over Innistrad. Overall, this is an average, or slightly above average card that you’ll play when you’re aggressive or when you need a 2-drop.

Subjugator Angel

Limited Rating: 2.5

The first thing I look for in my 6-drop creature is its ability to stabilize the board and bring me back from a tough situation. Subjugator Angel doesn’t earn high marks in that category, having a measly 3 toughness, and an ability that doesn’t contribute much to defense.

On the other hand, its ability to act as a “super Voldaren Duelist” is not to be ignored. There is one tough situation that Subjugator Angel can get you out of, which is when a stronger late-game deck has stabilized against you, and you need to finish them off before things away from you completely. The Angel is so good at this particular job that you might be willing to stretch your curve all the way up to 6 mana in your WR beatdown decks when you would’ve otherwise stopped at 4 or 5.

As a mediocre 6-drop for the decks that normally want 6-drops, and a stellar 6-drop for the decks that normally don’t want 6-drops, Subjugator Angel is an interesting card. In a completely normal-looking deck (let’s say an average WB deck), the raw power level makes this a card you’ll be happy to play with.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar

Limited Rating: 3.0

Thalia is a premium creature for a white aggressive deck. 3 mana for a 3/2 first strike is a good body, and your opponent won’t be able to produce a creature that can beat her in combat until a few turns later in the game. Even when they can, you’ll get one extra turn of free attacks because her passive ability forces opposing blockers to enter the battlefield tapped!

If you don’t have experience with an effect like this, I think you’ll be surprised at how powerful forcing blockers to enter the battlefield tapped can be when you’re beating down. Thalia isn’t a bomb, but she is a card you’re very excited to have as part of your aggressive curve-out.

Thalia’s Lancers

Limited Rating: 2.5/4.5

Thalia’s Lancers require things to have gone pretty well for you before they can be at their most powerful—both the floor and the ceiling are pretty high in terms of their power level. 5 mana for a 4/4 first strike usually makes the cut in your draft deck on its own. If you add searching for your bomb rare onto that, then you have something really special.

Given something like a Bruna, the Fading Light to search for, Thalia’s Lancers easily earns a 4.5 rating. If you have nothing to search for, it’s somewhere in the 2.0-2.5 range. My “pack 1 pick 1 rating” is a 3.0. When possible, you want to keep yourself open for the chance of getting lucky.

Thraben Standard Bearer

Limited Rating: 1.0

Thraben Standard Bearer’s effect is costly, and it doesn’t have enough impact on the game. It’s like Stern Constable in the sense that you’ll only play it when you have a lot of combos with madness and/or delirium. The Standard Bearer’s ability is more powerful than the Constable’s, but the fact that it costs 2 mana to use means that it doesn’t even do its job of enabling discarding particularly well. I do not like this card.

Top 5 White Commons

  1. Choking Restraints
  2. Sigardian Priest
  3. Guardian of Pilgrims
  4. Dawn Gryff
  5. Steadfast Cathar

Choking Restraints and Sigardian Priest might not be Doom Blades or Mulldrifters, but they are premium cards that white decks will want in virtually whatever numbers that can get. Past that, white has a ton of commons that fall in the 2.0-2.5 rating range, meaning that they’re the solid filler cards that you’ll need to round out your deck.

I’ve ranked the 2-drops and aggressively-slanted Dawn Gryff highest on this list because it’s important to prioritize cheap beaters if you want to keep the door open for being aggressive. Realistically, though, many of the white commons are so close in power level that their rankings will be constantly shifting based on your mana curve and your exact strategy.

Overall, white looks like it’s going to maintain its identity as a creature beatdown color in Eldritch Moon/Shadows over Innistrad Limited. It has plenty of aggressively-costed flying creatures, and can therefore make good use of equipment and Auras.

Eldritch Moon offers a fair bit of playable life gain, which you might want as a controlling WU or WB deck, or if you want to make use of Lone Rider.

The important tribes are Humans (especially when paired with green), and Spirits (especially when paired with blue).