Casual Encounters- A Smattering of This and That (MTG Impressions)
Lately I’ve been a little quiet on the writing front and there are a number of fronts where I’ve had some ideas or thoughts, but just not enough to pen a whole article. Today I thought I would go through some of those MTG impressions and put them together to make a whole post. I’ll be touching on things like the newest Eldritch Moon spoilers, further supplemental products, and even some cards that you should probably revisit because they are super useful. Well, let’s get started.
Eldritch Moon and Emrakul, the Promised End
Everyone has an opinion now that we’ve started to see new cards from Eldritch Moon. I’ve seen people posting about how they love it, others about how they hate it, and others how they are just really bummed that Eternal Masters has all dried up. From where I sit, Eldritch Moon looks like it is going to be pretty amazing and the number one reason is right in the Trailer video which is the new version of Emrakul. The new card looks sweet, the art is stunning, and the story across multiple blocks continues to converge which makes the card all that much sweeter. I’m not going to review big Emrakul right now, but if you’ve seen her you have to admit she looks very powerful and tons of fun.
The second piece of the trailer that got me excited was seeing the Gatewatch arrive on the scene to battle the Eldrazi menace. Now, I don’t suppose we’ll actually be able to get new printings of these Planeswalkers so soon, but the story should be very lively and interesting as our heroes struggle to save Innistrad. When the story is strong and interesting I always find that I enjoy the game a bit more.
One walker we are sure to see a new printing is Liliana and that’s totally ok. I fully expect her to be the black member of the gatewatch because we could clearly see that the cycle of cards was not complete from Oath of the Gatewatch and now that her adopted home is under assault it only makes sense. Now, we aren’t likely to see Liliana of the Veil any time soon, but some new iteration of Lili seems pretty sweet. Really, can they make a bad version of her? I seriously hope not.
The biggest thing with the arrival of Emrakul on Innistrad is that the Magic community seemed to groan collectively when they saw that the threat was the giant flying spaghetti monster. It had been hinted at for months, she didn’t show up in Battle for Zendikar block and was suspected to be elsewhere…and really, what other ultimate menace could really be left? Well, sure enough, we got Emrakul and everyone just groaned because we were sick of the Eldrazi. We just had Eldrazi decks of all sorts run rampant in virtually every major format. Eldrazi were everywhere and were really good and the community was tired of them.
Now, I can admit that I have also had a bit of overload with the Eldrazi recently, but I’m still pretty comfortable with the arrival of Emrakul on Innistrad. The reason I’m pretty comfortable with it is that it continues the story telling arc that began when Sarkhan returned to Tarkir and saved Ugin. From that point on there was no doubt that there was going to be a march towards seeing our intrepid heroes confront the Eldrazi menace and the story has now stretched across three blocks. To my mind that makes for better storytelling than stopping and starting with each new block. I think part of reason that Theros block gets a bit of bad wrap is that it is entirely a self contained story across three sets but come the end of the block the story has met a resolution…an unsatisfactory resolution because Elspeth dies (sort of). Well, now we have a story that has stretched across three blocks (and arguably a Core Set too) and could still extend beyond if the Gatewatch is unable to slay Emrakul. I think that the longevity of the storytelling has made for a far more intriguing story and something that I want to tune in for week after week to see how it unfolds.
Spoilers from Eldritch Moon
There are some very interesting new cards that have been spoiled including Coax from the Blind Eternities which acts like a Glittering Wish variant but for Eldrazi. However, to my eyes the most interesting card is the new printing of an old favorite and that’s the new version of Thalia. Thalia, Cathar Heretic, is a super sweet call back to her original printing and still plays a valuable game in disrupting your opponent by being a Blind Obedience on a stick. My intrigue with her is not so much for Standard because I have no doubt that she’ll fit in many of the Human decks running around, but whether or not she could find a home in a Modern deck. I understand that Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is an integral part of the G/W Hatebears deck that periodically puts up good results and this version is slightly different, but might be a viable option. Modern is a format where plenty of Non-Basic lands are played and being able to slow your opponent down a turn and have their lands come into play tapped might be a significant advantage that shouldn’t be ignored. Is she fast enough at 3 mana to have any real impact in Modern? We’ll soon find out, but she seems interesting and fringe playable.
Also, the new Meld mechanic looks fun but it appears to be something designed to advance the story rather than for playability. The Gisela and Bruna Meld card means you need to have a pair of pricey, rare angels in your deck, get them in play, AND not have them die in order to have them transform. That’s a bit of a stretch in any limited format and with Bruna costing 7 mana to play I can hardly imagine competitive Standard decks being keen to play her. Maybe a casual deck will emerge out there playing these two angels at face value and if you can flip them then you are laughing but that seems like a stretch. Even the Common Meld cards feel like a stretch, but perhaps there will be more that are more playable. We’ll have to wait and see.
Cards you may have forgotten about
With Eldritch Moon just a few weeks there are a few cards that I’ve got my eye on that you might have forgotten about that might take on new playability because they work well with what we are going to find in the newest set. Here are a few things to keep your eyes on.
From Beyond: this is a really interesting enchantment that is going to shine in EDH in a few years as an improved Awakening Zone AND a tutor, but for the time being it is an ingenious way to a) ramp some colourless mana thanks to those Scions b) help you FIND Emrakul in your deck and C) reduce the cost of Emrakul. People are going to say that From Beyond is too slow to be really playable, but let’s look at the facts. If you really want to maximize the cost reduction factor on Emrakul you need a reliable way to get as many different types of cards into your graveyard. One type, namely Enchantments, can be tricky because usually you don’t want your Enchantments in the graveyard. However, From Beyond lets you sacrifice it to go find your biggest Eldrazi meaning you are assured to get an enchantment into your graveyard. If you can keep this thing online for a turn or two, crank out a couple of tokens, and sacrifice those you have now reduced the cost to CAST Emrakul by up to three mana (maybe more) and that’s very significant. I think this has some very real potential to be a card that sneaks into a few decks and that people experiment with because I feel like it could be very good. And then in 3 years time you can use it when you play EDH to go and fetch your scariest Eldrazi and slam it to break your opponents. But that’s for another day.
Harbinger of the Tides: if the game plan looks like it could become a race to how fast you can get Emrakul into play then everyone is going to be looking for ways to fight said race. Harbinger of the Tides might be a reasonable way for Blue decks to slow down the activation of an Emrakul by being able to be played an instant speed without it being an Instant. It doesn’t solve the resolution of the Cast trigger and inevitable Mindslaver effect, but it might set an opponent who has stretched themselves too far to get Emrakul on line back far enough that they can’t recast it and saves you from contending with a 13/13 flying, trample, protection from Instants monster of doom.
Stasis Snare: this is exactly the same plan as the Harbinger of the Tides in a very different colour. This is already widely played removal in White and will likely to continue to be extremely useful to combat Emrakul.
Sanctum of Ugin: I don’t really need to remind you why this is here…this just goes and gets you your giant Eldrazi. End of story.
Surrak, the Hunt Caller: this beefy 5/4 for 4 mana plays remarkably well with something huge and scary like Emrakul because you could potentially give it Haste. That is a terrifying prospect and really gives me a reason to go back and revisit Surrak. On top of the unmistakable synergy with really big Eldrazi creatures, Surrak is ALSO a human meaning that Thalia’s Lieutenant and he are best buds. If G/W human decks look like they need to tussle a bit more and need a little more beef then Surrak could get another lease on life again there too.
I have to admit I’m very excited for the new Eldritch Moon set that is set to come out and the new possibilities that could take shape in the weeks to come. I can’t wait to see the whole spoiler and to the full effect of what is included in the set. Hopefully some new additions will breath new life into some other cards and really make the rest of the summer fun as we head towards Kaladesh and Conspiracy 2.
Thanks for stopping in to read my MTG Impressions and be sure to stop by again next time for another Casual Encounter.
Bruce Gray – @bgray8791