ELD Collector Booster #3

Collector Boosters were announced back in July as part of Project Booster Fun. Throne of Eldraine is the first set to get access to them and whilst you could get them for free as part of the buy-a-box promo they can also be purchased individually for roughly £25. I’ve already opened up two packs (both of which contained Oko) but today I’m going to detail exactly what is in my latest pack to try and help clear up what you get in these relatively expensive boosters.

9 x Foil Commons / Uncommons

Fortifying ProvisionsRimrock Knight // Boulder RushWeapon RackWishful MerfolkArdenvale Tactician // Dizzying Swoop
Fell the PheasantArdenvale PaladinFaerie VandalResolute Rider

To start with, there are 9 slots which are all foil and will contain a mixture of commons and uncommons. These can include any of the commons and uncommons that are available in regular draft boosters which is effectively everything from #001-#3021. It’s hard to get too excited about this section of the pack, especially with only 2 uncommon cards in this pack. I’d usually be excited to see a foil storybook card but it is unfortunately a duplicate of one I already found in one of my previous collector packs!

3 x Special-Frame Cards

Reaper of Night // Harvest FearRosethorn Acolyte // Seasonal RitualLonesome Unicorn // Rider in Need

These 3 slots are dedicated to the cards between #270-#302 which encompass the three borderless planeswalkers and the storybook adventure cards. They aren’t foil (although they might be able to be) but they can be of any rarity. This pack was again fairly underwhelming in that we got three non-foil commons although they were all new to me so they help with my collection. The Reaper of Night // Harvest Fear artwork is particularly nice in my opinion and probably the best mechanically of these three cards (especially if you can double that adventure section with Lucky Clover).

1 x Ancillary Card

Shimmer Dragon

This slot is the most controversial as it can have any card found from #303-391 which is effectively anything found in “ancillary” products such as planeswalker and brawl decks. This includes the Kenrith, the Returned King buy-a-box promo and is the only way you can get him in non-foil ironically making it rarer and thus more expensive on the secondary market! The reason this slot is controversial is that you could end up with something really bad like a non-foil Thornwood Falls; nobody wants to get a common tapped land in these boosters…

Luckily we got a pretty good card this time around in the form of the rare Shimmer Dragon from the Faerie Schemes brawl deck. I really like this card and think it could actually see play in Standard2. There are already a number of decks that care about artifacts such as those built around Dance of the Manse but don’t forget that food is also an artifact; this could easily act as a finisher for those decks as a hexproof 5/6 flyer is going to be tricky to deal with, especially when it can tap food for cards multiple times. I think it’s particularly interesting that you don’t need to tap Shimmer Dragon to activate the card draw ability making this especially potent if you have a great number of artifacts on your opponent’s end step. I’ve been contemplating for a while if there was a brawl card that might fly under the radar into Standard and I think this could be it.

1 x Extended Art Rare / Mythic Rare

Sorcerous Spyglass

This slot gives you one of the extended art cards found in #334-391. As far as I’m aware this is the only way to get these cards which is slightly ridiculous bearing in mind there are 57 of them to collect3. It would make much more sense if you got three of these and then only one of the borderless planeswalkers / showcase cards as those are at least available in draft boosters. I find it particularly annoying as these are actually my favourite cards from the set. I was sceptical at first when I saw them digitally but they look utterly gorgeous in print.

In any case, I’m very happy with my Sorcerous Spyglass. It’s a reprint from Ixalan (Sorcerous Spyglass) but I love the new artwork showing a merfolk sorcerous rather than a pirate. It’s also an incredibly useful card in the current meta allowing you to lock down all manner of troublesome cards, especially planeswalkers. This is one of the best ways of protecting against Oko, Thief of Crowns which is going to be a very dominant card following the recent ban of Field of the Dead. Unfortunately it doesn’t really help with Teferi, Time Raveler as it is the static ability there that causes the most problems but this is still an eminently sideboardable card.

1 x Foil Rare / Mythic Rare

Castle Locthwain

This slot is for a single foil rare or mythic rare from #001-#302. I was able to find a Castle Locthwain which is fine; it’s always nice to get foil rare lands and this is something that can easily go into any deck that has some swamps. That said, I’ve used this in a number of decks and I don’t think I’ve ever actually used the activated ability to draw a card. It could be useful in a situation where you are completely out of cards but more often than not the damage it will deal to you is just not worth the activation especially in the late game when it is of most use. Still, having a foil super star destroyer is never a bad thing!

1 x Foil Token

The final slot is reserved for a foil token but one detail that seems to have been missed from the Project Booster Fun announcement is that these are double sided! The front can be any token and the back is always one of the four food tokens, and yes both sides get the foil treatment. Collector boosters are the only place you can get these foiled tokens and whilst most people would likely have preferred another regular card I think it’s a nice touch. Unfortunately the human token I received was a duplicate from my first collector booster pack but with eight cards that can generate them there’s a good chance that I’ll find a use for them.

Conclusion

Overall this was a disappointing pack compared to my first two even if we accept that the bar was set very high due to the first ones containing high-value planeswalkers. Spending £25 on a booster pack for 3 rares, 2 uncommons, 10 commons, and a token just doesn’t feel that great especially when only one of those rares was a foil. Admittedly there were four showcase frames but as these show up fairly regularly in draft boosters they just aren’t a big enough draw to spend this much cash. I’ve already mentioned my issue with the extended art cards but it bears repeating that you can only get one of those per pack and there are 57 to collect; you’d need to spend at least £1425 to get all of those from opening boosters!

I want to like these collector boosters and it is fun to open up so much shiny4 stuff but be prepared for the fact that, like draft boosters, you may end up with something worth far less than the cost of the product. I’ll probably get a few more of these in the hope of getting some of my favourite cards in the extended-art treatment but in all likelihood it’s going to be cheaper to buy those on the secondary market.

  1. The numbering scheme is a bit confusing but basically #001-#269 is the main set, #270-#272 is borderless planeswalkers, and #273-#302 is showcase framed adventure cards; all of these are available in draft boosters. After that, you get the buy-a-box promo, planeswalker decks, brawl decks, extended-art frames, and promo cards. ↩︎

  2. Yes, the brawl decks are Standard legal as are the cards in plainswalker decks. Of course, some of them won’t do anything in Standard (such as Arcane Signet) as there is no concept of a “commander”. ↩︎

  3. There are so many of them as they cover every non-planeswalker rare or mythic rare. ↩︎

  4. Literally. ↩︎


ELD Draft Booster: Ayara, First of Locthwain

Another pretty good pack today which contained, amongst other things, a foil showcase version of Ardenvale Tactician // Dizzying Swoop! It also contained today’s pick which I received in foil earlier in the week; I think the booster gods are trying to tell me something…

Ayara, First of LocthwainAyara, First of Locthwain

Ayara, First of Locthwain is a BlackBlackBlack rare legendary elf noble creature with 2/3 stats. Whenever it or another black creature enters the battlefield under your control, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life. It can also be tapped along with sacrificing a black creature in order to draw a card.

To start with, Ayara is an interesting character in Magic lore being one of the few people to feature fairly prominently in the Eldraine ebook, The Wildered Quest. She is the ruler of the court of Lochthwain1, the only bastion of the elves within the realm (the rest having fled to the wilds). She controls The Cauldron of Eternity and as such looks far more youthful than she is; she’s also a bit of a floosey by all accounts, always on the lookout for the next young man2 to take as a companion…

Aside from the flavour text, the card itself doesn’t mechanically bear a huge resemblance to the character. That doesn’t really matter though as it is still very good, especially and obviously in mono-black decks. My first thought upon revisiting this card today was that it is probably disgusting when played alongside the popular Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven combo3 but it’s obviously going to be good in any number of sacrificial decks.

Card draw in black nearly always requires a sacrifice of some kind be it your life total, food, or one of your creatures. The draw here is particularly good as sacrificial decks are already relatively popular but they usually need Priest of Forgotten Gods in order to do the actual sacrificing. With Ayara, First of Locthwain, you get a way to perform a single creature sacrifice and you gain a card in doing so. The drawback is that it has to be a black creature although it’s nice that this works for both token and non-token creatures4.

The thing I find most interesting about this card, and those of other court leaders, is the three mana cost. This strongly hints that we’re going to see a return to the “devotion” mechanic when Theros, Beyond Death launches in January. For those that aren’t familiar with it, devotion was a keyword that rewarded you for the number of instances of a coloured mana symbol in the casting costs of your permanents. For example, a card might enter the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it where X is your devotion to black; Ayara, First of Locthwain gives you 3 to that total whereas a card like The Cauldron of Eternity, despite having a higher overall cost, would only give you 2. There are a lot of cards in Throne of Eldraine that focus more on a single colour so I would not be at all surprised to see devotion return.

For now, though, this card seems more than good enough for the current standard. Whilst her fighting stats are relatively low for the mana cost, the value you’ll get in a sacrificial deck means you’re unlikely to want to risk attacking or blocking with her anyway. I’m definitely going to be trying this out in a sacrifice deck later on and will hopefully get around to updating my woefully outdated deck lists in the near future.

  1. Each of the five courts has a legendary leader with a casting cost containing at least three mana in their respective colours: Linden, the Steadfast Queen, Gadwick, the Wizened, Ayara, First of Locthwain, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, and Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig. Gadwick and Torbran are the only two absent from The Wildered Quest↩︎

  2. A young man such as Smitten Swordmaster // Curry Favor, perhaps. ↩︎

  3. When you play your Cauldron Familiar then you do 1 damage and gain 1 life. You then sacrifice it to Witch’s Oven to create a food token which you then sacrifice to bring back Cauldron Familiar to do the damage again. Rinse and repeat. With Ayara, First of Locthwain in play, that 1 damage and gain 1 life becomes 2 damage and gain 2 life. The cat is also an easy sacrificial target if you really need to draw a card. ↩︎

  4. I was going to say that this works beautifully with Chandra, Acolyte of Flame as you can sacrifice one of the tokens that is getting sacrificed anyway but that isn’t the case as those are red tokens. However, there are plenty of black token creatures that can be used such as those from Field of the Dead, Garruk, Cursed Huntsman, and Mad Ratter↩︎


ELD Draft Booster: Oathsworn Knight

There has been a small break in service whilst I’ve been travelling but I’m back with a pretty good pack today that contained two rares; a foil Ayara, First of Locthwain and this meme-tastic knight:

Oathsworn KnightOathsworn Knight

Oathsworn Knight is a 1 Generic ManaBlackBlack rare human knight creature with 0/0 stats but it enters the battlefield with four +1/+1 counters. It must attack if it is able to but when it takes damage you must remove a +1/+1 counter from it; doing so prevents that damage.

I’m assuming that you’ve already realised this is Magic’s take on The Black Knight from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail with each +1/+1 counter representing a different limb. That is a wonderful piece of design1 but I actually think the card is pretty decent mechanically. Before I get to that, it’s worth pointing out that this appears to be something of a partial cycle as blue and green also have access to three mana 0/0 creatures with four +1/+1 counters upon them in Animating Faerie // Bring to Life and Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig respectively2. I like this as four counters are a decent amount for Galloping Lizrog combos.

On first glance I mistook Oathsworn Knight as being akin to Ugin’s Conjurant with counters being removed for each piece of damage done but that is not the case. Instead this is likely something that will survive (albeit with diminishing strength) for multiple turns. This makes it fall into the category of “annoyance” for your opponent as it’s either going to die slowly over four turns by eating up their chump blockers3 or it’s going to make your opponent waste a Murderous Rider // Swift End or Mortify. You’ll never block with this due to the “attack if able” clause4 but those constant attacks can be draining and (depending on their creature situation) you are likely either preventing them from attacking or they are having to make decisions as to whether to block this or other attacking creatures.

One nice thing to mention is that Knight is a relevant creature type and it’s easy to see a deck where this can be kept alive beyond the limit of four turns thanks to Inspiring Veteran or Icon of Ancestry. Of course, it will likely die on it’s fifth outing when it no longer has a counter to prevent damage but that is still an extra turn of value that can be extracted. With regards to preventing damage, the biggest issue for this card is Questing Beast and Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp as they remove the “prevent damage” clause suddenly making this not quite as invincible as it first seemed.

In Limited this is a definite must play as keeping a body on the battlefield for at least four turns is always going to be good. Standard is also seeing this card fairly regularly though, especially in the Mardu (RedWhiteBlack), Orzhov (WhiteBlack), and Rakdos (BlackRed) knight decks for the obvious reasons of knightly synergy. Even without that synergy though I think this has some legs (albeit temporarily) as the slowly diminishing attacks can be highly effective at forcing your opponent to make decisions; something I’ve realised relatively recently is that it is often a good play to overwhelm your opponent with choices as it gives them more opportunities to make catastrophic mistakes!

Of course, the main reason for playing this card is so you can shout “HAVE AT YOU” whilst attacking with it as a 1/1…

  1. It’s not the only Monty Python reference in the set with the artwork for Kenrith, the Returned King being based on Graham Chapman’s portrayel of King Arthur. I personally would have liked to have seen the Rabbit of Caerbannog or a token emblem for “Syr Not-appearing-in-this-game”… ↩︎

  2. There is also Workshop Elders from the Faerie Schemes Brawl deck which creates 0/0 creatures with four +1/+1 counters every turn. ↩︎

  3. Remember that a 1/1 creature will die blocking an Oathsworn Knight but it does succeed in removing a limb so each attack becomes less powerful. ↩︎

  4. Unless you’re using something like Corridor Monitor or Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner↩︎


ELD Draft Booster: Flaxen Intruder

Today was another good pack containing Sorcerous Spyglass, a foil Heraldic Banner, and the showcase version of Oakhame Ranger // Bring Back. It also contained the showcase version of my pick of the day, the frame and artwork of which was previewed way back in July

Flaxen Intruder // Welcome HomeFlaxen Intruder // Welcome Home

Flaxen Intruder is a Green uncommon human berserker creature with 1/2 stats and the abilty to destroy target artifact or enchantment if you sacrifice it after dealing combat damage to a player. It is also one of the new adventure cards1 and contains the Welcome Home sorcery for 5 Generic ManaGreenGreen which creates three 2/2 bear tokens.

If we look at the creature part first, I don’t think this is too bad. It’s effectively a cheaper version of that old staple Thrashing Brontodon but it’s weaker and you have to do combat damage to get the destruction rather than paying 1 Generic Mana. Dealing that damage might be a push depending on the blockers your opponent has but it should mean they’ll always leave a creature behind when attacking if they have a particularly good enchantment or artifact on the board. One thing to watch out for is that this is specifically “combat damage” to a player, not any old damage. For example, if you were to use Gravitic Punch or Fling then the damage would be done by Flaxen Intruder but it would not be combat damage. Instead you’ll want to use something like Goblin Smuggler, Passwall Adept, or Manifold Key to make this creature unblockable for a turn.

The only other thing to mention about the creature component is that I love the flavour of it, the inference being that she is eating the food of the bears2.

In terms of the bears, I was shocked to find that these are the only bear tokens in Standard and there is only one creature currently that is a bear, Vivien’s Grizzly3. In fact, bears have been pretty hard done by in Magic with only 23 cards to their name over the past 25 years making it more impressive that 2/2 creatures are often colloquially known as “bears” to long term players. It’s kind of nice that this power and toughness has been retained for these tokens although it would be have been a better flavour fit if they were 1/1, 2/2, and 3/3 to show baby, mama, and papa sizes.

At first glance, paying seven mana for three 2/2 vanilla creature tokens doesn’t look that great. It might be useful in Limited but certainly doesn’t have Standard implications. Or does it? Take a look at Lucky Clover and suddenly you’ve got six bears or possibly nine, twelve, or fifteen if you have multiple copies out. The sorcery speed is a pain but obviously Teferi, Time Raveler, Leyline of Anticipation, and Emergence Zone exist. That’s probably it for Standard play interactions but it is a good one! A common misconception floating around was that you could use Electrodominance with X Generic Mana as 1 to cast this part but that isn’t true; the cost of the sorcery part is always going to be 5 Generic ManaGreenGreen and the cost of the creature is always 1 Generic Mana (so X Generic Mana would need to be 7 to get this for “free”).

There are two other things I want to briefly touch on with this card. Firstly, there’s an official animation short showing this card as a cartoon; it’s very good! Secondly, the flavour of this card immediately reminded me of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes despite the fact I was thinking of Little Red Riding Hood killing the wolf rather than Goldilocks killing the bears. Even so, it gives me an excuse to quote this line which I adore:

“Oh Daddy” cried the Baby Bear

“My porridge gone, it isn’t fair!”

“Then go upstairs,” the Big Bear said

“Your porridge is upon the bed

But as it’s inside mademoiselle

You’ll have to eat her up as well.”

In all liklihood this card isn’t going to see much play outside of Limited4. That said, I love the flavour and design of it so much that I’m going to try and make an adventure deck work along with Edgewall Innkeeper, Garenbrig Squire, Wandermare, etc, especially now I have a showcase design. Let me know what you think about this card and whether you feel the adventure can be exploited enough to make it work!

  1. For a reminder of how adventure cards work, check out my Throne of Eldraine primer. In short, you can choose to play the sorcery (in which case you may then play the creature part) or you can just play the creature part (losing the adventure entirely). If an adventure does not resolve, it goes in the graveyard and you do not get to play the creature. ↩︎

  2. As food is an artifact. Clever. ↩︎

  3. A card name I can’t take seriously after pulling Vivien’s Grizzly and Raging Kronch sequentially in a pack… ↩︎

  4. It’s particularly good in Limited as it is only one of three enchantment removal pieces (the others being Return to Nature and True Love’s Kiss). ↩︎


ELD Draft Booster: Savvy Hunter

My first draft booster for Throne of Eldraine was filled with a number of good cards including Righteousness and a foil copy of Corridor Monitor. There was also a copy of Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft, currently the 3rd most expensive card in the main set1. However, I’m not going to discuss that one but instead an uncommon which caught my eye:

Savvy Hunter

Savvy Hunter is a 1 Generic ManaBlackGreen uncommon human warrior creature with 3/3 stats and the following abilities:

  • Whenever it attacks or blocks, create a food token
  • Sacrifice two foods and draw a card

A 3/3 creature for three mana isn’t too bad although it’s a shame that the creature type isn’t that relevant2. However, the two abilities provide a huge amount of value to the point that I’m surprised this isn’t a 3/1 or a 2/2. Creating food tokens is extremely important, especially in limited games, so being able to create them simply by attacking or blocking introduces a huge amount of tension to a game and makes this a card that needs to be dealt with.

In most situations you are going to get at least one food token from this. You’re either going to block and trade for another creature or you’re going to attack and your opponent is going to decide to trade in order to prevent you getting more food. It’s possible that an opponent may want to use a Lava Coil or Murderous Rider // Swift End (in which case you get nothing) but it’s more likely you’ll get at least one token.

Even more likely, though, is that you’ll create a stalemate. Your opponent doesn’t want to attack blindly into you letting you block and gain food so they keep their creatures back ready to block en masse to ensure this card dies with only one token gained. This, in turn, prevents you from attacking and so the cycle repeats until they find the removal piece they need. This is not a bad thing though; in many decks, you want to create a gentle halting of hostilities for the first few rounds whilst you get your pieces in order. This is especially true against an aggro deck where there small numbers will prevent them from attacking for fear of gaining you multiple tokens. Similarly, flying decks that can easily attack and hurt you might not want to as they’ll have no defence and you’ll be able to get a token each turn as well as dealing 3 damage (and unless they’re hitting you for at least 3 you are going to have a life advantage if you use the token for life-gain).

Due to this, I think the most relevant piece of text is actually the second, that you can sacrifice two foods to draw a card. Notice that there is no mana cost for this nor do you even have to tap the Savvy Hunter to use this ability. That makes it ripe for exploitation. There are multiple cards that create food when they enter the battlefield; in fact there is one for nearly every spot of the mana curve:

There is a huge amount of scope for creating food, and that’s before you even think about Oko, Thief of Crowns as I went over yesterday. The advantage here is that the ability to sacrifice all of this food is free and you can do it at instant speed; if you have five tokens, you can attack against a mighty foe to create your sixth, then sacrifice all six to draw three cards before the card is destroyed. It would probably have been sensible for the card to need to tap to perform that draw operation but I’m very glad it doesn’t!

If I had to pick a fault it would be that flavour-wise I don’t understand why this card creates food when attacking and blocking. I suppose it’s to show them either attacking or trapping small quarry but it just feels a little off. It would make more sense to me if it worked in a similar way to Giant’s Skewer in that dealing combat damage to a creature spawns the food token3. Having said that, I do really like the flavour text! I’m also particularly pleased to see Dan dos Santos back creating Magic art after a 10 year absence4. The artwork is just perfect and reminds me instantly of his cover for Vengeance of the Demon by Diana Rowland. I really hope he’ll be sticking around for future sets, especially Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths which sounds like it would fit his style really well.

In short, I think this card is definitely going to be a sizeable chunk of any food-based deck be that Golgari (BlackGreen) or Sultai (BlackGreenBlue) and I’m already trying to work up a few ideas. Remember that food isn’t just about paying 2 Generic Mana and gaining 3 life; you can use them to poison your opponent with Tempting Witch, dig through two cards with Trail of Crumbs, or even ressurect a Feasting Troll King

  1. After Oko, Thief of Crowns and Questing Beast. This obviously changes if you include every card from Throne of Eldraine such as the borderless planeswalkers and showcase cards. ↩︎

  2. You would think human would be relevant bearing in mind Throne of Eldraine is all about humans vs non-humans but there are no anthem effects specifically aimed at that type. That doesn’t stop you using an Icon of Ancestry but that’s the only real boost. Interestingly there are quite a few warriors around; 50 of them in fact! ↩︎

  3. Speaking of which, attaching Giant’s Skewer to Savvy Hunter would be a nice way of doubling up food tokens when defending and really making it hard for them to block whilst on the offensive! ↩︎

  4. Jund Hackblade was his last card from Alara Reborn back in 2009. ↩︎


ELD Collector Booster: Oko, Thief of Crowns

Before I begin my series of regular draft booster openings, I wanted to highlight a card that I was lucky enough to get twice in consecutive collector boosters at the Throne of Eldraine prerelease:

Oko, Thief of CrownsOko, Thief of Crowns

Oko, Thief of Crowns is a 1 Generic ManaGreenBlue mythic rare planeswalker that enters the battlefield with 4 loyalty. He has three abilities:

  • +2: Create a food token
  • +1: Target artifact or creature loses all abilities and becomes a 3/3 elk creature
  • -5: Exchange control of target artifact or creature you control with a creature an opponent controls with power 3 or less

There is a lot to like about Oko, not least the fact that he synergises with himself. You can create a food with the +2, turn it into a 3/3 creature with the +1, then exchange it with your opponents big creature with the -5. This pathway is especially interesting given that it is perfectly feasible to get Oko on the board on turn 2 if your first play is a Gilded Goose1.

Even taken in isolation, each ability is very good. Consider that on the turn you play this you can get a 6 loyalty planeswalker with a food token; that is incredibly good value for 3 mana especially in Simic colours. It is easy to imagine that you could follow this up with a Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner and then a Bioessence Hydra for a 19/19 hydra with trample!

Similarly, turning artifacts or creatures into 3/3 elks is a very good ability especially as you aren’t limited to just yourself or an opponent. For example, you could nullify your opponent’s Clackbridge Troll or you could turn your Arboreal Grazer into something you can attack with. Alternatively you can turn artifacts like food and treasure into 3/3 creatures. My personal favourite is to convert creatures or artifacts that are base 0/0 with +1/+1 counters as they retain the counters. For example, you could cast Ugin’s Conjurant for 5 mana and then turn it into a base 3/3 elk; it’s now an 8/8 that won’t lose counters when it gets hit! This also works nicely with the lands created by Nissa, Who Shakes the World

The ultimate ability doesn’t look quite as good at first blush. Paying 5 loyalty to swap an artifact or creature for a 3 power or less creature doesn’t seem great; do you really want to swap a treasure or food for a Belle of the Brawl? Maybe, but it doesn’t seem a good enough trade to put your planeswalker in easy lethal damage territory. But look again at the 564 creatures with power 3 or less and there are some gems to be had:

There are a great many good cards to be stolen this way, basically anything that has a static ability or a mana sink will give you a significant advantage. Whilst I’ve said I don’t want to put my Oko in mortal peril using this ability, it is also a useful cost-free way of getting out of trouble if you are in a really tight spot.

Overall I think this is a brilliant planeswalker and probably2 the best one of the three in the set. As I mentioned in my prerelease report, I managed to grab the foil versions of both the standard and borderless cards which put me in a very good mood! The borderless version is particularly nice in person and the card stock improvements that came in with Core Set 2020 are still in force with excellent print quality and an almost silky finish.

To conclude, I should probably talk a little about the person this card represents as Oko is certainly an intriguing character. He’s literally mentioned in the first sentence of The Wildered Quest and quickly uses his Fae glamer to control Garruk. He is able to shapeshift not only himself, but also other characters along the way and though there is some reason to his actions the motive is never fully revealed. I’m certainly eager to see more and speculation is rife as to whether we’ve seen him previously in some guise3. In all probability, the future storyline isn’t locked down4 and they could use him to fit any number of roles; the problem with shapeshifters is that you can never be totally sure of who anybody is!

Knowing all of the story surrounding Eldraine makes me appreciate this card even more. With the food creation, elk changing, and creature swapping, they’ve perfectly captured the essence of a shapeshifter with unknowable motives. My only comment is that we probably didn’t need to see his perfect abs on both designs…

  1. Turn 1 forest into Gilded Goose, turn 2 play a land, sacrifice the food with the goose to get a blue mana source, and play Oko. You’ll then likely use the +2 to give it some defensive loyalty (although it’ll still die to Rotting Regisaur) and create a food replacing the one you just spent. Turn 3 you can swap that food with one of their creatures or turn it into a 3/3 elk for yourself. ↩︎

  2. I say probably as Garruk, Cursed Huntsman is the other contender (The Royal Scions don’t get a look in) but he has a far higher mana cost. Obviously you want both in your deck though! ↩︎

  3. Are Lazav and Oko connected somehow? Are they the same person? Lazav did survive the War of the Spark so he must be around somewhere… ↩︎

  4. I don’t think we’re in a 3-year story arc as we were with Kaladesh to War of the Spark. For that reason, the plots related to each set are probably a bit more standalone and can be written far closer to release. ↩︎


Throne of Eldraine Prerelease Report

This weekend I attended my fourth prerelease at my local games store, Boards and Swords, for the first paper look at Throne of Eldraine. With the drawn out spoiler seasons and the early access given via Magic: The Gathering Arena, prereleases are no longer the first time you’ll see the cards of a new set but they are an exciting event nonetheless.

In this report I’m going to try and explain how prerelease works, show the deck that I built, and go over the wins and losses of the evening. If you’re already familiar with prereleases and the Sealed format, you can skip straight to my deck.

What happens at a prerelease event?

A prerelease event is run by your friendly local game store and is a casual event designed to let people try out the new set a week before it is formally available. Depending on the set, you’ll be able to buy a few items to take away with you, usually boxes of boosters and planeswalker decks1. You’ll be playing a limited format called “Sealed” which requires you to make a small deck out of a number of booster packs. With this deck you’ll play a number of opponents in best-of-three rounds. Overall, the entire event will likely take 5-6 hours depending on the number of participants.

When you arrive, you’ll sign in and pay your event fee which pays for the packs you are going to use, some packs used as prizes, and the running costs for the store. This fee is typically around £25. You’ll also be asked for, or given, your DCI number which uniquely identifies you and means you can see every single game of paper Magic you’ve ever played and earn Planeswalker Points which can help you get to bigger tournaments. At this point you’ll be able to chat with other players and do any last minute reading on the spoiled cards but eventually everybody will be given a prerelease pack and told that they can start.

Prerelease packs vary by set but for Throne of Eldraine they contain six draft boosters, a foil rare or mythic rare that is stamped with the date of the prerelease, and a spindown die for counting your life. Also available to you will be a pool of basic lands that the store will provide although I prefer to bring my own. You’ll now have 45 minutes or so to build a deck with these pieces before the rounds begin.

A gentle hush will descend only interrupted by the tearing open of boosters, the flicking through of cards, and the occasional murmur of “oh that’s good” or “that’s busted”.

How do I build a sealed deck?

Sealed deck-building is a skill that takes time to develop and is a skill I do not possess. Your deck needs to be a minimum of 40 cards in size and it is very rare you’ll see people go over that limit. The typical composition will be 23 spells (of which most will be creatures) and then 17 lands but this will vary depending on what you draw. All of your cards are classed as your sideboard and you may swap them in and out at any point between games and rounds2.

In terms of choosing what cards to use, the usual process is to look at the rares and mythic rares you have as you’ll typically only have 7 of these available to you3. Hopefully you’ll have a few that are of the same colour or that have some shared mechanic between them that will allow you to go all in on a specific colour or combination. More often than not you have to look through what commons and uncommons you have to decide which is going to be your dominant colour and whether you’re going to attempt to splash for more. Due to the number of cards you have, it is very likely you’ll be picking two colours as a minimum. In every prerelease I’ve attended there has always been one guy who, after much beard stroking, announces to nobody in particular “I think I’m going to have to go five colour”. To this date it has never worked out well for him!

There is a mnemonic called “BREAD” which is designed to help you whittle down what cards you need; in order, you should pick bombs, removal, evasion, aggro, and then duds. There is a huge amount of debate as to how useful this system is and simply having bombs and removal in your deck doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be able to cast them. That said, it’s a good introduction to the sort of things you should be looking for. As an example, a common flyer (which is “evasion”) is likely going to be better for you over time than an expensive mythic rare enchantment that only works for a specific combo. Just because you have a foil mythic rare doesn’t mean you should use it…

A common thing I see at prerelease is a sense of disappointment with the completed deck. “This is never going to win” people say completely forgetting that everybody else is in the same boat; the majority of your deck is going to be commons with likely no synergy between them. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your deck is terrible because it isn’t like your constructed decks!

Playing with your sealed deck

Once your deck is built, you’ll start playing each of your matches. The number of rounds will depend on the number of attendees – my store usually does four – and you’ll have a limited amount of time to play each round. As players are often seeing cards for the first time and Sealed is a fairly slow format anyway, it is very often the case that players run out of time if they go to three games in a round. If this happens, you’ll be told you can only play a further five turns; if nobody wins in that time, the game is a draw.

At the Throne of Eldraine prerelease, there were a number of games that went on far longer than they should have with one milling deck taking nearly a full hour for just one game!

At the end of all of the rounds, the scores are totalled up4 and booster packs are awarded. Each game store will do these prizes differently but my one typically gives two boosters to the person that came last, a single booster to the majority of participants, and then an increasing number of boosters for those at the top of the table. People will then generally rip open their packs and start comparing rares before dispersing into the night clutching their buy-a-box promos and wondering if they can get time off from their work or families to attend another event over the weekend.

My Deck

ELD Pre-Release (Sealed) 40 cards

I was fairly unfortunate in that my rare cards didn’t line up particularly well with the commons I had and I didn’t get a single mythic rare. My promo card was Fae of Wishes // Granted and the other rares I opened were Castle Ardenvale, Midnight Clock, Stolen by the Fae, Piper of the Swarm, Fires of Invention, and Giant Killer // Chop Down.

I probably should have opted for a BlueWhite deck but I had very few White commons and uncommons so BlueBlack seemed the better choice. I really wanted to use Fires of Invention so that caused me to go for a splash of red as well. I decided to go for 3 mountains as there were a couple of Red cards I might have wanted to use around the turn 3-4 mark (such as Steelclaw Lance and Raging Redcap) but realistically I wouldn’t be using cards like Fling until much later. Similarly with Blue, I went for 3 islands as I only needed one blue source to get me either Midnight Clock or Queen of Ice // Rage of Winter and I needed to make sure I was hitting my swamps for what was ultimately very close to a mono Black deck.

So how did it go?

The Matches

Round 1 (2-0)

My first game was against a pretty nice BlackWhite knights deck but they suffered with terrible land draw in the first game leading to a number of turns where they couldn’t do anything. I was able to get three rats on the board with Piper of the Swarm early on and use the sacrifice ability to take control of their Clackbridge Troll after the three goats had been created but before their attack did damage to me.

The second game went a lot longer and led to a massive board state where I ended up with six food tokens, three rats, and a full 12 counters on Midnight Clock which let me draw 7 cards. I was able to exile their Clackbridge Troll with Epic Downfall fairly early on thus depriving them of their big bomb card. They were pretty much prevented from attacking me thanks to Revenge of Ravens and chump blocking also wasn’t an option due to Syr Konrad, the Grim. In the end I won by performing the mill feature of Syr Konrad, the Grim five times on my end step; I only needed to do 3 damage but it wasn’t quite enough finding just two creatures out of a possible ten hits. Fortunately I was able to sacrifice one of my own creatures with Witch’s Oven to do the final piece of damage.

Round 2 (1-2)

The second round was against a far more experienced player using a BlackWhite knights deck with a splash of Green. The first game went fairly long with Revenge of Ravens doing the majority of the heavy lifting in either reducing incoming damage (whilst hurting them) or making them want to pass instead. We were both around five health by the end of the game and they were confident I couldn’t get lethal until I tapped two mountains and used Fling to throw Syr Konrad, the Grim directly at their face.

The second game was over very quickly due to poor land draw on my part, and the third game went even worse as I kept a hand I really should have mulliganed and failed to find the right coloured mana. Whilst I was able to tick up the Midnight Clock again, it wasn’t enough to stop me getting overrun by Murderous Rider // Swift End and Syr Alin, the Lion’s Claw.

Round 3 (0-2)

After a lengthy pause for a mill deck to finish up their game, round 3 started against one of the best players at the LGS. I had a sense of dread as the name was read out as this guy has beaten me at every prerelease and this was reinforced when I realised he had pulled an Oko, Thief of Crowns, Wildborn Preserver, and Feasting Troll King. The games did not last long and I was easily defeated.

Round 4 (0-2)

The final round of the evening was against somebody I didn’t recognise who had allegedly had a fairly bad evening with his Jund (RedBlackGreen) assortment of cards. I was feeling confident. This confidence was misplaced.

In the first game I managed to get to two rats before he destroyed my Piper of the Swarm and then removed my Crashing Drawbridge with an Embereth Shieldbreaker // Battle Display. It wasn’t long until several knights reduced my life total to 0. The second game was far more brutal with my Piper of the Swarm being taken under his control with his own Piper of the Swarm followed by a slow and meticulous capturing of most of my board before a Fierce Witchstalker delivered the coup de grâce.

Closing Thoughts

Overall I finished 19th of 22 although two people left early so I was only one from the bottom in the final results. This was not the top scoring outing I was planning on, especially given my advantage having performed many sealed events on Arena thanks to the Early Access Streamer Event. But that’s the way Sealed goes sometimes; if you think getting mana screwed or flooded in constructed is hard, just imagine that randomness occurring in the picking of your cards!

In retrospect I did make some poor decisions during gameplay and also in the creation of the deck. I didn’t sideboard at all which was definitely a mistake, especially in rounds 2 and 3 where I had answers for those opponents that could have helped. With that said, I did have a few cards I wanted to call out specifically:

  • Revenge of Ravens: This mostly passed me by in spoiler season5 but it proved to be the single best card in my deck. Combined with Syr Konrad, the Grim it acted as a perfect deterrent to would-be attackers. There is definite mileage to be had here and I’m curious to see how it would fair in a deck with Bloodthirsty Aerialist.
  • Piper of the Swarm: Another great value engine, this would be better with multiples in play or other rats to sacrifice but in the limited environment it was fairly easy to steal things from your opponent (or have them stolen from me in one case).
  • Midnight Clock: I put this in on a bit of a lark as I was curious to see if I could trigger it. Turns out I managed to do it in three separate games which was surprising but I guess there isn’t much artifact removal in limited. Of particular note is that it ticks up on each upkeep, not just your own, and that it triggers the ability as soon as the final counter is placed, not on the start of upkeep like Simic Ascendancy. This meant I was able to pay a little to tick it up on my turn and get that card draw fairly quickly.
  • Fling: Being able to sacrifice a creature and deal it’s power as damage to any target is incredibly good. I used this a few times, mostly when chump blocking as I was able to prevent damage to me whilst doing damage directly to an opponent’s face.
  • Fires of Invention: This was the biggest disappointment of the evening for me as I didn’t get to use it once! I only got it in my hand a single time but then I couldn’t find a single mountain to fuel it. This was a shame as it would have been an incredibly good bomb to have as you effectively get to cast two high-cost spells for free and then use your mana in mana sink abilities.

All in all it was a great event and whilst a number of people complained about the grindiness of the set, there was a general consensus that the flavour and artwork was perfect. There was also a good variety of decks in play which is always nice to see.

My Purchases

The final part of the evening consisted of picking up my pre-orders which this time consisted only of a single booster box. With this set, each 36-booster box comes not only with a promo card (Kenrith, the Returned King who seems more suited to Brawl or Commander) but also with a collector booster which is going to retail for around £25-30. I’m not keen on purchasing any of those boosters at that price but I did buy an additional booster box to do some drafting with a friend next month and to net me that extra collector booster pack.

And boy I’m glad I did! In each collector booster I received a foil Oko, Thief of Crowns; one regular, one borderless.

Oko, Thief of CrownsOko, Thief of Crowns

The regular one is worth around £50 as it is but the borderless one is easily worth over £150 thus comfortably paying for that second box if I decide to sell it6. I’ll be talking about the mechanics of these cards in more detail next week but they certainly made up for the bad luck in the Sealed event!

Other cards in the collector booster included beautiful showcase versions of Oakhame Ranger // Bring Back, Order of Midnight // Alter Fate, Hypnotic Sprite // Mesmeric Glare, and Shepherd of the Flock // Usher to Safety (amongst others) and extended art versions of Piper of the Swarm and Folio of Fancies. I was particularly taken with the extended art cards which looks so much nicer in person. The font alignment issues on the showcase cards also don’t look quite as bad as they do in the digital versions. If I had one negative about the collector boosters, it was that it was fairly disappointing to pull a non-foil common card from one of the brawl decks in there that is worth about £0.02. It’s kind of nice that there is the opportunity to pull cards from the brawl and planeswalker decks but I would have preferred another foil common from the set over those.

In conclusion, the Throne of Eldraine prerelease was a great event and I’d encourage you to go down to your local game store for the prerelease of Theros: Beyond Death when it arrives (or returns) in January. If you have any questions about prerelease events or Throne of Eldraine, just let me know in the comments below or get in touch.

  1. This tends to vary a bit depending on the set but it is usually just these items. 10-pack bundles and individual booster packs are typically not available until the formal set launch a week later. ↩︎

  2. For example, if you find after your first game that you don’t have enough lands or that a particular creature isn’t working out for you, then you can just swap them out for any of the cards you opened in your prerelease pack. I’ve seen some people play game one with a mono-red deck only to switch to a black-green deck for the second game completely changing every card they were playing! ↩︎

  3. One from each pack plus the foil prerelease card. Some people get lucky and draw extra rares in their packs as foils so it is feasible to have 8, 9, or even more rares. ↩︎

  4. I don’t fully understand the scoring system but beating somebody 2-0 will get you more points than a 2-1 win. Going 4-0 on your rounds doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be 1st if somebody else did it with less games played. ↩︎

  5. Apart from commenting on the terrifying artwork – the perfect depiction of my performance! – and the wonderfully disturbing flavour text. ↩︎

  6. I am currently listing it on Liliana Market but we’ll see if it actually garners any interest. ↩︎


Throne of Eldraine Primer

When War of the Spark finished, I and many others assumed that Core Set 2020 would be a bit of a reset, a palette cleanser if you will. Instead, it turned out to be chock-a-block with powerful cards and helped bring back a number of tribal themes to give them the send off they deserved before rotation struck.

That rotation is finally here and will see Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, and Core Set 2019 disappear into the land where Modern and Commander players lurk. To replace these four sets we’ll be getting Throne of Eldraine, a top-down designed set inspired by a mixture of Arthurian Camelot legend and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. If you haven’t been following spoiler season religiously, then this primer is designed to give you the overview that you need before your pre-release events and help showcase the new mechanics, themes, and cards that you’ll want to know about.

Contents

Untap, Upkeep, Draw

Before we get to the fun stuff, there’s a bit of an overview that is necessary in order to fully grasp the concept of this set. To begin with there is a new story, The Wildered Quest by author Kate Elliott, available only as an ebook on all popular stores. I read through it when it released earlier this month and found it to be a fairly enjoyable read. The basic storyline (without spoilers) follows the twin children of the King, Rowan and Will, as they go on a quest to track down their lost father. We’re introduced to new planeswalker Oko whilst the ever popular Garruk is also along for the ride. The story culminates with details on how Rowan and Will end up with their shared planeswalker spark. Whilst the book is fairly short (taking only a few hours to read), we do get introduced to a number of the characters and creatures you’ll find within the set as well as learning more about the plane of Eldraine1 which is seemingly split between the Human Realm and the non-Human Wilds.

Aside from the storyline, the other important thing to know in advance is that the set numbering system has changed due to a number of new supplemental products. In previous sets, there would be a number of cards that were determined to be the main block of the set and then promos and planeswalker decks would follow displaying a number higher than the set they belonged to (i.e. Nexus of Fate is shown as 306/280). With this set, any cards outside of the main block no longer display the block count which is probably a good thing as there are 128 cards beyond the main block of 269! They are broken down as:

  • 1-269: The main set
  • 270-272: Borderless planeswalkers
  • 273-302: Showcase frames
  • 303: Buy-a-Box promo (Kenrith, the Returned King)
  • 304-313: Planeswalker decks
  • 314-333: Brawl decks
  • 334-391: Extended-art frames
  • 392: Bundle promo (alternate art Piper of the Swarm)
  • 393-397: Promo pack cards

Ultimately this shake up relates to two things; pre-constructed Brawl decks are part of the set2 and “Project Booster Fun” has led to a wide-range of alternate artwork treatments that are only available through the new Collector Boosters. I’m not going to go through this in any detail but I’ll point you to the official article on the subject which goes into it in a lot of depth.

The final thing to mention before we get started proper is that Wizards of the Coast have very kindly sponsored me with a preview account for the Early Access Streamer Event; essentially I’ll be streaming Throne of Eldraine content a day or two before everybody else gets their hands on it. The fun will start at 9pm BST / 4pm EST on Tuesday 24th September over on my Twitch channel. Feel free to drop in to chat about the set or to give me your deck suggestions.

Mechanics

Adventure

Ardenvale Tactician // Dizzying SwoopQueen of Ice // Rage of WinterFoulmire Knight // Profane InsightRimrock Knight // Boulder RushFlaxen Intruder // Welcome Home
Ardenvale Tactician // Dizzying SwoopQueen of Ice // Rage of WinterFoulmire Knight // Profane InsightRimrock Knight // Boulder RushFlaxen Intruder // Welcome Home

Adventure is a new card design that adds an instant or sorcery onto a creature. When you cast the card, you can choose whether to cast the instant / sorcery component (the adventure) or to just cast the creature. If you do cast the adventure, then the card becomes exiled (known as “going on an adventure”) and the creature can now be cast from exile whenever you want. It is important to note that this is a special exile zone and that you can only play the creature from exile if you put it there by going on an adventure. The creature component can only be cast when you’d normally be able to cast a creature so they’ll nearly always be sorcery speed3. If you cast the creature, it is no longer possible to cast the adventure component unless you can return the card to your hand.

I really like this mechanic although I do have a few issues with the text layout on the premium versions (which I’ve shown alongside the regular versions above). Having two spells on one card is always going to be a good thing, especially as the casting costs can vary wildly; in some instances you’ll have a cheap sorcery with a creature you’ll only be able to play in the late game whereas others have expensive sorceries with very cheap creatures that could potentially be played in the same turn. This value doubles if you have a way of getting the item back into your hand or via graveyard reanimation as then you can choose to cast both parts again! The only downside, which is unavoidable, is that when you’ve played your adventure your opponent is now aware that you have that creature ready to drop at any point. Overall though I think this is a great mechanic and cards like Flaxen Intruder // Welcome Home and Lovestruck Beast // Heart’s Desire really play into the storytelling aspect.

Adamant

Rally for the ThroneUnexplained VisionForeboding FruitSearing BarrageOutmuscle

Adamant is the only new keyword ability in this set and works by giving you an extra boon if you use at least 3 of a specific colour of mana when casting the spell. For example, Searing Barrage costs 4 Generic ManaRed and deals 5 damage to a creature; if you instead use at least three red mana (so 2 Generic ManaRedRedRed as a minimum) then it will deal an extra 3 damage to that creature’s controller. I really like this novel way of playing with the generic mana cost to reward mono-colour players although it’s interesting that it is locked to being specifically 3 mana. There is another card in the set, Sundering Stroke, that works in a similar way but requires “at least seven red mana”; I can’t help but feel “Adamant 7” would have been a better way of representing this.

Food

Fortifying ProvisionsTurn into a PumpkinCauldron FamiliarGilded GooseWitch's Oven

Food is a new named token type in a similar vein to Treasure. You can pay 2 Generic Mana alongside tapping and sacrificing the food in order to gain 3 life. There are also several cards that are synergistic with this by letting you do alternate things with food tokens i.e. Insatiable Appetite will give a target creature +3/+3 until end of turn but +5/+5 instead if you sacrifice a food to it. This is an interesting mechanic although I’m not too sure about the 2 Generic Mana cost to use a food. There are plenty of other interesting things that can be done with them though and 3 life-gain whenever you want is nothing to sneeze at! It is curious to note that red is the only colour that gets no specific access to food4.

Gingerbrute

And yes, there is a creature with the food subtype that retains the same ability as the tokens. Very clever.

Cycles

Leaders

Linden, the Steadfast QueenGadwick, the WizenedAyara, First of LocthwainTorbran, Thane of Red FellYorvo, Lord of Garenbrig

Each of these legendary creatures is meant to represent the leader of their respective courts; Ardenvale, Vantress, Locthwain, Embereth, and Garenbrig. You may notice that all of them are nobles (a reintroduced subtype) with the exception of Gadwick, the Wizened as the design team felt it was better for Vantress to be ruled by a Wizard. The other similarity is that they all have three of their respective colours in their casting costs, something that will no doubt be important if the return to Theros in January reintroduces the devotion mechanic.

Each of these are obviously going to be good in Brawl and Commander formats but there are also some very playable cards here for Standard. Linden, the Steadfast Queen can quickly get out of hand in a life-gain deck as that trigger will occur separately for each creature that is attacking whilst Gadwick, the Wizened can be very effective at locking down an opponent’s board, especially when you consider that casting an adventure and then the creature is potentially two blue spells. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is definitely my favourite and will be utterly brutal in my Cavalcade of Calamity deck! Ayara, First of Locthwain and Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig are the weakest two with Yorvo looking like a great hulking beast until you realise he doesn’t have trample and can thus be blocked with a 0/1 goat token…

Syr Knights

Syr Alin, the Lion's ClawSyr Elenora, the DiscerningSyr Konrad, the GrimSyr Carah, the BoldSyr Faren, the Hengehammer

Each of the courts has a legendary human knight titled as a Syr5; whilst nearly all of them are 3 Generic Mana and then two of their colours, the green Syr is just a straight up GreenGreen.

Each one of these knights has some potential although Syr Konrad, the Grim and Syr Carah, the Bold have the most in Standard in my opinion. We’ve already seen Syr Konrad, the Grim in Arena thanks to the Brawl event that took place a couple of weeks ago; I’ve used him a few times in Standard 2020 and found him to be a reliably useful card in both sacrificial and reanimator decks. Mill also seems like it might be coming back and this does a nice job of hurting your opponent if they have a heavy creature-based deck. Meanwhile, Syr Carah, the Bold seems right at home in a burn deck as it gives you effective card replacement. I particularly like that it exiles cards for you to play as it means it works beautifully with Experimental Frenzy in a way that straight up card draw would not. The “tap and do 1 damage” ability is also particularly useful if you are reliant on spectacle triggers.

Paladins

Ardenvale PaladinVantress PaladinLocthwain PaladinEmbereth PaladinGarenbrig Paladin

The paladins are the grunts of the courts as a cycle of mid-cost common human knights. Each one of them utilises the adamant mechanic and I don’t think I’d consider using any of them if I wasn’t sure I was going to have that mana available. As a common cycle, these are clearly aimed at Limited play but some of these may find their way into the various tribal knights decks that are going to be big throughout the coming Standard meta.

Hybrid Mana

Arcanist's OwlCovetous UrgeDeathless KnightElite HeadhunterFireborn Knight
Loch DragonOakhame Ranger // Bring BackRampart SmasherResolute RiderThunderous Snapper

This is a bit of a peculiar uncommon cycle that covers every hybrid mana combination and produces a card that costs four of that hybrid mana. If there are activated abilities, they too use the hybrid mana. Each card is a hint for what WotC think that combo should be about when playing this set in Limited. For example, the White/Blue card fits the flying and artifacts matter themes, the Black/Red is all about knights and equipments, the Green/White is an adventure, and Black/Green fits into the food theme. Each card is good in it’s respective theme and the use of hybrid mana makes it easy to take some of these and use them in mono-color decks.

Equipment

Shining ArmorMantle of TidesGiant's SkewerCrystal SlipperRosethorn Halberd

Coloured artifacts are currently deciduous after Core Set 2020 and thus return again in Throne of Eldraine in two cycles, this one being common equipments. They’re a real mixed bag with no real thread between them apart from their common rarity6. These are most likely for Limited play but Giant’s Skewer might just find it’s way into Standard; it also has a wonderful flavour in that it turns the creatures it damages into food!

Coloured Artifacts

The Circle of LoyaltyThe Magic MirrorThe Cauldron of EternityEmbercleaveThe Great Henge

The second cycle of coloured artifacts is eminently more playable with each being mythic rare and legendary. Each card has a cost reduction ability – useful when one of them costs 10 Generic ManaBlackBlack – and has a triggered ability in addition to plenty of other goodness. Each one is also modelled on a well known Arthurian legend respectively imitating of The Round Table, Merlin’s Mirror, The Holy Grail, Excalibur, and Stonehenge.

The Magic Mirror looks particularly good here giving you exponential card draw that can be seriously enhanced with some proliferate shenanigans; it also pairs nicely with Syr Elenora, the Discerning. It’s also worth pointing out that there are all manner of broken things you can do with The Great Henge making it very plausible to get this out on turn 47.

However, it’s Embercleave that is the proverbial talk of the tavern as it can be used as a very cheap combat trick; it is easy to imagine a scenario where you are bringing this in for just RedRed and giving something a significant boost in the form of double strike. That is going to be very nice on Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, Drakuseth, Maw of Flames, or even Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin.

Colour Hosing

Archon of AbsolutionMystical DisputeSpecter's ShriekRedcap MeleeOakhame Adversary

This is an interesting cycle of uncommon cards that are designed for hosing the same colour. There is some variation in downside to targeting something of a different colour ranging from none at all (Archon of Absolution), a cost increase (Mystical Dispute and Oakhame Adversary), or a substantial penalty (Specter’s Shriek and Redcap Melee). Each of these cards looks good to me and will definitely see play in the sideboard if not in the main deck.

Castles

Castle ArdenvaleCastle VantressCastle LocthwainCastle EmberethCastle Garenbrig

The rare land cycle this set isn’t dual lands but castles! Each one enters the battlefield tapped unless you own the corresponding basic land and they tap for the colour as if they were a basic land. However, they also have an activated ability which is synergised to the flavour of that court. For example, the white castle will create 1/1 human tokens whilst the blue castle gives you scry 2. The green castle (which looks uncannily like Pride Rock) is interesting in that it effectively taps to give you GreenGreen.

Also, how much does Castle Locthwain look like a Star Destroyer?

I don’t think any of these castles are particularly great but you’ll likely stick one or two in your main deck as chances are you’ll never play one tapped and any extra abilities you can get for a slot are generally worth having. The only thing I’d be wary of is that these are just “Land”; they don’t have any other types so Nissa, Who Shakes the World isn’t going to be able to fetch or double Castle Garenbrig and if you get hit with Deathsprout you wouldn’t be able to search for one of these as they aren’t basic. Personally I really hate rare lands that don’t contain “Forest”, “Mountain”, etc., so it’s a shame to have another set that does this after the temples in Core Set 2020.

Lands

Idyllic GrangeMystic SanctuaryWitch's CottageDwarven MineGingerbread Cabin

If the cycle of rare castles was meant to show “The Realm”, this cycle of common lands is meant to highlight “The Wilds”. Each one is a land with the relevant type attached (i.e. “Plains”) and enters the battlefield tapped unless you control three or more other lands of that relevant type. If the land does enter untapped, then there is a triggered ability.

Similar to the castles, I think these could go into most mono- or dual-color decks as the opportunity cost is pretty negligible; they’ll be untapped most of the time. Depending on how the food mechanic shakes out, it is possible that Gingerbread Cabin will be the best one of this cycle although I can see good uses for Mystic Sanctuary and Witch’s Cottage.

Reprints

There are eight reprints from previous sets:

There are also two cards that are technically reprints with new names:

Planeswalkers

Garruk, Cursed HuntsmanOko, Thief of CrownsThe Royal Scions

After the planeswalker shake-up of War of the Spark and the multiple Chandra’s of Core Set 2020, you may be glad to know that Throne of Eldraine goes back to basics with three9 mythic rare planeswalkers each having three activated abilities. There isn’t a static ability in sight!

Of the three, I find Garruk, Cursed Huntsman the most interesting if only for the fact that he has no way to increase loyalty beyond either proliferate or killing one of the creature tokens his first ability creates. The easiest way to get to that ultimate is likely going to be performing the 0 ability and then on your next turn killing the wolves yourself with something like Witch’s Vengeance before activating the -6 ability and surviving. Certainly some interesting things to be done there!

Oko, Thief of Crowns is also interesting for the way he can effectively turn food tokens into 3/3 elks or swap them with a powerful creature your opponent controls.

Other Notable Cards

I’ve covered some of the core elements of Throne of Eldraine but there are a few cards that deserve a special mention. I’ll be opening a booster pack a day and choosing a single to do a deep dive into once the set launches, but for now here are some quick thoughts on the cards that caught my eye during spoiler season.

  • Charming Prince: Adam Ant himself with a decent selection of effects to choose from when he enters the battlefield. I make a point of saying choice is one of the most important things in Magic and this gives you the pieces you need whether played in early, mid, or late game.
  • Deafening Silence: So you want to cast lots of cheap burn spells? Nope.
  • Happily Ever After: The only alternate win condition card of the set. It’s fairly tricky to pull off and really needs a gates deck or Niv-Mizzet Reborn to be on the table along with some life-gain and a variety of card types. Not impossible and I’m intrigued to see if I can build a janky deck to get just one win this way.
  • Harmonious Archon: This could be a really good way of turning your weenie deck into something far stronger, especially if you’re up against a big creature deck. Just be aware that both you and your opponents non-archon creatures will become 3/3 creatures.
  • Trapped in the Tower: Very similar to the effect of Pacifism but it prevents abilities being activated which is often incredibly important. The downside is that it only deals with non-flying creatures.
  • Emry, Lurker of the Loch: [Insert obligatory Monty Python quote]. A definite player for an artifacts deck.
  • Fae of Wishes // Granted: This card is kind of insane. Pay 3 Generic ManaBlue to get any card from outside the game into your hand, then pay 1 Generic ManaBlue to create the 1/4 flying creature at which point you can pay 1 Generic ManaBlue and discard two cards to return it to your hand ready to repeat the cycle. Incredibly useful for the late game and gives the creature some added evasion as you can self-bounce it easily.
  • Midnight Clock: Another fun card that can be manipulated with proliferate. Note that the counters increase with every upkeep, not just your own, so the payoff can arrive far quicker than you might think.
  • Vantress Gargoyle: Welcome the newest entrant to the mill deck although make sure you aren’t using Ashiok, Dream Render; that won’t work well!
  • Clackbridge Troll: One of the most flavour packed cards, this is an insane almost broken card with very little downside. You’re either going to do a ton of damage or you’re going to gain life and draw a card. One of the best cards in the set.
  • Murderous Rider // Swift End: Another amazing black card, the adventure is essentially a cheaper Vraska’s Contempt but you lose 2 life instead of gaining 2. Of course, this is attached to a lifelink body with 2 power so that life is easy to retrieve! Oh, and when it dies it goes back into your library. This is a very good card.
  • Oathsworn Knight: [Insert another obligatory Monty Python quote]. In all seriousness, well done to the design team for this. Very clever with a +1/+1 for each limb…
  • Wishclaw Talisman: Oh the fun you can have with this enchantment and Teferi, Time Raveler! I could see this being a good early play in a mill deck especially as you don’t have to reveal the card you find.
  • Witch’s Vengeance: You’re playing a tribal deck? Oops.
  • Blow Your House Down: I’m always a fan of wall hate and I love the flavour on this.
  • Claim the Firstborn: You remind me of the babe. What babe?
  • Fervent Champion: This is the card co-designed by and starring 2018 World Champion Javier Dominguez. It’s a good card in it’s own right especially as it can equip 14 of the 16 equipments in Standard (including Embercleave) for free!
  • Irencrag Feat: This is bonkers and is clearly designed to go with Sundering Stroke for turn 4 madness.
  • Robber of the Rich: Another great piece of flavour, this time with Robin Hood stealing from your opponent if they have more cards than you.
  • Seven Dwarves: Clever piece of wording on this one that allows you to have seven of these cards on the field at once (leading to seven 9/9 dwarves). A sure thing for Singleton I’d imagine.
  • Gilded Goose: If the food deck takes flight10, then this is going to be instrumental to it.
  • Once Upon a Time: This card is amazing if only for the fact that you can cast it for free on turn 2 if you did nothing on turn 1. It’s a good card even if you do have to pay for it though.
  • Questing Beast: Another contestant for best card of the set, this beast has a lot of abilities that will prove very useful against superfriends decks.
  • Return of the Wildspeaker: If you have big creatures in your deck, this could give you serious card advantage.
  • Wildborn Preserver: On first reading this might not look impressive but note that you can pay to put as many +1/+1 counters on this as you want. This could be big in Simic Flash.
  • Lochmere Serpent: A potential game ender if you’re willing to sacrifice your islands.
  • Stonecoil Serpent: Artifact creatures with an X Generic Mana cost are often good, especially when they have reach, trample, and protection from multicoloured. This could go very nicely in a Nissa, Who Shakes the World deck.

Tokens

In keeping with Core Set 2020, each of the 20 tokens in Throne of Eldraine have the full artwork treatment:

I particularly like that we get four variations of the food token that is clearly going to be important in many decks; I think it’s mandatory to use the boar’s head version when your boar token dies! I also really like that we got an “On an adventure” marker token just to make it clear which creatures are available to be cast and which are in true exile.

Awards

Best Artwork Award

FrogifyTempting WitchRobber of the RichSeven DwarvesCastle Vantress

My shortlist of artwork for this set was over 20 cards so getting down to just 5 was tricky, let alone picking a single winner. However, it has to be Seven Dwarves due to the commitment to the “seven” theme. If you look closely you’ll see there are seven of several items (i.e. torches, bags, sleepers, etc) hidden in the artwork.

Best Flavour Text

Wishful MerfolkBake into a PieRevenge of RavensWicked GuardianTall as a Beanstalk

Another large shortlist that was hard to whittle down. After much consideration, I’m choosing Revenge of Ravens as it genuinely terrifies me.

Best Pun

Belle of the Brawl

Wonderful card name and the flavour text backs it up. *chef’s kiss*

Best Card Of The Set

Robber of the Rich

It might not be the most powerful card of the set but I love what they’ve done flavour-wise with Robber of the Rich. A 2/2 with haste and reach for just 2 mana is already good but the ability to exile your opponents cards and be able to play them later is great, especially as it doesn’t need to be with the same rogue. There are 31 rogues in the new Standard and I’m almost certainly going to try and build a deck with them for the event tomorrow.

End Step

I think that just about covers it for this primer but let me know if you feel I’ve missed anything. Thanks to a sponsorship from Wizards of the Coast, I’m going to be a part of the Early Access Streamer Event and will be streaming Throne of Eldraine content before it launches at 9pm BST / 4pm EST on Tuesday 24th September over on my Twitch channel. I’m also attending my local pre-release on Friday so I’ll be back with my report from that event followed by my usual daily opening of booster packs. For even more Magic content, check out my Discord community or follow me on Twitter.

Until next time, good luck on your adventures through Eldraine!

  1. The rain in Eldraine stays mainly in the plane! ↩︎

  2. All of the Brawl cards are also Standard-legal although there are obviously some that will have no practical use in Standard such as Command Tower or Arcane Signet↩︎

  3. Aside from Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft which has Flash and can thus be cast whenever you want. ↩︎

  4. Other than via the artifacts. Witch’s Oven would fit nicely into a Judith, the Scourge Diva deck… ↩︎

  5. Syr is pronounced the same as “Sir” but was designed to be a gender-neutral title. ↩︎

  6. That’s what is known as a common thread *rimshot* ↩︎

  7. *cough* Rotting Regisaur *cough cough* ↩︎

  8. A lot of blue players breathed a huge sigh of relief when this was revealed as a reprint! ↩︎

  9. Well, OK, there are five if you include the planeswalker decks but let’s ignore those. ↩︎

  10. Sorry. ↩︎


M20 Booster: Ferocious Pup

The Throne of Eldraine has been officially unveiled as the next Magic set along with some exciting changes to booster packs and the introduction of the Brawl format to MTG Arena. You can catch up on all of that news over on my Discord community but today I’m going to take a brief look at a common card:

Ferocious Pup

Ferocious Pup is a 2 Generic ManaGreen 0/1 wolf creature that creates a 2/2 green wolf creature token when it enters the battlefield.

That’s it.

So why am I looking at a common card? Well first of all this isn’t actually too bad; creating two bodies with one card is always good, even if you only use the little pup to chump block1 in the hopes of stabilising on your next turn.

The real reason, though, is that I’m fairly sure we’re about to see some wolf love in Throne of Eldraine. I’ve said for a while that it was curious that Arlinn, Voice of the Pack in War of the Spark specifically mentioned werewolves when there aren’t any in Standard and then this continued in Core Set 2020 with Nightpack Ambusher. It was always possible that this was just to satisfy Modern players but it seemed a little off to me. Beyond that, we’ve seen the wolf archetype slowly go from nothing prior to Core Set 2019 to now being a fairly strong tribe to the extent that I was soundly beaten by a wolf deck at the Core Set 2020 pre-release2.

At present, there are only 10 cards that either are a wolf or have some wolf interactions. This doesn’t seem many but some of them are exceptionally good:

  • Arlinn, Voice of the Pack: A planeswalker that causes all wolves to enter the battlefield with an extra +1/+1 counter and she can reduce loyalty to create a 2/2 wolf token (which is effectively a 3/3 wolf token)
  • Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves: A legendary creature who creates a legendary 3/3 wolf token and gives all wolves an ETB trigger that gives you 3 life and allows that wolf to fight another creature
  • Wolfrider’s Saddle: A legendary equipment that gives +1/+1 to a creature and it can’t be blocked by more than one creature; it creates a 2/2 wolf token with which it is pre-equipped when it enters the battlefield
  • Nightpack Ambusher: The best card for a wolf deck, this 4/4 creature has flash and gives other wolves +1/+1; if you don’t cast any spells on your turn, it creates a 2/2 wolf token on your end step

All of these paired with some mana ramp and an Icon of Ancestry3 can lead to a pretty decent deck. It isn’t quite competitive yet but with a few new cards it could definitely take shape. When rotation hits, only two wolves will be removed from Standard; Skalla Wolf (which was confined to the Vivien Planeswalker deck) and Thornhide Wolves, neither of which will be particularly missed.

Now that Throne of Eldraine has been announced as a “Camelot meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales” setting, it seems highly likely to me that there are going to be both wolves and werewolves in the near future. It’s not hard to imagine that The Big Bad Wolf might make an appearance from the fairytale side of things whilst the story of Melion from King Arthur would bring a werewolf from the Camelot aspect. It is also perfectly feasible that we may see more from such stories as The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids and The Wolf and The Fox.

The hinting thus far just seems too strong for there to be anything other than a good showing of wolves in the upcoming set and with those I think that a wolf tribal deck might just start to take shape for use in a more competitive environment…

  1. Seems a wee bit harsh I admit. ↩︎

  2. Nightpack Ambusher, Ferocious Pup, Wolfkin Bond, and Icon of Ancestry are a ferocious (sorry) matchup. ↩︎

  3. Which gives +1/+1 to your wolves and lets you pay 3 Generic Mana and Tap to search the top three cards of your library for a wolf to put in your hand. ↩︎


M20 Booster: Grafdigger's Cage

It’s only a day until we’re going to find out more about the upcoming set due for release in September1 but for now there are still plenty of Core Set 2020 Boosters to open. Today I’m going to be talking about “graveyard hate” thanks to this little gem:

Grafdigger's Cage

Grafdigger’s Cage is a 1 Generic Mana rare artifact with two static abilities:

  • Creature cards can’t enter the battlefield from graveyards or libraries
  • Players can’t cast cards in graveyards or libraries

This is what is known as “graveyard hate”, a way to stop your opponent from using cards directly from their graveyard. There are many reasons in the current meta why you might want, or be able, to cast cards directly from your graveyard. For example, Arclight Phoenix can be returned from the graveyard if you cast three or more instants in your turn; Brought Back can fetch two cards that were put in the graveyard this turn back to the battlefield; Gravedigger can bring a dead creature onto the battlefield with it.

Grafdigger’s Cage stops all of these interactions but it falls short of other better options. Firstly, this only stops creature cards from entering from a graveyard; it doesn’t stop abilities like undergrowth2. Secondly, it only stops items that can be cast; lands are not cast and so a card like Fall of the Thran or Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar is still effective. Finally, whilst jump-start cards such as Chemister’s Insight can’t be cast when this is in play, it’s fairly trivial to remove with something like Smelt and then those cards are available again.

To do proper graveyard hate, you need to permanently remove items from the graveyard. Fortunately that is rather easy with the following cards:

  • Phyrexian Scriptures: A saga that eventually exiles all cards from all opponent’s graveyards
  • Remorseful Cleric: A creature you can sacrifice to exile all cards in a target player’s graveyard3
  • Sentinel Totem: Tap and exile the totem to exile all cards from all graveyards (including your own)
  • Ashiok, Dream Render: My personal favourite, mill target player for 4 cards then exile all opponent’s graveyards4

Each of these is far more effective at graveyard hate as they prevent phoenixes from returning, get rid of all jump-start cards, reduce the casting cost of undergrowth to 0, and they prevent any lands being bought back or counting towards a creature like Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar. There is also no way to get cards back from exile. Whilst Grafdigger’s Cage is effective graveyard hate, it is relatively low level as should be expected from something that costs 1 Generic Mana.

Fortunately, it doesn’t only stop graveyard interactions but library interactions5 as well. There are plenty of cards that allow for playing cards directly from the library such as:

  • Bolas’s Citadel: An artifact that lets you play the top card of your library at any time using life instead of mana
  • Mystic Forge: An artifact that lets you play the top card of your library so long as it’s an artifact or a colourless nonland card
  • Prime Speaker Vannifar: A creature that uses the library to trade up from a sacrificed creature to one that is slightly bigger

Grafdigger’s Cage is probably good enough to use in a limited environment if you’re up against an artifact deck running Mystic Forge and is very effective against dealing with those annoying Bolas’s Citadel decks. In terms of library searching, Ashiok, Dream Render is once again the better card as it has a static ability preventing that thus stopping Prime Speaker Vannifar in her tracks.

In short, Grafdigger’s Cage has it’s uses but there are probably better cards that can achieve what you want in a better way. On the flip side, this only costs 1 Generic Mana and can be used in any deck so it is often something you’ll want to keep on hand for use in a sideboard just in case you end up facing a graveyard heavy opponent. You might also get lucky with it on Arena and find your opponent misplays due to forgetting about the static effect but it likely isn’t competitive enough for regular play, especially not in best-of-one matches.

  1. Codenamed “Archery”. ↩︎

  2. For example, Rhizome Lurcher↩︎

  3. I make use of this in my mill deck↩︎

  4. If your planeswalker doesn’t suffer any damage, you can activate this five times as well! ↩︎

  5. It’s important to note that, whilst Grafdigger’s Cage can stop players from casting cards from their library, it doesn’t stop Light Up the Stage and friends that exile cards from your library which you can then play. ↩︎


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