Set releases adding new cards to the card pool is always an exciting time for Magic players, especially in 2019 when every set has been packed with cards made for Modern and even beyond. But there's nothing that compares to a Standard rotation in terms of creating opportunities for deckbuilders.
The holy grail of any new card pool is "breaking it"—figuring out how to fully leverage the most powerful new cards and gaining a massive advantage on the competition, and Throne of Eldraine looks to be full of cards with potential to be broken. The set won't be released until next week, but this week we were treated to a sneak-peek through an Early Access release, which gave streamers access to all of the new cards on MTG Arena and put the post-rotation Standard format front and center on Twitch. I've been following the event and the surrounding hype on social media, where there has been discussion about the early front-runners that have emerged as the most potentially breakable. Today I want to share a few different strategies that have caught my eye, along with some brews of my own.
Whenever a set has a cycle of cards, like the cycle of uncommon hybrid mana cards in Throne of Eldraine, I assume that while most are designed for limited play, at least one will stand above the rest as a constructed playable. When I first saw Arcanist's Owl I knew it was designed with Standard in mind, and with the set fully spoiled it still stands out among a cycle of otherwise unimpressive cards. Arcanist's Owl will require a deck full of artifacts and enchantments to be at its best, but in such a deck it will offer great value and card selection as the perfect building block in a greater deck—think Rogue Refiner or Crackling Drake.
Arcanist's Owl is where I started my own attempts to break the format, and as an artifact creature, the natural first step for Arcanist's Owl is with Standard's best artifact creature payoff, Steel Overseer. Throne of Eldraine adds another payoff in Shambling Suit, which is basically an 0/3 creature wearing Cranial Plating. With the support of some other promising new tools the set includes, an aggressive Affinity-inspired deck could prove competitive.
A great supplement to Arcanist's Owl is Clockwork Servant, which in a mono-colored deck will always draw a card, leading to a deck full of extra value that will be tough for opponents to just out-attrition with removal spells. In theory Clockwork Servant is a great card, one that could show up in any sort of mono-color deck, even something like a classic mono-red deck, so it's a real incentive for any artifact deck to stay in one color.
Making the most of Steel Overseer and Shambling Suit means getting aggressive and keeping the curve low, so Gingerbrute provides a one-mana play with evasion that becomes threatening when wearing +1/+1 counters. Stonecoil Serpent is a major boon to the strategy, helping to fill in the curve as a very flexible play on any turn and a huge threat late in the game. Its protection from multicolor ability makes it much better than it looks, with Deafening Clarion and Teferi, Time Raveler as just two of many examples of cards that can't touch it.
Corridor Monitor doesn't look like much more than a blocker on the surface, but its untap ability should prove very useful in a deck with Steel Overseer, which will generate massive counters anytime it can be used twice in the same turn. It's also excellent with the deck's secondary Mystic Forge plan, which can be untapped to look at a new top card and keep the value going. The ability is also a nice defensive play after combat for untapping a potential blocker, and it can even be used aggressively before combat by untapping a creature that crewed Silent Submersible. It can also be used to get another go from Emry, Lurker of the Loch, which is one of the most important cards in the set for Eternal formats and a real boon to this Standard strategy, where the ability to play artifacts from the graveyard adds yet another layer of value.
An alternative to the Mono-Blue approach is Mono-White, which might be the best route because it offers an additional payoff, All That Glitters, which is something like Cranial Plating on an enchantment or Ethereal Armor for artifacts. It helps to get more damage from the evasive Gingerbrute, for example, and even Arcanist's Owl is a strong target.
White also offers the great new tool Glass Casket, which attaches a removal spell to an artifact, giving more utility to Arcanist's Owl and more power to All That Glitters and Shambling Suit. It really helps to balance the deck with some removal while not having to sacrifice slots for non-artifact cards.
Ancestral Blade is another nice addition that buffs the artifact count while adding the versatility of equipment, much like Flayer Husk. With a Mystic Forge plan and Castle Ardenvale as an additional source of value, the deck will be able to sustain its pressure late into the game.
With the wounds inflicted by Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis on Modern still raw, Feasting Troll King has terrified some and absolutely excited others, who have been working to break the eerily similar creature.
Like Hogaak, Feasting Troll King is a massive, trampling threat—even better because of vigilance—and with some work can be reanimated from the graveyard for no mana investment. Where Hogaak required creatures to be tapped and cards to be delved away, Feasting Troll King requires committing to a Food theme. That drastically reduces deck building options, but also provides a pretty clear route towards making it work, and so far the early results are promising.
The idea behind this list is to dig toward Feasting Troll King with any of self-mill effects, including the powerful new Emry, Lurker of the Loch that is supported by the artifact Food tokens, and then reanimate it with the support of the Food token generators. A key source of Food is Witch's Oven, which has the nice synergy of turning the self-mill creatures into Food tokens. Gilded Goose is both a source of Food and a way to consume them, and overall feels like a great card for the strategy, especially with the ability to ramp into a turn two Oko, Thief of Crowns.
From all accounts this planeswalker has been the most impressive new card, and of course it's incredible in this deck as both a source of Food and an alternate win condition. Giant Opportunity also fills in this role as an alternative 7/7 to Feasting Troll King, or serving as a self-contained three Food tokens for reanimating the legend.
It all comes together into a nice-looking package, but I'm sure there are other ways to approach it. For one, Feasting Troll King is a great card to cast from hand, especially with the help of Castle Garenbrig, because it will generate three Food Tokens that can Reanimate it later, or just gain a bunch of life. I could see it being used in a grindier sort of midrange deck focused less on reanimation and more on using Feasting Troll King as a win condition that's tough to stop.
History is likely to show that the single most breakable card in Throne of Eldraine is Fires of Invention, as anything that allows spells to be cast for free is dangerous.
One way to break this ability is to use it to get around the normal restraint of mana color, including the five colors of Niv-Mizzet Reborn and its menagerie of gold spells.
The deck pairs Fires of Invention with Growth Spiral, which helps unlock its full potential ASAP. Thought Erasure and Teferi, Time Raveler are the primary disruption protecting Fires of Invention from removal and countermagic, paving the way for it to take over the game. The deck has no lack of powerful spells to cast for free, and should be able to take over the game with any of its haymakers. Solar Blaze stands out as a great follow-up to Fires of Invention, while Time Warp is disgusting when bouncing Niv-Mizzet Reborn for another go. The five-color manabase is held together by both Chromatic Lantern and the new Fabled Passage, which does a lot toward making decks of three or more colors a reality in this format.
Another approach to Fires of Invention is a bit toned-down, giving up the Five-Color Niv-Mizzet Reborn plan for a Jeskai Walkers shell, but the enchantment feels broken no matter how it's used. That's simply the nature of free spells.
In this deck Fires of Invention acts as a tempo play, which in theory costs no mana investment initially because it allows for a spell to be immediately cast for free. From then on it essentially doubles one's mana for the rest of the game as a sort of one-sided Mana Flare, leading to a massive mana and tempo advantage that will snowball to a win. This deck uses its planeswalker to find action, but it also showcases the new Fae of Wishes // Granted, maybe a broken card in its own right, as a versatile tutor in a similar style to Mastermind's Acquisition. It's supported by a full fifteen-card wish sideboard, which contains everything from the off-color haymaker enabled by Fires of Invention, Command the Dreadhorde, to Sky Tether as an efficient removal spell.
Sometimes breaking something is more straightforward, and is just a matter of putting pieces of a combo together. The strong interaction between Cavalcade of Calamity and Chandra's Spitfire is a known quantity, but Cavalcade of Calamity just got a lot more powerful with the printing of Torbran, Thane of Red Fell boosting its damage and potentially ending the game immediately.
Fervent Champion is a nice addition to the deck's roster of 1 power creatures, which after attacking and triggering Cavalcade of Calamity can now be boosted by Castle Embereth, which really helps this strategy push through extra damage and get over the finish line. Getting aggressive and just killing the opponent is always a great plan in times of metagame uncertainty when every deck is a brew, and this deck is a great model of how to do that.
Adam Yurchick is a competitive Magic player and writer. He writes about Modern and Eternal formats and keeps a weather eye on shifts in the metagame.