The Eldritch Moon Prerelease is now in the books, and I took part in two individual prereleases: One Two-Headed Giant prerelease and a draft. While I reviewed the set for TCGplayer along with other columnists nothing is better than getting to see and test the cards first hand.
Today, I'm going to give you the decks I built. Since Eldritch Moon isn't available on Magic Online, I won't give the whole pool for you to build (as it's not very users friendly in text). Instead, I will focus on cards that I think deserve more than a couple of lines in the review we made.
So here goes.
Eldritch Moon brought some new cards, but didn't quite change some archetypes. B/R madness for example is a deck that traded some cards for others, like Twins of Maurer Estate for Weirded Vampire, or Fiery Temper for Alchemist Greeting.
There's a card that doesn't replace an older card and that I know people aren't quite sure about:
Prying Questions is the latest addition to a family of cards that first came out in Ice Age with Stunted Growth, and that shifted to black with Painful Memories in Mirage and Agonizing Memories in Weatherlight. Most of you haven't had the chance to play with or against any of these cards, but the few of you who do know the feeling of drawing the same card again. When you're desperately looking for an extra land, you know for fact that you aren't going to draw it.
Unlike Repel, Plow Under, or the more recent Gone Missing, the "Time Back" discards (it's a reversed Time Walk for your opponent, kinda) don't affect the board at all, and that's probably the reason why Prying Questions will be overlooked.
Prying Question is closer in design to Painful Memories than Agonizing Memories or Stunted Growth (that provide card advantage and a HUGE tempo swing), and let's be honest, Painful Memories wasn't really playable.
In Eldritch Moon Limited, Prying Question is a card you have to seriously consider in an aggressive black deck (B/R Madness), and not only as filler. In the best-case scenario, you have a creature or two in play by turn three, your opponent has a slow start and has nothing else on the board, looking for their third land. BAM. No third land, take three damage, I get to attack again. An actual Time Walk that deals three. Okay, okay, that's the dream. But there will be situations close to this that will happen more often.
In the late game, your opponent will have to keep this card in mind when it comes to keeping cards (lands) in hand for a bluff, or else they might give you full profit. And in the worst case it's three mana for three damage. Not the worst.
Another card I knew was good but not sure how good:
Wawawiwah this card… When it comes to madness outlets, you usually have to rely on small creatures like Olivia's Dragoon or Ravenous Bloodsucker. And when they die, then you have to play your madness spells "by hand."
Having a permanent way to loot that can't be killed (or countered) makes it extremely hard for your opponent to play around your madness spells.
Sure, it's not as good when you play against a player trying to achieve delirium or play their own madness spells, but you don't HAVE to loot. There will be times where your opponent is tapped out, and as soon as you play one madness spell off it, you've already broken the symmetry. It's also great with the card mentioned above, your opponent will want to keep a card in hand to loot, and BAM, your land gets back on top, thank you very much!
I'd probably consider Geier Reach Sanitarium a first pick in draft.
We've reviewed an uncommon, a rare, and for the last card from this deck I want to talk about, I'd pick a common:
In general, black/red decks don't want defender creatures, but this one is different. Compare this card to a two-power creature for two mana. In most cases, it will attack for two once or twice and trade for another 2/2.
If played on turn two, Thermo-Alchemist will likely deal two to four damage. It will also block your opponent's 2/2 in the first turns. So far, Thermo-Alchemist matches its 2/2 counterpart, except that it's not going to trade for your opponent's creatures — it's going to stick around and deal a lot more damage. Your opponent can't block its activation — they have to use a removal spell for it and in general you don't want to use removal to deal with two-drops.
My pool didn't look as easy to build as the one from my first prerelease. The white and the green looked good but it didn't seem it could break a stalemate. So I had the option between going red for Incendiary Flow and Make Mischief or black for heavy weaponry in Ruthless Disposal and Dark Salvation. Since I would only have a few sources of the third color, I wanted these cards to have as much impact as possible; in that scenario, the black cards seemed more powerful.
While it's quite obvious Dark Salvation is a limited powerhouse, I wasn't sure at all about Ruthless Disposal.
At first, the closest comparison to this card is spells like Waste Away or Acceptable Losses. These removal were not great, they were two-for-one to take care of one creature (pretty much any at the time) at a pretty steep cost (4 and 5).
I couldn't have been more wrong: Ruthless Disposal is amazing. Sure, the cost is a little steep and it requires a lot of resources: a creature, a card and five mana; and it's a sorcery. But -13/-13 kills everything. Pump spells or prevent effects don't help against this card.
Every time I played this card, it won me the game. What happens is that at the stage of the game where you want to play this card, you probably have an irrelevant creature on the board (something you played earlier in the game that can't attack anymore), and a useless land in hand. You are giving up two useless resources for the two most valuable cards your opponent has played so far.
Add to the mix that it helps you get closer to Delirium (discard a land, sac a creature, it's a sorcery, only one type is missing) and you have the most underrated removal in the format. This card is great.
For some reason, I've seen Geist-Fueled Scarecrow sitting in a lot of people's sideboards, and I was a little confused. A 4/4 for four mana is a great deal, and it's an artifact so it helps get to delirium as well. Except for rares, I don't think you'll find a creature with better stats at four mana.
I think players were overestimating Geist-Fueled Scarecrow's drawback. It's all about the timing, your hand and your curve. Would you play a five-mana 4/4 artifact creature with no drawback? It would probably depend on the deck, but it would still be a solid creature. Geist-Fueled Scarecrow pretty much says: pay four now, and pay one later for the one mana you should have invested in the first place. That extra mana is only relevant if your deck packs a lot of five-mana creatures (but you don't really want too many of these anyway). At four mana, Geist-Fueled Scarecrow is likely to trade with at least a three-mana creature, which is not great, but that also means you are willing to trade (if you're attacking), and therefore get rid of the artifact's drawback (and therefore never have to pay the one mana investment we talked about earlier).
If your curve doesn't go over four mana, this card is an auto-include. Way underrated card.
There's one last card I'd like to talk about and that I think I've been underrating:
Give No Ground is a very expensive trick that doesn't give a huge attack buff, and for four mana, you'd rather have a game-winning trick or something that really changes the board state. Well, it turns out, in some situations, that's what it does.
For it to work at it best potential, you need an untapped creature, four mana open, and an opponent who'll be attacking for the win. When these situations happen, your opponent will usually try to play around a Puncturing Light or a Silverstrike. Unless they have a removal for your blocker, it's going to be hard for them to play around Give No Ground. +6 in toughness is a lot to keep your creature alive and the +2 in power will be good enough to kill at least an extra attacker. Best-case scenario, your opponent taps out, and you can swing back for the win.
I played against this card in the finals of the second prerelease and it totally crushed me. I didn't think I could actually lose that game. My opponent was attacking with flyers, and I had a lot of ground creatures that he didn't seem to be able to handle. Earlier in the game, he had stolen my Cathar's Companion with Welcome to the Fold. So I attacked with my team, thinking I might run into a removal and then lose another creature to the hound. And it was Give No Ground. I lost three of my guys, dealt 0 damage and he got to keep his doggie. Ouch.
When you first look at the cards of a new set, it's hard to really evaluate some of them without actually having played them, especially cards with drawbacks. Theorizing is a first step, comparing it to older similar cards is another one. Then try to see if what you though actually matches the new set/new context. And that's why I love playing prereleases, it's humbling as you get some cards totally wrong, and get crushed by cards you thought were unplayable.
Eldritch Moon seems like a great limited set, with a lot of ideas to work with. I'm looking forward to unlocking the power of seemingly crappy cards (that I prefer to call sleepers)!