Not many cards have been revealed from Eldritch Moon so far, yet I've already seen enough to know that Standard will be shaken up in a big way! Three cards in particular are top-notch and will definitely make an impact on Standard and potentially also in Modern: Emrakul, the Promised End, Elder Deep-Fiend, and Thalia, Heretic Cathar. Some other cards also have potential: Lone Rider, Tree of Perdition, and various meld cards.
I'm going to focus on the support cards that work best with each newly-spoiled standout, whether in Standard or in Modern. Whether you're here for deckbuilding inspiration, to increase your understanding of how to use the new cards, or simply to get a heads up on which cards to preorder, today is all about Eldritch Moon and the best it has to offer thus far, and we'll save the best (Thalia) for last.
Not saying I called it, but I called it three months ago when Nahiri, the Harbinger was first spoiled…
Nahiri, the Harbinger has seen play in Naya and I think that is a great place to start with this combo. Consider Riku Kumagai's GP Tokyo-winning list:
You'll need to add some more instants and sorceries — likely over Silkwrap and some of the creatures — but that's easy enough. Depending on the metagame, it could be Declaration in Stone and/or Fiery Impulse. You only really need to play one copy of Emrakul, the Promised End, but if you have enough support, you could play a second copy. This allows you to still search out the other copy with Nahiri, the Harbinger even if you draw one.
Emrakul, the Promised End adds a lot to this deck. Representing 13 points of damage is a huge threat. It's not hard to get in seven points of chip-shot damage, especially considering all the Read the Bones-type cards opponents will play to damage themselves. Sylvan Advocate is great at sneaking in a deuce once or twice and can even contribute a four-ball when you hit your sixth land.
Emrakul, the Promised End gets even more powerful if we add in delirium payoffs like Traverse the Ulvenwald, since delirium makes Emrakul, the Promised End cheaper. We might even want some ramp. The deck can go in a variety of directions, but wherever it goes, Nahiri, the Harbinger will likely be the best way to get Emrakul, the Promised End onto the table.
With this combo you can tap Tree of Perdition to make your opponent's life total 13, which causes the opponent to lose the game from Triskaidekaphobia if you do it on your upkeep. Both cards are black, so you could technically go mono-black, though you would probably want to play a second color since the cost of doing so is small. Here is a sample deck Ali Aintrazi built back when Triskaidekaphobia first came out:
I assume you'll want to play Dark Petition in this deck since it finds either combo piece and also provides three of the four mana to cast either. You'll likely also want a bunch of cheap removal and Languish to buy time and combat humans. You'll also want several copies of Duress and Transgress the Mind in your 75 to protect the combo pieces (likely in the main, depending on how reliant you are on assembling the combo).
I'm not sure if this combo will be good enough for serious tournament play, but it will win the game by itself if you can pull it off! If I were to pick the pro player most likely to show up to Pro Tour Eldritch Moon with this combo in their deck, I would pick Frank Karsten.
This combo is a bit more promising for competitive play. It allows you to deal five damage to all creatures at instant speed, and if you have a creature out, it will not cost much mana to do so. For instance, if you have a Reality Smasher on the battlefield, you can sacrifice it and only pay UU to play the Elder Deep-Fiend for its emerge cost, triggering the ability on Kozilek's Return since the CMC is still 8. The most obvious shell is the U/R Eldrazi deck that has been increasing in popularity:
I suspect a heavier creature-base will make Elder Deep-Fiend even stronger. Cards like Reality Smasher and maybe even Matter Reshaper and/or Eldrazi Skyspawner could help supply bodies for the emerge cost. Elder Deep-Fiend feels like an Eldrazi version of Mistbind Clique; instead of championing a faerie, you sacrifice a creature. And instead of getting a 4/4 flier you get a 5/6 non-flier. You can also tap creatures instead of just lands, making it also feel like Cryptic Command in certain spots. Between Elder Deep-Fiend, Archangel Avacyn, and Collected Company, no one is safe as long as the opponent has untapped mana!
Soul Sisters has been a fringe deck in Modern since the format's inception.
Its weak point is its inability to beat combo decks. Recent versions of the deck have therefore become more aggressive in order to pressure combo opponents. Some have also adopted the Leonin Arbiter + Ghost Quarter package from Hatebears in order to give them extra game against mana bases that are reliant on fetch lands. I could see Lone Rider fitting nicely into this deck. It's aggressive, fits with the theme of the deck, and is well supported by all the life gain in the deck. It will serve as more copies of Ajani's Pridemate, in theory. Tom Ross doesn't like Serra Ascendant in this deck, so maybe Lone Rider would fit in that place — or perhaps Lone Rider will allow the deck to transform a bit and replace Leonin Arbiter, depending on the expected metagame.
"Wow Craig, you're smart! I would have never thought to put these two cards together into the same deck so they could meld together to form Hanweir, the Writhing Township!"
Yep, that's why they pay me the big bucks!
Sarcasm aside, I think this could be exactly what Boros Humans was looking for. The fact that Hanweir Garrison makes Human Tokens is important because they pump (and are pumped by) Thalia's Lieutenant. Take the deck Tom Ross has been ravaging Standard with lately:
Needle Spires can be moved to the main and a pair of Mountains can be added. This would be enough red sources to reliably cast Hanweir Garrison, but then we would also need to find room for the colorless land in Hanweir Battlements. In order to do so, we'll have to up the curve a bit, which is a reasonable direction to go, given the powerful new three-drop humans being printed. I could also potentially see moving Gideon, Ally Zendikar or some other four-drop threat to the main deck. Whatever we do, if Thalia, Heretic Cathar is not involved, we're doing something wrong.
Speaking of Thalia…
Two of the best cards in Standard are Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Collected Company. Thalia, Heretic Cathar is great with and against either of these cards! She has an especially interesting interaction with Collected Company. Consider the following Bant Humans deck and what Thalia, Heretic Cathar would add to it:
Thalia, Heretic Cathar allows us to keep the pressure on without opposing blockers forcing us to use our Dromoka's Command to clear the way. Instead we have the luxury of waiting until the following turn and potentially casting two removal spells in the same turn to clear out both opposing creatures. Or better yet, we can Collected Company into Reflector Mage to bounce the creature (while the second one is still tapped from Thalia's ability).
Thalia, Heretic Cathar plays great against Planeswalkers, especially Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. When their tokens enter tapped, they are much more vulnerable to an attack, say, from a 3/2 legendary first striker named Thalia, Heretic Cathar that we might happen to have that causes the tokens to be tapped. Thalia, Heretic Cathar is also great against Collected Company because the creatures will enter tapped and therefore can't hinder our attack by representing an untimely mid-combat block. This gives rise to an interesting dance in the Collected Company mirror. Consider the following:
I attack. You cast Collected Company mid-combat to find blockers. I cast my Collected Company in response and find Thalia, Heretic Cathar, which makes the creatures from your Collected Company enter the battlefield tapped. To play around this possibility, you'll have to play your Collected Company on your own turn, which means I can Reflector Mage or Collected Company into Reflector Mage with full information and your Collected Company will lose its surprise value (by surprise I mean no one knows which creatures you'll hit off the Company until you resolve it. Everyone should expect that open mana means Collected Company though).
I expect Thalia, Heretic Cathar to throw quite the monkey wrench into the Bant Company matchup — she very well might be what the deck needs to overtake W/G Tokens as the #1 deck in Standard.
I expect Thalia, Heretic Cathar to not only be a Standard powerhouse but also a Modern staple. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm a fan of W/G Hatebears in Modern. The deck is highly disruptive and able to pressure opponents. Consider the deck I played at Grand Prix Pittsburgh last year:
The Leonin Arbiter + Ghost Quarter combo is fairly oppressive, especially in conjunction with AEther Vial and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben providing additional tempo advantage. Add in Thalia, Heretic Cathar and suddenly opponents will have a difficult time ever casting spells. Stop and think for a moment just how awful a Scalding Tarn (or any fetchland) is against this deck. Under Thalia, Heretic Cathar, it enters the battlefield tapped, and under Leonin Arbiter you have to pay two mana to crack it. Consider the following scenario:
If I'm on the play and lead with first-turn Noble Hierarch into Thalia, Heretic Cathar, your second land of the game enters the battlefield tapped. Then if I play Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Leonin Arbiter on the following turn, you're basically never going to get to cast a spell the entire game. The seven points of damage I'm attacking you with each turn will bury you in three turns. It'll take you that long just to cast Abrupt Decay! And it's not like Tarmogoyf getting under Thalia, Guardian of Thraben's tax will help you since it enters tapped from Thalia, Heretic Cathar's tax. I plan to have so much fun in Modern with these twin sisters!
And if you thought Thalia, Heretic Cathar makes Scalding Tarn look bad in Modern, imagine how much worse Evolving Wilds is going to be in Standard with Thalia, Heretic Cathar causing it to enter the battlefield tapped!