This week I was fortunate enough to be invited by Wizards of the Coast to participate in their early access event for Throne of Eldraine. I streamed for a little over eight hours:
Now that I've gotten to play a bunch in this format, I want to talk about the cards that stood out most to me. This format has some powerful stuff in it, but these are the five cards that impressed me most on both sides of the battlefield.
Emry is more obviously busted in Modern, but she's still an incredible recursion engine here in Standard. We saw just how easy it is for Emry to cost one or two mana, and at that rate she's an absolute steal. The legendary artifact cycle, Vantress Gargoyle and Stonecoil Serpent were among the most powerful things to continue to recast from the graveyard each time they were answered. Emry fueling herself is a big part of her strength, but if you work with her she scales even harder into the late game.
This is one of the more powerful decks I was able to play this week. The Great Henge is incredibly powerful alongside these early large bodies, and Emry, Lurker of the Loch is very good at making sure you keep a reasonably sized body in play to cast it, or just casting the Henge itself from the yard. Once you have The Great Henge in play things get out of control very quickly, as the card gains you life, gains you mana, and gains you cards with each and every creature you put into play—including Cauldron Familiar being brought back from the 'yard repeatedly.
While the original list I built of this deck played a pair of The Cauldron of Eternity, Autumn Burchett made the change to Bolas's Citadel which gave the deck both another engine piece that could be recurred with Emry as well as some much-needed closing power. These types of decks are often capable of almost invalidating midrange and control strategies if they're powerful enough, so keep an eye on this one.
One of the big weaknesses of some of the more powerful cards in the set like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Fires of Invention is that while they are very powerful with and against singular high-impact cards, they're very weak to a lot of smaller cards. Action economy is often a very important concept in Eternal formats, as you need to keep up with your opponents' very efficient, often very linear game plans. Standard can often revolve around impact per action, but if you're able to overwhelm your opponent by just volume of actions you can often make their cards look embarrassing. Murderous Rider // Swift End is an incredibly powerful card, but is poorly positioned against a swarm of smaller creatures trying to beat you down. This is where Edgewall Innkeeper shines, as the card is tailor-made to support a high volume of small Adventure creatures while keeping your hand stocked so you can continue to take more actions than your opponent.
This deck building incentive of demanding you play a lot of low-cost Adventure creatures plays incredibly well with convoke. Venerated Loxodon is one of the most powerful aggressive cards that survived rotation, allowing you to cast an often free 4/4 that puts five +1/+1 counters on your team. Lovestruck Beast // Heart's Desire supplies both cheap creatures and another large body to pair with the incredibly flexible Faerie Guidemother. Gift of the Fae can launch your giant creature into the air to attack your opponent, or pair with Might of the Masses to offer some incredible closing power without using many card slots.
I think this is one of the archetypes being slept on. Traditionally the way to beat small, go-wide decks is to use sweepers, but there's an incredible amount of card advantage built in to this Adventure shell that mitigates the effectiveness of the first or even second sweeper.
Where Edgewall Innkeeper is all about action economy, Fires of Invention is all about impact per turn. You're limited to just two spells a turn, but you can get a lot of mana out of those two cards. There's a deck building tension with Fires of Invention where you want early interaction so you can live to find your Fires, but cheap interaction and early removal are often a waste of one of your two spells once you do. Conversely, you want a lot of high-impact cards costing four to six mana, but drawing too many of those cards can leave you with very clunky early hands.
Despite this tension, Fires of Invention is one of the most powerful cards in the set. Whenever you're allowed to cheat on mana in Magic it's never fair, and that remains true here.
The Adventure creatures here go a long way toward addressing the early interaction problems. Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp and Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft allow you to fill multiple early turns with a single card, and they're reasonably sized creatures after you're in go mode. As a quick note, Petty Theft does not allow you to bounce your own permanents, so once you have a Fires of Invention on the battlefield you're committed to that mode of play.
The Cavaliers are the real stars of this deck. They're gigantic, high-impact threats that punish your opponent for answering them and present a brutally fast clock. Cavalier of Flame is probably the single best card to pair with Fires of Invention as it gives itself and the rest of your board haste, allowing you to deploy multiple five-drops and immediately attack. It's also a very good way to sink your mana once you're no longer using it, and with fliers that extra damage stacks up quickly. That said, this deck revolves heavily around Fires of Invention, so I've included Sphinx of Foresight as a way to more consistently set up your game.This blue-red build of this archetype is probably not the most powerful, but it is one of the most consistent builds I've seen, and when what you're doing is already so powerful I think it is worth sacrificing just a bit of power for a lot more consistency.
The Great Henge is not about action economy, nor action impact, but all about action itself. We've seen a lot of very successful engine cards in Standard: Risen Reef in Elementals, Champion of Dusk in Vampires before rotation, Guild Summit in Gates. We've even got new engine cards in the form of Emry, Lurker of the Loch and Edgewall Innkeeper. But The Great Henge has an edge on all of these cards—The Great Henge has no restriction. The Great Henge doesn't care about a type line on your creatures at all. As long as you can put the Henge in play, every single creature you cast will draw you cards.
While this does require you to have a reasonably sized creature in play first, The Great Henge gives you life, mana and cards, an incredible trio of resources to have. The life gives you time, the mana allows you to cast all of the cards you draw, and every creature you draw is yet more cards. This is one of the most powerful and least restrictive engine cards we've seen in a long, long time.
This is a deck where The Great Henge is not a centerpiece. This deck wants to play ridiculously high-mana things on very early turns in every single game. Castle Garenbrig and Nissa, Who Shakes the World give you an incredible amount of redundancy in allowing your turn three or four to be absolutely ludicrous with access to five mana. Once Upon a Time allows you to very consistently drop early mana dorks that make those starts possible. Voracious Hydra, Hydroid Krasis and Feasting Troll King are your large creatures to use that mana and overwhelm your opponent.
The Great Henge here is just a quiet, extra piece of ramp that makes your dead draw mana dorks late in the game into extra cards. It allows you to apply more pressure without overcommitting. Ramp decks often sacrifice resources to play larger threats ahead of time, and The Great Henge allows this deck more consistent access to a steady stream of cards to inevitably overwhelm the opponent, without relying on things like Mass Manipulation.
Unlike the rest of this list, Oko, Thief of Crowns isn't a card that enables powerful play patterns. Oko himself has powerful play patterns.
The fact that Oko's ability to change any creature or artifact into a textless 3/3 is a +1 ability, not a -1, is mind boggling. Oko can arrive on turn two or three and generate a Food token. Oko's next turn can then either make that Food token into a 3/3 or trade it for an opposing creature. The very. Next. Turn. That is a wild amount of pressure on both opposing creatures and opposing planeswalkers. In order to protect a Teferi, Time Raveler from an Oko you have to bounce the Food token! If you play Gilded Goose into Oko and make a Food token, bouncing either the Goose or the Food token results in the other attacking Teferi. If Teferi doesn't bounce either and just ticks up, the Food token attacks Teferi for 3, immediately taking away the ability to bounce anything.
Oko, Thief of Crowns invalidating opposing cards is going to be a recurring theme in this format. Over and over Oko is going to change important artifacts, lategame threats and otherwise irrelevant Food tokens into 3/3s, and on stalled boards Oko generates a board presence and threatens to steal away opposing creatures.
Oko, Thief of Crowns is very powerful when paired with early acceleration, and this deck aims to play Oko early and often. When using Oko you want additional ways to not get overwhelmed and an ability to take advantage of stalled boards, and this deck is very capable of both. Deputy of Detention and Teferi, Time Raveler buy you time and Chulane, Teller of Tales can take over a game on its own. Hydroid Krasis takes advantage of all your mana and Once Upon a Time allows you to spend some of your excess mana to search up the creatures you need to stabilize the situation.
This deck is not the most flashy, and will often be incredibly unfun to play against as Oko and Teferi pinch opponent's options in gameplay. But it has a lot of raw power and acceleration, as well as the capability to lock your opponent by repeatedly picking up Frilled Mystic with Chulane. This format has a lot of options, but the cards in Bant allow you to cut many off to your opponent.
Throne of Eldraine Standard so far has been a ton of fun, but over the next week or two I'll be putting my ear to the ground and my nose to the grindstone as we return to the usual weekly metagame reports that you all have come to expect from me. After this week my article will be moving back to its usual Wednesday slot so you can read it and prepare yourselves for week one PTQs, SCG Philly and any local events you may have. For now, enjoy your Prereleases and dig into all the content available as Throne of Eldraine kicks off this weekend!
Adam "yoman5" Hernandez is a streamer, brewer and competitive player with a keen sense for what makes a deck tick. He writes about changes in the Standard metagame and the art of deckbuilding.
Connect: Twitch Twitter PodBean