Hello everyone and welcome back to another week of brews and brew related topics! Last week, we got to take a look at Temur Dragonwalkers, which has proven to be strong even beyond that initial testing. If you are looking for an update to that list, be sure to stick around for the end of the article where I will do just that. Meanwhile, there is a brand new set on the horizon.
Eldritch Moon is the extension of Shadows over Innistrad block, where Emrakul reveals herself to be the cause of all sorts of issues and making creatures go crazy. As expected, many of the mechanics in Eldritch Moon have been seen in Shadows over Innistrad, but there are also some new mechanics. To be fair to the returning mechanics, Eldritch Moon should still mix things up as new twists to those mechanics, new synergies, new enablers, and more total cards with those mechanics all add up to new and exciting things.
Mechanics often have a huge impact on a format — sometimes creating entirely new archetypes, sometimes fueling existing ones, and sometimes warping the format in such a way that it becomes all about that mechanic (Affinity and Storm: I'm lookin' at you...). A new enchantment-based mechanic probably means some sweet new enchantment decks, as constellation showed us in Theros. Similarly, monstrous leads to decks wanting to go longer or ramp faster. Devotion led to a surge of mono-color decks, and so on. So, with that, let's take a look at the mechanics of Eldritch Moon and try to figure out exactly what implication they have for Standard.
Delirium is one of the returning mechanics in this set, which might lead one to write it off, expecting it to return much of the same results we have already seen. In general, delirium has only been worthwhile on a few cards, such as Traverse the Ulvenwald, but it has not really been a mechanic worth building an entire shell around, as there just haven't been enough payoffs.
I have explored delirium aggro before, but a 0/4 that becomes a 3/4 is not exactly the level of payoff that constructed needs. With Eldritch Moon, we are going to see a ton of new and exciting delirium cards enter the format. Once I have 16 or 20 cards in my deck asking the same thing from my deck building and play choices, I can more easily oblige. My deck is more likely to have good numbers of diverse card types and good numbers of enablers to get those cards into the graveyard.
This also means that graveyard hate may become more viable in an effort to combat delirium. We are unlikely to get extremely strong hate, such as Relic of Progenitus, but even weak spot removal can be enough to disrupt a mechanic which might hinge on a single card being in the yard, turning on the mechanic.
This is an interesting mechanic that certainly feels like the child of multikicker and entwine. While I would not expect this to appear on too many cards, even in small numbers, this can be a format defining mechanic. Remember the Command cycle? While Cryptic Command was the best of that bunch, nearly all of the Commands saw Standard play as they all providing a ton of utility and versatility. Now while those cards did not have a keyword, any card featuring escalate is going to feel a lot like a Command.
Even without the ability to escalate, modal cards like charms have always had a higher success rate than most groups of cards. If you decided to look at elves, or at morph creatures, for example, you will probably find a less overall percentage of constructed-viable cards than if you were to look at the various charms that have been printed over the years.
Escalate will probably most commonly just be used to gain one additional mode, turning a charm into a command, but the ability to go even further and gain all three (or more) modes, is pretty appealing.
The key with escalate is to be greedy, but not too greedy. Rarely will you want to fire them off at the first available opportunity, but waiting for perfect conditions so that you can cast all of the modes can be equally dangerous. This is why testing with these cards are so important. You need to understand the range for each escalate spell in each matchup. How easily is my opponent going to walk into a three-mode escalate spell? Can I afford to wait? Can I afford not to? Escalate is very skill-rewarding which leads me to think these will be popular in Constructed.
Madness, much like delirium, is going to get a boost simply from more of it existing. When you find three or four cards with madness that you want to run, it is that much easier to justify playing support for them. For example, with only Asylum Visitor in your deck, you have basically no incentive to include stuff that would discard him. If it ever happens due to an opposing effect, great, but getting to madness a single card in your deck is a very low payoff unless you wanted to run that card anyway.
But now imagine a world where Asylum Visitor is backed up by three other cards with madness. Now I have 16 cards in my deck and playing something that directly enables them, such as Tormenting Voice, becomes more attractive and likely more correct. Madness goes from a keyword appearing on stuff to having decks or sections of decks devoted to it.
I would expect the shape of black/red vampires to become very madness-heavy, with them receiving the majority of the good enablers and good madness options, but it wouldn't be crazy for a zombie deck to abuse the mechanic or maybe even some dedicated discard deck like 8-Rack.
With an entire set of new madness options, it will be exciting to see just how powerful the mechanic can be. Its days of contributing toward one of the best aggro/control decks in U/G Madness are over, but maybe it can resurface as something different!
As a mechanic, meld asks you to fuse multiple resources into a single one. This obviously comes with some serious costs to it. If your new Voltron can't protect itself, for example, any removal spell that can take it out is going to result in an innate two for one. It is possible that individual meld designs get around this, but much like playing with auras, you need to be careful of when and how you are looking to meld.
There is a good chance that some amount of the time, even if all of the conditions to meld two things together are in place, that you should actually not meld to avoid losing to a single Ruinous Path or Statis Snare. I imagine that a majority of the time, you should meld as the payoff is going to be huge and splashy (literally huge), but it is worth paying attention for times where an exception is correct.
While we have seen werewolf transformation and individual designs that transform for various reasons, we have not really seen the self-contained transformation that just asks for a mana cost to be paid.
I wanted to call out this transformation because it will actually play much closer to monstrous than to other forms of transformation we have seen. Most of the activation costs for these have been rather high and can only be used once, mimicking the general play pattern that monstrous used. Monstrous was a very constructed viable mechanic as long as the individual design was worthwhile such as Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon, so I would expect this style of transformation to be the same.
Remember that transformation is really weak to bounce spells like Unsummon, as those provide a huge mana advantage in these cases. Usually, bounce spells are weak in constructed, so this doesn't come up, but with Reflector Mage and Engulf the Shores both in the format, things are going back to your hand much more regularly, making these transform cards a little riskier than normal.
When I first saw this mechanic, I instantly thought back to the tribal offering mechanic that was in Kamigawa block. Patron of the Orochi is one of my favorite cards ever, in fact. Emerge is substantially different in that you do not need to be playing a specific tribe to get the benefit, allowing a much more open ended list of options to "combo" into an emerge creature.
For example, you can use mechanics that cheat on mana to cheat on emerge costs. If you cast your Myr Enforcer for one or two mana, its cost is still seven, so when I sacrifice that to an emerge creature, I am saving a full seven colorless off of that emerge cost. Any free creatures or mechanics like suspend offer some synergy with this mechanic and as a result, it may have quite the impact in Modern and maybe even Legacy.
In Standard, the mechanic should be used in a little more fair of a way, but mana reduction mechanics rarely remain fair. There is a good chance that one-of more of these cards slip through and become dominant in Standard. If you have brews in mind that use emerge, I suggest you get to testing now, as you may be the first one to break it.
Eldritch Moon is looking very fun and very powerful, but we still do have a few weeks of Standard without the newest set. Last week I showed off a sweet Temur Dragonwalkers deck that uses a ton of planeswalkers and dragons in a tap-out control deck. Planeswalkers are one of the card types getting a lot of love in Eldritch Moon, with multiple strong walkers already previewed, Oath of Liliana rounding out the cycle, and splashy build-arounds like Deploy the Gatewatch inspiring deck builders everywhere.
If the Temur shell we looked at can manage to adapt and possibly pick up a few colors, I imagine some form of planeswalker deck, complete with all sorts of Oaths, is going to be viable. To keep the planeswalker spirit alive until then, here is the updated version of the Dragonwalkers list, complete with some new Draconic Roars to help out against creature-lands.
The list is still being worked on, but my win rate has been incredible so far and I definitely recommend giving this a shot at your local FNM. Until next week, thanks for reading!