Eldritch Moon is coming, and there's a lot to be excited about, but I'm especially eager to start experimenting with tribal synergies. Shadows over Innistrad introduced some new tribes to Standard (Vampires, Zombies, and Spirits) but didn't provide us with enough tools for these tribes to work — it only teased at things to come. Eldritch Moon gives these tribes new tools and finally gives them the critical mass of cards necessary to function, so they are now in position to compete with the top-tier of the metagame.
The marquee tribe of the world of Innistrad are the Vampires, which employ the madness mechanic to profit from discarding. This tribe in particular was the most supported in Shadows over Innistrad,but attempts to make it competitive were ultimately failed endeavors. Early versions of the deck were pigeonholed by a lack of diverse tools, but Eldritch Moon provides the deck with a wide assortment of both efficient madness enablers and potent payoff cards. Now there are wealth of Vampire options, and there's multiple directions to take the tribe.
The Vampire that stands out as having the most potential is Stromkirk Condemned, a re-usable madness outlet that comes with the valuable bonus of being a pseudo-anthem for all Vampires. A madness outlet with significant Vampire synergy is exactly what the tribe needed, and it will provide a fantastic base for building an aggressive Vampire deck. Making the most of its +1/+1 ability means putting a lot of creatures into play, and that's exciting because of how well that plan supports another fantastic new tool, Voldaren Pariah.
The madness cost of Voldaren Pariah makes it an efficient threat and a fantastic follow-up to a turn-two outlet. The ability to sacrifice other creatures and flip makes it a potent threat, and something worth working towards. The triple-black cost demands a mono-black deck, and combined with Stromkirk Condemned it will provide a fantastic base for such a deck. It would look something like this:
The plan of flooding the board with creatures makes Call the Bloodline an obvious choice here. It's a fantastic complement to Stromkirk Condemned and Heir of Falkenrath to give this deck a very solid core of Madness outlets to work with. It's also a fantastic turn one-play in a deck without lands that come into play tapped but without many other great turn-one options.
Indulgent Aristocrat is another turn-one play with great Vampire synergy. Its ability is an anthem for the team, so it's great with the main plan of flooding the board, and it can get out of hand quickly with Call the Bloodline providing fuel.
Gisa's Bidding and From Under the Floorboards don't add to Vampire synergy, but they are great sacrifice fodder for Voldaren Pariah and Indulgent Aristocrat, and they attack and block well. Sinister Concoction is a great Madness outlet and a clean removal spell for all of the creature threats in the format.
A new card that's a great addition to any madness strategy is a copy of Geier Reach Sanitarium. It's a madness outlet on a land, so it's nearly immune to any interference. It's very valuable against control decks that will aggressively target madness outlets.
Collective Brutality is a great madness outlet, and while I don't necessarily want it in every matchup, it seems like a great tool from the sideboard against decks where I know I can use the discard or creature removal mode, especially both, with the potential for further value from the life drain mode.
Vampires received some great red tools in Eldritch Moon too, like Stromkirk Occultist as an exciting madness payoff. Its cheap madness cost is particularly exciting, especially with Insolent Neonate enabling it on turn two. Connecting with the opponent and generating card advantage is a clear path to victory, so with the right support it could be a real threat.
Bloodhall Priest is as notable for its large 4/4 size and efficient three-mana Madness cost as it is for its two-damage ability, which offers the potential for both immediate value and incremental advantage every turn it stays in play. Madness decks have the tools to empty their hand, which they already have incentive to do with Asylum Visitor, so Bloodhall Priest seems like a clear winner in any B/R Vampire Madness deck. Here's what I put together:
Zombies have not had the necessary cards to assemble anything close to a competitive deck during Shadows over Innistad Standard, a fact glaringly obvious to anyone performing a Gatherer search for Zombies. The nuts and bolts of the tribe simply weren't there, but Eldritch Moon changes things with an assortment of new cards that define what the deck is doing and give it a push into the competitive.
The most important new zombie is Cryptbreaker, which gives the tribe a quality one-mana play that retains its value throughout the course of the game. It comes with a lot of abilities on one card, and it sets the direction for what the Zombie tribe is doing in Standard. The ability to tap Zombies to draw cards allows Cryptbreaker to generate card advantage, and it defines Zombies as a deck that seems to flood the board, generate massive value, and overwhelm the opponent. It also comes with the ability to generate Zombie Tokens, which works works well with the ability to draw Zombies, but also provides a fantastic graveyard enabler and madness outlet.
Eldritch Moon brings Liliana's Elite, which grows larger for each creature in its controller's graveyard. As a Zombie, it's the perfect complement to Diregraf Colossus, which also benefits from a stocked graveyard. It's clear that making the most of Zombies means using the graveyard, and having two different creatures that grow with the graveyard means there is now significant incentive to take this route. Zombies has had some tools to do this, like Screeching Skaab, and it now gets a black version with Wailing Ghoul. Things are taken a step further with Gisa and Geralf, the new legend that mills four cards:
Gisa and Geralf generates immediate value by stocking the graveyard, and if left in play it will generate massive advantage by casting Zombies from the graveyard. This ability also makes it an ideal means to trigger Prized Amalgam.
If there's anything that pushes Zombies from good to great, it's Liliana, the Last Hope, which seems tailor-made for the tribe with the ability to stock the graveyard and generate value from it. The ability to Shrink creatures helps it protect itself, and helps Zombies tackle with larger creatures, and it even clears small things like Plant Tokens to make Fleshbag Marauder more effective.
Zombies has some great tools, like Relentless Dead, Nantuko Husk, and even Risen Executioner — it's just a matter of putting them all together correctly. There are different paths to take, but here's what I had in mind:
A fantastic tool for this self-mill creature deck is Corpseweft, which should have plenty of fuel, and will give control decks nightmares.
Rattlechains has found some success in competitive Standard based on its merits as an efficient flying creature with Flash, not because of its tribal affiliation. With Eldritch Moon, the ability to give a Spirit hexproof or play a Spirit at instant speed will be a valuable asset. Spirits are supported heavily in Eldritch Moon, and they can claim to have in their ranks what might be the single best card in the set, Spell Queller.
Early reports indicate that Spirits decks are extremely competitive and will shake up the established order of the Standard metagame. Everyone has their own take on how to build the deck, but I have some friends who have actually been putting some testing hours in, so I'm excited to share the decklist they've arrived at:
The deck plays an aggressive tempo game that seeks to keep the opponent on the back foot at all points, similar to Faeries or a Delver of Secrets deck, whether it be the old Standard white/blue deck or one of the many Legacy versions. It's nearly entire focused around cards with flash, so it can operate on the opponent's turn to best navigate their cards.
My friends didn't give me a sideboard, so I've designed one, so if you copy this decklist please follow your own intuitions when tuning the sideboard.
Mausoleum Wanderer might not look like it, but it's this deck's version of Cursecatcher or Judge's Familiar, and having it on turn one is going to make an opponent's life all the more difficult. It adds valuable damage to the race, and it can even counter spells by surprise when flashed in with Rattlechains.
Selfless Spirit protects more high-value spirits, like Spell Queller, and it gives the deck some built-in resistance against board sweepers like Radiant Flames. It can also be used proactively to break the parity on your own board sweepers like sideboard Planar Outburst.
This sort of strategy is the perfect home for Unsubstantiate, which makes it an ideal candidate for the Spirits deck, and it will be one of the decks finest tools going forward for disrupting spells and creatures alike. It is this flexibility that makes Unsubstantiate so excellent in nearly every situation, and it's something that has to be played with to be truly appreciated.
This deck takes fantastic advantage of Blessed Alliance. It's ultimate tool for winning a damage race, which this deck plans to do in the air with its flying creatures. Gaining life and making the opponent sacrifice an attacking creature is a huge swing that can buy a lot of time, and that's exactly what this deck will need against its most aggressive opponents.
Another new tool is Nebelgast Herald, which helps the deck contain attackers and get blockers out of the way, and with Flash is the perfect for strategy. It could certainly earn a spot in the maindeck, where it would punish decks like Humans, but it could also be effective out of the side.
Eldritch Moon contains some powerful Eldrazi creatures featuring the new emerge mechanic, which offers a steep discount on its mana-cost for the price of sacrificing a creature. These Emerge creatures, particularly Elder Deep-Fiend, Distended Mindbender, and Decimator of the Provinces remind me of the cycle of Titans (Grave Titan, Primeval Titan, et al), and they're going to take their place among the finest cards in Standard. They offer a new direction for the Eldrazi tribe, and any thorough Exploration of Eldritch Moon means taking advantage of them.
Emerge creatures change the way we see smaller Eldrazi creatures, which are no longer a plan in themselves, but part of a greater plan of accelerating into an emerge creature. Even the great Reality Smasher is liable to become sacrifice fodder, but there are other Eldrazi better-suited for the role, like Matter Reshaper. Splashing into other colors provides access to cards including Eldrazi Skyspawner, Scion Summoner, and Catacomb Sifter.
Eldritch Moon even complements the Dragons of Dragons of Tarkir with Mirrorwing Dragon, the friend Thunderbreak Regent has always wanted.
Mirrowing Dragon and Thunderbreak Regent certainly work well in tandem, but more importantly Mirrorwing Dragon provides a critical mass of dragons for cards like Draconic Roar. Now there are the tools to make a truly mono-red Dragon deck, which might look like this:
This deck seeks to take advantage of all the best burn spells in Standard, a plan made possible by the new Incendiary Flow, an efficient burn spell that hits creatures and players, and Collective Defiance, which offers the potential for value. Galvanic Bombardment doesn't hit players, but it's an efficient removal spell that offers an alternative to Fiery Impulse. Rending Volley from the sideboard is a nod towards an anticipated increased metagame share of W/U Spirits decks.
Standard's current best tribe, Humans, also benefits from Eldritch Moon, which offers some excellent new tools.
The most-hyped human of the new set is Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and for good reason. Having it in play really puts the opponent on the backfoot, so it's the perfect way for an aggressive deck to cement an early lead. It's a shoe-in for any Human deck, and its legendary status is the only thing holding it back.
The reprint of Hamlet Captain complements Thalia's Lieutenant and Always Watching, and it gives humans the option to be highly aggressive. This sort of strategy benefits the most from Thalia, Heretic Cathar, so perhaps it's the best direction to go from here. A W/G Human Aggro deck might look like:
What's your favorite tribe of Eldritch Moon? What new cards are you most excited about? Did I miss any old cards that have improved? Do you have any preliminary decklists you've put together? Share your ideas in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!