When the almost-full moon reaches the top of the sky across North America on Saturday morning, it will be midnight and Magic players all across the country will be ripping open their first packs of Eldritch Moon in midnight prerelease events. Maybe you will be one of these players, eschewing slumber in order to be among the first to touch the new set with your hands, to play actual games with them. Regardless of when you start your prerelease weekend, the goal is the same. Spoilers are fine, but all any Magic player really wants is to get their hands on the real thing as quickly as possible.
What are your goals for prerelease weekend? You want to see how the cards interact with each other and with the cards from Shadows over Innistrad. Maybe you’re mostly a constructed player and you’ve already picked out some Eldritch Moon cards that you want to get for your decks. Maybe you’re planning to play some competitive Eldritch Moon sealed deck in the coming weeks, as I am, in the new Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier season. Maybe all you want to do is have fun trying out the new cards. There’s a good chance that the store where you play is giving away Eldritch Moon booster packs as prizes at your prerelease. If that’s the case, then no matter what your other goals are, wouldn’t it be a good idea to put as many of these prize packs as possible into your own backpack at the end of the prerelease? I thought so. I’ve been playing in these things for as long as they’ve been happening, prereleases I mean, and there’s a good chance that I can help you win more packs at your Eldritch Moon prerelease.
Sealed Deck Basics
For this article, I’m taking for granted that you know how to play sealed deck. Thanks to prerelease events, sealed deck is a format that almost every Magic player takes up at least three or four times a year. While I’m taking for granted that you’ve played sealed deck before, there are some things that every player needs to hear over and over again.
Play forty cards. In sealed deck and booster draft the deck size minimum is forty. That makes the proper number of cards for your deck; forty. Not forty-one or forty-two; forty. There are few times in Magic that you can be more sure that you are right about something as when you commit to playing just forty cards in your sealed deck. Sealed deck, by the way, is the format where the most players are swayed to play more than the minimum number of cards. They, of course, are wrong. I’ve done it myself and you know what? I was wrong whenever I did it as well. Your job, in sealed deck, is to find the best twenty-three cards in about two colors that go together the best and join them with seventeen land. I’m quite sure everyone in the room has more than twenty-three sweet cards that they would like to play. The correct move is to play the minimum number, the correct number, FORTY. Every time, every single time, that you play more than forty cards you are hurting your deck a little bit. If you do decide to play forty-one cards, don’t ever complain that you were *one card away* from the one you needed to win. You did that, you put that extra card in the way. If you can’t figure out what amazing card you can cut so that your deck can be exactly forty cards, let me try to help you. Cut a card that isn’t either a creature or a card that gets rid of an opposing player’s creature. Cut the card that draws you more cards, or cut that enchantment that will do something cool for you only once in a while. Every forty card sealed deck is a little better than the same deck with one more card in it.
Mana bases may expand with Eldritch Moon. Most players found that twenty-three creatures and spells and seventeen land was the right mix in Shadows over Innistrad. If, with Eldritch Moon, you find that the format is indeed a little slower, that you need more six and even seven mana cost spells in your deck, then you might want to go to eighteen land. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Eldritch Moon is an eighteen land sealed format. My first impression, however, tells me that more streamlined decks, ones that might have just one or two cards that cost six or seven mana, will still want to stick with seventeen land.
The new play mechanics from Eldritch Moon are interesting but you just don’t see that much of them among the cards you are most likely to play in sealed deck at the prerelease. Meld will be the least useful. Meld is an ability that causes special pairs of cards to leave the battlefield and return melded together as one larger card. The only pair of these that doesn’t involve a rare or mythic is the pairing of Graf Rats and Midnight Scavengers, a pair of commons that cost 1B and 4B respectively. At the beginning of combat on your turn, if you both own and control each of these, you exile them and then meld them into Chittering Host, a double-sized flip card with haste and menace that gives other creatures you control +1/+0 and menace on the turn it enters the battlefield. Meld will be super fun, but you won’t see much of it in sealed deck play.
Escalate is a new ability that you find on some sorceries and instants that have multiple modes. You can add the escalate cost of a card to that card’s casting cost when you choose more than one mode for the card when you cast it. For example, Borrowed Grace is a common instant for 2W that has an escalate cost of 1W. When you play Borrowed Grace you decide if you would like to give creatures you control +2/+0 or give creatures you control +0/+2. If you want both modes to happen you pay a total of 3WW.
Emerge is an ability found only on a series on a dozen colorless Eldrazi creature cards. Emerge gives each of these cards an alternative casting cost that you can pay by sacrificing another creature you don’t mind getting rid of in order to play an expensive colorless Eldrazi creature for a cheaper price. All twelve of these creatures have interesting things that happen when you cast them or when they enter the battlefield.
I am less impressed with the new mechanics of Eldritch Moon as I am with the way this new set expands the use of mechanics from Shadows over Innistrad, particularly delirium.
Now for the fun part. I want to share some individual cards that I think will be important in Eldritch Moon sealed decks. I only spend time talking about commons and uncommons because they are the cards you will see and use the most. I trust you to figure out the best way to use your powerful rares and mythics.
If you already liked white in Shadows over Innistrad, you’re going to be very happy with Eldritch Moon. Humans matter more than ever before. There are plenty of new opportunities to put 1/1 white Spirit creature tokens onto the battlefield. White cards now care about delirium. While Eldritch Moon, on the whole, feels a little slower to me than Shadows over Innistrad, I don’t really see that with the white commons and uncommons. Here are a few that I’ll be paying a lot of attention to for my sealed decks.
Blessed Alliance is an uncommon instant for 1W that has three modes and the new escalate ability. The three modes allow me to choose to either make a target player gain four life, to untap up to two target creatures, or most importantly to make a target opponent sacrifice an attacking creature. This spell is pretty good without escalate and even better with it. Most of the time I think you’ll want to pay two colorless mana for escalate in order to add a second mode when you cast this spell. It will be pretty good, after your opponent declares attackers, for you to pay a total of 3W to untap two of your own tapped creatures and cause your opponent to sacrifice an attacking creature. There will be plenty of times when your opponent is only attacking with one creature anyway, it’ll be their one creature with flying, for example. When that happens, you’ll be glad to play Blessed Alliance and choose only the third mode and pay only 1W at instant speed.
Choking Restraints is a common enchantment for 2W. The creature you enchant with this spell cannot attack or block. At any time, you can spend 3WW to sacrifice Choking Restraints and exile the enchanted creature. The initial cost of this spell is one more than a typical Pacifism-like enchantment, but the secondary ability, though expensive, makes this card much better than usual. On turn three, four or five, you mostly just need a way to keep that monster on the other side of the board from attacking or blocking. However, there are tons of creatures that have activated or even permanent abilities that hurt you even when they aren’t attacking or blocking. This card lets you solve these kinds of problems. The price for the sacrifice ability is high, but I believe it will be worth it when you need to exile a problem creature. Try not to think of it as a spell that costs eight mana to exile a creature.
Courageous Outrider is an uncommon 3/4 Human Scout for 3W that triggers when he enters the battlefield to allow you to look at the top four cards of your library and reveal a Human card from those and put it into your hand. You put the rest of the cards on the bottom of your library in any order. This is the kind of thing that green sees more often than white. That’s okay, there are a lot of Humans (but less than in Shadows) among the green cards as well.
Extricator of Sin is an uncommon 0/3 Human Cleric for 2W. When this enters the battlefield you may sacrifice another permanent. If you do, put a 3/2 colorless Eldrazi Horror creature token onto the battlefield. Why would you want to sacrifice one of your other permanents? Because you want to get delirium. At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have delirium, your Extricator of Sin transforms into Extricator of Flesh, a 3/5 Eldrazi Horror that gives Eldrazi you control vigilance. Also, Extricator of Flesh allows you to pay two generic mana and sacrifice a non-Eldrazi creature to put a colorless 3/2 Eldrazi Horror creature token onto the battlefield. That’s a lot of card for just 2W.
Faith Unbroken is an uncommon enchantment for 3W that enchants a creature you control and gives it +2/+2. When Faith Unbroken enters the battlefield it exiles a target creature that an opponent controls until Faith Unbroken leaves the battlefield. This is a removal spell that has the burden of requiring you to (a) have a creature to enchant and (b) keep that enchanted creature alive so that the opposing creature remains exiled for as long as possible. The +2/+2 should help but you’ll have to think twice before attacking or blocking with your enchanted creature. I still like the spell because you can get rid of any threat from the other side of the board.
Faithbearer Paladin is a common 3/4 Human Knight for 4W that has lifelink. I love a card like this at common and I think it will be easy for white decks to include one and occasionally two copies of this creature. This is a decent sized creature for white and will go well with combat tricks or enchantments.
Geist of the Lonely Vigil is an uncommon 2/3 Spirit Cleric with defender and flying for 1W. When you have delirium (four different card types in your graveyard) your Geist is able to attack as though she didn’t have defender. Good early game defense, she gets better the more able your deck is to achieve delirium.
Blue was hard to love in Shadows over Innistrad and I have to report that at first glance at least, nothing changes with Eldritch Moon. If anything, I think the cards in Eldritch Moon make it even harder to play blue than it was before. There are, however, some bright spots here and there.
Advanced Stitchwing is an uncommon 3/4 Zombie Horror with flying for 3UU. You can pay 2U and discard two cards from your hand to return Advanced Stitchwing to the battlefield tapped from the graveyard. Flying remains a highly coveted ability in Eldritch Moon and blue decks will be happy to have a meaty flyer like this one that you can return to play from the graveyard late in games.
Drag Under is a common sorcery for 2U that returns a target creature to its owner’s hand and draws you a card. This bounce effect will be troublesome for your opponent throughout the game and is cheap enough that you might still be able to cast another spell on your turn. This is one of the blue cards that helps promote blue as a good choice for tempo decks. I don’t know how many copies of this card you can afford to play, but probably one or two.
Geist of the Archives is an uncommon 0/4 Spirit with defender for 2U. At the beginning of your upkeep you scry for one. Yup. A few years ago, Sigiled Starfish was a must play and fit exactly in blue decks the way Geist of the Archives will today.
Laboratory Brute is a common 3/3 Zombie Horror for 3U that mills the top four cards of your library into your graveyard. Coined “Mill Giant” by Marshall Sutcliffe, this is a card you’re going to play if your deck has Zombie strategies and especially if you desire delirium.
Lunar Force is an uncommon enchantment for 2U. When an opponent casts a spell you may sacrifice Lunar Force to counter that spell. One measure of a good Magic card is that your opponents hate the card. Your opponents will hate it when you have Lunar Force in play. That’s my first clue that this is a good card. Playing it on turn three will probably result in you taking some damage from whatever they played on their second or third turn before you, but I like your chances of nullifying a better spell that cost more mana than Lunar Force. I can’t imagine playing more than one of these in a sealed deck, but we’ll just have to see how good it is.
Scour the Laboratory is an uncommon instant for 4UU that draws you three cards. If you have delirium this spell costs only 2UU. At either price, this card is powerful card draw that you can disguise with instant speed. When you have exactly six mana in play and you tap out in your main phase to play a spell like this you’re telling your opponent that you will be completely helpless during their next turn. When you, the blue player, pass the turn with six untapped mana, you will cause your opponent to think very carefully about what they do during their next turn. When you tap out at the end of their next turn in order to draw three cards at instant speed they won’t like it a bit.
Boon of Emrakul is a common enchantment for 2B. Enchant a creature giving it +3/-3. There will be times when you actually put this on one of your own big-butted creatures to make it more powerful but most of the time, on turns three through six, you’ll be destroying one of your opponent’s creatures. This card will eliminate a wide range of creatures.
Certain Death is a common sorcery for 5B that destroys a target creature. The targeted creature’s controller loses two life and you gain two life. The part that matters is the part where you destroy a target creature. You know, the “certain death” part. Sure, this card costs a lot, which means you may only be able to afford to play one copy in your sealed deck. You can’t afford to have more than a few spells that cost this much mana, but you’ll be glad you have the ability to kill a creature late in the game. The life loss for your opponent could even become relevant.
Dusk Feaster is an uncommon 4/5 Vampire with flying for 5BB. If you have delirium this card only costs 3BB. This is a big flyer, relative to the format, and he’s probably worth the price at seven mana. I know for certain that he’s worth five mana, so make sure you have a good plan for achieving delirium.
Haunted Dead is an uncommon 2/2 Zombie for 3B that enters the battlefield with a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying. For 1B, you can discard two cards to return Haunted Dead from the graveyard back to the battlefield. Yes, you’ll get a free Spirit token each time this happens. This card obviously has a home in black/white decks but it’s also fine in decks without white.
Olivia’s Dragoon is a common 2/2 Vampire Berserker for 1B. You can discard a card to give this creature flying until end of turn. The card enables madness and gives you the ability to grant this little guy flying whenever you need on either offense or defense.
Alchemist’s Greeting is a common sorcery for 4R that deals four damage to a target creature. It has a madness cost of just 1R. You probably need this card in your deck anyway, but how much better is it when you can discard it to some other ability and pay just two mana for its madness cost?
Blood Mist is an uncommon enchantment for 3R. At the beginning of combat on your turn you may give a target creature you control double strike until end of turn. You have to play this card. If this were a one-use-only instant it would possibly see play. Cards like this have a way of burning a hole through your pocket anyway, wanting you to use them as soon as you see a good opening. Perfect. Feel free to tap out on turn four to play this enchantment and then enjoy the benefits of having one of your creatures gain double strike each turn, including the turn you played Blood Mist. You don’t want two copies, though, one is enough.
Brazen Wolves is a common 2/3 Wolf for 2R that gets +2/+0 when it attacks. These wolves are brazen, so attack with them already!
Galvanic Bombardment is a common instant for one red mana that deals X damage to a target creature where X is two plus the number of cards in your graveyard named Galvanic Bombardment. This means that the first Galvanic Bombardment that you play will deal two damage, but your second one will deal three and your third will deal four and so on after that. That means you want to play as many copies of this common as you have access to. Even if you only have one, however, you will probably want to play it in this environment.
Incendiary Flow is an uncommon sorcery for 1R that deals three damage to either a target creature or player. If a creature is dealt damage this way and it would die this turn exile it instead. It’s too bad it’s a sorcery and also an uncommon but this card is good news for the format. Eldritch Moon red decks will have more access to burn spells than Shadows over Innistrad decks. That’s good news for Magic pyromaniacs everywhere (like me).
Otherworldly Outburst is a common instant for one red mana that gives a target creature +1/+0 until end of turn. When that creature dies this turn put a 3/2 colorless Eldrazi Horror creature token onto the battlefield. You get to cause a lot of mayhem for just one mana with this card. Don’t get confused, the line “when that creature dies this turn” doesn’t mean that Otherworldly Outburst kills anything. Getting the creature that you give +1/+0 to die is your problem. You play this during combat to either help your creature (that was going to die in combat anyway) deal one more damage or you might even give your opponent’s attacking or blocking creature the +1/+0. The key is to make sure you target a creature that is going to die in combat. When it does (this turn) you get a 3/2 monster. That’s a lot of business for a one casting cost common instant.
Smoldering Werewolf is an uncommon 3/2 Werewolf Horror for 2RR. When this creature enters the battlefield it deals one damage to each of up to two target creatures. For 4RR you can transform Smoldering Werewolf into Erupting Dreadwolf, a colorless 6/4 Eldrazi Werewolf that deals two damage to target creature or player when it attacks. I believe this card is worth playing in many red decks even if you never transform it.
Spreading Flames is an uncommon instant for 6R that deals six damage divided any way you choose among any number of target creatures. More burn! Red was already a good secondary color of Shadows over Innistrad sealed deck. Red gets better in Eldritch Moon. This one costs seven mana so be careful that you don’t overload your deck with too many expensive spells.
Green was a solid choice for Shadows over Innistrad sealed decks and it’s just as good in Eldritch Moon. Green has synergies for Humans, Wolves and Werewolves, and also has some removal cards as well. Green will be a very popular choice at Eldritch Moon prereleases.
Backwoods Survivalists is a common Human Warrior for 3G. This creature gets +1/+1 and trample when you have delirium. This card is fine without delirium and quite good when you have delirium.
Clear Shot is an uncommon instant for 2G that gives a target creature you control +1/+1 and then deals damage equal to your target creature’s power to a target creature you don’t control. While Rabid Bite from Shadows over Innistrad costs one mana less, Clear Shot boosts your creature until end of turn and, much more importantly, Clear Shot is an instant. This is a must play for any green deck. It’s very interesting that green gets removal spells like this one from time to time.
Kessig Prowler is an uncommon 2/1 Werewolf Horror for just one green mana. This creature is an excellent turn one play. However, when you draw this card later in the game you can continue to get usefulness from it. For 4G you can transform Kessig Prowler into Sinuous Predator, a colorless 4/4 Eldrazi Werewolf that cannot be blocked by more than one creature.
Noose Constrictor is an uncommon 2/2 Snake for 1G. This creature has reach and you can discard a card to give Noose Constrictor +1/+1 until end of turn. This makes Noose Constrictor a madness enabler for green/black or green/red decks. It’s also just good to have a creature with reach in your deck to help defend against flyers.
Somberwald Stag is an uncommon 4/3 Elk for 3GG. When this creature enters the battlefield you may have it fight a target creature you don’t control. Maybe you will use this to get card advantage by fighting against a creature with toughness two or less. Maybe you will want to trade this card for a creature with toughness of three or four. Other times, if all of your opponent’s creature are bigger than the Stag, you may not want to fight at all. This card gives you a lot of flexibility, but it’s basically a green removal spell that might also stick around and provide a creature for your side of the board.
Swift Spinner is a common 2/3 Spider for 3G that has flash and reach. This is exactly the kind of card that green players wished they had available to them in Shadows over Innistrad. In a world where the sky can quickly be full of 1/1 white Spirit tokens, reach is important. Four mana is about one mana more than you would like to spend for a 2/3 but you get the value of flash, the ability to play Swift Spinner anytime you could play an instant.
Woodcutter’s Grit is a common instant for 2G that gives a target creature you control +3/+3 and hexproof until end of turn. Here’s the typical scenario. You attack with a creature that your opponent doesn’t care for. He doesn’t want your creature to get through for damage so he plays a removal spell targeting your creature. For three mana you play Woodcutter’s Grit making your creature untargetable by their removal spell, countering their spell. Oh, and your dude gets +3/+3 until end of turn as well. Other times, this spell will be more important because it pumps up your creature on attack or defense. Either way, it’s worth the cost because this spell does both of these things at the same time.
There are a handful of uncommon and common colorless Eldrazi creatures. Each of these feature an alternate casting cost using the new merge mechanic. All of these are interesting choices for decks that can take advantage of that card’s emerge cost. Here’s one example, although I think all of these are playable in Eldritch Moon sealed deck.
Abundant Maw is an uncommon 6/4 Eldrazi Leech for eight generic mana. This card has an alternate cost of 6B thanks to its emerge ability. That means that you can play this spell by sacrificing a creature and paying the emerge cost minus the sacrificed creature’s converted mana cost. What if you sacrifice a creature that originally cost you 3B? You would be able to play Abundant Maw for the low cost of 2B instead of paying eight generic mana. These creatures give you the ability to trade up, more or less exchanging some creature you no longer need for a more powerful creature. By the way, when Abundant Maw enters the battlefield a target opponent loses three life and you gain three life.
There are five new equipment cards among Eldritch Moon’s artifacts. They are, on the whole, no more exciting than the equipment cards from Shadows over Innistrad.
Terrarion is a common artifact for one generic mana that enters the battlefield tapped. You can spend two generic mana and sacrifice Terrarion to put two mana of any combination of colors into your mana pool. Also, when Terrarion goes to the graveyard you draw a card.
Prepare for Fun
Eldritch Moon is going to be a lot of fun to play in sealed deck games and in booster drafts and probably in Two-Headed Giant. I hope you try all three this weekend.
Thanks for reading.
Trackback from your site.