The first week of spoilers from Eldritch Moon proved to be fairly good. Lots of interesting, flavourful cards were revealed and while there were a good number of misses, there were plenty of hits as well, particularly Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Tamiyo, Field Researcher among others. The whole cosmic horror feel of the set is coming across well in all the cards, and that’s definitely a plus, since Shadows Over Innistrad dealt with it a bit tangentially whereas Eldritch Moon is the full and final realization for it. The plane of Innistrad is definitely doomed…
…unless Liliana, the Last Hope can save the day as she believes she can. We finally have the new card for Liliana, and it is definitely something that you have to see to believe (more on that below). We also got to see some more cool cards this past week, which help fill out the slots in various decks that needed them, such as spirits, which have gotten a big boost, and even zombies, to a degree. Werewolves still look to be a below average tribe though, and that’s mighty disappointing, given how much a signature element they are of the overall feel of the plane, and that last time they were much more competitive. Here goes…
First, the two signature cards of the new set, and the balance mythics we didn’t see last week.
And there it is. After years and years and years (more accurately, almost five years), the black-aligned planeswalker Liliana Vess finally gets a new card. Liliana, the Last Hope is a card that brings with it tons of hype and excitement. For one, it has been a while since we got a new card for the character. Second, she is one of the most famous and beloved characters in the game’s history. And third, her last outing as Liliana of the Veil was absolutely phenomenal, so much so that the card is the most expensive planeswalker card legal for Modern, a format for which it has been a staple since it was released pretty much.
However, the reality of the card is very different. And the reason for that is because this card is just completely underwhelming. Her +1 ability does have some uses in Standard, such as turning cards like Sylvan Advocate and Reflector Mage into dud attacks, and it just generally reduces the size of attackers a great deal, as Jace, Telepath Unbound does, but more useful too in a way since those creatures also become easier pickings for the horde of zombies that the card will be paired up with. Still, it is far too uninteresting an ability. Some other form of removal, or a flashy discard would have been more satisfactory. The -2 ability is actually more relevant, especially in a zombie-flavoured deck, since the zombie archetype is tied to self-milling and creatures such as Diregraf Colossus grow if you have more zombie creature cards in your graveyard. However, there is clearly a tension here, which I think comes across rather well, and forces you as the player to make some key decisions, which I like.
The ultimate though, I’m just really feeling low on. I expected it to be a very “zombiepocalypse” effect where she would create a ton of tokens at once, ready to crack for lethal immediately. But this, this feels so uninspired. Being a trigger at end-step means I can cast multiple zombies in my main phases and then leverage that into more tokens at the end of my turn, which is good, but this still feels low-key.
For a 4-mana planeswalker, I feel like Liliana, the Last Hope is very underpowered. She was likely nerfed at some point during development, and that kind of sucks. Still, there is lot of talk about her fitting into a zombie deck of some kind, and I’m interested to see how it all works out, whether in the first couple events after the release of the set, or at the Pro Tour.
It is really weird that Liliana’s Oath is a far more interesting and, I dare say, powerful card than Liliana herself. Obviously, the edict effect from the first bit of text on Oath of Liliana isn’t as powerful when we talk about facing down token decks, but even that can be relevant in some situations, and while the opponent is generally going to be sacrificing their weakest/most ineffective creature, it still helps to stabilize the board somewhat. The real power of the card comes from the second bit of text. It basically gives all your planeswalkers a one-time token generating effect, and that’s pretty great, especially for those planeswalkers that could really use it and those that already make tokens, such as Nissa, Voice of Zendikar or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Chandra, Flamecaller. I happen to play BW Control as my deck of choice for the current Standard format, and I’d love Oath of Liliana to help protect my Gideons and Ob Nixilis and Sorins.
A Collected Company but for planeswalkers. Very interesting, but sadly, this is not something for Standard or even Modern. To be even passingly viable, Collected Company requires a deck with at least 20 creatures that fulfill the requirement of having a converted mana cost of 3 or less, with an ideal number being 25. For this to work in Standard, we’d need a similar number of planeswalkers to be in the deck, and that just doesn’t work well enough for this card to be worth it. For Commander however, this looks to be a great boon, where you can much easily hit the numbers required to get at least one hit off of this, and is likely to be something of a staple in planeswalker-heavy decks, which isn’t exactly the strength of the Standard format.
This is probably one of the most interesting burn spells in recent years. If you can discard a sizable number of high-mana cards for the additional cost, then this can be a powerhouse of a card, but I suspect that this going to be relegated to niche play instead. It cannot hit players, and that’s a big drawback. However, if you discard value cards such as Fiery Temper or Bloodhall Priest or the like, then it becomes even better. Sadly, you can’t exactly discard any lands to this, as lands have a converted mana cost of zero. But any spell rotting in your hand becomes free value with this.
Players cried out for years for a legendary werewolf, and they were rewarded with the travesty that is Ulrich of the Krallenhorde. Players cried out for years for a legendary spider, and they were rewarded with the sleeping magnificence of Ishkanah, Grafwidow. This card is an absolute powerhouse. Since the introduction of the Delirium mechanic in Shadows Over Innistrad, I’ve been looking forward to seeing the mechanic break through in competitive play, but that didn’t happen because there are no real payoff cards for the GB Delirium deck other than Mindwrack Demon and a few middling uncommons. But Ishkanah looks set to change that in a big way. With Delirium active, she provides 6 power spread across four bodies with big butts, making it really good against spot removal and bounce spells. She also has a relevant secondary ability that works off the number of spiders you control, making this card really good for Commander spider-tribal decks. Also interesting to note, this card is basically a Spider Spawning from original Innistrad which has been stapled on to what would otherwise have been a generic creature. A Mindwrack Demon into an Ishkanah sounds like a brutal curve of creatures for the GBx Delirium deck, and I’m excited to see what comes of it in the weeks to come.
Grim Flayer is yet another card that boosts the GB Delirium deck to competitive levels of play. It is an excellent 2-drop that is also good in the late-game because of the Delirium effect, especially since it is a static effect rather than something temporary, such as an on-attack trigger. Having trample is also good, meaning it is able to clear through blockers, more so if it has any other power-boost effects on it. And like Mindwrack Demon, Grim Flayer is yet another enabler for the Delirium decks, except that it is more relevant and selective in that you choose what to put in the graveyard to enable Delirium, rather than just doing a regular self-mill. One of the best mythics in the set, I’m sure of it.
Moving over to the balance rares from the set…
Maybe it is just me, but I really like this card. Yeah, it is a bit expensive for what it does for any single mode at 3 mana, but you have to look at it a bit beyond that. The way I see it, a deck like GW Tokens wouldn’t mind having access to any of the modes here. Being a sorcery means you can’t really ambush the opponent in combat, but all the same it has a decent power level. And the Escalate cost is fairly cheap. At full throttle, this does a lot for the deck, since the extra cost can be paid by tapping tokens from Nissa or Hangarback Walker or what have you. In limited, this might not be as playable, but I think this has potential regardless to be a decent card for any deck, at worst.
Another 2-mana 2/1 spirit. We seem to be getting tons of them recently. However, this one is pretty cool, and while it doesn’t quite have the same power-level as Rattlechains, it is just as good since it can save your creatures from most wraths or spot removals. Something like Grasp of Darkness or Languish wouldn’t work, but this works well in the swarm-style strategy that the spirits archetype seems to favour. A fine support card for the deck.
This looks like it could be really good, but unfortunately we lack any good equipment or aura spells in the current format. Instant-speed free equips sound like they could be good, but when the format just doesn’t support that kind of a strategy, then this just falls to the wayside.
This has busted written all over it. This is one of the full-on flavour cards from the set, what Wizards likes to call “story moment” cards, and I love it. Turning an opponent’s Chandra, Flamecaller or Sorin, Grim Nemesis into essentially a Wastes card is just plain awesome. Being on the receiving end of it isn’t that bad either, from a flavour point of view. This can help stabilize on the board and buy a turn or two, so this isn’t that bad a tool. Of course, given how prevalent Dromoka’s Command is right now, any enchantment effects are not as good as they could be. But, the enchantment-killer isn’t long for this format, since it rotates out in about three months, when Kaladesh hits in September. Still, I think this has the potential to see some competitive play, and I really want to see it do well.
Mausoleum Wanderer has three very relevant abilities. As a 1-mana 1/1 spirit, it already has some potential for UW spirit decks. On top of that, it has flying, which means that it can provide a solid aggressive start for that deck. The second ability is basically a nerfed Champion of the Parish effect, which isn’t bad in and of itself. There are lots of spirits with flash floating about in the current format, and it can present a nice ambush strategy when called for. And then, the third and final ability is basically an upgraded Cursecatcher effect, though it does have a bit of a downside to balance out the upgrade. You combine all of that, and you end up with a really good card that absolutely should be seeing some competitive play. It fills in a much-needed spot in the curve for a UW spirit deck, and provides some advantages as well. Combine this with cards such as Collective Effort, Always Watching and Essence Flux to get a beast of a creature that can leverage well off all your other creatures.
When I first saw this, I thought it was really good. For control decks, it gives some boost against the likes of Abrupt Decay in Modern, and the Eldrazi Titans in both Modern and Standard alike. But, it is expensive at 2UU and that cost is what kills it, really. In Standard, this is going to be a fringe-player at best, one that can be used to “kill” the likes of Emrakul, the Promised End and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, where it would provide the most value. Other than that though, I’m not seeing a whole lot of applications since it is going to essentially trade down most of the time, not a place where a control deck really wants to be, especially for four mana. Counters with a converted mana cost of four or higher just don’t work, as shown by Overwhelming Denial from Oath of the Gatewatch.
As with Mausoleum Wanderer above, so with Cryptbreaker. It fills in the early curve for a zombie deck, and is extremely relevant in the late game as well, especially when things are pretty grindy or when the board has stalled out. Black is also the main colour for Madness spells (supported by blue and red), and we do have some interesting Madness spells that can profit off Cryptbreaker, such as From Under The Floorboards. And even if you do not have any Madness spells to take advantage of the first ability, you can discard any extra lands in hand to advance your board. Cryptbreaker seems to be pushed, especially since the tokens it creates do not enter tapped, which is huge.
Another “zombies matters” card, and one that is nice to see. It can work as targeted removal, which is neat. You don’t even have to cast it for more than a single black mana should you already have a sizable board to take advantage of. Good early, good late.
On the face of it, Bedlam Reveler is a really expensive card for what it does. But once you start factoring in the cost reduction from the first ability, then it starts to become a whole lot better. A typical UR control deck, the likes of which was all the rage in the early days of the Shadows Over Innistrad Standard format, can put a lot of instants and sorceries in the graveyard by turn 5, or even 4. Those types of decks have gotten a significant boost with Bedlam Reveler since they are able to leverage this really well. Best-case, this is a 2-mana 3/4 with Prowess that replaces itself three times over. That’s pretty damn good!
As with Collective Effort above, Collective Defiance doesn’t seem all that good at for the base mana cost, but once you factor in the Escalate cost, it becomes a whole lot better. 4 mana to burn a creature and burn face? I’ll that that. And again, being a sorcery really sucks, because that means the card is less proactive than it could have been, and we are in a format right now where being proactive is a much better way to play than being reactive. Still, I think this is a fine card, and I want to see it be good. If not, I’ll be happy to pick up a playset for cheap.
What a Wolves deck really needs right now is aggressive, cheap creatures. It is not an archetype where you just sit back behind walls of creatures, and then alpha strike. It wants to be attacking every single turn with every creature on that side of the battlefield. Which is where Spirit of the Hunt fails. Yes, it can protect other wolves from toughness-based removal such as Grasp of Darkness and Languish, or even help them survive against bigger creatures in combat, but I’m not that big a fan of the card. If the card lost flash, and instead of the toughness, it boosted the power instead, I’d be much happier. But this random pseudo-lord just doesn’t cut it.
This is a spicy one. It doesn’t have that many uses in Standard since we lack any good utility lands in the format, but for Modern and Legacy I think this has a lot of potential, especially in the kind of decks that value the lands they have, such as for the Dredge/Lands archetype, where this can really shine. Should be interesting to see what happens with this.
While Bant Humans, Mono-White Humans and WR Humans have made waves in the current Standard format, GW Humans has really struggled. It has access to some good cards, but it lacks the punch of the other color combinations, which are just flat out better. In comes Heron’s Grace Champion, which just might be what the deck needs. I’ll be honest. I like this card a lot, but I do feel that, once again, it feels like something here got nerfed. The first two abilities are good, especially the flash, which gives an added dimension to the strategy for the color combination but the lifelink just seems kind of win-more to me. It is simply an expensive card that doesn’t do enough when you are behind, and if you ahead already, then it doesn’t make that much of a difference either. Still, it is a solid beater that can top-off the curve, so it does have some potential.
The last rare of them all. As a big-time fan of Collected Company, in both Standard and Modern, preview seasons are always about what good value creatures we get that I can jam together to come out ahead of the competition. That’s where Spell Queller comes in and proves to be absolute house. First things first, this is a spirit and thus great for the nascent spirit decks that everyone out there is currently building and testing. Spirit tribal has gotten a big boost from Eldritch Moon and Spell Queller is one of the many new cards enabling the archetype to be competitive. Second, this is great, in general, as a hit off Collected Company in the general Bant Company decks. Even on its own, it is pretty damn relevant, allowing you to ambush your opponent’s spells and set them back in a big way while also advancing your own board. It does matter though that the ETB trigger is not a “may” trigger as on Fiend Hunter, which means that it cannot be similarly abused with blink effects and the like, but bounce spells certainly work, and a spirit tribal deck will definitely be running a few since the new ones are fairly advantageous for the deck. I look at this card, and I see a staple of the format just as Tireless Tracker, Reflector Mage, Sylvan Advocate and others have become.
Something for a dedicated Delirium deck, clearly. The main colours for the archetype are GB, but W also has some strong Delirium cards, in both Eldritch Moon and Shadows Over Innistrad, so I can see this being a mid-game pick in Draft, and if I had a solid enough base for a GB Delirium deck in Sealed, I wouldn’t mind splashing for this. Of course, if you can leverage the first ability, then it is really, really good. With all the enchantment-based removal in the format, this can free up a stalled creature to give you some extra value, and once it transforms it is definitely a big beater that is excellent on both attack and defense, and what Limited deck doesn’t want that? You attack, and thanks to the vigilance, you pay the mana and tap it to create a solid blocker. Love it.
Initially, I really didn’t like this card all that much since the backside is so unappealing. But thinking about it, you play this on turn 3, and if it survives for the untap, you basically end up with a 4 mana 5/4 that can ramp you up big time. It mirrors Kozilek’s Channeler from Battle of Zendikar, which was also a decent-sized beater that generate colorless mana. And to be honest, I can even see this working in a Wolves deck for Standard, although the general power level of that deck is far lower than most other viable decks. The instant-speed transform is the trick here.
Having some evasion is good, especially in Limited, and that’s where Shrill Howler can excel, but the card is just so unappealing because it feels so bland. The activated transform is also pretty expensive, and the extra butt-power provided on the back-side certainly helps. If you can build a wolves deck in Limited with a fair amount of creature removal, then the secondary ability on the back-side is close to being a token-making engine.
We’ve seen the Emerge mythics and rares, well, these are the commons and uncommons, rounding out the balance cards for this new mechanic from the set. As I’ve said before, it is a very interesting, and potentially abusuable, mechanic. The cost reduction is a big part of what makes all of these cards good, especially the common If of the Horrid Swarm which gives you a lot of value on the board for your card disadvantage from the Emerge cost. And the others follow suit as well. Not much to say about it really, nothing that hasn’t been already said. I hope to pull a few of these at the release events in a few days, and see where they all take me.
These are some of the more interesting uncommons for white from the set. Courageous Outrider is good for the dedicated Humans deck since it easily replaces itself, is a big body, and has a fine rate overall for its mana cost. Once I pick up a few of the key Humans cards, I wouldn’t mind picking this up in the later stages of the first pack or even early on in the second or third packs. Constructed-wise I doubt this will see play, although it is good early and late, just because by that point it is going to be severely outclassed by most other decks in the format. Drogskol Shieldmate is more of a sideboard card for spirits I feel, largely because it is good only defensively, despite having flash, and for Standard, I’m extremely low on this card.
Repel the Abominable is a similarly sideboard card for Humans decks in Limited, allowing them to get through blockers and even survive some dangerous combat steps. For Standard it is a little iffy since it is terrible in the Humans mirrors, which is what a lot of the format is about, and I don’t see it working out. Geist of the Lonely Vigil is also another kinda-mainboard/definitely-sideboard card for spirit decks, and only because of the interaction between defender and Delirium there. So uninspiring, to be honest.
The blue uncommons here seem to be a bit more exciting and relevant beyond just Limited formats. First of all, we have Fortune’s Favour which hearkens back to some of the craziest cards of Magic history, such as Fact or Fiction, cards that have defined the early days and have spawned entire archetypes. I really like the effect, and would love to play with it. Having the opponent choose the piles is a huge down-side, but it is fun nonetheless, and I think it has a lot of potential for Constructed play. Nebelgast Herald, while being overcosted with its stats and abilities compared to something like Rattlechains or other 2-cost spirits in the format, is also a solid play. As with many other spirits, it has flash, and a relevant ETB effect that is repeatable in a spirit tribal deck and helps to push the power-level of that deck. And finally, Scour the Laboratory is something that I’m cautiously optimistic on for Constructed play. Draw-go control decks are near non-existent currently as the loss of options like Dig Through Time and other spells have really hurt the archetype and the current variety of draw spells are very underpowered. But Scour can change the field, I feel, because the Delirium text is something that is relatively easy to hit for the archetype. You have plenty of spells available to help turn on Delirium, notably Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and ofcourse we have access to lands like Evolving Wilds and Drownyard Temple and Blighted Fen to help with one of the requirements. Hopefully this card can take off and bring back the control decks of Khans of Tarkir–Battle For Zendikar era.
Black in Eldritch Moon seems to have better quality uncommons than the other colours, for the most part. All six of the uncommons above are really good, although a few of them are good in some conditional ways, but then, that’s part of the deckbuilding process in Limited, and that’s the format in which they shine, rather than in Constructed. If you are drafting Vampires, or want to build Vampire tribal for your Sealed deck, then Markov Crusader, Vampire Cutthroat and Dusk Feaster are some of the cards you need to be looking for. The Cutthroat is especially good since it pushes you towards being aggressive as it is a 1-drop and has two very relevant abilities that are good early and late, so it isn’t as bad a top-deck in the late-game as 1-drops and 2-drops generally are. I’d even look to slotting it into a BR Vampire deck for Standard. The Crusader and the Feaster are good creatures for the top of the curve, as they have a good rate for what they both do. The lifelink on the Crusader will help you race against another aggressive deck, and should you be able to haste it off, it provides more value. The Feaster‘s Delirium condition isn’t that big, but a 4/5 flier for 5 mana is a very good threat. It basically becomes an underpowered Mindwrack Demon from Shadows Over Innistrad if you can get it out for 5 mana, which is nothing to sneeze at.
The other three uncommons here are all for a zombie deck, and as before, their primary usage is for Draft and Sealed rather than for Standard as they are expensive options otherwise. Graf Harvest helps gives your zombies evasion and lets them punch through walls of blockers while also developing your board at instant speed. The ability is expensive, but it can do double duty depending on how you build your deck. Liliana’s Elite is underpowered for a 3-drop on base stats, and you are basically looking to have at least 2 creature cards in your graveyard to really leverage what it offers. Rise From The Graveyard is a very good card, IMO, for the main reason that it doesn’t specify that the card must be in your graveyard. So if there is a bomb creature in your opponent’s graveyard, you get to steal it, and it counts for being a zombie which matters on a few cards in the format.
Time-wise, Incendiary Flow was the first of this batch of uncommons to be previewed, and the internet basically went crazy. A 3-damage burn spell for 2-mana? WHAAAAT!!?? Pretty understandabe, given that Lightning Strike had been a staple burn spell in the Theros-Khans of Tarkir Standard format, and since it rotated away last year once Battle For Zendikar block kicked off, its absence has certainly been felt, what with all the hyper-aggressive Humans decks and Bant Company variants running around, all with creatures that have power 3 or less. Basically, creatures are kind of out-of-control at the moment, and Incendiary Flow should help fix that problem in a big way. I would have liked to have gotten a straight reprint of Lightning Strike, but this will do. It is going to be a staple in both Constructed and Limited for the foreseeable future. Pick it early and pick it often.
Abandon Reason might not seem that good for 3 mana, but then, with all the Madness enablers running about such as Insolent Neonate, Heir of Falkenrath, Cryptbreaker, Nahiri’s Wrath, Noose Constrictor, Wharf Infiltrator and so many others. It will help to win creature combats, and is good in the aggressive decks like BR vampires and GR wolves and can also be something to splash for in a UB zombies, albeit as a sideboard card. Deranged Whelp is unexciting for a 2-drop, and is mostly filler, but it will certainly help to fill out your curve, so it isn’t that really. For Standard, there are better 2-drop wolves available, such as Duskwatch Recruiter and Lambholt Pacifist, so this is unlikely to make the cut there. Savage Alliance is another spell for the aggressive creature decks, and the utility of the various modes is fairly decent for Limited, I think. The spell is good against decks with tokens and lots of weenies, but one of the issues I see is that it doesn’t work against zombies so well because that archetype makes 2/2 tokens. If you were able to choose two modes on the card, it’d be a powerhouse, but as it stands, it is so-so.
Not a particularly good showing, but there are some interesting cards here nonetheless. Crop Sigil is a good Delirium enabler that will help you “ramp” up to your big payoff cards early enough. And it also replaces itself later on, with double the value, so that’s good enough on its own. I wouldn’t pick it in pack 1 necessarily, but with pack 2 and on I’d definitely be looking for at least 1 copy of this. Foul Emissary is, I believe, the only card in the set to reference the Emerge mechanic while not being an Emerge creature itself. The stats on it are pretty bad, and you won’t be able to leverage until you are able to cast your Emerge creature, so probably a late game play? Eh, looks pretty mediocre to me.
Noose Constrictor however is really good. A Grizzly Bear with double upside, instant-speed Madness enabler, and can block spirits all day long. Wouldn’t mind taking this as a first pick in Draft, will definitely make the cut for Sealed, and I wouldn’t mind trying it out for Standard as well, although I’d have to really dive deep into how best to use it in a deck. And Hamlet Captain is another Grizzly Bear with upside and works well for Human tribal decks. It is a pseudo-Thalia’s Lieutenant, and while it cannot grow itself, it grows your team, and it is a good spot on the aggressive curve that you want to take it as soon as you can, especially once you have your tribal key cards.
Mercurial Geists is very meh. Highly conditional and a bit expensive. If it had haste, it might have been a lot better, but I’m not too high on this. Spirit tribal might want this card, but there are enough excellent creatures in W and U that splashing red just for this isn’t worth it. Mournwillow on the other hand is really, really good. A curve of turn 1 Crop Sigil, turn 2 Grim Flayer and turn 3 Mournwillow looks really appealing to me. This is one of the cards that the GB delirium decks needed to be competitive, especially in Standard, and this fixes a lot of issues with the deck, adding in a lot of power for not that much. Ride Down is a reprint from Khans of Tarkir and it was really good there, so I expect it to be good in Eldritch Moon as well. The new format for Limited will be fast enough that this is going to be a very valuable pick, although you definitely want to be packing a few good creatures before picking this.
This is a card that I want to like, I genuinely do, but it just doesn’t work so well in the format. It is almost in the wrong colours because the combination doesn’t support the kind of fast aggressive strategies that something like BR or GW does. But, you can very well splash for this if you happen to pick it up late. It gives you another angle of attack, and given that most of the enchantment removal is on the expensive end of the spectrum, your opponent will have to take an entire turn off to deal with this. Which is fine. I’d still look to cut it for better playables, but wouldn’t turn it down.
Is it just me or are there some really good white commons in this set? I really like Sigardian Priest, Desperate Sentry and Lunarch Mantle. Looking at the priest, we had Stern Constable in Shadows Over Innistrad which was similar, but was also card disadvantage, which this is not, and I don’t mind paying the extra one mana. The restriction to tapping non-humans can be a negative in some matchups, but I doubt that it is all that significant really. It is a pretty great card. Desperate Sentry is also really good because it has two relevant abilities. The first is clearly there to synergize with the Emerge creatures in the set, of which there are plenty enough, and prevents card disadvantage. The second ability is also good if you have enough ways to turn on Delirium. Not a high pick unless you have at least one Emerge card to really leverage it. And as for Lunarch Mantle, looking at it separate from the usual 2-for-1 effect when enchantments are involved, I think this is a pretty solid common. It adds a lot of power, and late game can also help push through damage in board stalls, as flying is always a relevant ability in Limited formats.
Guardian of Pilgrims has a fine rate, has a relevant ETB effect, and a relevant creature type as well. The only way it could have been better was if it had flying. And I’m perfectly fine with it as it is. Steadfast Cathar is the least exciting and most boring of this bunch as it is a very defensive card, and not even a good one at that. Spectral Reserves is no Lingering Souls, though it tries to do a good enough imitation, but half a Lingering Souls with added lifegain isn’t all that bad, and you might pick it early enough if you happen to pull something like a Lone Rider, or if you are already leaning towards tribal.
The blue decks are going to love Convolute as it can provide a pretty big tempo swing and the more you are able to pick up, the better off you are going to be as well. It is a fairly decent common, although not a high pick by any means. Fogwalker at first seems good, but then it just becomes a filler. The skulk will help get in a few points of damage, and should you have any bounce spells or effects such as Essence Flux or Spectral Shepherd, then this gets better as it can lock down some creatures on the opposing side to helps yours get through. Laboratory Brute has a decent rate for its cost, and the mill/Delirium/zombie decks will often find a use for this card. Not spectacular by any means, but a common workhouse card I expect. Same as the others.
For me, Olivia’s Dragoon and Boon of Emrakul are the best cards here. The former fits nicely into an aggressive vampire tribal deck, letting you attack in the skies early on, and helps against flooding out as well. The latter is a pretty good removal spell that will kill most creatures in the format, especially some of the more powerful ones like Olivia, Mobilized for War or Somberwald Stag or what have you. Succumb To Temptation is a worse Read The Bones, but isn’t all that bad really, and being an instant certainly helps it be better than it could have been otherwise. It is slightly harder to cast as well, but most black decks will be picking it up anyway since card draw is so hard to come by. Gavony Unhallowed isn’t all that bad either, but it lacks some support in the format, I think, and is mediocre at best. Should you have 1-2 ways to trigger it, then it becomes much better, and can even take away the game with a dedicated support card. Skirsdag Supplicant is kind of in the same category as Olivia’s Dragon in that it needs some Madness cards to support it, but is also worse because it requires a lot more investment to leverage properly. That’s where it fails, and it is kind of in the wrong colours to be Human as well. Certain Death is expensive removal and it is sorcery-speed, but the life-drain type effect helps balance that out. I wouldn’t mind taking this in the later portions of a Draft.
Distemper of the Blood is a very solid card, the kind that I don’t mind paying the full retail on, and when discounted, it is simply amazing. There are plenty of Madness enablers in the format like Heir of Falkenrath, Olivia Mobilized for War, Olivia’s Dragoon and a few others that would love what Distemper offers. It makes your creatures huge and helps them get past any annoying blockers. Falkenrath Reaver is the first Grizzly Bear for red it seems, and has drawn a lot of hype for that reason. As with many other two-drops in the format, it fits into the aggressively oriented decks, and is a decent creature as well. Late pick for sure, since it doesn’t offer any value besides being a generic creature, so not a priority when building up your deck. With this and other cards, it is starting to look like a super-aggressive vampire deck could be nuts in the format, one with a critical mass of early creatures that can totally swarm the opponent. Make Mischief is a cute card that seems to offer a lot, but actually doesn’t. Being a sorcery instead of an instant doesn’t help either, which would have helped in ambushing attackers and the like.
Prophetic Ravings is a good effect for the cost of 2 mana, but being an aura it also opens you up to getting 2-for-1d by your opponent should they draw the necessary removal for your coreature. Still, it offers yet another instant-speed Madness outlet and that’s nothing to scoff at. Stensia Banquet is only good in a vampire tribal deck, and though you have lots of options for cheap vampires in the format, it can sometimes completely brick as well. At worst it will draw you a card, so it is not a total loss, which mitigates the other shortcomings somewhat. Stensia Innkeeper is yet another cool effect that I wouldn’t mind having in my deck. Setting the opponent back a turn is good value, and the Innkeeper is a decently-costed creature for a common that I wouldn’t picking it, especially to fill out the curve since the options for more expensive creatures that aren’t big disadvantages are so limited for a vampire deck.
Backwoods Survivalists is another good pay-off card for Delirium decks at common rarity. Being a 4-mana 5/4 with trample means that it will get through a fair number of blockers, if they are present, and if not then it will hit really hard. It presents a good, fast clock, and should be a decent pick for other decks as well. Bloodbriar is another solid common in green, and works well with Gavony Unhallowed in black, though being able to sacrifice extra lands in the late-game for value is much more important than losing creatures and thus losing board advantage. In comparison, Crossroads Consecrator is pretty meh. It is a worse Anointer of Champions from Magic Origins basically, and would be an absolute last pick for draft. The mana investment is a bit too much, and I’d rather focus on getting more aggressive cards, but still, this can be good in the right places, and shouldn’t be discounted completely.
Springsage Ritual is an instant, which is good. It gains you life, which is also good. But it is definitely no Nature’s Claim, by far. Sideboard material, completely, and a filler card overall. There aren’t that many artifacts or enchantments which are big in the format, but some do crop up, such as Stensia Masquerade among others, which can be back-breaking. As far as enchantments go, Wolfkin Bond isn’t as bad as they come, but it is still expensive as hell, and there are far better 5-drops for wolves deck that are better threats overall rather than an enchantment like this. Woodcutter’s Grit is a sweet card. It is a touch on the expensive side, but I don’t mind it completely because the stat boost is huge, and the hexproof will be relevant every now and then to protect a creature from removal, usually in combat situations.
And finally, the artifacts and lands of note. Cathar’s Shield is actually not as bad as it might look at first. There’s no power boost from it, but having vigilance is big, and should you have Tamiyo, Field Researcher in your deck, then obviously this is a more valuable pick for your deck. Regardless, this makes your creatures good on both offense and defense. Thirsting Axe, in comparison, is just plain bad. You get one attack step max from it, and then you have to sacrifice your creature. If it is a throwaway creature or something, then obviously this won’t be so bad, but then, why put it in at all? I certainly wouldn’t. Given effects like Whispers of Emrakul, Nephalia Academy becomes an important pick to protect yourself, but it is not as valuable as almost anything else that you could pick up, such as a creature or a piece of removal or something of the sort. Depending on how my deck shapes out, I might pick this for the final cut, or not.
That wraps up all the spoilers from the upcoming set. Again, I didn’t cover the exhaustive list of cards from the set, just the ones I found interesting, awesome, particularly bad, and so on. Hope you liked it.