Standard Starting Points for Eldritch Moon

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Now that the entire spoiler is out, I’ve been able to create a bunch of decks and blacktest against some neat decks, some weird decks and some decks that apparently forgot Eldritch Moon was a set. Before getting into them, I wanted to share a few thoughts.

The Rundown

While it’s clear Wizards has been upping the power level on creatures for years, they seem to admit that the original incarnation of the Eldrazi was a little over the line. Annihilator was one hell of a mechanic and while Ulamog and Kozilek’s cast triggers are arguably better this time around, they are cards that can still be beat and worked around, which I guess coincides with the story. This is in contrast to Rise where you seemed to feel a hopelessness associated with it.

Well good news for those that hated the Annihilator Titans, Emrakul, the Promised End is weaker than its Rise counterpart. In the games where I have cast or my opponent has cast Emrakul, the win rate for that player is over 50% but not decidedly so. There’s also this weird feeling of “aw gee golly shucks” when you cast Emrakul and see a Planar Outburst or Reflector Mage when you take your opponent’s turn, knowing this Emrakul isn’t long for this world once they have the chance to untap, which is an odd feeling.

There are certainly games where you can cast Emrakul for 8 or 9 but that’s one hell of a commitment for an effect that lets you win 60-70% of the time. There may yet be a way that Emrakul is truly broken but it has yet to produce the effect of when a player is chaining Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungers together.

As for the Emerge Eldrazi, I’m still not sold on their total takeover of Standard, like some are predicting. Distended Mindbender has been very lackluster thus far. Decimator of the Provinces is usually game ending, though you’re looking at a later turn effect and not a super aggro deck slot. The card will be played and you will end up losing to it but you will also get a few turns in so if you let your opponent set up, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

Elder Deep-Fiend is the one that I still have trouble making up my mind about. If Decimator is on the good end of the spectrum and Mindbender the other, Elder seems to fall in the middle. The easiest comparison of this is to Mistbind Clique but having played Fairies, it’s not the same. It certainly shines when you can chain it together with Sanctum of Ugin or in a UG attack shell however if you are forced to play defense or your opponent is removing creatures as fast as you can play them you end up with a dead card in hand or have to cast it on your opponent’s terms.

While the Eldrazi are certainly here, there’s no need to sell the cabin in the woods and look into relocating to The Tangle.

The Decks

Spirits

While we got a few good spirits with Shadows over Innistrad, Eldritch Moon upped the game a little. It may not be Lingering Souls and Drogskol Captain however Mausoleum Wanderer, Selfless Spirit & Spell Queller can certainly shine on their own.

The first thing people may notice is that I’m playing a UW deck and Reflector Mage isn’t anywhere in the deck, which is true but for good reason: it’s not a spirit. By playing the full four copies of Rattlechains, Mausoleum Wanderer and Nebelgast Herald you want to maximize on Spirits as much as possible, plus all your creatures have flying, except Anafenza, though I honestly haven’t drawn her enough to make a guaranteed decision on her worth.

Essentially you’re playing UW fliers and while you have a few cards that can play the late game, you want to avoid it at all costs. Always Watching and Gideon serve not only to pump your team, helping Wanderer blank your opponent’s Languish but increase your clock and sometimes, Gideon is great against a certain deck and can win you the game. Same goes for Elder Deep-Fiend. The calamari is a big body with flash who can slow your opponent enough to get those few extra turns.

The sideboard is standard UW with the exception of two cards. Archangel Avacyn isn’t a Spirit but she is a flash who synergizes quite well with Selfless Spirit as an on demand sac creature can blow out the game. The other sideboard card, which also had a copy sneak into the maindeck is Essence Flux. Most of your Spirits have EtB triggers and whether it’s giving hexproof, pumping the Wanderer or giving your opponent back their Sylvan Advocate to Quell a Languish, the card does work especially against the spot removal decks.

Wr Humans

I know people who hate this deck and people who love it but regardless of your opinion, Standard needs an aggro deck and this is it.

My goal was to keep the deck as low to the ground as possible and to always be on the offensive. Ride Down was a late edition on the spoiler but the thing the deck was lacking the most. I prefer it to Declaration because the Clue can occasionally be relevant as you get to late game and it lets you force damage through. It has also come up when your opponent goes for the Dromoka’s Command to turn the tide and this just blanks it. With only three copies the mana has never been abnormally bad and I have yet to lose a game to being unable to cast it, though I can certainly understand some people’s hesitation.

The other card that shows up from Eldritch, which I have tried to jam into as many white decks as possible is Thalia, Heretic Cathar. While fine in playtesting, she truly performs best in a pure aggressive strategy. At three mana she blanks your opponent’s defenses for the turn and since many decks need to plan out their mana as effectively as possible, coming down and forcing your opponent to lose a mana due to his land coming into play tapped is enough to get you the win.

Bant Humans

If you like Humans but think the mana is too straightforward and requires no thought, then this is the deck for you.

The obvious big addition to the deck is Tamiyo. She is 100% on colour and her abilities fall in line with what you want to do. Her addition requires trimming on the number of creatures which is less ideal for Collected Company but the card drawing is fantastic. I’ve seen Tamiyo played in a few different builds and while you can target your opponent’s creatures with her “+” ability, it’s not the best shell for her. You want to attack and that’s what she allows. Your creatures are generally bigger and if not, you can just tap down your opponent’s nuisance.

The change I made over the previous versions of the deck is the addition of Hamlet Captain. The Captain acts as a poor man’s Thalia’s Lieutenant but reinforces the want of always attacking. I cut them for Lambholt Pacifist as it guarantees you are always attacking and pushes the deck’s overall plan towards the offensive as I’ve found the greatest weakness for the deck is getting to the late game where it just seems to fall off.

Main deck there is one Thalia, it’s fine and can occasionally disrupt your opponent as a surprise off Collected Company. Where it truly shines is the mirror which is the reason for the second one in the board. For the mana, I started with Pascal Maynard’s GP Pittsburgh list and tried the occasional tweak but somehow I always seemed to make the mana worse. With Tamiyo the one change I could see is cutting a Plains for a Prairie Stream but the blue requirement is so low, generally getting your one Island from Evolving Wilds is all you’ll need.

The Red Zone

Of late Standard has been lacking a Red deck. In fact we’ve gone longer than I can remember without an ever present Red deck to keep people honest. Luckily if that’s your bag, Eldritch came through for you.

The deck is pretty straight forward, which happens to be the direction your creatures will be headed. Just to give a fair chance, I went through most of the red creatures just to make sure I didn’t miss anything and this was the combination I liked best.

Lightning Berserker, Zurgo Bellstriker & Abbot of Keral Keep were good once and still are now. Reckless Bushwhacker has shown its worth in the Wr Humans and can easily be held back to combine with your one drops. The big additions however come from Eldritch and it includes a lot of burn. Hanweir Garrison might not be exactly Goblin Rabblemaster but left unchecked it takes over the game like its Goblin friend. Plus this deck runs Hanweir Battlements because neither cards are Legendary so there’s no drawback and it’s a great mid game draw. Always it gives any guy haste! Similarly, Impetuous Devils might seem like an odd Ball Lightning but your opponent’s generally always had to block Ball Lightning so at least you get to choose.

The last main deck card is one I talked about in my set overview; Collective Defiance. If you read it, it will sound like I’m repeating myself because I am. There’s never been a situation where the card hasn’t performed well; chipping away at your opponent’s life total is great as is picking off a creature. Searing Blaze was great and I’m fine paying a little more for Searing Blaze. And while a little rare, it has come up on more than one occasion where I did indeed pay five mana using all three modes.

GW Tokens

The deck’s still great.

There’s already been a ton written about GW Tokens and I tried a bunch to change the deck or incorporate more cards from Eldritch but nothing seemed especially great. The two new additions shouldn’t surprise anyone. Decimator of the Provinces is a house with a board full of tokens and dudes. You will always be casting this for its Emerge cost and while it may seem strange, generally with early pressure you will have no problem sacrificing an Avacyn or a Gideon as it’s straight up lethal.

The second addition is Tamiyo. Having played this deck, it will happen that you run low on cards in hand. Tamiyo remedies this problem and then some. I cut down on the number of Plains and Westvale Abbey to accommodate the 4 Prairie Streams which provides 8 blue sources when counting Oath of Nissa. One of the common mistakes I see people make with this deck is not being aggressive enough and just trying to sit back. If this is the strategy you take, you will end up in trouble more often than not. Adding Decimator and Tamiyo supports the aggressive strategy and more often than not can save you from yourself.

GW Ramp

As odd as this deck looks, it’s got a bunch to offer in a toolbox strategy, also it’s got Brisela, which was my main intention when building it.

If you like playing the value game, this deck is for you.

The main goal is to ramp out with your green spells like most other ramp decks, where your plan changes is your late game cards. You want to go bigger and over the top, which is what Ulamog, Emrakul & Brisela do. The deck plays two copies of Thalia’s Lancers as a tutor for any creature in your deck but also because the body is quite good for blocking. Unlike red ramp decks where your removal is damage based, in this deck you are playing wraths in Planar Outburst which is good at dealing with creatures big and small.

I originally tried more copies of Emrakul in the deck as you do have different card types so the cost reduction is relevant. Generally Emrakul on its own was fine if properly set up and with your ramp spells, the cost reduction does not play a huge factor as you have so many mana sources that the two kind of wash out. The sideboard is currently aimed again at aggro strategies though I’m thinking the Repel might be a little overkill and you’ll want something along the lines of more ways to make Brisela and Tireless Tracker to plow through cards.

One final note, Ishkanah, Grafwidow may seem unimpressive at first glance but don’t be easily fooled. You can search for the spider with Lancers, and getting Delirium is not too difficult so casting her and just stalling out the board is a very good answer when looking for your threats. A 3/5 body with Reach is nothing to scoff at and the last ability is the reason the Swamp is in the deck. The upside is worth playing the Swamp.

Deploy the Gatewatch

Now we get to the fun part of the program.

Essentially the deck has every Planeswalker in Standard and every Oath. Clearly some Walkers are worse than others as are some Oath so you had to futz with the numbers, although you don’t want four of one Walker because hitting something like two Gideons on a Deploy is awkward. I also tried a bunch of different spells and tricks and honestly it diminishes the fun. Now is this deck going to be Tier 1? No, however the weirdest part apart this deck is that it has had a win rate of over 60%. Now that was in the early stages of testing, where decks weren’t ideal but it’s still a record that is impressive over 15 matches.

Demonic Shenanigans

Don’t let the cat fool you.

The goal of the deck is clear; Donate a Demonic Pact with one choice remaining to your opponent. I’ve played around with various three colour interactions and honestly, this is the one I liked the best. All of your cards either dig for your combo or stall the board out. I’m expecting a large number of aggro decks to start off with, which is why the Duresses are in the board, although playing them main deck in place of some creature removal is understandable.

This deck also benefits from not having your focus pulled away from your combo. Sure Gideon or Chandra are certainly nice cards but you want to win through the “Combo” and everything else is secondary. If you are looking for other win conditions, this is the wrong deck for you. One last bit of advice, don’t get to the late game, when you can slam Pact on turn 4 you do it, second combo piece or not. It’s risky, and you can lose games occasionally but if you play this deck, you need to take the risk.

If there’s anything hit me up in the comments or on Twitter – @Nodnolb.

Thanks for reading.

Best,
William

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