Hello folks! I hope you are having an awesome day today! Ready for Throne of Eldraine to hit shelves? I hope so!
Throne of Eldraine strikes me as having a more powerful slate of cards than normal. I'm not sure why, but some of the cards feel pushed and potent to me.
If I had to guess why this is, it's because they are adding the expensive booster pack with the alternate art, full art, and such that's very pricey. It helps to sell this idea If the first time you do so you have a lot of powerful, pushed cards.
But we'll see. Like many a fairy tale will tell you, looks can be deceived. And as Frodo will point out, many things that look fair, feel foul.
Now let turn to the best of the set for kitchen tables, specifically multiplayer formats like Commander and such. These are the cards I love and adore from the set and which I think will make a big impact.
Honorable Mention - Order of Midnight
Order of Midnight is one of two potential cards, you choose. It can be a flying, two-mana 2/2 which is incredibly on curve and powerful. Or it can be a flying Gravedigger for . Either way, it's a powerful play in the early game. Of course, it's actually much better. There are times when the Gravedigger's four-mana cost prevents you from casting your dork immediately. With two mana though, you have two more mana available to use, and the ability to drop a 2/2 flyer later. This card is so good!
Honorable Mention #2 - Embercleave
This little bad boy is the best of the mythic artifact cycle, to my mind. It's the cheapest to drop if you can't fulfill anything of its cost reducers in the moment, and it's a strong card. Don't sleep on double strike and trample tougher as they are very powerful. For example, if someone goes and chump blocks your now 3/3 dork you swung with that was 2/2, and then blocks with a 1/1 token, it only sucks up 1 damage and they are now taking 5 to the face. Normally double strikers that are blocked by a single small chump that dies in first strike damage won't hurt their attacked target in regular combat, but not if it has trample. It will give you two combat damage triggers as well. It's good!
This is also my top choice for best card in Type Four in the set. Flash? Double strike? Trample? +1/+1? Free equip on arrival? It may be the best equipment ever printed for the format. I'll need to play with it to be sure, but I suspect it'll be my favorite equipment there. Giving double strike to a big beater that has a 8 or 12 power is nasty. Giving it trample too (if it didn't already have it) is nastier. Doing it as a flash effect? Nastiest!
10. Archon of Absolution
I don't know if you've noticed recently or not. But Wizards of the Coast has begun to more Ghostly Prison and Propaganda effects in creature form, such as old-school Windborn Muse. We just got Baird, Steward of Argive last year in our throwback Dominaria set, and the Archon of Absolution reveals that this may be a new normal. Which is a huge hit for casual aficionados around the world, because they love stuff like this. Obviously, the new normal is just one mana instead of two, but the dorks are better. Windborn Muse was just a 2/3 body with flying for four mana. The Archon is a 3/2 with a highly useful protection ability. It's the best in the red zone of the three.
Welcome to the team!
9. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
It's hard to talk about Torban when I spent an entire article last week about him. I rate him in the back half of my Top Ten. Check out my article from last week.
However, should it be too long, and didn't read, that's fine. It magnifies, massive, damage that can be split up, like Arc Lightning into dealing 9 damage, and it increases damage to foes and their things only, so Red mass burn damage like Pyroclasm will deal four to your foes, but only 2 to your stuff. You get the idea, check him out!
8. Keeper of Fables
Heel Keeper, heel! Good kitty. Can you answer a simple question for me oh Keeper of Fables? Why are you not a Plant Cat? I feel like that's a missed opportunity right there. This is a fun Cat with a lot to offer. We have card drawing as long as your dork that smashed face wasn't a Human, and it's strong in a lot of builds. Now do note that you won't draw a card for each dork that smashed face, as it says "or more" in there. That's why it's no higher than eight on my spot. But a fat body that will already draw a card when it hits itself, and could trigger at other times too is pretty good for card flow in a color that always is looking for more.
7. Robber of the Rich
Our Robin Hood here is pretty strong at drawing cards from the rich. The rich, in this case, being foes with more cards in hand than you. You can exile cards, and then cast them this turn, so you get the ability to cast the occasional card, or drop the occasional land with your Human Archer Rogue. While the reach is mostly redundant since you'll never want to hold it back, the haste is amazing. A two mana 2/2 with haste is already very powerful and on curve and useful without anything else mucking it up. This card? It's going to be good!
Lots of folks run enters-the-battlefield effects for their dorks out there. They are played in big numbers at the kitchen table. We also have a number of death triggers on them too. And some, like Solemn Simulacrum, do both! While we've had a few smaller shut down effects here and there, like Torpor Orb, that will put a break on them, we've never had them both here on one card. You will regularly see that stuff getting dropped too. Here you have a two mana body that shuts it all down. It plays well with dorks that have pseudo-etb abilities but not really, like our Order of Midnight above. You can cast both halves and basically have an etb effect without actually having an etb effect. You can run cast triggers instead of etb triggers for things like Eldrazi.
It's also a great adjunct to a deck that wants turn off these effects not only to hurt others, but to help yourself. Cards like Lord of Tressorhorn and the best Phyrexian Dreadnaught come unbidden to my mind, but there are many more out there. This will have a big presence on the battlefield.
5. Syr Konrad, the Grim
Hello folks! There are no worries when Syr Konrad is on the case. He is an uber-Blood Artist that has been a welcome card in many formats and kitchen table brews. When another critter dies it's so sad! Honor their death by shooting your foes in the face for damage.
Now, the power here continues. Did someone mill or discard a dork into their graveyard? Did you? Did they cycle a Krosan Tusker for a card and a land? That's just so sad! But again, we can honor their memory by pinging all of your foes for damage.
Now, did they exile your dorks from your graveyard? Did you? Did you instead shuffle It into your deck or put them onto the battlefield? That's sad. Stop playing around with the dead! In their memory, again, hurt your foes for 1 damage.
Oh, and you can force everyone to mill a card anytime you want by a spending a little mana.
Can you see why this unique Knight Artist is here? I hope so!
4. The Royal Scions
Whenever a new planeswalker is printed, we will always spend a little more time with it to see if it has something good, and these do!
Here is the infrastructure for this brother/sister tag team to succeed.
- Three mana - The cheaper a card it, the better it tends to be. However, with planeswalkers, since they give you value turn after turn after turn, getting them out sooner is even more important than with another permanent. A three mana 'walker is as cheap as you'll typically get, and many of the best planeswalkers of all time, like Liliana of the Veil, are three mana. The Royal Scions? Three mana!
- Five Loyalty - Because most decks only interact with burn or swinging into them, the more their initial loyalty is, the better they are at lasting until later in the game. Starting with five loyalty is hard to kill, especially on a 3-drop that will be hard to have assembled a big enough army to really do anything.
- Two +1 Abilities - Not only do the Royal Scions have a normal +1 ability that will help grow their loyalty, but they have another that follows. That means they will be hard to push aside. Note that their ultimate is 8 loyalty, so you could drop them, go to 6 loyalty on turn three, and then on turn six, when you have 8, you can ultimate. How often does your game go to turn six? Quite often? Huh.
Everything lines up, but now the rubber meets the road. What are their abilities? Because if they are just: Everyone gets a mana of their choice, everyone gains 3 life, and then their ultimate is everyone draws seven cards, then they may not be the most powerful cards ever. But otherwise, it looks strong for them.
They can loot, and draw/discard a card? That's good and a heavily used effect. They can pump a dork nicely. And their ultimate draws you four cards and shoots folks and their dorks for at least four damage each, and likely lots more. That seems like a good card from where I am sitting, right?
3. Once Upon a Time
Free. Instant. Impulse for five cards. Get a dork or land in them. There's nothing that Once Upon a Time can't be grabbed for. Get a 1-drop or the land to cast it on turn one. It's still valuable later in the game as a 2-dropinstant. It digs pretty deeply. It's awesome, and there isn't anything you can say against it. It doesn't suck.
2. Wishclaw Talisman
In a traditional environment, you only give this away when you use it, so you can tap and use it to Demonic Tutor your hand, and then send it over. You can exile it and bring it back to prevent your foe from using it. You could have an effect that shuts down your foe's ability to search their library. It's just too good!
From Stranglehold to Flickerwisp to Avarice Totem to Brand to Baral's Expertise, there are a lot o' ways to prevent your foe from Talisman'ing. The Totem is really out there, by the by. Here's how you could use it. On your turn, activate it. Swap it and something you won't care about, like a Food Token. Then swap it and the Talisman. In response, Activate the Talisman. Your foe gets the Talisman. Now resolve. Your foe swaps the Talisman for the Totem, and then the Totem for your junk permanent like a Food. Net result? You spend mana, you Tutored, and your foe has a Food, Clue or Treasure token.
1. Emry, Lurker of the Loch
She's so pushed in power that she looks like a Modern-only card from Modern Horizons. When we play with her, she may wind up not being that powerful, but I doubt it. She has a lot of fouls going on. Affinity for Artifacts? Check. Can tap and cast an artifact from your graveyard? Check. Mills four cards on arrival? Check. She's feels so powerful at a time when we have a better Voltaic Key, some amazing artifact enablers, and more, just recently printed in Standard. And there aren't any hosers like a Creeping Corrosion or Shatterstorm in one of these sets to keep your honest. Just drop a Manifold Key and/or Witching Well on turn one, and you will set yourself up on turn two for her.
At the kitchen table she's awesome. She's nasty with pro-artifact synergies and strategies.
A super special section for you, here are some of my new additions from the set for the Type Four format, where you have no mana restrictions, but can cast only one spell per turn
For those of you who play Type Four or limited infinity, Stolen by the Fae is one of my choices for the best cards in the format. Note that it doesn't say, "X or less" so you can't put 10 mana into X and the bounce a 1-drop and make 10 dorks. When you can spend any amount of mana, that means this bounces and makes a number of tokens, similar to Aether Mutation. The Fae makes flying dorks, rather than grounded Saprolings, so it's better than the Mutation which is a format standard.
The value of Banish into Fable may depend on how many artifacts or enchantments you run in your stack. But an instant bounce that gives you a dork, and can bounce up to two more for two more dorks is quality. If it takes one turn to cast a creature, then that can be up to three turns recasting them. Plus, you can bounce non-creatures with it as well, anything other than lands. It's a nice consideration if you want to dip into additional Type Four bounce effects.
This card is awesome in Type Four! If you can only cast one spell a turn, then a flash cards gives you a lot more options! The first and second abilities can't be activated, and they don't need to be. After it dies, you can recur it by spending some mana and exiling cards from your foe's graveyard and then flashing it out later as needed. Now there is a break on this. You can't self-exile, and you need five targets, it doesn't say, "up to five." But you should be able to at least recur it once, if not more, over the course of the game. Enjoy it!
I really enjoy Brazen Borrower as well. Again, bounce is good. And the flash on it afterward is also useful. It's not the best card in the world, but the fact that it's both is solidly solid.
We don't care about getting it cheaper, it's good at nine mana. I really like The Magic Mirror on the first turn. If your foe only has one counter, can you bait it? If not, you'll get some nice cards over time.
I'm not sure if I need another destruction effect, and the dork on the other end will almost never get played. It's this good enough? I'm not sure.
Since you can make any amount of mana, this will always deal 7 damage to three targets. That's not bad at all.
Feasting Troll King is another of my favorite cards for T4 in the set. It's a fat beater with vigilance and trample, and both are relevant. It comes with three Food that you can use, if needed, to give you nine life, which is a good amount. After he dies, if you need the guy back, sacrifice the Food and bring him back for free, and that doesn't count as your spell for the turn. Also note that his recursion is only on your turn but can be used in response to something.
And there you are! What did you think of my top ten? Anything I missed? Just let me know.