I’m not sure where to begin. Eldritch Moon feels both awesome and weird. I am sure this is intentional, but reviewing the spoiler this time around I was surprised at the intricate nature of the commons. New World Order is often derided in Pauper circles as a directive limiting the power level of the format. The fact is New World Order tries to limit the complexity of commons to help ease the flow of limited.
What does this have to do with Eldritch Moon? Quite a bit, as many of the most important commons from the set are definitely on the more complex side of things. Herein resides the genius. The cards that do more things, for the most part, make heavy use of piggybacking items we as players were already accustomed to tracking. In this way Eldritch Moon builds on Shadows over Innistrad not only in story but in the way the mechanics play.
The new mechanics, Emerge and Escalate specifically, are flexible in a way that makes them likely to appear in Pauper. A spot in a deck is incredibly important and any spell that can perform more than one task can make a 60 card stack feel that much larger. It is precisely because of this I feel the one pair of Meld cardsm, Graf Rats and Midnight Scavengers, will not see play.
Meld is an exceptionally cool mechanic but the setup cost is incredibly high. At the higher rarities, the individual cards appear to be strong enough to see play on their own. Pauper? Not so much. Graf Rats is little more than filler, and Midnight Scavengers, while it has a strong ability, is outclassed in the format by Warren Pilferers. That being said, if the resulting monstrosity were strong enough, maybe these two would see play. Chittering Host is a good card. It’s a 5/6 that grants evasion to the team while also pastiching a Goblin Bushwhacker. If that were a single card it would warrant examination as a curve topper in an aggressive deck.
Except it’s not one card, it’s two. In order to maximize the chances of having this work it would need to take up 7 or 8 slots in a deck and that is far too many in a format with Delver of Secrets and Lightning Bolt. Maybe if there was a Black aggressive deck that was right on the edges of the format this could find a home. Though, even then, 5 mana is a lot to pay. There is too much risk for too little reward, and Chittering Host will not see as much play as its comrade in rodentia.
Moving on, the first card worth examining is Borrowed Grace. Token decks have long been popular in Pauper. The addition of Battle Screech in Vintage Masters, and now Rally the Peasants from Eternal Masters , has pushed the power level of the deck to another level. Borrowed Grace is a flexible anthem that can double as protection from both Electrickery and Evincar's Justice. Is it a better inclusion than Rally the Peasants? I am not hopeful, but I could see running a single copy main with more for games two or three just in case. The big knock against the defensive mode is the deck already has access to Selfless Cathar and Ramosian Rally as ways to counteract sweepers in the main, and Prismatic Strands for a more focused answer in the side. Perhaps if Shrivel becomes more popular we will see a rise in Grace.
Tokens gets two other interesting cards from the latest release. Spectral Reserves is half a Battle Screech but comes with a built in life buffer. Tokens, as currently constructed, cares more about depleting an opposing life total than boosting its own but I could see myself calling up the Reserves if needed.
Thraben Standard Bearer, however, is exactly the kind of card tokens wants. In previous iterrations of the deck, I have included Cenn's Enlistment as a late game mana sink and way to recover from a sweeper. Thraben Standard Bearer can convert late game chaff into tokens at instant speed. For half the cost, it makes half the army of an Enlistment but it can transform anything into a Soldier. In a situation where you are choked on mana but have Battle Screech in hand, a Bearer and a Raise the Alarm now represents five bodies. Running a few copies of this card also mitigates the problems of including an expensive card, such as Triplicate Spirits, as it can convert it into actual damage.
Also, let’s not forget that Rally the Peasants also has Flashback.
W/r Tokens ? Pauper | Alex Ullman
- Creatures (17)
- 2 Suture Priest
- 3 Selfless Cathar
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Thraben Standard Bearer
- Spells (22)
- 2 Ramosian Rally
- 4 Lightning Bolt
- 4 Raise the Alarm
- 4 Rally the Peasants
- 4 Battle Screech
- 4 Gather the Townsfolk
White gets some other interesting cards. Choking Restraints turns Heliod's Pilgrim into a very (and I mean very) expensive Shriekmaw. Lunarch Mantle might be better than I give it credit for, as it provides Hexproof with another bit of evasion that combos rather nicely with Rancor. Ironclad Slayer is an aggressive Auramancer impersonator but it is the latter’s ability to regrow a Tortured Existence or a Journey to Nowhere. Hexproof is already a fairly tight build and Equipment does not die often so old ironsides here probably won’t see play anytime soon.
Finally, there’s Desperate Sentry. When I first looked at this card I saw a Loyal Cathar that did not work well with Kor Skyfisher. My second pass made me think on the fact it could be a 4/2 that leaves behind a 3/2 body. If that were always the case this card would be an all-star. However Delirium is much harder to trigger than I first anticipated. Despite access to all but Planeswalkers the set up to getting four different types in the graveyard is rather high. Combine this with the fact that a midrange White deck, where something like Desperate Sentry could shine, is close to unplayable right now and I do not see a home at the moment. All that being said, if Orzhov flavors of Tortured Existence decks catch on, this will almost certainly be a key element as it can make an army when paired with Raise Dead effects.
The two newly spoiled Blue cards that intrigue me are Spontaneous Mutation and Ingenious Skaab. The first is a powerhouse removal spell capable of turning off the power of anything it can target. Despite the fact that Hexproof is everywhere this card should still see play as a way to stop Gurmag Angler.
Ingenious Skaab is the opposite, a monster on the attack. Frostburn Weird saw a fair share of play and Jeskai Sage got some time as well. The Skaab takes the offensive capabilities of both and puts them on to a slightly more expensive body. At 2/3 for three, it is hardly breaking records, but it plays so well with Blue’s suite of spells, which is a bonus. Late in the game it turns any Ponder or Preordain into a spell with Kicker U: Ingenious Skaab gets +2/+0 until end of turn. While I doubt this will be a four of, I could easily see running two or three copies in Delver as a way to break through.
I discussed Wretched Gryff last week but it bears repeating, this card can go anywhere. Replacing itself upon being cast is something we have not seen in Pauper. Outside of dedicated ramp decks, this card may find a home in Affinity as a way to upgrade Frogmite into a reasonable threat. One thing I did neglect to mention last week is, in an Arbor Elf/Utopia Sprawl deck, a turn two Fierce Empath can fetch this up ready to do work on turn three. Such decks have often struggled to find purchase in the early game, but such an opening could do wonders.
Displace and Enlightened Maniac are the other Blue cards of note. Displace is a worse Ghostly Flicker (as it does not hit lands or artifacts) and likely does not have a home. Very few, if any, Ghostly Flicker decks run the full four copies, so, until Cabal Therapy gets shifted in rarity, this one will see little play. Enlightened Maniac is interesting in that it can grow a Cloudfin Raptor twice on its own or help it reach 3 power after an Eldrazi Skyspawner. Cloudfin Raptor does not see as much play as Delver of Secrets but Blue is slowly amassing a critical number of cards to make the Bird Mutant more palatable.
Black has a ton of “almost” cards. As discussed in my preview article Olivia’s Dragoon can enable all sorts of Madness shenanigans. The best card in this set for those decks is Weirded Vampire which seems like a strict downgrade from Twins of Maurer Estate.
Zombies get some interesting options this time around. Despite the presence of Shepherd of Rot and Gempalm Polluter, Zombies have never caught on in competitive Pauper. Innistrad gave the deck Ghoulraiser and Ghoulcaller's Chant and Eldritch Moon provides Cemetery Recruitment. For an extra mana, it can potentially draw a card. Recruitment may see play if only because it makes getting back a Gurmag Angler or Gray Merchant of Asphodel that much more desireable. If an aggressive undead deck does rise up, Thraben Foulbloods could earn a spot as an on curve 3-drop with upside.
Wailing Ghoul and Gavony Unhallowed might get a chance in Tortured Existence decks. The ability to put cards directly into the bin is great and the Ghoul also does a fine job blocking. Gavony Unhallowed could grow to an obscene size, but its 4 mana casting cost likely holds it back. Unruly Mob is cheaper and has yet to see play but Gavony Unhallowed is in the right colors to make death matter.
The cream of Black’s crop are both instants. Borrowed Malevolence is a flexible option that can kill Delver early while also pushing through extra damage late. The lack of a Black beatdown deck makes it unlikely to see play; but, if Dimir Delver mirrors are common, I could see this as a sideboard option to win Angler fights while taking out Delver of Secrets. Succumb to Temptation is an unconditional instant speed draw two. The problem is that it requires two Black mana. Currently, the only deck that could reasonably play Succumb is Dimir Teachings, but it currently uses Think Twice and Accumulated Knowledge to both smooth draws and load up on resources. Mono-Black Control is crowded at the 3-drop between Chittering Rats and Phyrexian Rager but running one or two copies for some late game fuel may not be the worst idea. I do not doubt Succumb to Temptation will see play, but right now I’m not sure where it will find a home.
Red gets one amazing card and a bunch that are far more situational. Borrowed Hostility could bolster Heroic Decks since it has two decent effect and can also target two separate creatures. The Escalate cost of three is a bit high but anything that can spread the target trigger wealth is a good thing for that deck.
Otherworldly Outburst may also see play in Red decks as a way to mitigate removal spells but it has this added wrinkle of being able to turn one of your opponent’s dying creatures into a creature on your side of battle. Undying Evil has seen play as a way to fight removal spells and rebuy value creatures. Outburst can help on one axis, but the inability to reuse something like Mulldrifter makes it hard to imagine the Eldritch Moon card seeing much play.
Stensia Innkeeper deserves some discussion. One of the problems with land destruction strategies in Pauper is it is hard to follow up a Stone Rain with any sort of business. The Innkeeper is a nice stop gap in that it can lock down a land while committing a threat to the board and also setting you up nicely for the fifth turn. On the less fair side of things, in conjunction with Peregrine Drake, Mnemonic Wall, and Ghostly Flicker, the Innkeeper can lock down an entire opposing board infinitely. The likelihood of seeing this application is minimal if only because the amount of clock it eats up on Magic Online is monstrous, but for Paper Pauper. Watch out!
Galvanic Bombardment is an update on Kindle. Unlike its predecessor, it can only hit players but it does so at half the price. The first Bombardment is fine and every subsequent one is fantastic. The issue with this spell is that you need to run all four. When the spell in question is Lightning Bolt then it is an easy call. Galvanic Bombardment is no Lightning Bolt and it can only take out the larger threats when three copies are in your graveyard. The rate is good enough that it could see play in decks that are not trying to burn an enemy out of life points, but only if no copy ever leaves the main in games two and three.
Finally we come to one of the more exciting cards in the set. Thermo-Alchemist appears to be a nice way to add a point of damage to burn spells. It also combines with Drake-Flicker-Wall to be a recurring source of damage. Those are both nice, but there is another application for this spell, the kill mechanism in a Storm style combo deck. Grapeshot was the centerpiece of the preeminent combo deck in Pauper before it was banned. The Storm deck would chain spells together to generate mana and spell count, churning through the deck until a lethal Storm count was reached. Thermo-Alchemist cannot come at the end of the chain, an important distinction as Storm decks would often need to start with no kill card in hand, but the potential is there for it to be a format changing card.
Thermo-Alchemist Storm ? Pauper | Alex Ullman
- Creatures (4)
- 4 Thermo-Alchemist
- Spells (40)
- 2 Shred Memory
- 4 Cabal Ritual
- 4 Dark Ritual
- 4 Manamorphose
- 2 Expedite
- 2 Faithless Looting
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 4 Night's Whisper
- 4 Preordain
- 4 Rite of Flame
- 4 Lotus Petal
- 2 Pentad Prism
In my opinion Green got the most tools out of Eldritch Moon. I have already discussed the applications for Ulvenwald Captive, and I cannot wait to try it out in a ramp deck. My drive to play the deck was kicked into a high gear when It of the Horrid Swarm was spoiled. As mentioned earlier, Fierce Empath can help to facilitate strong starts with Emerge. In a similar situation, It of the Horrid Swarm can represent 6 power on turn three. At that point, the game is very close to being over as this Insect outclasses almost everything else in the format, especially on the third turn. Combine this with a cast trigger and the risk is somewhat mitigated.
Emerge can turn any previous investment into a sort of Dark Ritual. Now any value creature can be turned into mana after doing its job. I am definitely going to try an Ulvenwald Captive deck and a Horrid Swarm deck. Maybe they will overlap at some point, but for Horrid Swarm, I imagine something like this:
Horrid Swarm Green ? Pauper | Alex Ullman
- Creatures (31)
- 3 Nylea's Disciple
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Fierce Empath
- 4 It of the Horrid Swarm
- 4 Nest Invader
- 4 Scion Summoner
- 4 Yavimaya Elder
- Lands (19)
- 19 Forest
Green gets a utility card in Grapple with the Past. An updated Corpse Churn that has the advantage of being able to grab lands. In a creature heavy deck, Grapple does a fair impression of Impulse while also getting a key card back in the late game. Bloodbriar is an interesting option in that it grows off of any sacrifice. Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse make this larger while Carrion Feeder does a nice job of growing this and growing itself. Bloodbriar is a card with a lot of potential. Holding it back is its inability to punch through damage.
Eldritch Moon enters Pauper at an interesting time. There is a lot of power in the set and it will be fascinating to watch whether or not these cards can compete in the current metagame. I am going to be casting Eldrazi. How about you?