Magic's latest expansion - Throne of Eldraine - is releasing digitally later this week and in paper early next month. In addition to bringing a whole slew of new cards with it, Eldraine also marks another Standard rotation. Today I would like to take a look at some of my favorite cards from the full spoiler, and talk about why I think they might have the potential to shine in various archetypes.
Let's start by going on an adventure, shall we? For those not familiar with the new style of card from Eldraine, let's take a look:
When an adventure card is in your hand, you can cast it as either the creature half or the Adventure listed on the left side of the textbox. If you play it as a creature, it comes into play normally just like any other creature. If you cast the Adventure half, the spell is exiled upon resolution. You can then play the creature half from exile at any point normal timing restrictions would allow.
At a base level, these cards seem a bit tricky to evaluate. They are modal spells, but they also aren't because in many instances you get both modes eventually. I think the best way to think about these cards is that when you play the Adventure half, they always draw a card - that card is just whatever the creature half is.
To start with the Brazen Borrower listed above, I would be surprised if this card did not see Constructed play. A 3/1 with Flash and Flying for 3 is Constructed playable on its own in some formats. When we staple an almost Blink of an Eye onto the front of it, the utility here feels high.
Bonecrusher Giant is likely two cards that are playable on their own stapled together. Against a deck playing cheap creatures, this card has the ability to fill out turns two and three on our curve. This card will be a staple in Red Aggro decks, while also likely slotting into some control shells as a removal + finisher split card.
While a 7/7 Vigilance for 7 isn't exactly a Constructed playable rate, a five-mana sweeper is certainly reasonable in Standard. Getting a random finisher as a bonus after you sweep the board in your control deck is all upside. It also ensures that games actually end when the control deck takes over.
While Swift End is not exactly Hero's Downfall, the fact that Murderous Rider has Lifelink will often make up for the fact that the Adventure costs two life. I expect this card to be a staple in every deck that can consistently cast its double Black requirement.
If there is a White aggro deck in this format, I expect Giant Killer to be an auto include in it. The ability to be a 1-drop that provides disruption or be a removal spell in the late game seems great.
While this won't find us utility lands like Elvish Rejuvenator did, a ramp spell that doubles as a bomb as well seems good. This will provide some guaranteed color fixing, which is valuable as well.
The last adventure card I want to highlight today probably has some of my favorite flavor in the set:
The token that Heart's Desire creates is presumably a beauty, which then allows the beast half of the card to attack. This is another great Adventure because it allows us to fill out two spots of our early curve with a single card. Most importantly, even if our 1/1 dies, the beast can still block which should make this card an excellent road block against aggro.
Moving on to some non-Adventure cards, I'd like to start with one that actually works quite well with Lovestruck Beast:
If our Lovestruck Beast on turn three survives, we can curve right into The Great Henge on four. While The Great Henge is good with all creatures, it will be especially good with Growth-Chamber Guardian. Guardian will draw a card, and getting a +1/+1 counter right away means that it will also find a friend.
This card feels tricky to fully evaluate, but I would be surprised if it doesn't end up seeing some amount of play. If you are attacking with at least three creatures, getting +1/+1, double strike, and trample is a decent rate on its own. Then, when you factor in the fact that you get to keep this bonus and move it around, I think this turns into a Constructed playable card.
Speaking of aggressive cards, I think all of the following will likely see some amount of play in aggressive shells:
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is an interesting card that may or may not be playable depending on what removal is seeing play in the format and what threats the Red decks want. For instance, if Cavalcade of Calamity decks stay popular, I could see Torbran being a decent top end because he makes those triggers extra deadly.
Robber of the Rich is reasonable on rate for a Red aggressive creature as a 2/2 haste for two. This means that, while his ability is a bit mediocre, it is simply a bit of potential upside on an already playable card. While Menace isn't as aggressive as Haste, the fact that Stormfist Crusader provides a steady flow of cards and damage seems quite powerful. While Stormfist does give both players cards, remember that the best source of card advantage is killing your opponent while they have cards in hand. So any deck playing Stormfist will likely want to try and end the game before its opponent can take advantage of their extra tools.
Moving on from aggressive cards, let's take a look at a couple of cards that utilize the new food mechanic:
Three-mana planeswalkers can be tricky to judge as I have learned from past spoiler seasons. Oko looks pretty reasonable at a glance, though. Against aggressive decks, he comes in at a high loyalty and creates a food token every turn. Against Control decks, we can generate a 3/3 every other turn by alternating making a Food and then turning it into an Elk. Oko will also be able to "upgrade" our weaker creatures, such as Arboreal Grazer, into 3/3s as well. His minus-five will be hit or miss depending on what threats are played in the format, but I would be surprised if he doesn't steal threats in a few different matchups.
Oko also works well with our second Food card here - Gilded Goose. While Goose can provide mana of any color, the fact that it needs a food every turn to do so is a big deal. Oko can provide a steady flow of food to keep the Goose making mana and Goose can provide some ramp to make casting Oko on turn two possible.
Other Green cards that caught my eye include:
Once Upon a Time is great. I think this card would likely be playable without its first line of text, but with that line it becomes fantastic. This card will often be a threat when you need a threat or a land when you need a land. It will allow you to keep one, and possibly even zero, landers that would otherwise be mulligans. It will help us find key finishes in the late game. I expect this card to be a four of in most Green decks that contain creatures.
Rules Text Soup, err, Questing Beast is certain to be a format staple. While it is rare that all of its abilities will be relevant, something on the card will be useful in most games and that is before we even consider its base stat line and keywords that are reasonable.
Escape to the Wilds is a nice mash up of the new style of Red card advantage we saw with Light Up the Stage, mashed up with a bit of ramp from its Green identity. I could see this being a cornerstone in a ramp style deck. If you hit two lands and a 7-drop while on five mana, you could play that expensive bomb the next turn.
Next I'd like to highlight some of my favorite Black cards from the set:
Ayara, First of Locthwain is one of the payoffs for playing Mono-colored decks in Standard. She will pair especially well with Gutterbones, since her trigger enables Spectacle when Gutterbones enters play and then she can sacrifice it to draw a card right away.
Clackbridge Troll is an interesting iteration of giving the opponent an option to sacrifice creatures to tap our attacker. While the Troll does provide the opponent with some free bodies to sacrifice, doing so also gives us health and cards. Once the Troll is able to attack, an 8/8 with Trample is going to close out most games very quickly.
I'd like to wrap up by talking about the rare lands in this set - starting with our upgraded Evolving Wilds:
Evolving Wilds is a card that saw occasional Standard play as is and I would expect this strictly better version to see play inside of every two or more color deck that isn't trying to be aggressive. In the early game the fixing will generally be important enough to stand losing a bit of tempo, and in the late game this is really no different than drawing a basic.
Finally we got a really awesome cycle of rare utility lands:
I think all of these castle lands are likely playable in various shells. Similar to Fabled Passage, they will often cost aggro decks some tempo early, but the fact that they will often come into play untapped is a big deal. Something important to note about these: as someone who often plays more lands than most people - "spell lands" like these allow us to be conservative with our land counts, while also giving us something to do when we would otherwise be flooding out.
While I do think all of these are likely to see some play - my rankings on the five would be as follows:
I put the Black castle at the top because it generates actual card advantage with its activation. In a midrange deck that gets its hand empty, I expect this land to draw more than a few cards most games. The Blue and White castles generate virtual card advantage in different ways, though how much a 1/1 is worth can vary a lot matchup to match.
The Red castle seems great in an aggressive shell, but aggressive decks also suffer the most from having a land come into play tapped. The Green land feels like the weakest on the surface to me, but getting a fatty down ahead of schedule is still pretty reasonable.
What are some of your favorite cards from Eldraine? Did I cover them here or do you feel like I skipped over something important? Let me know in a comment below!