Magic The Gathering: Eldritch Moon Set Review
Ever since 2010’s “Rise of the Eldrazi,” Magic the Gathering fans were crying out for more of Magic’s gargantuan Lovecraftian antagonists. It had a lot to do with how unique the set was, and how fondly people remember that limited environment. With Eldritch Moon the Eldrazi are back again, and this time they mean it gosh darn it! Eldritch Moon has been out in the wild for some time now and it’s been a set I’ve had a hard time making up my mind about.
This may be because Eldritch Moon comes at a challenging time in Magic’s history. There have been a number of poorly received sets in the past couple of years for one reason or another, and increasingly Wizards of the Coast is failing to meet the basic quality markers we’ve come to expect from their products. Wizards has responded by reaching into their back catalogue to entice players with promises of the glories of Magic the Gathering’s past. But we’re not here to talk about the overarching state of the game, we’re hear to talk about Magic’s latest expansion: Eldritch Moon.
Eldritch Moon Limited
Straight away I want to talk about Meld. Whilst a lot many of the Meld cards are common, even from the previews I knew this was going to be an issue in Draft. You need two specific cards in your hand at once to get the bonus Meld provides, meaning having multiples is the safest way to make this more likely.
In Sealed this is less of an issue since you know your entire card-pool right away, but having Meld available is the difference between some cards being playable vs. unplayable. Whilst many of the cards are still playable on their own, mitigating the problem somewhat, Meld hasn’t really broken out in Constructed in a big way — a place that would be a more natural home for this mechanic that rewards having consistent draws. It’s also a great way to get two for one’d and perhaps that’s a big reason why we don’t see it in Constructed that much right now.
A mechanic I do really like in Limited is Emerge. Having smaller creatures that are useless in the late game become fuel for your bigger monsters is a good piece of design, especially when sacrificing creatures can give you some bonus or advantage when the graveyard matters.
Escalate gives us more modal options on our spells, somethings Wizards is very keen on lately after printing more “Command”-style cards, and this is a shift I very much welcome. Making cards less situational increases their chances of being playable. The added cost also ensures they feel fair. In terms of design philosophy this something I hope they continue doing.
I enjoyed the limited drafting time I’ve had with Eldritch Moon a great deal, the set feels flavourful and competently designed, and it compliments Shadows Over Innistrad whilst not completely overshadowing it. Madness and Flip cards make a return giving the environment a familiar yet tweaked feel. Maybe I’m just grateful that I won’t have to play Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) Limited ever again.
Eldritch Moon Standard
After the Pro Tour in Sydney earlier this month, the metagame had settled down into its groove for the next bit. Eldritch Moon has had a moderate, but noticeable impact on the metagame with decks like Temur Emerge using cards and mechanics from the set to great effect. It’s very nice to see Emrakul, the Promised End himself in top-tier standard decks as it can be uncertain if the splashiest looking cards in any given set will actually be playable. Emerge especially fits in nicely when fuelling your graveyard can be important, or when sacrificing a creature matters to your deck. It’s those synergies and small margins that make a card or strategy playable in Standard.
The Eldritch Moon card making the biggest impact on Standard right now is Spell Queller, due to its powerful ability to exile any low cost spell at instant speed as it enters the battlefield. Aside from the Queller, the only cards we are seeing consistently are: Ishkanah, Grafwidow with its ability to grind out games, Liliana, the Last Hope because it’s a decent black Planeswalker, and Selfless Spirit because of its utility against blowouts and board-wipes.
I say it has had a moderate impact because in terms of top ten most played cards, the list is still pretty barren when it comes to Eldritch Moon. I think we’ll see a lot more of Eldritch Moon cards when Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir finally rotate out. But for now the format is just filled with too many tried and tested powerhouses that go into a large variety of decks. This is still Collected Company’s world; we just live in it.
Impact on Eternal Formats
The good news is this set hasn’t broken Modern, so guess Wizards R&D actually tested the set this time. With the toolboxes to abuse Eldrazi being firmly in the banned pile I suppose there wasn’t much risk of that. That’s a bit of a two-edged sword though, to the best of my knowledge no card has really “broken out” in Modern as such, but there is still a lot of brewing to be done and a lot of potential in the set.
I know a lot of people are talking about Emerge in Modern, but quite frankly I think most of that is coming from the big card retailers who want you to purchase new singles. As I’ve said before, I think the coverage of Magic is very geared towards selling cards and lacking in objective advice. There really isn’t a “go out and buy this before the price spikes” pick in Eternal formats for Eldritch Moon. There are already more optimal tools in the decks that might want Emerge cards.
I suppose Harmless Offering is kind of cute (pun intended) in a donation style strategy, but those have always been niche “fuck with your opponent” type decks. I’ve seen “Imprisoned in the Moon” talked about as unconditional removal but like all enchantment based removal it can itself be removed meaning in a case where a card is valuable enough to risk ramping your opponent, your opponent is probably willing to use a card to get it back. Feels like niche sideboard tech to me.
I hate to be a downer, but I don’t see much to get excited about in the current Modern meta.
How much Value is in Eldritch Moon?
Eldritch Moon’s strengths lay in its overall consistent quality, even if that’s with a slightly low power level — as well as its satisfying lore. There isn’t a huge about of value in this set outside of cards like Liliana, the Last Hope and Emrakul, the Promised End, which serve as the normal “spendy” cards in any given set. Don’t expect these to hold value post rotation beyond their cool factor.
I would argue the value comes from what gameplay you get out of this set. It’s kind of depressing we’ve gotten to a stage in Magic where we can say simply not being a steaming pile of junk is a real asset to a new set… but here we are.
Conclusion and Recommendations
In terms of a follow up the Rise of the Eldrazi, Eldritch Moon fits the bill a lot better. It’s a final set in a block where the Eldrazi emerge in an already established world, much like they did on Zendikar the first time they appeared. Its play-style, as we will get to in more detail later, is also a little more reminiscent of the “Battle-cruiser Magic” that made Rise of the Eldrazi such a classic set.
It’s as I suspected; Wizards of the Coast are using nostalgia as a crutch, we’ve returned to two well-loved planes back to back. I can’t help feeling MtG’s best and most creative days are firmly behind it. Admittedly, Eldritch Moon uses that nostalgia better. Enough time has passed that I think I can say the Battle for Zendikar block was an extremely poor set. Eldritch Moon essentially renders Battle for Zendikar pointless. We should have gone straight into Eldritch Moon from Khans of Tarkir. Boom, Innistrad is back! And surprise, Eldrazi are back too! Having a bungled Return to Zendikar sandwiched in-between takes a lot of the wind out of what could have been a much better received set.
As it stands, it just makes me think “Oh look more Eldrazi, I wondered why they skipped Emrakul in the previous two sets. Guess they just wanted to pad this out.” To paraphrase a worn out meme: “The amount of Eldrazi is too dammed high!” I’m all Eldrazi’d out, they don’t feel remotely special anymore as three out of four of the lastest sets have featured them. Wizards desperately needs to inject some new ideas into the game.
With the bashing I’ve given its value and Eternal format showings, you might find it odd that I’m actually giving a tepid recommendation to Eldritch Moon. I think it’s a fun set, and after all that’s what this game is about. It would be remiss of me not to also praise all of the weird and wonderful art in this set. After some of the frankly ugly Eldrazi cards we saw in BFZ block it’s a world of difference. If you buy a set just based on value or power level maybe give this one a pass. Those aspects of the game are important, but I don’t want to give Eldritch Moon the same bashing I gave to Battle for Zendikar because it doesn’t deserve it. Overall it’s an okay set in an okay block.
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