We're really starting to settle into this whole "two-block format" thing, aren't we?
For those new to the game, the idea of having two sets per block is relatively new, beginning with Battle for Zendikar. Previously, there were blocks of three sets, and the Draft environment would be one pack of each of the three sets. Sometimes, though, we would draft the first two sets together and then the third one by itself. The core sets were standalone Limited environments.
It made getting into a rhythm with figuring out the new sets a little confusing, as you'd constantly have to ask yourself what the format was morphing into whenever a new set came out.
With the new two-set blocks, it's much more straightforward. We drafted Shadows over Innistrad on its own, and now with Eldritch Moon, we're changing that up. We'll be drafting two packs of Eldritch Moon, with the third pack being Shadows over Innistrad.
So how much of what we know of Shadows over Innistrad will carry over into Eldritch Moon Limited? Some of the mechanics and themes will carry over into Eldritch Moon, and we still get that one pack worth of Shadows cards of course. So we know that it will influence how the new format plays out, but the cards (especially the commons and uncommons) of Eldritch Moon will play the biggest role in how the format plays.
What We Knew
A few things stand out to me from Shadows over Innistrad. Some of the best decks in the format centered on build-around-me uncommons, and most required some important cards to be really great. Since we will only be getting one pack of Shadows, and since it's the last pack we'll open (making the build-around cards significantly harder to build around), I'm expecting some new archetypes to stake their claim on the landscape.
Additionally, any heavily synergistic decks (think the investigate/Clues deck, for example) will have to see their mechanics carried over to Eldritch Moon. And in the case of investigate, that's not the case.
Which brings us to one of the first things I look at when a new set is entering the Limited environment: the new mechanics. For the purposes of this quick glance at the mechanics of the set, we'll be splitting them into two groups: Group One is for the mechanics that are synergy-rewarding. This (usually) means that either you are rewarded for having more occurrences of the new mechanic (like tribal mechanics, for example) or there are specific payoff cards that reward having a ton of a certain mechanic (like devoid).
Group Two is for the mechanics that don't really care about what else you have going on in the deck, they will just do their thing.
Let's group the new mechanics.
First we have meld. From what I can tell, there is only one pair of meld cards that isn't rare or mythic rare.
I'm certainly interested in melding these together to form this:
That said, meld seems to be pretty firmly in the Group Two. Powerful, sweet, kind of weird, but not really about synergy.
The next new mechanic is emerge, which is a way to power out expensive late-game threats early, for a hefty cost: board presence. Is this more of a Group One or Group Two mechanic? I'll be putting it more in the second group, since it's primarily a cost-reduction mechanic rather than a synergistic mechanic. I will caution that it's useful to keep your eye out for exceptions when they pop up, like this one:
This is a card that cares about when you play a card for its emerge cost, but it's also the only one that references emerge directly without actually being an emerge card itself.
The last new mechanic in Eldritch Moon is called escalate.
Escalate is most definitely a Group Two mechanic, as it functions as a means to alter the scalability of a modular spell, not as something you build around, per se.
So we have three new mechanics, and none of them are particularly synergy-based. Does that mean that this format will be primarily based on power level and not synergy? It's possible, but we have to look a little deeper before we see the complete picture.
For example, this card jumped off the preview page at me:
Ol' Captain Hammy has been poking around Innistrad since, well, Innistrad. But the thing about this card that is really important to note is that it cares a lot about Humans, and how many you have. That is a major clue left by Wizards R&D! Once we start down this path, you'll find a lot of Human-centric cards in Eldritch Moon.
And that's to say nothing of the sheer number of Humans in the set. From what I can see here, Humans as a tribe are very real in this new set, and there are still the Humans in Shadows over Innistrad as well.
Skulk, madness, delirium, and double-faced cards all make a reappearance of some sort in Eldritch Moon as well. So we'll be expected to look for discard outlets, self-mill cards, and cards that care about or aid in transformations.
Interestingly, the Werewolves are now possibly the scariest of all possible concoctions: some kind of warped Eldrazi Werewolf hybrid. They start not as Human Werewolves like before, but instead as Werewolf Horrors.
Apparently Eldrazi don't care much about the cycle of the puny moon of Innistrad, since we are now required to pay a lot of mana to get these cards transformed.
What I want to know is if this means we'll have that much time to actually build up this much mana (indicating a relatively slow format) or if it's something that happens relatively infrequently given the cost (indicating a faster format).
My guess is that it's an indicator of a slower format. After all, what fun would grotesque Eldrazi Werewolves be if we could never see the other side of them?
Self-mill is another theme I'll have my eye on. As mentioned, delirium is still here, and there are any other number of graveyard-type interactions that could further improve the strategy.
Even simple cards like this one can make a difference:
Besides how much I just really want to be the first person to call this "Mill Giant," the fact that it's a Zombie may be relevant, and four is a heck of a lot of cards to mill in one shot (ten percent of your library!).
Cards like these make me hopeful that a self-mill deck is the real deal as well:
We look at a lot of things when introducing a new set into an already known environment: the new mechanics, the returning mechanics, the tribes of the creatures, interactions with different zones of the game, speed of the previous format, perceived speed of the new format, prince versus pauper, etc.
The truth is that the only real way to learn a format is to dive in and draft it a bunch. Play multiple Sealed Deck tournaments, talk with your Magic friends, read articles, listen to podcasts, watch videos. You have to immerse yourself in the new format if you hope to truly understand what makes it work.
Running through a mental exercise like the one we did today as a way of preparing ourselves for the new format can put us a full step ahead of the competition, and that's a step we could stay ahead for the duration of the whole format if we are willing to work for it.
Until next time!