Adventuring in Standard and Limited

Posted in Card Preview on September 13, 2019

By Andrew Brown

Welcome to Throne of Eldraine preview season! Today, I'll be talking about how we designed Adventure cards for Standard and a brief overview on Limited archetypes. Along the way, I'll be sure to show off a couple cards.

Adventuring into Standard

The mechanics of Throne of Eldraine are Food, Adventure, and adamant. We like to think about which mechanic appeals to which type of player, then tailor their abilities and stats to fit those players best. Standard players value making lots of meaningful decisions over the course of the game. Adamant and Food don't exactly play into making lots of decisions. Adamant is either off or on, and Food generally wants to be used when the player has mana to use it. As a split-decision mechanic, we tried to make fun adventure creatures for Standard.

Today, I'll be telling the tale of the "Shockingly Big Giant," which was the playtest name of what became one of today's preview cards. Our first version was very much like its name.

R, adventure: Deal 2 damage to target creature.

During playtesting of the first version, we found that there were not enough decision points. It was always strategically correct to adventure before casting the creature. It was also too strong in some matchups and too weak in others. All in all, too polar and not enough satisfying decisions. Our next version took those factors into consideration.

1R, adventure: Deal 2 damage to any target.

This version addressed a lot of problems that we had with the first. While you did want to cast the creature sometimes, it wasn't happening often enough. The play pattern of it became too prescriptive. With that in mind, we got to the final version of our friend Bonecrusher Giant here!

Bonecrusher Giant

Limited Themes

In an eight-player Draft pod, no matter how you divide up the two-color pairs, some colors will be drafted less than others. We try to mitigate this in most sets by encouraging some three-plus-color decks to make sure that the colors are more evenly divided. With Throne of Eldraine, we took a different approach—we made sure that drafting a monocolor deck could be a reality in most drafts. The adamant mechanic, the quadruple-hybrid-mana-cost uncommons, and higher density of artifacts all make monocolor decks more reasonable. But there are still two-color pair decks. Here's a quick rundown of what each one is trying to accomplish:

  • Blue-red is all about drawing your second card in a turn. Many cards trigger or get a bonus if two cards have been drawn in a turn.
  • White-blue cares about artifacts and enchantments. Many cards get bonuses if you control one and a double bonus if you control both.
  • Black-green has the highest density of Food rewards. Cards key off sacrificing Food or using the Food for other rewards.
  • Red-white is about Knights going wide. Red, white, and black all are Knight themed.
  • Black-red cares about Knights and Equipment.
  • White-black is the slowest of the Knight decks. It wants to have a long game and trade resources frequently.
  • Red-green cares about your creatures not being Humans. Cards will get bonuses when non-Humans enter the battlefield or are in play.
  • Green-blue wants to ramp and use as much mana as possible. Food and Adventure are both natural mana sinks for green-blue to use.
  • Green-white is the main Adventure color pair. It has the highest density of Adventure creatures and rewards for adventuring.

Tying Cards to Multiple Themes

With that out of the way, I want to talk about how cards can synergize in each color pair. We like to make commons that can fit into any color pair so that all decks can have a feeling of synergy. It's also important for these cards to not be the strongest so they aren't heavily contested early in a draft. My favorite example of these simple cards in Throne of Eldraine is Witching Well, which LoadingReadyRun previewed last week.

Witching Well

Witching Well on the surface isn't too impressive. A total of five mana in two possible installments for scry 2 and drawing two cards is nothing really to write home about, but it makes up for it in its synergies. In the blue-red draw-two deck, it's one of the only ways to trigger your draw a second card effects on your opponents turn. In the white-blue artifact enchantments deck, it's an artifact you can play early to get your artifact/enchantment synergies online. In the green-blue ramp deck, it acts as a mana sink and a way to filter away ramp spells in the late game. In the blue-black graveyards deck, it can draw into more removal to fill your opponent's graveyard. Regardless of which blue deck you're playing, it's always great to put a Witching Well in your deck.

But wait. It seems that I forgot to talk about the blue-black archetype. The blue-black archetype in Throne of Eldraine is about getting cards in graveyards. Both graveyards. Cards will upgrade if your opponent has a stocked graveyard, and this deck will have access to getting back cards from its graveyard.

Order of MidnightInto the StoryEye Collector

Tying all those pieces of the blue-black archetype together gets us to our final preview of the day. Hopefully you can unlock the puzzles of Vantress Gargoyle!

Vantress Gargoyle

That's it for my Throne of Eldraine previews. I'll be back around to share some of my favorite Future Future League decks from the ELD FFL focus period. In the meantime, I'll be at most West Coast (best coast) Magic events. Come say hi!

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