From the first look at the cards in this set, you can see that the designers had some fun with this one. With fairy-tale flavor everywhere, you'll stumble on cards that you didn't get the first time and now are like, "Oh, it's Goldilocks!"
And that's fun.
But it's not what we are here for particularly, is it? And by we, I mean you and me. The person who is trying to learn all the best strategies before your playgroup, local game store players, or future digital opponents.
Today, I'm going to give you a head start on Throne of Eldraine Limited by first going over the set in broad strokes and then zeroing in on a few choice archetypes to get you started.
Throne of Eldraine has two new mechanics, but one big headliner: Adventure.
Adventures are a very clever twist on my favorite type of mechanic—the kind where you get to do a thing now, and then do something later.
Most of my favorite formats of all time feature morph or flashback or some other mechanic that allows you to do something in the earlier part of the game but also gives you somewhere to put your mana late in the game when you draw a few too many lands.
Adventure is a cool take on this concept because it marries two different types of effects onto one card. Generally speaking, you'll get to cast a spell and then, later in the game, cast a creature (there are some exceptions to this).
The other standout mechanic is called adamant. Adamant rewards you for building your deck either as a fully monocolored deck or with a heavy emphasis on one color.
While monocolor decks aren't normally on the menu outside of rare Draft scenarios, in Throne of Eldraine, it seems they will be much more viable. Besides adamant nudging us in that direction, we also have a full cycle of powerful hybrid mana uncommons that lend themselves perfectly to a monocolored deck. Plus, there's a slew of more-playable-than-normal artifacts and artifact creatures.
It's unclear to me just how often we'll actually be sleeving up monocolor decks, but the signposts are there for it to be a thing in this set.
Throne of Eldraine follows a familiar narrative when it comes to how the set is structured. There are ten two-color pairs, each of which has its own set of attributes and preferences.
I'll cover each one of them in a sentence or two so you at least know which direction to point if you end up in that pair, but we'll drill down into three of them as starter archetypes for you to try out, depending on your personal style of play.
White-blue cares about having artifacts and/or enchantments on the battlefield, and many of its signature cards will reward you for having either an artifact, enchantment, or both on the battlefield.
Blue-black looks typically controlling, but with a strong graveyard sub-theme. It's unclear how important it will be to mill your own graveyard, but it is clear that there is a blue-based (perhaps mono-blue?) mill deck in the format thanks to commons like Overwhelmed Apprentice and Merfolk Secretkeeper.
Black-green cares about the thing I care about most at any given moment: Food. This pair provides you not only with the Food itself, but with several tempting options for using it (usually not in the intended way).
Black-red is an aggressive deck centered around Knights and the more typical sacrifice sub-theme. Also typical: this pair gets the best removal options in the format.
Red-white is Knights aggro. It's a tribal deck built around Knights and ways to augment them. This is likely the fastest deck in the format.
Blue-red centers around giving you a bonus for having drawn your second card each turn. The part to remember here is that your draw step each turn is one card, so during your turn, you only need to draw one extra card to get the benefits. Also remember that drawing a card doesn't mean you have to keep it in your hand; if you draw a card but have to discard one right away—or the other way around—that still counts as having drawn a card, so you'll get the bonus.
Green-white has two things going on. First, it's the most Adventure-centric archetype, even rewarding you for simply sending your creatures on adventures. Second, it has the more familiar "Tokens and How to Pump Them" thing going on.
Red-green has a lot of the normal stuff like huge creatures ready to smash, but it also carries with it a non-Human subtheme. This deck rewards you for having creatures that aren't Humans. Being a human myself, I'm mildly offended.
White-black is another Knight-centric tribal deck. This one looks the least aggressive of the lot, but still cares about attacking and will reward you for doing so.
Green-blue seems to be less specifically themed but clearly has a big-mana thing going on. And given the number of adventurer cards, that could be a big deal since you're more likely to have a place to put all that mana than in a normal set.
That breakdown consists of the broadest possible strokes to describe these archetypes, but should give you an idea of what to go for if you find yourself at the draft table in a color pair you aren't sure about.
That said, I've selected three of these archetypes to dig a little deeper into.
For the Aggressive Player: Red-White Knights
For most sets, we have what I like to call a "signpost gold uncommon" that helps us figure out what a color pair is doing. In this set we get that, but also an additional powerful uncommon that costs four hybrid mana of the chosen pair.
Let's use both of those in our deeper dives of these three archetypes.
For the Red-White Knights deck, we have:
Okay, okay, we get it! Not exactly subtle, these signposts unearth themselves from the ground and smack you on the head. Play Knights! Turn them sideways! More Knights!!
But honestly, that does kind of look like what this deck wants to do. There are a full ten Knights at common in this color pair.
These are just the commons! It shouldn't be any trouble at all to get a critical mass of Knights for this deck. Beyond that, it looks pretty straightforward. Curve out, beat down, win games.
Some of the adventurer cards throw you a bit of a curveball in that you'll want to cast the Adventure first so you can get full value later, but it may be incorrect to do so in some situations since you'll need the board presence more.
Just be aware that sometimes it's going to be better to send your creature directly to the battlefield instead of on an adventure first. This might sound weird coming from a value hound like me, but these decks really do need to get a presence on the field of battle more than value sometimes.
For the Midrange Player: Green-White Adventures
Green-white is typically about creatures. Namely, making a bunch of them, then making them better as a team.
This archetype throws in some adventuring, but keeps that same general policy in place.
Oakhame Ranger gives us what we expect from green and white all in one card. It gives us multiple creatures from one card (in this case, we're getting three total!) and also gives us a way to take advantage of having a bunch of creatures by pumping up our whole team. Straightforward, but powerful.
It's when you see Wandermare that the adventure sub-theme comes into focus. This card is already solid a 3/3 for three mana, but it gets out of hand pretty quickly if you dedicate enough of your picks to adventurer cards.
And why wouldn't you? It's not like you are paying some big price to put adventurer cards in your deck; you wanted to do that anyway. There are eight common and four uncommon adventurer cards in this pair—plenty to go around.
Additionally, you'll get some nice payoffs for committing to the adventurous lifestyle.
Edgewall Innkeeper seems to be the most important of the bunch for its ability to power you through the late game. That said, Mysterious Pathlighter has a big impact on your board in an immediate way, and may end up being more powerful on average.
Garenbrig Squire is closer to filler than a build-around, but hey, it's not like anyone else at the table is going to be fighting over it.
I like decks like this. They pay you off for going hard in a direction, but it's not like they fall apart if you don't draw the build-around pieces. You are still curving out, playing spells, and even getting value from adventuring.
For the Very Smart Clever Player: Blue-Red Extra Cards
Blue-red cares about drawing a second card in a turn, and looks really fun.
The way I see it, giving me a benefit for drawing extra cards is like paying me for getting paid. It's what I wanted to do anyway, and now you are rewarding me for it? I'm in.
The payoffs are there, but they aren't as robust as the prior two archetypes.
Improbable Alliance is the single card I'm most excited for in the set. It's a classic build-around uncommon and looks very real. Turbo out a bunch of 1/1 fliers early, then take over the late game with the activated ability.
As I mentioned before, the key here is that you are spotting one of the two necessary draws on your turn via your draw step. That means you only need to find one other way to draw a card to trigger the Alliance or any of your other payoffs. If it's not your turn you'll have to do it at instant speed, and you'll have to get through two cards.
Thankfully, there are many ways to do this.
You'll have to manage the timing on these carefully; normally, you would want to cast Opt on your opponent's turn since you could get more information about what you are digging for, but in this deck, it might be better to main phase it to get any on-board benefits you may have going.
Sage of the Falls is absurd. It's very difficult to kill, and, in some versions of this deck, it will trigger the second card drawn basically every turn! And on top of that, you get to loot for more action which helps ensure you'll get to keep going! This may be love.
Speaking of love, if you ask many people what the three words they most want to hear are, they'll say, "I love you." Which is cute and all, but c'mon, try "draw four cards" and tell me that isn't better.
It seems to go with the mill deck that is available here, but I'm playing it in any deck I can cast it in. The only downside? You only get the bonuses of the second card drawn on the second card drawn, not on every two cards drawn.
I'll manage somehow.
A Note on Monocolor Decks
As I've mentioned here, this set looks like it is facilitating monocolor decks in a way we haven't seen in a long time. The adamant payoffs are real, and the colorless options to fill in the rest look good enough to do the job.
What is the deal with these decks? Well, you can usually play one fewer land pretty safely. They are 100% consistent when it comes to color requirement, but you still deal with the whole "not enough lands" part of the mana equation just as often as you would in a two-color deck.
My plan is to explore them and see if the gain in consistency is worth the cost in overall power. If adamant as a mechanic can shore up that gap, then you'll be drafting monocolor decks a fair bit of the time, and that's pretty exciting since we normally get about ten archetypes to choose from. Here, you'd be choosing from fifteen.
I can't wait to dive into this format. If you are sitting next to me at a draft though, please, please don't take my Into the Story from me. Please?
Until next time!