One (Attack) Step Beyond!

Posted in The Week That Was on September 11, 2015

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

Several times a year, we get to look at shiny new Magic cards during preview seasons. We put our collective thinking caps on to evaluate where they will find homes. Is it a Standard all-star, will it find a home in Modern, or does it have the narrow mix of attributes that will let it thrive in the game's oldest arenas? All I know is that one of the first things I thought about when looking at my card was that I fully expect to see it in Cube formats as soon as cubists can get their greedy little hands on one. Let's take a look at the card and then we can start thinking about where it might find a home besides a box with 719 other cards.

Look at how those Eldrazi minions have grown up! I was always a fan of Awakening Zone, but those Eldrazi Spawn did not represent much more than a speed bump on the battlefield if they were not being sacrificed for mana. Eldrazi Scions, on the other hand, can occasionally win a game all by themselves. They also give your opponent something to contend with in the red zone if they want to think about attacking you. Your opponent can just attack willy-nilly into a board jammed up with 0/1 tokens—but once you add a little power to the board, it becomes more complicated.

This is a ramp spell that you ideally want to ramp into itself. This is a ramp spell that is squarely aimed at getting you to double-digit mana production for some mane-whitening monster. That said, you are not going to want to invest the entirety of your fourth turn to play this card without having done anything else. Even in Limited, you are going to be mostly dead before your first Scion shows up looking for something to do. Ideally, you are going to be playing this on the third turn of the game, off of a turn-one or turn-two Elf.

As of this writing, I have little context for what Eldrazi might be available in the coming Standard format, but I am going to trust that there is something you are going to want to sacrifice this to find. If you have ever sat across the table from an opponent resolving an Eldrazi—heck, even just casting one sometimes—you know how utterly game-crushing they can be. The problem with them is that they are (traditionally) expensive and legendary, and will glut up in your hand if you play too many of them in your deck.

This card exists in a super sweet groove; it helps you not only cross the threshold of mana needed to summon your monsters, but once you are there you get to cash it in. One new Eldrazi I'm excited about is Oblivion Sower, which also helps you accelerate your mana. That's okay though. Sometimes you need more than one boost to get to your high-end Eldrazi. It is not hard to imagine a scenario where you play a turn-three From Beyond and use your Scion token on the next turn to ramp out a turn-four Oblivion Sower. Maybe you hit two lands off the Sower and suddenly you are in business to the tune of nine mana the following turn. You can just cash in your From Beyond for another Oblivion Sower and cast it that turn without even making your land drop for the fifth turn. From there, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or a Desolation Twin are almost easily in reach.

One of the aspects of From Beyond that I love the most is that it does not have to be played early to be relevant. You can play a grindy game with your opponent, spending your early turns frustrating them with spot removal, board sweepers, and planeswalkers. You play your Oblivion Sower and get your mana into the double-digit territory while you wait to draw your big finishing Eldrazi—and I have to be honest here, the more I talk about Oblivion Sower, the more I see myself finishing games with it. At twelve mana, you could play From Beyond and immediately cash it in for another Oblivion Sower, or you could wait a turn and cash it in for something more Ulamog-sized.

Without more intel, it is hard to predict what finishers we will be using with our From Beyond, but let's look backward at a couple of the cards that will play nicely with this new toy.

I just want to remind everyone that Tomb of the Spirit Dragon is a Pro Tour Top 8 card in Constructed. Stephen Berrios played two copies of the colorless mana producer in the sideboard of his Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact deck that reached the Sunday Stage at Pro Tour Magic Origins. This is a card that becomes very interesting in a world full of colorless creatures. Especially when you might need to play a little catch-up after taking your third or fourth turn off to cast something like From Beyond. Can you imagine the look on your opponent's face after they got you down to a single-digit life total only to find themselves moving in the wrong direction as you tick your doomsday clock toward Eldrazigeddon while gaining two, three, four life over successive turns?

Eldrazi Scions can serve other masters besides the Eldrazi, too. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is pretty formidable with all the cards featuring the devoid keyword. Not only does From Beyond get you to your colorless planeswalker, it can help get it into play two turns sooner. You can mop up the board by removing loyalty counters without fear of exiling your own From Beyond or any Scions that may be hanging around. From there you get to make a 1/1 every turn and get the Ghostfire canon online. Throw a Tomb of the Spirit Dragon onto the board and suddenly you are going to be sitting on more life than you started with. Not that it will come to that, since you can just redeem your From Beyond for whatever other Eldrazi monstrosities have been revealed.

It is going to be a terrifying new world once the Battle for Zendikar extends to your kitchen table. Which side will you be on? Personally, I expect to be attacking from beyond.

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