A new and stranger darkness has stolen over the plane of Innistrad, and with it a brand new Limited format. This weekend marks the first major competitive event for Eldritch Moon at the Grand Prix level, so I hunted down some top minds to see if they could provide any guidance.
First, I sat down with two-time Grand Prix Champion Frank Skarren.
“It's a little less gimmicky, in a way. A bit faster than Shadows over Innistrad,” he said. “There's an increased importance placed on curving out. Now, that's not to say that if you curve out, you're going to win, but if you curve out and your opponent doesn't you can get pretty far ahead. However, most pools aren't going to support a really dedicated aggro deck, so while you need that early game interactivity, you want to maximize the number of cards that will still be impactful in the late game. It's also important to have cards that can take over the game if it goes long. The board can get bogged down in a lot of matches and you're going to need a way out of that.”
Next on my list was Canada's elder statesman of Limited and Hall of Fame hopeful Rich Hoaen. He hadn't put much work into the format — just one day-long session with the Toronto players that covered both sealed and draft — as well a box's worth of practice sealed pools.
“One thing I found is that the mechanics make you want a balance of synergistic cards in your deck,” he explained. “You want enablers for your Emerge cards, your Madness cards, your Delirium cards, but in sealed you aren't guaranteed to get those things in your pool. The cards with madness, many of them are only attractive when you're getting the discounted cost, and even then they aren't great. There are few ways like a Looter to turn them into cantrips.”
This reminds us that it's important to be realistic about how your cards will perform when building your deck. How do your Delirium cards measure up without their bonus? How often will you be paying full price for your Madness cards? If you can't reliably expect an enabler, you might have to make some cuts in favor of more consistent performers.
Hoaen also echoed Skarren's caution about minding your curve.
“You really want your deck to have access to early plays,” he said. “A lot of the games will get stalled out, but there are more aggressive creatures with Eldritch Moon so you need to be prepared for them. Likewise you're going to need a way to punch through stalled boards.”
My last expert consult was Grand Prix Montreal 2014 Champion Gerard Fabiano. Looking dapper in a brand new Hareruya Pros hoodie, he sat down with me after a victory in the third round.
“In a way, it reminds me a lot of Khans of Tarkir Limited,” he explained. “There's a lot of card advantage, and you have a big discounting ability like Delve thanks to Emerge. Eldritch Moon has definitely changed the dynamic, but it plays similarly. It's more the way individual cards have changed. Sleep Paralysis is a perfect example. Emerge makes it real liability instead of a solid removal spell.”
Fabiano also stressed the importance of knowing what your deck's plan was.
“A card like the four-mana 3/2 that taps a guy when you attack (Fiend Binder), if you've got an aggressive deck that guy is great, but if you're controlling, he's really bad,” he said. “Probably my favorite thing about this set is that you've got good 2-drops and early plays in every color, so you can build any kind of deck you want.”