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Brewing Eldritch Moon


The last month or two has been a slow time to be a brewer in Standard. The three big decks—GW Tokens, Wr Humans, and Bant Company (with or without Humans)—have a stranglehold on the format, and many of the cool tribes from Shadows over Innistrad simply don't have enough to complete. The good news is that Eldritch Moon has finally arrived, and it looks to be one of the most powerful set releases in years. As such, it's time to brew again in Standard!

Today, we have eight different decks to look at, mostly for Standard, but a couple for Modern as well. Some are budget, and some are competitive, but all represent things I'm excited to test out, now that we have some sweet, sweet Eldritch Moon cards. I've arranged the lists into three groups. The first group includes competitive decks, the second is budget lists, and finally we wrap up with a couple of janky lists that are cool but likely not super competitive. A word of warning before we get to the decks: the main idea here is to illustrate synergies and ideas, not necessarily to present perfectly tuned lists. I expect that some changes will need to be made as the lists are tested and the metagame takes shape. That said, each deck has at least one thing, at the very least, that makes it worth testing and exploring. Anyway, let's get to the lists and start with a deck I mentioned on the MTGGoldfish Podcast last week: White Jund! 

Competitive, Non-Budget Lists

White Jund—Standard

I mentioned "White Jund" on the podcast a couple of weeks ago, which was probably a bad idea. A lot of people (understandably) thought I was talking about a Jund-colored list splashing for some white cards. Well, here's what I meant. 

White is absolutely overloaded with incredibly powerful standalone threats. It also just so happens to have the best removal in all of Standard. Plus, thanks to colorless mana, it's really easy to "splash" for some Eldrazi to fill in the gaps. Basically, it seems likely that you can build a very good deck simply by jamming all the best white cards together and planning on out-powering the opponent. At almost every slot on the curve, our play will be more powerful than our opponent's plays, and the hope is that the excess power will make up for whatever synergistic advantages our opponent's deck might have. 

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In the past, my biggest problem with playing non-aggressive mono-white decks was the complete lack of card advantage, and while the deck still doesn't have any straightforward card advantage, the addition of Thalia's Lancers alongside Eldrazi Displacer gives the deck a way to not only draw a card but an extremely powerful card, for just three mana in the late game. One of the odd aspects of the deck is that a lot of its best creatures are legendary. Not only can we search up an Archangel Avacyn or Gisela, the Broken Blade but also more situational cards like Bruna, the Fading Light (either to reanimate another one of our creatures or to meld into Brisela) or our single Linvala, the Preserver, if we find ourselves behind on the battlefield or in life totals. 

Otherwise, we get a Thoughtseize in the sideboard, in the form of Thought-Knot Seer; three of the best removal spells in the format, in Silkwrap, Stasis Snare, and Declaration in Stone; a solid curve; some two-for-one potential in Archangel Avacyn; and extremely powerful plays from two mana all the way up to seven mana. Plus, if Eldritch Moon Standard looks like Shadows over Innistrad Standard—dominated by GW Tokens along with various Human and Collected Company lists—then having a ton of huge, evasive threats is a great way to close out the game quickly. 

Finally, the other awesome aspect of the deck is that, if you feel it's necessary, you can splash any color for very little cost. Feel like you need another two-drop and some more card advantage? Splash green for Sylvan Advocate and Tireless Tracker. Need some discard? Splash black for Duress and Transgress the Mind. Early game sweeper for Wr Humans matchups? How about red for Kozilek's Return and/or Radiant Flames? Basically, this deck plays a lot of good cards that are going to be in the format for a long time, so even if White Jund isn't the deck that breaks the format, it's very likely you'll be able to make use of these cards somewhere, in some shell, and have them be very, very good. 

Valakut Dredge—Modern

Probably the most obvious application of Splendid Reclamation in Modern is using it as a sort of graveyard Scapeshift to deal a lethal amount of damage to an opponent all in one shot, with the help of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and a bunch of Mountains. The obvious challenge is figuring out a way to get enough lands in the graveyard to power up our win condition, and while there are likely a bunch of ways to do it, the first thing that came to mind was the dredge mechanic. 

What we have here is a deck that wants to get a dredge card in the graveyard as quickly a possible; dredge as many cards as possible, with the help of card draw like Faithless Looting and Insolent Neonate; and then hopefully win on Turn 4 by resolving a Splendid Reclamation and getting back some number of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacles and a bunch of Mountains. I expect that, with the help of Faithless Looting, Noxious Revival, and a single Eternal Witness, our deck should be extremely consistent at goldfishing our way to a win on Turn 4; the question is whether the graveyard Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle plan is better or worse than the most common Scapeshift plan. 

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The biggest positive for Splendid Reclamation is that it should win the game at least two full turns faster than a typical Scapeshift deck, which means the opponent has much less time to draw into their disruption. So, speed is definitely one of the biggest reasons to play Dredge Valakut over Scapeshift. Assuming the opponent isn't putting up a fight, both regular Scapeshift and Dredge Valakut are quite consistent, so we'll call this one a wash. On the other hand, regular Scapeshift decks (especially the Titan Scapeshift builds) are likely better at winning when in the worst-case scenario, since they have a handful of good creatures to fall back on, while our creatures are pretty worthless outside of dredging.

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Which build is more resilient is a really interesting question, and I'm not completely sure of the answer. On one hand, Valakut Dredge dodges land destruction like Fulminator Mage, Ghost Quarter, Crumble to Dust, and Tectonic Edge, all of which are various degrees of backbreaking for Scapeshift. On the other hand, Valakut Dredge can get wrecked by Grafdigger's Cage, Leyline of the Void, and Rest in Peace, which don't do anything against Scapeshift. Meanwhile, both decks lose to Blood Moon, although as I mentioned before, Scapeshift at least has the potential to win with a Primeval Titan, while we don't really have a good backup plan. One possibility is to play Splendid Reclamation and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in a build with Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam (as a real backup plan), but while I think the mana could work, I'm not sure it's worth the hassle. Bloodghast and Prized Amalgam don't help us win through graveyard hate, and if our opponent doesn't have graveyard hate, we should win anyway. All in all, I'm not sure if Dredge Valakut is anywhere near as good as old-school Scapeshift, but it could be, and the very fact that the possibility exists is super exciting.

Decimator Elves—Standard

We played a green-black Elves deck on Budget Magic almost a year ago, right after Magic Origins released. Well, thanks to some of the new cards in Eldritch Moon, it might be time to take the archetype out for another spin. The basic idea of the deck is simple—flood the board with cheap Elves and then win by creature damage or with the help of Shaman of the Pack—which doesn't change with Eldritch Moon. What does change is that the deck now has the ability to consistently win much more quickly than it did in the past with the help of two new cards. 

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The first important new addition to GB Elves is Eldritch Evolution, which seems insane in the deck. Most obviously, we can sacrifice any creature in our deck and turn it into a Shaman of the Pack to drain our opponent's life total away, and since Elves plays a lot of random mana dorks that are good in the early game but not as exciting in the late game, it shouldn't be hard to find something we don't mind sacrificing. We can also sacrifice a four-drop like Sylvan Messenger to tutor up our single Soul of the Harvest as a Glimpse of Nature on a massive 6/6 body. Most importantly, we can sacrifice any of our two-drops to find a four-drop (mostly likely Sylvan Messenger, but Llanowar Empath works as well), and having a four-drop on the battlefield on Turn 3 or 4 is super important to our deck. 

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Decimator of the Provinces makes this new and improved build of Elves scary and potentially lets the deck win as early as Turn 4 or 5. Basically, our deck wants to play manadorks on Turns 1 and 2, use Dwynen's Elite to put some extra bodies on the battlefield, and then sacrifice a four-drop like Llanowar Empath or Sylvan Messenger to emerge a Decimator of the Provinces. All we really need is four creatures on the battlefield (for example, Turn 1 Gnarlroot Trapper, Turn 2 Beastcaller Savant and Leaf Gilder, and Turn 3 random four-plus something like Dwynen's Elite) to make our Decimator of the Provinces lethal as early as Turn 4 (the example I just gave would represent exactly 20 damage on Turn 4). Even if our opponent manages to block enough to stay alive, we likely wrathed their board and have a ton of Elves (along with a 7/7 trampling Decimator of the Provinces) hanging around to finish the job the next turn. 

For some reason, I'm really exciting to test out this new build of Elves. Not only is it incredibly explosive, but when we aren't winning on Turn 4 or 5, we have a decent amount of card advantage thanks to Elvish Visionary, Sylvan Messenger, and Soul of the Harvest to reload after a wrath, and a way to finish off the game without attacking thanks to Shaman of the Pack (which is pretty important in a Standard where the ground often gets cluttered up with GW Tokens and random creatures from Collected Company). Plus, if you're looking for a more budget-friendly build, it's fairly easy to cut the single Nissa, Vastwood Seer and the playset of Westvale Abbeys (which is a pretty sweet backup plan, since our deck can flood the board with creatures pretty quickly) and get the price tag down under $100! Speaking of budget friendly...

Budget-Friendly Lists

UW Spirits—Standard

The one deck I'm most excited to play competitively in Standard is UW Spirits, which looks a lot like the second coming of Faeries, minus Bitterblossom. The good news is that, even including some expensive new editions like Spell Queller, the deck can be built on a budget without any great loss. If budget was no concern, I might have played one more Ojutai's Command, possible a couple of Archangel Avacyns somewhere in the 75, and definitely a playset of Prairie Streams over the Evolving Wilds. But otherwise, the above deck—while being a first draft—is essentially where I'd start in testing a competitive UW Spirits list. 

If you're trying to look for a Budget Magic comparison, probably the two closest decks in play style are the Mono-Blue Faeries list in Modern and UW Clue Flash in Standard. Basically, this deck is the direct opposite of White Jund. Instead of overwhelming our opponent by playing an extremely powerful card every turn, we play a whole bunch of little fliers that don't look all that exciting on their own but can generate a lot of small advantages. Mausoleum Wanderer can tax our opponent's spells just by sitting on the battlefield, and potentially get an opponent even when they try to play around it, if we can flash in another Spirit. Rattlechains makes killing our Spirits with targeted removal risky, and it allows us to flash in cards like Selfless Spirit to counter a (non-Languish, non-Tragic Arrogance) sweeper or Bygone Bishop at the end of our opponent's turn to dodge targeted removal and start making Clues. Even all of our removal is instant speed, which means we never have to tap our on our turn and always leave our opponent guessing. This uncertainty is a large part of our advantage, and it's magnified in this Standard, where there really isn't a whole lot going on at instant speed. 

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While everyone agrees that Mausoleum Wanderer, Spell Queller, and Rattlechains are extremely strong, I wanted to take a minute to talk about one of the most unappreciated Spirits: Nebelgast Herald. This card might very well be the secret ingredient of UW Spirits in Standard. One thing I've noticed while playing various UR and UW Fliers decks in Standard is that these decks play a ton of close games. Furthermore, these decks aren't especially good at blocking—it never feels good to have to throw a Rattlechains or Spell Queller in front of a Sylvan Advocate or Thalia's Lieutenant just to stay alive. In our Modern Mono-U Faeries deck, the solution to the problem was Pestermite coming in to tap down a Tarmogoyf for a turn. Well, Nebelgast Herald is our Pestermite! Sure, it may not tap a land or untap anything, but when it comes to fizzling an attack or two, Nebelgast Herald is actually way better than Pestermite, since it not only taps a creature when it enters the battlefield but when subsequent Spirits enter the battlefield as well. 

Basically, Nebelgast Herald allows UW Spirits to win the race against decks playing powerful ground threats. Their creatures will almost always be bigger than ours, but that doesn't matter if our opponent can't attack with them. Even better, Nebelgast Herald shores up another potential problem for the Spirits deck: opposing Angels and Dragons. While a lot of the big decks at the moment are battling on the ground, if UW Spirits becomes a tier-one archetype, you can expect that people are going to start playing more fliers for defense, and Nebelgast Herald makes it almost impossible for an opponent to stabilize with Gisela, the Broken Blade, Archangel Avacyn, or any Dragonlord. All in all, while Mausoleum Wanderer and Spell Queller will get all the hype and accolades, Nebelgast Herald will make UW Spirits so good to play with and so difficult to play against. 

Mono-Red Burn—Standard

I'll let you in on a secret: even though Burn is my most hated archetype in all of Magic, I've tried to build a budget Standard burn deck several times over the past few months. Unfortunately, we were just a few points of burn away from making it good—I mean, at one point, I was actually playing Sarkhan's Rage to try to get in the last points of damage. However, with the release of Eldritch Moon, I think Burn has a chance to be one of the better budget Standard decks, at least until rotation this fall. 

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If you remember last year at this time, Wizards printed Exquisite Firecraft to go along with Stoke the Flames, allowing an overlap of four-damage burn spells over the summer. Unsurprisingly, aggressive red decks flourished during this time. Well, they sort of did the same thing again. While Collective Defiance isn't as powerful as Stoke the Flames, being a sorcery and lacking convoke, it still does four damage, and if you have an extra mana, it turns into an upgraded Searing Blood. Incendiary Flow is also a huge addition to the deck. While Volcanic Hammer is horrible compared to Lightning Strike and downright laughable compared to Lightning Bolt, it's also 100 times better than the the awful burn spells we've had to play with since last fall's rotation. When you consider these cards along with Fiery Temper and Lightning Axe, most games, we'll only need to get in 8 or 10 points of early creature damage to be able to finish our opponent off with burn spells, which seems pretty doable with Zurgo Bellstriker, Lightning Berserker, Abbot of Keral Keep, and Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh

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Bedlam Reveler is the one card I'm most uncertain about. It could very well be a four-of and one of the best cards in the entire deck, but it could also be completely unplayable. Realistically, we probably won't be casting it until Turn 5, considering we only have 20 lands and 23 spells. The other problem is that even on Turn 5, if we are forced to choose between casting a Bedlam Reveler and a burn spell, the burn spell will usually be the right choice. On the other hand, in games where we do resolve a Bedlam Reveler, drawing three fresh cards will likely give us enough gas to win the game, and they work well in multiples, because once we draw three from the first one, the second copy should almost always cost only two mana. The more I write about Bedlam Reveler, the more I want to jam four in the main deck, clunkiness be damned, but for now I'm willing to start out with two in the main and keep the other two in the sideboard for more controlling matchups. 

Various Levels of Jank

Turbo Emrakul—Standard

For my money, Splendid Reclamation is one of the most broken cards—if not the most broken card—in Eldritch Moon. Not only does it have combo potential (most obviously involving Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in Modern, as we talked about before), but it's also one of the most powerful ramp spells ever printed. Remember: in our current Standard, ramp decks are perfectly happy paying four mana for Explosive Vegetation and Hedron Archive—cards that add two additional mana the following turn. Well, it's super easy to turn Splendid Reclamation into an Explosive Vegetation, but in the right deck, the card can do so much more!

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So, picture this. You spend the first three turns of the game casting cards to help fill your graveyard like Gather the Pack, Contingency Plan, Grapple with the Past, and Pieces of the Puzzle. Since we want to maximize the power of Splendid Reclamation, our deck is playing 30 lands, which means half of the cards in our deck are lands. Considering that most of our self-mill cards go five deep, an average draw will get us five lands in the graveyard on Turns 2 and 3 (not counting the possibility of cracking one of our four copies of Evolving Wilds on Turn 1). Then, on Turn 4, we simply cast a Splendid Reclamation to get back about five lands, which gives us 10 mana on Turn 5—the perfect number to cast Emrakul, the Promised End (with a discount of three from the cards we milled) or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Better yet, since we are playing four copies of Sanctum of Ugin, there's a reasonable chance that we will have another Eldrazi again the next turn. 

You might be wondering, why play a deck like this over the more common GR Eldrazi Ramp deck? Well, there are two reasons. First, our average draw is faster than their average draw. Typically, the GR Eldrazi Ramp deck untaps on Turn 5 with seven or eight mana (assuming they hit all their ramp)—still significantly short of casting an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Emrakul, the Promised End. As long as we have a Splendid Reclamation, we'll be untapping with 10. Plus, having four copies of Pieces of the Puzzle and four Contingency Plan means that our odds of having a Splendid Reclamation on Turn 4 is actually fairly high. Second, one of the problems with the ramp decks is that they occasionally draw the wrong half of their deck and end up with all fatties and no ramp, or all ramp and no finishers. We, on the other hand, have a ton of cards that help us find a finisher (Gather the Pack, Grapple with the Past, Contingency Plan), so not only should have regularly have a Splendid Reclamation on Turn 4, but we should always have one of our finishers (and hopefully a Sanctum of Ugin to find another) on Turn 5. 

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While I'm 100% sold on Splendid Reclamation being extremely strong in both Standard and Modern, I will readily admit that our list could use some tuning. There's a good chance that it's simply too all-in on Splendid Reclamation (which is less scary than it sounds, because we don't really have good graveyard disruption in Standard) and that it could stand to have some removal and disruption. One interesting possibility would be to go Sultai, which would not only allow for good removal, sweepers, and discard, but also Dark Petition to find Splendid Reclamation. Then, if we are playing Dark Petition, we could also include the Seasons Past loop (I considered running Seasons Past in our list, but a lot of the cards in the deck aren't really that exciting a second time, but with discard and removal, it could be very good).

Splendid Hunt—Modern

Not much to say about this one, but in theory, Splendid Reclamation gives Treasure Hunt decks another way to win the game. Basically, you mulligan until you find a Treasure Hunt, Treasure Hunt into a ton of lands and either another Treasure Hunt (to repeat the process) or a Splendid Reclamation, and then discard a bunch of lands to hand size. Sooner or later, a Treasure Hunt will hit a Splendid Reclamation, which you will cast (hopefully in an uncounterable manner, thanks to Boseiju, Who Shelters All); then, you win the game with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle triggers.

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That said, you probably shouldn't play this deck unless you already have the cards sitting around. While it's super funny when it goes off and can steal some games, the big appeal to playing a deck like Zombie Hunt (which does essentially the same thing, but wins with Zombie Infestation) or Seismic Hunt (which wins with Seismic Assault) is that both of those decks are incredibly cheap, which makes them easy to build as a joke decks to play every once in a while. On the other hand, Splendid Hunt is actually super expensive, and while you can trim the price by cutting the fetchlands, Splendid Reclamation and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle increase the price of the build by magnitudes, even in a deck consisting entirely of basic lands. 

Prototype Madness—Standard

Speaking of all-in and janky, Prototype Madness has to be near the top of the list for both, at least as far as Standard is concerned. Basically, we are trying to get both ourselves and our opponent hellbent as quickly as possible, which turns our Lupine Prototype into a huge threat and also lets us start drawing two additional cards each turn cycle (one on our opponent's upkeep and then one on ours), with the help of Asylum Visitor. While the "discard our hand" plan is likely pretty clear and obvious looking at the deck list, there are a couple of pretty sweet synergies worth talking about. 

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The package of Furyblade Vampire or Lupine Prototype into Tormented Thoughts is one of the best reasons to play this deck. Basically, this combo allows us to build our own Mind Twist, forcing our opponent to discard four or five cards on Turn 3, which should be most or even all of our opponent's hand. While this won't happen every game, since we only get four copies of Tormented Thoughts, I have a really hard time imagining a scenario where we make our opponent discard five on Turn 3 and then go on to lose the game. While making our opponent discard their hand is great on its own, in our deck, we also get the added benefit of being able to attack with our two-mana 5/5 once we get our opponent out of cards. 

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When we don't draw the Tormented Thoughts combo, things get even jankier. In these situations, our goal is to discard our own hand as quickly as possible, so we can start beating down with our Lupine Prototypes. The good news is that, in the process of discarding our hand, we get eight Lava Spikes in Fiery Temper and Alms of the Vein (not to mention being able to drain for two with Collective Brutality). Ideally, we'll get empty handed on Turn 4, hopefully with a couple of Lupine Prototypes or Furyblade Vampires on the battlefield, and if we have enough Lava Spikes, we can just win the game on the spot with a combination of draining and creature beats. If the game goes long, we pretty much try to play like a disruptive burn deck. Sooner or later, we'll get our opponent empty-handed, draw some cards with Asylum Visitor, get in some evasive damage with Olivia's Dragoon, and then finish our opponent off with Fiery Temper and Alms of the Vein

Of course, there's some risk involved. If we discard our entire hand to push through a bunch of damage and our opponent manages to stay alive and then kill our threats, then the chances of us winning are pretty slim. Even just getting Tormented Thoughts countered is pretty rough, since we not only lose the spell but the creature we sacrificed in the process. As such, this one isn't for the feint of heart, but if you like putting your opponent to the test early in the game and then cruising to victory if they don't have some specific answers, then this one's for you!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Hopefully, these brews will get you excited for the possibilities of Eldritch Moon Standard, but don't worry—there are plenty more to come! Until then, what decks, cards, synergies, and archetypes are you most excited to play with now that Eldritch Moon is finally here? Which of the decks we talked about today do you want to try first? Are Spirits going to dominate Standard? Does Splendid Reclamation have what it takes in Modern? Let me know in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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