Previous Set Reviews
White | Blue | Red | Green | Colorless, Lands, and Gold
Welcome to the Eldritch Moon Constructed Set Review. I’m subbing in for LSV for this set and, just like for Limited, I’ll be using the framework he already has in place.
I do things a little differently than in the Limited review:
I evaluate the cards that have a shot at seeing play in Constructed. Sorry, Cathar’s Companion, you’re in the doghouse when it comes to Constructed. Sometimes I leave a card off that ends up seeing play, but I try to cast a wide net.
I talk about non-Standard formats if applicable. If I don’t mention a specific format, assume I’m talking about Standard.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). I believe it was tech vs. Howling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.
Collective Brutality can do a decent impression of Duress, or a decent impression of Dead Weight. That flexibility alone starts to get appealing. But the ability to do both (and perhaps tack on a drain-2) puts it over the edge into the realm of Constructed playability. Where Collective Brutality begins to get really interesting is when you pair it with madness cards. Expect this to be a player in RB, as simply pairing it with Fiery Temper makes for some pretty great value.
Shadows over Innistrad had some very good Zombies. Before now, the tribe was just a little too shallow to be competitive in Standard. Cryptbreaker looks like it can stand alongside Relentless Dead and Diregraf Colossus to make a dedicated Zombie deck into a real contender.
In Limited, it’s probably the token-making ability that’s the greater appeal of Cryptbreaker, but in Constructed it’s probably the card-drawing ability. Crucially, you can tap non-token Zombies (including Cryptbreaker itself) to help you draw extra cards.
A 1-drop Zombie that offers card advantage and is powerful in the late game is very special. Expect Zombies to be a real deck, and Cryptbreaker to be an important part of it.
Similarly, Dark Salvation is likely to earn a slot in a Standard Zombie deck. The rate on making 2/2 tokens is a bit inefficient, but the ability to kill off a creature equal to the number of Zombies you control is great. You can even use Dark Salvation for 1 mana to give a creature -2/-2 or -3/-3.
Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana doesn’t strike me as one of the most powerful planeswalkers ever printed, but 3-mana planeswalkers have a history of being very good in Constructed. She’s going to be at her best when she can actually kill opposing creatures with her +1 ability, which could come up big against White Weenie and Spirits, in addition to a handful of other matchups. Even when she’s not killing creatures, she can protect herself, or combo with Languish to take down a 5-toughness creature.
I think you’ll need to be able to get value from Liliana’s -2 ability before you’ll be excited to put her in your main deck. This simply means having a healthy number of creatures, and hopefully ones cheap enough that they might wind up in the graveyard by turn 4 or 5. This ability is better than drawing a card, so if you even use it once while getting a tiny bit of extra value from Liliana sticking around, then she has been a solid card.
Finally, her ultimate, which is slow, is also powerful. If you get to bust the -7 ability in an undecided game, it will typically lead to a win. In this sense, Liliana is sort of the mirror image of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, which has proven to be a great card.
Unfortunately for Liliana’s Elite, she lives in a world where getting a 4/4 or 5/5 creature for 3 mana is good, but not particularly awesome. This means that you’ll have to put a lot of work into making this card playable, and you’ll be rewarded with something that’s not even a lot better than simply casting a Tireless Tracker fair and square.
That said, there are a lot of other graveyard synergies in Eldritch Moon and Shadows over Innistrad, and if you had a self-mill deck with a lot of creatures, then you’d consider Liliana’s Elite.
I played with Murder the last time it was legal in Constructed. Generally, this card is exactly what it looks like—a very slightly overpriced removal spell. You’ll never be excited to play Murder, but it can be a useful tool that you can mix a copy or two of into your removal suite.
You can’t have all Murders, because having too much inefficient removal will lead to falling behind against aggro decks. Perhaps more importantly, it competes with Ruinous Path, which is a card that I absolutely love in Standard right now.
Expect to see Murder in 0-2 copies in midrange black decks, particularly because of its ability to take care of Archangel Avacyn. But this isn’t the type of card that’s going to revolutionize the format.
Oath of Liliana
I find Oath of Liliana as exciting as Liliana, the Last Hope herself! This stands out as the most powerful of the 5 Oaths (although Oath of Nissa will continue having the most widespread utility). It’s also unique in that the enters-the-battlefield trigger is relatively weak while the “if a planeswalker entered this turn” trigger is far stronger than the other Oaths.
By now, everyone knows how powerful Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can be when he comes down and makes a 2/2 token to protect himself. Oath of Liliana grants that effect for free to every planeswalker you cast for the rest of the game. Even casting 1 planeswalker, you’ve built yourself a Gatekeeper of Malakir. If you’re going to be casting multiples, Oath of Liliana will contribute a ton of ground defense to protect your ‘walkers, and might just leave you with an army of Zombie tokens when the dust settles.
Oath of Liliana is a card that I’d be very excited to play with once my deck features half-a-dozen or more planeswalkers. Consider it for UB decks with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy as well as for WB or Mardu Superfriends decks.
If that proves to be accurate, then Olivia’s Dragoon isn’t likely to see Constructed play as a 4-of, but might get a little time in the sunlight from those Vampire players who want to spill over into the B-string 2-drops.
Ruthless Disposal is a powerful but niche removal spell. I doubt you’ll ever want this card in large numbers. I could easily see it being a sideboard 1- or 2-of for something like a Zombie deck. It’s quite powerful against opponents that lean on a handful of creatures that cost 3 or more mana to win the game.
To say that Stromkirk Condemned is one of the best Standard-legal Vampires would be an understatement. This is actually the card that makes me excited to build a Vampire Tribal deck. All in one package you get a 2-drop creature, a repeatable madness enabler, and a payoff for your tribal synergies!
Stromkirk Condemned is awesome. I expect there to be a good Vampire deck in Standard, and I expect Stromkirk Condemned to be an unconditional 4-of in it.
Succumb to Temptation
Succumb to Temptation has the potential to be a Constructed card, but it faces stiff competition in Read the Bones and Painful Truths. If you’re in a position to really benefit from the instant speed, then you’re likely playing blue and have even more card draw options.
All that said, I would’ve gladly played a copy of 2 Succumb to Temptation in my GB Seasons Past Control deck from Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. Some decks (and players) really want Divinations, and Succumb to Temptation will probably make an appearance somewhere.
Tree of Perdition
4-mana ground blockers are not really Constructed staples no matter how good they are. Making the opponent’s life total equal to 13 also doesn’t seem like a particularly necessary effect. That said, Tree of Perdition is a unique card, and players that are interested in its effect have nowhere else to turn.
The best Constructed application of Tree of Perdition is probably its combo with Triskaidekaphobia. Both of these cards are 4-mana spells that don’t have a huge impact on the game, and the Tree itself is even vulnerable to creature removal. Combine that with the fact that a single untapped painland can ruin your day, and you have a combo that doesn’t exactly thrill me. But I have to admit that it’s a 2-card instant-win combo, and that’s something that rarely exists in Standard.
Voldaren Pariah is an extremely powerful and unique card. Sacrificing 3 creatures is a cost that most decks won’t be voluntarily willing to pay. On the other hand, the will decimate certain opponents.
The most natural home for the Pariah seems to be something like the GB Sacrifice deck that LSV used to Top 8 Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. I could also see it as a sideboard card for Vampires or even Zombies against decks that are particularly vulnerable to the triple-edict effect. Even though RB Vampires doesn’t produce tokens or disposable bodies, having control over such a powerful symmetrical effect like that is still appealing.
Whispers of Emrakul
2 mana to make the opponent discard a card at random isn’t that bad, but it’s not good either. You’ll need a realistic chance to achieve delirium in the first 5 turns of the game before you should play with Whispers of Emrakul. I do really like this in a dedicated delirium deck, and the prospect of actually getting to Hymn to Tourach people has my mouth watering.
Specifically, this is the card I’ve been looking for to give my black midrange decks a fighting chance against ramp decks. Transgress the Mind is great, but you can only play so many of them, and it allows the opponent a comfortable window to topdeck and beat you. Whispers of Emrakul is not just an extra discard spell, but one that can pressure their resources by 2-for-1’ing them, and possibly stripping away land drops.
Top 5 Black Cards
Many of black’s most powerful Constructed cards are the Vampire and Zombie tribal ones. Vampires and Zombies both look like good decks to me, and if they are, then Stromkirk Condemned, Cryptbreaker, Dark Salvation, and a handful of other cards will all be slam dunks.
Of course, it would be foolish not to pay close attention to Eldritch Moon’s hallmark planeswalker in Liliana, the Last Hope. I can’t say just yet what’s the best home for her, but GB and UB Midrange decks are a good place to start. If Spirits proves to be a major player in Standard, then maybe being able to pick off 1-toughness creatures will be much more powerful than it looks.
Similarly, Oath of Liliana incentivizes you to play a lot of planeswalkers, and many of Standard’s most powerful cards are planeswalkers. I suspect that it could be a major player.
I don’t think black has the very best cards in Eldritch Moon, but it’s very deep in strong Constructed cards (conditional on Vampires and/or Zombies being a competitive deck). There are a lot of directions that the color might take you.