We are nearly ready to ascend to the Throne of Eldraine. The full card list has been revealed and I for one am chomping at the bit to have an opportunity to try the new commons for Pauper. Unlike many other sets from recent memory, Throne packs mechanics that have a good shot at making some headway. On top of that, the set is loaded with cheap effects that could very well find a home in Pauper.
Rather than dive into individual cards to get started, I want to look at the new mechanics in Throne of Eldraine. Why take this approach? If you have been paying any attention to discussion around Pauper as of late, you will no doubt have heard people (myself included) taking a good long look at format health. With a Banned and Restricted List announcement a few weeks away, it is possible that potential changes could create pathways for Throne of Eldraine cards to make a larger impact.
That being said, let’s start with adamant–the mechanic least likely to make a splash. It is not that adamant will be hard to turn on. In Pauper it is far more likely to cast spells with three of the same color of mana outside of Tron and Affinity. No, the big thing holding the adamant back is the strength of the effect. The five creatures with adamant at common are all barely playable even with the bonus activated. Likewise, the spells all are a bit too weak to warrant consideration except for Foreboding Fruit.
Black has no shortage for card draw spells these days. Sign in Blood, Night’s Whisper, and Read the Bones are all good ways to keep cards flowing. The problem is that all of these leave the black mage down on life. Foreboding Fruit can make a Food token and for 2BBB effectively reads “draw 2 cards, gain 1 life.”
Mono-Black Control has traditionally struggled with Burn decks in the midgame as the midrange builds need to go down on life to see cards, but a Food token can trade with any one card in most Burn decks. When your card draw spell can neuter a Lightning Bolt, it deserves some examination. At three mana this might be too expensive for a full four in Mono-Black Control, but I could absolutely see it earning two copies in the maindeck as a way to hedge against Burn.
They’re all excellent. These cards all come with a free effect if you control the right number of the correct basic lands. The green one is the worst, but as we established it will still help to trade with a Lightning Bolt pointed at the face. Both the red and white lands are fine and could slot into decks that want these effects. The blue and black ones, however, are the best of the bunch. Pauper already has a problem with blue being able to regrow important spells and Mystic Sanctuary makes it that much easier. Being able to put a spell back repeatedly–we’re looking at you Ghostly Flicker–means that this card is likely to see heavy play in decks based around various loops. Witch’s Cottage, meanwhile, let’s you rebuy your best threat. All these lands have the correct basic land type, which means they can be retrieved by cards like Farseek and Twisted Abomination. They also do not take up a spell slot. While these are not going to be four-of inclusions due to the risk of drawing them too early, I could absolutely see many decks packing two to three copies of the correct land.
More Food, Please
Going back for seconds, Food is interesting. While Burn is not a top-tier deck, it is still a player in the metagame. The deck has gotten better over time and can consistently deal 27 damage in a reasonable amount of time. A metagame that is full of Food and other defensive measures like Weather the Storm could make the environment hostile enough to keep Burn down. Food has other uses as well, of course. It helps to turn on one-artifact threshold synergies and can help with metalcraft. In a pinch, a token can also be used to ensure Glint Hawk doesn’t die to its own trigger. Again, I do not expect Food to be a major player moving forward, but it does provide some nice options for blunting assaults.
The last major named mechanic in Throne of Eldraine are creatures with adventure. These cards make any Gravedigger effects stronger in that they now can get back part of a spell. On top of that, I imagine each adventure is stronger than it looks on the surface since they are two cards when cast in sequence. Merchant of the Vale, for example, is not strong enough to see play on its own. Haggle, on the other hand, gives red access to a one mana piece of card filtering on an instant. That alone would be good enough, but add a reasonable body to the equation and you get a package with a nice ceiling.
Rosethorn Acolyte is nothing special as a three-drop rainbow mana elf. Seasonal Ritual, on the other hand, can help multicolor decks fix their mana early while providing a reasonable body late. The Ritual also can filter green into black, letting a deck with Rosethorn Acolyte cast a Tortured Existence off a turn one Forest. Tortured Existence might be a pet card for many, but adventures mean that the enchantment can now retrieve spell effects as well.
If I had to pick one adventure that catches my eye, it’s Smitten Swordmaster/Curry Favor. While the list of Knights in Pauper is not long, it does have some solid cards in black. Fallen Askari and Order of the Ebon Hand fit the bill, as does Skulking Knight and Changeling Outcast. While this creature base is far from impressive, it is low enough to the ground that recasting Curry Favor could end the game in short order. Pairing black with white opens the door wider, adding Irregular Cohort and another five dozen friends.
There are other Throne of Eldraine cards that stand out. Mantle of Tides and Rosethorn Halberd both attach for free and can help creatures win combat steps. Personally, I can’t wait to Brainstorm on my opponent’s turn to put a trophy on my Mantle. Witching Well is another in a long line of cheap artifacts that will benefit blue decks, except it happens to be blue itself. Kor Skyfisher does Magma Spray better and as a result means it can take out Kor Skyfisher, and we all know how I feel about Magma Spray. There is a lot to explore in Throne of Eldraine and I cannot wait to see how these cards shake out in Pauper.