At the Pro Tour, GB Cryptolith Rites and GB Seasons Past were both archetypes that found their way into the Top 8. Neither deck in their original forms ended up being dominant past that point, but both still found occasional success here and there. The GB Seasons Past shell continued on with Abzan and Sultai versions, and the GB Cryptolith Rites deck saw continued play as 4-Color Rites.
I managed to avoid playing either deck throughout the entirety of their life in Standard, dedicating myself instead to a diet rich in GW Tokens and Bant Company, two decks that proved to be resilient and dominant. I don’t regret that in the slightest.
The above paragraph is only somewhat of a lie. Or rather, it was true, until a few weeks ago, when I sleeved up Sultai Midrange to play it at Grand Prix Pittsburgh. Even though I ended the tournament with an average finish and swore to anyone who could hear me that I would never touch GB again the rest of my life, I still find myself thinking about GB decks late at night. I feel guilty about it, but thankfully it’s a secret that nobody knows about, and nobody ever will.
The truth is, GB just wasn’t on the same power level as Bant Company or GW Tokens last Standard season, but with Eldritch Moon, that could be in for a change. GB is getting a lot of love, and I feel like it might be a big deal.
Let’s take a gander at some of these fresh cards.
Initially, the reception for this card was warmer than tepid bathwater hours later. Since then, I think people have cozied up to Liliana some. I actually think this card will be pretty solid. Liliana reminds me a lot of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, another card that was horrifically misevaluated when it came out. Very few people thought Jace would amount to much—there were a lot of people complaining about how bad Jace was and that it was the worst Jace ever—yet at one point Jace’s price reached about $100 as it saw play in every format, including Vintage.
Jace and Liliana both seemingly have the same +1 ability, but Liliana’s is actually much better. I don’t think Liliana will be out there slaying X/1 creatures that often, but the toughness reduction is actually very important in combat. It will allow 2/2s, like Grim Flayer, to swing through the high number of 3-toughness creatures in the format such as Sylvan Advocate, Reflector Mage, or Eldrazi Displacer. It also allows 5-toughness creatures, like a boosted Sylvan Advocate or a Reality Smasher to die to a Grasp of Darkness in combination with Liliana’s +1.
Liliana’s -2 is like the mirror image of Jace’s -2. Instead of getting back a spell, it gets back a creature. Personally, I think that is generally slightly worse, but not significantly so, and Liliana’s -2 also helps to enable delirium, which will definitely be important for some of the other cards on this list.
It will happen to everyone at least once. You’ll be sitting around, playing a game of Magic. You think you’re safe. You’ve got the game under control. It’s in the bag. And then it happens, and you wonder where it all went wrong. You knew it would happen at some point, but months had gone by and you forgot. You got complacent. You got soft.
And that’s when Ish-Kanah give it to you. It gonna give it to you.
Ishkanah, Grafwidow reminds me a lot of Thragtusk. It’s a 5-mana green creature that leaves behind a lot of buddies and can make combat annoying for the opponent. Ishkanah is certainly a lot worse than Thragtusk—it doesn’t pull you out of burn range and can’t attack nearly as well, but it still does a lot for 5 mana.
I like that Ishkanah, Grafwidow blocks Avacyn by itself, and even if it ends up being the unfortunate victim of a Declaration in Stone, the 3 Spiders left behind (I’m assuming you always have delirium, deal with it) can still play defense long enough to get things back on track.
Ishkanah, Grafwidow plays well with the new Liliana. You can loop Ishkanah with Liliana, make opposing creatures small enough to die to the Spiders, and use Liliana to fuel delirium to get Ishkanah online in the first place.
Iskhanah also buys enough time for another heavy-hitter to come down.
I already wrote an entire article on Emrakul, but all of these new cards make me think that GB is going to be a great shell for the promised one. Ishkanah, Grafwidow buys time, Grim Flayer and Liliana fuel the graveyard, and so forth and so on. GB is already good at extending a game with loads of removal, solid creatures like Sylvan Advocate and Tireless Tracker, and hand disruption. Once GB starts to get to 8-9 mana, that’s when it’s time to start to fear Emrakul. She will end the game in ways you never thought possible.
I’m of mixed opinion on this card. It reminds me a lot of Warden of the First Tree, actually. Warden was a card that didn’t see a lot of play initially, but ended up being one of the best creatures in Standard by the end of its tenure. If Grim Flayer is connecting, it’s going to take over the game. Delirium is going to be easy to achieve and every turn you get to basically Ponder for your draw step. You get to choose the best of the top 3 cards, or just draw a fresh one if none are good.
This is definitely a snowball card. What scares me is that it’s a 2/2 in a world of 2/3 creatures. It’s not always going to be easy to connect with this. Grim Flayer seems very good on the play and good if backed up by sufficient removal to clear the way. If you can enable delirium easily, this could be quite strong. A 4/4 trample with a powerful combat ability is nothing to scoff at.
Winner for card name of the set. I can’t really explain why I love this name so much, but it speaks to me on a deep level. Distended Mindbender sounds like a wrestling move or a disease. “Ishkanah, Grafwidow off the top rope… but no! It gets shut down by the Distended Mindbender.” “Little Johnny is unfortunately suffering from an acute case of the Distended Mindbender. Recovery is unlikely.”
I think all of the emerge Eldrazi are good, even including Abundant Maw, the 6/4 that drains for 3 when it comes into play. I like to refer to that card as Siege Mawstodon. It drains like Siege Rhino but has a body more like Mosstodon.
Anyway, I think Distended Mindbender is sweet, and I could see it slotting into a GB shell with various powerful green and black 3-drops to sacrifice to this monstrosity.
That’s not all the new toys for GB in this set, but that’s all the toys this Santa is dishing out in Magical Christmasland. You’ll have to get your other toys from a different Santa, a better Santa, of which there are many.
Oh, and before I forget—Mindwrack Demon exists. Remember how Desecration Demon was a bulk rare that saw no play for a full year, but then ended up being one of the most powerful cards in Standard the entire next year?