The Riki Rules – Rise of the Elder Dragons

Welcome to another exciting Elder Dragon Highlander-centric set review. We won’t be going card-by-card like LSV because in a format as diverse as EDH, the average new card faces an uphill battle against a dozen years of Magic history. Still, Rise of the Eldrazi holds a bit more potential than average thanks to its big mana theme. We love big mana, and I think it’s only appropriate to start with the biggest and baddest of the Eldrazi, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

For whatever reason, the ultra-fatties of the past haven’t scaled very well, perhaps because they have had lame cost reduction abilities. Draco and Autochthon Wurm actually cost more in order to have cost reduction abilities. Frankly, that’s ass backwards, and as a result you’re better off running medium fatties like Sundering Titan and Darksteel Colossus. Emrakul finally gets it right and we get to see how ridiculous an actual ultra-fatty can be when you pay the fifteen mana for fifteen mana worth of abilities.

The question now becomes whether Emrakul is too good. As a general, I don’t think this is too scary. We’ve had the fully colorless Karn, Silver Golem general deck for awhile and the tools just aren’t there to make it truly effective. I don’t think a dozen new colorless Eldrazi spells is going to change that fact. However, there are two prime candidates for Emrakul abuse, generals that have already achieved a bit of notoriety for being unfair: Jhoira of the Ghitu and Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary.

Llanowar’s Emissary

Since being unbanned as a general, debates have raged about Rofellos. In a duel, it takes a certain kind of deck, usually with plenty of creature removal and/or counters, to not get blown out by Rofellos, but in multiplayer games the little green mana engine is not the end of the world. Someone will usually have an answer to the first casting, and even if Rofellos goes active the effects of his mana advantage are lessened by the number of players.

The question is whether something like Emrakul changes that. Is a turn seven Emrakul from the Rofellos deck a problem? It’s a Time Walk that can’t be countered, and pretty much can’t be removed. Yes, there are plenty of mass removal spells around the table, but they are all sorceries. Barring a Rout, Emrakul is going to get to swing on its Time Walk turn, and someone is going to get annihilated for 6.

Jhoira of the Ghitu suspending an Emrakul sounds even more terrifying. Remember, cards coming off of suspend are cast (nee: played) so the Time Walk will trigger. Oh, and creatures coming off of suspend have haste, so someone is getting annihilated for 6 even before the extra turn. Enjoy.

The saving grace for the anti-Jhoira coalition that is your table is that they will have four turns to prepare for the impending face-smashery. Maybe. Jhoira decks have been known to cheat the clock with Paradox Haze, Clockspinning, and yes, even Jhoiras Timebug.

Do we have a problem yet? And which card is the problem? I’ve been asking a few EDH regulars, and most of them think that Jhoira will be the one getting the axe as a general if things get out of hand. I will certainly be doing my best to prove that this is the case by tuning my Jhoira deck to maximize the Emrakul potential because I’m a jerk like that.

Speaking of Jhoira, did you see Training Grounds? It’s a Heartstone that works just for you and costs two mana less. Suspending things for just one mana each is nice, not to mention all the other big cool abilities that you can reduce in cost.

None of the rebound spells excite me. Casting your spells twice is the kind of efficiency you look for to maximize your spell slots, but most of the spells with rebound don’t look Standard worthy let alone EDH. A card like Staggershock is clearly designed for Limited.

Cast Through Time is another matter entirely, and this should shake up EDH tales without being as confusing as Eye of the Storm. You need to be careful with cards like this though because of the social aspect of the format. Sheldon Menery has written a lot about this subject, the primary lesson being that being too much of a jerk will earn you many enemies in the game you’re in with the possibility that you will have trouble finding people to play with in the future. For Cast Through Time, this means that you might want to resist the temptation to say rebound a Time Stretch. Where do you draw the line for what is too good to rebound? It’s going to depend on your playgroup. Tread lightly and test the waters.

Moving on, Uril, the Miststalker and Zur the Enchanter will find some use for the better totem armors, and that’s a little scary because those are already two of the more popular and powerful generals. Uril is already a problem because he dodges all targeted removal; making him immune to Wrath of God makes him some kind of Akira. If you’ve got a Miststalker in your local playgroup, it’s time to invest in Hallowed Burial and Final Judgment. If you’re not white, you’ll need to get a little more creative, possibly focusing on sacrifice effects like Barter in Blood. Red is probably just dead.

My favorite red card in the set has to be Tuktuk the Explorer. I’ve always been a fan of stupid red cards like Risky Move and Warp World. Tuktuk is much simpler in execution, while maintaining a high stupid factor, and he is actually a useful guy. It’s mildly disappointing that he doesn’t work as a general; if you exile him to the command zone when he dies, you don’t get the token. It is hugely disappointing that Tuktuk the Returned does not deal general damage. C’mon, it’s only fair!

The Rest of the Hits

There are a few other cards that strike me as potential EDH staples. Sphinx of Magosi is a book and a finisher. Nirkana Revenant is a Mana Flare and a shade. EDH is all about finding the best two-role cards because 100 cards just isn’t enough. Conquering Manticore is another one: dragon and Threaten.

There’s plenty of utility in the set as well, mostly in green. Growth Spasm will replace a lot of random Kodamas Reaches and Rampant Growths. In fact, it’s the closest thing to Solemn Simulacrum since the sad robot himself. Awakening Zone is another card that should steal a few such slots, serving as both token generator and mana accelerator. Doubling Season continues to gain in value with every passing set. Double those Eldrazi Spawns. Go!

Finally, green gets Tajuru Preserver, a truly unique card. If you’ve got a table full of black mages that like to make you sacrifice things with edicts, this guy is gold. Thankfully, they realized the potential problems and made it your opponent’s sacrifice effects only. If you value your sanity, don’t even try to imagine what would happen if it didn’t.

There are plenty of other hits in this set. Dreamstone Hedron, aka triple Mind Stone is one of my favorites. Can we get a double Mind Stone next? This is likely better than Gilded Lotus for one and two-color decks. Clearly not as flashy as Emrakul, but this is the kind of glue that is far more important for your average deck.

The one card that surprised me was Evolving Wilds. I know that most people are kind of upset about this different-name reprint of Terramorphic Expanse, but these things really matter in EDH because it allows you to run a second copy. I’m at the snob end of the spectrum in that I like to play with my full complement of Onslaught and Zendikar fetch lands (and they must be FOIL!) However, I know that my glittering, Bruce Wayne lifestyle isn’t the norm and many players will welcome a second Terramorphic. Heck, they’re hoping for a third.

A word on Souls Attendant from a non-EDH perspective. LSV asked why you would want to play a Soul Warden with a “may” trigger. I can think of two scenarios. First, maybe you are afraid of missing multiple triggers with the associated penalty upgrades. Several people I know cited the multitude of triggers as a reason they did not want to play Elves in Extended.

It’s also possible that you might gain so much life that you longer care about your life total, but will continue to pump out creatures. Again, Elves decks often enter into loops where they gain enough life to not matter, but continue the loop to draw cards and find their victory condition. There’s been some discussion amongst judges about whether players are allowed to disregard mandatory triggers like Essence Warden once the player is at a million life, or if they must keep tracking their irrelevant life total through the iterations of the loop. Just a little extra judging food for thought to end things on.

Next week”¦ I have no idea what I’ll be writing about. I do have quite a few subjects I’ve been thinking about, including some other subtler changes to the IPG, the value of the Game Loss penalty, and the change to Regionals. Oh wait. Everyone else has already griped about that last one. Let me know in the comments what kind of articles you might be looking for in the future, and also what cards from Rise peak your EDH interest.

Finally, I want to plug a really fun event if you happen to live in my neck of the woods (Northern California). Drom’s Comics and Cards in Davis will be running a 24-hour Draft Challenge. From 2pm Saturday to 2pm Sunday, you can jump in as many 8-mans as your bank account will allow for. At the end of the 24 hours, whoever wins the most matches goes home with 3 boxes in addition to regular pack prizes for each draft. I have also donated a foil uncut sheet of Worldwake commons and uncommon to be raffled off. The sheet was a special gift I received from the DCI for organizing some judge conferences in California last year. Despite the fact that I love foils and I love collecting Magic art, these types of sheets have never appealed to me, so I decided to give it to the community to help promote this great event. For more information, check out this page.

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