Eldritch Moon’s Mechanics in Review (Magic the Gathering)

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Although the story of the Eldrazi is at an end, I haven’t been paying much attention to Magic since its Battle for Zendikar. I don’t play Limited very often, so my attention with every new set is focused on the individual mechanics and the few cards that best exemplify that mechanic’s potential to influence other formats. Some mechanics ability to warp formats is easy to spot early on, while others are purposefully gimped in development to avoid specific cards spiraling out of control. Instead of worrying about Emrakul’s attack on Innistrad, let’s look at the mechanics, both new and returning, from Eldritch Moon and see how they compare.

Meld

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Meld is the continuation of the original Innistrad’s Transform mechanic with a twist; instead of simply flipping a card over, Meld requires two cards to flip over and become one giant card. To avoid flooding the card pool with a bunch of half cards that only meld with another specific half card, Wizards opted to print only three combinations of Meld cards, which doesn’t leave us with much to talk about. Because of this, and the restrictive nature of the mechanic, I don’t see Meld doing much outside of Standard and Commander. The best examples of Meld are the two white angels, Gisela and Bruna, who turn into Brisela, Voice of Nightmares.

briselavoiceofnightmares

These three cards are very interesting, but the mechanic as a whole seems very limited in terms of how effective it can be. Yes, Wizards could print two one-drop creatures that meld into a 15/15 behemoth, but beyond any ridiculously pushed cards, Meld doesn’t seem to be worth the effort overall. Thankfully, Brisela is super sweet, and makes me want to put her (it?) into an Angel commander deck.

Escalate

All hail the Kicker variant. For the uninitiated, Kicker represents a large archetype of Magic mechanics that allow players to pay additional mana to do special stuff when casting spells. There’s Multikicker, Entwine, Buyback, Cycle, and many more, with differing degrees of similarity to the core mechanic of paying additional mana when casting a spell. Escalate stitches two Kicker variants together, Entwine and Multikicker, creating something that could be called MultiTwine. Escalate is used on Modal spells (spells that have multiple effects that the player chooses between when casting) and allows the player to pay an additional cost to choose additional effects. Unlike Commander 2015’s Confluences, Escalate cards only allow players to pick one option once, lowering the ceiling of how powerful Escalate cards can be, but not limiting their overall power level significantly.

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Blessed Alliance, for example, allows the user plenty of options, as well as the ability to combine those options together as they choose to create an entirely new spell when cast with Escalate. For {1W}, Blessed Alliance can be a worst Celestial Flare, an instant speed Sacred Nectar, or a half of a Blinding Beam. For an additional {2} or {4}, Blessed Alliance can do slightly more. This card isn’t the best example, considering that gaining 4 life will likely be a last resort effect, compared to the two others, but that isn’t a reason to doubt Escalate’s power. There are already plenty of pushed Escalate cards, such as the roughly translated “Working Together”

workingtogether.jpg Escalate: Tap an untapped creature you control.

*Destroy target creature with power 4 or greater

*Destroy target enchantment

*Put a +1/+1 counter on each creature target player controls

 

I don’t expect Escalate to get too crazy, but even with something as simple as “Working Together”, it shows just how good basic kicker mechanics can be.

Delirium

Although it was revealed in Shadows over Innistrad, Delirium (aka Tarmogoyf-threshold) has already proven to be a powerful mechanic, despite being somewhat difficult to enable. Eldritch Moon builds on Delirium’s potential with cards like Whispers of Emrakul.

I would gladly mill myself to be able to cast Hymn to Tourach for {1B}, or get a 3/3 for {G} with Gnarlwood Dryad. Yes, Delirium is basically just Threshold, but that’s part of why I think it has a lot of potential. It’s harder to enable, but Magic has already shown that graveyard mechanics aren’t always as hard to take advantage of as they initially seem (see Delve).

Madness

Madness was a shoo-in for a block about people going mad, but it also has a storied history of being a very powerful mechanic. The issue with Shadows and Eldritch Moon, however, is that they don’t have access to the same enablers (cards that allow you to discard a card that can then be cast with Madness) as older Madness cards did. On that note, that means that there may be some powerful combinations across sets, whether they be powerful Madness cards or powerful Madness enablers from Eldritch Moon interacting with older cards.

If we’re comparing the two, I would venture to guess that Eldritch Moon’s Madness enablers are more powerful than the Madness cards themselves, especially considering their similarities to older cards like Wild Mongrel. Being able to discard cards without paying mana allows the Madness player to dump their entire hand at a discount, while also giving their Madness enabling creature a benefit. Swinging with a 2/2 snake, then pumping it up to an 8/8 and casting your spells for cheap sounds great!

Transform

As another returning mechanic, Transform offers more flavor than power in Eldritch Moon. There are a lot of great cards, don’t get me wrong, but conditionally turning one card into another is only as powerful as the condition is easy to enable. Werewolves, which are limited in Moon, suffer the most from this, allowing your opponent to determine whether or not they transform (at least to a significant degree). Only a spare few Transform cards have made waves in non-Standard formats, and I don’t think Eldritch added much more to the table. It’s not that the mechanic is bad, just that any conditional mechanic is limited by how pushed the conditions are. Lone Rider, for example, could be very good, considering how easy it is for a white deck to gain 3 life in a turn.

Emerge

While Transform is one of the most flavorful mechanics, but suffers in terms of power level, Emerge seems to be similarly flavorful, while also allowing for more potential for pushed cards. Instead of paying a normal casting cost, Emerge cards may be cast with an additional cost of sacrificing a creature and paying an additional cost minus the sacrificed creatures converted mana cost. I don’t suspect Emerge breaking Limited or Standard, considering that you’re not really cheating mana costs, but older formats aren’t as lucky. There are many creatures that are very expensive, yet have built in ways to cheat their mana costs.

Affinity for artifacts allows a player with an artifact-ridden board to cast a 7 drop creature for free, meaning that another creature with Emerge could potentially be cast with a 7 mana discount. Hello there, Elder Deep-Fiend for {UU}. I don’t know how powerful the current Emerge cards are individually, but I can see the mechanic getting very interesting with the addition of cards from older formats.

All in all, I’m most excited to play with Delirium, mostly because I think I have a good grasp on how powerful it can be based on how powerful Threshold already is. Emerge comes in a close second, especially considering how much theory crafting has been done already. I have a hunch that Escalate will end up being the most powerful, just because the ability to choose multiple effects and build your own spell to a degree is good for deck building, even if those individual effects aren’t worth a card themselves. Time will tell with Eldritch Moon, but we won’t be waiting much longer.

If you’d like to see Eldritch Moon being played before it’s released to the world, check out Loading Ready Run’s pre-prerelease for the set on their Twitch channel this weekend.

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