Throne of Eldraine Limited Analysis
By: cncpowerhour - 28 Sep 2019
A new set is coming out soon, and that means a new and wildly different Limited environment! To help you navigate it, Lu and Chris from the C&C Power Hour are back to talk about how Eldraine’s cards work with each other, some of the interesting math behind the set, and our perspective on the set overall.
MECHANICS AND NUMBERS
Eldraine is a very, very complicated set. In fact, there is only one vanilla creature in the set:. Everything else has an activated ability, an enters-the-battlefield trigger, or an Adventure attached to it.
On top of the new mechanics that are introduced, there are many uneven power/toughness values, favoring toughness, so the ground will gum up pretty quickly. Because of this, we place an emphasis on the importance of combat tricks and equipment to consistently get your creatures through combat. At common and uncommon, there are almost as many creatures with greater toughness than power as there are equal p/t values (37 vs 41) and 28 creatures with higher power than toughness. That generally holds true at rare and mythic, but the number of balanced p/t creatures goes up. 3 toughness is a huge breakpoint in this set. Out of the 142 creatures in Eldraine, 106 of them have 3 toughness, and 115 have less than 4 power. That means that anything you have with 4 or more toughness is going to reliably block for most of the game (meaningis going to be a real boon for defensive decks, and really, really annoying for aggro players).
The common equipment cycle in this set will usually help your creatures get through this toughness hurdle, but some equipment can enable useful synergies as well.
Another layer of complication are the mechanics that Eldraine introduces. Adventure, which allows you to cast a creature spell or send it on an Adventure then cast the creature later, are pretty straightforwardly awesome: they give you the ability to cast a spell and a creature while only taking up a single card slot in your deck, which is a ton of value. Food tokens can make combat math a bit strange if your opponent has the 2 mana available to gain 3 life, and anything that eats those tokens for value can run away with the game if you let it. But when it comes to deck construction, Adamant can cause you to misevaluate your land base or the Adamant spells you’re planning to cast.
Adamant is an ability that triggers if you spend three of a certain color of mana to cast a spell. The thing about Adamant spells is that they’re already fairly costed for what they do, but if you can sink the right mana into them, you get a pretty good bonus. If you can’t, though, you’re still getting a fair amount of value from the initial cast. But Adamant acts as a deckbuilding hint in Eldraine: Eldraine wants you to commit to a certain color more than another when you build your deck. Your limited deck is likely going to be two colors, whether you’re playing draft or sealed, but you are less likely to trigger Adamant on or near curve if your land base is evenly split.
To consistently cast any of the 3-drop Adamant spells on curve, you would need 16 lands of that spell’s color in your deck. With there being no duals in Eldraine (there is one tri-land at uncommon for casting Knights), that is practically your entire mana base. It’s an unreasonable assumption, since you won’t always have an Adamant spell by turn 3 or the spell may cost 5 mana, so to have greater than a 50% chance to trigger Adamant on curve, your deck needs to have 11 sources of your Adamant color. As the cost of the Adamant spell goes up, this number goes down; if you are only adamant about casting, for example, then the number goes down to 8 sources, which is closer to a limited deck from previous formats. Since most of the Adamant spells have a CMC of 4 or greater, we recommend having 10-12 sources of your primarily Adamant color in your deck if you want to reliably trigger Adamant. Otherwise, treat it as a nice occasional bonus. Here is a list of all the Adamant spells in Eldraine for you to check out.
When we did our M20 review, we only looked at common removal. However, because there are so many creatures that you will need to deal with, we wanted to evaluate the uncommon, rare, and mythic removal as well. Additionally, because there are many creatures with higher toughness than power, combat tricks will play the part of removal spells in your deck more often than not, so we will be covering those this time around. As these are discussed, please keep in mind that you will likely see ~2 copies of a common in any given draft, and ~0.5 in any sealed pool. For uncommon spells, the ratio is ~0.9 in a draft and ~0.23 in a sealed pool. So don’t expect to see these everywhere, but if you have them, appreciate their value.
White is tied with blue for the least removal spells in the set at common and uncommon, though it has more tricks than the others to make up for it, as you haveat instant speed, which gets better with more creatures. Note that it checks upon resolution, so if your opponent has instant-speed removal for one of your creatures, it may not do enough. Also at common, we have , which hits all but 27 creatures in Eldraine (29, depending on if the conditions are met for or ), and if your opponent is in white, they could have a to get their creature out of the tower. At uncommon, we have , which hits 87 creatures. Also, White has True Love’s Kiss, which seems situational but will likely come in handy for one of the 60 artifacts or enchantments in the set.
For white’s tricks, if you have a knight, you can flash into save it in combat or from a damage-based removal spell. You also have access to to untap a creature and pump it, or if you really want to make sure your blocker survives, you can hit it with . Finally, can fog your opponent for a turn or get your creatures in.
At rare, you might run into, which can really ruin your game plan, as the can keep whichever threat that doesn’t get chopped down. White also has the mythic , which can destroy all non-Giants and Realm Giant comes down as a 7/7 Vigilance within a turn or two.
Blue has the least removal spells overall, but it makes up for it with its ability to counter other spells.will efficiently deal with a threat but note that there are a few activated abilities in the set that don’t require tapping to activate. and will make creatures more manageable, though the former is only at sorcery speed. will let you bounce a creature (even your own), draw a card, and cook a Food if you spend UUU on it, can save your own creature, can bounce an opponent’s creature, and will do both. Rare and Mythic also give you access to , which creates 1/1 Flying Faerie tokens equal to the CMC of what you bounce, and can bounce something and the half can present a fast clock in the air.
To make up for its lack of removal, the set’s counters are all at common and uncommon. First, you have the usual Cancel variant in Didn’t Say Please, which also mills your opponent for 3 cards. That may not seem like a lot, but you basically just put 4 cards into your opponent’s graveyard, which matters for a few key cards in the U/B archetype and is also 10% of their deck. Next is, which can counter over 60% of the spells in the set, including all but 5 Adventure spells, which keeps your opponent from casting the attached creature. There’s also , which is okay in most matchups but ends up being a big tempo swing if your opponent is also in blue.
Black has some of the strongest removal, though not as many as red. Most importantly is- our murder variant that also cooks up a Food token. gets better the longer the game goes on. hits over 100 creatures. will be great to deal with your opponent’s bombs, as it exiles over 50 creatures in the set. is an interesting card. It turns your Food into removal spells for over 100 creatures in the set, and is even more powerful if you activate it after combat damage. Witch’s Vengeance at rare can wipe out a tribe, and is unconditional removal spell; while is theoretically able to be recurred in limited, there are only 3 shuffle effects, all of which are rare, so you are only ever likely to get hit by it once.
Black’s only trick is, which can pump one of your creatures and give it Deathtouch. Your creature might survive combat, but your opponent’s definitely won’t.
Red’s removal spells are easily the most impressive in the set.is back on the menu, so you can sacrifice a creature at instant speed to remove an opponent’s creature (or an opponent) from the battlefield (If you manage to combo this with , please let us know! We want to live vicariously through your victory!).
hits 100 creatures and exiles them, which could be important if your opponent is in black. Searing Barrage hits over 130 creatures and bolts your opponent if you have Adamant; it’s also splash-able on its own with only one red mana pip. is an interesting card, as it might force you to sacrifice a land if you target a non-red creature, but hits 120 creatures, 27 of which are red. is pretty versatile, as you can use it early or save it to Adamant a 4-power creature away. isn’t very likely to act as a removal spell, but it can kill 17 creatures in the set, and will be useful to get rid of your opponent’s equipment.
is really a trick that could work as a removal spell, since there are 3 Walls, all of which are at common. Regardless, it will likely win you some games by letting you get through a stalled board. Similarly, might help your creatures trample over your opponent’s blockers if you have enough non-Humans, and is an okay pump spell. can act as a fight spell, but you get extra value if you target a knight.
Red has some interesting interaction at rare.can occasionally burn your opponent for 2 and remove a creature. can block well and, hopefully, bolt your opponent every time you draw a card. Finally, can end games on its own (especially if you cast it with 7 red mana).
Surprisingly, there isn’t a Plummet in the set, but there is, which happens to hit every flyer. This is good, because there are only 2 creatures in the set below rare with Reach. is great, especially if you can cast it with Adamant, as you’re able to freely attack in with your creature after you remove your opponent’s. is going to be important, as there are 60 artifacts and enchantments running around, as well as ways in blue and black to recur things from graveyards. Similarly, can destroy an artifact or enchantment.
Kenrith’s Transformation is an interesting card. A 3/3 is kind of tough to deal with, though it can get rid of a dangerous activated ability. You can also put it on one of your own creatures, if it was an early drop. Plus, it draws you a card.
Green has two pump spells: Shield’s Might and, the latter of which could close out a game if you have a spare Food lying around.
Finally, at rare,is able to fight a creature, grow itself, and make itself indestructible if you feed it well.
can ramp you or tap down a creature late game, and serves the same role that did in M20 as a decent removal spell you can pay for over time. U/B has , which serves as either a counter or a removal spell and gets better as the game goes on.
At the higher rarities, there is, which should work well if you are able to keep your opponent off balance. Otherwise, you will just eventually sacrifice your own Doom Foretold to itself and not get much value from it, though depending on the game state, it might make sense just to force your opponent to sac some things.
Mythic brings us the Planeswalkers.can destroy a creature while drawing himself a card. can either swap one of your food tokens for an opponent’s creature or turn an artifact or creature into a 3/3 Elk (which, as discussed earlier, can be either a removal spell for an opponent’s creature or an upgrade for your own). Finally, can pump a creature and give it First Strike and Trample, and their ultimate can hit something for at least 4.
Before we move on to each of the Limited archetypes, we are going to take a second look at the mechanics in the set. All the mechanics exist in all colors, which means that even if you don’t have all the right cards for the B/G food deck, you can generate food in other colors to supplement the Green Food value engines you have. The same is true for Adventures, drawing multiple cards, or the Knights-creature type, whose cards are usually powerful enough that you’ll want to run them if they’re in your colors anyway. This reinforces the “primary color/secondary color” design in Eldraine we talked about in the Adamant section, and the artifacts in the set give that an additional level of flexibility. That said, there are still two-color pairings that will drive synergistic strategies, but this flexibility will let you build a deck that has at least some sort of synergy regardless of what two colors you are playing. Focus on building around strong removal and strong creatures first, and then look at what synergies you can enable based on the below pairings. Also keep in mind the creatures that we call out in each pairing are likely going to be big removal targets (for your opponent if you have them, and for you if your opponent has them).
Okay, before we actually get into the two-color pairings, we need to talk about Knights. Knights Matter is a theme that exists in Mardu (RWB), and is supported as a 3-color tribe thanks to. There are 28 knights in these colors alone, and the strategy is to aggressively go wide with efficient creatures and the bevy of splashable removal those 3 colors get you. You’ll also want some to focus on splashable creatures (by splashable, we mean anything that has one color pip instead of two or more; this makes it more easily castable with a riskier manabase). can pump all of your knights, Altered Fate is fantastic for recursion as well as being a great early game play. is one of the only cards with First Strike, and it lets him kill over 60 creatures. isn’t splashable but blocks well and the Scry 2 is useful. gives another creature Menace, and is easy to cast, though inefficient to activate.
However, if you cannot find a, there are some uncommon signposts to guide you into different strategies that might make your deck more focused.
and create environments that focus on attrition. You can easily protect your knights while efficiently removing your opponent’s creatures. is good for getting in some extra points of damage if the board stalls, can bring back a creature, and is extremely useful for capitalizing on your creature’s deaths. Bonus points if you can burn your opponent out with .
and want you to go wide. You will have a lot of cheap knights in here that can deal some extra damage through Haste ( ), Menace ( ), Double Strike ( ), or getting a few activations off of a . is going to be great to make sure your creatures get in and can cause some damage in the air. Keep an eye out for Gleaming Armor to give your creatures Vigilance, to give a creature Haste, or to put your creatures out of your opponent’s reach.
and make sure your creatures can deal damage. Headhunter synergizes with artifacts and Food tokens as well. Use your removal and the previously mentioned useful knights in both colors and you’ll likely end games quickly.
W/U ENCHANTMENTS AND ARTIFACTS
and Arcanist’s Owl make it glaringly obvious that you will want to prioritize artifacts and enchantments for this build. While there are some fun creatures for this (like ), you will mostly want to focus on flyers. , , , and our friend the is extremely useful. , , and care about artifacts and enchantments (which, if you noticed earlier, are primarily how white and blue get their removal in this set). can defend you on the ground and give your flyers Haste, and immediately enables both modes of Shinechaser and makes combat math awful for your opponent.
can act as a fantastic removal spell, while can steal your opponent’s best card. mills your opponent and puts a really big butt on the ground, is the best Fugitive Wizard ever printed, Reaper of the Night is almost always a flyer, as your opponent isn’t likely to have two cards in hand at the end of the game. This is where you want your removal spells and counters to fuel , as well as for his activated milling ability.
makes your non-humans bigger, and thus tougher to deal with, and is likely a free 5 damage against certain decks. At common and uncommon, there are 23 non-human creatures, some of which are knights that we mentioned earlier, but others care about non-creatures too. and pump themselves, will draw cards, and is probably the best green common in the set. is built for this deck, can pump your creatures, and is a free equip if you sequence things right.
wants you to fill your deck with Adventures. is an Adventure itself and can also pump your team. will grow those creatures, Edgewall Inkeeper will draw you cards, will get swole for a turn; note that you don’t have to cast the Adventure first for these cards and to trigger, so you can still play your creatures on curve. feeds itself, or you can use to make one of your creatures (ideally a flyer) really big, and if you’re really fortunate, will copy your Adventure spells.
This is the archetype that Chris and Lu are both most excited about.rewards you with tokens for drawing cards (and gives you the ability to draw them), and is a great enabler for this strategy. Faerie Vandall permanently buffs itself, while and each get temporary (but powerful) buffs. will make tokens, while is a cheap stat boost with a potentially free equip. or will let you draw two cards on your opponent’s turn, and draw when they enter, and can get you a card with Adamant. Since most of these creatures aren’t human, will almost always get you a second card. , , Unexplained Visions, and are going to be really useful, as well as any removal or counterspells you can fit in.
Black-Green cares all about food and food accessories.will run away with food production if your opponent can’t deal with it, and it can draw you two cards, while you can infinitely recur by eating your Food or dropping . will draw you cards, Giant’s Skewer will pump your creature and generate food (or, likely, keep your opponent from attacking). shines in this deck, as well as , which can act as either a removal spell or forcibly cook if you give it the Giant’s Skewer. can eat your food and make your opponents pay for it, turns Food into removal spells, and turns them into a 7/7. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for Food artifacts like the or , as well as Witch’s Oven. If you’re lucky enough and the game goes on long enough, you can generate Food every turn with Witch’s Oven and Sorcerer’s Broom. Be sure to pick up as much removal in black as you can, as well ways to manage flyers ( , ).
U/G BIG STUFF
We mention in the video that this sort of feels like a catch-all archetype. It’s not as cohesive with synergy as the others, but it makes up for it with raw creature power.is one of the few ways to ramp yourself, and [Thunderous Snapper can reliably draw you cards while also having that crucial 4/4 body. A lot of your creatures will be non-human, like so Keeper of Tales will draw you cards and will let your big hitters get through. and will help you ramp (with the half helping you trigger Adamant, if needed). Your early game will lean pretty heavily on blue’s access to counterspells, so you may want to pick up some cheap defenders like or to stall the ground.
FINAL NOTE: ARTIFACTS
With as much emphasis as we’ve placed on utilizing a single color to its max potential and then splashing for support or the synergies within two different colors, don’t overlook artifacts.gets over the 4/4 body threshold we talked about in the beginning, Heraldric Banner can pump all of your creatures of one color and ramp you, can profitably block half the flyers in the set (and trade with almost all of them). , , and block absurdly well on the ground, can be a good late-game play to filter away your lands, and ramps you or keeps your opponent’s biggest threat tapped down. Finally, can make one of your creatures bigger each turn, which is a big deal with flyers, or if you want to go for maximum spice, you can use Brint to Life to turn it into a 7/7.
Eldraine looks like a massively deep set to play, but we at the C&C Power Hour are looking forward to it. Comment below with some cool synergies you’ve found or how your prerelease went, or stop by our livestreams! We stream Magic every Sunday at 4 pm or Wednesday at 8 pm Eastern at twitch.tv/cncpowerhour and would love to hear your thoughts. And, if you join us for Sunday, September 29, we will be building a prerelease pool live on stream and then playing it against our other players’ sealed pools. Thanks for reading!
The C&C Power Hour started as a joke between two friends at work, and grew to a ridiculously involved paper Magic: The Gathering stream. Every Sunday at 4:00 pm Eastern, we stream various limited formats or Commander on Twitch! We also occasionally stream video games and MTG Arena throughout the week when time allows.