That's no moon - It's a Flying Spaghetti Monster....
It's release week again! In what was possibly gaming's worst kept secret, the cause of the madness that has taken over the denizens of Innistrad has been revealed to be... Emrakul - masquerading as Innistrad's moon. The last of the Eldrazi titans to make their return appearance, Emrakul brings the twisted horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft to our beloved game.
Beyond the flavor, Eldrich Moon continues Innistrad's tradition of turning the game on its head. With an innovative new mechanic, two long requested legends and a planeswalker that finally takes the Oath - Eldrich Moon has something for everyone! Here's what you need to know about Magic's next set!
The plane of Innistrad has a long history of mechanics that pushed the game (and its rules) in new directions. Magic's first visit to Innistrad introduced the double-faced card - permanents that can "transform" into more powerful versions by flipping the card. It was a radical design for its time and they were wildly popular. Today, double-faced cards are so widely accepted that they were the focus in Origins - Magic's final "core set" for beginners. It is a great mechanic, and one Innistrad capitalized on to portray the transformation of humans to werewolves and vampires into bats.
Eldrich Moon takes the two sided card one step farther - and introduces "Meld" to the world of Magic. Meld combines two double-faced cards into a third more powerful card. Eldrich Moon introduces six of these cards in the set which meld into three others, but we will take a look at just one today.
Bruna and Gisela, two angels introduced in the first Innistrad block have been corrupted by the madness of Emrakul. They meld into the "Eldrazi angel" Brisela, Voice of Nightmares - a 9/10 monstrosity that is a beat stick combined with control - preventing your opponents from casting any spell with a converted mana cost of three or less. Flashy and swingy, all of the melded cards will get folks aboard Wizard's hype train, and they will be a lot of fun at the kitchen table or in EDH. Just don't expect them to have an impact in your Friday Night Magic drafts. Of the six cards only one of the pairs is at common, and even then you will have to draft a couple of both to be viable. I'll be surprised if they even make an appearance in Standard.
As an aside, this isn't the first cards in Magic's history to combine into another. That honor falls to Unglued's "B.F.M." or "Big Furry Monster". For the low cost of 15 black mana - you too could have a 99/99 creature - as long as both of the cards were in your hand. While it isn't the first time "black bordered" Magic has been influenced by the "Un-sets" it is at least its most radical contribution.
Eldrich Moon also debuts two new legendary creatures that Commander players everywhere have been clamoring for - a legendary werewolf and a legendary spider! Both of these legends are going to be super popular and you are going to be hard pressed not to "rare draft" either one if they are passed to you on Friday night - especially Mr. Ulrich who is already selling on pre-order at around $12.00. Both of these cards will be casual all-stars and we will be taking a deeper look at both in the weeks to come.
Absent from the game in the Zendikar block and in Shadows, Liliana makes her triumphant return to the storyline, finally signing on to the Gatewatch when her home plane is besieged. In game terms this means we get both a new version of Liliana as a planeswalker and an "Oath of Liliana" to complete the card cycle started way back in Return to Zendikar. Make no mistake, Liliana, the Last Hope is a super powerful card. At a converted mana cost of just three she can be played really early and using her "plus one" ability to take out an opponent's creature. Without even considering her ultimate ability, Liliana's +1 is repeatable removal and her -2 is repeatable recursion. Powerful, powerful stuff.
Liliana will definitely see play in Limited and even some play in Standard. She is a shoe-in for Commander. The eternal formats (and Cube) will be a harder nut for this card to crack, since she shares a casting cost with Liliana of the Veil - one of the most powerful and iconic planeswalkers ever printed. If you pull Liliana in your packs at the release - play her... and thank your gods because you just won the lottery.
Finally... the flying spaghetti monster returns and brings a few of her friends. This time Emrakul is a 13/13 creature with a casting cost of 13, so at least there is some nice symmetry to the card's design. Emrakul is another card that if cast usually gives you the game. With the cost reduction ability that is tacked onto the card, there is even a tiny "magical Christmas-land" chance that Emrakul gets cast at FNM with a mana accelerator or two. The art is sweet and evokes the entire flavor of the block in a single image. Her ability to take control of the player's next turn is simply back-breaking. In other news, It of the Horrid Swarm creeps. me. out. Oddly though, Elder deep-Fiend just makes me hungry.
So there's a overview of some of the stuff you will see this weekend. At the very least you should be able to hold your own in a conversation across the table.
This looks like it will be fun to draft, but I really hope it is a send-off for the Eldrazi. I can take only so many giant, colorless creatures. "Battleship Magic" can be fun in small doses, but after two blocks I am really yearning to get back to a more traditional gameplay. Be sure to check out the links to the mothership below for images of every card in the set as well as a deeper look at the new environment. Have fun at your release weekend and join us again on Friday when we look at what it is going to take to make spider tribal a reality in EDH!