Beyond removal: Other Commons I Want to Open at the Eldritch Moon Prerelease
We are less than a week away from the Eldritch Moon prerelease, where we’ll get our first chance to play with Emerge, Escalate, and for maybe one person in the room Meld. The prerelease kits will feature two packs of Shadows Over Innistrad and four packs of Eldritch Moon, so games will mostly consist of the new cards. While the rares and mythics will no doubt be the most exciting part of the event, don’t forget that it will be the commons of Eldritch Moon that will flesh out most of the decks and determine how the games flow.
Beyond the obvious decision to play whatever common removal you open - be it Sigardian Priest, Choking Restraints, Certain Death, Prey Upon or even Alchemist’s Greeting, here are eleven commons that I find aggressively costed for their effects and will be looking to sleeve up this weekend:
I cannot remember the last time I played a prerelease and did not play three colours - I actually played four for Shadows Over Innistrad. Terrarion will give you access to your splashed colours for “free”. It will also give you something to do on turn one where you’ll otherwise usually just play a land, and it’s a cheap and effective way to speed up your march towards Delerium if you have cards that benefit from it. It can even be used to pay the various “sacrifice a permanent” effects across the two sets.
I’d never be very excited to play Cinder Hellion, but the Flowstone ability on Vildin-Pack Outcast is extremely good when combined with Trample. It punishes any attempt to gang block, and practically ensures that the Outcast will trade up if it dies in combat. I don’t expect to need to transform it very often, but when I do untapping with effectively a 12/7 Trample should usually win the game. This card will be a godsend when your pool doesn’t bestow you with a game-breaking rare or mythic.
Another Flowstone creature, this time pairing up with Prowess instead of Trample. This combination of abilities will make combat math a nightmare for your opponent as the 2/3 could easily change to a 3/4 or a 4/1. The 3/4 stat is particularly nice as it will defeat 3/2 Eldrazi Horror tokens, but mostly I expect this card will play out like an unblockable 2/3 that lets you pay an extra two mana to Shock your opponent. Quite good for a three drop.
Sealed games tend to go long, so having two mana creatures that remain relevant in the late game is important. Ulvenwald Captive will both accelerate you to your late game ahead of schedule, and then transform itself into a relevant 4/6 body when the time comes. I do not think the transformed version tapping for mana will be useful very often, but the large body itself will both attack and block well by the time you can realistically activate it. It also helps that the Captive chips in a mana on its own to pay the transform cost.
On my first review I had this pegged as one of the best commons in the set as a flying body that draws a card and can come down on turn four. I soured on it for a while, then came back around to liking it again. I'd pay five mana for a 3/3 flyer in limited, so paying two more for +0+1 and a card isn't unbearably bad - especially when its the worst case scenario. Emerging this is usually going to amount to: 2U - enchanted creature gets +1+1 and flying, draw a card" which is a card I'm pretty sure I'd play. Pairing this with things like Exultant Cultist is going to feel broken.
Grapple with the Past
Again, something you can do on turn two that is still good in the late game. Most Raise Dead effects suffer from being unusable until the mid or late game, as well as being sorcery speed. Grapple With the Past can be played on curve to help you make your land drops and/or dig for a missing colour, or played in the late game to bring back one of your best creatures.It doesn’t hurt that it can also enable Delirium at instant speed - while it won’t always work, situations will come up where getting Delirium after blockers are declared will provide some excellent value.
Not too far off of an Elvish Visionary or Phyrexian Rager, Cultist will trade with some early creatures to generate card advantage, and can Fog a big body in the late game while replacing itself. While I’m skeptical of how good Emerge will be, to the extent you have good Emerge cards or other sacrifice effects the usefulness of Cultist greatly increases.
Another two drop that stays relevant throughout the game, Thermo-Alchemist shines in the stalled board state that is fairly common in Sealed. While you and your opponent wait to draw a bomb or evasive creature, Alchemist will continue to chip away at the opponent’s life total, quickly providing a “free” Lava Axe in decks with any decent number of instants and sorceries. The three toughness isn’t great, but it will hold the line in the early game against the 2/3 creatures in the format and keeps you from getting whittled down by creatures with Skulk.
A three mana 2/3 is reasonable if not exciting, but Skirsdag Supplicant’s ability has a lot of potential as a source of unblockable damage. It will not be very good when you are losing the game, but if you’ve pulled ahead early and your opponent has started to stabilize this can apply serious pressure and outright win the game on its own. The Supplicant goes from situationally strong to amazing with each additional Madness effect you have, as a repeatable one mana madness enabler.
No-nonsense equipment tends to be pretty good in sealed, as it allows you to suit up a lesser creature and attack into a board stall forcing your opponent to trade down. Enough of these swings and the battlefield will begin to clear allowing your good creatures to get back into the fray. The equip cost is higher than I’d like (my kingdom for a Vulshok Morningstar), but Sealed is slow so the extra mana will rarely cost you a meaningful amount of tempo. And once again, this is something you can do on turn two that will be relevant later on.
The same triggered ability as Unruly Mob, but this time on a body that is decent for its casting cost. While I never liked Unruly Mob because a two mana 1/1 is worse than the patently unplayable Squire, the base stat of 2/4 for four mana is at least in Hill Giant territory which is playable filler. Gavony Unhallowed can block most early game creatures and kills Eldrazi Horror tokens, and with just a single trigger it will kill the various 2/3 creatures as well. Beyond the first trigger the card becomes a pretty legitimate late game body at 4/6 or better. Not something I’d go out of my way to play, but if I’m in black for other reasons I’d be quite happy to have this in my four cmc slot.
And there you have it, eleven commons (beyond removal spells) that I'm hoping to open this weekend. It was a nice round list of ten, then I waffled on my assessment of Wretched Gryff and needed to put it back in the list so here we are. Until next time, good luck melding a Brisela, Voice of Nightmares at your prerelease!