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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Aug 29 2016 12:00pm
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

> summary <

 Shadows over Innistrad block comes to an end with a twist: it looks like the "Eldr" in Eldritch Moon stood for Eldrazi! (The etymology of the real word "eldritch" is actually unknown, so anything goes.) It might feel ludicrous to have the third standard set out of the last four populated by the unfathomable monstrosities from the Blind Eternities, but they are MTG's stand-ins for Lovecraft's cosmic horrors after all, and that's a reference a horror-based set shouldn't miss. Plus, Emrakul looks perfectly at home on the background of those Gothic architectures, doesn't he?

 A consequence of this narrative choice is Horror suddenly becoming the most featured subtype in the new set (well, after Human, as usual). This represents the amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of the set, twisting and deforming the set's creatures, as well as the cards themselves thanks to the newborn meld mechanic, giving birth to gargantuan abominations that gnaw hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space, or whatever is that Brisela does in her spare time.

I bet she likes the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are listed alphabetically, but you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 205 (+15 double-faced flip sides, +3 meld flip sides)
  • New cards: 196
  • New creatures: 115
  • Reprinted cards: 9
  • Reprinted creatures: 1 (Hamlet Captain)
  • Creature types affected: 42
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+32), Horror (+24), Spirit (+14), Vampire (+14), Eldrazi (+12), Zombie (+10), Cleric (+9), Werewolf (+8), Soldier (+7), Knight (+6)

Angel: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 131 (online: 130)

 Related Tribes: Eldrazi, Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: So, remember the Powerpuff Angels? We already knew from Shadows over Innistrad that only Sigarda was immune from the madness that Avacyn and her gals suffered since our last visit to the plane. Now it was time to find out what happened to her sisters Bruna and Gisela. And what happened to them, besides being "touched by an Outer God", and thus becoming monowhite (which is interesting, because it means they think Emrakul is indeed a rightful god), is that they turned into better creatures!

 Bruna in particular is now a big-butt, vigilant flyer that 2-for-1s in your favor by resurrecting something from your graveyard. Too bad her ability only works upon casting her (then again, that signifies an uncounterable effect, a trick she certainly learned from her new master), and only on Angels – and Humans, which is great value for card advantage in the right deck, but not entirely worthy as an endgame. But oh well, you could still build Angel reanimator, dump a prime target in the yard, then cast Bruna to reanimate Karmic Guide who in turn reanimates the bigger Angel (say, white Akroma or red Gisela), and that's probably going to be game next turn, isn't it? Okay, you still needed 7 mana to start this whole plan, so maybe it's still not super-competitive, but I'd say better than whatever super-narrow aura shenanigans Bruna was involved in back when she was part blue. And she's not even mythic anymore, although that doesn't entirely feel right to me.

 And while we know old Gisela was already pretty fierce, she was quite expensive to cast, relegating her mostly to Commander or cheat-into-play strategies; now it's a totally playable 4-mana flyer with first strike and lifelink. Granted, she is boltable, and her other ability does almost nothing in competitive play, short of trying to reanimate both her and Bruna at once in order to awaken the mighty Brisela (who sadly takes the place of one of the set's mythics while not being actually a face-up card. Plus, I still think the combined name is kinda stupid). But would you even want that? I mean, your lifegain is now more than doubled, and your lifelinker can't be bolted anymore, but you still offer a 2-for-1 to the opponent that you didn't before the meld. But I think the key element here is the one ability the separate forms didn't have, i.e. the shutting off of all opponent spells with CMC 3 or less. Which is huge, and could result in complete lockdown for more than one deck (also, yes, now your two Angels can be killed by one single removal spell, except how many targeted removal spells are even used that cost more than 3 mana?). So maybe Buried Alive into Victimize is not a bad plan.

 Eldritch Moon also adds a third Angel, which is the nice uncommon Subjugator Angel. For 6 mana her stats are obviously subpar, but the alpha strike she sets up might prove lethal.


Beast: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 334 (online: 329)

 Related Tribes: Eldrazi

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Emerge is a great keyword with tons of applications. It's basically a sacrifice enabler that gives you one or more bonuses for a cost that could be very small, depending on what you're going to sacrifice. In this case, for instance, you get a removal and a big body in exchange for your sacrifice. So imagine you're in a Beast deck, and you see some value in saccing your Thragtusk, because maybe you have a way to bring it back. For 3 mana you'll get your 6/5 beater, plus your 3/3 token, plus you'll kill something. And you don't even need to do all that, you're still given the choice to hardcast Mockery of Nature instead, albeit that's never going to be the better way to exploit it. But all in all, this is less of a throwaway card than it looks at first.


Berserker: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 63 (online: 60)

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Innistrad's Berserkers have been typically a subtype of Vampires, and Eldritch Moon follows that tradition, too. These three new ones all come at lower rarities, but they're not bad. Furyblade Vampire is able to turn your surplus lands into beating, even if the whole surplus land situation usually happens later in the game, and the time to have a 4/2 trampler is early on. Plus, you can't discard stuff at instant speed with it. But you can exactly do that with Olivia's Dragoon, instead, which even if it's the common, it's arguably the better card here. It's a bear that doubles as discard outlet, with no costs, tap symbols, or timing constraints attached, which is the very best kind of discard outlet. I'd say, only the existence of 1-drops like Putrid Imp reduces the overall rating of this card, which remains on par with things like Wild Mongrel (and this Snake), but in a color more suited to graveyard shenanigans.


Boar: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 30 (online: 28)

 Related Tribes: Eldrazi

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Man, this is pretty terrible for a mythic, and in general, even for a Boar (and that's saying something). Let's see what happens here: you're meant to use this as a form of Overrun, okay? But instead of a 5-mana spell, you're dealing with a 10-mana creature. It adds 1 fewer power than Overrun, but contributes with its own 7/7 body to the alpha strike. Of course, if that's a gain or a loss, it strictly depends on the kind of strike you're building to. But, I want to say, in the vast majority of cases, the added body doesn't warrant a doubled CMC, which also requires some serious ramp to achieve. So you clearly want to exploit emerge here. Except, do you? Because emerge will almost certainly remove an attacker from the strike, which is a further reduction in overall power. And in the end, let's be honest, ever heard of Craterhoof Behemoth? The comparison is mindblowing, considering how much sheer power the Behemoth is able to provide, and even by saccing a 6-mana creature, which I'm pretty sure you hardly want to sac the very turn you're launching an alpha strike, Decimator of the Provinces still costs 3 green mana, so it's not even a way to do it consistently in a non-green deck.


Cleric: +9

   

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 309 (online: 287)

 Related Tribes: Human, Spirit, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: In a world of battling faiths, there's bound to be a lot of Clerics, either good or evil (at least, according to their point of view). There's a few solid ones here, but a few disappointing ones as well. For instance, the vampiric Bloodhall Priest would be an amazing madness card, and a removal-on-stick that would put Murderous Redcap to shame, if only its ability didn't require an empty hand. And Extricator of Sin is interesting, in that it turns into a nice lord/generator for lesser Eldrazi, but the path to get to that point is overly complex for something so specific.

Two superior rares are Sanctifier of Souls, which is a bit on the mana-intensive side, but anything able to turn dead creatures into flyers has to be welcome; and especially Selfless Spirit, a 2-powered flyer for 2 that doubles as protective spell. Hard not to find a place for it in any kind of deck, be it fast aggro or creature combo.


Construct: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 84 (online: 83)

 Related Tribes: Wolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Sure, a 5-powered beater for 2 is juicy. But the empty hand clause (again!) is too demanding for it to have any meaningful application. There are decks that want you to discard your entire hand early on, but at that point your 5/5 vanilla is likely to become irrelevant, because your battle plan had to be something way scarier than that. And even as support for The Rack decks, it seems too easy for the opponent to stop its attacks. Also, poor wolf.


Crab: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 16

 Related Tribes: Eldrazi

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Crabs #15 and #16, both emerge dudes, both somewhat decent, if probably overcosted. Drownyard Behemoth is a big flash guy with one-off hexproof, while Vexing Scuttler gives you a spell back, which makes it the better one of the duo. Nothing amazing, though. But, you know, they might be Eldrazi-powered, but they're still Crabs.


Devil: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 20 (online: 19)

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Two rare new Devils, but while one is great, the other one is meh. The latter would be Impetuous Devils, which is nothing more than a Ball Lightning with some built-in pseudo-removal that is not worth the higher cost. On the other hand, Bedlam Reveler is impressive, even if it's something you don't want to see in your first hand, since it's only effective later on. It works wonders within decks that include a bunch of flashback spells, so you can discard them, draw into more, then exploit prowess all-around. But you have to make sure that that casting cost gets reduced, which is definitely a strict requirement, although not particularly hard to fulfill in the right deck.


Dragon: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 160

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: So this not particularly scary 5-mana Dragon is annoying to kill with targeted removal. Unless, of course, you don't have creature while you kill it. Or if you're using Plummet. Remind me why is there even a Dragon in Eldritch Moon? Oh, right, the obligatory rule. I, for one, blame Game of Thrones.


Druid: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 135 (online: 131)

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: There's no Elves on Innistrad, so this lonely Druid had to be Human (hard to imagine a vampire in his place, and that's pretty much the only other culture on the plane). While not particularly significant, it's not a very bad card, sort of a reworked Veteran Explorer, a bit slower, limited to one land, and tapped, but not helping the opponent, while providing some solid blocking. Not enough to enable land shenanigans on its own, but possibly good for redundancy.


Dryad: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 31 (online: 29)

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Not just animals, even Dryads got twisted by Emrakul's presence (though not directly into Eldrazi form). This one is quite good in its simplicity, since it's a 1-drop with deathtouch, which is always strong as it can swing and then act as removal if necessary, with the added bonus of becoming some sort of Wild Nacatl later. It remains to be seen how easy it is to achieve delirium in Constructed play. It has to be something you do incidentally, because you probably won't build a deck exclusively around such mechanic. Then again, it's pretty much the same way with which you enable Tarmogoyf, so I gotta say, it's likely not that hard, which makes this card even better, especially for a humble uncommon.


Eldrazi: +12

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 119

 Related Tribes: Beast, Boar, Crab, Hippogriff, Horror, Insect, Leech, Octopus

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Eldrazi has become quite a big tribe now that it's being populated so frequently. Can you believe it only amounted to 15 members less than a year ago? Of course, in Eldritch Moon the Eldrazi presence is almost entirely limited to a secondary type of other tribe, mostly animals that have been warped by Emrakul's first coming. And then there's Emrakul himself, of course, in a new form that's not quite as scary as his old Zendikar version, but still able to top the list of the most chased-upon creatures of the set. The discount hardcasting is useful, meaning you'll probably never have to actually pay 13 for him, but it's not that you will be able to not need ramp for the feat, even. And compared to the great, older version (I wanna say, the Great Old One Emrakul?), here you have the option to reanimate him as well, and in that case you'll get a very massive trampling flyer that is immune to a lot of targeted removal, or to better say, a clock of 2 turns; but you still want to try and hardcast him to activate the true endgame effect of capturing the opponent's turn. Or not? Because it actually looks a slightly bizarre choice, casting Emrakul, then doing some mischief on the opponent's side of the board, but then forfeiting play for two whole other turns, which means not getting to attack with your flying spaghetti monster until the fourth turn after you cast him? Doesn't it seem preposterous? If you just reanimate him, possibly on an early turn, when they can't use many things faster than Vindicate or Maelstrom Pulse to get rid of him, you very likely win in 2 turns. I guess the damage you can do by controlling another player turn has the potential to be crippling, but doesn't guarantee much, and you can't set up your own attack with it, the way you do with Mindslaver. All in all, this Emrakul doesn't hold a candle to his previous incarnation (Time Walk and annihilator are hard to beat), unlike neo-Ulamog from Shadows over Innistrad. He still makes for a good reanimation target, though.

 The only other Eldrazi who's not a twisted animal is the Horror one, Eternal Scourge. It's a good one, a 3/3 for 3 that essentially gets a form of clunkier hexproof, but the ability to be returned from exile is not just a way to dribble targeted removal, it has many, nasty applications, being something that happens after you exile it, too (technically, you're always the one to exile it, by the way). This said, I wonder what exactly is that makes Eternal Scourge more of a Horror than regular Eldrazi? I mean, is it foul-looking to them, too? Man, that would be harsh.


Elemental: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 364 (online: 360)

 Related Tribes: Plant

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Bloodbriar's ability is far from awful, and being common makes it legal in Pauper, too. I'm not sure combos dealing with infinite or even just frequent permanent sacrifice would care about a 2/3 for 3, though. Look at the flavor text, even Nissa is not sure what to do with this.


Elk: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 13

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: A fighting Elk! That's great for Elk. Outside of the (sort of comical) tribe, it's not particularly noteworthy, asking for 5 mana and giving you a very frail body in exchange; even if ETB fighting is screaming for abuse, and it comes on a cheaper creature than Gruul Ragebeast and Foe-Razer Regent. There's a chance this moose would have showed up in Birthing Pod decks, if it didn't come too late for the party.


Hippogriff: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 4

 Related Tribes: Eldrazi

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Hippogriff are a thing, you guys! Raising their number from 2 to 4, Eldritch Moon turns this chimera tribe into an actual tribe. Complete with their own Eldrazi member! Woot! Let's review them all, shall we?

 

 So, six years ago, Scars of Mirrodin introduced the very first MTG Hippogriff in Razor Hippogriff. It's a midrange flyer with subpar body but a nice card advantage plus lifegaining ability, both linked to artifacts. It was never used much, but it wasn't a bad creature at all. You can think of a number of artifacts that routinely go to the graveyard and want back, and that number is bound to increase over the years.

 The tribe remained single-member for four years, until Magic 2015 gave us the first glimpse at Innistrad Hippogriffs, which aren't really the combination of an eagle (or better, the eagle part of a griffin) and a horse. It looks like they throw gentler birds in the mix, like possibly herons. After all, we were going to learn they're a symbol of hope for the people. Hushwing Gryff is also a great (sideboard) card, a cheap flash flyer that shuts down ETB effects. Not as reliable as Torpor Orb, but it's on-a-stick, and that's always a plus, because you can deal damage while at the same time you fight your opponent's strategy.

 Compared to these two, Dawn Gryff is underwhelming, being clearly just a Limited-fodder vanilla flyer (a functional reprint of Wild Griffin, among others). Its simplicity makes it quite playable, though, if you happen to be in the mood for Hippogriff tribal. And the final member, Wretched Gryff is definitely more interesting. The Eldrazi Hippogriff bears the largest body of the tribe, colorlessness, and direct card advantage. Its hardcasting cost is obviously excessive, so what you need here is just a good sacrifice target to activate emerge.

 All in all, the Hippogriff tribe might now be one of the best miniature tribes in the game. Hey, you can't ask for much with just 4 members of which only one rare!


Homunculus: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 11

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Homunculus is a cute tribe with no real stars, and just a couple of decent members like the only rare Riddlekeeper, or the Johnnylicious Stitcher's Apprentice. Curious Homunculus join the ranks at the upper tier (which, okay, is faint praise), being a reasonably-costed mana dork that perfectly fits into "instants and sorceries matter" kind of decks. In such a build, to eventually transform him seems an inevitable and quite fast endeavor, and that would give you a prowess-enhanced beater that further enables the instant and sorcery flow. So, in short, something you might actually want to play.


Horror: +24

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 177

 Related Tribes: Angel, Devil, Dryad, Eldrazi, Human, Insect, Vampire, Werewolf, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Horror is a Human-like, catch-all type in Eldritch Moon, due to Emrakul's little experiment in reality-warping having eerie consequences on Innistrad's animal and humanoid dwellers. As a result, a good chunk of the set's tribes have this or that member spiked up with the Horror moniker. Surprisingly, though, Horror gets no mythics except for Gisela, who however is more linked to her other tribe. Same goes for the many (almost all, actually) of the Werewolves who got Horror as a secondary type, and more so for the strongest of the Vampire Horrors, which is strictly a "vampires matter" card.

 The Devil Horror and the Dryad Horror are both good, but not typically in the tribe's favorite colors, while the Insect Horror is more of a Wizard lord. On the other hand, the Eldrazi Horror, Eternal Scourge, is colorless, so that one may apply everywhere, I guess.

 What's more interesting to talk about is the Human Horrors, which encompass two of the tribe's new rares. I find Emrakul's Evangel's mass transformation of your team into 3/2 Eldrazi mildly interesting, not as much as a replacement for anti-mass removal tech like Caller of the Claw (he lacks flash and, what's worse, his ability suffers from summoning sickness), as something to play in combo with a massive token generator like Avenger of Zendikar.

 Wharf Infiltrator is arguably the better one, though, and this time we're in one of the traditional Horror colors. It's sort of a quasi-unblockable looter that can turn strategic discard into value. For 2 mana, it's very playable.

 Lastly, it's clear what Foul Emissary is trying to do, in that he's trying to dig for some emerge creature to use on itself. It's not entirely failing in his plan, it just seems a bit slow, although as long as emerge enablers go, it's probably all right.


Hound: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 69 (online: 64)

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Nothing especially good or bad to say about this lonely (undead) Hound. It's playable in Limited, being a 4/3 menace for 3 under delirium. Not very attractive elsewhere.


Human: +32

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 1821 (online: 1653)

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Druid, Horror, Knight, Rogue, Scout, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior, Werewolf, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: The Human type on Eldritch Moon does the typical Human thing of showing up everywhere, which is especially true of a plane with very little presence of other humanoid races. There's also a couple of Humans with no other subtype attached: Enlightened Maniac, which is a 0/2 and a 3/2 for 4 mana, which is a good deal when you need sacrificial fodder (if probably too expensive to see actual play anywhere outside Limited); and Grizzled Angler, whose only highlight is that he is a fisher who transforms into a fish. Which I take is meant to be a reference to The Shadow over Innsmouth. And now I just realized that's also where Shadows Over Innistrad took its name from!

 Among the others, we have no less than three mythic rares, including the fan favorite sibling necromancers Gisa and Geralf, together at last, and the sought-after legendary Werewolf that was promised since the first Innistrad block. The most notable is Grim Flayer, though, while the card that more directly affects the Human tribe is the rare Knight, Heron's Grace Champion, a Sigarda devotee who provides a flash boost to your Human team.

 The Scout one, Courageous Outrider, also digs for Human cards (not that there's any that aren't creatures), but it's nothing to write home about.


Insect: +3

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 143 (online: 139)

 Related Tribes: Eldrazi, Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Three new Insects, all of which Eldrazi-touched in a way or another. The overall effectiveness of the emerge ones, It of the Horrid Swarm and Distended Mindbender (boy, both these names sound bad) really depends on how well your deck supports emerge. It would be truly great to have a 4/4 and two 1/1s for one green mana, or a 5/5 that lets you choose and discard two cards from the opponent's hand for two black mana; it won't happen unless you a 6-CMC and 5-CMC creature to sacrifice, respectively, and the reason why you should do that is up to you to figure out. Still, they might be good (not great) additions to a sacrifice-based deck.

 And then there's the final chapter in the Delver of Secrets tale. Shadows over Innistrad's Aberrant Researcher had sort of missed the point; this time, the choice was to directly take a more solid midrange route, with a 5-mana big flyer that creates 1/1 Wizards, then acts as a Vampire Nocturnus-style lord for them, while creating even more. It's more casual than anything, but I got to say, the flavor of the Brundlefly now teaching other scientists how to replicate his wretched experiment, in order to usher in a new society of man-insect overlords, is quite fun.


Knight: +6

  

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 194 (online: 183)

 Related Tribes: Human, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Most of the Eldritch Moon Knights seem to carry lifelink on board, probably a sign of them being the last bastion against darkness, or something (while, except the ones that later turn into Eldrazi, I guess). Heron's Grace Champion is even a mass-provider of lifelink, but he works for Human-based decks only.

 Ironically, the most notable one is actually the one that does NOT have lifelink, namely Thalia's Lancers, which is a midrange beater with decent stats that doubles as a tutor for legendary cards, which is very relevant in Commander, but useful everywhere, especially in an era when tutors are very few and far between.


Leech: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 12 (online: 11)

 Related Tribes: Eldrazi

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It's abundantly clear (see what I did there?) that emerge is the set's mechanic for throwaway cards, but as far as this kind of things go, it's a nice one, in that even the more forgettable examples still seem playable under certain conditions. I mean, this Leech is basically the set's Craw Wurm, but it feels much more than just a Craw Wurm. Plus, hey, it's a Leech. We don't see many of those (but honestly I can't tell if we should feel sad or glad about that.)


Octopus: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 5

 Related Tribes: Eldrazi

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: The Eldrazi evolution gave us the fifth Octopus ever! I don't know if the rarity is correct here, since it's a not-extremely-big vanilla guy for 8 mana in the end, but it can set up an effective alpha strike (and take part in it, too), so there's that. And did I mention that it's the fifth Octopus ever? Hooray for Octopi!


Plant: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 45 (online: 41)

 Related Tribes: Elemental, Skeleton

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Okay, I get that they wanted to do the diametrically opposite of Tree of Redemption, but Tree of Perdition is a total waste of a mythic slot. At least its precursor was good at giving you extra life and messing with the opponent's attack. This one, what's it even supposed to do? Deal 7 damage after a while? Set up an insta-kill with Blasphemous Act and Stuffy Doll? Well, I suppose it is a big deal to set your opponent at 13 life when the starting life was 40. But still.

 And then the Elemental Plant is just mediocre, while the Skeleton one can be surprisingly lethal under delirium, especially in Limited.


Rat: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 49 (online: 43)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: The Eldritch Moon's only Rat is part of the common meld pair, which is nothing more than a demo of the mechanic. I mean, it's playable, the two creatures are decent enough, and the resulting monstrosity has a good body and menace to spice it up a little, and attack immediately (unlike Brisela). But really, it's just two casual, vanilla dudes resulting in a slightly less vanilla, bigger dude.


Rogue: +2

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 194 (online: 184)

 Related Tribes: Human, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: There's the other half of the Chittering Host. I guess Midnight Scavengers are supposed to fetch a deceased copy of Graf Rats from the graveyard, right? How did these guys get fused with those rats, anyway? That seems a waste of a pretty redhead bandit. I want to know the adventures of the pretty redhead bandit and her gang of lovable gravediggers before they got fused with rats!


Scarecrow: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 31 (online: 30)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Whoa, those are two extremely unremarkable Scarecrows. Why would a colorless 4/4 for 4 even require such a severe self-hosing in this time and age? It's not exactly game-breaking!


Scout: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 109 (online: 103)

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Nothing relevant from the two resident Scouts as well, albeit Courageous Outrider might have some (lesser) use as library digger in Human decks. (Then again, a few of the best Scouts are Humans, too).


Shaman: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 331 (online: 327)

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Both new Shamans are red, both belonging to "instants and sorceries matter" builds. And both good enough at that. I mean, Thermo-Alchemist is mostly a good draft pick, but Weaver of Lightning is a strong air and ground defense against aggro, and gives extra punch to your spells.


Shapeshifter: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 75 (online: 73)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The latest in the endless series of Clone variants that populate the Shapeshifter tribe, Identity Thief tries to be both Clone and Duplicant, and barely succeeds at it. First of all, it needs to attack in order to even do anything, which is bad enough, especially since in the meantime it's just a 3-toughness dude. Then it exiles a target until the end of turn, while assuming its form, but that means it always risks of getting blocked and killed in response. Also, the creature returns at end of turn, thus triggering any ETB effects it could have. I imagine there might be a situation where there's only one, big bad creature in the opponent's side, with no ETB effects, and you get to attack with it scot-free. But that doesn't even prevent that creature from attacking back, so why should one want to play this one over a changeable 4-mana clone like classic Vesuvan Doppelganger? Very clunky design.


Skeleton: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 44 (online: 42)

 Related Tribes: Plant

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: One Skeleton, one delirium guy that tries and sets alpha strikes (which seems to be a subtheme running across several creatures in the set for some reason.) Of course, preventing 2-powered enemies to block doesn't guarantee a successful strike, per se; but it's potentially relevant. The real question is: how do you decide when corpse-like, walking plant matter is a skeleton (this is the second occurrence of it, after Dragon's Maze's Rot Farm Skeleton) rather than just a vegetal zombie?


Snake: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 70 (online: 63)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: As mentioned in the case of that black Berserker, free discard outlets are always good news. This Snake seems even better than its more direct predecessor Wild Mongrel, because reach is generally more relevant than trying and messing with color protection.


Soldier: +7

   

 

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 New Tribal Total: 557 (online: 501)

 Related Tribes: Human, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Some very good new Soldiers here. Starting from the lower rarities, Fiend Binder and Desperate Sentry are Limited stars, the latter not that bad in Constructed as well, since it replaces itself and gets significantly bigger under delirium.

 Thraben Standard Bearer is another amazing common, capable of turning surplus cards into more and more Soldiers – and Humans, which is not a common type to be seen on tokens (and Falkenrath Aristocrat, for one, appreciates it). And there's another Human token generator in Hanweir Garrison, sort of a red, lesser version of Hero of Bladehold, which also combines with the haste-giving land Hanweir Battlements to generate a super-version of Hero of Bladehold, which makes it arguably the best meld pair in the set, certainly the easier to incorporate into a deck and build up to during a game.

 The other rare Soldier is also top-notch, even just in virtue of being the new incarnation of Thalia. The Kismet effect might be less effective than the noncreature hosing, even if including the nonbasic lands in the deal is kinda nasty, and this time she doesn't hose her owner too. She's also a stronger fighter for just 1 mana more, harder to block and attack into. The two versions have probably slightly different uses, this one potentially going into a wider variety of decks. So Thalia's still awesome, is what I'm saying. I liked her better with straight hair, though.


Spider: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 45 (online: 44)

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The sheer fact that they used a mythic slot for a Spider lord is sort of mindblowing. A Spider lord, you guys. I'm not overly in love with it to be honest (most players seem to be, considering it's currently the second most valued creature in the set, the third card overall!), since it requires delirium to generate value, its basic stats aren't overwhelmingly good, the cost to activate the "Spiders smash!" ability is pretty high and the ability itself is situational by design. Still, Spider lord!


Spirit: +14

  

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 427 (online: 423)

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Soldier, Wolf

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Of all the Innistrad inhabitants, Spirits are the outright good guys in the Eldritch Moon narrative, because Emrakul can't corrupt them, I guess. As a result (maybe?), they have received quite a few relevant new members. Even a common like Fogwalker is nicely playable, and then we have heavy weights like Selfless Spirit down in the Cleric district, and Spell Queller that's a cheaper Mystic Snake and more of a Remand than a Counterspell, but still pretty great, especially because then you get a 2/3 flyer for your trouble.

 There's even a couple of more tribal-oriented guys, like Nebelgast Herald, and especially Mausoleum Wanderer, which is the tribe's Cursecatcher/Judge's Familiar, only instead of just Force Spike-level, it might become Spell Pierce and more, and it incorporates some of Spellstutter Sprite's tribal synergy. In short, it's a great card, both by itself and especially while surrounded by a Spirit build. Or, you know, Rancor, as much as it seems unlikely.

 Also great is Niblis of Frost, that continues the blue Spirits strategy of keeping stuff tapped, as the already mentioned Fogwalker and Nebelgast Herald were doing too, but coupled in this case with a typical prowess flyer setup. Essentially grafting Crippling Chill (minus the card drawing, of course) onto every nonpermanent spell you cast.

 Final mention for the somewhat bizarre Permeating Mass, that comes into quite the unexpected color for a Spirit on Innistrad (or probably anywhere but Kamigawa). I can't really tell if what it does is even good (it seems sort of an overcomplicated way to shut down creatures, the Kudzu way, rather than just having deathtouch), but it certainly looks like fun once the spreading of its copies keep going. Could be a hoot in multiplayer.


Treefolk: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 64 (online: 62)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: That ability suits perfectly a Treefolk deck, I guess, making every creature in your deck replace itself. Still, it's Primeval Titan mana for a 6/6 that plays as vanilla until something you don't necessarily want to happen does happen. Damn, Primeval Titan always puts everything into perspective, doesn't it?


Vampire: +14

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 154 (online: 152)

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Cleric, Eldrazi, Horror, Knight, Rogue

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A large influx of new Vampires in the set, yet not a lot of significant additions. Both Stromkirk Condemned and Markov Crusader are Vamps for Vamp decks only, requiring the presence of their comrades to better function. The former, at the higher rarity, is able to pump the entire vamp team once via discard, which is nice but doesn't make for a very consistent lord.

 We find ourselves in more interesting territory with Stromkirk Occultist, which is a small trampler with the Chandra, Pyromaster card drawing ability (lately a feature of red cards across the board) upon connection. It's also a strong madness creature, coming down as a drop-2 on the heels of some turn-1 discard outlet.

 The most peculiar of the lot is the transformer Voldaren Pariah, a curious midrange (subpar) flyer, with a madness cost that mostly works in monoblack decks, and a transformation that both makes it stronger and essentially forces a triple sacrifice for both players. It's not extremely easy to set up, but Grave Pact builds do exist, and returning Zombies (or Bloodghast, to remain in-tribe) do great help in the matter.


Warrior: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 523 (online: 508)

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Out of these three new Warriors, only one is notable, not in small measure: Grim Flayer, a Golgari bear that's capable of setting up delirium on his own, and generally selecting your next draw, filtering out unnecessary lands and whatnot. Of course, connecting to trigger the ability might become increasingly difficult over time. The delirium boost and the natural trample help a bit, but you certainly want to make the Flayer's combat life as easier as you can. And if you do, he's going to repay you with some amazing library manipulation.


Werewolf: +8

   

   

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 42 (online: 41)

 Related Tribes: HorrorHuman

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Seven out of the eight new Werewolves are common or uncommon, have the Eldrazi secondary type in place of Human, transform by spending mana rather than via the traditional Werewolf trigger (so they don't transform back), and aren't particularly exciting, albeit a couple of them are okay creatures (I like Smoldering Werewolf, for one).

 The real star here is that 8th one, though, i.e. the long-awaited Legendary Werewolf, which is also the only classically designed Werewolf, meaning it's apparently the only one who was able to escape Emrakul's reshaping (I guess the weres, by their dual nature, are particularly susceptible to transformative influences). So, how is Ulrich of the Krallenhorde, besides being the only available option to head a Werewolf Commander deck? Gotta say, not bad, but not exactly amazing either. He's a very midrange 4/4 for 5 that enters the battlefield as a 8/8 the turn he drops, or gives a temporary +4/+4 boost to something else if there's the occasion. And then he fights something as a 6/6 upon transformation. The potential for acting as a removal is there, but you would expect some more synergy with his tribe, and some more "legendary" worthy stats. The way he is, Huntmaster of the Fells seems more of a leader, and Mayor of Avabruck more of a tribal lord. Hell, even Wolves like Immerwolf or the new Spirit of the Hunt feel more like accomplished Werewolf lords than Ulrich. They completely failed to convey the idea of him being the ultimate protector or warchief of his pack.


Wizard: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 577 (online: 565)

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The Wizard tribe gets one of the mythic slots (and pretty much nothing else), and the hype was high because I, for one, am a big fan of the flavor of crazy necromancer siblings Gisa and Geralf Cecani. He's supposed to be Magic's Victor von Frankenstein, putting the blue science at the service of the reanimation business; she's an adorably deranged, shovel & grave, old-school mistress of the dark. They used to wage necromantic wars on each other for sport, causing quite a lot of mayhem on Innistrad. They constantly tease and try to best each other, but Geralf secretly cares about his sister and vice versa, as represented here by their first combined incarnation. Which, however, is utterly underwhelming. I mean, extending Gravecrawler's ability to all Zombies is cool, and makes flavor sense, but the rest of the card is definitely meh (is a bit of self-milling really all that Geralf could contribute?), and the overall feeling is a big, "is that all?" Both as a mythic and as the avater of such potentially fun and powerful characters.


Wolf: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 44 (online: 41)

 Related Tribes: Construct, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Most of the EMN Wolves are quite forgettable, but I kinda like Assembled Alphas, even if I admit it's awfully overcosted. But the mechanic of bolting everything that blocks or is blocked by them (and their controller!) is so cool and flavorful. They're a pack of chiefs, you know.

 Spirit of the Hunt is this set's Wolf and Werewolf lord, but it only boosts the lupine team once, and only as a defensive measure. Sure, it could save a bunch of them, but Wolf and Werewolf decks are more about aggression than defense. It's still a solid choice of a 3-drop in those builds, but not particularly memorable. And the less we talk of that stupid robo-wolf, the better.


Zombie: +10

  

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 359 (online: 353)

 Related Tribes: Horror, Hound

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Among the latest in Zombie tech, there's a few that return from the graveyard by discarding card and paying mana, which is not ideal (but at least Haunted Dead gives you a small flyer in the process; the concept of a zombie being haunted by a ghost is also hilarious). The two rares are also not incredibly good. In fact, Noosegraf Mob, for titan mana, is kinda bad: it provides 5 points worth of power that eventually become 10, but the process is slow and clunky, if abusable via flickering or recasting from graveyard (see below). Cryptbreaker is a bit better, in that it's fast, and generates a flux of fresh Zombies in exchange of surplus cards, the same way Thraben Standard Bearer does for Humans. Being rare rather than common, Cryptbreaker also draws you cards, and at instant speed to boot. It's not a smooth operation by any means, but it might be worth a try in Zombie builds.

 The only other card of note for all things Zombie isn't actually a Zombie, but a Human Wizard that acts as a Zombie lord by giving each and every one of them (that you own) the ability to be hardcast back from the graveyard. But even Gisa and Geralf is not a card you would automatically include in your brew, although it has more of an overall effect on your Zombie strategies than the rest of the new lot.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


BEST IN SHOW
(click on them to go to their main tribe)

  

  

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MAGIC: THE MELDING

 

 

 

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DIVING INTO THE PLASMA POOL: THE DELVER STORY

 

 

 

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THE OUTER GODS

  

 

 

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS