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By: gwyned, gwyned
Aug 08 2016 12:00pm
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I. Introduction

Eldritch Moon has at last officially been released on Magic Online. With all its protections stripped away, Innistrad has fallen into the corruption of an ancient evil, and its only hope rests in the hands of an unlikely alliance. If you're looking for superb analysis of this set's impact on Limited and Standard, I'm afraid you've clicked the wrong link. Instead, it is the purpose of this article to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. Double face cards, Delirium, and Madness have returned for this second set, alongside the new mechanics of Meld, Emerge, and Escalate. It would probably be good to already understand how these mechanics in Eldritch Moon work before continuing with this review. Last time, in Part One, I examined all the White, Blue, and Black Commons from the set. Today, I will finish the rest of the Eldritch Moon Commons with Red, Green, and Colorless.

If you've read my previous set reviews, you should be familiar with my methodology. Rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead note each card as falling into one of four categories: "hit," for those cards that define an entire archetype or will (almost) always be played in a particular color; "grounder," which are cards that should see play in at least one archetype but won't always make the cut; "bunt," which are cards that are only borderline playable; and "myth," which are cards that should almost never be played. As always, special thanks to ChannelFireball which inspired my original "hit or myth" rating system. So with that, let's jump back into Eldritch Moon!

II. Red Commons

1. In recent sets, we've seen a shift away from cheap, efficient removal to cards more like Alchemist's Greeting, a clunky 4 damage spell for 4R that only targets creatures at Sorcery speed. Without any other text, this card would be poor enough that it would never see play. In this case though, the card also has a Madness cost of 1R, which puts it actually much closer to Flame Slash, which is one of the better Red removal spells to see print at Common. Given the vast difference between a 2 mana removal spell and a 5 mana one, you should only play in decks where you can reliably expect to cast this for its Madness cost. That certainly limits its usefulness, but saves it from being unplayable.

Verdict: Bunt - It will take a particular mixture for this to be any good.


2. Even at Common, we're seeing more and more one mana 1/2 creatures like Bold Impaler. While technically better than a 1/1, the difference between one Toughness and two is pretty minor, really only protecting it against threats like Twin Bolt. Such cards don't even really fit into an aggressive deck very well, which is the only archetype where you'd want to play such cheap creatures. A strong ability can be enough to redeem such cards, but in this case its secondary ability is actually worse than the classic Firebreathing, and doesn't really contribute anything significant to this card. That leaves us then with a bad card with a bad ability, and thus one you should probably never play.

Verdict: Myth - You're basically impaling yourself if you play this card.


3. I think it's fair to say that Borrowed Hostility is the worst of the Escalate cards. At first glance, a combat trick that can give your creature +3 / +0 or First Strike for one red mana may not seem so bad. On the other hand, having to pay an additional 3 mana in order to give it both seems quite excessive, especially when you realize that we still have Sure Strike in the format, which gives you the exact same effect for half the cost of casting this card and activating Escalate. Having the flexibility is definitely worth something, but not having to pay such a ridiculous premium to get both effects. Even Kindled Fury, which only gives a single point of additional Power, is better than this.

Verdict: Myth - I'd be hostile too if I had to borrow such an overcosted card.


4. After several bad cards, Brazen Wolves looks like the real deal. A 2/3 for 2R is already almost playable by itself. Add in an automatic +2 / +0 when it attacks, and you've essentially got a 4/3 beating down on Turn 4, which is quite good. In fact, this card is almost identical to the very strong Borderland Marauder, which is one mana cheaper but also has a point less of both Power and Toughness. The Marauder has proven to be a key component of any Red aggressive deck, and while two drops tend to be more important than three drops in such a deck, this card seems like it's a perfect match. In fact, its stat-line is good enough that is probably even playable outside of that archetype.

Verdict: Grounder - I'll be so brazen to suggest this will see plenty of play going forward.


5. Distemper of the Blood is yet another Madness card, giving us yet another potential option for some sort of dedicated Madness build. While getting +2 / +2 for 1R isn't anything special, the fact that this grants Trample, and does so outside of Green, is pretty remarkable. Playing it for its Madness cost also potentially allows you to cast it at Instant speed, which is yet another point in its favor. This is perhaps best suited for some sort of Gruul Monsters deck, where you can overrun your opponent's blockers for a major damage hit. Finding the right discard outlet in such a deck would be tricky however. So while it's not immediately clear where this would best slot in, in the right deck it could be a nice combat trick.

Verdict: Bunt - It's a little too situational for my temperament, but the potential is certainly there.


6. At first glance, it's hard to imagine a more boring card than Falkenrath Reaver. It's a vanilla 2/2 for 2, with a creature type consistent with what we've already seen, that certainly doesn't seem to play any special role in the format. Yet this was a card that Wizards chose to spoil very early on in the process. As it turns out, this is the first Red 2/2 for 1R that has ever been printed without a drawback. Compare this to the recent Mage-Ring Bully and Valley Dasher, which both come with the drawback of having to attack each round, and you can see why this is a significant development. Now all that said, this still isn't a card I expect to see much play, but it's certainly interesting to see this in print.

Verdict: Bunt - While significant from a design standpoint, it's still one I would reave out of your deck.


7. Galvanic Bombardment works in a similar fashion to Take Inventory, in that it gets better as additional copies accumulate in your Graveyard. Interestingly enough, it is also very similar to the original Kindle from Tempest, save that it only targets creatures and is one mana cheaper. At worst, it's a Shock that can't target players. On the other end of the scale, by the time you're on your third casting, it's equivalent to Flame Slash, which is pretty high praise. But most decks looking for cheap Red removal like this aren't looking for the game to go long, which means that more often than not you won't have multiple copies sitting around in your Graveyard. It's a decent removal spell, but not anything particularly important.

Verdict: Grounder - I just don't feel galvanized to give it a higher grade.


8. Shadows over Innistrad gave us several cards similar to Make Mischief at higher rarities, so it's nice to finally get the Common equivalent of them. Here you're essentially getting three damage for three mana, since you deal a single point of damage and can expect to get 2 more points of damage out of the token in most circumstances. This little token also complicates combat significantly, since your opponent has to take into account the fact that you could deal that extra point of damage to any of their creatures post combat. This would certainly be at its best in a tokens build, but it's got enough going on that I could see it included in other Red based archetypes as well.

Verdict: Grounder - There's certainly some mischief to be had here.


9. Otherworldly Outbust is a very unusual combat trick, if it can even be considered that. For one red mana, you're only boosting a single creature by 1 Power, which is clearly bad value. But what's even stranger is that in order to get any value out of this card, you need to ensure that the creature your cast it on actually dies at some point so that you get the token. Obviously the ideal is to use this card to turn a chump block into a trade, then get the 3/2 token as a bonus. But even if you just tack this on a creature right before it dies, getting a 3/2 for R is not a bad deal. This reminds me quite a bit of Shamble Back, which has seen some play, mostly out of the Sideboard. So I would expect similar things out of this card.

Verdict: Bunt - In otherwords, this is fine but not exciting.


10. Prophetic Ravings is a strictly better version of Epiphany Storm from Born of the Gods, in that for the same mana it both lacks an activation cost and the creature can use it right away. Nonetheless, spending a card to enchant a creature just to give it the "Rummage" ability is running a big risk for very little payoff, which is probably why Epiphany Storm saw absolutely no play. Interestingly enough though, in a very aggressive deck the ability to give a creature Haste for a single red mana isn't the worst, especially if it comes with the flexibility of allowing you to pitch Lands to draw another card in the late game. Such a deck would be the only place where this card would find a home, but that utility saves it from being complete garbage.

Verdict: Bunt - I hope to never hear anyone rave about how good this card is.


11. Stensia Banquet is our lone "Vampires matter" card at Common, and it definitely doesn't offer you that much to reward you for building around it. Not only is it cast at Sorcery speed, but it also can only target players, not creatures. If you have three Vampires, you're essentially getting an undercosted, underpowered Lava Axe that at least has the upside of replacing itself once you cast it. But honestly, spells that only deal damage to your opponent are already pretty bad, and the fact that this one is so conditional on having multiple creatures of one type makes this even worse. Any of the other Red spells that deal damage to your opponent is better than this miserable excuse for a card.

Verdict: Myth - Prove me wrong about this card and I'll gladly throw you a banquet.


12. Not since Benthic Explorers have we had a Common like Stensia Innkeeper that can tap down an opponent's Land, and in this case keep it tapped down for an extra turn. Keeping your opponent off a Land drop for a turn seems like a decent strategy for an aggressive Red deck, especially when combined with the equivalent of a Hill Giant. 4 mana is a touch expensive for such a deck however, and sometimes will be too little too late to really stop your opponent from taking control of the board and shutting down your offense. That said, this might be a decent Sideboard option against a multicolored deck as a way of denying them a color while still playing an otherwise useful card.

Verdict: Bunt - There's just no sense in rating this any higher.


13. Thermo-Alchemist looks to potentially be one of the better Red cards in the set, given that it's already seen some play in Classic Pauper. This is quite similar to Nettle Drone in that it reliably deals 1 point of damage each turn and can be activated multiple times in the right build. While it lacks the offensive stats of the Drone, it can also be used as a decent blocker early on while still getting the opportunity to tap it during your opponent's turn. Furthermore, it's easier than the Drone to untap, since it only requires you to play any Instant or Sorcery. This seems like it would slot very well into an Izzet Control style decklist, where you can reasonable expect to get lots of extra uses out of it.

Verdict: Grounder - I'm not certain how good this is, but I'm willing to throw it into the mix.


14. Vildin-Pack Outcast certainly has a lot going on. At its base it is a 4/4 with Trample for 4R, which is already a powerful if expensive creature. Trample is particularly good with its pump ability, since if it's going to trade anyway you can potentially do another three points of damage. It will be rare that you'll have the seven mana needed to flip it into Dronepack Kindred, but a 5/7 Trample with colorless Firebreathing is certainly a pretty good payout for such a huge investment. By that point, this should be good enough to finish off your opponent with one attack step.

Verdict: Grounder - This looks to be the leader of the pack for Red cards in the set.


Red is probably the worst color at Common in Eldritch Moon. I suspect that only Brazen Wolves and Galvanic Bombardment will see widespread play, with Make Mischief, Thermo-Alchemist, and potentially Vildin-Pack Outcast finding a home in particular archetypes. But even these cards don't exactly pull me into wanting to play Red, and at the end of the day may not be superior to the options already in the card pool. Red has probably been the least important color in the recent Standard Pauper metagame, and I don't see much here that would change that in the near future.

III. Green Commons

1. Backwoods Survivalists is one of the more reasonable Delirium cards at Common. Even without activating Delirium, you're getting a 4/3 for 3G, which is about on par with what you would expect in Green. And once you've got its ability online, you gain an additional point of Power and Toughness as well as Trample, making what is already a decent card even better. So while this card doesn't give you a huge incentive to activate Delirium, it doesn't really punish you for not having it either. This certainly seems like a fine addition to any Green ramp style deck, but in itself isn't quite good enough to really push you into Green. As such it's certainly playable, but not exciting.

Verdict: Grounder - It may be somewhat backwards, but it's good enough at least some of the time.


2. Bloodbriar is a card that's been getting a lot of attention. It's a 2/3 for 2G at its baseline, which is reasonable but generally not good enough, especially in Green. But for the same cost as Nantuko Husk, you're getting a creature that gets permanent +1 / +1 counters for every permanent you sacrifice, plus whatever effect you're already generating from that sacrifice. This is obviously an auto-include in the powerful Sultai Control deck in the current metagame, probably replacing the Nantuko Husk entirely. But this is also good enough to be worth building an entirely new archetype around, with a tighter focus on generating advantage by sacrificing your cards, recurring them from the Graveyard, and assembling a massive Bloodbriar.

Verdict: Hit - Things are going to get bloody once this makes its presence felt.


3. Crossroads Consecrator is the type of Common that hasn't really seen print since the New World Order design philosophy became established, simply because the presence of this card greatly complicates combat. The ability to give any of your Humans an extra point of Power and Toughness is an amazing advantage at the mere cost of a single Green mana, even if it's only available when they're attacking. With more than 70 such creatures in the format right now, with almost half of those in White, the potential is definitely there to build a Selesnya Humans deck that takes advantage of the minor "Humans Matter" theme and can become a deck to be reckoned with. While very niche, this definitely shows promise.

Verdict: Grounder - It will definitely be interesting to see where this road leads.


4. Grapple with the Past continues where Vessel of Nascency left off, allowing you to dump cards into your Graveyard (presumably to activate Delirium) and then keep the best one in your hand. Obviously this is at its best in strategies with significant Graveyard interactions, since this lets you get additional value out of the cards that you pitch. It's also worth noting that this works as an Instant speed Disentomb in Green, since you aren't actually required to return one of the cards that you got from your Library. Even better, this also lets you get back that Evolving Wilds or off-color Land if it accidentally gets milled by some other effect. In the right deck, this is pretty useful; otherwise, it's playable but not exciting.

Verdict: Bunt - You have to grapple with how often this card actually earns its place.


5. The original Fight card Prey Upon returns in Eldritch Moon. This is as simple and efficient as Green removal gets, allowing you to force two creatures to deal damage to one another for the cheap cost of a single Green mana. While it's a great design decision to allow Green to have access to these sorts of effects at Common, experience has proven that you really want these cards to either boost your creature's stats (such as Epic Confrontation) or resolve at Instant speed (like Pit Fight), as those versions are so much stronger. While the latter is no longer in the format, for the time being Epic Confrontation will continue to be the Fight card of choice in the format until such time as it rotates out.

Verdict: Bunt - This card is just fighting against too many other better iterations.


6. Primal Druid seems obviously intended to be yet another excellent Sacrifice target. Getting an 0/3 for 1G isn't exactly the most exciting card, but the fact that you get what works out to be an Instant speed Rampant Growth when it dies is a pretty significant bonus. Additionally, while you probably wouldn't play it for this reason, it can also block 2 Power attackers early on, helping to slow down your opponent's aggressive draws. Still, if you're going to include this in your deck, you probably want multiple ways to sacrifice it. This is yet another card that seems to perfectly suit the popular Sultai Control deck, where it synergies well with Vulturous Aven and Nantuko Husk.

Verdict: Bunt - I doubt many will have a primal urge to play this card.


7. Would you pay 2 mana to gain 4 Life? That's essentially the question Springsage Ritual is asking, since its virtually identical to Naturalize save that you're paying two an additional two mana of any color to get 4 Life. 4 mana is expensive enough that you won't be able to do much else that same turn, which really hampers your ability to keep this up and play it as an Instant at just the right moment to foil your opponent's strategy. It seems like very new set brings us a new variation on Naturalize, and while both Caustic Caterpillar and Root Out might be worth considering in certain builds, this latest iteration of this effect just doesn't give you enough value for the high cost you have to pay for it.

Verdict: Bunt - You won't be springing this on your opponent very often.


8. Green has had a surprising amount of Flash creatures over the years, with Swift Spinner being the latest example. For the same cost as the classic Giant Spider, you're getting one point less of Toughness but trading that for the ability to cast it at Instant speed, potentially downing on your opponent's creatures unexpectedly. This would be particularly good if it allowed you to take out a Flyer, but it's worth remembering that this costs you a full four mana to pull this off. As I just mentioned, that's a lot of mana to hold back during your turn, although at least in this case you do have the ability to go ahead and cast it even if you don't get to block with it. This is a card that probably is best kept in the Sideboard.

Verdict: Bunt - I wouldn't be too swift to include this in your deck.


9. Generally speaking two mana creatures that tap for an additional mana like Ulvenwald Captive haven't seen much play in the format, partially because mana ramp isn't as strong with only Common card and partially because you really want to get these sort of cards into play as early as possible. Worse, as a 1/2 it doesn't even block well. And while its mana ability means you only need 6 other sources to flip it into Ulvenwald Abomination, a 4/6 for 7 mana that can tap for two mana also isn't offering much value for its cost. Because of all these factors, I'm not very exciting about this card.

Verdict: Bunt - You wald be better off playing Llanowar Elves than this card.


10. Given how expensive it is to transform the Werewolf cards in this set, Waxing Moon seems like it could be a pretty good deal. It would be particularly useful on the offensive, since you also get to Trample over whatever hapless creature was blocking it for additional damage. But even if you're just blocking, the boost in stats from transforming your creature could sometimes make the difference between trading and living to fight another round. However, this only affects one creature, it's only slightly better than a simple pump spell in a lot of scenarios. Granted, in a few other scenarios this could be quite the blowout. But on average, this seems too narrow and too much work to really be worth a card slot in most decks.

Verdict: Bunt - My enthusiasm for this card is waning, not waxing.


11. Wolfkin Bond is remarkably similar to Knightly Valor, giving you a 2/2 token as well as pumping up your creature by 2 Power and Toughness. That card was powerful enough to be shifted up to Uncommon in Magic Origins, which says something about the overall value of this card. You're essentially getting 4 Power and Toughness worth for 5 mana, splitting it up among 2 creatures but also potentially taking the risk of Instant speed removal when you go to enchant one of your creatures. In a long game, this is certainly a great card to return to your hand with Enchantment recursion, even though at that stage in the game a simple 2/2 probably won't make a big difference. This isn't amazing, but it's certainly good value.

Verdict: Grounder - You could do much worse than friends like this.


12. Vines of Vastwood is one of my favorite Green spells of all times, and Woodcutter's Grit harkens back to that card, even if it's certainly not as good at the end of the day. Obviously this doesn't have the flexibility of being a cheap protection spell some of the time and a pump spell when you need it, but by recent standards getting a three point boost of both Power and Toughness as well as dodging any future spells from your opponent for the rest of the turn shouldn't be ignored. Three mana isn't so expensive to make this backbreaking to hold up during your opponent's turn, and it's a particularly strong way to respond to a pre-combat burn spell. Definitely worth considering.

Verdict: Grounder - I wood think hard before cutting this from your deck.


13. Woodland Patrol seems like a very middling creature, at least in Green. At Common it's not unusual to see 3/3s for 3 in Green, but this card gives up that third point of Toughness for Vigilance. This is an odd design decision, since the 2 Power means it's actually not that good on defense, since it will trade with just about any creature in the format. If this instead cost GG, this card would at least be worth a second look in a Mono Green Stompy or similar archetype. But Green simply has better things to be doing for 3 mana. Compare this to Byway Courier, which is nearly the exact same card but replaces itself when it dies. There just isn't enough incentive to make this card a worthwhile investment.

Verdict: Bunt - I wood just keeping looking.


With the exception of Bloodbriar, Green doesn't fare much better than Red in Eldritch Moon. Most of its cards are upstaged by existing cards, or just too narrow to see widespread play. Backwoods Survivalists and Wolfkin Bond are probably the next best cards, with the strong but narrow Woodcutter's Grit also being part of that same conversation. Some of the other cards could possibly find slots in very focused archetypes, but certainly aren't broadly applicable to other decks. Of course, Green has become one of the stronger colors in the format right now, so maybe this somewhat lackluster performance is for the best.

IV. Colorless Commons

1. Cathar's Shield is a functional reprint of Accorder's Shield, and hasn't gotten any better since the last time it was available. You might think that getting to play a card for free would be a pretty reasonable deal, but this card literally does nothing until you equip it to a creature, in which you're expected to pay 3 mana for a mere +0 / +3 and Vigilance. With essentially no incentive to play Artifacts, this card does very little for you. It's doesn't help on the offensive much, it's expensive to activate, and generally speaking doesn't have that big an effect on the game state. It's certainly not useless, however, and might be worth considering as a Sideboard option against certain archetypes. But overall, I don't think you should be playing this.

Verdict: Bunt - I'm trying to shield you from having to play cards like this.


2. Equipment is enough of an emphasis in Eldritch Moon to get yet another such card at Common called Cultist's Staff. In this case you're getting a 2 mana casting cost for a simple +2 / +2 bonus that once again has an Equip cost of 3. This is actually one of the better pieces of Equipment we've seen at Common, comparable to Vulshok Morningstar printed all the way back in Darksteel, save that this costs one additional mana to Equip. Sadly, I think that one mana difference is enough to keep this from seeing widespread play, as there is a world of difference in the midgame between two and three mana. Still, I would put this right on the edge of being good enough, which means it will probably see play in some archetypes.

Verdict: Grounder - I would be surprised to see this acquire a cult following.


3. Creatures have improved in power level enough that this is not even our first 2/1 for 2 mana of any color, as Field Creeper is functionally equivalent to Bronze Sable from Theros and Magic 2015. Like Falkenrath Reaver, what is significant about this card is not its value in the metagame, since almost no vanilla creature will ever make the cut in Standard Pauper. Instead, what's interesting about this card is what it says about the value of a 2/1. In this case, such a creature is considered so mediocre that every color can have access to it without any restriction or downside. That statement alone should be enough to convince you that this card has no real place in any sort of Constructed format the vast majority of the time.

Verdict: Bunt - While the power creep is notable, the card itself isn't really playable.


4. We get two different Emerge cards at Common, starting with It of the Horrid Swarm. In addition to a very evocative name, at its base you're getting 6 points of Power and Toughness divided up among three creatures for eight mana, which is quite expensive but otherwise reasonable. However, if you can sacrifice even a 2/2 along with paying the Emerge cost, now you're getting the same stats for six mana, including a very potent 4/4. It goes without saying that this is an amazing target for Displace or similar effects, and is certainly one of the better cards to ramp into in Green. I can also imagine sacrificing Eyeless Watcher to this, ending up with four tokens plus a 4/4 for a total of seven mana over multiple turns. Now that's value!

Verdict: Hit - If you're looking to swarm your opponent, this is indeed certainly it.


5. Terrarion returns to Standard from all the way back in original Ravnica. This is a one-time color fixer that comes into play for only a single mana, but can't be activated the turn it's cast. What is interesting about this card is that you pay two of any mana to produce two mana of any color, and when it enters the Graveyard it also replaces itself. While not as good as Prophetic Prism, this is still very reasonable color fixing, especially if you're only splashing one or two cards. At worst, it cycles for 3 mana over the course of two turns, which isn't too bad for a worst case scenario. It's a shame there's no real incentive to play Artifacts, as the cost for including this in your deck is very low.

Verdict: Bunt - It takes a rare build that really wants this effect, but it's also fine in almost any deck.


6. Last but certainly not least we have Wretched Gryff, which may just be the best Common in the set. A 3/4 Flyer that lets you draw a card for 7 mana is a reasonable price to pay (about on part with Gryff Vanguard), although expensive enough that it would only see play in a very Control oriented deck. But activate Emerge by sacrificing a creature like Palace Familiar that also gets value from hitting the Graveyard, you're getting a 3/4 with Flying, drawing a card, and getting the effect for four mana or less, which is not only excellent value for your investment, but leaves you with a creature that by itself is a very potent threat. This is good enough that every deck with access to Blue should probably be playing this.

Verdict: Hit - This is truly the very opposite of wretched.


Although they will rarely be cast as colorless spells, it should go without saying that It of the Horrid Swarm and Wretched Gryff are not only the two best cards in this category, but in the entire set. Cultist's Staff and Terrarion are clearly much worse, but still worth mentioning as cards that will probably see at least some play in archetypes where they are at their best.

V. Final Thoughts

From the first time I looked at the full spoiler, I was impressed with the overall power level and complexity of the Commons in Eldritch Moon. From a design standpoint, this seems to be one of the more complex set of Commons since the New World Order era began. I would go even further and say that this set does a better job of evoking the original Innistrad block than Shadows over Innistrad did, with the themes of Humans and the Graveyard being much more pronounced and relevant even in this smaller set. Additionally, both Meld and Emerge should make a big splash into the format despite the tiny number of Commons that saw print with those two new mechanics. On the whole this is a very good set for Standard Pauper, and I can't wait to see how the metagame develops moving forward.

So here are my final top cards for Standard Pauper from Eldritch Moon:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VI. Conclusion

So with that I conclude my Standard Pauper set review of Eldritch Moon. In closing, let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. You can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Finally, I am the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to PDCMagic.com for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 7:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room.