This past weekend was the Rise of the Eldrazi prerelease (does it feel like we’ve been hyping it forever to you too?). I had a nice perspective on the set, since in addition to mine and my brother’s experiences, we were joined by someone attending his first ever Magic tournament (who also happens to be the guy who designed the amazing Robot Viking logo). So, did the Eldrazi rise? They sure as hell did.
Because Rise of the Eldrazi is a large set, you draft it and play it sealed without mixing in any other sets. That means it defines its own format. What does that format look like? The thing I heard mentioned most often was the general lack of creature removal. There are a few key removal spells, like [card]Vendetta[/card], [card]Smite[/card], and [card]Heat Ray[/card]. They seemed to be few and far between, though, and very few players had enough to rely on. I ended up leaning heavily on two copies of [card]Narcolepsy[/card] in my deck.
The other thing you notice quickly is that the set is slow. Things don’t really start moving until turn five or six sometimes. Someone might play a creature with a level-up ability early and start working on it, but several of my games were “Land, Go” for turn after turn. Then suddenly ridiculously huge things start hitting the table. I opened a foil [card]Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre[/card] and successfully played him from my hand at least half a dozen times. One of those times, I actually lost the game (to a [card]Dawnglare Invoker[/card] — I misplayed and should have destroyed that with Ulamog’s cast ability). By the way, Ulamog’s been gracing the Robot Viking side panels for about a month now, so I guess it was some kind of karmic justice. Or Eldrazic justice. He’ll be leaving Robot Viking soon, but what to replace him with?
There are certain deck archetypes you’ll see frequently in RotE sealed events, but it’s actually quite a large variety. Quite a change from Zendikar, where the two predominant sealed archetypes were: “Landfall Aggro” and “Decks That Lose To Landfall Aggro.” I saw several Defender-based decks, which is what I played. Three [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card]s, a [card]Vent Sentinel[/card] and a [card]Guard Gomazoa[/card] let me set up decent early defenses and crank out utterly ludicrous amounts of mana. I had a [card]Spawnsire of Ulamog[/card], and while I chose not to put it in my deck, if I had, there were several occasions when I could have played its 20-mana ability. Insane card drawing on the backs of an [card]Enclave Cryptologist[/card] and a [card]Sphinx of Magosi[/card] helped a lot (looking at what I had in my deck, I’m kind of frustrated that I only went 2-3).
Anyway, I also saw decks that depended on Auras and Totem Armor — an [card]Aura Gnarlid[/card] can get very nasty very fast. Levelers had a nice showing as well. My brother drafted a nice U/W control deck with several copies of [card]Deprive[/card] and a [card]Gideon Jura[/card] that almost felt like the inklings of a Standard constructed deck. Another archetype built crazy synergies by generating lots of Eldrazi Spawn tokens and then sacrificing them to things like [card]Magmaw[/card].
While I was concerned that some games ended up being a simple race to see who could cast the first huge Eldrazi monster (the Annhiliation ability is virtually impossible to recover from if you don’t destroy or otherwise prevent an Eldrazi from attacking you immediately), neither Joe nor Ryan experienced that. They both had a lot of fun playing and drafting the new set, even if their win-loss records were a bit battered by the end of the day.
I can’t even begin to contemplate how RotE is going to affect Standard right now. A few cards will clearly make a big splash, but I’m not sure if they’ll just shift the balance of power between pre-existing archetypes or lead to something entirely new. And while I don’t usually even try to grok the older formats, [card]Not of This World[/card], in addition to having possibly my favorite Magic card name ever, surely will be [card]Dark Depths[/card]‘ new best friend in Extended.
Don’t forget to stop by Robot Viking sponsor TrollandToad.com for all your Eldrazi needs.