- Throne of Eldraine was an extremely powerful set in Magic: The Gathering, with many cards being banned due to their strength and efficiency.
- Wilds of Eldraine, the new set, is a step away from the high power level of its predecessor, focusing more on flavor and storytelling.
- While Wilds of Eldraine may not have as many broken cards, players should still watch out for the Adventures mechanic and potential combo enablers like Beseech the Mirror and Agatha’s Soul Cauldron.
Throne of Eldraine was one of the most notoriously powerful, even broken, sets of all time in Magic: The Gathering. It introduced a plethora of cards that were either too strong, too efficient or just too good when compared to all the other cards of the time. Eldraine blew nearly anything else that was released in a previous Standard legal set out of the water and began a new era of Magic defined by its increased power level.
Now there’s a new Eldraine set having recently been released and there were some concerns, going in, that Wilds of Eldraine would repeat the same issues that made Throne of Eldraine so unbearably powerful. However, now that the set has been released it would seem that Wilds of Eldraine is, if anything, a step away from the high power philosophy that gave us cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns. Despite this, there are still some cards and mechanics to look out for in the new Eldraine set. To understand these new cards and what makes Wilds of Eldraine so different from Throne of Eldraine, we need to delve into the past of the set and understand what made Throne of Eldraine so broken when compared to other Standard legal sets in Magic: The Gathering.
Throne of Eldraine Broke Magic
Cards from Throne of Eldraine saw play in nearly every major format after the sets release. Entire new decks were created around incredibly powerful cards and many cards from Eldraine had to be banned across multiple formats because they were simply too powerful. Eldraine hit Magic with the force of a sledgehammer and its impact can still be felt today. Even after all this time there are still plenty of very playable cards in formats as powerful as Modern from the set. Entire decks like Fires of Invention or Snowko decks were created around cards in the set.
Unlike sets like Ikoria or Mirrodin with a lot of broken cards, Eldraine can’t trace its particular strength to any particular mechanic or archetype. Rather each card from Throne of Eldraine was powerful in and of itself. Embercleave, for example, didn’t rely on any synergies particular to Eldraine, but still was able to contribute to one turn kills seemingly out of nowhere in aggro decks. In general the power level of the set seemed to have been cranked up to eleven, with plenty of cards able to cheat on resources like Fires of Invention or Once Upon a Time. There were also cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns, which were just far too efficient for nearly any other card previously to match.
Even the cards that weren’t powerful enough to ban ended up head and shoulders above what they should have been. Mystical Dispute is a potentially one mana counter. Bonecrusher Giant is a removal and burn spell attached to an aggressively costed red beatstick. Questing Beast was a lethal threat against planeswalkers that was often called a “mini planeswalker” due to how much utility it had for a 4/4 with impressive keywords. That’s not to say that everything in the set was dynamite, but there were so many hits that it’s often hard to remember all the strong cards in the set. The whole set made everything obsolete overnight, and though sets much later would tone down the escalation of power, Magic still lives in a post Eldraine paradigm of what a Magic card can fairly do. Eldraine would then be followed by Theros: Beyond Death which had nearly as many overpowered and ban-worthy cards. Then Ikoria came along and introduce the Companion mechanic, which was broken enough to see a complete errata. Eldraine seemed to set a tempo where standard sets would be increasingly powerful with Standard bans becoming the norm rather than an anomaly.
What’s all the more surprising is that no one saw it coming. Throne of Eldraine was going to be the fun fairy tale set, and that was all overshadowed by the sudden bans of cards like Once Upon a Time and Oko. People could have perhaps seen the cards as they were spoiled, but no one could have guessed all the cards that would see play all across Magic.
Wilds of Eldraine (Probably) Won’t Set Magic on Fire
With the full set having been released, we can see that Wilds of Eldraine doesn’t really mark the same watershed moment when it comes to power that it’s predecessor did. In fact the set appears to be leaning more into flavor than power, and though it’s far from weak it doesn’t seem to have any of the extraordinarily broken cards that Throne of Eldraine did. This reinforces the idea that Eldraine doesn’t necessarily play with exceptionally strong mechanics but rather that the cards from Throne of Eldraine in particular were much stronger than the kind of thing Magic is used to.
One of the best ways to see this conscious powering down is to look at the Korvold from the original set (Korvold, Fae-Cursed King) compared to the Korvold from Wilds (Korvold, Gleeful Glutton). The former is a big dragon which draws a card and gets larger whenever a permanent it’s controller controls is sacrificed. Fae-Cursed King remains a menace in commander and was a finisher in many constructed Food and sacrifice decks. Korvold, Gleeful Glutton is harder to enable, looking for multiple permanent types to be sacrificed and then in the graveyard to be fully effective. What’s more, Fae-Cursed King is legal in formats like Historic and Pioneer while Gleeful Glutton has been carefully curtailed to eternal formats like Commander or Legacy.
Another point of comparison is that Wilds of Eldraine focuses more concretely on the fairy tale identity of the set rather than the Arthurian mythology. While this hasn’t affected the power level concretely, it has given Wizard’s designers more room to play with theme and storytelling through cards and mechanics. Food is more strenuously integrated into the themes and lore of the world while the Role mechanic has a lot to do with the idea of curses and enchantment that’s important to the set as a whole.
Wilds of Eldraine Cards to Look Out For
This is not to say that Wilds of Eldraine won’t have busted cards. While Eldraine doesn’t generally have inherently overpowered mechanics the one exception that every Magic player should watch out for are Adventures, which allow for a large degree of inherent card advantage. In the coming weeks it will be a good idea to keep an eye on any adventure cards where both adventure and creature have even vaguely useful effects. Mosswood Dreadknight, Bramble Familiar and Questing Druid are three such cards, some of which have already had some success in tournament play in standard.
Food is another potentially very strong MtG mechanic, but it often requires both a very good producer of food and a very effective food payoff. The latter might be found in something like Night of the Sweets’ Revenge which allows Food to be tapped for green mana. The set doesn’t really have very many cheap and consistent food producers like Witches Oven or Gilded Goose, but it does have The Goose Mother, a food producer which scales the more mana put into her.
Roles are unlikely to be insanely powerful, but there is a possibility they may interact well with Constellation cards, which are cards that care about enchantments entering the battlefield. Usually the balancing factor when it comes to enchantress decks is that enchantments have to be cast most of the time and enchantment tokens are actually relatively rare. Something like Spellbook Vendor, which repeatedly creates role tokens each turn, should be scrutinized in combination with something like Archon of Sun’s Grace and Setessan Champion.
In terms of individual cards, Beseech the Mirror and Agatha’s Soul Cauldron are both very powerful with potential multi-format implications. Beseech the Mirror is essentially a mono black Bring to Light, allowing players to tutor up cards and then cast them from their deck. That sort of card will be great in decks like Living End where their namesake card can’t necessarily be played. Agatha’s Soul Cauldron exiles creatures from the graveyard and gives all their activated abilities to creatures with +1/+1 counters on them. Anything that gains or gives multiple activated abilities is often a combo enabler, and Agatha’s Soul Cauldron is one that comes in at just 2 mana.
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