The full moon has risen, and it’s time to arm ourselves for the fight against the Eldritch horror, Emrakul. Brace yourself against the Eldrazi menace that threatens to twist the already-horrific Innistrad landscape into something even more bizarre with these 10 spells that you shouldn’t underestimate.

It’s a little pricey at 5 mana, but Faithbearer Paladin is a roadblock in a set riddled with 2 and 3 power creatures. 4 toughness is hard to punch through, and laying Lifelink on top of it stops most aggro decks in their tracks, making this a solid creature to stabilize with. If you’re in an aggressive beatdown deck the defensive stats on this card won’t be particularly impressive, but you should be happy to grab this in the middle of the pack if you find yourself in a slower deck that needs to gum up the ground.

One may be the loneliest number, but this 1 / 1 packs a serious punch. The front side is pretty bad, since 1 power gets blanked by most 2-drops, but with just a few sources of pump and lifegain in your deck, this card can flip over to its monstrous back side fairly easily and consistently, then quickly take over the game. Lone Rider’s flip side is strong enough that it’s worth building around him a little, especially since many of the spells that help it flip are just good cards to begin with.

Of note, Lone Rider is a human on the front side and wears equipment very well, which goes hand-in-hand with some of the old themes from Shadows over Innistrad.

I didn’t see much discussion about this card, but what little I saw was very tepid. It has a bit of setup cost, but Spontaneous Mutation often does a very good Tightening Coils impression, turning a problematic beater into a wall. As an added bonus, a single blue mana and Flash make it easy to play as a cheap combat trick. Between Delirium enablers and blue’s expansive suite of tempo and card draw spells, dumping enough cards into the graveyard - usually about 3 - to make this spell worth its card slot is pretty low as far as setup costs go. Expect these to go a little higher than mid-pack, once people realize how good they are.

I had a lot of reservations about Ruthless Disposal long after it was first spoiled, and it took getting my hands on it to figure out that it’s just a great removal spell. There are some parallels to be drawn between it and Sinister Concoction, where you essentially have to dump 2 extra cards into its casting cost to blow up something on your opponent’s board. Concoction is great because it kills anything while fueling Delirium (and to a lesser extent, Madness), and Ruthless Disposal falls into the same camp. The setup cost is a bit higher, since it costs an extra 3 mana and requires you have a creature in play rather than just having a card in your hand, but for your trouble you get to ruthlessly nuke your opponent’s board. Since most games eventually get to the point where at least one creature on your board isn’t actually doing anything, sacrificing it to dispose of their two biggest creatures is just amazing; and being in black, sometimes you’ll just get to sac a random creature token that you didn’t actually pay a full card for.

Also like Sinister Concoction, Ruthless Disposal’s setup cost becomes far more taxing in multiples. Take the first one highly, but don’t be afraid to pass the second for other things your deck needs.

This is a card that obviously shines in a spell-heavy deck like UR, but much like Nettle Drone from Battle for Zendikar and Zada’s Commando from Oath of the Gatewatch, even being able to ping once per turn gives any red deck a lot of reach once the board has ground down into a stall. I would likely cut these from only the most aggressive of red decks, and would be happy to run one in a more midrange deck with any number of instants and sorceries. Once you push into full-on control, they become high pick inevitability engines that serve as great blockers against early aggression. I fully expect to see Thermo-Alchemist go later in the pack, since it looks like a pure build-around.

3 mana for a 1 / 1 is a lot, but this card pays off its steep mana cost with a value two-fer. Foul Emissary is at its best when you have at least two Emerge creatures in your deck, and its first clause lets you dig to find them if you don’t already have one in your hand. Even if you only have one in your deck, running at least 16 creatures guarantees that you’ll whiff on finding another creature to play less than 10% of the time. Living the dream of getting to play Foul Emissary on turn 3, and Emerging out something big on turn 4 is a nasty combination of gaining tempo and value at the same time. You’ll probably be able to pick these up mid-pack, since they get far worse if you don’t end up with any Emerge creatures.

I give you Vessel of Nascency 2.0! Okay so it’s not quite that good, but it’s not that far behind. With SOI being relegated to only a single pack, this is going to be your go-to Delirium enabler in green, simultaneously serving as a late game Raise Dead effect. As an added bonus, it can smooth out your early draws, making a borderline hand far more keepable. This card will likely go a bit later than Vessel of Nascency, so it won’t be much of a signal if you see one come around 8th pick, but that just means you should be looking to wheel them and snap them up when they come back around the table.

1-drop 2 / 1s are great in some constructed archetypes, but tend to take a backseat in Limited since they usually become obsolete by turn 3. That isn’t the case with this card, though; a lot of hidden power prowls under the surface. At a very cheap 5 mana, flipping this into a 4 / 4 that can’t be double blocked is going to put your opponent in a very tough position; if they don’t have an immediate answer, they have to choose between taking 4 damage every turn or feeding it a steady stream of chump blockers. Don’t underestimate this pup, he should be a high pick, only a bit behind premium removal spells.

This card is strictly a build-around, but its power in the right deck surprised me. Between the occasional difficulty of flipping the SOI werewolves, and the mana cost of flipping the EMN werewolves, having a flip-on-demand spell in your deck can change the tides of combat quicker than most combat tricks. Many of the Wolf-Drazi are monstrous and brutal on their back side, and can dominate the board once they’re online; getting to flip them at instant speed, and give them trample at the same time, can blow a game wide open. Since you’ll want at least a half dozen werewolves to make Waxing Moon worth playing, there should only be one person at the table who wants this card, so wheeling it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Some cards just defy being categorized right away, and this one stumped me for quite a while. Cryptolith Fragment is one of those weird cards that has the potential to either be amazing or hot garbage. 3 mana ramp effects always feel a little pricey, and in faster formats are completely unplayable; 3 mana ramp that comes into play tapped feels like it should be unplayable, regardless. As it sits, however, unconditional removal is sparse enough, and the format is slow enough, that ramping into a 4-drop or a 5-drop is a great way to stabilize against an average midrange curve-out. It also helps that there’s very little mana fixing in this set, making splashing an exceptionally difficult proposition, when compared to what was available on 3xSOI.

Of course, there’s more than just mana fixing and ramp here. The ping effect is symmetrical, but since you get to control the effect, you can use it as a form of reach when you’re ahead on life. In a close game, activating its secondary effect and flipping it not only gets to show off its obscenely awesome artwork, but also puts your opponent on a 2-4 turn clock. The combination of evasion, deathtouch and unblockable damage makes it a beast to tangle with, outside of direct removal spells.

It’s a bit too slow for a hardline aggro deck, but I’d be happy to throw this into any midrange or control deck as a ramper, fixer, and alternate win condition. There’s no telling where people will pick this card at the beginning of the format, but I expect it to settle into a mid-high pick once people have gotten settled into the new set.

Normally I dedicate half my list to cards that underperformed, but I just had so many overperforming cards I was excited to talk up this time around, I couldn’t help myself! I hope this list has given you a little insight into some of the hotly contested cards, just in time for the official release of Eldritch Moon!

A photo of Jason Clem Jason Clem

Jason Clem has been playing Magic on and off since Mirrodin, but only found his love of Limited after playing a few months of Hearthstone. After rejoining the Magic Master Race, he created Draft Factory in hopes of creating an analysis and step-by-step breakdown of a format often eclipsed by Constructed discussion. Jason also has a soft spot for JRPGs and will emphatically deny that CLANNAD made him cry like a little girl.