Enlightened Maniac | Jaime Jones
It’s that time again! With the release of Eldritch Moon, we get to jump into things while they’re fresh and new, and get to see the cards with new eyes. As always, this leads to some mistakes and misjudgements in regard to pick order and playability, but it’s also the most fun part of the format. So instead of waxing poetic, let’s jump right in!
Niblis of Frost can take over the game on the high end, and on the low end still plays as an aggressively-costed flier. Clear Shot and Incendiary Flow are among the best cheap removal spells in their respective colors, but Niblis is close enough to just being a bomb that I can’t pass it up.
Both Exultant Cultist and Tattered Haunter are relatively close to filler level. On the other hand, Haunted Dead can grind out a lot of value over a longer game, with a decent spread of stats across two bodies. I’m just going to take the strongest card here since there’s a pretty huge disparity between the two colors.
Midnight Scavengers is worth consideration, but the limitation of the ability (only bringing back creatures of 3CMC or less) compounded with its small body make me less inclined to speculate on trying to piece together the Meld puzzle when there are legitimately good self-contained cards in the same pack.
I’ve played with Geist of the Archives several times and it’s never disappointed. It plays a lot like Sigiled Starfish, but runs as an even better blocker. Getting to filter your draw every turn is fantastic and worth playing in any blue deck.
On the other hand… can I really turn down the chance to try playing two Geist of the Archives in the same deck?
I’m not particularly a fan of freeze effects outside of tempo decks, since you always end up down a card. Gavony Unhallowed is solid filler, but it’s basically just that. UB can churn to Delirium fairly consistently this time around, however, so I’m pretty happy with picking up Dusk Feaster.
Courageous Outrider could be a signal that white is open, but it could just mean that nobody is drafting a humans deck. But Vexing Scuttler is pretty great at churning out value, which is exactly where I want to be for UB.
Mill Giant would help me activate Delirium more quickly, but I’m not likely to get many more Delirium cards to begin with. I’d much rather just have a strong draw card to refill my hand in the late game.
If I’m already going deep on Emerge, I may as well take a black Siege Rhino. It’s not among the best Emerge creatures, but it’ll usually be the biggest thing on the board when you slam it down on turn 4 or 5.
If I can turn on Delirium consistently, Thraben Foulbloods might be a decent mainboard option. This goes double if I end up with any Zombie interactions.
A 2 / 3 for 3 isn’t particularly impressive, but a cheap discard outlet can come in handy from time to time. The 2 damage is better in an aggressive deck where you can expect to be ahead on life when you start activating it, but it can come up from time to time in a control deck as well, depending on how the game plays out.
With nothing for my deck, I decide to take the land to signal to my left that green and red are wide open.
Displace is a card I’ve sideboarded in a couple times already against heavy removal decks. I’d prefer not to mainboard it if I can avoid it, but it’s not a total blank, since it can retrigger ETB effects, removal enchantment-based removal, and let you chump block without losing your creature.
End of Pack 1❮ ❯
I already have a ton of value in this deck, with ways to filter my draw and recur my spells from the graveyard. Between the Niblis and Scuttlers though, I need to pick up more Instants and Sorceries if I’m going to make the most out of their abilities. I also need to make sure I pick up some 2-drops so I don’t get run over by aggressive decks and SOI Flip-wolves.
I’d like to take the Grizzled Angler since I’m already sitting on 3 colorless creatures, but I love having the opportunity to play a second Haunted Dead and just grind for value. Additionally, with 3 blue cards left in the pack that I wouldn’t mind taking, I’m more likely to get one of them back on the wheel.
I could snap up the Wretched Gryff as my fourth Emerge creature, but I’m seriously lacking in removal right now. Certain Death is a little expensive, but the set is slow enough that 6 mana isn’t unobtainable.
I like Scour the Laboratory, but I don’t feel that I can run two of them in a deck that already has such a high mana curve, and so few instants to hold up alongside it. The power level is significantly lower, but I’ve come to respect the niche Borrowed Malevolence can play as a combat trick and as a removal spell for 1-toughness creatures.
The choice between Enlightened Maniac and Gavony Unhallowed is a decision between which type of filler is best for my deck. Were my curve lower, Unhallowed would be the pick since more cheap creatures would mean a better chance for it to grow. With a higher curve and three Emerge creatures, I decide the Maniac is probably my better choice.
There’s basically nothing here for me, so I take the Cultist’s Staff as being marginally playable, though not exciting in a control deck.
My wheeled pack brings another sac creature back to me. With the Angler and Tattered Haunter gone, I have to believe there are at least two other blue drafters at the table, which would explain why the last few packs have been so barren.
I don’t have as many cards to fuel it as I would like, but Spontaneous Mutation is still a great pick here. I’m pretty sure people underestimate how good this card is so early in the set.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to play both of them, but the pseudo-removal spell feels better for my deck than the bad 2-drop.
I’m not worried about signals anymore, so I hate pick Wolfkin Bond as the only playable card left.
End of Pack 2❮ ❯
I have plenty of sac fodder for my Emerge creatures, and my removal suite isn’t looking horrible. Unfortunately, I’m still lacking instants/sorceries and 2-drops. I’m going to have to really prioritize those in pack 3.
I doubt I’ll ever flip it, but Thing in the Ice is fairly defensive as far as 2-drops go. It’s not an exciting pick, but it’ll do its job as a wall in my deck.
Wow, my colors just aren’t coming are they? Twins of Maurer Estate is just the best card here for me, even if it’s pretty mediocre. Maybe I’ll get lucky and I can Madness it out once or twice off a Haunted Dead for value.
My best choice here is probably Sleep Paralysis or Throttle, but I’ve had some rough times of it going up against decks that go super wide as of late. It’s pure sideboard tech, but I decide my need for a board wipe is much higher than my need for another expensive and clunky removal spell.
I would normally take Crow of Dark Tidings to help turn on Delirium and my Spontaneous Mutations, but I already have a glut of 3-drops and Press for Answers does a decent job of serving as a 2-drop if absolutely necessary.
I consider Macabre Waltz, but my deck doesn’t have a lot of creatures that I really want to recur back to my hand and hardcast all over again; Niblis of Frost is my best target, because the Emerge creatures are just super pricey to play (although looping my Waltz over and over with Vexing Scuttler could be fun). I decide to take Jace’s Scrutiny since I intend to do a lot of blocking and it’ll keep me from getting blown out by combat tricks.
I have zero intention of playing any of the cards in my colors from this pack, so I just hate out the Silverstrike.
I don’t have a lot of Zombie synergies, but Drunau Corpse Trawler can do a decent job of gumming up the board on its own, especially if you can afford to consistently leave up 3 mana. Admittedly, it works better if you have a lot of instants in your deck.
Silent Observer is a pretty good defensive creature, it’s a surprise that it manage to go so late.
Here's what I ended up with.
Unfortunately I never got the instants/sorceries or the 2-drops I wanted, so those are two glaring issues with my final deck. But I have a defensive enough creature base that it shouldn’t hurt me too much as long as I churn out value with my card advantage engines. I have better draw and filtering than most other decks are going to have, and multiple cards I can recur from the graveyard. I’m a little leery about leaving my second Spontaneous Mutation in the sideboard, but with so few instants and sorceries in the deck I’m not sure how hard it’s going to be to get them turned on, and they definitely play worse in multiples.
Since I’m so low on 2-drops, my game plan is going to be to shore up my defenses with a turn 3 Geist of the Archives or power out an Emerge creature on turn 4. As long as I can keep myself from getting burned out before I have 4 mana in play, I should be able to come back from a slow start.
I was worried going into this set that the increase in cheap removal was going to make this set faster, but it seems like slow, value-driven decks are still able to grind out the wins. UB was an especially bad color pairing during SOI, due to lacking any synergies below the rare slot. Now that we’ve moved away from a synergistic draft set into a goodstuff set, UB control is coming back with a vengeance, and all the graveyard shenanigans that come with it. Being in two Emerge colors and having a glut of tempo, draw and removal spells also means that Delirium is fairly easy to turn on.
A standout card in this draft, surprisingly, was Biting Rain. I’ve played several sets with these -2/-2 mini board wipe effects, and most of them tend to be very clunky to play with since a ton of creatures dodge it, or you end up with a lot of creatures in your own deck that die to it. I wouldn’t be surprised if taking a copy highly in the third pack (assuming you’re control) is just always going to be the correct pick. There are a lot of 2 and 1 toughness creatures in this set, and it’s not too difficult to set up a board wipe after combat for higher toughness targets.
I’m normally not very good with control decks, but this one was a lot of fun. I’ve actually drafted UB a number of times since the set has released already, so here’s to hoping I can swing the opposite direction and go full-out aggro next time around!