After the discomfort of Zendikar, a set I never realised I disliked, I figured Rise of the Eldrazi would be suitably bothersome. After all, it had one of the worst creature combat mechanics of all time in Annihilator, it wanted to clog up the board, it filled the world with little 0/1 tokens and was hard to approach. Not to mention that it introduced us to The Eldrazi, or MTG’s response to Cthulhu, Just Please Without The Racist Baggage.
That the Eldrazi were imprisoned on a plane populated by humanoids who were chalk white is kind of funny in hindsight.
Yet despite this, when I went to get a list of pet cards from Rise I was shocked, shocked to see how many cards there were in this set that I loved. So much so that I felt like I could do a pet card from this set for each major mechanic in the set.
Then I realised this is my blog, and nobody’s going to give me grief for that, so let’s do that! Broadly speaking, Rise of the Eldrazi featured Defenders, Level Up, Eldrazi Scion cards, Annihilator, Totem Armour, Rebound, a handful of Tribal Cards, Just Huge Things, and one little cycle of Invokers, and so that’s what we’re going to run down. This means there’s no room for some of the honourable mentions like Lone Missionary, Sea Gate Oracle, See Beyond, Surrakar Spellblade, Mortician Beetle, Mul Daya Channelers,and Vengevine, so I’ll just mention them here.
If you’ve followed this series so far you’d know I really like mana engines and I like cards that Do Things and I like tapping out for threats in my opponent’s end-step (#TeferiShouldHaveBeenGreen). The defenders in this set range across a couple of options – you have things like Vent Sentinel and Wall of Omens, good walls you should consider for almost any deck whose gameplan can use something to hide behind.
Still, Overgrown Battlement is almost too obvious a choice. On its own, it’s Vine Trellis, and with even just one other Defender (and Green has a lot of those for ramp decks), it becomes really strong.
While there are a lot of Level-Up cards that are good and cards that interact with them are also good, I personally prefer Level Up cards that are just good individually. There’s the preview card for the mechanic, Kargan Dragonlord, which is meant to be impressive because it’s a bear that turns into a dragon, and that’s cool, I guess, but my favourite Halimar Wavewatch.
Halimar Wavewatch is three draws for the price of one. First of all, a 0/3 will stop a lot of 2-drops. Then, for two mana, you get to draw a 0/6, which is very cheap as a way to stand in the way of very big threats. Then, with your 0/6 on the board, it costs 8 colourless to get a 6/6 islandwalker.
I love this card I think because when you look at it as a late-game draw, it’s 12 mana for a 6/6, which is awful, but it’s not like you jammed an 8 mana 6/6 in your deck and let it be. You don’t have to pay it all up front, and it works with proliferate and a few other mechanics like it really nicely.
I’m also just a sucker for early creatures that can become unreasonable threats. A 6/6 Islandwalk is not going to win the game in an aggro matchup, especially if you had to pay retail for it, but in a midrange or control deck, this one holds the board early on, then late game can become something that wins the game in 2-3 hits.
The Scions themselves don’t have cards, but there are a lot of cards that make Scions. While Kozilek’s Predator and Nest Invader represent the strongest verison of their effect in terms of generating bodies, and they go well in Aristocrat-style decks, the Eldrazi Scion card I’ve used the most is Pawn of Ulamog.
If you look into aristocrats, there are a lot of Vampire cards in that space. If you’re into murdering your own creatures, and vampires that care about creatures that got murdered, check out Pawn of Ulamog as a Vampire that gives you more bodies to throw away when you throw away a body.
Annihilator is a terrible mechanic. If you get a big doofy idiot onto the board, you can destroy your opponent’s ability to even keep playing the game, and while you can take some comfort in the way the Annihilator creatures win the game quickly, they’re often frustratingly easy to kill. So you can Annihilate an opponent’s board, then untap and point a removal spell at your big beastie and then they’re left trying to crawl back into the game on one leg and that’s so boring for them.
Still, I do love me some reanimator spells and I love them even more in the colours that Don’t Do Reanimator. Behold the Green Doomed Necromancer: Artisan of Kozilek. The Artisan can’t be chained, though at the same time, if you’re just resurrecting another 10/9 Annihilator 2, that’s probably good enough.
Totem Armour on the other hand is a great mechanic, because it makes the window of card disadvantage represented by an aura card much smaller. It even lets you run interesting hexproof cards or aura-happy creatures alongside wrath effects. Almost all the Totem Armours are good, but the best is probably Bear Umbra.
Bear Umbra does encourage you to do bad things – because it wants you to tap out before combat to make use of its effect – but that’s okay! First, it untaps all your lands the turn you play it, and also lets you get extra value out of utility lands like, for example, Kessig Wolf Run.
Rebound came back in Dragons of Tarkir, showing that yes, Tarkir is one of the best places in the world, but here in the first run, Rebound gave red access to one of its best casual spells:
Staggershock is 3 mana, 4 to the face, so it’s reach. But it also lets you take out two threats for one card, so it’s card advantage. It gives you multiple spell triggers, so it works with cards that draw you cards or deal damage off that, like Firebrand Archer.
Tribal sucks, and the Tribal cards in Rise of the Eldrazi are cards I do not think I have ever played with. But hey, Not of This World seems kinda cool.
Just Huge Fricking Beasts
And here’s where the really juicy stuff in Rise of the Eldrazi shows up. Not all of them are good, but you can ignore a lot of the mediocre bodies and still get an assortment like Conquering Manticore, Deathless Angel, Hellcarver Demon, Sphinx of Magosi, Khalni Hydra, and Pestilence Demon, each of which would be big enough and impressive enough to wreck house. You could build a deck around any one of those victory conditions and get something pretty cool with it.
The huge beast of choice from Rise of the Eldrazi for me is the wonder uncommon, Pelakka Wurm. It’s not just big, it’s also good at recovering you from weak positions. Even if it dies the second it arrives, you’re up a card and seven life, which can make a losing position still a place to get ahead – it’s like a time walk that can occasionally also turn sideways and smash people in the face.
Finally, back in Legions, there was a cycle of Invokers, creatures who had 8 mana activated abilities that could end the game and break stalls. I loved the Invokers – they were wonderfully aggressive creatures (except the Glintwing Invoker, which continued a trend into this set). I love Dawnglare Invoker and Lavafume Invoker, because they’re also good creatures in their own right (hi, Goblin type).
Still, you’re probably not surprised to see this:
The Wildheart Invoker is a perfectly robust 4/3 body, but it’s got another undocumented bonus to it that its creature types both benefit huge mana decks and the Invoker gives those decks a way to spend infinite mana to win the game on the spot. Elf decks and Shaman decks can both generate startling quantities of mana – not even not necessarily infinite – and being able to make a single creature +20/+20 and serve is pretty good stuff.
Oh and it’s also a 4 power creature for 4! So it’s good for curving out in its own right!
God, I love this set!