Grapple With the Past – Eldritch Moon
(Niblis of Frost | Art by Josu Hernaiz)
The Season of the Witch
Greetings, everyone, and welcome to a brand new article series on EDHREC, Grapple With the Past. Once a set releases, Commander players write and read reviews, test out the new cards, and incorporate winners into their EDH repertoire. But with the constant stream of new products, it’s easy for cards to slip through the cracks. I’ve found that by exploring set pages for on EDHREC, I frequently stumble upon cards that could easily find a spot in one of my decks.
In this article series, I will investigate older releases in order to evaluate their most-played cards, identify sleepers, and find commander options lost to time. Each article will be broken down into three sections. First, in The Top 10, we’ll look at the most-played cards from the set. Then, in Think Twice, I will call attention to unremembered cards that deserve a fresh evaluation and suggest commanders that might want them. Finally, if relevant, I will discuss a commander option from the set and advocate the case for why it deserves more decks. In our first installment, we’re going to take on one of my favorite sets of all time, and the one that gave this series its name, Eldritch Moon.
The Top 10
Looking through the top ten cards from this set, we have a little bit of everything. There are general format staples, tent poles for specific deck archetypes, and a couple baffling little anomalies. Eldritch Moon shows its power here: its top ten is stronger than most sets. Let’s take a look.
These three cards are some of the best in their slots, so it’s no wonder they see so much play. Alongside Reality Shift, Pongify, and Rapid Hybridization, Imprisoned in the Moon is one of the only blue removal options that will permanently take care of a threat after it has resolved. Not only that, this card is also one of the best ways to neutralize an opponent’s commander in the long term, removing the creature without sending it back to the command zone. Like Darksteel Mutation and Song of the Dryads, Imprisoned in the Moon transforms opposing commanders into a permanent that is difficult to interact with.
Our next card, Geier Reach Sanitarium, is one of those easy inclusions that is hard to dislike. Like Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, this card has a fundamentally desirable effect at a desirable rate. Unlike Mikokoro, you can break the symmetry of the effect in decks that gain value out of their graveyards.
Finally, I am actually slightly surprised that Selfless Spirit only sees play in 6474 decks, or 4% of eligible decks. If we look at similar effects, such as Unbreakable Formation, Rootborn Defenses, and the newly-minted Flawless Maneuver, it seems like Selfless Spirit should be seeing similar numbers. It costs only two mana instead of three, and it comes attached to a body, which white is very good at exploiting. That being said, the main difference is hidden in its in-game application. While Unbreakable Formation and its ilk commonly blindside the pod and break parity during a board wipe, Selfless Spirit is a deterrent. Your opponents will see the Spirit and make their decisions around it. Still, I prefer this Spirit if I want to protect my creatures in white.
In addition to the format staples above, these two cards are powerful pillars in their respective archetypes. Splendid Reclamation is a stellar payoff for Landfall decks and Sigarda’s Aid is a banner card for the most popular mono-white theme: Equipment. In that archetype, Sigarda’s Aid is actually a form of white ramp. Because this card allows you to attach Equipment to a creature for free, it essentially saves you mana every time you play an equipment.
Finally, there are a couple of curiosities in the top ten that we should talk about. The number one card from Eldritch Moon is Tamiyo, Field Researcher, and it somehow sees play in 12% of eligible decks. While Tamiyo is one of my favorite planeswalkers, this iteration's restrictions seem cumbersome. Planeswalkers are less playable in EDH than in other formats and none of these abilities seem to play well with the most popular commanders in Bant-inclusive colors. Arcades, the Strategist? Chulane, Teller of Tales? Tuvasa the Sunlit? Tamiyo doesn’t have exceptional synergy with any of these generals.
Browsing her card page, we can suffuse our vision of her place in the format slightly: Tamiyo, Field Researcher sees play in nearly half of Atraxa, Praetors’ voice decks, and for good reason. Tamiyo’s ultimate ability is one of the best available. Even so, the Atraxa decks only account for 2149 of the 6039 in which Tamiyo sees play. The rest of the commanders listed on her page don’t seem like they really want her. Why is Tamiyo in 23.91% of the Jenara, Asura of War decks?
Shifting focus, Hanweir Battlements occupies a very interesting space in the format. I used to run this card and its partner, Hanweir Garrison, in a few of my red-inclusive decks. The name of each is written on the other. Theoretically, they should complement each other. Unfortunately, I don’t think that these two cards belong in many of the same decks. Hanweir Battlements is powerful with commanders that try to leverage fewer threats that are generally bigger, while Hanweir Garrison is for go-wide strategies. One time I even managed to successfully meld the two cards, and I found that Hanweir, the Writhing Township isn’t even that good in EDH. Not all is lost, however! Hanweir Battlements is still an incredibly powerful haste enabler and deserves its spot in the top ten of Eldritch Moon, just maybe not in Grenzo, Havoc Raiser or Purphoros, God of the Forge.
Now let’s dig through the rest of the cards here and see if we can find any winners. Eldritch Moon was packed full of Madness and Escalate cards that don’t play particularly well in our format. As such, there aren’t many here that are vastly underperforming their potential, but there are a few great cards here
Duelist’s Heritage is an incredible card in our format, and Blood Mist resembles it in one key aspect: it gives a creature double strike as an enchantment rather than as an Aura. Outside of particular decks such as Sram, Senior Edificer Voltron, Duelist’s Heritage outperforms Battle Mastery, in my opinion. The fact that it doesn’t get removed with the creatures that it's giving double strike puts it a cut above. Blood Mist isn’t Duelist’s Heritage. It doesn’t have the political angle of giving other players’ creatures double strike. But this card is still pretty good. I would love to play this card in a Neheb, the Eternal deck or in a Voltron deck such as Ruhan of the Fomori.
Up next, I think Permeating Mass sees such little play because it's confusing. It looks like removal, but it's really much more of a deterrent. Similar to a creature with deathtouch, few people will attack into a Permeating Mass that is ready to block. Here is where this card’s obscurity works to its advantage, though: if your opponent doesn’t read it well, you can sometimes transform their commander or even an Eldrazi into another Permeating Mass. I love this card and play it in a couple decks. Try it out with commanders such as Ezuri, Claw of Progress.
Finally, Identity Thief is a misunderstood card. On its EDHREC page, we find that it's seeing play mostly in decks that focus on stealing or copying creatures such as Sakashima, the Impostor and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind. While thematic, it may fit better in blink decks such as Roon of the Hidden Realm where it can act as a sort of Conjurer’s Closet.
So that was Eldritch Moon, one of my favorite sets of all time. While the top ten does include a few powerful and extremely unique effects, the rest of the set isn't exactly stuffed with hidden gems. Maybe the biggest disappointment for me as an EDH player is the completely missed opportunity for two Meld commanders that have some version of Partner with. I know that the Partner mechanic debuted months after this set released, but it would have been so perfect on this plane at this particular time. In all honesty, none of the commander options from this set are very appealing.
Anyway, now I want to hear from you! Did you all play Eldritch Moon when it released? Do you have fond memories of the set? What are your favorite cards? Are there other hidden gems in this set that I missed? Do you ever look through set pages on EDHREC for creative ideas? Let me know in the comments below! For now, I'll leave you with the card that is undoubtedly the most impactful from the set.
Also, let me know about any sets you would like me to cover in the future, and why! I’m always looking for new ideas. As always, remember to EDHREC responsibly: always dig a little beyond the statistics. I’ll see you all on down the road.