Magic: The Gathering: Throne of Eldraine First Impressions

Magic: The Gathering is about to get its newest expansion set, Throne of Eldraine. The set combines the themes of Arthurian legend with Grimm’s Fairytales to create an enchanting new plane in the Magic multiverse. The release of the set on Magic: The Gathering Arena on September 26th will mark Arena’s transition out of open beta. Earlier this week, Wizards of the Coast invited ComicBook.com to participate in a special preview event, providing us with a special account with all cards unlocked so that we could give the new set a try. We played some games and had some fun. Here’s what we played and how we felt about it.

First, if you haven’t kept up, the Throne of Eldraine set introduces some new mechanics to Magic: The Gathering. Adventure allows players to cast a spell first as an Instant or Sorcery and then again later as a Creature. Adamant rewards players for casting spells with a single color of mana. Food is a kind of token that provides healing and can be used for other synergistic effects. Now, onto what we played.

Izzet Phoenix: I wanted to start off with a familiar archetype to see how it would fare in the new meta. I’m happy to report that Izzet Phoenix still works well. With the Chart a Course rotating out of Standard, there was some discussion about whether the format could support the kind of spell sequences this deck needs to summon a flock of Arclight Phoenixes out of its graveyard. That Throne of Eldraine reprints Opt is a big help there, and the new Thrill of Possibility replaces Tormenting Voice as a way to draw cards and put Phoenixes into the graveyard.

Thrill of Possibility
(Photo: Wizards of the Coast)

Where Tormenting Voice was a Sorcery, Thrill of Possibility is an instant. That means there’s less of a possibility of using Finale of Promise to its full potential. Instead, stack up on instants, using more draw spells and turning 4 each of Shock and Lava Coil into a single playset of the new Scorching Dragonfire, which meets somewhere in the middle of the two.

One possible new addition to the deck is The Royal Scions, the new Blue/Red Planeswalker duo. I ran three in my deck, but they never hit the board. Like when I tried to use Saheeli, Sublime Artificer in this archetype, playing a Planeswalker never feels like the ideal play since it doesn’t help bring out Phoenixes. That said, The Royal Scions have a number of abilities that can be helpful. They draw cards, they put cards into the graveyard, and they can help finish an opponent off with a creature buff. I’ll be adding them to my list next time I play Izzet to get a better idea of how they perform once they leave my hand. [EDIT: Can now confirm, The Royal Scions is a great addition to Izzet Phoenix.]

Whether Izzet Phoenix makes a comeback in the competitive scene remains to be seen. If Kethis, the Hidden Hand finds a new home after Dominaria leaves Standard, taking Mox Amber and Diligent Excavator with it, then that could be bad news for Phoenix. Players will be packing graveyard removal to counter Kethis, which hurts Phoenix. Time will tell there, but Izzet Phoenix remains a fun archetype to play within the new Standard.

Inspiring Veteran
(Photo: Wizards of the Coast)

Boros Knights: I love a good tribal deck, and knights seem to be where it's at for those of who like to throw up a banner and turn creatures sideways. I like Boros colors, so I went in that direction, but I think those players who went Mardu had more success than I did. The idea was simple: play cheap knights like Fervent Champion, Worthy Knight, Venerable Knight, and Weaselback Redcap. Boost them with Inspiring Veteran and maybeCastle Embereth. In theory, that should work fine, but you need to make sure to start with a good curve or you’ll fall behind fast to mono-red decks (more on that later). This is a fun deck that I’ll probably return to once better players than I fine-tune the archetype.

Mono-Red Cavalcade with Torbran: Meet the deck you’re going to love to hate. Confession: I love some cheesy red decks. This is a cheesy red deck. I had much more success with Fervent Champion and Castle Embereth in this deck than I did in the Boros Knights deck, but the key is Tobran, Thane of Red Fell. I played this deck the most times because it was so brutal. Many of those games went something like this.

  • T1: Mountain, Fervent Champion, attack for 1
  • T2: Mountain, Fervent Champion, Footlight Fiend, attack for 4.
  • T3: Mountain, Chandra, Acolyte of Flame, attack for 7.
  • T4: Mountain, Tombran, Thane of Red Fell, attack for lethal.

A variant sequence is to play Castle Embereth and activate it to finish the opponent off if you don’t get the perfect curve into Torbran. It’s fast. It’s brutal. It’s going to drive people nuts.

Tombran, Thane of Red Fell
(Photo: Wizards of the Coast)

I wasn’t a big fan of pre-rotation Calvacade decks. They were a little too simplistic for even me, and it felt like if your opponent played a capable blocker ever you were done. I played Bonecrusher Giant in this deck and boy do I love the Adventure mechanic. Being able to play Stomp on turn 2 for 2 damage and then on turn three or later follow-up with a 4/3 body is nice for a single card. That body still falls to stuff like Oath of Kaya, but at least the Giant’s effect helps minimize the life gain. [EDIT: Nope, Oath of Kaya doesn't interact with Bonecrusher Giant that way. My bad. Buy Stonecrusher Giant is still an awesome card.]

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This archetype seems like a solid choice for the early days of the new meta, when control and combo decks are still calibrating their lists. Keep in mind that this preview event was Best of 1 only. We’ll have to see how this archetype does against decks that can take advantage of a sideboard. I should apologize now because this is probably what I’ll be swinging with out of the gate in the new meta.

Closing thoughts: I wish I’d had more time to experiment and play in the preview event (it was a busy day), but what I did play was a lot of fun. Throne of Eldraine has powerful new cards, interesting new mechanics, and shakes up the meta just enough to be interesting without throwing every fun archetype that already existed out the window. I’m looking forward to the set launching on Magic: The Gathering Arena this week, and I think other Magic players should be looking forward to it as well.

Are you excited about Throne of Eldraine? Let us know in the comments. Throne of Eldraine launches on Magic: The Gathering Arena on September 26th.