It’s preview season! This means we posture and conjecture wildly about which cards will break which formats or that none of these are true. This tradition carries into EDH where players are making claims about which cards will become new staples or potentially even become as ubiquitous as Sol Ring.
I am not joining that. There are several places to view the newly spoiled cards (Mythic Spoiler). You can do your own conjecturing about the cards. I’m here to talk about staying ahead of the curve (title drop!). Given the information we have, we can make predictions about the trends to come in EDH. I’ll also talk about the current forerunners for the format and how to incorporate adequate responses to them.
The new, Egypt-themed set brings new toys. Graveyards are going to matter more with embalm, Aftermath, and more cycling. The cycling enablers also trigger on discard, so we might see a shift in the card drawing options people use. Compulsive Research is my favorite draw spell, so I like seeing it more in EDH. Players are usually drawn to the new mechanics so we’re bound to see decks trying to abuse embalm. Aftermath will see lots of play, but won’t be as concentrated because several cards are multicolor. We are unlikely to see a deck designed around Aftermath, although maybe that will change with Hour of Devastation.
The graveyard focus is the easier place to start. Aftermath is essentially the baby of split cards like Assault // Battery and flashback. You can cast the Aftermath spell from the graveyard. But the aftermath spell is a different spell. I love this mechanic. In Commander it gives red based draw a lot more juice since the aftermath spells are still efficient. You can’t print a Counterspell with flashback at the original casting cost. It would be better than Counterspell every single time. But the aftermath spells are still worth playing on both sides, despite the cost increase. I like these a lot and I am always looking for more versatility in my cards.
The other graveyard effect is emblam. This gives creature based deck a huge bonus through virtual card advantage. It’s virtual because the token isn’t a real card, but functions like one. You can preserve cards in hand for post-boardwipe or commit more and embalm like crazy after the wipe. Emalm and Aftermath both exile the card from your graveyard, so while they have a built in no-shenaigans clause, the individual cards go further.
Another new thing is As Foretold. This is a stupid card that is already causing price shifts in a bunch of zero mana spells. Mizzix and all the other absurd value decks have yet another new toy. I don’t really want to talk about this card because people are so rarely going to do anything fun with it.
With the new cards, we can expect some shifts in decks, particularly around graveyards. Are you running hate? More than two or three effects? You probably want to pick up some hate cards now. Tormod’s Crypt is free and easy, Relic of Progenitus is great but can hurt you, the new Watchers of the Dead hits all opponents, and Withered Wretch and Scavenging Ooze are my favorite graveyard hate pieces. You can get even more creative with answers like Burn Away.
Token hate may also be something to consider. We have oodles of token producers in the format. But more tokens are coming. Ratchet Bomb is excellent for tokens, as are Pernicious Deed, Engineered Explosives, Steel Hellkite, Illness in the Ranks, amd Virulent Plague. If you really want to punish embalm creatures, look at Spreading Plague and Endemic Plague. All the embalmed creatures are white and zombies. Destroy them for colors or type.
Of course. if you are playing all the embalm cards, you need token support. Anthem effects are abundant, but there are some specific effects that are quite strong, such as Leyline of the Meek. You also have options to boost tribes: Obelisk of Urd, Shared Triumph, and Coat of Arms. The zombie support in black can be a huge benefit to embalm decks.
Next I want to look at format trends as a whole. EDHREC has a list of the most popular commanders. Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice is queen of the format, apparently followed by Breya, Etherium Shaper. This is something I have very mixed feelings about. Nonetheless, EDHREC lets us examine the format.
WotC doesn’t like to print answers to their new toys. Hate cards now come much later, to allow a mechanic to flourish first. This means we need to look to older cards for answers. Deglamer and Unravel the Aether are extremely good at removing problems. Breya relies on cards that are perfect targets for these effects, but Atraxa doesn’t quite have the abundance of hate. Instead, you can use Deglamer to pin down the Atraxa deck’s mana (not the storage lands, but at least the Astral Cornucopia), enabling enchantments (Cathars’ Crusade and Inexorable Tide), and walker support (every oath and Doubling Season).
Many, many decks are building in more recursion. Tuck effects strand recursion spells in your opponent’s hand. Oblation and Chaos Warp can be just as useful as Deglamer since they hit anything (even your stuff). So what options can you fit into your deck?
EDH’s top dog is still a little fragile, which is very important. There are many cards that can take out Atraxa while still building you towards something. Flametongue Kavu, Big Game Hunter, Intrepid Hero, and Breya are just quick examples. In general, spot removal does wonders against Atraxa. Targeted land destruction can be among the best possible plays against a four-color opponent. Knocking the Atraxa player off a color early can slow them down for several turns to leverage the table against a common enemy. If Atraxa is the number one general at EDHREC, people are not up to anything good with her.
The second most popular commander is more fragile since she is an artifact. Despite that fragility she too is growing in popularity. Artifact hate is your main weapon. But don’t only look to destroy artifacts. Breya decks run more recursion than you would think possible. With Daretti, Scrap Savant and something like 11 Junk Divers, removal isn’t enough. Try Null Rod or Damping Matrix. Watch the tears and enjoy them. Just make sure you don’t lock yourself out of the game too.
Meren of Clan Nel Toth is still incredibly popular, despite the fact that there is exactly ONE build of her. With thousands of cards to use, every Meren deck has the same game plan and the same value abuse. Use graveyard hate against Meren. Use it repeatedly and often. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Anafenza, the Foremost (and other traditional hate cards I discussed) heavily cramp Meren’s style. If that fails, use the grave against them. Keening Stone is a really funny kill against a large graveyard. Tariel, Reckoner of Souls or Leyline can mess up their plans by taking their stuff and interfering with their triggers.
New to the Pack
Amonkhet is bringing several new legendary creatures to build around. Without a full list of cards, I can only talk briefly about these generals. Here we go.
Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun
Temmet really wants Mirror Gallery. With loads of mana you can kill off Temmet, embalm it (put in the command zone), recast and repeat. All the Temmets then pump a token version and you annihilate people.
Realistically, it works for an aggressive W/U deck with a token subtheme. Or ignore the effect for a voltron deck. He does come down before Daxos of Meletis, but I’m not sure W/U Voltron is the best use of this card.
Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons
WOO! This card is sweet. My friend immediately started talking about infect with Hapatra. Don’t do that. Do not be like him. Do something cool. There are lots of enablers for -1/-1 counters and plenty of payoff cards like Blowfly Infestation and Nest of Scarabs. We may finally have a G/B value commander that has the right mix of payoff and effort. Meren-B-Gone! Carnifex Demon is going to make your day with this deck, but you may want Hapatra off the field before activating the demon.
Neheb, the Worthy
I hear you like minotaurs. Don’t go all in on Minotaur tribal, it will not pay off. Neheb wants to take advantage of the hellbent effects. Take a look at Hollowborn Barghest and Bloodchief Ascension to make Neheb’s discard effect do work for you. Sire of Insanity says, “Hello” too. Then you fill in the deck with a bit of reanimation. Minotaurs as a focus, but not as the sole objective of the deck. It will have more success that way.
Oketra the True, Kefnet the Mindful, Hazoret the Fervent
I like that these are different enough from the Theros gods. I especially like that I can reasonable expect to see these in places where it matters. The other gods show up left and right because they provide constant value as enchantments. These gods are useful, but not nearly as handy as an extra card.
Oketra is a rather straightforward battalion deck. I don’t particularly care. Double strike on a commander innately points to Voltron. Token subtheme, blah blah blah. Kefnet is something to actually talk about. It can go nuts with infinite mana and needs no extra support to win off Laboratory Maniac. There. It’s been said. Now do something else, like using Maros and Brine Seer to do something unique. Jushi Apprentice can flip into your kill condition, with Sturmgeist and Aeon Chronicler as the backup plan.
Finally we get to Hazoret. I’m not sure what to do with this, but it will help Neheb. Hazoret seems like an odd Latulla, Keldon Overseer or Jaya Ballard, Task Mage. Hitting each opponents is nice, and then Hazoret can run in and finish the job. I suppose the red damage doublers and a few effects like Staff of Nin and Squee, Goblin Nabob will allow you to throw lots of damage at opponents. Perhaps a mono red control is around the corner with Hazoret taking out opponents in little chunks at time and using Madness, Flashback and Aftermath to finish the job? I’d reach out to Alex for that. I’m sure he knows a bunch of amazing cards for this deck that I don’t know exist.
I obviously can’t predict the trends in your local groups. But looking at the hivemind will inform us of things to come. Many players will gravitate towards the powerful effects this set has. Use that to stay ahead of the curve (title drop) and take advantage of your opponents. But doing that means knowing the trends to come. So what things are you most expecting from your group? What answers already exist that can handle more than one expected trend? What new cards are making their way into your existing decks and what are you sketching for the release? Let me know in the comments and on Twitter