Eldritch Moon has some of the best cards in the past few years of Magic: The Gathering, and I’m here to tell you what the most interesting cards are in this weird set about a world being warped by an interstellar monster. Vampires, werewolves and zombies are all hanging out with our protagonist Gatewatch crew in the old-time small-town hoedown that is this list of the ten most interesting cards in Eldritch Moon.
This card has so much going for it. Eldritch Moon’s story hinges on a the planeswalker Liliana, a powerful magic user who controls zombies, finally teaming up with the rest of the planeswalker group in order to defeat the giant monster Emrakul who is warping the entire world of Innistrad. It’s a lot to take in, I know, but I tell you all of that to say that Deploy The Gatewatch perfectly grabs that little bit of story. It shows a desperate moment, and there’s an additional gameplay element of panic when you might whiff on getting any planeswalkers in play. It’s a card with high potential upside and high potential goofiness when it does nothing and you’re sitting there waiting on cool dudes to help you out but there are no cool dudes. It’s perfect.
Before now, the Mad Prophet had to do all the work when it came to learning new, strange things. But ever since Emrakul appeared on Innistrad, the world has bent around her matter-warping powers, and Prophetic Ravings is what has come out of it. Now literally anyone can become a spewer of thoughts and prophecies from beyond the pale of human understanding! Perfect.
Listen, I will own up to one thing here: I love bringing things back from the graveyard in Magic. There’s something really amazing about hucking cards into a big pile and just waiting for a card that lets you put them back onto the battlefield, or slightly worse, back into your hand. Midnight Scavengers is of the latter, less-exciting variety, but I have a lot of respect for the scavenging skills that they show. They’re wriggling through the trash for you, looking for your dudes, and you know what? If there’s dudes, they’re gonna find them.
This is literally a scarecrow fueled by the soul of a ghost. That’s scary. Just sit with it a second. I’m deeply afraid of ghosts, and I’ve never had an easy moment around a scarecrow, and I’m not the only one who has to feel this way because the card mechanically communicates that the scarecrow’s own allies are so afraid of its ghostlike, corn-protecting being that it requires more resources to pull them from the planes so that you can put them on the battlefield.
“Listen to me,” the insect man said, “just shut up for a second. I’m going to shoot this magic energy into this cage, and you’re going to be a wizard then. What? No! I’m going to turn you INTO a wizard! Why is that? Don’t worry about it.” Now imagine this conversation, over and over again, as a Brindlefly pops dudes into wizards. When he’s finished making those wizards, he grabs them by the back of the neck, jerks them up into the air, and starts flying around with a wizard posse.
The concept of “exile” in Magic is almost a universally bad space. It’s where things go if they get killed so hard that they skip the graveyard. Where do they go? They used to be “removed from the game,” which is existentially worrying. If the game removes something from it, and yet it can reference that outside, is it really outside the game? Jacques Derrida shudders to think of the displacement going on here. Eternal Scourge doesn’t mind. It’s out in the great beyond, divested of the unity of Laruelle’s One, standing there being like “don’t y’all dare target me with your instants, sorceries, or abilities!”
Ghoulcaller Gisa and Stitcher Geralf are two of the best characters in the history of Magic. She’s a funtime woman who just wants to holler at the dead so they’ll do her bidding; he’s a stodgy scientist who just wants to create a giant monster in the shape of a demon who was so powerful that it had to be sealed away from the world. Together they’re a brother/sister duo who just like to hang out and enable sweet zombie strategies. They’re my role models in life. They might disagree on the specifics, but when things get bad they can unite under a single banner: raise the dead into a horrifying mirror of life in order to conquer all threats.
Surrounded by horrors, afraid of the creature that has come from behind the moon, many creatures gather in the forest. Humans, wolves, thopters, and dragons hide within the forest. A figure emerges and crosses to the top of a small hillock. “Do not be afraid,” he tells them. “She is always with you,” he purrs. He’s talking about Emrakul, the big warping monster, but they don’t know that. Everyone changes into monstrous Eldrazi. Flesh writes, flips up and down, and generally does the bad stuff. This is what I imagine every time I play this card, and it is also a story I narrate in full every time I play with it. My games go long.
This is the gold standard of a Magic card. It’s elegant, beautiful and it encourages weird kinds of play. Even better it’s the kind of card where you can go “ooooooooo—” when you play the first one and then “—yeaaaaaah” when you play the second. I had a great time slamming one, two or three of these in a single turn to draw approximately ten million cards. My opponent looked at me from across the table. We locked eyes. I nodded. They nodded. We nodded. I did not win that match. This is a good card.
There are a lot of flashy cards in this set that do strange things. Some draw you cards, some bring cards back from the dead, and others splurt out of their allies hermit crabs looking for a new home. However, I would be making a huge mistake if I chose those weird experiences over the perfect elegance of murder. The flavor text for this edition of the card, “it’s not work if you enjoy it,” gets even closer to the cold simplicity of the interactions that this card affords and simulates.
Cameron Kunzelman tweets at @ckunzelman and writes about games at thiscageisworms.com. His latest game, Epanalepsis, was released last year. It’s available on Steam.