Wilds of Eldraine Standard Highlights

Wilds of Eldraine Standard Highlights

Tom AndersonStandard

Smell that fresh cardboard scent in the air? Wilds of Eldraine is rushing toward us, offering Standard players the chance for brand new adventures! Of course, the original Eldraine set was more of a cautionary tale, full of vile villains and bad ends: Oko, Fires of Invention, the CatOven combo, Gilded Goose, Once Upon a Time, Escape to the Wilds, Embercleave, Mystical Dispute, the entire Temur Adventures package…

Those cards definitely earned their reputations. But Eldraine itself has a lot of upside; I’ve never heard a negative opinion on its fairytale flavor, enchanting artwork or storybook aesthetics. The plane just oozes with character, and Wizards of the Coast’s top-down design approach leads to mechanical novelty and cards that are exciting to play.

Wilds of Eldraine has definitely continued that trend, iterating on its predecessor’s themes of food and adventures while adding some cool new twists of its own. I’ve picked out just a handful of cards that show off the new options Wilds is about to unlock — and trust me, this is one set you don’t want to sleep on.

Gruff Triplets

Gruff Triplets is powerful in a simple and powerful way (how fittingly green), presenting a huge amount of raw power and toughness for the mana cost in a very resilient way.

Producing multiple bodies with a single card negates the biggest issue with huge creatures in competitive play: they trade horrendously with spells like Go for the Throat. But spot removal is actually awful against Gruff Triplets — killing the first Satyr actually increases the amount of damage you’re taking! 

Exiling, -X/-X effects or board wipes will be required to deal with the Triplets in any satisfying way, which will translate to a solid number of games won where the opponent just doesn’t find those weapons in time.

In addition to all these interactions raising the card’s floor, Gruff Triplets can also offer a lot of situational upside to reach a high power ceiling. Anything that recurs the trigger or otherwise creates more creatures named Gruff Triplets, anything that can increase their power prior to the death trigger, anything that can sacrifice a buffed-up Triplet for profit… It’s probably too early to call them the GOAT Standard threat, but they’re definitely worth keeping eyes on.

Werefox Bodyguard

At first glance, this effect in white might feel a little pedestrian — especially since we already have a very powerful version in Standard. But sometimes a lot of gradual improvements suddenly add up to a transformative change in functionality, and that’s just what we have with Werefox Bodyguard

The important thing to drive home here is, previously, there have been two distinct kinds of ETB-exile creatures in white. There’s the defensive version that exiles your things to dodge removal or recur triggers and the offensive version that acts as removal for opposing things. Despite the superficial similarity, it’s extremely hard for one card to be effective in both roles — until now.

As a baseline, Werefox Bodyguard flashes in to exile a creature, create a 2/2 and eventually gain 2 life — roughly equivalent to the impact of The Wandering Emperor! Its defensive use is secondary but still very real in pinch situations; being able to sacrifice the Bodyguard at will gives us control over when our “rescued” creature comes back. 

That ability even supplements the offensive side of the card. If an opponent puts a sweeper on the stack or casts a new copy of a legendary creature exiled by your Werefox, you can potentially sac it so the exiled creature gets permanently answered by the sweeper or legend rule instead of turning into a long-term liability. Awesome design work here.

Lord Skitter’s Blessing

This is probably the pick where I’m the most out-on-a-limb: conditional Phyrexian Arena effects have not had a great run of success in Standard recently (even the real deal itself has been struggling to stay in lists). Lord Skitter’s Blessing almost feels like a response to that trend, as though the designers are saying “this is as good as we can make the effect — it’s your final offer.”

I certainly can’t think of many ways you could credibly make this card stronger while fitting into a Standard set. Two mana for a Wicked Role is quite a modest tempo hit for getting set up with a bonus card per draw step, and you’ll never really feel threatened by the one life per turn clock. 

That means that the biggest question for the card is how often it can be relied on to trigger, and what deck building costs you’ll have to endure to achieve that reliability.

Aura decks will certainly benefit from the extra draw this provides, given their abnormally high number of cheap cards. But looking at the rest of Wilds of Eldraine, we can also see some options for support that do not rely on including so many non-creature cards: namely, cheap Role token creators like Spiteful Hexmage.

Talion, the Kindly Lord

This black card is looking at an even tougher Standard reception than the last one! Sheoldred, the Apocalypse has the four-mana creature slot in that color completely locked down, and that’s before you add Likeness Looter as a way to play Sheoldreds number five, six, seven and eight. 

But why choose between these two legends? I see Talion as a great complement to Sheoldred, and the legend rule incentivizes a split of different threats anyway. 

Talion’s card draw can fuel Sheoldred’s lifegain when you have both on the field. And if facing down enemy Sheoldreds, the Kindly Lord can at least fly over them to apply much-needed pressure. It’s also a Faerie — a creature type that will once again be highly relevant to UB decks if the spoilers are anything to go by.

Yep, Talion strikes me as another great threat by which those sorts of decks can “turn the corner,” keeping you ahead on resources while whittling away opposing life totals. Anybody who isn’t sold on the “choose a number” effect is welcome to go and look up how many currently-meta cards get hit by picking one or two! Plus I don’t think Talion needs to trigger many times to feel like the fae made you a great deal.

Charming Scoundrel

Not every Standard staple is a splashy bomb or high-impact legend. Every deck also needs its role-players. And “role-player” perfectly sums up this Rogue, who provides a broader range of utility than any similar two-drop in the color I can remember! 

The “rummage” effect (discard then draw) is usually the most important, given the need for high-tempo red decks to filter their draws into the exact right mix of lands and spells. But the other two are also very important, allowing the Scoundrel to trigger the many “celebration” effects red has this set with a single spell.

Creating a Treasure can then give you fuel to play two cards for celebration again next turn, or help ramp into your big curve topper. If you just need pressure right now, then the Wicked Role token (plus Scoundrel’s built-in haste) gives you an option to immediately add damage to your board. 

It may not be a ton of damage, but it’s still enough to assure me that this jack-of-all-trades will have a home in Standard red decks.

All the creature lands

Almost any cycle of rare multicolor lands can be seen as a shoe-in for Constructed play, and these new lands are no exception. Even compared to successful creature-lands of the past they have some impressively low activation costs, making them easier to consider outside of control and midrange decks. 

The fact that so many of them generate useful triggers on attack really elevates this cycle into “sure winner” territory. Unless your deck is completely unable to support any ETB-tapped lands, you’re going to end up playing some of these.

End Step

That still only barely scrapes the surface of what Wilds of Eldraine has to offer Constructed players. I made a conscious effort to try and choose cards that seem specifically fit for Standard, while you can find even more powerful options for Pioneer and Modern in our other articles. 

The recent change in rotation timing has made it harder for new cards to break through into a packed Standard environment, but Wilds of Eldraine has definitely risen to the challenge. And of course, once the best cards from the 2021-22 Standard season finally rotate out, it will be even more great Wilds of Eldraine cards awakening from slumber to take their place.