We haven’t written much up on Magic The Gathering because we’re by no means expert. Like many of you, we pick up the odd pack every now and then, play the game every few months, and appreciate the cards as collector’s items more than we understand any deep strategies. That being said, Wizards of the Coast were kind enough to send us a preview pack of the newest set Eldritch Moon and we thought it’d be fun to take a look at this new set not from the perspective of someone who understood its impact on the meta, but from someone who likes to play very casually and collect all the awesome artwork.
Eldritch Moon is a really coherent mash-up of lots of different lore ideas into one set. There’s a definite Lovecraft vibe throughout, with cards focusing on madness, cultists, and fishermen (there’s a card called Grizzled Fisherman that’s already one of our favourites). This is coupled with some slightly more cheesy hammer horror ideas including vampires, zombies, and a sort of steampunk crossed with gothic technology. While this mix might remind you of your doodles when you were 14 on the edge of your exercise book, it’s very well put together and the differing playstyles really suit the cards.
For example, the vampires are often about manipulation. They are powerful cards in themselves but they’re designed to allow you to control other creatures and often dominate slightly more powerful ones through stopping them blocking for example. One lets you control some land, there’s also a vampire-themed deal that lets you give up some life for some more cards. The zombie-themed cards deal with death and your graveyard, allowing you to bring things back, or becoming more powerful when more are in your graveyard. There’s plenty of madness-themed cards that have slightly unpredictable effects for your opponent, returning from the dead once killed or turning into something more powerful when you least expect it. It’s nice to see this correlation between the gameplay and the theme, and it definitely gives this set more of a strong theme than we were perhaps used to with the sets we used to play.
The art on the cards is fantastic and nowhere near as clichéd as you might expect. The various ghosts are genuinely quite creepy paintings that often riff on popular ideas about ghosts (like a really haunting one that has the ghost under a white sheet but with a chain around it. It sounds silly but it’s very unsettling). Of course the colour scheme relating to the type of card is in full effect, allowing you to quickly identify cards, but it’s very subtly fitting with topic of the cards and never looks forced. We’re a little disappointed with the land cards, which to be honest look much like any other land cards, just perhaps on quite a grey day, but the creatures and spells are gorgeous.
In terms of playing the game we were provided with a ready made deck as well as a bunch of boosters to make our own, and we found this set surprisingly difficult to play. It’s definitely not newbie-friendly as many of the mechanics require you to have a decent running knowledge of what’s in your graveyard and to be prepared to sacrifice various cards for the greater good. There’s also plenty of tokens that need to be found and used. Strength wise it holds up against the other decks we’ve purchased and seemed balanced enough, but it just became more of a headache to play when you had to make the most of every card on the table rather than just focusing on the ones immediately in play. We’re sure this won’t be a problem for people who play much more than we do.
Overall we’re really impressed with this set. The theme is definitely the strongest element and there’s plenty of cards that aren’t like any others we’ve seen in MtG, tying into enough popular lore and mythology that it’s easy to get your head around what kind of thing it is. Just be aware that if you’re just getting into MtG, some of these cards are perhaps a little more advanced than the earlier sets.