Last weekend, participants at the Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix Sydney 2016 played the recently released Eldrich Moon, which came out a few weeks ago as the second expansion in the Shadows Over Innistrad block. I had a look at the expansion at a pre-release event, and my favourite new mechanic is definitely the one that lets you make like you're an alchemist in possession of a little girl and a dog.
The plot of Eldrich Moon is that Church of Avacyn’s titular archangel, whose followers battled the forces of darkness in Shadows Over Innistrad, has been corrupted and, as a result, killed. This has left Innistrad unprotected, so the Lovecraftian Eldrazi have taken the opportunity to spruce up its unwilling residents with extra tentacles, eyeballs and all manner of surplus limbs.
You know who also likes surplus limbs? Zombies. Zombies love surplus limbs. All the more meat to masticate. So, in a twist on the typical "zombies equals death" narrative, Planeswalker Liliana arrives to defend Innistrad from the Eldrazi with her legions of undead. (I was lucky enough to get Liliana in one of my boosters, which is all you really need in order to live out the rest of your days in peace and happiness.) The Planeswalkers then put an Eldrazi titan on the moon, because if we've learnt anything from Power Rangers it's that imprisoning things on the moon is by far the best way to deal with your problems.
Eldrich Moon is a smaller expansion than Shadows Over Innistrad, containing only 205 cards (74 commons, 70 uncommons, 47 rares and 14 mythic rares), and most of the mechanics from Shadows Over Innistrad have been carried over (Delirium, Skulk, Madness and Transform). The only mechanic we lose is Investigate, which, of course, was my favourite of the lot, because the world is a cruel place. In consolation, Eldrich Moon offers three new mechanics: Meld, Emerge and Escalate. Unlike the mechanics of the previous expansion, these mechanics lend themselves more toward being included in other decks, rather than having decks built around them.
If you both own and control X and a creature named Y, exile them, then meld them into Z.
There are only three card pairs which feature the Meld mechanic, but it is to my mind the most interesting mechanic of the block. Meld allows you to Brundlefly two creatures into one big scary creature, like forming Voltron, only instead of jigsawing together robotic cats, you’re fusing together organic creatures that are probably screaming. However, you can't just meld any two cards together - you need a corresponding pair. If you have one Meld card, but not the other card that is named on it, you can only play that one card as a sad solo. You'll just have to keep opening boosters and looking for its partner if you want use this mechanic (or else resort to eBay).
Meld cards have half of an enlarged card on their back, so that when they are melded you can flip them over and form one powerfully oversized giant of a card. It is treated like one card as well, so if your Megazord is exiled, both cards will go in exile (and de-combine there). If returned from exile, both cards are returned together and, if then placed on the battlefield, combine once more.
I gotta admit - it's pretty cool. Wizards of the Coast seems intent on making me like double-faced cards, and so far they are succeeding. Also, the psychological effect of having a card literally twice the size of all the others on the field is great. It makes you feel like cackling.
You may cast this spell by sacrificing a creature and paying the emerge cost reduced by that creature’s converted mana cost.
Emerge is the ‘trade in your old games for store credit’ of Magic. Let's say your creatures that are already out on the field can’t get past your opponent’s defences, but you don’t have enough mana to cast your big, fat Eldrazi. If your Eldrazi has Emerge, you can trade in one of your creatures for the amount of mana it took to cast them, and reuse that mana to cast your Eldrazi. The creatures on the battlefield become kind of like a bank, storing that mana until it's time for your Eldrazi to chestburst out and say "hi".
Unfortunately the mana credit you get from butchering your creature for parts doesn't include the coloured mana cost of the Emerge mechanic. So if, for example, you want to play It Of The Horrid Swarm for its Emerge cost of 6G, and you trade in a creature with a converted mana cost of seven, you will still have to tap one Forest to cast it. Still, it's useful if you're having bad land draw, or have other effects that are triggered when you sacrifice a creature.
I’m a sucker and hate to see loyal soldiers die, so this mechanic doesn't appeal to me too much. But if you don’t care about discarding your underlings in your mad rise to power, you might enjoy this.
Pay this cost for each mode chosen beyond the first.
Escalate is the kind of mechanic you have in your deck if you're a jerk. If you don't use all the modes it's like saying, "Look at that bullet you just dodged. I like my food poached in it's own sweat." If you do use all the modes then it's like saying, "I'm a jerk."
It reminds me of split cards and the Fuse mechanic, as Escalate functions in a similar manner. The difference between Fuse cards and cards with Escalate is that Escalate cards can have more than two modes which can be triggered, and the cost is the same for each mode.
This mechanic adds a lot of versatility to your card. You can choose to activate any combination of the effects listed on the card, provided you have the mana, so you can activate just one mode early game for a low-cost spell, or activate two or three when there are more powerful creatures on the field. You can even choose to activate all of them and make your opponent cry. So regardless of whether you draw it early or late game, you can get some good use out of it.
I was sad to see that Investigate didn’t make an appearance in this expansion, considering how much I liked the mechanic in Shadows Over Innistrad. Still, the glee of having a ridiculous, giant card on the field soothes the pain somewhat. These mechanics can slot nicely into a deck you already have as well, so you don't have to build a completely new deck if you pull a Meld pair you'd like to use.