Magic: The Gathering has always leaned heavily into the fantastical and whimsical nature of the aesthetics and worlds the sets are inspired by, and the newest set, Wilds of Eldraine, is no exception. It takes inspiration from a heady mix of classic fairytales, Arthurian legends, and more whimsy than art legend Shirley Barber herself could shake a stick at, while weaving in Magic lore that players familiar with the original Throne of Eldraine set will recognise.
The story behind Magic: The Gathering’s Wild’s of Eldraine itself also dips heavily into typical fantasy fairytale trappings, concerning a curse called the Wicked Slumber that the inhabitants of Eldraine cannot wake from, while also making the world become altogether more twisted. If you’re a fan of Magic’s storyline, there’s plenty here both in supplementary stories as well as through the cards themselves in the art, card names, and flavour text. In comparison to the heavy-hitting, high stakes storyline of the Pyrexian story arc, Wilds of Eldraine certainly feels like a step back, but it nonetheless adds to a set that is ultimately all about storytelling.
If the storyline isn’t up your alley, thankfully Magic: The Gathering sets are constructed in a manner that allows players to totally bypass this aspect of the game should they wish, and focus more on the new and returning mechanics and cards that are shaking up the meta. Wilds of Eldraine is the first Standard-legal release since May, and as a result the first set released for the format since the announcement that the Standard rotation would slow to three years instead of two – a move that is likely to cut back player fatigue when it comes to keeping up with the rotation, which has moved at a breakneck speed in recent years.
Even in the early days since Wilds of Eldraine went live, cards from the set have made their way into tournament-winning decks, including a Naya token deck which went undefeated at a recent Japanese tournament using the Virtue of Loyalty card from the set to buff tokens. The Mosswood Dreadknight (inspired by the Arthurian Green Knight and initially cut from the Throne of Eldraine set due to concerns over whether players would understand the reference, according to game designer Mark Rosewater) has also found itself dominating the meta in the Golgari Midrange deck.
Many Wilds of Eldraine cards fit nicely into other non-rotating formats, too – Beseech the Mirror has been shaking things up in Legacy, while Up The Beanstalk makes a powerful addition to Modern Omnath decks. The pre-constructed Commander decks from the new Magic: The Gathering set also prove to be pretty powerful in their own right (and could be more competitive against other decks with some minor buffing) – I got to test out Fae Dominion at a recent event and found myself drowning in flying faeries and powerful enchantments only a few turns in, while my opponents took a few extra turns to build up their boards.
On the mechanics side of things, Wilds of Eldraine introduces the story-fitting Role Tokens, which are Auras with enchant creature. There are seven of these all up, with six created by cards in the main set and one created by a card in one of the Commander decks – Cursed, Monster, Royal, Sorcerer, Wicked, Young Hero, and Virtuous. These Role Tokens are an easy buff to your creatures and slot in nicely with the storybook world of Eldraine.
Bargain is another new mechanic making its way into Magic: The Gathering, with the option on some cards to sacrifice an artifact, enchantment, or token when casting certain spells to produce a more powerful or secondary effect. If you’ve got tokens or enchantments to burnt, Bargain can add the extra oomph needed to really get the upper hand on your opponents. The set also sees Celebration and Adventures brought into the mix, and the return of the much-loved Food tokens (which did also see some play in the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set recently).
Overall, Magic: The Gathering Wilds of Eldraine is a fun new set that offers some great new additions regardless of the format you play. It seems to be a return to slightly lower stakes based on my time with it – although there’s definitely still some very powerful cards to check out – which could be the answer to the ongoing powercreep issue that has plagued the game for some time.
I’ve got a soft spot for the witches, fae, gnomes and sentient mice of Eldraine since my own Magic journey really began to take hold (read: obsessive card hoarding began) with Throne of Eldraine almost four years ago, so returning to the world of wild magic and medieval set-dressing is like returning home, even if it’s now a slightly different place to what it used to be.
Magic: The Gathering Wilds of Eldraine is out now in physical form as well as on MtG Arena, so if you’ve been looking for an excuse to play some TCGs this weekend, this may well be it.
Lead Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast
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