With Wilds of Eldraine, players once again return to the fairy tale inspired plane of Eldraine. With cards inspired by classic tales like Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella, Wilds of Eldraine seeks to return players to a quieter plane after the events of All Will be One. Along with Lorcana’s recent debut, the timing of Wilds of Eldraine doesn’t seem like a coincidence. Is Wizards of the Coast feeling the pressure from competition? Magic: The Gathering’s self described “storybook” plane, Eldraine, is one of the most popular destinations they’ve created, so how does the return to Eldraine feel? Does Wilds of Eldraine once again capture the spirit of classic fairy tales?
Into the Fae Court – Wilds of Eldraine (WOE)
Let’s start by looking at Wilds of Eldraine as a limited environment (playing the set by itself). For draft or sealed, Wilds of Eldraine is a fantastic starting point for new or returning players. For this set, the designers focused on familiar fairy tales and created ten dual colored “signpost uncommons.” This means that if you have one of these cards, they give you a goal on how you should build your deck. For example, “Greta, Sweettooth Scourge” encourages you to find cards that make food as she will be able to use them to get stronger. By design these cards are two colors so that a player with Greta knows to find green and black cards that make food. These cards help narrow decision space for someone who isn’t sure what cards they should be picking as they build a deck. For those new to Magic: The Gathering, Greta also looks strangely familiar. How did Greta (not Gretel) get to be the “Sweettooth Scourge?” If I was unfamiliar with her story, I would be intrigued as to how we’ve arrived at Greta combating hostile food creatures. For those familiar with Throne of Eldraine, they already have the first part of her story and are excited to see where it goes.
Wilds of Eldraine introduces three new mechanics along with returning favorite mechanics from Magic’s past. The first new mechanic is aura enchantment roles. This new mechanic has the greatest potential to find homes outside of Wilds of Eldraine, but within the set these new aura’s are a lot of fun. The aura enchantment role is a new token that attaches itself to a creature, then modifies the creature. Auras have been around forever, but they’ve always presented a design problem. A player would focus on powering up a small number of creatures with auras, and if their opponent could kill off the aura powered creatures, all of the auras would be lost. These aura tokens are another attempt to get around this problem inherent to auras as they are basically a bonus. Within the set are a lot of cards that bring an aura token along with them for free. Losing the aura token isn’t a big deal as they aren’t an entire card in your deck and, as we will see, there are other uses for these aura role tokens.
Bargain is another new mechanic that allows a player to sacrifice an artifact, enchantment, or token when the spell is cast to improve the spell. The new aura roles are a token (and an enchantment) so they can be bargained away. Wilds of Eldraine is also full of tokens whether they are rats, food, or treasure. There’s also enchantments abound with many of them being useful when they go to the graveyard. Bargain offers players additional choice as they play the game. If something in my game plan isn’t being useful or perhaps an opponent has locked down my creature, they are now resources that can be bargained. At first I didn’t think much of bargain other than as a variant on the long running kicker mechanic, but bargain turned out to be more important than I originally considered. This is partially due to a feature unique to Wilds of Eldraine…
Wilds of Eldraine contains something called a “bonus sheet.” Designers sometimes add reprinted cards to a new set in order to supplement that new set. All of the bonus cards in Wilds of Eldraine are enchantments with the designers choosing a wide variety of enchantments from Magic’s past. For this set the bonus sheet is called Enchanting Tales The Enchanting Tales are a highlight of thoughtful choices that help Wilds of Eldraine have its own playstyle as they help fill the set with even more enchantments. The Enchanting Tales in this set balance powerful reprints and enchantments that synergize with Wilds of Eldraine. Bonus sheets are welcome additions to sets as they add to what is already there, and here they fit perfectly in both flavor and mechanics.
The last new mechanic is celebration. Celebration grants an additional effect when two or more of your nonland permanents enter the battlefield that turn. This means that if you play two or more nonland cards on your turn your celebration card will get a bonus. Celebration didn’t turn out to be as impactful as bargain as it mostly exists to help aggressive decks apply pressure to their opponent. However, the designers of Wilds of Eldraine do a wonderful job of making sure players are able to use celebration. Did a card bring an aura role token in with it? Celebrate! Did a creature also create a rat token? Celebrate! Players need to account for the celebration mechanic when deck-building because if their deck is too slow, they might be run over by someone partying their way to victory.
The biggest returning mechanic for Wilds of Eldraine is the adventure mechanic. Adventure cards are two spells attached to a single card where the adventure spell may be cast from the hand and then the card is placed in exile. The rest of the card can then be cast from exile following all normal rules. Originally from Throne of Eldraine, the adventure mechanic receives a few updates with the return to Eldraine. Now there are multi-color adventure cards helping push players into specific colors. If we return to our Greta example, a card like Gingerbread Hunter is a perfect pick. There are also now adventure cards that are not a creature, but an enchantment. Thematically I’m not sure how we send an enchantment on an adventure, however it’s something we can do now.
Smaller returning mechanics help reinforce the fairy tale flavor of Wilds of Eldraine too. Sagas return representing more classic fairy tales such as Three Blind Mice. Sagas can also be bargained away since they are also enchantments. Token generating cards are common as tokens are all a useful resource for bargain or celebration. In particular, food and rat tokens are common across the set. There are a lot of cards designed with celebration and bargain in mind ensuring that you’ll always be using your abilities as you play.
In terms of gameplay, the defining feature of Wilds of Eldraine is flexibility. All of the mechanics in this set create additional decisions as you play a game. Adventure cards allow for more options from the same number of cards. Many cards create tokens, these tokens become additional resources that can be used for their normal purpose, bargained for more powerful spells, or used to power up cards within the set. On top of these mechanics are the Enchanting Tales adding powerful reprints into Wilds of Eldraine that synergize with the set itself. As a whole, Wilds of Eldraine is a wonderfully fun set to build limited decks from. Matches of Wilds of Eldraine have many choices for players as their games progress leading to dynamic games.
Break the Spell – Wilds of Eldraine Commander (WOC)
Alongside the main set, two new commander decks have also been released: Virtue and Valor, a green/white enchantments deck, and Fae Dominion, a blue/black faerie deck. Commander precons are one of the best products for a player looking to get into the commander format, and these two decks are no exception. Each deck offers a decent amount of value, and they’re not overly complicated for someone new to the game. This is offset by the fact that both decks aren’t new or innovative. Virtue and Valor is a strategy other commander precons have already explored and the deck itself plays out very straightforward. Virtue and Valor plays creatures, puts enchantments on them, and attacks. Fae Dominion is a little bit more complicated with a larger variety of cards within it, but again blue/black fairies isn’t a new strategy in Magic: The Gathering. Fae Dominion felt like it got muddled somewhere in the middle, there was always something to do, but none of it felt like it was game changing.
While I can recommend either commander deck, neither is as fun to play as previous commander precon decks I’ve played. Both decks also lack strong finishing strategies that are sometimes required to end commander games. This meant that some games became slower with players hoping to draw into a card that could break the stalemate. There is fun to be had within these decks, but compared to the main set, these two commander decks feel like an afterthought.
Extraordinary Journey – Artwork
The artwork for Wilds of Eldraine is beautiful and, well…enchanting. Beyond the fairy tale inspiration there are candy monsters, fae lords, and a multi-headed goose to discover. The normal art frames are all wonderful, but as usual, Wizards of the Coast doesn’t stop there. Wilds of Eldraine offers showcase frames for some of the adventure cards and alternate artwork for others.
Last, but certainly not least are the Enchanting Tales. Bonus sheet cards are usually printed in a unique style that set them apart as they are technically they’re own set (WOT). For Wilds of Eldraine, each of the Enchanting Tales reprints look like they’re straight out of a pop up book with an unusual exception. An enchanting tale could come as its normal version or an alternate anime inspired version. The anime art style isn’t entirely new to Magic: The Gathering, but its inclusion here is surprising.
I personally love the showcase frame for Wilds of Eldraine. While I find the Enchanting Tales to be “fine,” the artwork for this set still captures the spirit of a storybook. Artwork is usually one of the strongest aspects of Magic: The Gathering and Wilds of Eldraine is no different.
Kindled Heroism – Conclusion
Wilds of Eldraine is a fantastic set, both for veterans and new players. The main set is fun to draft while being friendly to new players. The mechanics offer game-play that keeps the set dynamic and lively. Matches of Wilds of Eldraine were always moving forward without becoming a slow stalemate. The Enchanting Tales offer bonus value to players while also supporting the flavor and mechanics of the main set. In contrast, the commander decks offer decent value to players looking for an entry point into commander, but aren’t anything special from previous commander offerings.
Chris began tabletop gaming in college and quickly fell into the addictive world of cardboard. Beginning with D&D and Catan he became an enthusiast of all things gaming; analog or digital. Chris, now a recovering MtG player, loves connecting with people via gaming through RPGs, board games, and video games. A particular favorite is testing friendships through social deduction games.
Magic: The Gathering
Wilds of Eldraine is a fantastic set, both for veterans and new players. The main set is fun to draft while being friendly to new players. The mechanics offer gameplay that keeps the set dynamic and lively. Matches of Wilds of Eldraine were always moving forward without becoming a slow stalemate. The Enchanting Tales offer bonus value to players while also supporting the flavor and mechanics of the main set. In contrast, the commander decks offer decent value to players looking for an entry point into commander, but aren’t anything special from previous commander offerings.