17, Aug, 23

MTG Wilds of Eldraine Common Will See Tons of Competitive Play!

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Article at a Glance

Most of the fancy spoilers from any MTG set appears as Rare or Mythic Rare cards. Besides making more powerful cards difficult to find, having an incredibly overpowered common in a Magic set with a Limited format can be problematic. We’ve seen this before in smaller detail where some colors simply paled in comparison due to a power difference in commons.

This makes competitive staples being common a rarity, outside of Pauper, at least. Uncommon monsters pop up every once -in-a-while with Expressive Iteration being a good recent example. Even more recent is Haywire Mite. We wrote a very similar article identifying this card as a surprising competitive staple, and it has persisted!

While there are some very powerful-looking cards in Wilds of Eldraine’s Rare and Mythic slots, one common card received a general consensus from a majority of the MTG community immediately: this will see play. It isn’t necessarily because the card is broken, but just because Not Dead After All is a strict upgrade to the best deck in the entire Modern format.

Not Dead After All

not dead after all

Not Dead After All is a one-mana black instant with a style of ability we’ve seen several times before. The idea behind a card like this is to cast it in response to an action that would cause one of your creatures to die. Instead of dying, Not Dead After All will return the creature from your graveyard to the battlefield with a small buff. Consider it black’s way of protecting a valuable creature.

In Modern, these types of effects are very popular in what is currently considered the best deck in the Modern format: Rakdos Scam; or Rakdos Evoke if you watched the archetype take down the Lord of the Rings Pro Tour after casting a turn three Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in the grand finals.

The Scam Combo

The main combo that gave this deck its ‘Scam’ name involves Grief. While you can cast the card for four mana, you will be using the card’s alternate Evoke cost a majority of the time. This means that, in exchange for another black card in your hand, Grief becomes free to cast. The downside is that the card will die upon entry, so all you really get to do is Thoughtseize your opponent. That’s where Not Dead After All comes in.

Effects like this one allow a Scam player to Evoke a Grief, take a card from your opponent’s hand, and reanimate Grief with a card like Not Dead After All. This will return the Grief, giving you a body on turn one, and will take another card out of your opponent’s hand since Grief entered the battlefield for the second time.

This can also become relevant with Dauthi Voidwalker. If you need to keep your Voidwalker around for hatebear purposes (this card is really annoying for graveyard decks), but want to utilize something that you Thoughtseized out of your opponent’s hand while it was in play, you can use a Not Dead After All effect on the Voidwalker before sacrificing it to its own ability and casting a spell it exiled with a Void Counter for free.

Read More: New Wilds of Eldraine Cycle Looks Incredible in Commander!

Why is this Card Better?

feign death

In order to identify why Not Dead After All is a strict upgrade for the Rakdos Scam archetype, we need to look at the cards that are currently filling the same role in the deck. A majority of Rakdos Scam decks are currently playing some mix of Feign Death and Undying Malice. Malakir Rebirth appears sometimes, but because this card can also be used as a land, it plays a different role.

As mentioned previously, the preferred versions of these cheap reanimation effects also grant a creature some sort of small buff. Feign Death, as pictured above, will reanimate your creature with an extra +1/+1 counter on it. There is a really big difference in facing down a 3/2 Grief and a 4/3 Grief when the threat is appearing on turn one.

undying malice

Undying Malice does… the exact same thing as Feign Death. Word for word.

That does show just how valuable this effect is for the Rakdos Scam deck, however. They are literally running seven copies of the same card in most lists.

Not Dead After All is a better version of these cards because it offers a better buff on the reanimated creature than Undying Malice and Feign Death. It does so through the new Role mechanic.

Read More: Absurd Wilds of Eldraine Spoiler Cards Can Warp MTG Formats!

The Wicked Role

Instead of offering a +1/+1 counter like Feign Death and Undying Malice do, Not Dead After All instead offers your reanimated creature a Wicked Role token. We talk about the new role tokens in much more detail alongside the other core mechanics of Wilds of Eldraine here, but to explain what the Wicked Role does quickly, it attaches an Aura enchantment onto your reanimated creature that gives the creature +1/+1. This puts it on par with Feign Death and Undying Malice.

Additionally, when the Wicked Role is put into a graveyard, each opponent loses one life. This means that no matter how your reanimated creature gets removed, whether its by death, exile or bounce, the Wicked Role will temporarily hit the graveyard before ceasing to exist, causing your opponents to lose one life.

This is the buff that makes Not Dead After All better than Feign Death and Undying Malice; it causes one extra point of damage. This is a very minimal difference between the two categories of cards, but it is an undeniable upgrade. Rakdos Scam is, by nature, a rather aggressive deck, so dealing damage is quite important. One extra point of damage can be the difference between an opponent stabilizing off your explosive Scam start and getting the door shut in their face.

Players can technically avoid the one point of damage by directly exiling or bouncing the Wicked Role token itself. There is a weird world where Not Dead After All can be worse than Feign Death effects if there is a common ability that allows players to do this with little to no cost. That said, more often than not, wasting cards on a little aura like a Wicked Role is not a winning strategy.

You can Bargain with This Too

beseech the mirror

If, for whatever reason, Bargain becomes a reasonable strategy in Rakdos Scam, there is the added upside of being able to sacrifice your Wicked Role token to enable a Bargain cost. Honestly, I don’t really see this happening but Beseech the Mirror appears to be such an insanely powerful card that I wouldn’t be surprised if a few individuals experimented with it. If this does show up in Modern, Scam players could always an opponent’s copy of this with a Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer or Dauthi Voidwalker. Being able to Bargain with Beseech the Mirror makes a huge difference, and can likely mean the difference of winning and losing a game of Modern when this occurs.

While this upgrade seems rather small for Rakdos Scam, the deck is already considered to be the best one in the entire Modern metagame. Having a Scam start with Not Dead After All will make the deck just a little bit harder to recover from, and that can make a much bigger difference than it seems.

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