Zendikar Rising Spotlight: Archon of Emeria
- Christian Tobehn
Thalia took lessons in rhetoric from a certain Eidolon, forgot her first striking ways, and later transformed into a 2/3 flying Archon. So goes the fictional story that could have culminated in the brand-new white three-drop from Zendikar Rising named Archon of Emeria. Death and Taxes players take an interest!
Death and Taxes is all about not letting your opponent cast their spells. One way to reach this goal is to cut their mana supply with either Wasteland and Rishadan Port (Legacy) or Ghost Quarter (Modern). Another, additional measure is to restrict the number of spells your opponent (and most often you) are allowed to cast. You are better positioned then, because Aether Vial lets you put creature cards directly into play. Stoneforge Mystic is another way to get either Batterskull or Umezawa's Jitte and/or your Swords onto the battlefield without having to cast them.
Archon of Emeria does both for Death and Taxes: it reduces the number of spells allowed per turn and it impedes the opponent's mana development. And it does so in Modern as well as Legacy. Let's take a look at the competitors and discuss if Archon of Emeria can become a staple in Death and Taxes builds.
In ths section I want to take a quick look at older cards with similar effects. The original Urza's Saga enchantment Arcane Laboratory was the first card to limit the number of castable spells per turn in this manner. Later, the card moved to white with Mirrodin's Rule of Law. Still later, Dark Ascension brought us Curse of Exhaustion. This Aura is to highlight, because it only restricts your opponent. It costs four mana and isn't a creature though. Throne of Eldraine finally brought us Deafening Silence, which is the most extreme (in terms of mana efficiency) card of this type so far. With the enduring presence of Storm decks in Eternal formats, this latest entry even made it into Legacy and Vintage sideboards. As far as pure storm protection goes, this is the best option for most decks.
Archon of Emeria has two big advantages over Deafening Silence: Its effect, just like those of Arcane Laboratory and Rule of Law, isn't restricted to a certain type of spell. Most importantly it is a creature. This is significant because Death and Taxes and other Aether Vial-centric builds want to run as many creature cards as possible.
The good old Ethersworn Canonist from Shards of Alara already got the advantage of being a creature, profiting from Aether Vial, and it costs just two mana. But it only shuts down nonartifact spells. Eidolon of Rhetoric is a creature too, even quite a stable creature at toughness 4! It features the same clean shut-down effect of Rule of Law at the same mana cost.
But forget about Eidolon — now we are blessed with Archon of Emeria! The new card is a creature as well and features the exact same spell-restricting effect and casting cost. It provides no target for enchantment removal, though. It flies and hoses your opponent's nonbasic lands. That is a lot for just three mana. The only disadvantage to the Eidolon of Rhetoric has to be the slightly decreased toughness.
Archon of Emeria looks as if Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Eidolon of Rhetoric had a winged child …
Death and Taxes Decklists
|Modern Death and Taxes|
|Legacy Death and Taxes|
Archon of Emeria does not change the game of Death and Taxes, but it offers a lot of value for only three mana. Especially the Legacy version can profit from the card, because it effectively shuts down storm decks while not being a dud on offense like Eidolon of Rhetoric. Archon of Emeria can provide main-deck storm protection and still has another very reasonable ability on top.
Some Modern players ran three Thalia, Heretic Cathar in their main decks. I expect them to cut one or two Thalias for one or two Archons. This would give the deck more flexibility and reduce the likelihood of having to deal with the legendary rule. In the end, filling the final slots of a Death and Taxes build comes down to personal preferences for many people. Do I like the 3 power and the first strike ability of Thalia or do I want a flier whose abilities are a little more flexible? Modern and Legacy are relatively creature-heavy formats these days. Therefore I still see one or two copies of Thalia justified. I am relatively sure we will see both, Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Archon of Emeria, in a couple of Death and Taxes lists. And if Modern and Legacy become dominated by storm again, make sure you already own your copies of Archon of Emeria.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.