Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Mythics of Shadows Over Innistrad

There’s been a lot of buzz in the Magic the Gathering community-at-large this month. About three weeks ago, we started to get the first wave of spoilers for the upcoming set, Shadows Over Innistrad, which will see players return to the world of Innistrad, where some sort of eldritch madness has gripped the angelic defenders of the plane and turned them against the mortals. Even the great Avacyn, the so-called Angel of Hope of Innistrad, has been affected, and she leads her sisters against any and everyone. Wizards of the Coast has done a damn fine job of marketing the new set, and as part of that, they have also released some great mythics which well and truly fit the flavour of the plane, and more besides.

Shadows Over Innistrad is a pretty interesting set because of two things: first, it has higher than the average number of mythics for a large set, and second, it has higher than the usual number of planeswalkers for a large set. With the reintroduction of the double-faced cards in the set, we are getting more mythics than we did in the last few large sets, eighteen in all, and at the same time we are also getting a whopping FOUR planeswalkers. Just absolutely crazy. Read on after the break to see what cool toys we are getting in two weeks’ time.

So, first a short introduction to the story of the set.

At the end of the saga of the Khans of Tarkir block, when the vampire planeswalker Sorin Markov and the dragon planeswalker Ugin finally met, they had a little chat about what was going on on the plane of Zendikar. Several thousand years ago, these two alongwith a kor planeswalker named Nahiri had trapped the monstrosities known as the Eldrazi on Zendikar. Of late however, the wards and the prison that these three had fashioned had been broken and the Eldrazi had been set free, free to ravage Zendikar and perhaps even move to other planes once again to satiate their all-consuming hunger. And so Sorin sought out Ugin on the latter’s home-plane of Tarkir, to seek his advice and his powers to restrain and limit the Eldrai once more and thus save the Multiverse from their predations once again. But of course, Nahiri was nowhere to be found and Sorin was unable to provide the Elder Dragon with much in the way of a satisfactory reply. Nevertheless, Ugin tasked Sorin to find out where she was and bring her to Zendikar so that they could finish what they had started.

In the story of the Battle For Zendikar, we saw that while Ugin did travel to Zendikar to imprison the Eldrazi once again, he wasn’t much of a contributor to the battles at all. A band of young planeswalkers named Jace Beleren, Gideon Jura, Chandra Nalaar, Kiora and Nissa Revane carried the fight to the Eldrazi Titans themselves and eventually destroyed them. Neither Sorin nor Nahiri were present on the plane at the time, a situation which I’m sure irked Ugin significantly. Enough so that once Zendikar had earned itself freedom, Ugin tasked Jace this time to seek out Sorin on Innistrad and inform him of what had happened.

All of which brings us to the new block, Shadows Over Innistrad. Jace arrives to find a plane where madness has gripped its denizens, a plane overrun by angels gone evil, werewolves and demons rampant, vampires struggling to survive, and more besides. And Sorin arrives at the same time, only to find out that Nahiri has also gone rogue herself, and has taken it upon herself to destroy everything that Sorin values, including Innistrad itself. All in the name of vengeance for Zendikar, her home plane that Ugin and Sorin left to the Eldrazi and seemingly never went back to check up on. She is… pissed that they ignored her pleas for help.

So going into the new set, this is what we face. Some of the most powerful planeswalkers in the Multiverse, the young and the old both, are coming together for an epic clash, and if these mythics below are anything to go by, then we are in for a hell of a time.

soringrimnemesis

Sorin, Grim Nemesis is a top-level card. While the art by Eric Deschamps is perhaps one of the more disappointing pieces of art in the set, the card itself is something to delight in. For constructed purposes, I value the card highly in a midrange-control shell, and I can definitely see it do a hell of a lot of work in those decks. It comes down with a ton of loyalty and can pretty much destroy anything on the board, whether creature or planeswalker, barring of course the really massive Eldrazis. And he just attacks the opponent on a very different angle than the usual and can flood the board even with small tokens that can very quickly take over the game.

nahiritheharbingerNahiri, the Harbinger is only the second outing for this planeswalker, the previous one being for the Commander preconstructed decks, so suffice to say that it is pretty exciting to get to play with her in the Standard format. Unlike her previous printing, the new Nahiri is all about being a control tool, so to speak. While she is in colours that generally push for a very aggressive approach, she herself doesn’t work well with that strategy, mostly because she doesn’t do that much on the board when you are behind, and provides little when you are ahead because you want to be tapping out for a big game-ending creature by that point. And her ultimate is also a little weird, which leaves a lot to be desired. If she was in the red-green colours, then things would be different because that combination has plenty of huge things to bring out in the late-game, but for red-white, this is a bit tough to justify.

jaceunravelerofsecrets

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets is the seventh Jace card that we will be getting, looking at the history of Magic since the Lorwyn block, when we first got the planeswalker cards. Jace also has a history of being a format staple with every printing (bar one), and this one shouldn’t be that far off the mark. Unfortunately for it, we already have the format-warping Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy in Standard right now, and no Jace really wants to be putting in Jace #5-8 in their deck. That this card is a pretty decent control card is without doubt, but it is simply outclassed by “baby” Jace, who is just flat out better in most respects. What’s really intriguing about this card is the ultimate, which can do a lot to completely lock an opponent out of the game, and I believe that once Magic Origins rotates out of Standard this fall, that Jace, Unraveler of Secrets will get to prove itself finally.

Arlinn DFC

And finally we have one of the absolutely most exciting cards in the entire set. Arlinn Kord is a brand-new planeswalker, something we haven’t seen in almost a year, the last being when we saw Narset Transcendent in Dragons of Tarkir. The really cool thing about Arlinn Kord, from a flavour and mechanical perspective, is that she is a Werewolf, which means that she is the first Werewolf Planeswalker in the history of the game. She isn’t the first double-faced planeswalker however, because that distinction actually goes to the oft-forgotten Garruk Relentless // Garruk, the Veil Cursed from original Innistrad. Even the Magic Origins flip-walkers got there first. But all the same, this is one card in the set that I really want to be able to play with in a deck ASAP. The card oozes flavour on both sides and even if she doesn’t see much high-level competitive play, that won’t deter me from playing her at FNM every chance I get.

Avacyn CompleteArchangel Avacyn and her grim and fiery side Avacyn the Purifier are one of the three mythic angels of the set. As with Arlinn Kord // Arlinn, Embraced By The Moon, this card too oozes flavour on both sides. The “day” side is Avacyn as she is meant to be, the protector of the people of Innistrad, the one who will lead the Humans especially into a glorious dawn of dominance over the monsters and other dangers of the plane. On her flip-side however, she is the merciless angelic fury intent on wiping out all mortals, for none are worth saving. The shepherd has turned on her flock, as Tamiyo’s journal has recorded of late. I’m in love with this card. It contains tons of text, and each bit of it just makes her all the more awesome. Decks based on tokens and sacrifice effects are going to love the new Avacyn, and even otherwise, she is a great beater at the top-end of an aggressive deck, largely because she has both flying and vigilance, which is a powerful combo right now. Just imagine the possibilities with triggering her enter-the-battlefield ability on the day side with some help from an Eldrazi Displacer. Bonkers-crazy!

sigardaheronsgraceSigarda, Heron’s Grace marks this character’s second outing as well. The previous iteration, Sigarda, Host of Herons is an amazing card, one that I use in my GW Hatebears Modern deck as a fun-of curve-topper. While the new one is somewhat worse than the original, I do like its applications as the curve-topper for an aggressive Humans deck, where it should really excel. New Sigarda can give the deck some much needed reach and take to the skies when the ground is all gummed up, and she even makes tokens which can work well with creatures such as Thalia’s Captain and others.

goldnightcastigatorThis weird angel is the final angel mythic in this set. I say weird because while the stats are amazing and it has haste as well, the rest of the text-box leaves a lot to be desired. Taking double damage is a huge deal-breaker, and for that reason alone I doubt that Goldnight Castigator is going to see competitive play. However, the neat thing is that you can pair this up with Assault Formation which makes this a 9/9 flying and haste creature that comes down on turn 4, and that can lead to some huge blowouts. And having a big creature like that can certainly give the Assault Formation decks another avenue of attack. The only remaining problem would be burn spells going straight to the face.

wolfofdevilsbreachWolf of Devil’s Breach is an interesting card. A 5-mana 5/5 is pretty meh, especially if it doesn’t have an immediate effect on the board, which is where this card would fail big, to be honest. But look past that, and this card starts to get good. Ideally, you would want to be discarding some big mana-cost cards for the Wolf’s ability, which leads me to believe that ramp decks might be a good home for this. In aggressive decks, this simply costs too much mana, mana which can be used to do faster and more things.

oliviamobilizedforwarOlivia, Mobilized For War is single-handedly going to help vampire decks become tier 1 decks in Standard. That’s my fervent hope and wish. She comes down on turn 3, and has some good stats on other. The ability is just gravy, to be honest. Imagine a curve of Falkenrath Gorger on turn 1, Heir of Falkenrath on turn 2, turn 3 discarding Olivia to flip the Heir, and then turn 4 casting a second Gorger, triggering Olivia, discarding Drana, Liberator of Malakir, and swinging in for a bucket-load of damage. Or you cast Drana first and discard Fiery Temper for its Madness cost. Works either way. Of course, this is pretty-much the perfect curve that requires a god-hand and god-draws, but the possibilities are amazing. The only thing that really lacks on this card is perhaps being a little more aggresive on her stats, either a higher point of power or a higher point of toughness, and a vampire tier 1 deck would be absolutely locked in.

relentlessdeadThis is another sweet mythic in the set. While a 2/2 for 2 mana isn’t that big a deal, that same creature having Menace is. And if that creature has two other highly relevant abilities, then we are talking about something really good here. Basically, starting on turn 3, your Relentless Dead is effectively removal-free and you can just keep casting it again while leaving up mana to return it. Should you happen to pitch it into the graveyard for any discard effects and have another on the field, you can just chain them all. There are some decent zombie creatures in the set, and life is looking for a zombie tribal deck for Shadows Over Innistrad Standard, though I doubt whether it can really be competitive because there isn’t enough good support for this card. In Modern and Commander, things are different obviously, and there this card can really shine.

mindwrackdemonI love this card, especially as someone who has played with Siege Rhino for well over a year now. A 4/5 for four mana that also has trample is really good. If it has flying, then even better. That this card pushes one of the core mechanics of the new set is a bonus. Getting Delirium active on turn 5 shouldn’t be that big of a deal, partially because Mindwrack Demon itself helps you get to that stage, but also because losing that 4 life isn’t that important for an aggressive deck. Black-based decks have a number of avenues of self-discard, even with the rotation in two weeks, and I really like how this card is positioned. And it can block an Olivia or a Drana or a Thunderbreak Regent for days if those cards don’t have any support going for them, such as pump spells and the like. As an aside, I’m not a fan of this art by Matt Stewart, as I much prefer the Blessed vs Cursed Duel Deck version, which has art by Daarken and fits much better with the art style for Innistrad. This one is very Warhammer style.

beholdthebeyond

I’m not sure what to make of this card really. Discarding your hand to potentially draw into your best three spells is a good thing, but for 7 mana? Steep cost and makes it near-unplayable in Standard or even Modern. This could be good for Commander decks where you have the time to build up enough resources to cast this, but for Standard this is a junk mythic at best.descenduponthesinfulA lot of people have been down on this card, and I can kind of see why, because you do have a better option than this with Planar Outburst from Battle For Zendikar, which is cheaper by one-mana and has a better upside too. However, given how we have some really annoying creatures that have recursion possibilities one way or another, getting to exile them instead is important. And you get a 4/4 flier for your troubles, unlike with Planar Outburst which gives you a ground creature instead, and that can be the decider in a grindy match. Not all that great for Standard, but I can definitely envision this seeing play as a complementary wrath.

seasonspastA disappointing, generic, expensive green mythic. Did we really need any more of these? There were a lot of good avenues for Wizards to make a cool green mythic for this set, but they just seem to have fallen back on this travesty, which doesn’t fit at all with the rest of the set. They could have given us a legendary human here, or even a werewolf legendary, but nope, we got something distinctly boring. A ramp deck is the only place I really see this working, and even then only as a one-of, because they have expensive things to be casting all the time.

ulvenwaldhydraAnother boring green mythic. Another hydra creature in a set that doesn’t need it. The only really good hydra in recent times is Polukranos, World Eater from the Theros block, and that actually fit really well with the mechanics of the block. Hooded Hydra from Khans of Tarkir was similar, but nowhere near as competitive. And now we have this silliness. You can’t even really use this in a Landfall deck because with the rotation of the fetchlands from Khans of Tarkir, those decks lose most of their power. I’m just seriously disappointed with this.

geralfsmasterpieceOn the surface, this looks really good. But once you start trying to figure out how to best use it in a deck, you realize that this really, really sucks. A 5-mana 7/7 flier is an amazing rate. But the drawbacks on this card are real. And it is those drawbacks that make this one of the dreaded trap mythics that Wizards likes to put into every set. This is a card that wants you to be empty-handed for as long as it is on the board, which means that it is automatically bad for control decks. And further still, paying 4 mana and discarding three cards AND Geralf’s Masterpiece still entering tapped is a huge downside. Good for Limited perhaps, but nowhere near good enough to see Standard play, let alone Modern.

StartledAwakePersistentNightmareI’ve heard a lot of arguments recently over how generally mythic slots are given over to cards that are pushed for tournament play and aren’t mythic solely for the cool factor or what have you. I think this is a card that does both. Obviously you want to be casting this when the opponent’s shields are down, or with some protection up, but even then, should you have to discard it into your graveyard, you can recur it and the flip side is solid. It can only be chumped with a token really, and then it goes to your hand. Either side of the card provides some good value and I wouldn’t be surprised to see people trying to abuse this in some way.

thegitrogmonsterAnother sweet flavourful card that also recently saw some lore on the mothership. Being a Frog Horrir is just too awesome for words, if I’m honest, but damn. While not particularly exciting, I think that Gitrog is just as good a card as Woodland Bellower from Magic Origins last year. They both push for some niche decks with an extremely specific game-plan while also being big-beaters with upside. If you can combine this with Mina and Denn, Wildborn from Oath of the Gatewatch, then you can have some really busted plays where you are potentially ramping up with 3+ lands on the field in a single turn. I would love to see something like that happen. And the cool thing is that the downside of the card leads into a good upside and the card can end up being neutral on advantage.

*****

That’s all the mythics for now. I’ll be back in a couple days to look at some specific rares from the set that I am really excited to be brewing with and also some that I think are complete misses. Stay tuned!

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Posted on March 27, 2016, in Gaming, Gaming News, Magic the Gathering, News, TCG News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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