Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Rares of Shadows Over Innistrad

In my last Adventures In Magic the Gathering column, I went over all the mythics for the upcoming Shadows Over Innistrad set, which is due for release tomorrow, the 8th of April. The new expansion has a ton of great cards in it, and a lot of that awesomeness is concentrated in the mythics for the set, though there are ofcourse some duds there too. The same goes for the rest of the rarities in the set, which is par on course for every single set. The rares and mythics are usually the workhorses of the Standard environments for a particular set, while the commons and uncommons shape up the Limited scene for the same, though there is some cross-over definitely and it creates an interesting challenge for deck construction.

For today’s column, I’ll be going over some of the more exciting rares from Shadows Over Innistrad, cards that I’m personally intrigued about and want to play with in a Standard deck, and also a few that I think have been complete misses. This is not an exhaustive list, so please keep that in mind. With the return to Innistrad, we are seeing a return of tribal archetypes in the form of werewolves, vampires and humans, and all these deck ideas have given me a lot of thought on where to go for my next Standard deck. I’ve been playing Abzan Aggro for well over a year now, and with the rotation in two days, my deck is no longer going to be viable. I haven’t settled in on a particular deck as yet, though I’m leaning towards a vampires deck most of all, and a lot of the cards I’ll be discussing in the column are just right for that deck.

 ShadowlandsYou can’t really talk about the rares in the new set without talking about the new rare lands cycle. These are the cards that are going to define the Standard manabases for as long as they are legal, and they are an integral part of any deck. The really cool thing about these lands is that they work really well with the rare lands from Battle For Zendikar. The so-called “battle lands” have particular subtypes such as “Plains Island” on a Prairie Stream or “Mountain Forest” on a Cinder Glade, and because of that, you can choose to reveal those from your hand to bring these new lands in untapped on the battlefield. However, the reverse isn’t true for these new lands, we’ll call them “shadow lands”, for they are not basic lands and thus if you have them on the field and only up to one basic land on the field, then the battle lands will not come in untapped. So there is an interesting tension in that regard with how you will be building your mana bases for the new Standard.

However, the cool thing is that with the fetchlands of Khans of Tarkir going out of rotation, most decks are going to be either mono-coloured or dual-coloured, rather than three-colour or four-colour decks that have been the norm for the last 18 months or so. So the shadow lands become much more important, especially if you play the ally-colours in your deck, and along with the battle lands, they should be the cornerstones of your decks moving forward.

declarationinstoneUnconditional and cheap removal in Standard is really hard to come by these years, it looks like. We are far, far from the days where Path To Exile was on top. Declaration In Stone is the closest we come to that and though there is a significant downside to this card, the upsides are huge. One, this is a card that can devastate token decks because it is effectively a 2-mana wrath against them. Second, while your opponent will get some form of card advantage should you wish to take out their non-token creature(s), giving your opponent a card-draw effect that they have to actively invest mana in is not that big a deal because while they are cracking Clue tokens looking for more cards, you are building up your own card advantage with continuing to draw as normal and even getting creatures on the board. And also, you can easily set up a Declaration In Stone/Smash To Smithereens combo in a WRx deck, which negates their advantage. Feel-bads might ensue, but they’d be worth it, I think.

And third, in a format where we have graveyard recursion from creatures like Relentless Dead, Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector, powerful creatures like Olivia, Mobilized For War and an animated Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, getting to exile these creatures is very relevant and even needed.

thaliaslieutenantThis card is being touted as the new Champion of The Parish, a better version even. While it is certainly true that it is better than the older card, the big difference is also that the Champion was a 1-drop while this is a 2-drop. Which is not that big of a difference really. By itself even, Thalia’s Lieutenant goes a long way towards enabling Wx Human decks for the new Standard format. It is a creature that is good as a 2-drop early when you need to hit your curve and later on it serves as an anthem that can pump up your entire team. Mix in 1 or 2 Eldrazi Displacer for the bounce effect, and you can end up with a huge army of creatures that your opponent just can’t deal with. WU Humans is a deck that is being touted as a serious top-tier contender for the new format, and I’m excited to see how this card does.

MilitiaCultThis card could find a home in some go-wide creature decks, but I don’t think that it does enough. Most of the time it is just going to be a 2/2 that doesn’t do anything else, and the secondary effect on the flip-side is a bit weak as well. Either you get to cast a big enough Secure The Wastes to make this relevant, or you hope to dodge removal spells on your creatures to be able to flip it. Eh. We shall see.

alwayswatchingIn a previous “iteration”, we had Intangible Virtue, which was cheaper with just a 1W mana cost instead of 1WW, but it provided the same benefits for a token creatures. And that helped cement BW Tokens as a deck for Modern (I’m not familiar with the Standard format of the time that card was legal). For the current Standard, I can see this getting a lot of play, certainly at the FNM level where there will be far more Human decks than in competitive play. Even then, in a White Weenie deck or something similar, the payoff from this card is huge, and if you really want to go crazy, then you can pack in Always Watching with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Thalia’s Lieutenant for some insane blowouts. Now that would be fun as hell!

Also, that art by Chase Stone is just scary as hell, more so when you watch the “card-moment” in the trailer above. Sheesh. Talk about being creeped out by angels!!

bygonebishopWhen I first saw this card, I got really excited, because Bygone Bishop has a lot of applications in a Collected Company deck. It is card advantage and wrath-protection, which is sweet. And then it is also a flier with some good stats, and those are always valuable since you can just get past gummed-up battlefields and get some good knocks in. But, in a format without the powerful 2-colour and 3-colour creatures of Khans of Tarkir, Collected Company decks are much weaker. More so with the mana getting weaker so getting to splash your third colour can be painful on the manabase and that reduces the overall power of the card. And we don’t have enough spirit cards yet from Shadows Over Innistrad to make a good spirit deck. So I think that the best this card can do is be a trump out of the sideboard for White Weenie/Wx Human decks. Can’t wait to see this one in action!

eerieinterludeWithout many creatures with relevant “enter the battlefield” effects, this card is rather weak, but it certainly has a few applications. It can kind of save your important creatures from removal or from lethal combat damage or what have you (non-token of course). The main thing here is that the creatures return at the “beginning of the next end step”, so for creatures like the Ally ones from Battle For Zendikar definitely do not benefit from this at all since they want their abilities to trigger before the combat phase. If this was the other way around then Allies decks might have been able to see a comeback for this new format. But,alas. welcometothefoldAs a sideboard card, I think Welcome To The Fold has a lot of potential, though ideally you want to definitely be casting it for the Madness cost, unless there end up being toughness 2 or less creatures in the format who are very powerful. And it is a sorcery too, so that limits how much use you can get out of this. This could very well end up being a blowout in certain games, much like how Dragonlord Silumgar usually is once he lands. I like this.

rattlechainsThis has to be one of the best blue creatures in the set for sure. It comes in early and provides relevant interactions for a deck built around it. We don’t have many spirit creatures in the format right now, the most notable being Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit from Dragons of Tarkir, Bygone Bishop as discussed above, and a bunch of new cards from the set like Spectral Shepherd, Topplegeist, and Uninvited Geist that could find home in a WU Spirits deck. Not very competitive I don’t think, but definitely a lot of fun I’d bet, and I’m looking forward to trying this out.

forgottencreationZombies could very well be a thing for the new format, and if they are, I expect this dead due to be leading the pack. It is not exactly the biggest creature as a 4-drop, but I don’t think it needs to be because of the Madness synergies that it has, which can translate to pairing with either black or red for more punch, and those give you lots of options. And it does have pseudo-evasion thanks to Skulk, so that’s a plus.

confirmsuspicionsFrom my limited experience, counterspells really need to be cheap to be viable. If they are more than 3 mana, then they need to have a damn good reason for being that expensive. Despite all the hype, Overwhelming Denial from Oath of the Gatewatch hasn’t had a good time at all, and the sames goes for Scatter To The Winds from Battle From Zendikar. Confirm Suspicions unfortunately falls in the same spot. It does have a good upside to the high mana cost, but when it comes to simple efficiency, it just falls flat. The meta will shake out as it will, but I don’t think that this is going to find a good home at all, perhaps at best a one-of sideboard card or something. Though it must be said that with Dig Through Time rotating out of the format, there is a big hole in control decks right now for good card-draw spells and they will be looking for replacements. Despite the high cost and conditionality, maybe this it?

ThinghorrorThis is undoubtedly one of the most hyped cards in the set. It was preordering for about $18 just a few days ago, which is kind of ridiculous for a rare card and though the price has come down significantly by now, the hype-train is still in full-speed mode. Personally, I think this is going to be the centerpiece of “fun FNM” decks at most. this is a card that needs a lot of investment to make it work, and you ideally want to flip it no more than the second turn after you cast it, and that means that you have to aggressively protect your investment. Control decks, they might have use of it as a finisher, and even something for Modern perhaps, but all that remains to be seen. The field is just too wide-open for a card like this right now. For Modern, I was thinking that this could be a fun experiment to try out in a deck like Infect, which can pack a ton of spells to flip this up. Even a deck like Jeskai Prowess could try it out. We’ll see soon if it goes anywhere.

fromunderthefloorboardsUB Madness is a deck that I think is going to be everywhere in the first few weeks of the new format. It looks to be a very strong mechanic right now, and there are powerful options at all points of the curve for this deck. Specifically, a control build can go to town, from initial impressions. And From Under The Floorboards is one card that we can expect to see a lot of. It is good at all stages of the game because of the scaling factor. diregrafcolossus

The power-level of this card depends on a lot of things. Diregraf Colossus is a card that wants creatures in your graveyard, but then, Relentless Dead is a card that (hopefully) never goes into the graveyard and can even save other zombies from going to the graveyard as well. The tension between the 2-drop and the 3-drop is huge, and to get any decent mileage out of this guy, you want a stocked graveyard. Otherwise you just end up with a 2/2 for 3 that doesn’t do much, especially since the extra bodies that you get enter tapped and are thus useless for blocking for one entire turn.

asylumvisitorThis is probably one of the best black rares in the set. The stats are pretty good because it isn’t often that you get a 3-power creature for 2 mana, though the butt is a bit weak and that just means that this can die very easily. But, the card advantage aspect of this is too good, as we’ve seen in the past with cards like Dark Confidant, which have gone on to become format staples. That this only works if you have no cards in hand is a bit of a draw-back, and your opponent can get some cards too, which is a bigger drawback, but at the same time, this is a very exciting card to play with, and in a deck like BR Vampires, which is all about dumping your hand either by casting creatures/spells or discarding for them, this can get you right back in the game for minimal cost, and is good on the attrition front.

triskaidekaphobiaTriskaidekaphobia probably wins the award for the most flavourful and the weirdest card in the entire set. Whether you look at the art or the text, this card is a total win. Brewing with this is going to be a challenge, as it was with Demonic Pact in Magic Origins Standard, but I think this is much more fun to play. Really nice to see weird cards like these every now and then. This won’t exactly be competitive I don’t think, because the conditions are too precise for this card to be a reliable win-con, but damn, I want to see someone win with this on camera!

totheslaughterA decently costed removal spell that can take out planeswalkers? Well, I definitely want it. There are ways to play around this spell of course, and against a tokens deck this is next to useful, but it isn’t that different than Self-Inflicted Wound or Foul-Tongue Invocation, and this actually gets better in the late-game as well, which is totally fine for a removal spell. Black decks are definitely going to be playing some number of this in the 75.

elusivemistThis is another card from the set that is getting a lot of hype, and probably with good reason, because I believe that the card has a lot of potential and that it can be a powerhouse in and of itself. First of all, it doesn’t get by any of the regular burn spells like Fiery Temper or Fiery Impulse or what have you. IIRC, only Roast has a chance to take this on in a straight fight, and that’s usually a sideboard card. Second, having Hexproof and Indestructible on the flip-side is simply huge because that protects it from a ton of direct removal. Only a wrath effect like Languish or Planar Outburst or a sacrifice effect like To The Slaughter or Foul-Tongue Invocation can hit it. Then, it has natural evasion, which is even better because it guarantees no combat damage dealt to it. And after that, things get pretty simple. The key part is to keep that one mana ready to transform Elusive Tormentor. The card is right on point with the flavour of the rules text and the art and the name, and I love it. It requires a lot of investment each turn, but for 4 unblockable damage each turn, I think that it is worth it.

banditalphaI absolutely love this card. 3 power for 3 mana and I get to attack with it that same turn too? Yep, sign me up for this. The fact that this is a Werewolf is even better because it slots right into a Wolves deck because of all the upsides that it has. This is a huge threat for your opponent to deal with, and they have to be ready to deal with it, because if you get to untap, this can steal games out of nowhere. A lot of the Werewolf cards have really strong flip-sides, and getting to turn them on immediately can be a huge benefit. This goes as a 4-of in the RG Wolves deck that I’m working on and I’m definitely going to be finishing that deck and taking it for a few spins.

avacynsjudgmentI see this card being used as a finisher for midrange and ramp decks running red. The fact that this hits players is a huge deal, and much as Crater’s Claws from Khans of Tarkir did in the previous Standard, this can steal games. Early on it can serve to clear out some chump-blockers, and later-on it is a full-on face-smash-burn which is nothng to sneeze at. Oh and this is one of the very, very few cards in the set that directly references the moonfolk planeswalker Tamiyo, which is pretty cool. I expect to see this soon in an Uncharted Realms article.

falkenrathgorgerThe 1-drop that vampire decks need and deserve if they are to be competitive in the new format. It lacks haste, which would have been fantastic, but the fact that it basically turns all your creatures into instant-plays is no-less awesome. Turn 1 Gorger, Turn 2 Heir of Falkenrath, Turn 3 discard Olivia, Mobilized For War to the Heir, flip it, and cast Olivia. That’s a ridiculous thing to do. And we aren’t even talking about how you can pair this with Olivia herself for some busted combat steps. Another card I absolutely want to play with. The fact it is never a bad top-deck either has something going for it. Again, having haste would be good, but it certainly opens up possibilities in the late-game as well, should you ever stall out.

scourgewolf1Turning on Delirium is going to be hard in the new format since we lack the Fetchlands, and Evolving Wilds is a poor substitute. But when your options in a deck include Planeswalkers, creatures, enchantments, instants and sorceries, then we are getting somewhere. In a wolves deck, Scourge Wolf packs a big punch because it can get past a lot of early threats and can also take down a few bigger ones. Combine it with some pump spells like Titan’s Strength or Atarka’s Command, perhaps even in multiples, and things start to get even better for it. Reliably being able to turn on Delirium is going to be key in how good this card ends up being, but I think it is too soon to count it out.

sinprodderRed seems to have gotten a lot of great options in the new set, and it is kind of boggling how much power the colour has going into the new format. While Sin Prodder doesn’t provide you with immediate value, the built-in evasion and the card advantage are pretty big positives. Any Collected Company deck running red is going to love this card, I feel, because of the value factor, and whether or not red aggro decks run this is dependent on how many other good options they have in the same slot. This could well be a sideboard card for them, but RG Midrange would be the best home for this I believe.

devilsplaygroundI kind of love this card and want to see it play out in Standard this year, but I don’t think that it can get there because it is simply too expensive. Hordeling Outburst was 3 power for 3 mana, while this is 4 power for 6 mana, which is not a good trade-off. The fact that the tokens deal damage when they die can be relevant, but I don’t think that we are going to have a good sacrifice deck in the coming months, and that takes out a lot of steam from this card. Really iffy for Standard, but pretty damn good for Limited. I’ve lost enough games because of this card.

traversetheulvenwaldI feel like this card is going to be a serious roleplayer for ramp decks, come the rotation tomorrow. Early on, it is a ramp spell like any other, but in the late game with Delirium active, it tutors for whatever you need, whether it is an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or World Breaker or Shrine of the Forsaken Gods or what have you. And this is a deck where the Delirium will certainly be active after the first few turns, so that’s not a downside at all.

silverfurpartisanAnother card from the set that I absolutely love. This can contribute immensely to a tokens-based deck, and even just generally, it provides free card advantage for something that you would do naturally in an aggro deck, casting pumps on your creatures to make them bigger and get in for more damage. A Wolves deck would love this, and it has already found a home in my RG Wolves list as a 4-of, combined with things like Atarka’s Command, Dromoka’s Command, and Titan’s Strength among others. This is a card that gives you a pay-off for playing Wolves, what’s not to love?

deathcapcultivatorThe last mana dork we got, Beastcaller Savant in Battle For Zendikar, things didn’t pan out well. Turn 2 mana dorks are not fun at all because they are simply restrictive, and Beastcaller Savant in particular turned out to be really bad, and it was a card that I was high on initially! Things don’t look good for Deathcap Cultivator either. It can only produce two colours, and is just a 2/1 for 2-mana with deathtouch. Boring.

inexorableblobThis is a fun card. Again, depending on how easy it is to turn on Delirium, this card will be either good or bad. It is certainly a value card for Limited, but for Standard things are a bit iffy since it has no other text. Having another ability on it would have gone a long way towards making it an attractive option for Standard.

tirelesstrackerI like this one. I can imagine a curve of Tireless Tracker into Mina and Denn, Wildborn for some crazy land-based card advantage shenanigans. This is a big payoff card if you are going full-out with the Investigate mechanic, and though the competitiveness of the mechanic remains to be seen, I think that Tireless Tracker by itself is a fine card. It can add some power to the GW Humans decks, and goes well with Bygone Bishop, another card that can generate a lot of value with Investigate.

soulswallowerThis card doesn’t seem like much, but I’m high on this. A 3/3 with trample for 4 mana that can keep growing each turn? Yep, I can get behind a creature like that. Again, the Delirium effect is a bit tough to achieve, but the payoff is incredible here. And it is not as if there is any graveyard hate in the format that can turn off your Delirium once it is active, unless you do some graveyard recursion of your own, such as with Relentless Dead or Den Protector or what have you, so this just becomes a bigger and bigger threat as the games go on.

*****

That’s all the rares that I wanted to talk about. I’ll be back soon to go over the rest of the cards in the set, such as the commons and uncommons and the artifacts as well, so stay tuned!

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Posted on April 7, 2016, in Gaming, Gaming News, Magic the Gathering, News, TCG News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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