With the set releasing this weekend, I thought today would be an excellent opportunity to go through my top ten casual cards from Shadows Over Innistrad for all of you. Now, these may not be all the hottest competitive cards. Sometimes there are other cards that are spicy and fun to play with, but may not be particularly good in the competitive Magic scene. However, even casual players appreciate mana-efficient, powerful cards so don’t be surprised if some of those also appear on this list too. Let’s get down to business and see what I’m excited for in this new set!
I always get excited for new land cycles because having good mana is so crucial to playing this game. I have maintained now for a long time that good mana is often better than having the premier spells because you can reliably cast your spells if you’ve got the correct mana. The new lands give us one more tool to help fix our mana, but the interaction with the Battle lands, namely that the Battle lands are dual typed, means that you can have this new cycle come into play untapped quite reliably. They aren’t exciting and most people aren’t thrilled about them, but I think they are one more viable land option. The other piece is that these lands should be fairly readily accessible and inexpensive for the foreseeable future making them an inexpensive investment and something that helps casual players get the mana fixing they want without breaking the bank..
10- Sigarda, Heron’s Grace: While the other angels have gone crazy, Sigarda has stayed pretty true to her original printing. She’s still 5 mana, is a good body, but now she gives your humans and you hexproof. This doesn’t seem like it is very relevant, but she goes in tribal human decks very readily. Whether you are playing human Allies, Warriors, or even pre-transformed werewolves, she is relevant and could make life difficult for your opponents. I’m not sure if she has a future in constructed decks yet, but I know casual players will be excited for her to be played in tribal decks.
9- Triskaidekaphobia: I feel like this will be one of the cards that leave a lasting impressions on this set long term. Triskaidekaphobia is not likely to see much in the way of Constructed play, but it is templated beautifully for Multi-player games giving it more appeal for Casual players. The real draw here is that it is an alternate win condition for a deck that is interested in that sort of thing. I know some EDH deck is going to brew with this thing and I have a few friends who will take a stab at making this viable, but that will only see the light of day around the kitchen table. The art on this card is insane too in that it calls out to so many different instances of the number 13 that it is almost comical. This will certainly be remembered and is extremely unique even for a set as rich and flavourful as Shadows over Innistrad.
8- Seasons Past: As a casual player, this speaks to me very clearly. For 6 mana I can regrow MULTIPLE targets? So, sure, it is NOT what a Constructed deck wants, but I can imagine getting all sorts of things back in a Casual game very easily. Just think about your favorite 1 drop. Do you have it in mind? Great. Now a 2 drop. Repeat that for a 3 drop. Keep going…how about 4 now…and 5, and 6, and, and, and. Seasons Past is exactly the sort of card that will scale ridiculously depending on what’s in your deck and we all know casual players are more apt to have bigger, splashier things in their deck. This could be amazing… and the stories you will tell will start like this “Remember when I cast Seasons Past and got back…”. Yeah. I’m pumped.
7- Odric, Lunarch Marshall: Wow…so, you know when I had Sigarda playing guardian angel for a tribal humans deck? Well, I want this guy to be the reason I win that game because he just grants all my other creatures silly abilities. It isn’t hard to imagine this guy being ridiculous and casual players are ready and willing to give this guy a brand new home leading their decks. Just a sweet new treat to make decks unbelievable. Fellow looter JP Vazquez is also excited by Odric, so check out his article if you haven’t already!
6- Thalia’s Lieutenant: Hmmm…tribal humans just got another lord. Ok. Sign me up. I could almost see this guy helping to build the foundation for a silly Humans build in Modern playing alongside Champion of the Parish and Hardened Scales but even without that push this is hard to miss.
5- Second Harvest: I read this card and had to stop and look at it again. For 4 mana for that ability doesn’t seem THAT good. Oh wait, what am I talking about. I’m clearly wrong and can’t wait to play this and do some degenerate token shenanigans with it. Think about playing this in some of the EDH decks out there that are focused on token strategies: Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Ghave, Guru of Spores, Rhys the Redeemed, just to name a few. These decks look to go wide. This lets them go WIDER. At instant speed. We’re all going to die to this card in EDH. I accept it and want my chance to try and cast it too.
4- Epiphany at the Drownyard: This is perhaps my favorite card in this whole set. I love drawing extra cards and nothing makes me happier than being able to do that at Instant speed. The fact that this scales in the late game when I have a pile of mana is very appealing and could help me stock my hand all over again. The similarities between this and Fact or Fiction is unmistakable and further adds to the appeal of the card because I love forcing my opponent to make a choice and see if they make a bad one for me to capitalize on. This is a very strong card and certainly not something I will overlook.
3- Trail of Evidence: I’m using Trail of Evidence as a placeholder for cards that allow you to create multiple Clue artifacts. I think these Clue artifacts are an ingenious way to help smooth out limited play by allowing players the chance to draw more cards. If you can draw more cards you might find that answer you desperately need to stave off your death. The result is very positive for Limited. However, for a Casual player, these Clue tokens create a very interesting opportunity when paired with Ghirapur Aether Grid because you can use your Clue tokens to help deal damage to your opponent. Any time you can weaponize something that is essentially harmless you have something that will appeal to a certain type of Casual player.
2- The Gitrog Monster: This is a wild card that has entirely too much text on it for it to NOT be something that Casual players are going to drool all over. Don’t ask me where it goes…maybe it is the general for a whole new EDH deck…but I know that this thing is a) stupid big b) packs a ton of powerful abilities and c) has super cool art. I want me one of these guys.
1- Arlinn Kord: This was a tough choice because I kind of wanted to put Avacyn in this spot. The reason I picked Arlinn is just because she is the first Planeswalker with the ability to flip back and forth under your control. Garruk Relentless flipped over and stayed that way with no chance of flipping back. Same for the more recent flip Planeswalkers in Magic: Origins. This is the first time that we’ve seen a walker who can go back and forth at will. That makes her unique and something that can’t be overlooked ever. She will undoubtedly be a strong competitive card in Constructed, but Casual players are going to love her too. I mean, she packs 5 abilities, is a Werewolf, and looks amazing…she’s a casual all star and takes top spot on my list.
Well, there we have it. My top ten is likely very different from most top tens. Heck, I left Sorin, Avacyn and Relentless Dead off my list! Don’t get me wrong, these are going to be amazing cards but they will find their home in Constructed Magic right away. Some of the cards on my list will see competitive play, but there are others that will never see the light of day at a major tournament and will shine brightest around the kitchen table.
Was there anything else that caught your eye or has you super excited? Let me know by finding me on Twitter or by leaving a comment down below. This is clearly going to be a terrific set and I’m excited to see these cards dominate kitchen tables for years to come.
Until next time good luck and have fun wherever you play Magic and be sure to stop by next time for another Casual Encounter.
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) is right around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited. We’re almost through spoiler season and the set is already overflowing with fantastic cards. Diametrically opposed from Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) – the first set of the block immediately preceding it – SOI is poised to introduce powerful new cards for aggro, control, midrange and even combo archetypes across all formats. To top it off, the flavour of this set is absolutely phenomenal, as almost every card seems to tell it’s own story. There’s just so much to be excited for, the 2nd of April pre-release can’t arrive soon enough.
Spoiler season is a lot of different things to a lot of different players. The more competitive players are trying to deduce which cards will become format staples and help define or redefine deck archetypes. The Commander players are looking for new tricks to replace old cards in preexisting decks as well as looking forward to new legendary creatures. Collectors are eager to speculate on the next potential break out card.
Then there’s players like me: Players who look at the new cards and fantasize creating new, interesting and/or silly decks. Players who see one card and say: “I don’t know what deck that goes into yet, but I’m going to build it.” Players who want to play the game in a way that no one was expecting. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about a few new cards that I believe are particularly exciting to build around. They may not be the most powerful or expensive cards from the set, but they sure are cool.
I’m a huge fan of cards that callback to older cards. BFZ’s Zulaport Cutthroat being a callback to Avacyn Restored‘s Blood Artist, for example. With that in mind, I think my favourite card of the set spoiled thus far has to be Odric, Lunarch Marshal.
I returned to Magic right as the original Innistrad was being released. At that point, I was very much a casual kitchen table player: I was always looking for cheap, cool cards that I could throw into a deck to challenge my brother with. When I happened upon Concerted Effort, I couldn’t understand why this card was as financially cheap as it was. I loved anthem effects and the idea of my entire army growing in powers and abilities as more and more creatures joined my side of the battlefield was a mind-blowing concept.
I quickly learned why Concerted Effort wasn’t as powerful as I initially believed it to be. It was a turn 4 “Do Nothing” card: a term used for cards that don’t really do anything when they enter the battlefield when you critically need them to be doing something (especially on turn 4). What made Concerted Effort worse was that it required a critical mass of creatures to function optimally which made you susceptible to board wipes. Lastly, it was a “Win More” card: a term used for cards that only affect your game when you are already in an advantageous position against your opponent(s). Concerted Effort won’t help you bounce back if you’re behind on board state, lacking blockers and facing down your opponent’s mob of creatures. But if you were ahead? Oh boy, were you going to win big. Regardless of its faults, I loved the potential buried in Concerted Effort.
While still suffering from a few of the problems listed above, Odric, Lunarch Marshal does solve a number of them. He still requires a critical mass of creatures which in turn leads to potentially overextending your hand, meaning you will be putting sadness on the stack when your opponent plays their board wipe. That being said, he solves the problems of being a “Do Nothing” and/or “Win More” card. As a 3/3 creature himself, Odric advances your board state by being a creature that can attack or block rather than an enchantment that can do neither. His ability can also kick in the turn he comes into play if you play him pre-combat as opposed to Concerted Effort which only becomes relevant at the beginning of the next upkeep. The biggest drawback with Odric’s ability this time around is that it leaves your army very vulnerable during the first main phases of each turn.
Most pro players will tell you that Odric isn’t a great card. There’s too much set up required and there are too many drawbacks involved. All I can see is an incredibly fun card. In more casual environments, playing a White Weenie aggro deck with him being at the top end of my curve seems amazing. Prioritizing creatures with double abilities would be the key to building a solid Odric deck. Playing a Kytheon, Hero of Akros on turn 1 into Knight of Meadowgrain turn 2 into Misthoof Kirin turn 3 into Odric turn 4 will give your entire team First Strike, Lifelink, Flying, Vigilance and the ability to become Indestructible if Kytheon‘s ability is activated pre-combat. I don’t know about you, but that sounds absolutely devastating.
Keep in mind when building an Odric deck that I believe the most important ability to bestow unto your army is Flying. Archetype of Imagination in Born of the Gods Limited single-handedly won games by granting evasion to your entire team. Odric can endow evasion two turns earlier provided you have a creature with Flying somewhere in the first 3 turns. In Standard, I feel like Odric can top end a deck with Kytheon for Indestructible, Topplegeist for Flying, Consul’s Lieutenant or Knight of the White Orchid for First Strike, Hidden Dragonslayer for Lifelink, Topan Freeblade for Vigilance and Aven Sunstriker for Flying and Double Strike.
While we’re on the topic of critical masses and over-extensions, it’ll come as no surprise that I absolutely love “Lord” cards.
So named because older cards referred to them as such in the type line (rather than naming the actual creature type), “Lord” creatures refer to creatures that give a boost or bonus to creatures of a similar nature. In the above case, Elvish Champion provides a +1/+1 bonus and grants the Forestwalk ability to all Elf creatures.
While Dark Ascension provided us with more traditional style “Lord” creatures within the world of Innistrad, Shadows Over Innistrad is playing around with what a “Lord” creature can be. Instead of a static +1/+1 boost with an additional bonus, the “Lords” in SOI are synergistic with their favoured creature types in more innovative and interactive ways.
Of these “Lords,” Falkenrath Gorger seems like the most interesting while also the most difficult to build around. Taking advantage of discarding cards is not something that’s done often in Magic. Here is a “Lord” that wants you to build a deck that forces you to discard creatures, while at the same time, having enough mana to pay for the discarded creature’s converted mana cost. Presently, the only Vampire that can take full advantage of discarding cards is Vampire Hounds, a card originally printed in Exodus. If we look away from Vampires, though, Avaricious Dragon in Standard and Liliana of the Veil in Modern help us with discarding our own cards. Other cards I feel might work as a foundation for a discard/Madness decks are Pack Rat (I get a rat and a Vampire?! Sign me up!) and Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. Will Falkenrath Gorger finally make Tibalt amazing?
No. No, he probably won’t… But it’ll make your games hilarious.
The “Lord” I’m most excited for is Silverfur Partisan. Aside from having a great name and stunning art by Izzy, Silverfur Partisan is a “Lord” for one of my favourite niche creature types: Wolf (which is ironic since, in real life, I’m terrified of dogs). Wolves are a neat little tribe in Magic with a lot of fun, older cards that can make use of a Wolf “Lord.”
Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha is a more traditional style Wolf “Lord” that synergizes well alongside Silverfur Partisan. Master of the Wild Hunt also has synergy with both Mayor of Avabruck and Silverfur Partisan (although you’d have to find ways to protect Silverfur Partisan, as he would be forced to fight if you activated Master of the Wild Hunt‘s ability). Wren’s Run Packmaster and Wolf-Skull Shaman might lead you toward of a more Elf/Wolf tribal deck. Whichever deck you decide to build for yourself, don’t forget to include my favourite flavour combination: Enchanting a Silverfur Partisan with a Raised by Wolves. While it may not trigger his token making ability, giving Silverfur +3/+3 and two wolf buddies to back him up is pretty awesome.
That’s it for our first look at some of the neater cards of Shadows Over Innistrad. I hope you enjoyed it and that it inspired you to put together some fun decks you can play with your friends. As always, if you liked what you see here or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the Comments section below!
JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank
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