With the recent release of Shadows Over Innistrad, there’s been a lot of talk about the new Standard format, and how the changes will affect things moving forward. As someone who vastly prefers to play limited, a new set release means one thing to me: New Draft Format! I think WotC has done an incredible job with the limited design of this set as it’s both fun to draft and fun to play.
Last week, the very talented JP Vazquez cracked some packs and did a great job at outlining the general thought process that goes into pack 1 of drafts. He also touched on some more general thoughts on the format the week before, and I highly recommend reading both of those articles before continuing on here. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Great! Now that you’re caught up, I wanted to talk about an archetype that I’ve been having a lot of fun and success with so far, Green White. GW was one of the most aggressive archetypes in original Innistrad, (largely because of how busted Travel Preparations turned out to be), and I was excited to see that it continues to be quite powerful in SOI. Although there aren’t any absurd two-coloured cards rewarding you for being in GW this time around (insane mythics notwithstanding), I find that I am often pulled into these colours during the draft.
I have found that my GW decks have all been fairly aggressive with 15-17 creatures, between 4-6 removal spells, and the odd pump spell and/or equipment thrown in for good measure. The fact that both Green and White have efficient removal spells at common and uncommon is a large part of the reason why the deck is so good.
Let’s take a look at the kind of GW deck I’ve had success with.
This is by no means an ideal list, and you’ll notice that it is mostly commons with very few uncommons. GW decks can certainly be far more impressive, but I’ve found that even an unassuming collection of commons like this can be quite powerful. Let’s talk about what makes the deck work.
Mana curve is one of the more important parts of this kind of deck, and finding two-drop creatures is definitely a priority. I’ve found that most of the common two-drops are fairly interchangeable, with Hinterland Logger and Quilled Wolf slightly ahead of the others. It’s really important to be able to apply early pressure with this kind of deck, so make sure you have enough early plays to do so.
There are a few choice uncommons that really take the deck to the next level, and Veteran Cathar is right up there. Being a two-drop is great, and allowing you to use your mana to make combat a nightmare later on makes him incredibly good in GW. It is important to have a reasonable human count to make him great, although I’ve found that you tend to get them fairly easily.
You may have noticed that the lone five-drop seems a little out of place in my example deck, but I included it because I wanted to talk about how great this card is. Although I have definitely kept him in the sideboard while building, more and more I’ve found I’m running him maindeck, because he makes it so much harder for your opponent to race you. A 2/5 reach is hard to get by, and being able to fog for a turn is surprisingly relevant when you’re racing. They also tend to go reasonably late, so picking one up shouldn’t be too difficult.
Prey Upon was one of the great commons in original Innistrad, and its slightly more expensive one-sided cousin picks up that mantle proudly. Yes, it’s sorcery speed, yes it can be disrupted, and yes it requires you to have a creature in play, but Green decks and GW decks in particular don’t really care about any of those drawbacks. The fact that it costs two mana means that by the time your opponent has played something you want to bite, you can do that as well as playing a two or three-drop creature to keep up the pressure. You do need to be careful about when you get your Chomp Chomp on, but it generally isn’t that hard to wait until your opponent taps out to start biting things. Blue and Red decks in particular have quite a few ways to disrupt this card, so do keep that in mind. All that being said, any functional GW deck wants as many of these as it can get.
Although this card is technically card disadvantage as it requires two of your cards to deal with one of your opponent’s, it turns out that mana-efficient unconditional removal is quite strong despite the drawback. It’s obviously not really something you want to play on turn three, but most games you want to save your removal for something truly difficult to deal with, so the drawback actually encourages you to be smart with your removal. It also does a reasonable job of enabling delirium, and the fact that it exiles is occasionally quite relevant as there are several creatures that like to come back from the dead. It can also deal with problem enchantments or artifacts, which is a nice option to have (although not one I find that I use all that often). It is worth noting that you don’t want infinite of these because the drawback is real, but I’ve found that two seems to be the perfect number.
This card deserves its own section, and let me tell you why. In a deck that naturally ends up with 8+ humans, this card is the real deal. Turning your dorks into real threats is huge, and the vigilance means that if they’re not trading with your idiots than they’re not attacking either. The nice thing, in theory, is that this card should be mediocre in most other decks, which means that it should be fairly easy to pick up. In practice, I find that they disappear much earlier than they should, and I would recommend grabbing one when you can (although obviously not over removal.) Gryff’s Boon is another card that’s great in GW aggro, although being an uncommon makes it harder to pick up.
I’ve had a lot of fun with this kind of deck so far, and highly recommend giving it a shot. Your priorities should be removal, then the first True-Faith Censer/Gryff’s Boon, then two-drops, then other creatures. Also, be sure to say “Chomp Chomp” when you cast Rabid Bite for maximum value.
@Erickson_Dan on Twitter
It may not be Friday the thirteenth, but we’re in for some frights!
I originally wanted to do my Top 13 Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) cards in honour of today being (unfortunately, not a Friday) the 13th… what with thirteen being of such relevance in the world of Innistrad). Ultimately, I felt that was a little too cliché.
Instead, I’d like to try something a little different. Hopefully you’ll all enjoy it. Since this week is the release week for Shadows, I felt that this would be the best time to do something we, as Magic players, all love to do: Let’s open some booster packs!
Ah! That new card smell, that satisfying sound when cracking a pack, those sweet new cards. There’s a reason this game is colloquially referred to as Cardboard Crack.
I’ve set aside three packs to share with you. We’ll be cracking them for the fun of it, but we can also play “Pack 1, Pick 1”. Pack 1, Pick 1 (also known as P1P1) is a quick game Magic players will engage in when cracking packs. The purpose is to determine which card would be the “first pick” in a draft environment. Since we’ll be opening three packs, we can play this two ways: 1) For each pack, what would be our P1P1 if this were the first pack we would open in a draft and 2) What would be our pick if these were opened sequentially in a draft (i.e. pack 1, then pack 2, then pack 3).
Let’s dive into our first pack, shall we?
Here’s a look at our Common cards from our first pack.
No, we’re not jumping right to the rare. It’s called “building suspense”. If you really want to spoil the surprise, there’s nothing stopping you from scrolling down.
So what have we got here? Well, truthfully, nothing really stands out for me amongst these Commons. I’m a big fan of Vessel of Ephemera, which I talked about in my last article. It provides bodies on the board and fuels Delirium if we end up in a Delirium deck. The other Common I’m looking at is Howlpack Wolf. I’ve found the card to be extremely strong in Limited. Its “drawback” of not being able to block without another Wolf or Werewolf on the battlefield isn’t detrimental enough for me to not include it in a deck. More often then not, attacking is what I want it to be doing anyway. A 3/3 body on turn 3 in an aggressive RG (Were)Wolf strategy is exactly what I want. Like most Red mages say, “what is blocking?”
That’s all I’m really looking at in terms of these Commons, though. Let’s see if there’s something spicier in the Uncommons…
Eek, nothing fantastic here either. I like Tenacity. It’s a good combat trick that people often don’t see coming. I’m also a fan of Spectral Shepherd, especially in the Spirit deck. I really like his synergy with Apothecary Geist; Using the Geist as a blocker that I can bounce back to my hand with the Shepherd and then recast him again to gain life is pretty fun. I’m not sure, however, if either of those cards are first picks at this point. Let’s check out the Rare and Double Faced Card (DFC) and see if we’ve opened something exciting.
We opened a Mythic Rare! Seasons Past is a very neat card and I like the potential it harbours, but it’s a very difficult card to build around in Draft. Breakneck Rider, on the other hand, looks amazing right now. He’s a little more mana intensive than the Howlpack Wolf, but the Rider’s potential explosiveness when he transforms into Neck Breaker is worth it to me. That attack bonus is exactly what I want if I’m playing Red aggro. He’s a strong contender for P1P1, so let’s take another look at the pack before we make any decisions, just to make sure we’re satisfied with that pick.
Overall, not the best first pack to open but I feel the Breakneck Rider // Neck Breaker really saves it. I would be happy with P1P1ing the Rider. When this pack comes back to me in a draft, I would be hoping to “wheel” either the Howlpack Wolf for the synergy, Tenacity if I end up in White or the Wicker Witch if I’m in an aggressive deck.
So far so good! Let’s move onto our second pack!
Check it out, our second Vessel of Ephemera. This pack also has a second Vampire Noble as well… Wait a second! There’s only eight Commons here! This means we either have a second DFC in the pack or perhaps a premium card. This is exciting!
In terms of P1P1, if this had been out first pack, I like the Vessel, as I mentioned before, but I also like the Voldaren Duelist. I think it has a good ability on a solid body. If we view this pack as our second pack in the draft, following our Breakneck Rider pack, I like the Voldaren Duelist even more since he’s in our colours. Let’s take a look at the Uncommons, see if anything strikes us as better.
I love Silverstrike. I think it’s one of the best Common/Uncommon removals in the format. Sure, it’s a little expensive and it requires an attacking creature which isn’t irrelevant, but the three points of life has gotten me out of quite a few jams in games so far. I also like the Graf Mole. A 2/4 for 3 is an excellent defensive creature and he’s very solid in the Clue deck. That being said, if this were our P1P1, I’m definitely favouring the Silverstrike. If this were our P2P1, assuming I’m in Red with Breakneck Rider, I’d consider splashing White for Silverstrike. I don’t know if I could say the same about the Mole. I feel I would only pick the Mole if I was already in Green.
We’ve still got our Rare and DFC to check out! Will they be better than our last pack?
BOOM! Flameblade Angel, Accursed Witch and foil Silverfur Partisan. All of these cards are great. Personally, I’m really happy to have opened the Silverfur Partisan because he’ll be going into my Tribal Cube for the Wolf support. What’s a Cube you ask? That’s another topic for another time. But I digress…
For now, of these three cards, as much as I really like Silverfur Partisan, I do feel he’s the weakest of the batch. Accursed Witch is very strong and was an integral piece in my Release Day Sealed pool deck that lead me to a 5-0 victory, so I’m certainly going to give her pause. That being said, Flameblade Angel is the very definition of a bomb and will win games on her own. She’s currently my top pick, but let’s review the entire pack once more before we make a decision.
If this were my P1P1, I’d be hard pressed to choose anything over the Flameblade Angel. I definitely like Silverfur Partsan, Accursed Witch and Silverstrike, but I feel the Angel is the clear pick. Assuming this was our P2P1, following the Breakneck Rider pack, I’d be windmill slamming that Angel. She’s in our colours and she’s a fantastic top end to a Red deck.
This is going pretty well so far! Let’s see what’s in store for us in Pack 3…
Boo! Nine Common cards. Oh well; No foil or extra DFC for us. There’s the Apothecary Geist I was talking about before that could have combined well with Spectral Shepherd. If this were our last pack after our P1 Breakneck Rider and P2 Flameblade Angel, I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of either of these Red card. Hulking Devil is underwhelming and Ember-Eye Wolf is a 2 drop that I’m fine with including in my deck, but I’m not particularly excited to do so. If this were our P1P1, I’d be leaning toward the Murderous Compulsion. It’s cheap, efficient removal with a slight drawback that could be negated if we wheel that Stern Constable.
Let’s move on to our Uncommons.
Now these cards are a little more exciting. Pale Rider of Trostad is a very interesting card for the Skulk/Discard/Madness decks but I think I like Incorrigible Youths a little more. It’s a big beater with Haste and its Madness cost makes it an insane value card if you can cast it on turn 3. Youths is definitely at the top of my list right now. Let’s see if our Rare or DFC can beat it…
DISREGARD EVERYTHING. We opened the Man in the Popped Collar Leather Jacket on Top of a Hooded Cloak himself, Jace, Unraveler of Secrets. Lambholt Pacifist, you’re a pretty good card, especially in a deck with Breakneck Rider and Flameblade Angel, but I think the pick here is Jace. Just to be sure, let’s review the pack one more time.
It’s Jace, right? Jace? Yeah, I think it’s Jace. If this were our P1P1, it’s definitely Jace. If this were our P3P1, it’s still Jace because come on, it’s Jace. If Jace wasn’t in this pack, I’d be looking at the Youths or the Murderous Compulsion. That being said, he’s in the pack and I don’t think I have the fortitude of character to simply pass Jace, although I can tell you stories of those who have. But I digress…
I hope you enjoyed our very first “pack cracking” here on Optimum Jank. I’d be very interested to hear if you agree or disagree with my picks. Would you have gone in a different direction? Would you have passed the Jace in Pack 3 if you were already solidly in Red? Leave a comment in the Comments section and share your thoughts. If you’re in the area, Three Kings Loot hosts SOI drafts on Monday, Thursday and Friday. You should check it out if you enjoyed what you saw here and would like to try it yourself!
JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank
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
The Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease is behind us and we are just a few days away from the official release date of the new set. I hope you all had a chance to participate in a Prerelease event or two because Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) is amazing. Perhaps my early impressions are overly favourable because I loathed Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) so much, but I feel my instincts for this set are on the mark: Shadows Over Innistrad is going to be tremendous fun.
One of the more fascinating aspects of this set are the sheer number of moving parts – from the mechanical elements of the game down to the story and presentation – working in unison in a truly meaningful way. If I may take a moment to contrast Shadows Over Innistrad with Battle for Zendikar, the story of BFZ was that of the Zendikari fighting alongside the unbelievably poorly named “Gatewatch” superteam of Planeswalkers to vanquish the terrorizing Eldrazi menace rampaging across Zendikar. While BFZ’s premise may have been presented as everyone working together to defeat a common foe, in reality, the entire block felt disjointed and divided into three separate entities each trying to do their own contradicting thing. The Eldrazi mechanics mostly worked parasitically meaning they didn’t really work well with anything else in the set… which is fine. The Eldrazi should feel different and alien. The Zendikari, however, were all over the place. Some were Allies which worked with everything… including the Eldrazi, which doesn’t make any sense at all. Others were… just there? They didn’t really do anything, nor were they Allies, so I guess they didn’t mind the Eldrazi being there? I have no idea. Maybe non-Ally Zendikari simply hate Zendikar. They weren’t overly synergistic with the Eldrazi either, so I’m not really sure why they were there in the first place. Finally, we had The Gatewatch, functioning in their own space to the side by their very nature of being Planeswalkers. For a story and set about teamwork and working together, nothing meshed well nor made any sense.
I’m speaking in broad, generalized terms, of course, but I’m sure you get the idea.
Shadows Over Innistrad is pretty much the exact opposite. There are both obvious and covert synergies between many of the cards and mechanics in a set with a mythology in place that brings rhyme and reason to the improbabilities of certain cards or tribes working together. The madness currently overwhelming the plane of Innistrad gives us a credible reason for why humans would be working side by side with vampires or werewolves or zombies. In fact, in a large majority of the art, the humans are scarier than the actual monsters! Have you seen the art for Rabid Bite?
That human is BITING A WEREWOLF. This is amazing.
As if that weren’t enough, SOI just feels more powerful and more exciting than anything found in BFZ. There were a number of times I would be looking through my sideboard during the Prerelease thinking to myself: “I should be running this card… and I should be running this card too.” The reason for that is a lot of the cards feel like they could be role players in multiple strategies.
Take Vessel of Ephemera, for instance. It can provide attackers, blockers or sacrificial fodder, it can fuel Delirium, it works with cards that care about Spirits, at worst it can be pitched for Madness costs… the list goes on. That’s just one common. Imagine an entire set that has that level of synergy. The major problem of SOI isn’t a lack of options, its problem is having too many!
Since we’re on the subject of powerful cards, let’s talk about a few I was very impressed with because they turned out to be far more powerful than I had initially anticipated and a few that turned out to be a little less so.
I was lucky enough to pull these two cards in my first Prerelease pool and yes, I was able to live the dream once: I flashed in Avacyn at the end of my opponent’s turn to save one of my creatures. During my next main phase, I sacrificed five creatures, transforming Westvale Abbey into Ormendahl, Profane Prince which in turn transformed Archangel Avacyn into Avacyn, the Purifier. It was pretty glorious.
Archangel Avacyn is everything you would expect her to be. She’s a fantastic card when you’re ahead, when you’re at parity and when you’re behind. That being said, she’s not as clear cut a card to play as you would believe her to be. I played against another player with his own Avacyn and I felt there were times he would run her out too soon. She’s strong, but she isn’t unbeatable and well placed removal will send her to the yard. More often then not, I liked holding her back in my hand: If I was already ahead, I didn’t need to use her frivolously and get her killed. If I was behind, she was my insurance to get me back to parity. Knowing she was in my hand ready to fly in at instant speed certainly gave me confidence when making combat decisions. Archangel Avacyn strongly reminded me of the Queen piece in chess: A lot of power that is often best held back until it’s time to strike.
On the other hand, Westvale Abbey is an incredibly difficult card to use in Limited. Simply having it on the board – even if I wasn’t anywhere near activating it – definitely made my opponents play more aggressively and use their removal more liberally.
Activating Westvale Abbey in Sealed was very hard to do. I can see him being much more powerful in Draft or Constructed formats where you have more control over deck building and can take advantage of sacrificing creatures or building up your board with tokens. In Sealed, getting 5 creatures on the board isn’t easy. Using five mana just to get a 1/1 token was a tough pill to swallow. Sacrificing my board and hoping my opponent didn’t have a way to interact with Ormendahl was agonizing. I realized early on that transforming him against anyone running Blue was usually the wrong thing to do: Just the Wind was everywhere. Sending my entire board to the graveyard only to have Ormendahl return to my hand didn’t seem like the wisest of actions. If you could build a Draft or Constructed deck that could take advantage of powerful leave the battlefield effects when your creatures died or had a means of generating a large number of tokens you wouldn’t mind sacrificing, I could see how Westvale Abbey could be an absolutely crushing card. In my case, however, it was more often a land than it was a game-ender.
Where did this card come from? Who okayed this card? Because this card is insane.
Auras are usually frowned upon by the majority of Magic players because they often lead to potential 2-for-1s, i.e. enchanting your creature with an Aura followed by your opponent casting a removal spell targeting your enchanted creature. Your opponent only used one card (their removal spell) to get rid of two of yours (your creature and the aura). Gryff’s Boon completely disregards this weakness because it keeps coming back whenever you want it to. What makes it even more insane is that it doesn’t return to your hand like you would expect it to, it goes right onto the battlefield attached to whichever creature you’d like to turn into an immediate threat. Anything and everything in your deck has the potential to be stronger and fly. Short of exiling the enchantment, you’re never going to get rid of this thing. I had two players simply crush me with this card because I had very few ways to interact with it. Let me tell you, turning Inspiring Captains into 4/3 fliers can be backbreaking.
When this card was first spoiled, I though it was okay. I wasn’t certain how detrimental giving your opponent cards would be. My strategy, if it were to be played against me, was to either A) outrace my opponent with damage or B) get my hand size down using discard outlets if I needed to. Turns out, I was correct in my assumption that it wasn’t as good against aggro/Madness decks, but I was wrong about it being easy to get my hand-size down to a manageable number if I needed too. If your deck lacks methods to discard cards and you’re running a control deck, you’re essentially racing against inevitability. You’re being punished for doing what a control deck loves to do – draw cards. In retrospect, I feel I should have somehow sided into a more aggressive deck with a lower curve to beat this card; playing my control deck against it was an exercise in futility.
I still don’t think this card is amazing, but I’m definitely giving it a bit more credit then I initially gave it.
My first impressions of Shadows Over Innistrad have been overwhelmingly positive and I can’t wait until Friday when we’ll finally get a chance to draft it for the first time. I’m very excited to see if SOI Draft is as rich and nuanced as it appears to be from its Sealed environment. If you’re in the Montreal area, Three Kings Loot will be hosting SOI drafts all day on Friday starting at noon, followed by a 6:30 Sealed event. If you’re interested in playing with the new set all day, you should absolutely swing by and check it out. As always, if you liked this article or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the Comments section below!
JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank
Hello fellow Looters! We are in the midst of the final week before Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) releases. The pre-release was this past weekend, and I hope you all had fun playing with the new cards! So with SOI so close, I figured it is time to talk about Standard. There are going to be a lot of changes from this last season and this is one of the benefits, (or detriments, depending on who you ask,) of the Standard Format. Obviously, we won’t know until the cards hit the table (hopefully in sleeves…) but hopefully this will get you thinking about the format.
The biggest way we will see standard change during this rotation is the power reduction of available mana. Now, we are not losing the ability to play multiple colors as there are still plenty of lands in the format (Pain Lands, Battle Lands, Man Lands, The new SOI land cycle, etc.). Let me put it in perspective, though. Currently, with fetch lands and battle lands, it is possible to use one fetch to get one of any four colors and even untapped a good portion of the time. This allowed four color decks like Abzan Blue, Mardu Green, Four Color Rally, and every other deck with an uncreative name to run rampant. To put it in the words of Patrick Chapin, “You don’t have to ask yourself if you can afford to play this card, you have to ask yourself, why not?” Why not splash Jace or Siege Rhino? With the loss of the fetch lands, we are now losing the ability to have such a streamlined mana base. In addition, tri-lands and gain-a-life duels are out the door as well. It is still very possible to run that many colors but you run a heavier risk of stumbling and your deck will be a lot slower with more lands entering tapped. I fully expect to see many more two to three color decks during this standard format, which will be a welcomed change for me.
KHHAAAAN!’s of Tarkir is parting ways with standard and ushering in the slow climb of fetches until Wizards decides to reprint them. It is taking its buddy Fate Reforged with it and, between the two of them, that is a lot of cards (454 to be exact). The most notable cards we are losing from standard, aside from fetch lands, are the hyper-efficient three-color cards. This includes things like Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Abzan Charm, Crackling Doom, Big Knucks, and a bunch of other cards loved by these four-color decks. There was nothing stopping decks from jamming these cards for almost no additional effort and it really crushed the playability of some otherwise great cards. Mana is supposed to be a restriction and I am glad we are returning to a world where more tough deck-building choices need to be made.
Abzan Aggro – Will Abzan completely disappear? Probably not, but with the loss of Khan’s of Tarkir, they are losing a lot of the cards that make the deck super powerful. Warden of the First Tree, Siege Rhino, Anafenza, and Abzan Charm are all rotation which leaves the wedge less supported.
Rally – When a deck loses its namesake, it is usually not going to survive rotation. That being said, most of the other pieces remain short of Grim Haruspex. Depending on what graveyard synergy we see, from Eldritch Moon and with Collected Company still in the format, we could see an efficient creature combo deck remain strong. Plus we still have to deal with Reflector Mage…
Hardened Scales – Same goes with this namesake card. Khans also housed a good number of counter’s matters cards which will squish counter strategies until they are better supported. Counters will go from being a combo to just being… regular I guess. There are still plenty of powerful counter strategies that could make their way into standard.
Most 4/5 Color Decks – They won’t be impossible to build but we definitely will not see as many of them moving forward. That being said, I could probably 100% see a 4 color super friends deck or something similar being in the format.
Tribal (Vampire, Werewolves, and Zombies Oh My!) – There are so many awesome tribal cards that we are seeing from this set. I would not be surprised at all to see Zombies, Spirits, or Werewolves become a playable Standard deck. This being said, I don’t see any of them being top tier. The simple fact is, you limit yourself when building around a specific tribe which at times can cost you a slot that would have gone to a slightly better creature. This won’t stop people from building tribal decks as they are some of the most fun decks to play and they are really well-supported this time around! I could fully believe a Humans, Vampire, or Werewolf deck taking down a GP at least once as well. Eldritch Moon should make this category even strong as it will add cards without causing a rotation.
Reanimator – This was a deck that saw a lot of play in the original Innistrad Standard environment and was very powerful. Ever After and Necromantic Summons are two very powerful spells that bring things straight from the graveyard to the battlefield. I think we need to figure out some better targets as currently most of the powerful effects trigger on casting the creature rather than entering the battlefield. That being said, I am all for another Reanimator deck, (assuming there is hate for it in the format, of course).
Artifact – Color me crazy, but this archetype is something to investigate. Origins is host to all sorts of Artifacts with a high power level. Cards like Thopter Spy Network could take over an entire game and with the introduction of Clues, I think there could be something here. There are not too many constructed playable clue producers, however, in my head I have delusions of tapping six Clues with Ghirapur Aether Grid to have a repeatable Lightning Bolt. You never quite lose that ecstatic brewer in the back of your head. We also still have creatures like Hangarback Walker and all of the various thopter producers as well.
I think the format is going through a well needed change. Normally when a new block rotates in, it has a theme and it is supposed to have hate cards that weakens previous strategies to allow new cards to shine. Battle for Zendikar fell short as it failed to bring much to the table and did little to break the hold that Khan’s of Tarkir had over the format. There was little punishment for player playing tons of colors. Aggro was in too weak a spot as removal was everywhere. Now that Khans is rotating, I am not sure how Standard will look but I am a big fan of keeping things new and exciting which is why I love the Standard format.
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Culminating one of the best spoiler seasons in recent memory, Wizards has finally unveiled the complete set for Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI), which can be found here. The set looks absolutely phenomenal. Powerful cards at all rarity levels and flavour that’s off the charts. I have a feeling this will be one of the most bought, most talked about sets since the original Innistrad.
As always, with the arrival of a new set comes a new season of events, starting with this weekend’s Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease! What is a Prerelease? It’s an event that allows players to jump into the new set one weekend before its official launch date. You’ll be able to purchase, play with and take home cards from SOI before anyone who hasn’t attended a Prerelease event. For that one glorious week, you get to be the object of envy and ire of all your Magic-playing friends who didn’t go to a Prerelease as you brazenly brandish your sweet new loot in their faces. MOO HOO HA HA!
Ahem… I mean… provided that gloating’s your thing, of course.
Before you can let that power get to your head, though, you’ll have to attend a Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease event at your friendly Local Game Store (LGS)! You can sign up for a Prerelease event in-store or even online (provided your store has a website which allows you to do so). Smaller stores may have a limited number of spaces available, so you’ll want to sign up as early as possible if you want to take part in an event.
Prereleases are fun, exciting, and much more casual than almost any other Magic tournaments. There will predictably be some more competitive players that will have laboured over the card gallery prior to arriving hoping for that competitive edge, but those players will fortunately be in the minority. Most players at a Prerelease will be reading the cards for the first time at the event and discovering the set the same way you are: By playing at the Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease.
Everyone will be reading everyone else’s cards, everyone will inevitably be making mistakes, and everyone will be helping each other out as they navigate this return to Innistrad. If you’ve ever wrestled with the desire to dive into a more competitive environment but were unsure of when or how to start, I cannot recommend Prereleases any more than I already am. You should absolutely attend one.
Fellow Bag of Loot contributor Kyle A Massa wrote an article on Monday with some useful Prerelease advice to keep in mind should you decide to attend one. I would highly recommend checking out his article before continuing here.
In addition to Kyle’s tips, here are a few things I have found to work for me. These tricks have aided me for most Limited events: From Prereleases to FNM Drafts to Grand Prix. Keep in mind, you don’t have to do any of these, but I’ve certainly found that doing a few – if not all – of them make events much more enjoyable and much less stressful.
I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing my own Basic lands to Limited events which are already sleeved and ready to go. Bringing your own Basics allows you to forgo joining the mad rush at the land station which often resembles a travelling tour group at an All You Can Eat buffet.
Almost every LGS will have a land station with Basic lands ready for players but believe it or not, I’ve been to a few that didn’t. I’ve also been to LGSs that ran out of a certain land type. One of the reasons stores will run out of Basic lands is that people often forget to return them at the end of an event. Those stores have to refill the land station and sometimes they simply run out of Basics (unless players donate lands to them). Not only does bringing your own Basics help your LGS, not needing to return your Basics at the end of the event is one less thing you’ll have to remember to do before leaving.
Having your Basics pre-sleeved also cuts down on sleeving time and allows you more time to read your new cards during deck building. I often see newer players frantically sleeving their decks during the first five minutes of round one because they took the entire allotment of time during deck-building to read all their cards, build their deck, and figure out their mana base. With your Basics pre-sleeved, you only need to sleeve 22-23 cards instead of 40 and it makes an enormous difference.
Having your own Basics can be a form of personal expression as well. I know a number of players love their full art Basic lands. You can sleeve those and play with them at the Prerelease! Personally, I’ve been using foil Basics as my go-to Limited Basics. Inevitably, I’ll end up playing someone who asks: “Are your Basics foil?” Why, yes, yes they are. Thank you for noticing.
As a rule of thumb, I carry 12 of each Basic which means 60 in total. I keep them in their own dedicated deckbox. While there have been times when I’ve needed more than 12 of one particular type of Basic land, those times have been few and far between.
I’ve been to Prerelease events with anywhere between 4 to 6 rounds plus the time it takes for deck building, (which is usually anywhere between 30-45 minutes). Roughly speaking, you’re looking at a 4-5 hour event. Some stores will hold up to six Prerelease events over the weekend. I’ve done six event marathon weekends before: They’re very tough… Especially if you forget to eat.
Some LGSs have in-store eateries you can purchase food from. Most don’t, so be sure to bring snacks with you or, at the very least, make sure you know where you can purchase food nearby. It is very easy to forget to eat when you’ve been concentrating on Magic for a few hours and getting lost in friendly discussions of new cards. Making sure you’re well fed is not only healthier, but will keep you fresh which will allow you to play better. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of doing multiple Prerelease events, especially if those events are on the same day.
I would also highly recommend bringing water with you to keep yourself hydrated. Make sure your water bottle is distinctive enough to be easily identifiable in case you misplace it at the event. A good water bottle should be easy to carry and must be resealable. The last thing you want is to accidentally pour water all over your brand new cards or worse, the cards of those sitting around you.
Attending multiple prerelease events is a blast until they end and the adrenaline that’s been pushing you through the day comes crashing down. You will have been challenging yourself with complex lines of play and multiple convoluted calculations over numerous lengthy matches. When all is said and done, you will be exhausted.
With this in mind, try to make sure you’re well-rested before attending events. If you want to challenge yourself by participating in multiple events, that’s fine, but understand what you’re getting yourself into. You’re looking at somewhere between 8 to 10 hours of Magic per day.
Remember that you don’t have to do all the events. Nor do you have to finish all the events. After two losses, your chances to win prizes decreases tremendously, so if you’re tired and need to drop to get some rest, no one will fault you for it. I’ve seen players push themselves too hard to marathon through events and those players end up getting sick. Even worse, they’re miserable through the Prerelease, which is the exact opposite outcome you’re hoping for when attending.
Know yourself and your limits. If you’re getting to a point where you’re not having fun, don’t be afraid to turn it in for the day.
Those first few days playing with a new set is incredible and getting the chance to do so with a bunch of like-minded players is exhilarating. If you happen to be in the Montreal area, this is your friendly reminder that Three Kings Loot will be hosting their own Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease events this weekend! If you’re interested in attending one (or more!), you can preregister at the store or online here. As always, if you liked this article or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment in the Comments section below! I wish you all a wonderful Prerelease!
JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank
Ah, the prerelease. The first time we get to play with those shiny new cards. It’s also one of the few times of the year that we get to play Sealed deck (which may or may not be an exciting prospect, depending on your tastes.) Eh, whatever––just hope for a bomb.
If you’ve never been to a prerelease before or just want a refresher, here are some quick tips, tricks, and suggestions for having a good time!
You’ve probably already checked out the spoiler, but it never hurts to go a little deeper. Consider the strengths of the colors, the possible synergies, the cards you’d be thrilled to open and the cards you’d rather not see. For instance, if you made a vampire deck, it might help to consider a hypothetical ratio of discard enablers to madness spells. This helps for faster and better deck construction.
Sealed deck, more so than draft, is a bomb driven format. A bomb is basically a card that, if unanswered, will win you the game by itself. Think Archangel Avacyn, Arlinn Kord, Sigarda, Heron’s Grace–those kinds of cards.
A word of warning: don’t be deceived by rarity. Despite the above examples, a rare (or even a mythic rare) does not a bomb make. Altered Ego is a great example. Sure, it’s a big, splashy spell with a unique effect, and it’s rare. But is it the kind of card that’s going to win you the game all by itself? Eh, probably not.
I see a lot of new players showing up for prereleases, which is outstanding. I think it’s because prereleases are generally a little less intimidating than, say, Modern tournaments. People are usually pretty laid back about the whole thing.
That said, I still see experienced players being totally unforgiving at prereleases. They just roll the new players and then walk away.
Am I saying that you should let the new player win? No, absolutely not. You paid good money to play, so you absolutely have the right to play hard and win. Furthermore, if you let the inexperienced player win, they’re not really learning how to play and they’re not getting any better.
However, if you notice that your opponent made a huge mistake in games one and two, you can definitely try to give a little advice. A lot of new players will appreciate it. You can say something like, “Hey, I’ve found that this works pretty well,” or, “I tried doing this and I love it.” Sometimes it’s tough to give advice without sounding like a know-it-all, but it can make a huge difference.
Maybe this is just a pet peeve, but packaging always seems to gravitate toward the middle of the table, where it clumps and turns into a gigantic mess for the store owners to clean up. You might say, “Who cares? They can just throw it out.” And sure, they can. But remember that these people are giving you a place to play Magic every week, and that they work long hours for not a whole lot.
Do them a favor. Show your appreciation by walking to the trash can and throwing out the wrappers. It’s not that hard.
I think this one’s pretty self-explanatory. Magic is the best game there is––but it’s still just a game. Just go and have some fun. If you win, you win, and if you lose, you lose. The most important part is having a good time.
Have any amazing prerelease stories? Did you flip your Westvale Abbey into Ormendahl? Did you make a successful investigate deck? Did you kill someone with Triskaidekaphobia? Tell us your prerelease story in the comments below!