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