We’re at the tail end of another spoiler season and it’s high time we started talking about Magic‘s newest offering: Eldritch Moon. Part two of the Shadows Over Innistrad block attempts to up the ante with terrifying cosmic – in lieu of gothic – horror and some thrilling new cards.
The story of Eldritch Moon is unravelling at a frantic pace with Jace reuniting with his League of Superfriends to protect Innistrad from succumbing to the cosmic frenzy of the incomprehensible Eldrazi.
Wait. Hold on a minute… Didn’t we just finish this exact same story in Battle for Zendikar? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: While Wizards is certainly adept at making one of the greatest cards games on Earth, their creativity in storytelling is sometimes a little lacking. Predictably, the Big Bad of Eldritch Moon was the only Eldrazi Titan noticeably absent at the conclusion of BFZ. Emrakul’s presence on the plane is the reason people, places and things on Innistrad are being warped and deformed into grotesque versions of themselves and while the threat of the Eldrazi might not be as menacing as it used to be since we discovered how easily they can be defeated in Battle for Zendikar, there’s still plenty of other things to get excited for in Eldritch Moon.
What they may lack in plot and originality, Wizards certainly makes up for it with strong flavour and exciting new mechanics. They’ve gone all-in with their concept of cosmic horror and it shines through not only in the art and flavour text of almost every card, but also in one of their more interesting new mechanics: Meld. Meld allows you to physically combine two different cards to form one massive new card in a mechanic often seen in other card games but never before in black bordered Magic.
Meld is certainly one of Magic‘s flashier mechanics but I tend to be more excited by simpler, idea prompting cards than I am by classic value creatures or clear cut powerful spells. I’m often inspired by and gravitate towards cards that allow me to build interesting and creative decks. Traditionally, Wizards tends to lead spoiler seasons with their marquee creatures and Planeswalkers – as they did with their Day One reveal of Emrakul, the Promised End – but I found myself being much more excited toward the end of this season when they unveiled a handful of incredibly interesting “Build Around Me” cards and/or cards playing in fresh new design space. Let’s take a look at some of the more recently revealed cards I believe are particularly noteworthy.
I absolutely love cards like Sigarda’s Aid.
It plays in design space that many of the pros abhor but I’m absolutely enamoured with: Enchantments and Equipment. Some of my favourite decks have been Enchantment/Enchantress decks and giving Auras Flash seems like a fantastic addition to those decks. The reason pro players dislike Enchantments and Auras is two-fold: 1) They’re usually slow (since they’re most often played on your turn) and 2) Auras in particular open you up to 2-for-1s (i.e. when you lose two cards to your opponent’s one card). Auras typically lack some sort of resiliency to them, meaning if your opponent can remove the creature enchanted with an Aura, you’ve lost two cards – the creature and the Aura – to your opponent’s one removal spell.
Sigarda’s Aid addresses a lot of these tribulations. By giving Auras Flash, they become no different from traditional Instant speed combat tricks. Did they block your 2/2 with their 3/3? Not a problem: Flash in Wolfkin Bond and your 2/2 is now a 4/4. You’ve now gained value that you might have lost if you played the Aura on your turn and had the creature removed during your end step. Another cute trick to Flash in could be a card like Defang on your opponent’s attacking creature. Giving cards that people usually play at Sorcery speed the ability to be cast at Instant speed can lead to a lot of very fun and challenging interactions.
As if giving your Auras the ability to cast them at Instant speed wasn’t enough, you can do the same with your Equipment spells as well as attach Equipment right onto a creature without even paying Equip costs. That seems amazing. Argentum Armor goes from a 6 mana to cast, 6 mana to equip, 12 mana total investment to a 6 mana Instant speed combat trick. That’s just dirty. In Modern, all the Swords of X & Y become that much better because they bypass not only the need for them to be cast during your turn but the requirement to be equipped during your turn as well.
I honestly feel this is a fantastic card and I’m really looking forward to seeing what types of decks are built around it. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see players trying to break this card because of the incredible power it represents. I feel like this is the card that Enchantment and Equipment decks have been waiting for. Wizards, if we can someday get this card’s abilities onto a creature, preferably a Cat, I’d be ecstatic.
Multiplayer formats aren’t my forte, but I’d like to talk about this little gem here.
I think it’s hilarious.
Granted, this card doesn’t seem like the optimal pick in a 1v1 game by any means. It comes down on turn 7 and does a whole lot of nothing when it finally does. You’ll get some fun shenanigans maybe, assuming your opponent casts at least one spell per turn and assuming they don’t reveal a land off the trigger. Not great at all.
In multiplayer games, this card seems insane. In a 4v4 game, you’ve got three times the amount of opponents to potentially trigger its ability. Not only that, but players can trigger it multiple times by playing spells on their opponents turns. I can’t even image what the game would look like with two to four of these in play. I have a feeling this card will create some rather silly board states rather quickly. The chaotic randomness to it makes me feel like Mind’s Dilation should have been a Blue and Red spell. It certainly feels like it has Izzet potential.
I’m quite sure this won’t find a home in Standard barring the most janky of FNM decks – which is fine; more power to you my Brewmaster Brethren – but I would definitely hang on to a few copies of this card to at least trade with your Commander or multiplayer Cube playing friends. This is exactly the type of effect those players love to dabble with.
There’s definitely something strange in this last card.
This is an effect that we’ve never seen before in Magic and I really hope it plays well, because on the surface, it looks hysterical. Green has had the ability to make copies of its own creatures before with cards like Essence of the Wild, Giant Adephage, Spawnwrithe and Sprouting Phytohydra. This, however, is the first time you can turn your opponent’s creatures into copies of one of your creatures. Turn all of your dangerous creatures into relatively harmless 1/3s? Yes, please.
Getting First Strike onto this creature seems essential; that way, he can turn bigger creatures into versions of himself without dying post combat damage. Be mindful that when he deals damage to your opponent’s creatures, they’ll become 1/3s with 1 damage marked on them. If you have a 2 damage burn spell or an effect that lowers their toughness by 2, you’ll be able to kill their creature.
I’ll be honest and say that I’m slightly disappointed that Permeating Mass doesn’t work with Fight effects. Building a deck based around this guy and cards like Rabid Bite to slime all of my opponent’s creatures is something I would have absolutely tried to do. Perhaps if this card plays well, we’ll have an updated version in the future.
That’s all we have time for with this edition of Spoiler Weeks. Did you enjoy the article? Let us know in the Comments section below! We’ll be looking at Eldritch Moon a lot more in the coming weeks including a Cracking Moon article where we’ll crack some packs of EMN. If you’re in the area, Three Kings Loot will be hosting three Eldritch Moon Prerelease events on 16th and 17th July! You can preregister for them online now!
JP Vazquez – Optimum Jank
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
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
A new set means new promos, and there are some exciting-looking ones this time around! Let’s take a look at the Shadows over Innistrad Promos!
Angels are sweet, and eight-drop angels with incredibly-powerful abilities seem tailor-made for limited and EDH. You know what else is great for EDH? Awesome promo foils. Make sure to get one at your pre-release for your Mael deck.
I actually prefer the regular art flavour-wise, but a foil double-sided card seems sweet, and this art is certainly much more aggressive-looking.
Most of these seem like limited bombs and nothing else, but keep an eye on Soul Swallower. Four mana for a 6/6 trampler is nothing to sneeze at, and this guy does demand an answer if you have your graveyard set-up. Picking up a few intro packs to foil out your swallowers doesn’t seem like a bad idea, given the power level.
The alternate art is sweet, and two-mana madness enablers are always keeping an eye on.
Speaking of Madness cards, hello friends! Attacking for 7 on turn three seems like something I want to do, and even if the bloodseeker turns back into a 1/3 you still have your 4/3. Also, look how cool this art is. At the very least, you can give these out as passive-aggressive gifts to your local rowdy youngsters.
Incredible art + incredible card = make sure you top 8 your Game Day. Saving one mana off of Utter End is huge, and this card will definitely see play in most decks that can cast it.
Avacyn just doesn’t seem like she’s having the greatest day here, does she? This mat looks sweet, and is yet another reason to make sure you’re at your local Game Day.