Compulsive Research – A Two-Faced Look at Innistrad

They’re real, they’re confirmed as “double-face cards” (twenty of ‘em), and they’re complicated. Let’s ask some questions about double-face cards, and get into the flavor of ’em!

So there was a Magic party and I wasn’t invited. Reports from
attendees suggest music, drinks, unselfconscious attempts at dancing, and a model dressed as Liliana. (Though
I’ve seen no evidence of a male model dressed as Garruk — tsk tsk!) There were also spoilers…lots and lots of spoilers. Preview weeks are also in
full force, and Mark Rosewater long-awaited article on “Mechanic X” made its bow on Monday. Read
it now if you haven’t; otherwise, much of this discussion (and the many references to musical numbers*) won’t make any sense at all.

The spoilers from the party were fairly standard to start. Curses? Auras that have “Enchant Player”? Okay, cool. “Fight” to rename creatures swapping
damage directly, outside of combat? Once I get the keyword down, it’ll save space. A flashback to flashback? Returning keywords are “in” now, and it
fits with the gothic horror flavor of the set. Morbid as a genuinely new mechanic? Seems fine.

Wait…two-sided cards? Are you serious?

They’re real, they’re confirmed as “double-face cards” (twenty of ‘em), and they’re complicated. (Check out the mechanics page for more information.) I’ll leave Constructed
applications to those who are more knowledgeable — but I’m plenty willing to take a crack at the flavor of these cards and others that have been
spoiled for Innistrad. Put on your Vorthos cap,let’s do the Time Warp again, and come sail away with me!

Day and Night…
Night and Day

(Yes, I just followed a Styx reference andRocky Horror with aFrank Sinatra standard drawn from a Cole Porter musical. I’m not naming the musical. Too many potential jokes.)

Now where was I? Oh, yes, the double-faced “transform” cards of Innistrad. Abominations hatching, bats turning into vampires, werewolves in
abundance…it’s all flavorful, no doubt, with a more “classic” horror theme than many modern portrayals. (Mark Rosewater article specified “1950 and
before” — and while there are some obvious exceptions like Night of the Living Dead-style zombies, it largely holds true.) Think
classic books and films such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, and The Wolf Man, rather thanInterview with the Vampire or Thriller, much lessBuffy the Vampire Slayer or Twilight.** (These aren’t Stephenie Meyer’s sparkling vampires, though apparently there have been Buffy references in Magic before…)

There are a few details that still aren’t clear:

  • Will the “day and night” symbols mean anything beyond “first state” and “second state” in unrevealed cards, or future sets?
  • How do the rarity distributions of double-faced cards work in price and practice? (Mark Rosewater said on Twitter that every pack will contain a double-faced card, and the article notes that the
    double-faced card always replaces a common, but the double-faced cards themselves are of different rarities.)
  • How flavorful is the gameplay? Mark Rosewater has been gushing about the gameplay, and he and his team have earned the right to a fair
    hearing. I’m not going to lose my head and scream “Terrible, terrible!” without having touched a single card.

That said, there are a couple of important questions that have gone unanswered. I’ll do my best to fill in the gaps.

Q1) What’s the best Vorthos solution to playing with double-sided cards?

A1) The two options, as laid out in the Double-Faced Card Rules: “To put a double-faced card into your deck, you have two options: You can put your
entire deck in opaque card sleeves, as many players already do, or you can use the checklist card provided in many Innistrad packs. If you’re using
checklist cards to represent any of the double-faced cards in your deck, you must use checklist cards to represent all of them.”

To me, protecting cards is the smart move, and the front of the card matters more than the back. Sure, plain sleeves are kind of boring, but have you
seen the checklist card? Bo-ring! It doesn’t get much more
Melvin than that. It’s open-letter time:

Dear StarCityGames.com,

For the Vorthos among us, please get those
Magic Card Back Ultra-Pro Sleeves
back in stock ASAP.


Someone Who Has Spent Way Too Much Money With You

The bottom line is that you should find sleeves you like and stock up on them. If you’re not used to sleeved decks, get used to them. As long as you
play with cards from Innistrad, you’ll find it better to use sleeves you enjoy than to fiddle around with checklist cards and swaps. For Constructed,
where durability is a major factor, I like the KMC Matte Blue sleeves. As
for Limited, when my lucky Bacon sleeves from my Draft Open win
wear out, I’ll probably buy another pack.

(I’m going to break from my flavor focus here to say that despite assurances from Wizards that they’ve thought everything through on booster drafts,
the very idea of open information in a booster draft seems mighty screwy to me. I’m calling this one: for high-level draft events which use draft
repacks, checklist cards and laminated sheets of Oracle text are replacing double-faced cards, at least for the draft itself. The danger of “signaling”
with a double-faced card laid on top of the draft pile is just too great otherwise.)

Q2) Regarding double-faced cards, which area of play concerns you more, the tournament hall or the kitchen table?

A2) Thanks, straw questioner! Totally the kitchen table. Many players buy Magic: the Gathering through non-specialized retail, such as Wal-Mart and
Target. Reports from Mark Rosewater are thateach pack of Innistrad will have a double-faced card, but only three-fourths of packs will contain a corresponding checklist card (in the
land slot, no less). This feels wrong to me; kitchen-table players eventually will have more double-faced cards than checklist cards that they can put
in their doubtlessly-unsleeved decks. Tournament players will adapt, but I’m worried about how many kitchen-table players will.

Q3) Why would Wizards print a Magic: the Gathering card that doesn’t mention “Magic: the Gathering” anywhere on it?

A3) As far as I can tell, the Innistrad double-faced cards are the first tournament-legal Magic: the Gathering cards not to have the standard
tome-and-logo back. Wizards must’ve thought the benefits outweighed the drawbacks, and certainly, the risks of losing brand identity are smaller now,
eighteen years into Magic’s existence, than they were earlier in the game’s history. Still, a person who doesn’t know about Magic could pick up any of

these three cards

, look it over, and still not have any idea that he or she was handling a Magic card. That makes me uneasy.

Q4) Are there effectively eight different rarities in Innistrad?

A4) From Mark Rosewater article on double-faced cards: “The double-faced card takes the slot of a common (the key reason the checklist took the place
of a land over a common), even though there are double-faced cards of every rarity.” So there are regular commons, regular uncommon, regular rares,
regular mythic rares, double-faced commons, double-faced uncommon, double-faced rares, and double-faced mythic rares. That makes eight. Oh, and then
there are premium versions of all of them.

Uh…we’re kind of getting into Yu-Gi-Oh! territory here, aren’t we?


There’s more to the Innistrad spoilers than just double-faced cards, though. Let’s get to some of the other flavor highlights, as well as
non-double-faced aspects of double-faced cards.

Tell Me More, Tell Me More!

Okay, I promise, “Summer Nights” is the last
of the musical numbers until the end. (I don’t even like Grease, but
the lyric was too good to pass up.)

Rapid-fire thoughts, one card per color (or lack thereof):

Elite Inquisitor
(and the Game Day promo version)

Definitely on the “zealot” side of white’s “zealotry and hopeful inspiration” theme. And what do you do for fun? A generation and an
interplanar kidnapping incident later, he found himself hosting a dystopian cable game show.

Murder of Crows

The name literally means “a group of crows.” Somebody must’ve been saving that name up for
years. It’s just too good. Of course, this may mean that “a musket of lyrebirds” is just around the corner…

Diregraf Ghoul

A fun little twist on the classic Drudge Skeletons flavor text. It’s good to see that twisted humor transcends planes, and that “dead body jokes” are a
common aspect of all worlds with such things. Maybe that Joseph Campbell fellow was onto something

Village Ironsmith | Ironfang

Dude looks a little too brawny to be a 1/1, even a first striker. That’s a pretty witty pair of flavor texts for a red card, though. The amount of
humor I’m seeing in the way the horror tropes are played with has me a little nervous, though I don’t think Wizards is going to descend into the
full-on camp of, say, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein .

Gatstaf Shepherd | Gatstaf Howler

This double-faced card marks the Magic debut of Mark Evans, a talented illustrator for other CCGs. I like what I’ve seen of his work, and I hope he
stays on beyond Innistrad.

Creepy Doll

My new favorite “noodle implements” flavor text. The better your imagination,
the worse the picture in your head as you imagine what exactly went down between the doll, the shears, and the town magistrate…

Every card I’ve seen so far has been dripping with flavor, and I love it. Moonmist has the flavor Tanglesap wished it could have. The Ghost Quarter reprint makes perfect sense, and the concept of a “ghostly
urban zone” transplants easily from Eastern Europe (the Ravnica setting) to Central and Western Europe (which is the lens for most of the horror tropes
of Innistrad). I want to get these cards in my hands and enjoy the game play experience. One thing players won’t feel about this set is “neutral” —
Innistrad is going to be love-it-or-hate-it.

I want to love this set. Bring it on!

Oh, and there’s just one more thing

Best Song I Haven’t Mentioned Yet

I can hear it now: “He’s tried to inflict Frank Sinatra, John Travolta, Rocky Horror, Styx, and Michael Jackson on us already! What’s next?” What’s
next is “Keelhauled,” by Alestorm. If
you’re scared to click the link, ask yourself, “Do I want to listen to a Scottish ‘pirate metal’ band that combines violins and keytars in its
absurd-yet-awesome sound?” Then answer “yes” and click the link. Innistrad may be a horror-themed block, but pirates are in this year.

As always, thanks for reading.


on Twitter

* – Mark Rosewater made a stealth The Sound of Music reference in his article; what he can start, I can run into the ground.

** – That Bella ended up on “Team Edward” (vampire) was just laughable. It should’ve been “Team Jacob” (werewolf) all the way. It’s very simple: I can
accept a teenage werewolf who doesn’t know any better thinking Bella’s a catch. A vampire who’s had well over half a century to look around, though?
What’s he thinking? For that matter, why’s a ninety-year-old vampire checking out high school girls? That’s just creepy.