Embracing The Chaos – Innistrad Cards Worth Playing

Innistrad is a set ripe for Commander play. Which cards is Sheldon most excited about? Which decks will be getting the most love?

First of all, thanks to Cassidy McAuliffe for picking up the reins last week. I thoroughly enjoyed his Gen Con tales. We’ll occasionally go back to the well of guest columnists when opportunities present themselves.

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything like a set review, instead picking out a few cards here and there that I’m going to put into decks. There are enough cards in this flavor-rich set to do a full article on it. I’ve chosen ten Innistrad cards (with a few bonuses for black and blue) from each color that I think are likely to see play and where they’re likely to go if I’m going to play them.


Angel of Flight Alabaster: You have 300+ choices for Spirits. As far as Generals go, the best seem to be Ghost Council of Orzhova or Karador, Ghost Chieftain. I still have yet to build a Karador deck, but it’s definitely right in my wheelhouse. Into: Karador and his Angels?

Dearly Departed: There’s definitely a Human tribal deck coming. There are 239 Human Soldiers alone, so combining the two seems easy. Into: Nothing for now.

Divine Reckoning: Clearly, this card is a boon for Uril, the Miststalker decks or other decks that rely on single, big creatures as opposed to armies. I’m not sure it’s all that great as just another Wrath effect, although the flashback might give it some legs. Into: Phelddagrif.

Intangible Virtue: Toby Elliott probably squealed when he first saw this card, but then realized it doesn’t go in his Ulasht, the Hate Seed deck. Still, Soldier and token decks get a bump. Into: Rith, the Awakener.

Mentor of the Meek: It’s going to get played, but I don’t think it’s going to be as good as some folks hope. That said, in the Rith decks, it goes extremely nicely with Gaea’s Cradle. Into: Nothing for now.

Mikaeus, the Lunarch: The guy is a single-card strategy and goes with the Human theme. I don’t think there’s a great +1/+1 counter strategy in mono-white, so I think I’d try to run this guy with a bunch of Knights, especially the Exemplar to make them indestructible. Into: I might just play him as the General in the mono-white deck I already have.

Paraselene: Mini-Fracturing Gust in white leaves alone the artifacts, which makes it less than half as good as Fracturing Gust (since there are way more artifacts than enchantments in the format), although it means you don’t have to play around wiping out your own artifacts. Probably not replacing Cleansing Meditation for me. Into: Nothing for now.

Silverchase Fox: Recursion is a strong strategy, and using stuff more than once is likely to happen in many games. Keeping rude enchantments from coming back is good beats. Combo the Fox with Karador in that deck, which it seems like I’m threatening to make, to keep away every enchantment you hate. Into: Merieke Ri Berit

Stony Silence: It turns off mana rocks, Disks and O-Stones, Memnarch, and a host of other strong cards. It’s without a doubt Reasonable Protection. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say “opponents” on it, so you’ll have to work around it. Into: Mikaeus.

Unruly Mob: Right into your Human tribe. Skullclamp, anyone? Into: Nothing for now, but I’m pretty sure Toby’s putting him in Ghost Council.


Back from the Brink: There has to be some crazy combo with this. Copying Riftsweeper? Maybe this plus Riftsweeper under Mimic Vat? Into: Intet, the Dreamer.

Cackling Counterpart: I’ve said before that one of the reasons copy abilities are so popular is that they’re cheaper than the thing you’re copying. Cackling Counterpart comes in as one of the cheapest. The downside is you can only copy something you control (but feel free to copy something that you’ve Cloned). The serious downside is that unlike most copy effects, it’s targeted. Into: Riku of Two Reflections.

Deranged Assistant: I’m already playing my techy Milliken in my Sol’kanar the Swamp King deck (where graveyard matters), so I can see adding this there plus adding it to a The Mimeoplasm deck. The tiny toughness gives me some pause, but we’ll see. Into: Sol’kanar the Swamp King

Laboratory Maniac: It’s a combo win, but I can see it as part of a heavily Innistrad-themed Wizard/Zombie deck that just draws like crazy, or maybe some Hive Mind/Windfall combo. Into: Nothing for now.

Lost in the Mist: I’ve discussed previously that I like counterspells that do something else, and this fits the bill quite well. The problem will be finding it room in already-tight decks. I don’t think I’d one-for-one swap it out with Overwhelming Intellect. Into: Thraximundar.

Mindshrieker: Needs to be a Zombie somehow. Fits the Mimeoplasm theme, and I’m willing to bet that it will be a little dangerous all on its own, like as another mill outlet in the Nim Deathmantle/Composite Golem decks. Into: New Mimeoplasm

Rooftop Storm: Dripping with flavor, it’s certainly my favorite card of the set. I started looking at the most expensive Zombies to cast: Bladewing the Risen jumps out at me, but then you have to have other Dragons. Geth is really nice, because that will leave you mana open for activations. It might make me rethink cards like Nefashu and Necrosavant. Rules note: If you’re using it to cast your General, you’ll still need to pay the extra {2}. Into: Lord of Tresserhorn, New Mimeoplasm.

Selhoff Occultist: The guy who just cast Avenger of Zendikar and got Wrathed before he could attack is going to frown. Into: New and old Mimeoplasm.

Snapcaster Mage: Probably combo-rific in some way I haven’t thought of. Into: Nothing for now.

Sturmgeist: I’m on a Maro-Sorcerer kick these days anyway. Into: Phelddagrif

Undead Alchemist: On the surface, it seems like it would go with the Mimeoplasm decks, but the card exiles the creatures its mills. On the other hand, adding it to Tombstone Stairwell means there are Zombies EVERYWHERE, mostly for you. Into: Lord of Tresserhorn, New Mimeoplasm.


Altar’s Reap: As an instant, it’s going to be huge. Keep people from stealing your dudes, trigger your Stalking Vengeance, and so on. The uses for this card will by legion. Into: Kresh the Bloodbraided, Thraximundar.

Army of the Damned: Who cares if they come in tapped? It’s 13 Zombies!!! Into: Lord of Tresserhorn.

Bloodgift Demon: I’ll take the gift of blood any day. Into: Sol’kanar.

Bloodline Keeper: Not too many of the transform cards are going to make the EDH lists, but this one sure will. The Vampire tribal deck is already pretty strong. Adding this makes it stronger. Into: Nothing for now.

Curse of Death’s Hold: At five mana, I might think twice about playing it. At four, I probably wouldn’t. It’s great against all the token strategies, since most of them start as 1/1s and get bigger. It certainly wrecks Avenger of Zendikar and Rhys the Redeemed. Into: Nothing for now, but might end up a metagame choice.

Disciple of Griselbrand: It costs mana, unlike Greater Good or Altar of Dementia, but having another sacrifice outlet, especially in Kresh, will always be a good idea. Sacrificing a giant Lord of Extinction—especially if it triggers Stalking Vengeance—is a swing. Into: Kresh, Thraximundar.

Endless Ranks of the Dead: Plus Tombstone Stairwell plus Undead Alchemist, and we’re just getting silly. Into: Lord of Tresserhorn.

Falkenrath Noble: Seems like a card that people look at when it hits the table but then shrug. “Yeah, that’s not so bad.” Then they get killed. Into: Anything that also has Massacre Wurm.

Heartless Summoning: We’ve chatted about this at Armada Games quite a bit already. To me, it seems worth it. Unless you’re playing one of those token strategies, this is just raw mana to cast fatties with. It also seems like it could be tech with creatures that generate mana for you. Into: Thraximundar.

Liliana of the Veil: She’s inexpensive to cast. Her first ability takes advantage of multiplicative asymmetry. She helps with the “one giant creature” decks. Her ultimate isn’t going to go off that often, but when it does, it will be a wrecking ball. Into: Karrthus

Reaper from the Abyss: A 6/6 flier in black for 3BBB is decent. His ability, especially given his color, is very strong. You can probably back folks into corners with combat—either take damage, or lose your best guy. Into: Thraximundar, possibly Kresh and Karrthus.

Unbreathing Horde: They will be giant. I’m really kind of giddy about the upgrade Lord of Tresserhorn and his Zombies will get from this set. Into: Lord of Tresserhorn.


Balefire Dragon:  That’s a serious ouch coming your way. I predict this guy gets chump blocked more than any other creature in the set. Add Whispersilk Cloak for targeted Wraths. I don’t have a Dragon deck, and this by itself might make it time for one. Into: Karrthus

Blasphemous Act: When it’s worth casting, it’s cheap enough to cast. It will frequently get cast for one mana. Armada’s resident Janky Deckbuilder, Keith Bogart, is probably already looking for his Beasts of Bogardan. Combo with Mark of Asylum. Into: Nothing for now.

Charmbreaker Devils: The second ability isn’t as significant as the first, but it’ll come up. Even though the first one is random, you’re going to get some money back with this. Draw spells in the U/R/x decks are the first thing that come to mind, but red also has some pretty powerful stuff. Into: Nothing for now.

Curse of Stalked Prey: Hello, Animar! This thing was built for that deck. Quite honestly, it’s cheap enough to run in most of your red decks, and note that it works for your opponents’ dudes as well. All I can think of is this: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Far-Side-Gary-Larson/dp/0836211499. Into: Animar.

Heretic’s Punishment: A hugely advantageous card in reanimation strategies, where you’re going to put fatties in the yard anyway, it helps you both get them there and deal some damage while you’re at it. Into: Karrthus, Sol’kanar.

Instigator Gang: I’m all for my attackers getting buffed up, and by +3/+0 is even better. Just sit to the left of the guy playing control. Into: Animar.

Rage Thrower: Holy someone else’s Wrath, Batman! I hate to keep putting things in the light of “bad stuff that can happen after an Avenger of Zendikar,” but there we go. Into: Kresh, Thraximundar.

Rakish Heir: Face it. Vampires are cooler than me and you, not to mention better looking. They deserve the +1/+1 counters. Into: Nothing for now.

Stromkirk Noble: He’s no Skullbriar, but one of the problems I’ve seen with the Vampire tribal decks is that they take some time to get rolling. This gets things started pretty quickly. Maybe in Animar, this guy could provide early counters to later transfer over. Into: Animar.

Traitorous Blood: Trample makes it WAY better than Mark of Mutiny. I still don’t think we’re going to see Bazaar Trader decks, much to my chagrin. Into: Intet


Boneyard Wurm: Sure, occasionally you’ll get blown out by some graveyard removal (or Monday Night Gamer Todd Palmer’s anti-Living Death tech Mnemonic Nexus), but most often, you’re going to get serious value out of the Wurm. Into: Nothing for now.

Caravan Vigil: The new ramp spell (like green needed more), goes perfectly with Sakura-Tribe Elder. Into: Phelddagrif.

Essence of the Wild: Here’s where I say something dismissive, like “he’d be good if he had trample.” Into: Rith, faster than a rabbit finds a girlfriend.

Gutter Grime: Would be a replacement for Mitotic Slime without the ‘nontoken’ part. Nonetheless, it’s still nice protection in your deck for the inevitable Wrath—and the more they kill, the bigger those Oozes get. Into: Nothing for now.

Kessig Cagebreakers: I really like stuff that gets better when your opponents kill your guys. It’s sort of a choice of damnations—get killed by these guys or get killed by those guys. Into: Nothing for now.

Mayor of Avabruck: Buffing the Humans isn’t all that great, but there’s plenty of room for a Werewolf/Wolf tribal deck. Master of the Hunt anyone? Into: Nothing for now, but opens some room for deck ideas.

Moldgraf Monstrosity: I’m okay with the one-shot use (or getting it back with Riftsweeper). Note that getting the two creatures back isn’t dependent on exiling the Monstrosity. If you have some way of getting it out of your graveyard instantly, you’ll still get your guys. If you have something crazy like Vedalken Orrery and Karador, Ghost Chieftain, you could cast the Monstrosity again while the trigger is still on the stack. Into: Karador.

Moonmist: This certainly goes with the Mayor. Note that it’s also an emergency Fog. Into: Nothing for now.

Parallel Lives: Mini- and not-as-broken-Doubling Season, it’s probably the budget answer if you want to make extra guys (who will get still get killed by that Blasphemous Act). Into: Riku of Two Reflections.

Splinterfright: He’s not a Zombie, but he’s probably going into that Mimeoplasm deck anyway. And Karador, once it gets built.


Evil Twin: Sure, you can get rid of Legendary creatures with him, like with the other copy dudes, but copying and then blowing up something saucy seems even better. Into: Thraximundar.

Garruk Relentless: I’m listing him here despite the fact that the spoiler lists him in the green cards because his color identity is green/black. You can’t play him in mono-green decks. I already have two Garruks in Kresh, and I’m not sure there’s room for him. He’s more of a “build around” than a “just put in.” Into: Not sure at the moment.

Geist of Saint Traft: I fully expect to see this as a General with an Angel theme, although obviously can’t go into that Karador deck. Cheap, good ability, decent colors. Into: Nothing for now.

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born: My second favorite card of the set, and I can cast him for free with my first!!! I don’t want to remake the Lord of Tresserhorn deck without the red, but I can certainly see Grimgrin as a General. Into: Lord of Tresserhorn.

Olivia Voldaren: Unfortunate art aside, she will certainly see play, probably as the most popular General in this set. Her casting cost is nice enough that she can fit into nearly any deck of the colors. Into: Kresh?

Creepy Doll: Perhaps in Animar so I can shoot it with Nin? Oh, who am I kidding? Stuffy Doll is way better. Into: Nothing for now.

Graveyard Shovel: More graveyard hate is more better for you. Still not quite as good IMO as Scrabbling Claws, but still worth playing. Into: Nothing for now.

Grimoire of the Dead: Sure, they can see it coming, but if there is no answer for it, it’s crazy good for you. I can see a plan where you get it out and online relatively early, then wait. Once it’s online, you can use it at any time. Gives the Living Death-type effect to non-black colors, which makes me slightly sad—but not sad enough to not use it. Into: Intet, the Dreamer.

Trepanation Blade: Milling opponents is good; having your guy get bigger because of it even better. Into: New Mimeoplasm.

Witchbane Orb: An artifact that gives you hexproof is better than a creature that gives you shroud. And when I was looking up True Believer, I saw Spirit of the Hearth, which is a Cat Spirit that gives you hexproof on a 4/5 flying body. Seems reasonable in your Spirit deck. Now if we could only have more Arcane stuff… Into: Nothing for now.

Gavony Township: I like the art on all the nonbasic lands, but I was hoping for more from the basics. This is about the only one with a non-mana ability that I’d think about using. Into: Currently the only decks that I have where it’d be really useful are Rith and Animar—the latter of which it can’t go in.

Innistrad is a set that is full of delicious flavor. I love the top-down design and some of the ways that the gothic horror themes have come through.

It looks like I’ve promised two new ways to Embrace the Chaos: Mimeoplasm and his Zombies and Karador’s Angels. Look for drafts of them in the upcoming weeks.