Magic’s dark side is back, and it’s about time. Free of the sickly cuteness of Lorwyn, Shadowmoor delivers up a heaping dose of Type 4 goodness. In the past, the best sets for Type 4 have often been defined by a single powerful mechanic. Onslaught block brought Morph which allowed us to play around counter magic and Time Spiral block brought Split Second which gave us spells that we could count on resolving. Shadowmoor bucks this trend and delivers up a massive helping of great cards without having any that utilize the new mechanics.
So, which cards are the best in the world of infinite mana and one spell per turn? As a player of Type 4 you probably want to know what to draft and what sweet new combos to look out for. You’ll get plenty of that here, with the Top 22 cards organized by how high they will usually be drafted. As someone who owns a Type 4 stack and wants to add upgrades, this guide will help you make decisions of what would fit in well with your other cards. The size of your stack will be a major factor in how many of these cards you wish to include. If you maintain a large stack of 500+ cards you’ll probably want to include most of these, while if you run a smaller stack you’ll need to be more meticulous to choose only the things that are really exciting.
I did not include any marginal removal cards in this list. Every Type 4 stack needs enchantment, artifact, and creature removal cards, but you only need so many and they print similar ones in every set. (Example: Smash to Smithereens… not a necessity, but often useful in many stacks)
Alright! Let’s get into it…
22. Mossbridge Troll — This seems pretty cool at first, “Oh, sweet! It always regenerates!” But in Type 4 regenerating creatures often regenerate regardless – you have infinite mana! It does get +20/+20 if you tap a bunch of creatures (unlikely), but it doesn’t even have any evasion abilities to make sure it gets through. This guy is no Dark Depths, that’s for sure!
21. Godhead of Awe — The Godhead is weak by Type 4 standards at 4/4, so the ability had better be good. Turning creatures into 1/1s is a nice little defensive trick and will keep you from getting killed early on in the game. However, it’s going to do the same for all players, so it doesn’t really give you much of an edge. The best defensive cards are ones that protect you and therefore encourage violence between other players at the table. Would I rather have Godhead or Forcefield? They have functional similarities in that I will probably only take 1 damage from most creatures under Godhead, but with Forcefield my opponents will probably not waste time attacking me when they can deal full damage to someone else. In addition, the most important feature of most creatures is their abilities and not the power/toughness; so you’re not going to slap down Godhead to break up some broken combo.
This is a playable effect, but pretty underwhelming. I would only include this in Type 4 stacks that are defined by beefy creatures.
20. Cauldron of Souls — Effects that protect your creatures are often pretty good. Sadly, I don’t think that this card is very effective at protecting creatures. Often in Type 4, creatures will meet their demise due to an effect from a permanent, like Masticore. Cauldron of Souls is not going to save anything from that. Also, the effect only lasts until the end of turn; so once you tap this thing, you open yourself up to all sorts of targeted removal — sometimes your creatures might be targeted just because the Cauldron is tapped and an opponent will want to take advantage of the opportunity. You can throw down targeted removal in response to activating the Cauldron, so the protection it actually provides is pretty weak.
19. Knacksaw Clique — Nowadays most people play with the “Freebie” rule: “If you can play something without playing its mana cost then it does not count as your one spell for the turn.” So supposing you play this rule… is this card any good? It sure seems like it will take a lot of effort to get use out of it. You’ll have to wait for summoning sickness to wear off and then probably attack to make it tap. Meriting these factors, you’ll get to grab one random card off the top of an opponent’s deck. This seems pretty weak to me.
The redeeming feature of this card is that it is a combo with cards that tap things. Pair this with Azorius Guildmage, Rimescale Dragon or Crowd Favorites and, barring any shenanigans, you will win the game. The problem of course is that unlike Glarecaster you will still need to get the Knacksaw off summoning sickness, so I’d probably try to execute this combo by doing something to sneak this creature into play on the last player’s end step; before my turn. Also unlike Glarecaster, this guy isn’t very good on his own. Only include this if you really like combos.
18. Din of the Fireherd — This is a Sorcery, and in Type 4 a Sorcery must be amazing to make the cut. Let me explain. Instants have obvious value in that they are able to be played any time, so Instants can do mediocre things and still be pretty good. Creatures are slower but the can be snuck into play, reanimated, and other such things, so creatures need to be better than Instants. Enchantments and Artifacts are much harder to get into play, but remain in play and do awesome effects, so they just need to be better than most creatures. Sorceries are the hardest to resolve and have a temporary effect, so a Sorcery better be pretty freakin’ sweet for you to ever want to draft it higher than another card type.
Case in point – Din of the Fireherd. This will give you a 5/5 creature, which is weak since most beaters in Type 4 clock in around 6/6. In addition, it is going to Diabolic Edict one of your opponents and Crack the Earth on them. It’s nice that this can be used to destroy lands which can be pretty annoying, and it’s also nice that it can kill creatures that have protective abilities like regeneration. This card is awesome if you happen to have a small army of Black dudes, but that seems unlikely. Uriel Kirstein, who plays a lot of Type 4, argues that a good midsized creature is deceptively valuable. It’s not crazy good, so it doesn’t seem worthy of using removal against. Uriel plays with a very large stack where cards like this may be very effective, especially when playing with 10 or more players — let’s face it, with a lot of players in the game most permanents won’t last long and if you bleed out a removal card with Din of the Fireherd, then it easily becomes a three-for-one.
I still feel like I want to draft cards that are solid, not cards that are good because they have less threatening effects. I also feel like if someone used this guy against me, I would quickly kill the token as an act of retribution for killing my creature and/or land. As a comparison, I could have Twisted Justice instead which would have a similar effect. The difference being, I would get to draw a bunch of cards — this seems a lot better.
As a Sorcery I don’t feel like this is quite amazing enough for my Type 4 stack, especially since there are plenty of Instants available with similar effects. However, some slightly less powerful stacks might like it. It’s funny — if this were a creature card with an equivalent comes-into-play ability, I would have a completely different opinion of it. I think I’d rather just have some sort of Wrath of God, in most scenarios.
17. Worldpurge — Now here’s a Sorcery with some power! Returning everything to hand is very strong in Type 4 due to the one spell per turn rule. Sometimes, blowing up everything is a really good idea, particularly if a player has a lot of protective cards out. This isn’t quite as good as Obliterate, but I highly doubt they will print another uncounterable mass-destruction spell soon.
The issue is that I have for a long time played with cards like these – Decree of Annihilation, Akroma’s Vengeance, and Sway of the Stars. I can count on one hand how many times those spells have resolved. The thing about massive board clearing is that often you don’t want to do it, and when you do it is often contested by the other players. Now these cards are a good bit different from Worldpurge, sure, and the primary difference is that two of them have cycling (so they are often pitched to draw a new card early on), but I don’t think that makes a huge difference in why these haven’t been cast much. Worldpurge falls into a similar category; you probably won’t want to cast it often, and when you do — good luck.
Still, there’s no question that this is a desirable effect, and Worldpurge does it in a new, fresh way. I’m sure this will be included in a lot of stacks.
16. Mirrorweave — This card has some potential. I haven’t been able to figure out how to use it well just yet. At each Prerelease I attend I see this guy, Mason, who is a big Type 4 fan. He was really excited about this card. Obviously, this is a killer combat trick — get your creatures through unblocked and suddenly they turn into the biggest monster on the board. I can’t imagine the look on your opponent’s face if you Morph up a Krosan Cloudscraper and then the Mirrorweave it to make all creatures 13/13. That would be sweet. It also can be used to help remove creatures that are hard to kill. Turn everything into a 1/1 Goblin token and then cycle Decree of Pain. It doesn’t really matter what the creatures were before that… they’ll be dead.
The big problem with this card is that it can’t hit Legendary creatures. This would be great if I could just target a Legend with it and have it Wrath the board. Add in the fact that a large percentage of Type 4’s creatures are Legendary and this card does appear to be pretty narrow. I also worry that the effect can make for some really confusing game states and I usually would like to avoid that.
Mirrorweave is by no means great, but it will appeal to some people because of its unique properties. There may actually be some great combos with this I haven’t thought of yet, but in the end I think this card is just a bit too limited.
15. Repel Intruders — Strictly superior to Remove Soul. Being limited to countering creatures is fairly weak but at least you can play this to get the 1/1s in an emergency situation where there isn’t a spell to counter.
14. Knollspine Dragon — In order to be a good creature in Type 4, first and foremost it needs decent abilities. To be a good beater the creature should have some way of protecting itself or be extremely massive (like Cognivore). Knollspine Dragon is sizeable at 7/5, but that’s really not big enough to make up for not having regeneration or a similar ability. Luckily, the comes-into-play ability isn’t bad. You can certainly use this to draw a lot of cards, especially if you use something to put this into play at Instant speed at an opportune moment. Of course, you may not want to discard your hand, in which case there may never be an opportune moment to play this guy.
This creature really treads the line of what is good enough to include in a Type 4 stack. He’s almost a good enough beater, and almost a good enough card just on merit of his ability. The question is whether or not being “almost good enough” at two things is good enough for inclusion? I think this is probably better than many pure beatdown cards like Serra Avatar, and will be a good replacement to many similar cards. Also, this card promotes more of an aggro strategy, which many players enjoy.
13. Rage Reflection — You have the Green reflection which is useless, and the White reflection which is too narrow — how about the Red one? Rage Reflection really favors an aggressive strategy. You’re going to need creatures to make this work. In my experience it is not usually important for the creatures to be big enough to actually kill other creatures in combat, so this will primarily be used to ramp up the damage that your guys do to an opponent. Two 5/5’s would be enough to kill someone, and that’s pretty serious since most of your good beaters will often have at least 6 power. The downside is a little less obvious — if you have this and you have a couple guys, suddenly your creatures become quite threatening and become quick targets for removal. Still, if you already have a couple creatures out the turn you play this, you’ll probably get to run at least one player over. Not terrible.
12. Woodfall Primus – Here’s a nice beefy creature that has a great comes-into-play ability. I used to play with Desert Twister, and this is like Desert Twister on crack. The Persist on this guy is just icing on the cake. I’d happily run this card if it only worked once! Creatures are much easier to resolve than Sorceries, and there are all kinds of great tricks you can do with this guy — see Mistmeadow Witch, for instance.
11. Put Away — I wish this would return a card in any graveyard to its owner’s deck… that would put it much higher on the list. Oh well. As it stands, it’s a solid counter with a relevant bonus. Pretty good in my book.
10. Thought Reflection — The best thing about this card is that it is deceptively good. On the surface it looks like this is going to be slow to deliver the rewards. Just like Debtors’ Knell, you might not get to use this until it gets the whole way around to your next draw step, and let’s face it, Debtors’ Knell is a much bigger effect than just drawing one more card. The fact that this might not do much makes it seem as though using a counter on it is a waste. Would you counter Archivist? Probably not. By the time that guy draws you two cards, an eternity will have passed.
We all know that this has the potential to do a lot more than Archivist. Whispers of the Muse or Blast from the Past are pretty broken with this out there. It’s actually pretty good with just a couple of cantrips, or even just a few cycling cards. Cycling sounds pretty good when it draws two instead of one, and you can reap the rewards of that immediately. I love to open the game with a couple of cards that aren’t too threatening but help set me up to survive into the late game. Thought Reflection fills that role nicely.
9. Fracturing Gust — Here we have an Instant that has Sorcery-like abilities. I can guarantee you that if this were a Sorcery I would certainly consider adding it, but as an Instant this is an auto include. You even gain life from this — amazing.
8. Puppeteer Clique — This is one that takes a little more effort. This is not quite Chainer, Dementia Master or Dimir Doppleganger, but the ability to return a creature from an opponent’s graveyard is pretty good. There are a couple of cool things you should be aware of here: first is that the ability happens when he comes into play, so you don’t need to tell everyone what you intend on doing with the Puppeteer Clique once it resolves. Often, your opponents may not realize what you’re about to do with this and will let it resolve. Next, the creature doesn’t get removed from game until the end of your turn. That’s particularly important with the Persist because if the Clique reanimates something on another player’s turn it could be around for a while before it needs to go away.
I think one of the best uses for this would be to reanimate a card with a Masticore-like effect which can blow up all of your opponents’ creatures and then the Clique itself, allowing you to reanimate the biggest monster out there, which also allows you to swing with it uncontested.
7. Counterbore — This is a great counterspell. It combines some of the best features of many other counters…. It removes the card from the game, which is pretty good against Flashback, Recover, and anything that looks like a good target for reanimation. It lets you see their deck, which can be very useful for planning other strategies, like deciding who to target with Bribery. And the most important feature is that it reveals their hand. In Type 4 it is important to be able to bluff. If you have nothing, it’s important to not look vulnerable and if you have something great you will probably need to keep it a secret if you intend on making your strategy work. Once your hand is revealed, the cat’s out of the bag. I talked to Kevin Cron about this recently and he was lamenting about how he needed to start valuing Minamo’s Meddling highly because of how strong it is to make someone give away all their secrets. If you were holding Mischievous Quanar then it’s likely to get countered when you play it as a Morph, and if you have a killer instant that you were waiting for a good opportunity to play (like Chord of Calling) then suddenly the other players will be very cautious about letting you have a free play. Heck, if your hand is really good then the other players may rally and try to take you out immediately. The bottom line is that it is really difficult to accomplish your plans in a game of Type 4 when everyone knows what they are.
6. Wound Reflection — Wow, this is a beating. You read it right, all of your opponents are going to take double damage. Urza’s Rage is suddenly fatal, Inferno has the potential to kill several players, and it’s even good to amplify things like Infernal Spawn of Evil (and Infernal Spawn Jr.) that just chip away at the life total. Plop this thing down and watch your opponents die.
There are a couple of problems with this. First of all it’s an extremely threatening card so I imagine it will be difficult to get it to resolve and stick around. There will be an entire table of people there that have a vested interest in countering this thing. The other problem is that the damage is done at the end of turn. So if you blast someone with an Urza’s Rage, they still have until the end of turn to destroy the Wound Reflection before they would be dealt the lethal damage.
If you’re smart you can use this to your advantage. Try attacking someone on your turn, preferably someone who is being a nuisance whom players would like see dead. Deal enough damage that Wound Reflection would kill him and then cast it on your second main phase. Obviously, that player will have an objection to this, but maybe you can rally support from others at the table. Then you can unleash your Inferno on the next turn…
5. Faerie Macabre — Graveyards are good in Type 4 – See Puppeteer Clique and our Number 3 here, and that’s just from this set. There’s also the Incarnations like Genesis or Glory, spells with Flashback and Recover… It doesn’t matter what’s in your Type 4 stack, there are likely to be a number of effects that abuse the graveyard. The Faerie will take care of those cards at Instant speed and without costing you your spell for the turn — this is huge. Being able to block someone’s abuse of the graveyard is an important ability that appears on few cards, and Faerie Macabre is the only card that does it when you have already played your one spell for the turn.
4. Knollspine Invocation — An upgrade to the already overpowered Pyromancy, this might be too powerful for a lot of Type 4 stacks to handle. If it manages to hit play, it is highly likely that one or more players will die. With Pyromancy, the player controlling it had to lose the cards at random, so they might lose something good if they just started blasting players. Now you can just discard whatever you don’t need and turn it into burn.
I would only include this in a stack where this is on par with the other cards, and even then really powerful stacks should be careful. There is a killer combo with “having lots of cards,” which is not too hard to achieve. A little Vexing Shusher action can see this thing into play, or a late game Decree of Silence can probably get it in. This card should rarely resolve, but if it does, look out.
3. Memory Plunder — This is obviously only good if your Type 4 rules allow the targeted card to be played. The nice thing about a card like this is that you really don’t have to explain to new players that you play with the “Freebie” rule because it is very intuitive here — why would this card be included if it didn’t work? Being able to play Instants and Sorceries from an opponent’s graveyard is incredibly powerful. At worst, this will easily be a counterspell when you need it. At best… well, at best this is the best Instant or Sorcery that anyone has cast this game. I don’t think I need to explain any further why that’s good. You can’t draft every card you want, so grabbing a “wildcard” like this is a great way to fix holes in your draft. Watch out for the following play: “Oh, everyone has played a card this turn? I’ll cast Memory Plunder targeting something broken.” I’d say this is a strong first pick card.
2. Vexing Shusher — Making things uncounterable is probably one of the most valuable abilities in all of Type 4. This guy has a nice added benefit of being uncounterable himself, which assures him first pick status. The problem with this guy is pretty obvious — his 2/2 body is extremely fragile. This hasn’t prevented other little guys from having a strong effect on the game, like Azorius Guildmage for instance. I can think of lots of games where that guy was effective and he isn’t even uncounterable. The solution is to just make sure you have some sort of protection for this guy before you play him. Get Armored Guardian, Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, Privileged Position, Glory etc into play and on the next turn just drop this guy in there.
Remember that you can make any player’s spell uncounterable – so you can certainly make a lot of friends with this one, as your opponent’s have to play “Mother May I” when countering spells. This guy is also a great thing to bring into play with Protean Hulk; you may even be able to bring in something to protect him at the same time.
1. Mistmeadow Witch — I don’t even know where to start with this guy. First of all, he gives all of your creatures the opportunity to dodge removal, including himself. Second, he can move opponent’s creatures out of the way so that yours can get through. Third, he allows you to reuse comes-into-play abilities. This is particularly sweet with the new Persist cards as the -1/-1 counter will disappear when it returns to play, so paired with a “Masticore” effect you could get two uses per turn! You can even use this to return creatures to your control that were stolen by other players. If you need to block, you can remove your creatures from combat after damage is on the stack. It kills token creatures, including those created by Crush of Wurms and Dark Depths. It ruins Morph creatures that have triggers when they flip up, including Mischievous Quanar.
Why is it Number 1?
This card is simply amazing, as the effect is great on both offense and defense. Players will be forced to expend resources so they can find a split second card to defeat this guy. Vexing Shusher is great, but he’s fragile and honestly doesn’t have the sweeping range of abilities that the Witch has. You can kill Vexing Shusher easily – Mistmedow Witch is an instant nightmare.
So Shadowmoor really delivers a lot of great new Type 4 cards, and the Top 10 or so will certainly be in stacks for years to come. Vexing Shusher will allow some things to resolve that probably shouldn’t, and Memory Plunder gives us a new tool to get at cards we were unable to draft. Faerie Macabre offers up a great defensive spell that has the unique bonus of not counting as your one spell per turn. Finally, we have Mistmedow Witch, who I can almost guarantee will have a strong effect on a number of games. Many strategies will revolve around getting the Witch into play.
For the dark side, Shadowmoor is awfully good!