Investigating Shadows Over Innistrad

GerryT can be trusted when it comes to format analysis. Being inside the walls at Wizards of the Coast has made him one of the most trusted sources of what Shadows over Innistrad will bring to the tournament table!

SCG Tour <sup>®</sup>Indianapolis: March 11-13!” border=”1″></a></div>
<p>I woke up at 7AM on Sunday and didn’t get to sleep until nearly 24 hours later, although at least it was in my own bed. My adventures at #GPDC ended in a min-cash finish but the maximum amount of fun with my #WelcomeToTheChOC teammates. </p>
<p>There’s little time to rest with #SCGINDY this weekend, but it’s a Standard format that’s about to rotate, a Modern format where I would play Eldrazi, and a Legacy format where I would play Eldrazi. My decks are built for me. Thankfully, #MTGSOI is right around the corner, which means I’ve got plenty to write about.</p>
<p>For a great reference on what’s leaving Standard, check out Ari Lax’s <a href=article.

The Mana

One of the main things dictating what you can and can’t do in a format is the mana. At the moment, we don’t know of any new two-color lands in #MTGSOI (except for the enemy-colored Coastal Towers, which no one is excited to play with), and everything will likely change if there are dual lands.

Right now, it looks like one- or two-color decks are going to be the norm. Playing three colors appears to be very difficult, but I’ve already sketched out some manabases that look reasonable, at least if the power level of the deck is worth it.

Here’s hoping for at least an additional cycle of allied two-color lands.

The Cards

As of this writing, only one-third of the set is spoiled. Overall, that’s not many cards, yet there’s already so much to talk about.

Let’s start with the planeswalkers.

Nahiri either starts at six loyalty or takes something out on her way in. Once she’s on the battlefield, it becomes less and less likely that she’ll be able to destroy anything, but you can use that to your advantage. If your opponent isn’t able to attack at all due to fear of Nahiri’s retaliation, that’s mostly a win for you.

The other upside of Nahiri is that she’s an outlet for madness. That seems to only be relevant in Grixis colors, so if you want to use Nahiri as a madness engine, your options will be slim unless you branch out of red.

Sylvan Advocate is going to be a widely played card that Nahiri can’t touch. Maybe if there were a good way to tap things, Nahiri would be better? Overall, she’s solid, but I’m not expecting much.

She does make for an A+ iPhone wallpaper though.

Best card in the set? At this point, it’s quite likely.

None of the rates on this card are particularly impressive, but Arlinn Kord does a bunch of different stuff. “Make a Wolf, Lightning Bolt something, make a Wolf, mini-Overrun” looks like it will be a common play pattern. If you’re putting pressure on your opponent, they probably won’t have the luxury of being able to attack Arlinn Kord.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar alongside Gideon, Ally of Zendikar has been a potent combination on Magic Online, and I expect Nissa, Voice of Zendikar with Arlinn Kord will be about the same, if not better. Unfortunately, we’re losing the big token generator in Hordeling Outburst, but Hangarback Walker is still a thing.

Ehhh, at least it’s not Jace, the Living Guildpact.

I’m a huge fan of Man-o’-Wars, but five mana is a hefty price to pay. If the format were all Siege Rhinos and other big creatures, I’d be a bigger fan, but with Collected Company and Vampires, it wouldn’t surprise me if the format was full of cheap creatures instead. At that point, bouncing a creature for five mana isn’t worth it.

As a draw engine, Jace is solid. Six loyalty is a lot, but so is five mana.

I’m not sure if I’ll be more frustrated to play against this card or happy to play with it. How good it is mostly depends on how good the other Zombies are, but with Nantuko Husk and Fleshbag Marauder already legal, I think this will be a powerhouse. Anyone trying to play fair Magic is going to get attritioned out.

Plus, the Zombies are compatible with Collected Company. Rally the Ancestors might be gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play a grindy Collected Company deck.

Cards like this are what make Magic great. On the surface, there’s a lot of stuff going on, and those things are all very powerful. However, the question that everyone asks is, “Where does this fit?”

If we already knew the answer to that, Magic wouldn’t be very fun. That doesn’t mean we should dismiss the card; it means we should brew! What decks might want this? If there’s not an already existing deck, then what sort of deck would want this?

Eldrazi Displacer tricks are a possibility, as is using Avacyn alongside some Scions for easy sacrifice fodder. I’m going to enjoy building around this one.

Much like everyone else, I think this card is great. Tempo wins most games, so giving them a clue (or three) that may never get used is hardly a downside. Silkwrap and Stasis Snare are still around, so white is definitely not hurting for good removal options, but this one isn’t vulnerable to Dromoka’s Command. It’s also much better against tokens.

Declaration in Stone isn’t without its own downsides, but if you’re playing it in a deck that can close games quickly, you should have no issues.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I actually like this card.

If you ever have unspent mana, this card will pay for itself card-wise, which I can see mattering in decks that could use any extra body. Maybe you have planeswalkers you want to protect, some equipment, sacrifice outlets, or global pump effects.

It’s not going to wow anyone, but it could be a solid role-player very similar to Doomed Traveler.

This card speaks to me, but I think everyone gets it at this point. Not only does it have the potential to be great in Standard, but it will likely see play in older formats as well. I’ll be on the lookout for cheap cantrips (hi, Magmatic Insight!) or a way to make a three-color Painful Truths manabase work, but it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Thing in the Ice in Modern is probably going to be sick.

Is this Fact or Fiction, Steam Augury, or neither?

As with Steam Augury, the downside is that you never get what you want. With enough mana, the fact that it’s Steam Augury won’t matter. If the piles are big enough, you’re bound to get something good.

The fact that it fills your graveyard and is scalable is what makes me want to try it. Being able to “cycle” it at X=2 is also nice, as your opponent won’t ever know what you’re looking for. Trying to replicate Fact or Fiction probably won’t work out too well (unless you’ve got a Jace, Telepath Unbound), but I could see X=6 being a reasonable way to close games.

The effect is great, but the cost is large. In decks with significant amounts of lifegain, there is basically no downside here, but I don’t think that deck will actually exist. Instead, look for it as a key role-player out of the sideboard.

While having a card that cleans up Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Arlinn Kord is nice, there are some hoops to jump through. As of now, it’s unclear how easy achieving delirium is going to be. I’m hoping for some enablers that are still good enough on rate, because it doesn’t seem like the delirium cards are powerful enough to warrant building around.

One thing worth noting is how helpful the Oath cycle is at turning on delirium.

Will this be a big finisher in some graveyard-centric deck? Perhaps it will be Zombie-based with Compelling Deterrence? Maybe there will be some other way to discard it for profit?

I’m pretty sure this is a real card.

Is this card good enough for Constructed? It’s certainly close. You can sacrifice clues, which white has no problems making, and Oaths. It also works well with Archangel Avacyn.


As much as I love a good “graveyard matters” mechanic like delirium, madness is the mechanic I’m most excited to play with once #MTGSOI comes out.

Poor Jackal Pup.

Falkenrath Gorger is a sweet way for your one-drop to provide additional value, even as the game goes long. Lightning Axe and maybe even things like Tormenting Voice won’t have a downside with this on the battlefield. I appreciate a one-drop that doesn’t go dead early, but I have the feeling that I’ll be in a bunch of situations where I won’t want to trade this away. That makes me sad, but I’m sure this will enable some sick starts.

This isn’t Wild Mongrel, but it’s going to be great, especially after a turn 1 Falkenrath Gorger. Without Falkenrath Gorger, I thought you might be in a spot where, if you didn’t have Incorrigible Youths or a Fiery Temper you wanted to play immediately, you might be stuck with a 2/1 for a bit.

Instead, you’ll likely be attacking for three in the air (and more on the ground) with some regularity on turn 3, and that’s not bad at all.

Remember Aquamoeba? This card is similar, both in that it’s a madness outlet, but also because there’s going to be a distinct difference in the games where you have Heir of Falkenrath on turn 2 and the ones where you have Ravenous Bloodseeker on turn 2. The card is necessary as an enabler, but it’s not one you’re excited about.

While she isn’t as game-breaking as Olivia Voldaren, this appears to be the payoff card for playing R/B Vampires. Heir of Falkenrath is great, but Olivia, Mobilized for War is going to account for all the best busted starts.

She’s kind of a Fires of Yavimaya attached to a 3/3 flier and that’s pretty exciting. You don’t need cards if your opponent is dead.

Much like how Ravenous Bloodseeker is the poor player’s Heir of Falkenrath, Incorrigible Youths feels like the poor player’s Olivia, Mobilized for War. It’s not quite the same disparity in power level, as two weeks ago I was very excited for Incorrigible Youths. Now that Olivia is in the picture, Incorrigible Youths looks more like Grizzly Bears than Tarmogoyf.

Still, any draw that involves Incorrigible Youths on the battlefield on turn 3 is probably going to be a good one.

Fiery Temper didn’t see much play the first time around, but it wasn’t because the card wasn’t good. Red didn’t have many madness outlets, but it appears that won’t be the case this time. Given that Fiery Temper will very often be Lightning Bolt, I think it’s safe to say it will see play.

If Lightning Bolt is playable despite having to work for it, is Unsummon worth it? Trying to answer that question is going to be fun for me.

Similar to the issue I have with Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, Unsummon is basically only good if you’re trying to choke your opponent’s mana. If all their creatures cost one to three mana, you’re probably not going to be able to do that. However, if you’re getting some marginal value from a madness Unsummon, it might still be worth it.

For example, if you’re looting away a Just the Wind with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, sign me up. If you’re discarding it to Ravenous Bloodseeker, I’m less impressed.

Big card drawer, outlet for madness and delirium, plus it’s rather cheap once you actually hit five land. Despite that, I think it’s too slow for Standard, but that won’t stop me from trying.

Next week: decklists!

SCG Tour <sup>®</sup>Indianapolis: March 11-13!” border=”1″></a></div></p>
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