The Sukenik Special – The Players Of Innistrad Block

I want to talk about all of the powerhouses and players of this single-set Block Constructed Format. It’s the best way to start your journey to the top on Magic Online!

Originally, I was going to write about Standard for today’s article, but that clearly doesn’t make sense. The last “real” Worlds Championship just started, and decklists are probably flying all over the place right now. I will reserve talking about Standard for a different time. Then… what is there to talk about?

There is always the world of Magic Online (Get it? World(s)!). So, what is it going to be today? Pauper? Limited? Nope. It’s Innistrad Block Constructed!!

It is no secret how much I endorse Magic Online Block Constructed. While I haven’t been able to participate in it as much as I would like due to exams and a little bit of a Magic Online losing streak, I have been doing plenty of research on decklists. The problem is that the decks have so many different incarnations and little tweaks that people put on them. For a rough outline, I recommend looking at Brad Nelson Article from earlier this week. However, some of the deck ideas I will talk about today may not be in his article, and if they aren’t, I would suggest looking at What’s Happening. All decklists that have done decently are posted on this website.

Instead of talking about various decks, I want to talk about all of the powerhouses and players of this single-set Block Constructed Format. There are certain cards that just stand out in a unique way and need to be addressed separately. I will put this in order by color with multicolor being last. First off will be a two-card pairing.

Intangible Virtue and Mentor of the Meek

These cards allow both G/W Tokens and B/W Tokens to be viable strategies. Intangible Virtue is the Glorious Anthem in the set, for obvious reasons. And by obvious, I mean it is the only non-creature card that can pump up your team besides Full Moon’s Rise and Gavony Township. Luckily, usually the latter one gets played in the decks that have Intangible Virtue.

There is a very healthy amount of support for Intangible Virtue. Midnight Haunting will always keep your opponent guessing when they choose to attack into your open mana. This fact makes it very easy to keep up Gavony Township mana up along with Midnight Haunting, which ensures that you are using your mana well.

Other great token makers are Garruk Relentless and Geist-Honored Monk. I will talk a lot more about Garruk Relentless later on. Trust me; there is a lot to be said. However, Geist-Honored Monk is the one-man army! Or maybe that is reserved for Mayor of Avabruck. Either way, there are enough tokens to make Intangible Virtue a real threat. In fact, it is justifiable to play two Parallel Lives as well!

One of the things that makes Intangible Virtue really special is that it is… well… intangible! It is very hard to get rid of an Intangible Virtue, due to Silverchase Fox and Naturalize being the only go-to enchantment removal spells.

It is one of the best two-drops because it makes all of your other plays a lot more powerful. It reminds me of Scars of Mirrodin Block. When I played Tempered Steel, the ideal play sequence would be Origin Spellbomb, pop it, then play Tempered Steel. After doing that, it would be a lot harder for my opponent to kill my “small” creatures. If I led with Vault Skirge or Signal Pest, my opponent could easily blow me out with cards like Galvanic Blast and Virulent Wound. Intangible Virtue plays a similar role, except it is a lot nicer on your curve since it comes out a turn earlier.

The card I paired with this one, Mentor of the Meek, can lead to some pretty hilarious interactions. For example, you won’t be able to trigger your Mentor of the Meek off of the Wolf tokens from Howlpack Alpha, since they come in as 3/3s. The same is true when you make a Wolf token with Garruk Relentless when Intangible Virtue is out. However, in all other situations, Mentor of the Meek is utterly insane.

You are able to get two triggers off of your Midnight Haunting and Geist-Honored Monk. Garruk Relentless will look like a hybrid between Jace Beleren and Elspeth, Knight-Errant/Garruk Wildspeaker. In a deck of mostly creatures, let’s just say a card-drawing engine that triggers for creatures is utterly unfair. Speaking of unfair things…

Slayer of the Wicked

That is right. Slayer of the Wicked. Mr. First Draft Pick himself. This guy is amazing against every deck, except for the ones that only play five creatures. He is a white Flametongue Kavu! There are just so many sweet things to kill. Here is a quick list, and I will leave that as my explanation:

Olivia Voldaren
Mayor of Avabruck
Instigator Gang
Daybreak Ranger
Skaab Ruinator
Bloodline Keeper
Falkenrath Marauders
Kruin Outlaw
Stromkirk Noble

Well… I think that list will suffice. If there are any questions, just try watching some replays on Magic Online.

Since there are no blue cards that I view as format defining and super powerful, I guess I will move onto black.

Bloodgift Demon

This card is quite the card-drawing engine. When you look at all of the options for removal, not too many can deal with Bloodgift Demon efficiently. Sure, there are Devil’s Play and Fiend Hunter, but the latter dies to a ton of black, red, and green spells. Usually, Bloodgift Demon finds a home in various Jund and B/U/G decks. If you are not playing a deck that has access to Forbidden Alchemy, like Burning Vengeance, it is really hard for you to generate cards. I have been experimenting with an R/B Control deck and have not been able to maintain a steady stream of spells or to take advantage of the fact that I am one-for-one-ing all of their threats because I don’t have a draw outlet. Bloodgift Demon is the best solution and should be considered in most black decks, at least in my opinion. You are entitled to your own opinion of course!

Next up is red:

Blasphemous Act, Brimstone Volley, Geistflame, and Devil’s Play

These cards alone set the mark of how efficient your creature cards are. Let me approach them each separately.

Blasphemous Act is the go-to Wrath of God effect in this format. Sure, you could try Divine Reckoning and/or Rolling Temblor. Rolling Temblor sees play against the quicker decks with low drops or is used to impede attacks that are too fast for Blasphemous Act (yes, it happens).

Divine Reckoning hasn’t really seen much play at all. I feel like both Blasphemous Act and Divine Reckoning have great synergy with Manor Gargoyle, which can only be answered by Sever the Bloodline. However, I am digressing too far from the subject at hand.

Blasphemous Act is very efficient against the current main aggro deck, which is G/W Tokens. I see it in the sideboard of any deck that is playing red, even with just some amount of Shimmering Grottos and Sulfur Falls/Clifftop Retreats. It allows you to deal with hard-to-kill threats, like Geist of Saint Traft or a big Geist-Honored Monk. Let’s just say there is a reason why this is the go-to Day of Judgment.

Brimstone Volley plays an interesting role. It is one of the most efficient answers to Garruk Relentless, in my opinion. You can pass turn three on the draw and know that if they play Garruk Relentless, you can just burn it out and perhaps follow up with your own Garruk Relentless.

When you have morbid, Brimstone Volley is capable of killing most creatures outside of Geist of Saint Traft, Reaper of the Abyss, and Manor Gargoyle (sometimes). It is not outlandish to think that you can burn your opponent out with Brimstone Volleys. Five damage is quite a lot…

Geistflame and to a lesser extent Dead Weight really control the pace of Innistrad Block Constructed. In Zendikar, it was Disfigure. In Scars of Mirrodin, it was Galvanic Blast. These cards are very important because without them, aggressive decks would be a bit too over powered. Just like for Slayer of the Wicked, I think a list of very prominent Block Constructed cards will suffice as an explanation:

Stromkirk Noble

Mayor of Avabruck

Avacyn’s Pilgrim

Cloistered Youth

Snapcaster Mage

Liliana of the Veil after an immediate -2

Reckless Waif

Champion of the Parish if you are lucky

Mikaeus, the Lunarch if you are really lucky

Please don’t get me started on all of the x/2s that Geistflame deals with as well.

The last one is if you combine Geistflame and Blaze. You get Devil’s Play. This card is quite the powerhouse. This card will finish games by itself. However, you can also use it to “just” kill an Avacyn’s Pilgrim if you are on the play. Giving a Blaze flashback makes you feel fine to just use it to two-for-one your opponent. Everyone who played Scars of Mirrodin Block will be able to tell you how awesome Red Sun’s Zenith was. Well… this is a lot better than that.

All of these cards together make red a very strong color, but next up is the color that contains the most powerful card in Innistrad Block Constructed by a mile:

Garruk Relentless

So once upon a time, my good buddy for a billion years, Silas Waltzer, convinced the guys at the suite to do a custom draft. This means that we would each have to make our own cards, make sure that they weren’t broken, and then draft with them.

Somehow, I got convinced to do this as well. I will admit it; making cards about Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! the Abridged Series, and Ascension was really fun! However, two of my favorite cards that I made were the two planeswalkers. One of them was Sabrina from Pokémon because she is my favorite character from that show, while the other was called “Jonathan Sukenik, the Profession.” No, that is not a typo. It is just an inside joke with the guys at the suite and me.

Anyhow, what does this have to do with Garruk Relentless? My planeswalker started off with two loyalty for 1UR, since blue and red are my two favorite colors. Besides the ultimate being a -7 that put seven 3/3 Watchwolf tokens into play, I put a 0 ability on it. It put a card from your deck onto the battlefield as a 2/2 morph. If it didn’t have the morph ability on it, you would not be charged with a game loss when you had to reveal it (it would be marked with some sort of counter). The point is that when we custom drafted, the 0 ability was the only one that would be used. As in, I would always happen to first-pick my planeswalker and win with it.

Silas came to the conclusion that having a 0 ability that puts a 2/2 into play every single turn was just utterly unfair. It was nigh impossible to deal with the endless supply of tokens. Fast forward to a month and a half ago:

Silas: “Hey Jonathan! They took your planeswalker, traded the colored mana for 2G, and called it Garruk Relentless.”

(Note: I’m pretty sure he never said that, but it would be cool if he did. Maybe he did… Oh story telling…)

Since Garruk Relentless was spoiled, everyone at the suite knew he was insane because of my custom draft card. And Garruk Relentless is by far the most powerful card in all of Block Constructed.

This card makes it very hard for a Blasphemous Act to be truly devastating. Since the “only” counterspell is Dissipate, you can usually just slam down Garruk Relentless when your opponent taps out. You can even just run it out there with no fear on turn three or four.

He is the perfect removal spell because if you kill a creature that doesn’t have enough power to kill Garruk Relentless, your Garruk will flip and be able to give you an endless supply of 1/1 deathtouch Wolf tokens, Snapcaster Mages, Fiend Hunters, Slayer of the Wickeds, Manor Gargoyles, Geist-Honored Monks, etc., depending on what deck he is in. Garruk is great in the aggressive decks and the control decks… he is just good in every deck! He is even worth splashing off of Shimmering Grotto and the enemy-colored dual lands, even more worth it than Blasphemous Act.

There are only a handful of decent ways to deal with the best card in Block Constructed. As I suggested before, Brimstone Volley does a very good job, along with Devil’s Play. Some creature answers include: Geist of Saint Traft, Invisible Stalker with Silver-Inlaid Dagger or Bonds of Faith, Manor Gargoyle, Bloodgift Demon, and Moon Heron (as suggested by Dragon Master Eric Tang from the suite). The problem with Manor Gargoyle and Bloodgift Demon is that they are too slow to answer Garruk Relentless. I suppose another answer is your own Garruk Relentless, but I think you would rather kill their Garruk Relentless with another card in order to take advantage with your own.

The last card I will talk about today also happens to make Wolf tokens:

Kessig Cagebreakers

This card is just as hard to kill as Bloodgift Demon. You will never guess why…

All jokes aside, this card is just a totally bonkers monster in this format. He is just like Hero of Bladehold, except he is a lot harder to kill in this format, and he will usually hit for a ton more. He practically generated the graveyard B/U/G deck along with Splinterfright. He is also the perfect one-man army to follow up with against your opponent’s Blasphemous Act in your G/W Tokens deck. This is yet another card that is awesome with Parallel Lives and Intangible Virtue.

Perhaps people should finally pair up this card with Divine Reckoning

So there it is! That was my run down of Innistrad Block Constructed. I felt like these cards are the current defining features of the format! The format is pretty fun and very wide open. Good luck to you all and feel free to leave comments or send me messages on Magic Online about any Block Constructed suggestions or tips. I am always open for suggestions or giving them.

Thanks for reading,

Jonathan “Watchwolf92” Sukenik