Vintage Avant-Garde – Innistrad Vintage Set Review

Innistrad looks like an extremely exciting new Magic expansion with extremely powerful cards that will have an immediate and long reaching effect on even the most powerful of MTG formats. See what Brian DeMars has to say.

October is just around the bend, and we all know what that means: the first set of the new block is upon us! For most Magic players, the first week of October is an exciting, yet slightly melancholy perennial moment, where our old friends—in this case Zendikar Block and M2011—rotate out of Standard and are inevitably replaced by a new block, in this case Innistrad. The advent of a new block also brings about an opportunity to draft, a lot…

We immerse ourselves with the new cards, the new mechanics, and new draft strategies and sigh long and often: “Wizards be praised! I was beginning to think I hated Magic—but now I realize that it’s just that drafting a core set is about as miserable as stabbing myself repeatedly in the eye with a hot iron.”

However, if you are reading my article—it is more than likely you are a Vintage player.

“Pssshhh, sets that rotate? I wonder what that’s like… When our format gets a card, we get it F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Ancestral Recall? Black Lotus? Time Walk? It was broken on day one, and it will be broken until the end.”

So, the real question is: “Does Innistrad break it further, or in a significant way?”

I believe the answer is a resounding Y-E-S.

First of all, I’d like to begin my discussion by saying that in my opinion Wizards of the Coast has hit an absolute home run with this set. I absolutely love and approve of the flavor, the theme, and the design of this set. When I was attending grad school, I actually wrote my Master’s Thesis (which is titled “The Manifold Operations of the Gothic Double” and can be found online if you are interested in checking it out; it won’t help you get better at Magic, but you might learn something nonetheless) on my favorite literary genre, the gothic novel, and Innistrad does a great job of capturing the flavor and feel of this often creepy and dramatic environment.

My favorite short story of all time is Poe’s “William Wilson,” and the card Evil Twin really, really made me smile.

(not Vintage playable)

As a man who spent a year of his life dissecting and discussing doubling in the Gothic novel, I can’t help but also have a soft spot in my heart for this card:

(also, not Vintage playable)

The plane of Innistrad with its eerie creatures and strange arcane magic reminds me a lot of the world that we encountered in The Dark expansion; however unlike the vast majority of the cards in The Dark, Innistrad seems to be a very highly powered set with a number of cards I am sure will see Vintage play—and even a few cards that I strongly believe are going to change the game…

First of all, this card is outrageously good. The obvious comparison one will make is between Stony Silence and Null Rod. There are pros and cons. The downside of this card is that it requires white mana to cast; so sorry, Mishra’s Workshop decks, but you probably are not going to get to play with this card.

The deck that really wants to play with this card is clearly going to be U/W or U/W/B disruptive fish style decks—in particular, Stony Silence seems like it would be a good fit in a Wizard deck, paired up with Dark Confidant, Leonin Relic-Warder, and Snapcaster Mage (I will get to HIM later).

The biggest upside to this card, especially in decks that already play Null Rod, is that it is much more difficult for an opposing deck to remove than the Rod. It is no secret that Ancient Grudge is good and gets played in Vintage, and Stony Silence is a card that feels like a well-known annoying artifact but can’t be removed by artifact-specific hate. In addition to dodging Ancient Grudge: Hurkyl’s Recall, Steel Sabotage, Goblin Welder, Gorilla Shaman, Ingot Chewer, and Shattering Spree are also cards that people play that will be made bricks by the Stony Silence.

Here is an example of a potential U/B/W hate fish deck where a card like Stony Silence could really shine in Vintage.

If you are playing Null Rod and can make white mana, this card seems like an almost strict upgrade. So, a card that is already a Vintage staple that is contextually an upgrade to the staple—this card will definitely see play in the future. I predict that somebody won’t be able to combo with Time Vault because this card is in play—aaaaaaand I’m sure that person will be me…

That one was almost too easy and obvious, so let’s move on to the next card.

I am going to tread lightly here and try not to step on anybody’s toes or body of work…

I don’t fancy myself as a man who knows or cares much about playing decks with Golgari-Grave Troll. If you (the reader) are, that is no slight against you—I don’t specifically believe it invalidates you as a human being or anything—but it is clear that perhaps we have a difference of opinion on a few things.

With that being said, I don’t tend to follow the latest innovations of The Dredge Mechanic.dec. I know that they put the work in: they put in a couple of lands… Then when the time is right, they take them out again… Sometimes they sideboard lands… Sometimes they board lands out… It is all too technical for me.

Long story short—I don’t actually know or care very deeply of the goings on of an Ichorid.

With that being said, Laboratory Maniac seems like it could be a card that a Dredge deck could utilize in the future. It has kind of a sweet ability, and it’s blue, so it seems plausible that it could be playable in Dredge.

I don’t pretend to understand the mind of a Dredge player, so I could easily be wrong, and this card could simply be unplayable—but, it seems like something they would do, so I put it on my list.

Moving on…

Does this card look familiar to you? How about now:

Obviously, since Krosan Reclamation is already Vintage playable, and Memory’s Journey is the same card except blue (which makes it easier to cast and pitchable to Force of Will), any Oath deck that wanted to Krosan Reclamation will now just be Memory’s Journeying. Memory’s Journey also costs G to flashback, whereas Krosan Reclamation costs 1G. Basically, Journey is just a strict upgrade to the predecessor.

(I feel so trivial for actually making the “It’s blue; it pitches to FOW!” argument.) Eternal is totally balanced—take any card, make it blue, and it immediately becomes better.

It isn’t specifically any huge deal, but this card will see Vintage play in Oath decks that want to restock their libraries.

I am kind of on the fence about this card. On the one hand, it seems really good, but on the other hand I feel like it might be the best creature ever printed.

How about that slow roll?

I am going to try not to digress into hyperbole as I talk about how good I believe this card is going to be in the future.

It is my belief that Snapcaster Mage will be the best CARD in Standard and that it will be as oppressive as Stoneforge Mystic ever was.

It is my belief that Snapcaster Mage will be the best strategy in Extended, Modern, and Legacy.

It is my belief that because Snapcaster Mage exists, Brainstorm will almost certainly need to be banned in Legacy.

It is my belief that Snapcaster Mage MAY be better than Dark Confidant in Vintage.

It is my belief that before it is all said and done, Snapcaster Mage may very well be widely recognized as the best creature ever printed—as it will dominate every format at the same time.

In Vintage, Snapcaster will likely make a big splash. In particular, he may very well be the exact card that allows Skullclamp to finally shine. Patrick Chapin already posted a revamped version of his Skullclamp deck to include Snapcaster Mage. When I was trying to build and tweak Skullclamp variants, the main problem that I always ran into was that I was slightly short on one-toughness creatures, and I was always short on blue cards to allowed me to play with Force of Will. Snapcaster Mage singlehandedly solves both of these problems and at the very least makes the numbers line up so that it appears such a strategy is playable, at least on paper.

The biggest concern I have about the Snapcaster Mage deck with Skullclamp is: Is it just better to play Snapcaster Mage in a Time Vault deck? While it is certainly true that the one-toughness body adds incentive to playing with a card like Skullclamp, it is also possible that the card is so good that you just put it into a deck full of good cards and its obvious synergy with “good instant and sorceries” makes it good all by itself.

So, my primary concern with the card is: “Is Snapcaster Mage SO good that you don’t even have to do any work to make it great?”

Only time will tell.

It is also interesting that Snapcaster Magic basically beats Jace, the Mind Sculptor all day long. Jace cannot reasonably -1 to bounce him because he will get flashed back down at the end of the turn, cast a free spell, and then attack and kill Jace.

Fact or Fiction may not be an Innistrad card, but it is certainly going to be a card that makes an impact in Vintage as we move forward. Last week’s Banned and Restricted list update had one significant change in store for Vintage players:


Could this news possibly have come at a better time for the newcomer, Snapcaster Mage? I don’t think it could have. With Snapcaster Mage inevitably making the world difficult for the Mind Sculptor, blue mages are going to be looking for a new card-drawing alternative. Fact or Fiction fits the bill perfectly. It isn’t vulnerable to an opponent’s Snapcasters, and in addition to not being vulnerable to Snapcaster Mage, it makes Snapcaster Mage even better!!!

I guess that it is naïve to think we will all be living the dream of flashing back Fact or Fiction with Snapcaster Mage—or is it? It is going to happen, and when it does, it is going to be good. However, can you imagine having to split Fact or Fiction piles where one of the cards is Snapcaster Mage?

On your end step, your opponent casts Fact or Fiction. You play Force of Will, and they Force of Will back. Here is what happens.

Good luck splitting that pile… It isn’t a test, as there is no good answer to the question; basically you are completely buried.

I predict this card will be playable in Vintage. Also, the new art looks awesome. It’s like I’m a wizard and send a gang of Werewolves over to ransack my opponent’s Moxes and Lodestone Golems.

Werewolves – 1, Golems – 0


I can’t actually believe this card is getting printed. I mean, I can’t believe that Snapcaster Mage is a card—but they already printed Stoneforge Mystic and Tarmogoyf, so I’m not surprised that Wizards would print an outrageously good two-drop creature. However, I thought they had learned their lesson printing Yawgmoth’s Will-esque cards…

The main criticism I have heard about this card is: whatever, it’s just a bad Yawgmoth’s Will.

The fact that people would make such an absurd statement flabbergasts me. Do people not realize how INSANE even a bad Yawgmoth’s Will is? An unplayable Yawgmoth’s Will is still probably playable in Vintage!!! I know that statement is contradictory, and I know I said I was going to avoid hyperbole, but…


Sure, it is worse than Yawgmoth’s Will—but that is pretty much the only bad thing I can say about this card.

It even has flashback, which makes it perfect for putting into Gifts or Intuition piles—or getting binned with Fact or Fiction

I am going to say that this card is not only playable, but that it is going to be a big deal moving forward. It affords blue decks a lot of tactical play and is a straight-up bomb. I feel almost silly saying this because the card looks absolutely absurd to me—but if you don’t think this card is good, it is much better than it looks…

I am kind of on the fence about this card. It is a good card, and I am sure it will get played in Workshop decks out of the sideboard at some point.

The major problem I have with this card is that it might be better than Leyline of Sanctity, and it might just be worse. It can be Ancient Grudged, unlike Leyline, but it is actually a castable topdeck, unlike Leyline, which is a blank anytime it doesn’t start in the opening hand. The other thing that is nice about the Orb is that it can be Welded in and out, just in case it gets destroyed by a removal spell—which is a nice bonus—since you are never going to be able to weld in a Leyline.

It serves the same function as Leyline: It shuts of Oath of Druids and stops Hurkyl’s Recall, Tendrils of Agony, Gifts Ungiven, etc.

If you are a fan of Mishra’s Workshop, it may be worth your while to sleeve this card up and see if it is any good.

And last, but not least…

I like this card a lot, and I believe that if Fact or Fiction had not just come off the restricted list last week that this card would be more actively fighting for playability in Vintage.

I think that it is better than it looks and that there is a realistic chance this card might be something that somebody wants to do at some point in the future.

Clearly, cards that are like Strategic Planning are going to have a soft spot in my heart—and this card is probably a better card than Planning ever was. The other thing that makes me think this card is probably awesome is that blue hasn’t had a quality three-drop instant spell in a long time—or more realistically since Thirst for Knowledge got restricted.

I find the synergy between Past in Flames and Forbidden Alchemy to be really interesting, and it is possible that the two could team up to make a pretty broken combo deck. Although I haven’t really had a chance to play any Vintage yet, I’ve been sketching up what I think such a deck could look like:

The problem with this card is that it will only ever replace itself in your hand, whereas Thirst more often than not netted a card whenever a player binned an artifact. In order to flash it back, you need to make a hefty investment of 7B, which is pretty unrealistic but a nice option nonetheless since it is completely free. Putting cards into the graveyard to buyback with Snapcaster, Yawgmoth’s Will, or Past in Flames seems decent—and I am sure there are some Control Slaver slappys who are going to try and team Forbidden Alchemy up with Welder and bring it back! They will probably even play with Mindslaver—cough, Jeff Anand, cough.

All things considered, Innistrad looks like an extremely exciting new Magic expansion with extremely powerful cards that WILL have an immediate and long reaching effect on even the most powerful of MTG formats. I am very much looking forward to getting to sling some creepy gothic Magic cards at the upcoming Vintage Waterbury tournament, and look forward to seeing many of you there!


Brian DeMars