Wednesday, 13 April 2016

MTG: 13 Intriguing Casual Cards from Shadows over Innistrad

Hallelujah! We are free from the Eldrazi and Ally menace bore, and are returning to the popular plane of Innistrad.

During the first go around, we were immersed in a well-designed horror world, and Wizards of the Coast, rightly decided that a return to Innistrad was in the cards.

Looking over the card list, and reading the stories, it looks like the return to Innistrad is a successful one. I haven't been this excited for a new set in a long time, and I am enjoying all of the flavour and aroma that permeates the set, such as the short stories, flavour texts, and artwork.

As is usual, there are a large pile of cards that I am intrigued by, either for building a deck around, or just adding to an existing deck.


I have been building plenty of punchy pauper (all-commons) decks in recent weeks, so I have an eye out for common cards that pack plenty of power.

Angelic Purge is an amazingly powerful removal spell that permanently gets rid of a lot of problems. Sacrificing a token creature, or excess land, is not even much of a cost to exile a dirty bomb.

Vessel of Nascency is a powerful one-time dig spell, for green(!), that can also help fuel your graveyard. The fact that you can get so many different card types helps you search for a more specific weapon, especially compared to previous Green tutors, which usually find just creatures.

Murderous Compulsion is a strictly better Assassinate, and allows you to pull the old Royal Assassin trick of killing an attacking creature at instant speed! Two mana to remove any (tapped) creature is great value for a common card. Yes, we aren't getting Terror or Doom Blade back at common, but this is close.

Pyre Hound is a good candidate for Izzet (blue-red) blitz-type decks. Four mana is usually a bit high for that deck, but the fact the pump is permanent, and the fact it has trample, makes this a real possibility for pauper decks that already use Delver of Secrets.

With that out of the way, here are the bigger bombs that intrigue me.


Here, we see the return of the MADNESS mechanic. If you discard the card for any reason, you can play the card as an instant, and at an alternate cost. Of course, you will need to find good outlets to be able to discard your own cards.

As a five-mana sorcery, getting 6/6 of power, and 3 life, is certainly playable. Late in the game, when you can pump 6-7 mana into this, and get a lethal army online, is really what you want to be doing. I'm not sure why you gain life for letting zombies crawl out of the floor, but I won't complain :) (Are they bringing you food from the pantry?)


Speaking of such discard outlets, we have a cheap one that allows you to grow an army of lifesucking vampire tokens. The only downside is that you can do it only once a turn, but the upside is the cheap cost of a single mana. In multiplayer, you can activate it on each of their turns, giving you a lovely army by the time it is your turn again.

For a mini-combo you might get in Shadows over Innistrad, pair the enchantment with Groundskeeper. Basically, it reads "2G: Discard a basic land, get a 1/1 lifelink vampire token into play, and return that land to your hand" Not the most powerful interaction, but you can grind somebody out this way.


I played against this at the pre-release, and it was an annoying grind. I was slipping further into the abyss as my opponent draw an extra card every turn. Here, you see the new INVESTIGATE ability in action.

For the simple cost of playing a land (you were doing that, anyway), you get a free clue token. On top of the card advantage engine, the tracker get really hold its own in combat once you crack enough of these clues. You don't need to put this in a dedicated clue deck, as it will just do work by itself in any grindy green/EDH deck.


Almost every casual player has some sort of mass tokens deck. Why not sacrifice some of the chum and summon ORMENDAHL!

Left unchecked, ORMENDAHL! is pretty much going to win you the game. Lifelink and indestructible? Yes, I'd love to gain 9 life a turn!

The land, itself, is also a passable mana sink. Creating a token, when you have nothing else to do, is useful.

Now, if Downton Abbey was this interesting, I might actually watch it.


One of the strangest cards printed (And creepiest!), we take a pretty uninspiring enchantment, and turn it into a one-mana 3/4?

This card produces a nice level of tension: Do you put it on your own creature, and kick it into the Spartan Pit, or do you force your opponents creature to walk into the pit? Either way, you end up with the creature, when all is said and done. Very efficient, and very intriguing.


Aww, isn't that a happy couple?

I'm tempted to Photoshop my wife and I onto this card :)  As it is, Ever After is a nice late-game reanimation spell that could replace some of my lesser versions in certain decks.


Duskwatch Recruiter is another grindy green card that will slot well into a variety of decks as a value-added mana sink.

Being able to basically draw a free card per turn is really potent. I'd rather this creature not flip, to be honest, and would be happy having him just sitting there, recruiting other soldiers/werewolves for my army of darkness.

If he does flip, and your hand is full, then it's easy enough to flip him back over when you are dumping your hand.


This uncommon sorcery is an interesting build-around-me card that could have a potentially large payoff, assuming your opponents aren't mean and play Bojuka Bog :(

If you have any spell-heavy control decks, why not put a copy of this into it and see how it works? I could easily see some of my control decks getting 5+ zombies out of this card. Just use your spells to remove their threats and keep the board clean, then create your own army! This would pair very well with Under the Floorboards.

Time to stock up on Zombie tokens.


When there's something strange, in your neighbourhood.
Who you gonna call? GEISTBLASTERS!

I'm rather disappointed that this doesn't say 'destroy target spirit' :(

On the other hand, this is one of the top cards in the set for high-ceiling potential.

After you are done shocking something, you have the ability to copy one of your best spells. The mana cost isn't cheap, but I could see EDH/Commander decks abusing the hell out of this card.


Welcome back to Jes's Combo Corner!

Combine the Colossus with our old friend, Gravecrawler, and you can easily get a free zombie token and a recurring threat. A nice bit of synergy.

Want to make a large army of smelling, decomposing corpses? Why have one, when you can get the next 3,000,000 for free?

Sacrifice the Gravecrawler at the Altar of Phyrexia, and you can get any many Zombies as you want.


Whatever dark force has come to Innistrad, it has turned Avacyn into a raging, homicidal angel. This is another flavour home-run from a set filled with them.

A Serra Angel with Flash is strong, in and of itself, but being able to make your team indestructible for a turn? What better way to protect your weenies from that devastating Wrath of God.

If one of her flock should die, she'll invoke Hulk Mode and wipe out entire armies. There is a reason she is seeing Standard play, and is well over $30 :( Of course, I didn't crack one out of my box.


Nahiri seems to be the one behind all of this madness, and her first ability is a great Madness enabler.

Most Red-White decks want to be aggressive, but Nahiri seems more like a mid-range control card. You definitely can build around her with the red Madness cards, but simply the fact she is a four-mana 'Walker who can start with six loyalty makes her an easy inclusion for decks with these colours.

Only two turns, and then you can pull out an Emrakul or Blightsteel Colossus and win the game on the spot.


Like a little devil, I cackled when I first saw this card spoiled. Red gets card advantage? Yes, sign me up.

My wife and I both had this card at the pre-release, and we made opponents pay for their sins. If you don't kill this quickly, the damage he'll do is like a slow bit of torture. It might not hurt a LOT at first, but you will notice the bruising in about 10 minutes.

Either the opponent lets you draw an extra card for the turn, or they take some sort of damage. Normally, such "punisher" cards aren't good, as your opponent will always make the choice that hurts them the least.

At least the Sin Prodder will inflict physical pain if they choose to not let you draw the card, so this evasive creature will tack on some extra damage. OK, so you milled my bomb, but you still had to take 4-6 damage to do so.

Even if the top card revealed is a land, and they mill it, it's likely you really didn't want to draw that land, anyway. I wasn't too unhappy to have a land milled, and then draw a relevant spell.

What cards are you intrigued by? Any cool combos I might be missing out on?