Legacy. Vintage. Modern. Extended. Standard.
There are so many Constructed formats to consider now and that doesn't even count Block Constructed which will surely make an even larger swath of Innistrad cards playable. Generally it isn't like some cards will only be played in Legacy others only in Modern. How "good" cards are is a very dynamic thing that involves a lot more than intrinsic power (which is really just mana/card efficiency since we usually don't mean that Nicol Bolas Planeswalker is more powerful than Jace the Mind Sculptor despite being more powerful when in play). I generally find ratings between 1-10 and 1-5 to be overrated preferring to instead focus on the applications of each card. When we understand how to use each card we will have the most tools to work with for attacking the new format (and each format after that).
We will begin today by taking a look at the powered formats and Innistrad's impact on them. It seems that the best cards for Legacy are mostly the same cards that are going to be good in Vintage. Likewise Modern and Extended have a lot of overlap with regards to the possible playables though Extended will surely borrow from whatever strategies emerge from Standard as well. Finally we will examine even more possible Standard decks. For more on Innistrad's impact on Standard check out part 1 covering updates to existing strategies and part 2 covering new strategies.
Let's start with the most powerful formats in Magic:
Top 15 Innistrad Cards in Legacy and Vintage
14. Purify the Grave
13. Dream Twist
12. Skaab Ruinator
Yeah Ancient Grudge isn't really being added to either format but it is still underplayed in Vintage compared to where it should be. What is there to gain by letting Shop-players think their deck is tier 1? Don't get me wrong; I love that enough people continue to not have Grudges so that plenty of other people keep showing up with Shops. I just hope that Snapcaster Mage doesn't do to Vintage what Mental Misstep did to Legacy...
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Time Vault
- 1 Voltaic Key
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Ancient Grudge
- 1 Brainstorm
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Hurkyl's Recall
- 1 Mana Drain
- 2 Mental Misstep
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Nature's Claim
- 1 Red Elemental Blast
- 2 Spell Pierce
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 3 Preordain
- 2 Thoughtseize
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
I figure we might as well start with Vintage and work our way down. Since we are starting at the top we might as well start with the card that is likely the best Innistrad card in every format (and one of the absolute best creatures in every format) Snapcaster Mage. Plenty has been said on Snapcaster but for a refresher check out here and here .
A cantrip 2/1 with flash for 1U is already costed so aggressively it would see play in Vintage. Now you factor in that we are talking zero-mana Regrowths instead? This guy is rivaled by only Dark Confidant and could actually challenge that top spot!
Many people are skeptical and going to need some time to really appreciate just how unreal this guy is but for now think of him as a cross between Dark Confidant and Cryptic Command. Dark Confidant in that he is just the best rate for a type of card advantage on a body that you actually want and Cryptic Command in that he is just too versatile of a two-for-one doing whatever you want just a little too well (and nearly impossible to not lose value against).
How best to take advantage of Snapcaster Mage is certainly going to take some work but for the time being he is an instant-speed blue regrowth that gives you a body that is perfect for trading with Dark Confidant Gaddock Teeg or most anyone else in the format not to mention attacking a Jace that has dropped to two loyalty from bouncing your own Dark Confidant. Snapcaster's power is definitely linked to the best cheap spells in the format so in Vintage he has Ancestral Recall Time Walk and Demonic Tutor to get us started.
Let's see how can we do justice to Snapcaster without hyperbole? Well he is probably the first creature to ever be a serious consideration for restriction in Vintage (and no Ali from Cairo doesn't count... that was Type 1). He probably doesn't need to be merely being like Dark Confidant a new format staple but there will likely be more ripples from Snapcaster as blue's iron grip on the format becomes vice-like.
Many hate-bears are significantly weaker as the constant threat of trading with Snapcaster is too much to risk. Skullclamp is far better however as we now have the perfect one-toughness creature to fuel it. Here is an example of a possible Skullclamp build:
As you can imagine Snapcaster Mage is particularly well suited for spells that cost 0 1 and 2 making him a perfect fit for Vintage with its Mental Missteps Spell Pierces Red Elemental Blasts and the like. Still I don't think "Power Blue Decks" (like the first list) and Skullclamp decks are the extent of Snapcaster's range. His use as an instant-speed Regrowth is very exciting especially when he gives you a fantastic "backup" plan.
What about using him in some sort of Laboratory Maniac deck?
Laboratory Maniac is a crazy new card that aspires to be the new kill condition for some wacky combo decks. One possible way to make him work is to combine him with Hermit Druid. If you just don't play with any basics you can tap Hermit Druid to mill your entire library (possibly even during your own upkeep). You can then use Snapcaster Mage to flashback Shallow Grave at instant speed. When you mill your entire library with Hermit Druid you get to put the cards into your graveyard in whatever order you like so just leave the Maniac on top and you are good to go.
You won't always have that kind of mana of course so Memory's Journey is also a fine option. This makes it fine to just tap the Hermit pretty much regardless of the board state. You then shuffle back whatever is needed to set up the kill even if it is just Black Lotus and Yawgmoth's Will. In fact being able to look at two cards after a Memory's Journey is so valuable Gitaxian Probe is more appealing than it normally would be. Additionally there will be times you cast a Maniac main phase and have the Hermit active. Being able to draw a card now could be crucial.
Here is a rough
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Lotus Petal
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Ancient Grudge
- 1 Brainstorm
- 2 Cunning Wish
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Memory's Journey
- 1 Mental Misstep
- 1 Red Elemental Blast
- 1 Shallow Grave
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 2 Gitaxian Probe
- 3 Green Sun's Zenith
- 1 Ponder
- 2 Preordain
- 2 Thoughtseize
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
Memory's Journey is certainly a massive upgrade to Krosan Reclamation giving you more (3 cards) for less (one mana to flashback) and in the best color. While this isn't the type of card you jam everywhere it is a clear upgrade for decks like Oath and is so much better than Reclamation I think we will see it a little bit more than we would have seen Reclamation.
Demonic Consultation is another possibility to combine with the Laboratory Maniac. My current thought is that if you were playing a dedicated Maniac deck you play Cunning Wishes in addition to Hermit Druids. Obviously the Hermits can tap to mill you but Consultation exiles meaning you already need to have the Maniac in play. With Consultation restricted it is a bit harder to access when we want especially since it's almost too risky to play "for value" in such a deck. This makes putting it in a Wish sideboard the perfect solution. A few Cunning Wishes gives us access to it when we want but also serves as much of our interactive game giving us access to Red Elemental Blast Nature's Claim Ancient Grudge Mental Misstep and more.
Doom's Day is another reasonable way to trigger Laboratory Maniac (perhaps stacking your library Ancestral Recall Black Lotus Laboratory Maniac Gitaxian Probe Gitaxian Probe). This is generally going to be a bit less clunky than the Shelldock Isle + Emrakul kill I suspect and is more likely to show up in Legacy than Vintage.
While I don't expect Laboratory Maniac to have the same kind of impact Snapcaster will it is a playable option that is worth considering especially if people continue to not play removal. While I am not on board with the Leveler plan Divining Witch and Cephalid Illusionist + Nomads en-Kor and Shuko are both reasonable options to consider in Legacy.
The next Innistrad card we will be taking a look at is Past in Flames. Continuing the "Yawgmoth's Will" theme in Innistrad Past in Flames is like a Snapcaster Mage for everything which is to say it is a Yawgmoth's Will for one mana more that doesn't get back land or artifact mana. It does have flashback of course but for the most part this is a card we want to play because even a bad Yawgmoth's Will can be pretty damn good.
The two basic types of homes for Past in Flames are dedicated combo decks and as a random value card in a blue deck most likely as a one-of. It is not actually that significant of a change for the blue decks. It is just a matter of: do you want another (worse) Will?
Normally I would say "absolutely!" but the printing of Snapcaster Mage changes the ballgame a bit. If we are incrementally exiling our cards anyway it is possible that it will generally not come down to a Past in Flames style endgame. I already think that Snapcaster will lead to slightly fewer Yawgmoth's Will endgames.
As for the dedicated combo decks it is obviously unclear if these decks are actually better than Ad Nauseam. My suspicion is that they are not at least not in Vintage. Still it is worth considering especially if you are the type that likes to Gifts Ungiven.
As for Legacy the prospect of combining a ton of red rituals with Past in Flames seems pretty appealing especially given Mental Misstep finally getting the axe. The specter of Ad Nauseam still looms over our shoulders but it is a much more fair fight in Legacy as the red rituals mean more in Legacy than in Vintage (where everyone just uses Moxes anyway).
Stony Silence is a very straightforward addition to the format. Null Rod has long been a major pillar of the format forcing players to "keep it real." Null Rod's single greatest drawback (outside of it being symmetrical and hosing yourself) has been its vulnerability as an artifact.
Mishra's Workshop Time Vault and Null Rod combine to create a massive incentive for people to play artifact kill maindeck. While sometimes this takes the form of Nature's Claim Qasali Pridemage or Trygon Predator we also see a fair bit of Ancient Grudge Gorilla Shaman and Hurkyl's Recall. The printing of Stony Silence means more Null Rod effects and of different types. We could actually see decks with six or more Null Rods mixed between the two types. Suffice it to say being dead to Null Rod is worse than ever.
Snapcaster Mage may be a major pain for creatures like Gaddock Teeg Kataki and Phyrexian Revoker but he is also a potent new weapon that Stony Silence/Null Rod decks may want to employ. Stony Silence disrupts people's mana in a big way greatly slowing down the game. If you have a 2/1 that is beating down every turn you are gaining value from each of the added attack phases (compared to the number of cards drawn). Besides he is so high on raw power he doesn't need to do that much for you to be worth it.
Witchbane Orb is a new option for Shops helping combat discard Hurkyl's Recall Gifts Ungiven and Tendrils but let's be serious who wants to be on Shops? It is interesting that this slightly increases the value of Rebuild compared to Hurkyl's Recall.
Forbidden Alchemy has chances of fringe play sort of bridging the gap between Fact or Fiction and Strategic Plannings. Sadly neither is particularly in demand in Vintage at the moment as many restricted card draw spells—like Gifts Thirst and Merchant Scroll—don't even make the cut in many lists. Still it is not out of the question as Forbidden Alchemy is more efficient than we normally have access to for this type of effect.
Nevermore is the type of hate card we don't want to want. It sits in play gaining no advantage; then if they ever get rid of it they have undone all you worked for. To make matters worse it costs three not two. All this said it is a powerful and relatively unique effect. It is possible some deck that values it being an enchantment will make use of it more likely as a sideboard option. Enchantress Enduring Ideal and Zur all sound more likely to appear in Legacy than Vintage but it is possible that some Mono-W Parfait deck with Enlightened Tutors might want this at some point.
Purify the Grave as a graveyard hate card for some non-black deck is sort of a thing I guess. It is generally worse than Surgical Extraction and Tormod's Crypt even if you aren't playing black. Where would it come up? If you were milling yourself or doing something else that put cards into your graveyard this is a chance for this effect in a non-black deck. Additionally the format could exist where this is a bona fide "two-for-one." After all Coffin Purge saw play in Legacy as recently as last year.
As for Legacy most of the same ideas apply to all these cards. Stony Silence is probably a bit worse in Legacy but Snapcaster Mage is every bit as unreal. Mental Misstep may be gone but Snapcaster is quick to fill those four slots. Here is a possible starting point for a U/W Stoneblade deck in the new Snapcaster (instead of Mental Misstep) world:
As you can see Snapcaster Mage pulls us away from Ancestral Vision and makes Riptide Laboratory more appealing than ever. The fact that no one else gets Mental Misstep anymore combined with four extra creatures (the Snapcasters) makes Aether Vial a more appealing option than before. It may be that two months from now we look back and think how silly it was to only play two Vials in here despite just last week playing any Vials was unheard of. Mental Misstep had a really really big impact on the format...
Snapcaster is going to end up a lot of different places but Legacy is going to go through some serious shake-ups over the next few weeks as players try to pick up and rebuild the format in Mental Misstep's aftermath. As good as Snapcaster is I don't think it is as good as Mental Misstep was.
Snapcaster is probably the best strategy in Legacy at least on some weeks but there are going to be plenty of other worthwhile angles to pursue like High Tide Reanimator Goblins Aluren Junk and so on but who knows how many places Snapcaster will creep into?
For instance is Snapcaster in High Tide a thing? Snapcastering an actual Snap sounds pretty interesting if you have High Tide going. Riptide Laboratory + Candelabra is pretty wacky. I am not sure where this deck goes but there are some strange and powerful synergies that have not yet been fully explored.
At the end of the day however Snapcaster will probably be at his best in a good stuff deck full of all the best cards maybe a Counterbalance deck. Maybe you put him with Bob maybe with Goyf maybe with Stoneforge maybe with two out of the three. It isn't the most exciting game plan but it very well might be the best.
Switching gears let's take a quick glance at Modern and Extended before switching back to Standard. Modern is so turned on its side now it is going to take weeks just to figure out what is even going on in the format.
As for Extended I have no idea what the decks even are as Cryptic Command Bitterblossom Scapeshift Prismatic Omens and so many more are rotating out at the same time Mental Misstep Preordain Ponder Stoneforge Mystic and Jace are getting banned and Innistrad is becoming legal. Still let's at least speculate on which cards look most enticing for the Modern and Extended formats to come:
Top 15 Innistrad cards in Modern and Extended
15. Blasphemous Act
14. Innistrad Duals
11. Dream Twist
As you can see a lot of the same cards are appearing but there are also some new faces. Snapcaster is once again the biggest highlight of the set. He will surely find homes in Next Level Blue U/B Blade Teachings Gifts Bant and some other kind of aggro control just to name a few.
Snapcaster is a fantastic two-for-one that always gives you whatever you want more of whether its permission discard or removal. Going long the ability to flashback Cryptic Command is just brutal as you can counter your opponent's spell and bounce your Snapcaster Mage(!). This endgame may seem ambitious but it's not like Snapcaster and Cryptic aren't going to be awesome at most stages of the game anyway. Besides even if you end up just Snapcastering the Cryptic to Dismiss something (and get a body to carry a Sword).
Similar to Cryptic Command Repeal also lets you recycle your Snapcasters ensuring you never run out of gas. In addition Repeal combines very well with both Sword of Feast and Famine as well as Liliana of the Veil if you can fit her in. It isn't just the prospect of reusing your Snapcasters that is so exciting however.
Using Teachings or Gifts allows you to look for the exact perfect bullet to gain an advantage against an opponent then do it twice with Snapcaster. In fact if you wanted you could play Eternal Witness letting you make Gifts piles of Snapcaster Eternal Witness and any two spells you want. In fact at this point you could Snapcaster or Eternal Witness the Gifts to keep going if you had that kind of time.
Here is a possible Teachings build using Snapcaster as a moderate value engine early but that combines with Grim Harvest to go bigger later:
As you can see it's a whole new world now that Cloudpost is gone. Maybe some other oppressive strategy will rise up and stamp the counterspells out again but I know I am not going to be the only one trying to make them work.
Snapcaster with Goyf spot removal card draw and permission? Sure.
Snapcaster with Gifts or Teachings and bullets to reuse? Sure.
What about Snapcaster in Zoo?
Counter-Cat (or Cat Fish as Tom LaPille would say) is going to have to be reimagined as Green Sun's Zenith was more important than many thought it was. This 5C Zoo is not the same sort of deck at all but it does have the option to sideboard Negates Flashfreezes Mana Leaks and Bant Charms if you wanted to go that route.
Here we are mostly seeking to exploit Snapcaster with Tribal Flames. The ability to deal 10 damage with your Tribal Flames is just incredible when we have Wild Nacatl Goblin Guide and Steppe Lynx as part of our first way. I am not sure how good Goyf is in here but Dark Confidant is a little tough on the mana when we already have Snapcaster and Wild Nacatl.
The ability to turn our Snapcasters into Nekrataals thanks to Path and all the burn is going to go a long way towards giving us an advantage in the creature pseudo-mirrors. It will be very interesting to see where this leads but I wouldn't be surprised at all if a new breed of Counter-Cat emerges that makes regular use of Snapcaster possibly even with some counterspells (whether Bant Charm Negate Mana Leak or Spell Snare) in the main.
I am not sure what the Aether Vial deck is yet but I imagine it revolves around Snapcaster Mage. Perhaps a U/R Faeries build with Pestermite Vendilion Clique Mistbind Clique Kiki-Jiki Splinter Twin Serum Visions Sleight of Hand Mana Leak and so on?
As mentioned above Liliana is definitely a real consideration for Modern especially since her Edict ability is so good here. Additionally there are a number of cute interactions with her that are more likely in medium-powered formats than the more powerful ones. Obviously plays well into some sort of a Solar Flare strategy such as:
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 2 Angel of Despair
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 2 Iona, Shield of Emeria
Unburial Rites is stronger than most are giving credit I think. Zombify is a pretty solid effect so getting two as well as the option to cantrip it out of the graveyard (which is to say get the effect without paying the card) such as with Forbidden Alchemy or Liliana? Very appealing.
Solar Flare is going to be discussed quite a bit in the weeks to come as it is also a strategy that will show up in the Standard arena. The Liliana interaction in Modern that is really exciting to me however is the synergy with Punishing Fire.
Punishing Fire (when combined with Grove of the Burnwillows) provides the perfect card to discard every turn. Additionally Punishing Fires is perfect for taking out small creatures meaning Liliana's edict ability will generally hit their largest creature. On top of all of this both Punishing Fire and Liliana provide repeatable creature removal while also serving as powerful difficult to deal with threats against control.
Here is the most obvious home for this powerful new interaction:
Punishing Fires + Grove + Liliana is B/R/G so why not start with a true Jund deck a deck that wanted Punishing Fires and discard anyway? It is possible that the new Modern will be so combo heavy that more discard maindeck is needed (namely Thoughtseizes) but for the time being I'd prefer to start with a more anti-creature approach.
Liliana is not just a mondo-combo with Punishing Fire; she is also absolutely adorable with Demigod of Revenge. The ability to discard a Demigod to Liliana then get two into play on turn five is just brutal. Vengevine is another option to consider; because while we don't have that many creatures it would be very sexy indeed to go turn three Liliana turn four get back a Vengevine or two. Fauna Shaman is also a consideration but I am hesitant to jump at her or Dark Confidant as they are quite fragile and I can imagine a lot of Spell Snares Punishing Fires and Go for the Throats.
Golgari Grave-Troll and Dread Return are banned in Modern but Stinkweed Imp Golgari Thug Life from the Loam Darkblast Dakmor Salvage Splinterfright Boneyard Wurm Narcomoeba Bloodghast Vengevine Tombstalker Tarmogoyf Bonehoard Spider Spawning Glimpse the Unthinkable Dream Twist Tome Scour Hedron Crab Drowner Initiate Drowned Rusalka Bridge from Below Unburial Rites Ideas Unbound Jace's Archivist Zombie Infestation Fauna Shaman Shriekhorn Jace Memory Adept and Gifts Ungiven are all legal just scratching the surface.
Obviously that is a lot of different possibilities but Innistrad's graveyard theme definitely means that some exploration in this area is called for. It is possible that the splash hate from fighting Living End Ascension and Reanimator squeezes out powered-down Dredge but it is also the type of deck that can catch unprepared metagames by surprise.
Mikaeus the Lunarch isn't really so much a deck as he is an excellent bullet for anyone considering playing Ranger of Eos. This isn't going to break any metagames open but he is a fine man and a good way to circumvent the Ranger's restriction. You could always be getting Figure of Destinies and Students of Warfare however so take this with a grain of salt.
Victim of Night is just a nice solid upgrade for people that can support the mana. Go for the Throat is so sketchy in this world of Affinity and their Ravagers. Doom Blade is nice but if Dark Confidant Doran and Grave Titan make a comeback Victim of Night is a great option for those that can support it.
Avacyn's Pilgrim is a worthwhile option to consider for Doran decks or other G/W/x Knight of the Reliquary decks. Noble Hierarch is obviously much better but if you are in the market for a second accelerator he might be better than Birds of Paradise depending on what you are trying to do.
Geist of Saint Traft isn't nearly as exciting as it is in Standard since Modern is so powerful it is actually a legitimate option to just "not care." That said it is a powerful option for preying on creatureless decks if you have enough support to make sure you don't die when you play it. It is a very effective answer to Punishing Fires though you are going to want to be careful about Liliana of the Veil Volcanic Fallout and Jund Charm. Additionally you are going to need some serious removal to get through the Wild Nacatls and Kitchen Finks but at least the payoff is big.
Past in Flames is probably more exciting in Modern than it is in Legacy as there is less competition for that sort of thing. Gavin's list is a great starting point:
Yet another Steam Vents combo deck U/R Past in Flames just tries to build up a critical mass of mana and card draw then "go off" with a storm-like flurry. Space looks tight initially but I am guessing we don't need that many rituals. Pyromancer Ascension is the obvious deck to hybridize it with as most of the cards overlap anyway. This gives you a more robust game plan though this is certainly not the only new Ascension deck we will see.
Rite of Flame Preordain and Ponder all getting banned means that Ascension will have to take a new form. One possible form is to go back to Cryptic Command and Punishing Fire like the Ascension decks from Amsterdam. Such builds usually move away from Rituals though Time Warp is certainly an option.
Basically all Ascension decks are going to want to have access to Remand however as it is moderate interaction that combines with Manamorphose and two Pyromancer Ascensions to go infinite. You can keep having one Remand copy counter-bounce the original copy of Manamorphose and the other copy counter-bounce the original Remand the Manamorphose copies produce the four mana you need to repeat and you draw four cards per cycle letting you access your whole deck.
Village Bell-Ringer offers yet another possible combo with Splinter Twin and Kiki-Jiki but few people played the full eight Deceivers/Pestermites already. Granted Village Bell-Ringer is more durable than Pestermite but it does require a third color. It is possible that the third color will prove worth it however as Village Bell-Ringer's ability might end up comboing with some other facet of your deck (for instance if you had a bunch of mana creatures).
Lavabump (Bump in the Night) is a fairly unassuming new card that is easy to label just a Lava Spike then move on. That it flashes back for only six mana with no real drawback beyond needing black mana is actually quite strong. Besides all a Lava Spike deck wants is another Lava Spike. Here is one possible look:
It may seem a big dream to re-bump but decks like these stall out against interaction sometimes. Hell's Thunder got flashed back and so will this. Besides just having yet another three damage for one-mana spell is all you could really hope for. I mean what are we looking to get? Fireblast? My only complaint with Bump in the Night is that it creates life loss not damage. I think it would have been a very cool anti-planeswalker card in another universe.
Brimstone Volley is certainly going to be a major player in Standard but being able to deal five for three is both likely and much appreciated. Shrapnel Blast is just so hard to pull off these days and Tribal Flames takes you down a very different path. Both Furnace Scamp and Keldon Marauder combine well with it of course.
The Innistrad Duals are not particularly complex subjects; they just might see fringe play to round out mana bases that are looking for another Breeding Pool or Steam Vents in Modern. They are more likely to have a bigger impact in Extended where our options are somewhat limited for enemy color mana fixing. For instance if you want to play R/W you have Arid Mesa... and Jungle Shrine?
Blasphemous Act has chances at fringe sideboard play as it is a sweeper that is particularly well-suited to fighting an early Empty the Warrens or a rush of Elves. That said it seems more probably that Volcanic Fallout Engineered Explosives and Pyroclasm would be more likely options.
Moving on to Standard I would like to touch on a few more cards that are worth considering though I'd like to remind you that 244 new cards is a lot of cards so this is hardly an exhaustive look at every possibility that Innistrad offers. I for one am very thankful that sets are designed to be so deep that we generally can't solve them without months of real-world gaming (and a million pilots).
So taking some requests we have up first a dedicated Humans deck:
I want to want Travel Preparations in here but it is a hard thing to successfully want given the way things currently look. Mayor of Avabruck is just a really strong card so that he is also a Human-lord is just a great bonus. Champion of Parish is extremely deadly in this build one of the major payoffs for going to all the trouble. Angelic Overseer is also a very underrated incentive for playing Humans. Five damage is a lot and flying hexproof and indestructible makes for a very tough combination. Remember she is the perfect card to play into Day of Judgment since even if they Day and kill all your Humans she lives!
Avacyn's Pilgrim doesn't really have anything to do with anything; he is just a really efficient guy that helps speed us up even more. Turn-two Mirran Crusader is going to be a problem for some people and all these guys that crusade other Humans like the Mayor the Paladin the Hero and Gavony Township make every body count.
I considered Hamlet Captain but he is just a bad Accorder's Paladin I suspect. Maybe we want even more of that effect but I know I ran out of room. Cloistered Youth is a solid card but that she is no longer a human when she flips makes us not interested. Selfless Cathar isn't the worst but he isn't even as appealing as Gideon's Lawkeeper another card I would like in moderation if we had room. Selfless Cathar might be more of an option for Block but even there he is just low on power.
- 2 Angelic Overseer
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Civilized Scholar
- 4 Dearly Departed
- 4 Deranged Assistant
- 4 Hero of Bladehold
- 3 Riddlesmith
- 3 Trinket Mage
This list is quite rough but it is certainly a very different style than the G/W list we just saw. The primary interaction is the use of Riddlesmith and Civilized Scholar to discard Dearly Departed giving us a cantrip uncounterable unkillable Crusader of sorts.
Additionally just casting Dearly Departeds when the game goes long is totally fine. This is very possibly too clunky but there is something to be learned about how to use Dearly Departed. Don't let its Angelic appearance fool you! The card it is most closely related to is Bridge from Below one of the most sinister and broken of all Magic cards. That Dearly Departed requires you to get it into the graveyard and then play more Humans is a very great restriction; however cantrip uncounterable no-cost indestructible positive effects should at least make us sit up and take notice.
Civilized Scholar is actually the card in here that really fascinates me. You play him for three then loot then he untaps and you attack for five?! That is very aggressive. Obviously he trades with most anything in combat but he doesn't even have to attack (he can just transform back). It's unlikely that Humans is the best home for the Scholar but he is just a raw-power type of card that I think could easily end up just getting played in some midrangy deck with flashback cards that appreciates the Scholar's ability to bash really freaking hard.
I've been asked multiple times about Tempered Steel Boros though I am not sure what the new incentive is to add red beyond Clifftop Retreat providing "a" dual land. One possibility is the use of the highly underrated Rally the Peasants:
Rally the Peasants seems like the type of card that is only playable in Limited but deeper analysis opens up our perspective. After all giving our creatures +2/+0 for three mana is not actually that far away from good. With Rally it is like an Army of Allah where we draw another Army of Allah. That is actually pretty good value considering we aren't even paying full price for the first one!
Kuldotha Rebirth doesn't work with Tempered Steel but it is just such a sweet card particularly with Rally the Peasants that I wanted to try it. It definitely pushes us more into an Origin Spellbomb direction than one with Vault Skirges and Porcelain Legionnaires.
Hero of Bladehold Hero of Oxid Ride and Jor Kadeen are all sweet options to consider though I would definitely be wary of playing too many high-cost cards in a deck with so few lands. While Jor Kadeen is probably just a little too expensive the Heroes are fine options that would give us greater resilience to Ancient Grudge (a card we are already fighting with Kuldotha Rebirth and Origin Spellbomb).
Yet another possible Mono-R list using new Innistrad cards is one that takes advantage of Furor of the Bittern. It is easy to dismiss auras because "auras are bad" but this one does hit as aggressively as Goblin Guide (two damage a turn for one mana with "haste").
Furor of the Bitten is a sweet combo with Spikeshot Elder against non-removal decks and even if you play against someone with removal it really isn't that bad. Play a one-drop; they will use their removal if they can. Play another one-drop and a removal spell for their guy. Then on turn three play the Furor of the Bitten after they have used their removal spell. Yes they could have another but you still got at least two damage in for one mana which is not bad anyway.
On Monday we discussed B/R Vampires and alluded to possibly just playing B/R midrange and leaving the Vampires alone. Here is one possible build:
Olivia Voldaren is a very aggressively costed flying threat that picks off small creatures and can steal the large ones. She is going to be just a nightmare to try to beat without removal. If she lives you are in real good shape anyway so playing four is no problem. Between activating her Devil's Play and Stensia Bloodhall we have plenty of outlets for our mana and shouldn't be afraid to play a lot.
Liliana of the Veil and Ancient Grudge are nothing new but Devil's Play is actually a pretty reasonable Firebolt. Using it early on a cheap creature is very passable; then later when you have some spare mana you can take out another one. Additionally it provides another weapon against walkers and is a late-game threat that fights through permission.
Bloodgift Demon is a bad Consecrated Sphinx but there is a lot of room for a bad Consecrated Sphinx to be a good Magic card. He continues the theme of attacking in the air and while he can be Dismembered so can Olivia and Grim Lavamancer so we might as well embrace the Dismemberable-creatures. Drawing an extra card a turn may not seem like much but in a deck like this all we want is to draw extra cards. In fact part of the appeal of Mind Rot is that if we can't play draw twos ourselves we can at least get a two-for-one going the other way. Phyrexian Rager is also an attempt to get a little card advantage where we can though it is possible that Solemn Simulacrum is just better.
Splashing for the flashback on Ancient Grudge is a technique we are going to be seeing a lot of so we might as well get used to it. That card is just so brutal against Affinity. You think it can't handle Tempered Steel?
Here is a far more aggressive take on B/R though I kind of imagine that this is just a bad RDW:
Bump in the Night is pretty solid in here as we can reliably flash it back and we'd like a Lava Spike anyway. Galvanic Blast is the new Stoic Rebuttal where you just play it as the powered down version of a lame spell (like Cancel or Shock) but you do so to not reveal that you aren't playing Shrine of Burning Rage (or whatever).
Mono-B Control is one of those archetypes that people always want to be good and usually doesn't make it out of tier 2. The addition of Liliana gives the archetype a much-needed power boost and planeswalker but her natural synergy with flashback like Forbidden Alchemy and Unburial Rites makes wanting to play just straight black unlikely. Still here is an attempt at actual Mono-B for the diehards out there:
Why are we Mono-B? I guess Lashwrithe is a reason but if we wanted to go that route we should probably be playing more of a Vault Skirge/Phyrexian Rager setup. Without Vampire Nighthawk and Gatekeeper of Malakir it is just so much harder to want to go that route. Here is a more exciting possible direction to go:
We still aren't getting that big of a payoff from being mono-B but it does make cards like Massacre Wurm and Entomber Exarch work at full value with Heartless Summoning. Still it would not be hard to splash blue or red here so I would definitely keep an eye on that. Even green or white could be made to work if it was a light splash as Solemn and an Innistrad dual goes a long way.
On Monday we discussed a few different Pod decks including a BUG Pod list with Heartless Summoning. Here is an attempt at a more traditional BUG Pod strategy:
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Sylvok Replica
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 2 Acidic Slime
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Entomber Exarch
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 1 Morkrut Banshee
- 1 Oculus
- 1 Phantasmal Image
- 2 Phyrexian Rager
- 1 Reaper from the Abyss
- 1 Skaab Ruinator
- 1 Skinrender
- 1 Tree of Redemption
- 1 Viridian Corrupter
- 4 Viridian Emissary
- 1 Sheoldred, Whispering One
As you can see there is less need for spot removal now that we have Morkrut Banshee and Reaper from the Abyss. Morkrut Banshee isn't that special but she does benefit from a lack of competition for that five-spot on the Pod chain.
Reaper from the Abyss on the other hand is up against the best creatures in the format. Interestingly I think he actually pulls his weight. That he kills a creature the first turn is big and he quickly takes over a game including Titan vs. Titan style of battles. I still like Wurmcoil against red and Massacre Wurm to stabilize a board when we are way behind but if you have to cut a six I think Grave Titan might actually be the one to get the boot.
The only other note I would like to make with this list is that it seems like almost every Pod list I have seen recently doesn't have Tree of Redemption main. These are the people who are underestimating red. Hollowhenge Scavenger? Yeah he is optional but the Tree is just such a big game. In some ways it is the green Timely Reinforcements and you can actually tutor for it.
This next list is highly speculative but attempts to explore a very different direction than was possible in the Zendikar era:
This list tries to get the most value it can for its mana "getting ahead" on board early and trying to ride that advantage to a spot where it can finish an opponent off with burn. It is possible that we should be using Neurok Commandos perhaps instead of Invisible Stalker and Curiosity (along with more cheap burn). I am generally a fan of Snapcaster Mage with all these cheap blue spells and removal. Black removal is the most obvious match but red removal actually works quite well. I really like that you can use Snapcaster as even more burn to finish people off plus he is good at sneaking in for some damage.
It may be ambitious to be running Civilized Scholar but I want to give him a fair shot since he does hit really hard and gives us a pretty nice advantage every turn he is on the table.
Disperse is a card that we will be seeing more of as a replacement for Into the Roil. Not being able to be flashed back is a huge drawback one that makes it wrong to just replace straight up but U/R doesn't have nice things like Oblivion Ring.
Mental Misstep is another card I would strongly consider in here. It fits the theme perfectly so it is just a matter of whether or not Standard is a format where most people play one-drops.
Our final list of the day is certainly too loose to play in a tournament with as is but makes use of an under the radar card that few have mentioned so far Runechanter's Pike:
Delver of Secrets is a potentially aggressive threat that could even possibly see play in more powered formats. Having to play with lots of sorceries and instants is not the greatest cost in the world and a blue Nacatl has a certain appeal. Here we have reasonable chances of flipping him blind relatively quickly plus Ponder to speed up the process. Besides he still hits for one pre-flip so it's really not that bad.
Twisted Image is a hot combo with Snapcaster since that basically assures that you have a creature to target (the biggest cost to Twisted Image). The only place you are really hurt is cycling it turn one or two against a creature-less opponent but that is likely made up for by the games you actually get value for your Twist (such as killing a Signal Pest or comboing with Dismember to take down a Skaab Ruinator).
Runechanter's Pike is not so insane that it demands work but the things it asks you to do are kind of what you want to be doing anyway. That said the competition is Sword of Feast and Famine so we have to ask ourselves: are we really getting more value than we would out of a Sword? We also have to factor in if we are playing with worse spells to make the Pike work. I suspect this is a worse U/B or U/W Blade deck but it is a worthwhile thought experiment.
I know I know still nothing good with Tezzeret yet. It is just tough when he doesn't really get any new support but now has to face Ancient Grudge. I am sure there are still U/B Control decks with Tezzeret that one can play as well as 4c or 5c lists similar to the build that Tsuyoshi Fujita top 8ed Nagoya with. Neither really takes much advantage of Innistrad yet though I imagine Snapcaster is a fine fit for both.
There are still so many cards to explore from Grimoire of the Dead to Army of the Damned. With States just a few weeks away and the SCG Open Series on full blast we are definitely going to see a lot of exciting new decks in the weeks to come. Snapcaster Mage is public enemy number one so as far as I am concerned anybody playing U/W or U/B Blade decks is the bad guy. There is nothing wrong with being the bad guy (if you are you know a bad guy) but that is the strategy to beat.
Thanks for joining me this week. This weekend is the first Innistrad Standard event in Indianapolis. What do you think the Top 8 will look like? What will win? How many different decks in the Top 8? How many Snapcaster Mages (after all not everyone will have them yet...)? Next week we will have a better picture of what the metagame is looking like going into States. See you then!
Top 15 Innistrad Cards
14. Think Twice
12. Olivia Voldaren
5. Enemy M10s