Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease Primer: Everything You Need to Know for Your Magic: The Gathering Prerelease
The Shadows Over Innistrad prerelease is finally here and it couldn’t be more exciting! As a long time limited player I enjoy doing research into the new set to get myself prepared, but I put my focus on the Shadows Over Innistrad commons and uncommons of the set.
When I prepare for a new set I almost never look at rares or mythics, because I simply don’t get enough in my sealed pool to warrant the time. It’s an added bonus to be surprised at least one time per pack at midnight when I get to the back of the commons and uncommons I’ve familiarised myself with. As such, everything that will follow is exclusively common/uncommon analysis.
Creature Distribution and Power/Toughness
To help evaluate creatures, I look to the average power/toughness among colour by rarity. For Shadows Over Innistrad it appears the magic number is 3. If creatures have less than 3 power they’re not going to do much work, and if creatures have less than 3 toughness they’ll be easy to kill.
My baseline creature of the set is Sanguinary Mage. If your creature can’t hang with this guy, or the slightly worse Seagraf Skaab, in combat it’s probably not very good. That makes cards like Cathar’s Companion, Town Gossipmonger, Furtive Homunculus, Stitched Mangler, or Ember-eye Wolf not very useful, especially after Turn 6.
The following are the average power/toughness for creatures of each colour, ranked from strongest to weakest:
Black Uncommon: 8 creatures, Avg 3.12/2.75
Blue Common: 9 creatures, Avg 2.44/3.44 (inflated from a lone 6/6)
Green Common: 12 creatures, Avg 2.5/3.25
Green Uncommon: 10 creatures, Avg 2.7/2.8
Black Common: 12 creatures, Avg 2.5/2.5
Red Common: 10 creatures, Avg 2.7/2.3
Red Uncommon: 8 creatures, Avg 2.25/2
White Uncommon: 8 creatures, Avg 2.25/1.87
White Common: 12 creatures, Avg 2.08/2.33
Blue Uncommon: 8 creatures, Avg 1.87/1.87
Based on average power/toughness of creatures, Black/Green seems to be the strongest pair.
Removal in Shadows over Innistrad
I divide removal into two categories: good (usually kills/shuts down whatever it targets and isn’t too expensive) and bad (situational, over costed, niche).
3 white: Angelic Purge, Bound By Moonsilver, and Silverstrike
2 blue: Just the Wind and Sleep Paralysis
4 black: Biting Rain (discussed more below), Dead Weight, Murderous Compulsion, and Throttle
3 red: Fiery Temper, Lightning Axe, and Reduce to Ashes
1 green: Moonlight Hunt
2 white: Humble the Brute and Puncturing Light
2 blue: Compelling Deterrence (tempo) and Ghostly Wings (bad tempo)
1 black: Sinister Concoction – and this may be good enough to main deck if you can use the discarding as an advantage
4 red: Dissension in the Ranks, Dual Shot, Geistblast, and Inner Struggle
2 green: Clip Wings and Rabid Bite
The best colour pair for removal appears to be Black / Red.
Mana Fixing in Shadows over Innistrad
As such, this appears to be a two color format. If you’re going to spash, it better be for a bomb or high end removal and you need to have the Warped Landscape.
The Delirium Mechanic in Shadows over Innistrad
Speaking of Warped Landscape, it’s the only land you can sacrifice to itself to get into your graveyard.
Delirium seems difficult to pull off without a few key pieces. Getting a creature, sorcery, and instant may be easy enough but the last part of either a land, artifact, enchantment, or planeswalker (and let’s face it, if that’s in the graveyard you’re doing something wrong) is tough.
There are only 2 sacrificable nontoken artifacts that are available in Explosive Apparatus and Runaway Carriage. Most of the enchantments are bad or cards you don’t want in the graveyard, and there’s only 1 land, our friend Warped Landscape. The cards that will make delirium work are likely Warped Landscape and Wicker Witch, since it trades and counts as both a creature and an artifact.
There are a few synergies like Pious Evangel and Angelic Purge that let you get something needed into the graveyard, but you’re losing permanents to use them. Cards like Pack Guardian are all upside, and green does have 8 delirium cards so maybe that’s a thing (you also get Fork in the Road to help get a land into the graveyard).
The payoff on delirium also seems very situational and low, especially for sealed. I wouldn’t worry about trying to enable this. You’ll likely play subpar cards, never get it online, and lose to werewolves in the process. We’ll see how it works in draft, but I’m also thinking this isn’t going to happen often because the payoff isn’t really there.
The Madness Mechanic in Shadows over Innistrad
This is valuetown for two reasons: it’s fairly easy to make happen and most good madness cards are already good on their own even without madness.
Cards like Bloodmad Vampire, Fiery Temper (real good), Just the Wind, Malevolent Whispers, and Murderous Compulsion (real good) are all playable on their own. The madness is just upside. To help you leverage madness, cards like Catalog, Ghostly Wings (which is deceptively good as both granting your fatty evasion or unsummoning something at the cost of a two-for-one on yourself), Reckless Scholar, Pale Rider of Trostad, and Mad Prophet are all decent.
I wouldn’t look so much for madness in sealed. Just play good cards and enjoy the maddening upside. In draft, this will be something to work with. Madness-ing Fiery Impulse off a Catalog at end of turn to flip your opponent’s werewolves back will feel real good.
Should you put these in your Shadows over Innistrad decks?
Biting Rain: Yes in sealed and likely yes in draft. The real question is what does it kill?
White: it kills 7/12 commons and 6/8 uncommons (65%).
Blue: it kills 2/9 commons and 6/8 uncommons (47%).
Black: It kills 7/12 commons and 4/8 uncommons (55%).
Red: It kills 6/10 commons and 5/8 uncommons (58%).
Green: It kills 5/12 commons and 3/10 uncommons (40%).
So if you’ve paired black with green (or blue) you’re okay to maindeck this card. If you encounter a green or blue deck you should likely take it out. If you face a red/white or red/black deck this card will help even the board out. The madness is an additional upside.
Call the Bloodline: Probably so. An instant speed madness enabler (flash out your blockers), cash in dead cards for lifelink creatures, and enabling delirium is enough to make this 2 mana enchantment good enough.
Sinister Concoction: This is also likely good enough and a good delirium enabler. It reads: BB, discard a card (a benefit), lose a life (big deal): kill something. You two-for-one yourself (assuming you didn’t discard a card with madness), but this answers bombs easily.
Behind the Scenes: I’m really not sure. Tampering with combat math in two ways (making blocks hard/impossible, and mass pump) may be enough for this 3 mana enchantment to do work. I’ll have to play with this to see, but mass pump is no joke (see Sunblade Elf). I want to play with this card and see if a token deck can utilize it.
Liliana’s Indignation: Yes, this is a finisher in an aggressive 17 creature build. Play one of these in place of a 2nd combat trick in such a deck.
Dual Shot: No, this isn’t good enough. Low toughness creatures are likely to die anyway. Just block them and play a more powerful card, like almost any red common creature.
Ember-Eye Wolf: While only at two toughness, the threat of activation and the mana sink it offers will be good in the werewolf deck, but likely not anywhere else. You can play some werewolves, then dump your mana into this to get them to flip, or have a huge swing on a clear board late game, or have a blocker that reads “2RR: Kill something that doesn’t fly.”
Lightning Axe: This is the necessary evil of the set. Two-for-one-ing yourself to kill most anything at instant speed for 1 mana (again, assuming you don’t discard a card with madness, which isn’t always going to be the case) is probably okay when you have to take out a bomb. You’ll play it and it’s okay.
Cult of the Waxing Moon: Yep, a 5/4 for five is already hard enough to deal with for most any colour but green and the upside of extra 2/2s is worth it if you’re making werewolves happen. In draft I envision myself running one of these. It makes passing the turn to flip werewolves worth it.
Duskwatch Recruiter: Yes! A 2/2 for two that turns into a 3/3 is good. The “take your turn to look for threats while your werewolves flip and you save mana to cast those cards” is great. Play him, activate his ability Turn 3 to flip, then cast two discounted creatures Turn 4 to reflip him. Then activate him again to ride the value train.
Graf Mole: A 2/4 for three, oh yeah! The upside of gaining life while doing something I already want to do feels real good. Creature type mole beast, cherry on top!
Ulvenwald Mysteries: Getting value from creatures dying is useful. The ability to draw cards to replace them and getting a 1/1 isn’t as good as Evolutionary Leap was in Origins limited, but this is fine as an uncommon and will likely see some play.
Runaway Carriage: This is likely good enough with the 5/6 trample stat line. It says 4 colorless: destroy target non-flying attacking creature if left back on defense. Maybe the name could be changed to Parked Hearst?
Thraben Gargoyle: This is likely a 22nd or 23rd card. It will allow you to sink mana to flip your werewolves, does provide a decent mid-game threat, and is an artifact creature if you need to get to delirium. A one drop that can trade with some three drops isn’t terrible if you’re wanting to send the game long.
Equipment: Nope, nothing decent enough at C/UC for me to want to play it for the cost.
Splashing a Third Color: No, not unless you’re already in green and have a Fork in the road, Warped Landscape, a dual land, and then only for top end removal or a bomb. Keep it simple and streamlined, especially at 3AM in the middle of your midnight prerelease.
Those are some of my thoughts for the prerelease sealed tonight. Let me know if I nailed it or was way off. I’ll take all the feedback I can get going into Grand Prix Albuquerque. Good luck to all of my The Gathering Place friends and customers playing in Abilene TX, San Angelo TX, and Bagram Afghanistan during your prerelease weekend!
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