The Top 8 Shadows Over Innistrad Mythics & Rares Which Look Good (But Won’t Actually See Tournament Play)
Science tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Naturally, therefore, for every awesome new card in Shadows over Innistrad there must be a total stinker. And because I just wrote an article discussing my Top 8 best SOI cards, there must also be an article for my Bottom 8.
The following cards are not, of course, actually the very worst in the set, but these are, to my mind, some of the worst that you could rationally contemplate for constructed play. These are the cards that are getting all the hype but I feel in reality just aren’t good enough for tournament Magic, the cards that get people talking pre-set release but are then left rotting in trade binders a few short weeks later. These, my friends, are the cards you should be getting rid of before everyone else figures it out…
Standard disclaimer: Due to being a human being (more or less) I am fallible and therefore will, if only extremely rarely (ahem), get things wrong. Maybe one of the cards I’m about to hang out to dry turns out to be a multi-format staple. It’s certainly possible, and it’s not as though I don’t want them to be played! If you’ve got some sweet new brew in mind with one of these cards then please do not let me discourage you from giving it a go. Please do give them a go and tell me how it went!
I’m also looking at these solely from the point of view of a competitive player – after all, perhaps some of these are insane in your Commander deck, and that’s the beauty of Magic: the Gathering – one player’s trash is another’s treasure. I don’t have any plans on sleeving these up any time soon but the long and short of it is that if you have a home for one of these cards, I’m not going to tell you not to try it out.
Anyway, that’s the preamble done, let’s get to the meat of it. The cheap, unpleasant, slightly funny-looking meat of it. If cards are the meat of a set, think of these as the ones that will end up in a doner kebab…
8 Shadows Over Innistrad Mythics & Rares Which Look Good (But Won’t Actually See Tournament Play)
I’ve already discussed a number of my reasons for disliking Sorin, Grim Nemesis, and I can’t say I’ve softened my stance much. It’s not even that he’s bad, just that he does the same stuff as several other Standard-legal cards at a slightly worse rate. It’s just so… uninspiring.
If I’m sinking six mana into something, I want a big impact on the board. This just doesn’t provide that at all. If you look at the six mana planeswalkers that have seen play in recent years – Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Chandra, Flamecaller, they both have the potential to wrath the board and then start putting a swift clock on to your opponent. Sorin, Grim Nemesis simply doesn’t do any of that. If he sticks around for a while you’ll get plenty of card advantage from him but he doesn’t protect himself well enough to ensure that will even happen. What it does do is give White-Black control decks another Ob Nixilis, Reignited that doesn’t charge you life to draw cards and which isn’t also an Ob Nixilis. As such, I can see a few decks wanting to play him as a one-of here and there. Beyond that, I’m struggling to see the new Sorin making major waves in constructed.
And that art… It looks like Sorin is stepping out of the cover of a really bad eighties metal album. One by a band who tried desperately hard to sound like Iron Maiden but never got past the toilet venue circuit. One with really bad songs that all sounded the same. Called DEATHKNIGHT or something. In other words, I’m not that keen on the art.
Blimey, we’ve fallen a long way in the short time since Sylvan Caryatid was in Standard. Now we pay two mana for a ramp spell that doesn’t actually ramp unless you have a way to get a coloured card in the bin. That isn’t too hard to do of course, but the problem is that if you’re playing the kind of midrange decks that traditionally want effects like this, then you’re probably playing permanents – in other words, things that don’t go in the graveyard unless things are going badly.
This doesn’t even allow you to cast a four-drop on turn three unless you were able to cast a spell of some kind on turn one. Fiery Impulse does that well enough, as does Duress in the right format, but there are very few reasonable alternatives. In other words, this is a two mana ramp spell that usually won’t ramp you until you’re past the point at which you needed the ramp in the first place.
Ah, the compulsory mythic Hydra. This one is a relative of old constructed powerhouse Primeval Titan but it’s not a particularly close relative apparently – a sort of distant cousin that Prime Time doesn’t send Christmas cards to.
Having power and toughness equal to the number of lands you control is rather underwhelming when it’s a six drop and you presumably want to ramp in to it. Getting an extra land into play actually is a very nice ability, but even if you can get this into play and make it big enough to do work in combat in a format full of meaty, midrange creatures, then the lack of trample – or any other form of evasion – counts against it.
Now, what I will say in Ulvenwald Hydra’s favour is that whilst I’m severely unimpressed by the base rate, there are several good silver bullet lands in the format to fetch up – most notably Westvale Abbey, a card I overlooked at first because I wasn’t sure if there was a shell that supported it. As it turns out, more or less every shell supports Abbey, and it’s very reasonable to assume there may be a deck that wants to find it badly enough to run Hydra in order to make sure that it always has access to a copy at the right time. That requires a very dedicated shell though, and outside of such shenanigans I’m really not very interested in playing this particular fatty.
It’s got a ton of text, so it must be good right?
Let’s start at the top. A 3/3 for 4 is substantially below the base rate for a constructed-playable card, so whether it’s playable or not comes down entirely to its text box. Which is a very long one, with many, many keywords.
In order to make this card good, you essentially have to both have a lot of creatures in play and a lot of creatures with different keywords to spread around. That not only means you’re forced to build heavily around this card in order to get a payoff, but all that you get is to give a couple of creatures flying, or whatever it may be. If your opponent is playing a deck which is heavily centred around combat, then you might, once you have three or four more creatures in play, get enough out of this card. In the meantime though, you’ve just got a very mediocre 3/3 stuck in hand or play, and heaven forbid your opponent happens to be playing a good amount of removal to punish you for playing this oddball assortment of creatures. It seems very hard to build a deck around Odric that doesn’t just die to a single Languish.
At the end of the day the payoff is rarely going to be worth the effort you put into it.
The more I think about this card, the less I can ever think of a deck where you can ever get full value out of this. Geralf’s Masterpiece is only a big flyer if you’re out of cards, but can only be brought back to the field after inevitably getting hit by a removal spell if you have a full grip. How you successfully fluctuate between the two is something I can’t understand.
This thing is also a perfect example of a card that proves the old “dies to Doom Blade” argument. When there’s a very high chance of it getting killed immediately, and it doesn’t provide any value when it does, and you spent a ton of mana to get there in the first place, it probably isn’t playable. Technically, of course, this has built in resilience to removal but giving your opponent a 3-for-1 for the privilege of getting a creature that still just dies to the next removal spell isn’t a deal I’m interested in.
If this is the very best Geralf can do, I reckon he’s pretty overrated really. “Master Stitcher”? Pfft. Back to the drawing board, buddy.
Every set, there sees to be a card that requires a ton of work for a huge payoff, and everybody goes crazy for it. It rarely lives up to the hype. Thing In The Ice isn’t going to live up to they hype.
Having a 0/4 wall in play, doing nothing, for several turns until you hopefully draw and play enough spells to flip it is unexciting in the extreme. If it doesn’t flip, it does precious little, and four spells is a much higher barrier to clear than you might think in a Standard environment with few decent cantrips. You aren’t going to drop this and flip it the following turn to devastating effect. There simply are no Gitaxian Probes in the current format to make that a vaguely realistic plan. The danger is that people will try this out, have a game where it flips quickly and wins the game in short order, and then assume that it’s incredibly good, when in reality it will underperform in the significant majority of games. It’s a classic “Magical Christmasland” card – when it works it’s insanely powerful, but most of the time you will be giving your opponent more than enough time to find a removal spell to deal with it before you get there – and sometimes they won’t even need to bother destroying it at all. The ceiling on this card is very high, but the floor is somewhere beneath the basement.
I’ve also seen some commentators suggesting that this will see play in eternal formats. I’m not seeing it. Certainly you can pack your deck with cheap cantrips to give you a high chance of flipping the Thing quickly, but why take a risk on a card being a 0/4 that does nothing when you could play something like Young Pyromancer instead and be guaranteed the benefits? Typically, high risk, high reward cards see relatively little play because in order to be competitive you need cards which do the same thing game in, game out. This is a do-nothing far too often for my liking.
Another card that seems to crop up in every set is the bananas mythic that makes almost no sense from any standpoint I look at it. When do you ever want this effect? At seven mana it could be a late-game draw spell in a control deck – except that you have to discard your hand, throwing away all of the other resources you’ve accrued in the hope that the three cards you get are sufficient to win you the game. In Standard, there simply aren’t finishers so powerful that they can reliably guarantee you the win. In older formats, seven mana is just too much, even for a triple Demonic Tutor.
Yes, you could fire off a bunch of Dark Rituals and make seven mana to cast this, but we already have cards like Infernal Tutor which require far less mana to function, and with Past In Flames you have a single card that effectively already acts as a triple Demonic Tutor.
I also understand that this can theoretically enable shenanigans with Madness, but in what world can you reliably have enough mana to cast this and the cards you’re discarding to it? Behold the Beyond requires you to go incredibly deep for insufficient reward. Not a card I’m interested in playing any time soon.
Time for the big one. The stinker. The wildly unplayable card that somehow has people excited…
I’m so convinced that Sin Prodder is bad that I’ve staked my dignity by betting, with my friend, Pro Tour competitor David Calf, that if this makes the Top 8 of a single major event then I will get a custard pie in the face at the location of his choosing from the person of his choosing. Happily, this card is abominably bad and the bet runs both ways, so I look forward to seeing David temporarily silenced by a large chunk of pie being forced into his face at Grand Prix London later this year.
Let’s break it down. A 3/2 with menace for 3 is below par for constructed, so we need some help from the ability. And that ability does not do much.
If the top card of your deck every turn is a land, nothing happens. If it’s a cheap card, then your opponent will take one or two points of damage. That’s only likely to matter if your opponent is at such a low life total that you’re winning anyway, and if you’re planning on putting this in an aggressive deck with a low curve then the damage from the denied card draw will generally be irrelevant, either because your opponent will ultimately take more damage by giving you the card or because the game is already locked up. Put this in some kind of higher-curved midrange deck and you’re playing a card which simply doesn’t impact the board immediately and which doesn’t capitalise on the extra damage you get from the trigger.
All of that even assumes you get to untap with it. This guy dies to literally every halfway maindeck’able removal spell in the format. That’s not a great place to be for a creature that costs more than two mana, in any constructed format. Basically, it’s hard for me to envisage a scenario where this card is ever practically better than Boggart Brute, a card nobody would ever consider playing in Standard, for good reason. Right now, Sin Prodder is actually quite expensive by the standards of rares, presumably because the ability looks a tiny bit like Dark Confidant’s if you squint really, really hard, and that’s a comparison that, although utterly misplaced in this instance, guarantees a premium on the card. Take advantage of that now and trade these guys away. They won’t be out of the bulk box for long.
Suffice to say, I’m feeling confident that the only pie in my face in a few months’ time will be of the steak and ale variety, and will be there entirely by my own volition.
That’s it from me this week – I’ve no doubt plenty of you will have your own opinions on which of the new cards are flops and which of the cards above I’m badly underestimating, and I’d love to hear them! Please do let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on the Facebook page. Aside from that, I’ll be back next week to welcome two very good friends of mine to Modern – Mr. Thopter and Mr. Sword…
Thanks for reading,