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Commander Review: Shadows over Innistrad Part 1 (White, Blue, Black)

Shadows over Innistrad has now been fully spoiled, and I am incredibly hyped to get my hands on these cards for a few reasons.

First off, I am a huge fan of the world of Innistrad from a Vorthos perspective. I love all things gothic horror and Innistrad not only delivers all the classic tropes you'd expect but merges them seamlessly into a robust and enthralling world that is far more than the sum of its parts. If the setting wasn't cool enough, the story told through the original Innistrad block was great from beginning to end, which made the entire block very satisfying for me to follow.

Thankfully, Shadows over Innistrad has done justice to the source material by giving us more of the gothic horror goodness that everyone loved from the original block while expanding naturally into lovecraftian horror as well. Despite Jace "Blue's Clues" Beleren and the other planeswalkers taking too much of a spotlight in the main storyline than I'd like, Wizards more than makes up for it in my eyes by giving us goddamn evil angels as our villains, which is amazing both in concept and execution. The lore and flavor gets two thumbs up from me.

The second reason why I can't wait to get my hands on these cards is because of all the sweet Commander playables jammed into this set. That's why you guys are reading this, so let's get started on the analysis!



Angel of Deliverance


$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A 6/6 flyer that exiles a creature each time it deals damage is a big deal. Note that her exile trigger happens whenever she deals any damage, not just combat damage. This means Angel of Deliverance works especially well with cards that give her double strike to exile two creatures per turn, or lets her deal damage outside of combat with stuff like Thornbite Staff and Warstorm Surge, or fight cards like Prey Upon. There are a lot of ways for her to exile your opponent's creatures.

That said, 8 mana to cast her is a steep cost, even in Commander, and you still need to turn on delirium, which isn't a given depending on your own deck and how much graveyard hate is in your meta. Angel of Deliverance probably won't see a lot of play, but Angel Tribal and decks that can cheat her into play and/or abuse her triggered ability will enjoy her.


Angelic Purge


$ 0.00 $ 0.00

White can permanently exile target artifacts/enchantments (Return to Dust) and can exile target creatures (Swords to Plowshares), but I can't think of any good options that let you do both. Oblivion Ring is the closest thing we've got, and while it's a good card, most decks run some enchantment removal to get back the card you exiled if they need to. 

Angelic Purge is essentially an upgraded version of Oblivion Ring. Sacrificing a permanent isn't a big deal in most cases, since you can get rid of an extra token creature. It gets even better in Sacrifice decks, where the drawback of sacrificing turns into a bonus. Purge also helps activate delirium, which is sweet.

A solid card that should see some play, particularly in sacrifice decks like Ghave, Guru of Spores or Karador, Ghost Chieftain. I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being one of the best commons in Limited as well.


Bygone Bishop

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

White players rejoice: we get another solid way to draw cards! Hooray! This new version of Mentor of the Meek lets you pay the mana cost to draw cards later, but at double the mana cost to do so. Bishop only triggers when you cast a creature spell, so no drawing off tokens unfortunately. On the other hand, generating artifact tokens is pretty sweet by itself, as it can play into artifact synergies like Dispatch and provide sacrifice fodder for things like Angelic PurgeSmokestack, and Martyr's Bond. Clue Stax, can you imagine?

Bygone Bishop gives White and Boros deck some much-needed card draw options, plus artifact generation opens the doors for cool synergies. This is probably my favorite White card of the set.


Declaration in Stone

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Two mana creature exile with minor drawback? Sweet! The extra mana and sorcery-speed makes Declaration in Stone worse than Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile, but being ranked lower than the absolute ceiling for targeted creature exile is far from saying the card is bad; it's actually very good! The added benefit of wiping out tokens like Sever the Bloodline and Detention Sphere makes this card a solid removal option, maybe even third best.

Declaration in Stone is an easy include for pretty much any deck looking for a third creature removal spell. Its value goes up even higher if you meta features Token strategies.


Descend upon the Sinful

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Exiling creatures is much more powerful in Commander than merely destroying them. I have yet to come across a Black deck that doesn't have a few ways to Reanimate, or Green decks without a Regrowth effect. Exiling stops that.

Final Judgment is a fine board wipe for this reason, though it's lack of popularity is probably a signal that it's a tad overpriced.  Descend upon the Sinful is a bump up in power, granting you a 4/4 flyer if you have delirium. I think that's enough to make it see play; I'll certainly be testing it out in my decks!


Eerie Interlude

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Blink decks rejoice: we've got a better Ghostway that you'll be able to pick up for a far cheaper price! Eerie Interlude does mostly the same thing as the former card, except it trades the ability to blink shroud creatures for the flexibility of blinking only the creatures you want to. The trade is well worth it, since you can now avoid losing creature tokens by not targeting them with Interlude.


Odric, Lunarch Marshal

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Odric, Lunarch Marshal is a straightforward "build around me" commander. He wants creatures / auras / equipments that are jam-packed with useful keywords. Sword of Vengeance, Basilisk Collar, and Swiftfoot Boots will do serious work with him. I don't think he's a strong commander, but he's at least a unique one.


Open the Armory

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

We're getting a GREAT tutor for White! Praise Avacyn!

For decks with important equipments and/or auras, Open the Armory is a beautiful tutor to play with. Fetch up a Skullclamp or Mask of Memory if you need card draw, Darksteel Mutation for removal, Gift of Immortality for sacrifice combos, etc. This tutor is especially helpful for Mono White and Boros decks, which lean heavily on equipment cards to address problems in those colors.



Daring Sleuth

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

It looks like Sherlock Holmes bit off more than he could chew this time! In a Clue deck Daring Sleuth is a decent enough clue generator. The prowess isn't super dangerous in Commander, but can act as a pseudo "evasion" by scaring away potential blocks.


Engulf the Shore

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Evacuation is a great card. Engulf the Shore is more situational, but costs one less mana. In most cases, I'd rather pay that extra mana to reliably bounce everything when I need to, however there may be niche applications of Engulf, like running this in a Fatties deck where you actually want to keep you 7/7's and 8/8's on the board while you bounce the smaller stuff away.


Epiphany at the Drownyard

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

This is not a modular Fact or Fiction. It's a modular Steam Augury, a far worse card because your opponent decides what cards go to your hand. It can dig very deep, so if you can make X = 5 or higher consistently (Mizzix of the Izmagnus) then it might be useful, but I'd almost always run Stroke of Genius and Blue Sun's Zenith before I run this.


Erdwal Illuminator

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm surprised at how much I like the investigate mechanic. Making clue tokens is far more interesting than just paying 2 to draw a card, since it opens up possibilities to Artifact and Stax synergies. Plus, I'm seeing quite a few Commander-worthy cards with investigate. If the next set, Eldritch Moon, continues with the mechanic, there may be enough solid picks that an "Investigate" deck could be a real thing. If such a deck exists, Erdwal Illuminator will be ready to join in the fun.


Essence Flux

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Cloudshift is played to great effect in certain Blink decks. Essence Flux is a colorshifted reprint with a small, situational upside that you can mostly ignore. It's great at what it does and will see some play in Blink versions of Brago, King Eternal, Roon of the Hidden Realm, and possibly others.


Forgotten Creation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

An optional, repeatable self-Windfall is an amazing boon for Tribal Zombie decks. Why yes, I would like to dump all these zombie cards in my hand into my graveyard, and draw into Zombie Apocalypse / Living Death / Patriarch's Bidding / Balthor the Defiled! This is going straight into my Tribal Zombie deck without hesitation.


Jace, Unraveler of Secrets

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Blue decks have much better options for draw / bounce, and planeswalkers have an inherent disadvantage in multiplayer games because you need to defend them from multiple opponents and everyone wants to take them off the table before you reach your ultimate.

The one deck that will be thrilled with Jace, Unraveler of Secrets is, of course, the Superfriends deck, which are built specifically to support planeswalkers. Playing and immediately ultimating Jace with Doubling Season will be incredibly unfun for everyone but you! Enjoy your opponent's tears.


Pieces of the Puzzle

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Uncovered Clues wasn't good enough, so Wizards is trying again with Pieces of the Puzzle, which is a significant upgrade in that it digs an extra card and puts the non-chosen cards into the graveyard instead of bottoming them. That's huge. Digging five cards, potentially keeping two of them, and binning the rest for graveyard shenanigans 

I don't know if this card is good enough for Commander, but it's a good card, and my spider senses are telling me that Pieces of the Puzzle can do serious work in other constructed formats.



$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Spirits never had much in the way of tribal support: Kamigawa block was the first time the tribe ever got any love, but most of the cards don't translate well into Commander and they're scattered across all five colors. Innistrad block was the second time Tribal Spirits got attention, this time focusing on White/Blue, and while it was only a handful of cards, some of them were very good — Drogskol Captain and Angel of Flight Alabaster being the two greatest rewards for sticking with the tribe. 

Shadows over Innistrad follows the pattern of throwing us a bone in the form of Rattlechains, a new staple for Tribal Spirits. I have my fingers crossed for one or two more staples in Eldritch Moon to give Tribal Spirits one last bump in viability, since this is probably the last chance to get any for a while.


Thing in the Ice

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

It seems everyone is on board the hype train for Thing in the Ice in Standard. I have no idea how good it will be there, but I do know that it's a pretty sweet card in Commander, specifically in Spellslinger decks. Melek, Izzet Paragon, Talrand, Sky Summoner, and Mizzix of the Izmagnus decks are all about instants and sorceries, but run few creatures. This leads to a vulnerability to attack since, well, you have no blockers!

Enter Thing in the Ice: now you have a cheap creature that you can play and still leave countermagic up for. You can flip it effortlessly, and when you do, you bounce all the other creatures (you don't run many creatures so it's a one-sided wipe for you), and then you have a beefy 7/8 blocker to deter attacks. That seems pretty sweet to me! Also, Thing is a great target for things like Sun Titan, Reveillark, and other shenanigans.

My fingers are crossed for this card to fail in Standard so it'll be a cheap rare pickup for us Commander players!


Trail of Evidence

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Spellslinger decks may have some fun times up ahead! Talrand, Sky Summoner will have a field day with this card. Since Talrand is often built as a Draw-Go Spellslinger, you can generate an army of clue tokens with your spells, and then pop them at instant speed at your leisure while keeping mana up for countermagic. Fantastic!


Welcome to the Fold

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Madness decks aren't really a thing yet in Commander, but if Shadows over Innistrad makes that viable, Welcome to the Fold will be a solid addition. It's not really playable unless you're casting it with madness, but quite good if you are.



Accursed Witch

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The flavor of this card is unbelievable. I'm actually in awe at how cool the art, name, and mechanics are. Is this a Maleficent reference, I wonder? Clearly the world of Innistrad brings out the best in Wizards. Bravo, good fellows!

As for Commander implications: flipping Accursed Witch should be trivial. If she doesn't die to a board wipe, any Sacrifice deck can just toss her on top of a Phyrexian Altar or something. The question is, how good is the curse? I think it's alright. I'm not sure how to take full advantage of a small discount targeting that player. I don't know many cards I would run that even target players. Draining 1 life per turn is fine, but nothing great.

It's a cool card, but I just can't think of a home for it. Let me know what cool synergies or combos you guys can come up with!


Asylum Visitor

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In Shadows over Innistrad, Tribal Vampires are now tied to the madness mechanic. This mechnic is a more interesting and potentially powerful direction for the tribe than the previous synergy of gaining +1/+1 counters through combat damage (e.g. Rakish Heir).

Asylum Visitor is a sweet card that will find a home in two decks: 1) Discard decks that run cards like Mindslicer and Waste Not 2) Tribal Vampires, probably led by Olivia, Mobilized for War. It's likely that these two decks will merge into one now. In these decks Asylum Visitor will serve as sweet card draw, since it can do silly things like draw 4 cards over the course of a full turn off a popped Mindslicer. Not bad for two mana!


Behold the Beyond

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I don't know a scenario where this card is good, but it's interesting enough to point out regardless. I'm sure @SaffronOlive will crush me with this card in a future Commander Clash.


Call the Bloodline

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

You can use this ability on each turn, not just your turn. It's not the most powerful discard outlet, but I can see it playing a role in Tribal Vampire by enabling madness and turning the tokens into real threats off Rakish Heir and other vampire lords.


Diregraf Colossus

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A new auto-include in Tribal Zombie decks! That's two so far!

Diregraf Colossus is a big Zombie that makes Zombies, all for a mere three mana. It's a powerful card when played fair and enables infinite combos with a little nudge: Gravecrawler + Diregraf Colossus + Phyrexian Altar, for example.


From Under the Floorboards

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

While not the same level of bonkers auto-include as the other two zombies listed so far, From Under the Floorboards is a sweet card that is an easy include in most Tribal Zombie decks. Sick name and flavor too.


Relentless Dead

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The Tribal Zombie gifts keep coming! While I rank both Diregraf Colossus and Forgotten Creation higher in terms of power for mana investment, Relentless Dead is also an auto-include in Tribal Zombies as well, acting as a powerful recursion engine and mana sink. Plus, the art is just fantastic, the follow-up to Endless Ranks of the Dead's scene.


Sinister Concoction

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A nice removal card for Madness decks, if they prove to be a thing. Sinister Concoction also serves as a political rattlesnake, warning opponents not to anger you or else you'll respond by destroying one of their creatures.



$ 0.00 $ 0.00

"You win the game" cards are always unique and fun things to build around. Triskaidekaphobia follows that trend and is just begging to be played. My first inclination is to build a Selenia, Archangel deck with ways to manipulate life totals, first by bringing your own life down to 13, then redistributing life with cards like Repay in Kind, Reverse the Sands, and Soul Conduit.

Expect this card to be the primary win condition in an upcoming Budget Commander article. It will be sweet and janky!


Next Up: Red, Green, Multicolored, and Colorless!

Black has some big impact cards. As someone with a beloved Tribal Zombie deck, I am most excited on jamming Forgotten Creation, Diregraf Colossus, and Relentless Dead as soon as possible. Shadows over Innistrad is the biggest upgrade to the deck in a long time. We've also got a new madness direction for Vampires, which is great, though I'm hoping for more love since the previous +1/+1 counter mechanic was, well, bad. Finally, Triskaidekaphobia is probably the single most exciting card that I've reviewed so far, as I'm a sucker for "you win the game" janky cards and look forward to brewing with it.

I wasn't too impressed with Blue's offerings this set, but Trail of Evidence looks very sweet for Talrand, Sky Summoner, and Rattlechains is an important piece in Tribal Spirits.

White had a great haul: Open the Armory and Bygone Bishop are amazing cards that I think will become quite popular, especially in Mono White and Boros decks, where they patch up holes in those colors. Declaration in Stone and Angelic Purge are top removal that should see a good amount of play as well.

Hope you guys enjoyed the first part of the review! I'd love to hear what you think about the set: what are you most excited to add to your decks? You can also follow me on Twitter @BudgetCommander for notifications on when the next article is up, updates on future decks, and input for what to work on next. Thanks for reading!

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