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Cross-Archetype Enablers in Shadows over Innistrad


My previous article looked at the 13 most common themes in Shadows over Innistrad. It's helpful to determine which attributes are most important to track when drafting the set. There are several enablers for each of these themes, but I also noticed there were a number of cards that enabled multiple themes. For instance, Macabre Waltz works well in Delirium decks since they are more likely to have multiple creatures in their graveyard, and it works well in Madness decks since you discard a card. It also fits in decks that care about noncreature spells, and to a lesser extent, decks that care about the number of creatures you control. While these perks don't make Macabre Waltz a high pick, it does mean it should get picked earlier than it might in other formats because it is more likely to make your final deck than another, narrower enabler. 

In order to find the cards that enable the most themes, I looked at all the cards in Shadows over Innistrad and made a note of whether a card was an enabler for each of the 13 themes. Some explanations are needed before we start:

  • I noticed that there are several cards that work particularly well in Delirium decks even though they don't actually enable Delirium. I created a separate category for these cards.
  • Deciding whether a card enables Delirium is a subjective process. In addition to cards that help you mill your own library, I included:
    • Enchantments and artifacts that let you sacrifice themselves for an effect that affects the board or draws a card.
    • Cards that involve discarding or sacrificing a land for an effect that affects the board or draws a card.
    • Discard outlets that provide a replacement card or a significant effect.
  • I did not count discard outlets that cost five or more mana as discard enablers since they usually don't leave you enough mana to cast your Madness spells. The one exception is Pore Over the Pages since it untaps two lands as it resolves.
  • Instants, sorceries, and Equipment are also included in the noncreature theme. To reduce the impact of double counting, I decided to count noncreatures as half a point in the final tally. (Instants, sorceries, and Equipment get an additional point for that attribute, and so get 1.5 points.)
  • The multiple creatures theme includes creatures that let you make additional creatures after they die, which helps you replace a creature after it trades in combat.
  • For tribal themes, an enabler is any creature with that type or any card that produce creature tokens with that type.
    • To simplify matters, I did not distinguish between those two groups, even though that often matters. For instance, Gisa's Bidding and From Under the Floorboards produce Zombies but do not benefit Diregraf Colossus or Relentless Dead.
    • There are 21 creatures that belong to two tribes: 16 Werewolves, 4 Humans that can come back as Spirits/Wolves/Zombies after they die, and Pack Guardian, which is a Wolf Spirit. The first relevant tribe that a creature belongs to counts for one point, and a second relevant tribe counts for half a point.
  • Double-faced cards are included as enablers for a theme if either side of the card enables the theme. However, double-faced creatures that transform into a noncreature are not counted for the noncreature theme, since the noncreature theme only cares whether a card is a noncreature when it is played.

As a caveat, I'm only trying to find enablers that cross themes. I mostly do not account for how good the enabler is, how prevalent the theme is, or whether the enabler is in the same color(s) as the theme itself.

Here's the table showing all cards with a score higher than two:

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L
Macabre Waltz C Black 1B x   x x x x                   4.5
Pack Guardian U Green 2GG   x     x       x     x   x   4.5
Sigarda, Heron's Grace M Green/White 3GW x       x       x x           4
Call the Bloodline U Black 1B     x x x               x     3.5
Ulvenwald Mysteries U Green 2G       x x   x     x           3.5
Vessel of Ephemera C White 1W   x   x x                 x   3.5
Westvale Abbey R Land         x x       x x           3.5
Catalog C Blue 2U   x x x   x                   3.5
Cult of the Waxing Moon U Green 4G         x       x x   x       3.5
Ever After R Black 4BB       x x x                 x 3.5
From Under the Floorboards R Black 3BB       x x x                 x 3.5
Gisa's Bidding U Black 2BB       x x x                 x 3.5
Lightning Axe U Red R   x x x   x                   3.5
Pore Over the Pages U Blue 3UU   x x x   x                   3.5
Rise from the Tides U Blue 5U       x x x                 x 3.5
Skeleton Key U Artifact 1   x x x       x               3.5
Slayer's Plate R Artifact 3       x x     x           x   3.5
Tormenting Voice C Red 1R   x x x   x                   3.5
Aberrant Researcher U Blue 3U   x             x x           3
Drogskol Cavalry R White 5WW         x       x         x   3
Elusive Tormentor R Black 2BB     x           x       x     3
Forgotten Creation R Blue 3U   x x                       x 3
Geralf's Masterpiece M Blue 3UU   x             x           x 3
Ghoulsteed U Black 4B   x             x           x 3
Hanweir Militia Captain R White 1W         x       x x           3
Mad Prophet U Red 3R   x x             x           3
Olivia, Mobilized for War M Black/Red 1BR   x x                   x     3
Reckless Scholar U Blue 2U   x x             x           3
Stitchwing Skaab U Blue 3U   x x                       x 3
Wolf of Devil's Breach M Red 3RR   x             x     x       3
Arlinn Kord M Red/Green 2RG       x x             x       2.5
Autumnal Gloom U Green 2G   x   x         x             2.5
Crawling Sensation U Green 2G   x   x x                     2.5
Creeping Dread U Black 3B   x x x                       2.5
Ghostly Wings C Blue 1U   x x x                       2.5
Nahiri, the Harbinger M Red/White 2RW   x x x                       2.5
Sinister Concoction U Black B   x x x                       2.5
Sorin, Grim Nemesis M White/Black 4WB       x x               x     2.5
Behold the Beyond M Black 5BB   x   x   x                   2.5

There are several cards that enable multiple themes. The top three are:

  • As mentioned previously, Macabre Waltz works well with Delirium and Madness. It's also a sorcery and a noncreature, and can help if your deck cares about how many creatures you have on the battlefield.
  • Pack Guardian helps enable Delirium, since it allows you to discard a land, creates multiple creatures, has 4+ power, and is both a Wolf and a Spirit (which I count only once).
  • Sigarda, Heron's Grace benefits from having Delirium enablers in your deck, makes multiple creatures that are Human, and has 4+ power.

Apart from Macabre Waltz, the other Commons in the list are:

  • Vessel of Ephemera, a noncreature that helps enable Delirium. It creates multiple creatures that are Spirits.
  • Catalog, an instant that lets you discard a card and enable Delirium.
  • Tormenting Voice, a noncreature that provides a discard outlet and helps enable Delirium
  • Ghostly Wings, a noncreature that allows you to discard a card. If it is enchanting your own creature, you usually only want to discard a card to save it from removal or to reuse an enters-the-battlefield effect. However, if it is used to enchant an opponent's creature, you're more likely to be willing to discard a card to bounce your opponent's creature, especially if the card you're discard has Madness.

Every color except Green has a Common that enables multiple themes, and Blue has two (although Ghostly Wings is the weakest of the bunch). Looking at the entire list, Blue has the most number of flexible enablers, with an average of 9.3 in an eight-person draft. Black has 8.0, Green has 4.5, Red has 4.1, and White has 2.9.

The list of flexible enablers includes 24 noncreatures, 23 Delirium enablers, 18 cards that generate multiple creatures, and 17 discard outlets. At the other end of the spectrum, there are only two pieces of Equipment among the flexible enablers (both of which provide a discard outlet) and one card that produces Clues.

Conclusions

There are several cards that can act as enablers for multiple themes. They are more likely to be playable if you switch archetypes, and are more likely to interact with other subthemes in your deck, so you may want to value them a bit higher than you might otherwise. On average, Blue and Black have the most flexible enablers, while White has the least. Green has more than White, but doesn't have any of these enablers at Common, although the Uncommon Pack Guardian is one of the best enablers in the set, in addition to being an excellent card on its own merits. The three cards that enable the most themes in Shadows over Innistrad are Macabre Waltz, Pack Guardian, and Sigarda, Heron's Grace.


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