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Shadows over Innistrad: Mythic Count Down (Part 2)


Yesterday we starting counting down the Mythics of Shadows over Innistrad from worst to best. Unfortunately, my longwindedness took over, so I ended up splitting the article into two. Today, we'll be starting from where we left off yesterday. Here's a quick refresher on where we left off.

  • #14 - Wolf of Devil's Breach: Easily the worst Mythic in the set, maybe the worst Mythic in all Standard, and possibly a contender for the Archangel Light award for worst Mythic of All Time.
  • #13 - Behold the Beyond: It's beyond me why a Rare (Diabolic Revelation) with a downside deserves to be Mythic.
  • #12 - Geralf's Masterpiece: It's like Skaab Ruinator, but worse, and Skaab Ruinator ended up being one of the biggest busts of all time.
  • #11 - Startled Awake: The flavor is amazing, the art is amazing, I love the card, but it isn't constructed playable. I expect we'll see LSV open it in both of his Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad drafts.
  • #10 - Descend Upon the Sinful: Could see Standard play as a one-of to supplement Planar Outburst and Languish since it answers specific threats permanently, but at six mana it's too expensive to be the best wrath in the format.
  • #9 - Mindwrack Demon: While the card itself is playable, and potentially powerful in the right deck, I expect it will remain on the sidelines thanks to competition in the Black four-drop slot. 
  • #8 - Sigarda, Heron's Grace: Unlike the original Sigarda, Host of Herons, she doesn't protect herself. Plus there's a ton of competition for the big, flying finisher thanks to Dragons of Tarkir.

The Parade of Planeswalkers

I should start by saying I have no idea how to rank the planeswalkers. I reordered them many times in trying to make this list, and I'm not completely happy with where they ended up. None of them are Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but none of them are Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded either. Instead, all four are in the middle of the pack, which means just how good they end up being will depend on the format and the support they get in Shadows over Innistrad and future sets. 

As we talk about planeswalkers, I'm going to shy away from talking about whether or not they deserve to by Mythics. All planeswalkers from now until forever should be Mythic, end of story. I'm also going to avoid individual financial predictions, instead I'll say that the floor for all of these cards is $5 (see: Narset Transcendent's "no one really plays me" price) and the ceiling is likely in the $20 range (e.g. Elspeth, Sun's Champion). My guess is three of these four will end up in the $5-$10 range with one gaining traction, finding a home in a tier one deck, and ending up closer to $15.

7. Arlinn Kord

Pros: 

  • She sort of protects herself by making a 2/2 Wolf token immediately, and then sort of protects herself again the next turn by Lightning Bolting something.
  • Her (non-flipped) +1 can be pretty scary in an aggressive deck, a lot like Xenagos, God of Revels's triggered ability. Plus, giving the creature vigilance means that, assuming you have at least one big creature, her +1 does offer some amount of protection.
  • The fact that her flip-side +1 gives everything trample is a big deal. Assuming she finds a home in some sort of Green-Red Monsters deck, it should close out the game very quickly. It's not quite as powerful as Garruk Wildspeaker's Overrun (which is pretty comparable, since both can happen on the turn after playing the planeswalker), but she gets to make a Wolf on turn one. Maybe the best part is it Arlinn's mini-Overrun is a plus ability, so you can continue to give your team trample turn after turn. 

Cons:

  • She's a multicolor planeswalker, and we've been burn by multicolor planeswalkers recently (Narset Transcendent, Sarkhan Unbroken, etc.). Remember, we are moving away from the insane mana of our current Standard, which means it'll be difficult to splash Arlinn Kord in something like RB Vampires. 
  • The fact that making a token or using the Lightning Bolt ability requires you to transform Arlinn Kord could potentially be problematic. I expect there will be some times when you really, really want a Lightning Bolt, and you are stuck making a Wolf. 
  • Her ultimate is very inconsistent. Sure, it will close out the game if you have a bunch of big creatures, but if you have a bunch of big creatures you've probably won the game by giving them trample and +1/+1 every turn.
  • I'm not sure Arlinn Kord has a current home in Standard. She's a little bit like Domri Rade in that she wants to be in a deck with a lot of creatures and preferably, big creatures. Is there enough support for this type of strategy? I'm not sure. 

All in all, Arlinn Kord is clearly the most flavorful planeswalker in Shadows over Innistrad, but unlike truly great planeswalkers, you won't want to run her in just any deck. While I think she has the potential to be strong in the right build, we'll have to wait and see if there will be enough supporting pieces for her creature-centric beatdown strategy. 

6. Nahiri, the Harbinger

Pros

  • Nahari, the Harbinger essentially enters the battlefield with six loyalty for only four mana (assuming you immediately use her +2 ability). That's a lot of loyalty on a four-mana planeswalker. 
  • Her -2 is removal that exiles, and it can hit a wide range of card types (artifact, enchantment or creature). Exiling seems like it will be relevant in a Standard featuring Relentless Dead, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, and a graveyard theme. 
  • She can improve the quality of your hand with the Red looting ability, which also works amazingly well with madness
  • Her ultimate is sweet, assuming you build around it. Cashing in your planenswaler to tutor up a Abbot of Keral Keep isn't all that exciting, but if you can use it to find an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger . . .  
  • In Modern, she has exactly enough loyalty that you can ultimate her the turn she enters the battlefield with Doubling Season, which sort of makes her an improved version of Through the Breach. Of course, this might just be the Against the Odds player in me talking. 

Cons

  • Not only is she multi-color, she is a Boros planeswalker that doesn't fit well in an aggressive deck. 
  • Her +2 works well with madness, but she is White-Red instead of Black-Red. I'm not sure it will be practical to splash Nahiri, the Harbinger in a Standard built around painlands and Battle for Zendikar duals instead of fetch lands and tri-lands.
  • She reminds me a lot of Narset Transcendent, one of the biggest planeswalker flops in recent years. They both have plus abilities that (sort of) draw a card, they both have minus abilities that are conditional, and neither of their ultimates are truly game-winning. 
  • Where does she fit? She is in colors that typically want to be aggressive, but her abilities suggests her home is a more controlling build. Will Boros Control be a thing? Will it be possible to play Jeskai Control even with weaker mana? 

Overall, Nahiri, the Harbinger seems to be the hardest planeswalker from Shadows over Innistrad to build around in Standard, and while her starting loyalty and card-filtering +2 seem fairly powerful, I'm afraid that she'll be the next Narset Transcendent and drift her way though Standard without finding a home.

5. Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Pros

  • Unlike Nahiri, the Harbinger or Arlinn Kord, there's no doubt where Sorin, Grim Nemesis fits in Standard. He is the top end in a control deck like Esper, and possibly some midrange builds, like Elspeth, Sun's Champion
  • Coming in a six (or seven if you +1) loyalty is impressive, even on a six mana planeswalker. 
  • His +1 ability not only draws a card, but also offers a way of closing out the game. Assuming you can stick Sorin, Grim Nemesis on a relatively stable board, I imagine that you'll just plus one every turn, draw more counterspells and removal, and eventually kill your opponent with Sorin, Grim Nemesis, while using the cards you draw to control your opponent's board. 
  • Come to think of it, in the late game, when both players are in topdeck mode, I'm not sure how you beat a Sorin, Grim Nemesis, even if you manage to stick a creature though all the cards your opponent is drawing. They can just skip +1'ing for a turn, kill the creature with the -X ability and gain a bunch of life. 
  • While six mana is a big investment, the fact that you can kill your opponent's biggest threat while also gaining life means that Sorin, Grim Nemesis will usually be enough to stabilize if your opponent only has one big threat. Like I mentioned before, once you get the board stable, with an active Sorin, Grim Nemesis it is going to be very hard to lose the game.

Cons

  • Multicolored, although this is slightly less troubling on a six mana planeswalker. 
  • Six mana is a lot, and traditionally it takes a lot for a six mana planeswalker to be playable. Plus, while I compared Sorin, Grim Nemesis to Elspeth, Sun's Champion, I don't think he is quite as good. One of the things that made Elspeth, Sun's Champion so strong is that she was a game-swinging topdeck when you are behind on board. Between making three chump blockers with her +1 and killing big creatures with her -2, there were very few situations where she was bad.
  • As such, Sorin, Grim Nemesis is pretty bad when you are behind on board, essentially being a six-damage removal spell that gains you a bit of life, or a six-mana redraw that deals a bit of damage. This is opposed to Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Chandra, Flamecaller who are good-to-great when you are behind. Does this make Sorin, Grim Nemesis one of the dreaded "win more" cards?
  • His ultimate is extremely high variance. Sometimes you'll make 10+ Vampire tokens and win the game, other times you'll get blown our by Illness in the Ranks, Radiant Flames or Boiling Earth. The good news is, you don't really need to use the ultimate to win the game. I expect that, most often, you'll plus Sorin, Grim Nemesis every turn, minus when necessary to keep the board clean, and only ultimate if you know you are going to win the next turn and your opponent is out of answers. 

All in all, I have little doubt that Sorin, Grim Nemesis will see play in Standard, which is why I ranked him above Nahiri, the Harbinger and Arlinn Kord. His ceiling is much lower than other cards. Probably the best case for Sorin, Grim Nemesis is a three-of in a couple different midrange / control decks, while it's possible that Nahari, the Harbinger or Arlinn Kord could be four-ofs in tier one decks. On the other hand, his floor is higher as well. Even in the worst case, I expect Sorin, Grim Nemesis will be a 1-2 of in control builds. It's possible Nahairi, the Harbinger and maybe even Arlinn Kord could go unplayed in Standard.

4. Jace, Unraveler of Secrets

Pros

Cons

  • The ultimate isn't that great in many matchups. Assuming your opponent sees it coming, they'll just hold some cheap, unimpactful cards to cast as the first spell each turn, and then cast their meaningful spells second. This said, like Narset Transcendent, it does seem very good in control mirrors, since it locks opponents out of winning counter wars. 
  • He isn't that great at protecting himself. While the bounce is nice and can deal with one big threat, Standard is full of powerful enter the battlefield abilities. 
  • He can never truly win the game on his own. While drawing a card (and scrying one) every turn generates a ton of value, and will usually win a game, there isn't a single game ending ability on Jace, Unraveler of Secrets.

Overall, I expect Jace, Unraveler of Secrets to show up in a lot of Blue decks. Of course, it will partly depend on the speed of the format. If aggro decks are dominant, then it will be harder for Jace, Unraveler of Secrets to shine. The wildcard is Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, which might hold Jace, Unraveler of Secrets back until fall rotation. I mean, just how many copies of the same legendary permanent can you play in one deck? Regardless, I put Jace, Unraveler of Secrets on the top of the planeswalker heap for three reasons. First, he's the only mono-color one. Second, having a +1 that is very nearly Preordain is intoxicating. Finally, I've learned to never bet against Jace. That said, I'm not really confident in these rankings, and I can see good arguments for each planeswalker being powerful in Standard.

Chase Mythics

For me, there are three Mythics from Shadows over Innistrad that stand head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. Two make the chase Mythic list because they are extremely pushed and powerful on their own, while another bears mentioning because it's recieving a lot of support. Anyway, here are my picks for the three top Mythics in Shadows over Innistrad.

3. Olivia, Mobilized for War

While Olivia, Mobilized for War is a solid card on her own, in a vacuum, she would have came in lower on the list. However, she ends up in the chase Mythic group for one reason: Wizards is pushing madness and Vampires hard in Shadows over Innistrad. With a lot of the Mythics we've talked about, one of my biggest problems was figuring out where they fit in Standard. With Olivia, Mobilized for War this was never a question. You can play her in a deck that benefits from Vampire synergies, you can play her in RB Madness, or you can play her in a deck combining elements of both. 

I actually have a RB Madeness deck brewed up, but you'll have to wait for a very special article (coming soon!) to see it. That said, we can talk about some of the explosive plays Olivia, Mobalized for War allows. Picture Olivia, Mobilized for War on turn three. On turn four, you could play Falkenrath Gorger, discard an Incorrigible Youths to give it +1/+1 and haste, and swing for 10. Or you can play a Drana, Liberator of Malakir, discard a Fiery Impulse to kill a blocker (or dome your opponent for three), and use your 3/4 hastey Drana, Liberator of Malakir to pump up not only your Olivia, Mobilized for War, but whatever you played on turns one and two as well. The point is, Olivia, Mobilized for War allows the RG Vampire / Madeness deck to be incredibly explosive. While she may only fit in one (or two) archetypes, I have high hopes for the legendary Vampire just because those archetypes appear to be among the most pushed in Shadows over Innistrad

Should she be Mythic? I don't think there's any doubts, legends almost always get a pass based on the definition of Mythic Rares. Plus there is a lot of powerful (and potentially complicated) text on Olivia, Mobilized for War. She even feels a big epic, which is strange for a three drop. As far as finance, it seems likely that Olivia, Mobilized for War will have a trajectory similar to Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Unless the RB Vampire/Madness deck breaks out on week one, she'll drop into the $5-$10 range, but then have a chance to spike back up to $15-$20 at some point during her life in Standard. 

2. Archangel Avacyn

I talked quite a bit about Archangel Avacyn in my early spoiler article, so I'm not going to rehash everything here. Archangel Avacyn reminds me of Restoration Angel in her ability to flash in and eat an attacker, but even better, since she can make your entire team indestructible, which means it will be incredibly hard to attack into a White deck with open mana for the next 18 months. She plays offense / defense thanks to vigilance, and in the right build her ability to Anger of the Gods when she flips could be devastating. She's going to see a ton of play moving forward.

As for being Mythic, I have no doubt that this is the right rarity for Archangel Avacyn. Not only is she a legendary character that has been Mythic before, she is epic as well. Flying, flash, and vigilance is a powerful combination, and giving your entire team indestructible is going to steal a lot of wins. And this isn't even to mention the flavor, story implications, and all the other vorthos aspects of the card. While I sometimes complain about Mythics that are tournament staples because they feel like blatant money grabs, to me Archangel Avacyn is a great example of a card that is both clearly Mythic and clearly pushed for constructed.

1. Relentless Dead

Even though Relentless Dead was one of the first Mythics spoiled for Shadows over Innistrad, I was immediately ready to call it the best Mythic in the set. Well, now that we have nearly all the Mythics from Shadows over Innistrad, and I'm even more convinced Relentless Dead is the best Mythic in the set. If you want a full breakdown of why the card is great, along with some decklists, make sure to check out the early spoiler article, where I spend a ton of time discussing the brokenness of the Zombie. It will be great in Standard and possibly Modern as well.

As such, instead of rehashing my ode to Relentless Dead, let's talk about why this card should not be a Mythic. First off, it's a Grizzly Bear, and while we've seen many tournament staple Grizzly Bears over the years, I'm not sure there's a single one I'd classify as epic. Second, it isn't legendary, which is often a reason to give an otherwise unmythic card a pass. If a card is important to the storyline or an important character in the lore, I'm not too bothered by it showing up at Mythic, even if it doesn't meet the other criteria. I mean, Helvault is an example of a horrible card that isn't especially epic, but it's so important to the flavor and story of the set that it feels acceptable as a Mythic.

Low casting cost, pushed for constructed cards are, at least to me, the worst violators of the spirit of the Mythic rarity. Cards like Voice of Resurgence, which is actually a fairly good comparison to Relentless Dead, are shining examples of Mythics that are bad for the game. Their prices are inflated due to the lack of supply, which tends to stir up unrest in the player base (see: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy). This is especially troubling for Relentless Dead since it has a lot of crossover appeal. Not only will spike players need it for Standard, casual players will want it for their casual Zombie decks. While a spike can justify spending $80 on a playest since they will be playing tournaments, many casual players can not, so they don't get the opportunity to experience a very fun and powerful card. In a perfect world, most Mythics would be like Startled Awake, cards that casual players are going to be thrilled to open in their fat pack or booster box. Efficient spike cards would be mostly kept at Rare, with exceptions for planeswalkers and flavorful yet powerful legends like Archangel Avacyn.

Conclusion

Overall, Wizards did a great job with the Mythics of Shadows over Innistrad. Most feel Mythic, and even many of the borderline choices (like Descend Upon the Sinful) are at least somewhat justifiable from Wizards's perspective. If I could make one change, it would be to drop Relentless Dead to Rare and move something like Tamiyo's Journal to Mythic. Actually, I can see a pretty good argument that Tamiyo's Journal should be Mythic since cards like Ring of Three Wishes and Alhammerett's Archive are Mythics. That said, most of the Shadows over Innistrad Mythics are powerful, fun, and oozing flavor. If sets like Shadows Over Innastrad are what we can expect with the change to the two set block structure, the next few years are going to be a great time to be a Magic player. 

On last piece of advice on the way out the door. I ran the numbers on Shadows over Innistrad a couple days ago for the Weekly Update and the singles from the set are currently massively overpriced. Not just normal "inflated during presale" overpriced, but historically overpriced. At current prices, the expected value of a booster box would be in the $150 range, which is absurd. Of course, this number can change as the rest of the set is revealed; it might be that next week will be the parade of bulk Rares, but even in that case, the set will still have an abnormally high expected value. As such, prices are going to drop, swift and hard, over the next couple months. Unless you need a specific card to play on week one, you are going to save yourself quite a bit of money by holding off and not ordering at these insane presale price. 

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestion in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@mtggoldfish.com.


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