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Shadows over Innistrad Spoilers: Limited Review for March 9


Welcome to the first day of spoiler discussions for Shadows over Innistrad! Between the Duel Decks, the mechanics article, and the awesome Escape Rooms at the Grand Prix, we have a lot of new cards to talk about.

I'll be reviewing these cards from the standpoint of how well I expect them to perform in Limited. We can't rate the cards completely accurately without knowing the entire set, but we can evaluate the cards in an "average" limited format. You can find all the latest spoilers on the Shadows over Innistrad page. Please note that if I haven't yet reviewed a card, it's probably because the official spoiler for it has not been released yet.

Grading scale

A: This card will often be the best card in one's deck. I'd consider splashing it where possible. (Dragonmaster Outcast, Linvala, the Preserver)
B: This card is rarely cut from a deck that can cast it. In draft, it signals that a color or archetype is open. (Clutch of Currents, Baloth Null)
C: Cards like this make up the majority of limited decks. You're neither excited nor embarrassed to have them in your deck. (Culling Drone, Akoum Flameseeker)
D: I'm not putting this in my main deck unless I have a specific reason or I'm low on playables. (Geyserfield Stalker, Dazzling Reflection)
F: This card will have little or no impact on the game if I draw it or is strictly sideboard-material. If I cast this card, please stage an intervention for me. (Prism Array, Hedron Alignment)

White

Archangel Avacyn

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A+

Archangel Avacyn is ridiculously good. I'm not going to say that she isn't. But I think she's slightly less unbeatable than she looks at first glance. This is for three reasons:

  1. On the turn you cast Archangel Avacyn, your opponent can use kill spells in response to her enter-the-battlefield trigger. They'll likely have all their mana up unless they've fallen into a nasty habit of playing their spells pre-combat.
  2. Your opponent controls her transform trigger better than you do. If they have a kill spell, they can kill Archangel Avacyn if they don't want her transforming, or kill one of your other creatures if they do (however unlikely that is). To force a transformation, you either have to use a kill spell on one of your own creatures, have a sacrifice outlet handy, or incentivize your opponent to trade creatures in combat.
  3. The last mercy for your opponent is that they might be able to predict when you're going to cast her, especially if there's no Rebuke variant in the set. Despite Hixus, Prison Warden being a Rare in Magic Origins, people were still wary of White decks with five untapped mana and knew they shouldn't swing in with their whole team. It's a bit harder to play around a Mythic, but it's even more important to with Archangel Avacyn.

All these minor downsides don't even swing her from being an A+ to an A, and I predict that she's going to be the best Limited card in the set.

Avacynian Missionaries

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C+

A Hill Giant fails the vanilla test these days, but this one comes with an interesting upside. The problem is that you typically want to equip creatures and then send them into combat. But once you equip Avacynian Missionaries, you probably won't want to send it into combat for fear of giving your opponent their best creature back.

One copy of this creature probably isn't enough to incentivize playing bad Equipment in your deck, but I would be happy to play it if I had two good Equipment with which to transform it.

For bonus points, use Moonmist (or whatever the equivalent ends up being in this set) to reset Avacynian Missionaries and transform it again so you can lock up two creatures at once (confirmed by Matt Tabak).

Bygone Bishop

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A-

If Bygone Bishop could speak, he would say: "Have you heard about our Lord and Savior 'Value'?" Compare this card to Abzan Beastmaster, which was invaluable in draft despite requiring work to enable it. Bygone Bishop requires much less work. Curving this creature into 2-drop and crack a Clue, into 3-drop and crack another Clue, sounds unbeatable because it is. It almost falls out of A range because it dies to removal and isn't a great topdeck, but I think it's incredible enough of the time to warrant an A- grade.

Declaration in Stone

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C+

Oblivion Strike was good because it answered anything. Declaration in Stone has the same feature and is even cheaper, but at the cost of card advantage. Whether this Rare beats the Oath of the Gatewatch Common depends on the speed of the game. If you're aggressive enough to not care if your opponent spends half a turn and two mana just to draw a card, this card is better. If your opponent is quite fast, and you don't have time to wait until you get to four mana to kill something, this card is better. It's only when the matchup is somewhat slow (as most Limited games tend to be) that you care less about mana costs and more about card advantage.

Eerie Interlude

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C

This is Limited so the dream of hiding away all your creatures, then using a wrath to kill all your opponent's creatures is far-fetched. That said, this card can still protect a creature from a kill spell, retrigger some enter-the-battlefield effects, or give a turn of free chump blocking. Do all these odd abilities add up to be worth a card? Maybe in some decks, but I could see some White decks not wanting to play it.

Reaper of Flight Moonsilver

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B-

While I wouldn't mind seeing another attempt at naming this Angel, Reaper of Flight Moonsilver is a pretty good card in Limited. Once you get Delirium turned on, this creature can easily attack for lethal damage, forcing your opponent to leave back a blocker or have a kill or bounce spell available at all times. I don't expect White to be the primary self-mill color though, so Delirium might be harder to turn on for this color than others.

Thraben Inspector

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

D+

Elvish Visionary, is that you? While Human may be a more relevant creature type than Elf on Innistrad, getting an additional point of toughness is not worth having to pay three mana total instead of two. If the format is very aggressive, or if there are Clue synergies beyond what we've already seen, this card could become good, but I'm not counting on Thraben Inspector being a high impact card.

Topplegeist

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C

If you can't enable Delirium, Topplegeist is not worth playing. Even with the tap ability, the 1/1 flyer is not worth a card. Compare this card to Reaper of Flight Moonsilver and you'll see that while the Angel is still acceptable without Delirium, Topplegeist is not. If you can get the requisite card types in your graveyard, congratulations, you've made the world's littlest Sentinel of the Eternal Watch. It's good, but it's not incredible like the Sentinel was. After all, a 4/6 with Vigilance is humongous compared to a 1/1 flyer.

Regardless of the grade given, this card is not average. It's either pretty bad or pretty good, and you should be able to tell whether you have the type of deck that wants it.

Blue

Aberrant Researcher

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

Moon Heron that mills you would be a good card in this graveyard-themed set even if it never transformed. Pumping up the instant/sorcery count in your deck to eight cards yields about a 50/50 chance of transforming Aberrant Researcher within three turns. A more normal count of four targets means you have to wait about seven turns on average.

Even in a deck without very few ways to flip Aberrant Researcher, it's a lightning rod for removal and can incentivize your opponent to use a kill spell on it.

Compelling Deterrence

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C+

Unless you have a fair number of Zombies, this card will often be outclassed by the Common Just the Wind. Getting a cheap, mono-colored Recoil is pretty sweet when it works though. Hopefully there will be better Zombies at Common than Innistrad's Rotting Fensnake, and if there are, this card could jump into the B range.

Geralf's Masterpiece

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A

Yes, please. Sign me up. Sign me all the way up.

Geralf's Masterpiece is a big flyer that never dies, and it's only bad when you're doing fine (i.e. when you have a full grip of cards). I like the tension of not knowing whether to play cards to attack for more damage, or hold cards to resurrect Geralf's Masterpiece in case of a kill spell. The only annoying part is that paying four mana to return this card doesn't leave much left mana for casting spells with Madness.

Just the Wind

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B-

This is what a high quality Madness card looks like. Getting an Unsummon in addition to whatever benefit you got from discarding a card in the first place is extremely good, and definitely worth inclusion in most or all Blue decks, especially if they have discard outlets.

Thing in the Ice

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

D+ or A-

In a typical draft deck, Thing in the Ice would be difficult to transform. If you can pick this up early, build around it, and have ten cards in your deck that trigger it, it sounds like a ton of fun. Getting in for seven damage and then letting your opponent recast their creatures isn't a game ending play by itself, so make sure this card isn't your only win condition.

As reflected in its two grades, Thing in the Ice is highly variable. On average, I'd call it a B- card, but I hope it ends up being better than that.

Also, we're accepting nicknames for the Awoken Horror side of this card. Initial ideas include 'Thing outside the Ice' and 'The Magic Card formerly known as Thing in the Ice'.

Pore over the Pages

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

Build-your-own-Divination is an interesting spell. While the lands being untapped frees up mana to cast something with Madness, it's only a bit of mana. Luckily, most Madness costs are fairly cheap. Pore Over the Pages is certainly better than Enhanced Awareness, so it's got that going for it.

Black

Elusive Tormenter

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A

Elusive Tormentor is super weird and flavorful in design. It will also be super annoying to beat in practice.

It's a 4/4 for four with evasion and strong protection in the form of Hexproof and Indestructible. It can also block a large attacker every other turn by blocking as Elusive Tormentor, then transforming into Insidious Mist before damage is dealt. While no single line on this card that is incredible, but when combined the options mean this card will always do something great for your board position.

Farbog Revenant

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C-

Farbog Revenant could peck in for some damage here and there, but I expect it to be more situational than good. If there are an overabundance of 2/1s at Common, this card shoots up in.

Heir of Falkenrath

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

It's hard to imagine a scenario where you play Heir of Falkenrath on Turn 2 and don't transform it in time for attacks on Turn 3. Sure it gets better when you can also cast a spell with Madness, but it's in no way necessary. It plays well with the set's mechanics and does so very efficiently. What more can you ask for?

Mindwrack Demon

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

Mindwrack Demon would be an A if you could always count on Delirium being enabled on Turn 4, but that's obviously not the case.

The first way to fix the trigger is to be so aggressive that you're willing to repeatedly trade four damage for four damage with your opponent, even when you're the one taking the damage first. Decks this aggressive are often hard to find in Limited.

The second and more obvious way is simply to turn on Delirium, but until we see the Common graveyard support, it will be hard to know how easy that is. On that note, how cool would a Bitter Revelation reprint be? It helps put specific things in the graveyard, and it could be Sorin brooding again, this time about Avacyn or Nahiri, or even just the general state of Innistrad.

Pick the Brain

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C

Night Terrors is a fine main deck card, but I wouldn't go through any trouble to enable Delirium before casting this. The odds of your opponent having multiples of any one card are too low for it to be worth significantly changing your game plan.

Relentless Dead

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

Relentless Dead can attack fairly well, can block forever for three mana a turn, and can be a one-card value machine for eventually getting every Zombie in your graveyard back onto the battlefield. The only hiccup is the double Black mana cost so this card is definitely below average in a deck playing very little Black mana and very few Zombies.

Tooth Collector

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B-

Eyeblight Assassin was ignored by some players in Magic Origins for not being consistent enough, but adding an extra point of power means this card passes the vanilla test and is good even when it doesn't kill a creature. The Delirium trigger isn't exciting since the phase of the game where you care about X/1s and the phase of the game where Delirium is turned on aren't always going to overlap. 

Red

Incorrigible Youths

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C+

I don't expect Red to be the first or even second most popular Madness color in the set, and I don't expect non-Madness decks to get overly excited about a Thundering Giant, but that perfect intersection of aggressive Red decks that also have discard outlets are going to have Incorrigible Youths as possibly their favorite spell.

Ravenous Bloodseeker

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C+

Capable of playing offense or defense, Ravenous Bloodseeker is versatile and strong. It also works well with Madness though discarding multiple cards in a turn does kill the creature. Curving Ravenous Bloodseeker on Turn 2 into Incorrigible Youths on Turn 3 is every aggressive deck's dream.

Green

Clip Wings

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

D

There probably won't be enough Hexproof flyers in the set for this to be any more desirable than Plummet main deck. It does seem like an interesting choice in Two-Headed Giant matches.

Hinterland Logger

$ 0.00$ 0.00

C+


In either form, Hinterland Logger trades with almost any creature, but it's quite strong when you're on the play and your opponent misses their two-drop. When it finally does get blocked, it will often trample over for one or two damage which is a nice parting gift.

This card and similar Werewolves will force players to build decks with good mana curves to avoid getting run over in the early game.

Soul Swallower

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A

While harder to get online than a Managorger Hydra, Soul Swallower is more powerful once it gets going. This card makes me extremely interested in whether there is anything powerful like Grisly Salvage or Scout the Borders in the set that might enable Delirium as early as Turn 4.

Colorless

Brain in a Jar

$ 0.00$ 0.00

F

I would never want to play enough instants and sorceries that the first part of Brain in a Jar is relevant, and I would never want to play a deck so slow that the Scry half is relevant. Maybe someone will go nuts with a 5-color spells deck that breaks this card, but I very highly doubt it.

Magnifying Glass

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C

We just got Seer's Lantern in Oath of the Gatewatch, but paying six mana to draw a card is a lot slower than paying two mana to Scry 1. Additionally, there's not going to be a specific need for colorless mana in this draft environment.

However, if there's an expensive spell you want to cast, ramp of any kind is fine, and maybe the set is slow enough that you can expect to draw a card or two off of Magnifying Glass.

Shard of Broken Glass

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C-

In original Innistrad, Ghoulcaller's Bell was an acceptable tool for self-mill. Shard of Broken Glass mills twice as fast, but requires attacks, which is something that slow, defensive decks can't easily do. Shard of Broken Glass seems most interesting for Red or White Delirium decks, and maybe it being Common makes Topplegeist more interesting than I originally thought.

Tamiyo's Journal

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B-

If you have the time to use it, and that really is a big "if", the card advantage from the Clues should allow its owner to take over the game. Given the flat power level of most Limited decks, the Clues are more likely to be cycled than assembled together to make a Demonic Tutor.

Warped Landscape

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

D

I really hope that the tools for filling the graveyard are not so bad that players will have to play this quite slow version of Evolving Wilds in order to fulfill one-fourth of their Delirium requirements. Sure Warped Landscape enters the battlefield untapped, but to coax it to produce colored mana takes a bit too much time.

Conclusion

I'm ridiculously excited for Shadows over Innistrad and anticipate that it will be my favorite set of all time. Let's hope it continues to live up to my high expectations. Please join me for more spoilers and more Limited reviews next Monday when the official spoiler week begins. Reach out to me on Twitter @JakeStilesMTG or in the comments below with your thoughts on the new cards.


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