Do you hear that?
That creaking noise. It sounds like the house is old, but the rhythm is—steady.
It's getting louder too. Maybe it's just my imagination. Maybe it's just all of these Shadows over Innistrad previews playing with my head. Maybe it's just—wait, did you hear that?
That sound. That isn't normal. It sounds like it's coming...
Shadows over Innistrad is one of the most evocative sets we've ever printed, and over the past few months one of my favorite things has been perusing the set file, finding the flavor everywhere. And the flavor is definitely there with From Under the Floorboards (how could it not with a name like that?), but so is the power. Let's talk about both.
Let's start with that name. Oh, the name. Shadows has some of the best card names we've seen. They're descriptive, they're spooky, and they pull you into the world where things go bump in the night. Just the Wind, Descend upon the Sinful, Startled Awake and Persistent Nightmare, To the Slaughter, and Anguished Unmaking are among my favorites.
Past the name, which I still love with all of the Vorthos spirit I can muster, is the way the card's flavor and art all fit together. The spell typically summons three Zombies (tapped, of course). In the art? Three Zombies, a decision that was very purposeful. Let's check out the art description:
Color: Black spell
Location: Some interior location with wood floors (see below)
Action: Imagine the wood floor of an old mausoleum or church with weakening floorboards. The floorboards fall away, and out of the hole crawl three ZOMBIES. The Zombies clamber their way up out of the rotten-wood pit, hungry for the flesh of the living.
Focus: The Zombies
Mood: Horrific. All our old defenses have weakened! (We thought it would be fine to lock some Zombies in the basement, apparently!)
Enhancing the mood is the madness ability. Sure, when cast normally, the spell is pretty good—but as a sorcery, the Zombies don't really sneak up on you, and there's always only three. Intrepid Planeswalkers can probably take three.
But when they've gone mad? Suddenly those three look like five, seven, or, yes thirteen Zombies! And they can spring out of nowhere, say, if Jace, Vryn's Prodigy goes digging for answers a little too closely. Or maybe it's just a feeling of Creeping Dread that turns out to be right.
Either way, when madness strikes, even more Zombies shamble onto the battlefield. It's enough to drive you crazy.
Speaking of madness, I have a feeling we're going to be seeing quite a bit of this guy while Origins and Shadows over Innistrad are both legal.
Look, everyone and their mother, plus their grandmothers, uncles, cousins, second cousins, best friends, college friends, Facebook friends that you don't talk to anymore, people that you see at coffee shops who clearly are only there for the free wi-fi, and your dog will all be picking up cards with madness, pointing at Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and making the connection. I'm no different, and From Under the Floorboards is no different. Jace plus madness equals profit, and all that.
But here's why you should particularly pay attention to From Under the Floorboards.
Jace is best in a deck with plenty of spells. You want him to flip and continue to be useful. That tends to lend Jace to control decks, particularly ones that like to go long. It goes without saying that Jace will probably pair up with Welcome to the Fold. They're in the same color, after all, and creatureless decks are pretty rare these days.
But there will be times when Welcome to the Fold has no targets, especially if you're doing your job and controlling things. What good blue-black control deck isn't already interested in killing all of the things?
Under the Floorboards, however, never has any kind of targeting issue. If you can madness it, you probably will. Note that in using madness on this and other cards, the card never hits the graveyard (if you cast it), so Jace doesn't get to five cards (unless there are five cards already there) and can sit around to do its best Merfolk Looter impression for even longer.
Early in the game, dropping one or two Zombies is perfectly fine, gaining you a little bit of life along the way. But late in the game? When mana is plentiful? It's basically Zombie's Revelation, a deadlier, more Zombie-rific finisher that can even be cast at instant speed thanks the peculiar rules of madness.
I imagine we'll be seeing quite a bit of this card as madness overtakes Standard. I just know that every time I cast this spell (and that will be frequent), I'll be enjoying the card's power while also exclaiming wildly:
"It came—from under the floorboards!"