Innistrad is upon us. Horrors, and wonders, lurk within.
Endless Ranks of the Dead | Art by Ryan Yee
Of course, I'm being a bit dramatically facetious about all this. The creepy crawlies and shadowy beasts scuttling about are exactly why we're here, and it's time to begin cataloguing our new friends.
In a seemingly non sequitur jump, let's look at last week's poll results:
|What would you like to see a recap of from a local Innistrad Prerelease?|
|New cards being used for Commander||165||26.4%|
|Draft (usual eight-player variety)||159||25.4%|
Almost half of you want stories of Sealed as a way to relay my Innistrad Prerelease experience. As that's queued up for next week (Since, you know, Prerelease Events are this weekend!) I wanted to cover something near and dear to our tainted hearts: multiplayer.
Exclusive Innistrad Prerelease card available while supplies last.
As this week is Innistrad Week, celebrating the impending destruction of booster packaging worldwide, I wanted to take a different tack on a traditional review article. Innistrad features many different things that hunt, and turning that on its head seems like fair play.
It's time for us, and a few choice friends, to go hunting through the freshly filled Card Image Gallery and find our prey: multiple new cards for gaming with multiple friends!
- Self-Flagellating For Fun (and Profit)
There is a cycle of artifacts from Tempest I'm rather fond of: the medallions.
Each one reduces the cost of the appropriate color of spells for you, and they work in tandem to make multicolored spells even easier. There have been many subsequent takes on mana reduction, but the most recent one appears in Innistrad: Heartless Summoning. All your creatures cost a whopping less to cast with the "detriment" of making all your creatures weaker by -1/-1. Flavorfully, you're ripping creatures through the Æther faster, but damaging them in the process.
This might seem like a bad thing to do, but sometimes it's a welcomed feature. You can see where this is going.
The goal of the deck is to attack with large, grave-fueled monstrosities. In last week's Building on a Budget, Jacob Van Lunen took us for a spin with Splinterfright, and I liked what I saw. However, this is a slightly different take on living large from the graveyard. Like Jacob's deck, we want to put cards from our library into the graveyard. Unlike Jacob's deck, though, we're in for a longer haul against more opponents, with slower growth that creeps up on the game.
The aforementioned Heartless Summoning does a few things for us:
- Lord of Extinction, Boneyard Wurm, and Splinterfright—all gears of graveyard aggression—are easier to cast.
- Dryad Arbor, Sylvan Ranger, and Viridian Emissary hop to the graveyard posthaste.
- An early Bloodgift Demon or Reaper from the Abyss is deliciously devastating as well.
- Just a single mana for Auramancer or Yavimaya Granger is sweet too.
- We can cast a kicked Citanul Woodreaders for just !
In essence, we get to grow funky interactions into a mass of grungy critters. A few other things we can do:
- Use Verdant Catacombs to grab a Dryad Arbor, letting us change combat math in a hurry.
- Auramancer can get back any enchantment card, letting us recycle Sterling Grove for other enchantments or get back a destroyed Heartless Summoning.
- Gutter Grime, another new card from Innistrad, watches as our creatures continue to die. The resulting precipitate is handy.
- Nantuko Cultivator can even let us cycle away lands we don't need for fresh new cards while netting a fatty to boot.
If all this doesn't spook your local troupe, perhaps hitting at something else classic will.
Token decks are a staple of the kitchen tables I play at, and it's not just because I'm usually one of the players packing such a deck. Innistrad has a strong token theme, and passing this opportunity up would be silly. While blue plays a big role in the tokens you'll find in the set (through cards like Moorland Haunt and Geist of Saint Traft), green and white get their share too:
- Intangible Virtue and Parallel Lives play the token side, with both enchantments together being something a little special.
- Doomed Traveler and Mausoleum Guard serve double duty. They block attacks or get fed to Culling Dais but leave behind a friend or two.
- Gavony Township is the permanent way to pump up a small army.
- Elder of Laurels is a repeater rifle for headshots, letting you transform a puny, hopefully unblocked, token into a hulking life-crusher.
- Midnight Haunting looks similar to Master's Call from Mirrodin Besieged, but makes flying, non-artifact tokens instead.
Pairing new players with old favorites is a failsafe I always fall back to. With Rhys the Redeemed, Jade Mage, Spectral Procession, and Elspeth, Knight-Errant in the mix making so many tokens, Hour of Reckoning and Retribution of the Meek feel right at home too. Culling Dais is a serviceable method of drawing cards, and getting rid of the guys who leave tokens behind upon death. Noxious Revival can obviously rebuy something you want, but it does say "target player" and allows you to help (or hurt) other players' draws as well!
If you did decide to dip into blue, the first addition I'd seek out is Snapcaster Mage. Who needs to get the spell all the way back to your hand when you can just give it flashback? Or we could just use even more cards with flashback.
Every time I talk about a zany copy deck, I get a surge of emails talking about more zany copy decks. Zany! Our case here features a few additions from Innistrad that feed the copy hunger we all seem to feel.
- Cackling Counterpart copies a creature you control. Say that five times fast (so you don't forget it like I likely will).
- Back from the Brink is a form of flashback for creatures. You can use it in lots of different decks, but here it lets us copy even more stuff!
- Memory's Journey recycles things we want all over again, and Silent Departure plays the defender part quite well.
- Deranged Assistant is a way to shoehorn in a little mana acceleration, and will certainly provide a speedbump to any invading masses from other players.
- Returning favorite Think Twice gives everyone another chance to reconsider it.
The rest of the deck falls naturally into place.
- Phyrexian Metamorph, Clone, Vesuvan Shapeshifter, and Rite of Replication are our suual suspects.
- Apprentice Wizard helps turn on our flashback cards (and fuels kicker for Rite of Replication too).
- Arcane Denial and Proteus Staff also provide protection interference, but serve a slightly more subtle purpose: if you don't like a creature on the battlefield, or the one currently being cast, you can "get rid of it" with the hope that something juicier to copy will come along instead. Devious!
- Finally, Crystal Ball is always an excellent way to dig down for something you want. Since you can reset the top of the library, Think Twice plays nice here.
As always, I expect your versions of the same idea to be wilder, wackier, and weirder than I could have imagined. Hit me!
- On Death and Doggies
You might be expecting a Zombie or Werewolf deck here. It's certainly a reasonable suspicion to hold, and I will grant that you're correct in that I want to share a deck for each of those tribes. However, you're wrong if you think I'm going to come up with it.
Instead of being the sole provider of wanton tribal adventures, I'm tapping your deckbuilding chops this week! After the Prerelease has passed and the Launch Parties fire off, it will be time to get down on (or up out of) the ground. I'm looking for decks of the lupine or unliving varieties, and the choice doesn't matter much to me, as I like them both. It's up to you to dish up the deck you want to see most.
Send in your best Zombie or Werewolf decklists so I can review and share a few favorites back. The end result will be showing you at least one of each variety of deck in action, and not necessarily through a traditional duel. However you like to play Magic, that's the type of Werewolf or Zombie deck I'm looking for! Don't wait: send in your decklists as soon as possible!
Okay, you do have a little time. I'll be at a pair of Innistrad Prereleases this weekend, so if you're looking to dive into the new cards in person first, by all means jump in that way. Since I tend to get a little animated when I'm excited about Magic, I wanted to ask you if you're just as passionate as well.
Remember that, aside from the Werewolf and Zombie decks, I'm still looking for stories from your local game store. If you're attending a Prerelease this weekend, go ahead and share that too! What seemed to work well? How often, and where, does your local gathering of players meet? How far in advance are events planned or organized? Anything you want to share about playing Magic local to you is what I'm most interested in hearing! (And there is an end result to all this, I promise!)
Join us next week when I can hopefully provide you with an accurate howl count of my own! See you after the Prerelease!