The Top Shadows Cards for Standard

Posted in Top Decks on April 1, 2016

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

The shadows have lifted, and we can finally shine a light on the full set list for Shadows over Innistrad! It's time to investigate the set for Constructed standouts, and I'm sure we will find plenty of Clues.


The first group of suspects I interviewed were all Humans, and they seemed to gather based on some kind of tribal alliance.

White-Blue Humans

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Humans are indeed a powerful tribe, and Thalia's Lieutenant is a worthy leader. The combination of Always Watching and Lieutenant makes cheap Humans into a powerful offensive force, one that can attack early and still be resilient later. The only thing they are missing is a large flying threat, perhaps one that can be cast at instant speed...

Avacyn is just one of the best cards in the set, hands (or wings) down. She is a huge flier with a relevant enters-the-battlefield effect, and she can come down at any point you deem convenient. Playing her during combat is very effective, as is dropping her at end of turn and setting up to attack for a ton of damage. In the event that one of your creatures dies, Avacyn goes berserk and turns into an even bigger flier that casts a Lightning Bolt on everything except you. One of the biggest payoffs of playing a deck full of white creatures is Avacyn, and I wouldn't be surprised if there should be four in the deck.

Even when Avacyn doesn't show up, she's keeping an eye on the situation, and is ready to make your team better.

These two spells give this deck more staying power and more interactivity. Always Watching makes playing 28 creatures more appealing, and the vigilance is not to be underestimated. Getting to attack for extra damage while not exposing yourself to a counterattack is a huge boon, and you aren't paying very much for the privilege.

Declaration in Stone competes with Silkwrap and Stasis Snare (white sure does have a lot of good removal options these days), but I err on the side of trying the new cards. Declaration is good at helping you curve out and stacks well in multiples. If the opponent doesn't have time to crack the first Clue, any subsequent Clues won't help them much at all.

The only blue card in the deck isn't a new one, and in fact is one I'm sure you've seen before. Reflector Mage is just a great card, and worth adding an entire color to a monocolored deck. It's exactly what an aggressive/tempo deck wants, and being a Human makes it that much more appealing for this deck.


The Humans were of no help (they just kept yelling about defending Thraben and the like), so I turned to a group that showed a little more spirit—Spirits.

Rattlechains is an impressive Magic card. A 2/1 flier with flash is already intriguing, though not quite there. Add the ability to save another Spirit and give Spirits flash and you have a great deal on your hands.

What Rattlechains wants is to be paired with Spirits and instants, which is something that can be arranged.

White-Blue Spirits

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There aren't a ton of Spirits around (yet), but there are enough to rattle some chains. The combination of flash creatures and counterspells is an age-old strategy, and Shadows brings plenty of new additions.

These two Spirits combine with Anafenza and Rattlechains to give the deck the threats it's looking for. Bygone Bishop benefits greatly from Rattlechains regardless of which is played first, and accumulating Clues gives you even less of a reason to tap out. [autocard]Topplegeist[/card] starts with a minor ability and eventually becomes a way of stopping the opponent's best creature, while also combining nicely with Rattlechains. Once

has flash, you can play it to tap down an enemy creature on the opponent's turn, ideally triggering some combination of Bishop and Anafenza while you are at it.

These cards are still great.

Avacyn protects Humans and Spirits alike, and becomes equally angry if either of them dies on her watch. She is another huge flash threat, which makes all the instant-speed cards in the deck even better.

Ojutai's Command is the big winner here. It brings back most of the creatures in the deck, draws a card, and gives you an excellent reason not to tap out. The downside of leaving up four mana is mitigated completely by all the creatures with flash, and that combination leaves the opponent in a very tough spot. If they tap out for a creature, you can counter it with Command and get value, but if they don't play anything, you can just flash in a Spirit or Avacyn. That's exactly where you want to be, and why this deck intrigued me.

Still, upon further reflection (perhaps too much reflection), I decided to move on.


Vampires seem to know everything, or at least claim they do. The ones on Innistrad did seem to be a little mad, but it was worth a shot...

Black-Red Vampires

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All the pieces of the puzzle are here: powerful creatures, tons of ways to discard, and insanely good madness cards. Olivia is ready for war, and she's bringing her whole coven with her.

Olivia is the centerpiece of the deck. She's a 3/3 flier for three with major upside, as she not only makes your other creatures bigger and hastier, but she enables madness perfectly. She's even a legendary creature you don't mind playing four of, as you can discard excess copies.

What these four cards have in common is that they allow you to discard cards as you please, which comes with multiple upsides. The first is that you get a benefit for discarding, such as a 1/1 Vampire token or dealing 5 damage. Equally important is that they enable your madness cards to be played for a huge discount, which is really what's mobilizing this deck.

The other side of the madness equation is the payoffs for discarding. Lightning Bolt isn't a bad one, nor is a 4/3 haste for three mana. Falkenrath Gorger makes every other Vampire into a madness card, letting you get tons of extra out of your one-drop. The real star here is Avacyn, or more specifically her Judgment. Dealing X damage, split as you choose, is a great deal for XR, and it being an instant really brings it to the next level. The "fail case" of casting Twin Bolt is still a very good one, and overall this is one of the main reasons to consider going down the path of madness.

Not all Vampires are insane, though I guess the title of "Asylum Visitor" makes that a questionable claim at best. That particular Vampire feeds off of madness, as you tend to play with an empty hand relatively quickly. Drana and Kalitas are just here as muscle, with both of them adding a lot more power to the Vampire deck, despite not really interacting with the main themes.

My investigation is far from over, but I've learned enough for today. Where will the Clues lead you?


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