Friday Night Magic with Shadows over Innistrad—Week One

Posted in Ways to Play on April 14, 2016

By Maria Bartholdi

Maria is one half of the podcast Magic the Amateuring. When she's not working on the podcast, she's probably in an improv show, speaking Welsh, or thinking about popcorn. Rakdos is the true nature of her heart.

It's a dark and familiar ritual that's been boiling in our blood for ages.

Waiting until moonlight consumes the land before we strike.

Ready to destroy those who stand against us.

Preparing our tools.

Sheathing our weapons.

Obsessing over our diabolical plans.

Ready to cut, kill, and Murder...if we're playing a format where Murder is legal.

Yes indeed, fellow sinners. It's time for Friday Night Magic.

And not just any Friday Night Magic. It's the first (well, technically, second) FNM where the spookiest set in a long time—Shadows over Innistrad—is finally legal!

Okay, okay, I'll take the draw!

Shadows brings armies of Vampires, Werewolves, Angels gone bad, cults, and Humans fighting desperately for the simple and charmed lives they once briefly lived. It also brings with it the opportunity to build some spicy and sinister new decks that'll make your opponent quake with fear. And, really, what more can you ask of a new Magic set?

Standard

I like to play aggressive decks.

Hold that.

I love to play aggressive decks. And I've been praying to Avacyn to provide me with a black-red aggro build this Standard season. Even though she's gone nuts and is on a murderous rampage, it seems like this fallen Angel has provided.

Hello, Vampire tribal! The lynchpin of the deck is Olivia, Mobilized for War, and boy, does she mean business. Nasty, nasty business.

Not only does Olivia grant haste, she also enables madness for your Asylum Visitors or, more notably, your Incorrigible Youths, making for some absurd draws and huge chunks of early damage.

In fact, Avacyn's madness may have been just what the doctor ordered—because this deck by Reid Duke seems crazy good.

Reid Duke's Black-Red Vampires

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It's important to note that this deck is a starting point. You could go deeper with the madness theme. You could slow it down a bit and add Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. It's up to you to experiment and tweak these lists to suit your fiendish fancy before any of them are put to the test at the upcoming Pro Tour.

This deck also makes a wonderful home (or should I say "nest"?) for Drana, Liberator of Malakir, who really never got her chance to shine last Standard season. There's even a one-of Elusive Tormentor—because who doesn't want to transform into a cloud of indestructible mist every once in a while?

The interaction that I've been hearing the most about, however, isn't interested in an artery for lunch. Its mealtime is still on ice, this time from Todd Anderson (warning: Premium content).

Thing in the Ice is just so dang cool (see what I did there?) that everyone has been brewing with it. And, lucky for us, there are a lot of cards available that abuse its ice counters restriction.

These two cards love to chill together.

 

The deck below packs sixteen one-mana instants and sorceries to help you lose those ice counters and get one step closer to Kraken it open. (Now you simply must have seen what I did there.) You also get to play with Jori En, Ruin Diver, which acts as a pretty reliable card-draw engine in this deck, enabling you to cast multiple spells a turn—getting that Thing out of the freezer and onto the battlefield. Thing in the Ice is so amazing, I'll be writing about a Modern build with it later in this column.

Todd Anderson's Blue-Red Prowess

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Perhaps you'd rather run with the pack than ice your foes. Lots of buzz has been circulating around the newest planeswalker on the block: Arlinn Kord. And, in this deck from Melissa DeTora, she brings along her gang of furry friends.

Melissa DeTora's Werewolves

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If you want to go all-in on Werewolves at FNM, this deck is just what the doctor ordered. It brings the beats with the use of two planeswalkers, teaming up to make the fur fly. You'll also be 100% Wolves or Werewolves (with the exception of Chandra), which is a total flavor win.

Arlinn is an incredible card, and this deck really takes advantage of her abilities. The ability I'm most excited to use? The +1 on her flip side that gives everything +1/+1 and trample. Because if Werewolves are known for anything, it's for being big beaters. And if there's anything I want to do with my big beaters, it's give them trample.

Did you run good at your local Prerelease and crack an Archangel Avacyn? If so, Luis Scott-Vargas has the deck for you!

LSV's White-Blue Humans

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With a whopping ten 2/1s for one (35% of your creature count), this deck is capable of getting off to some blazingly fast starts. It's nearly mono-Human, so the list can easily abuse cards like Thalia's Lieutenant. Terrified your Humans are too tiny to stand up to the bigger creatures that will be running around? Fear not. This deck can buff up your bite-size beaters with the help of Always Watching, which grants a very powerful effect. Topping off the curve is Archangel Avacyn, whose stats and abilities are just as bonkers as she's recently become. But she's not even my favorite part of this deck.

Sneaking into the list as a one-of is none other than a land...Westvale Abbey. Or is it a land? Isn't it more of a giant Demon?! Sorry, I'm getting excited. With the token-generating ability of the land itself (along with Hanweir Militia Captain's transformed state), generating and saccing five creatures to transform this land into the Profane Prince isn't an impossible dream.

Modern

Do I have something in my teeth?

There's something lurking in the swamp. If you try to kiss it, it definitely won't become a prince. But it may just become a deck that's Modern playable.

Seismic Toad

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Featuring none other than everyone's favorite chubby amphibian, this Modern list from Kyle Peterson is a twist on another deck, Assault Loam. It's an aggro-attrition deck that uses Seismic Assault to pitch lands at your opponent's face (dealing 2 to them in the process), as well as Life from the Loam to get those lands back and do it all over again.

It's no mystery how the The Gitrog Monster factors into this engine. Its land-sacrificing ability is all value in this build—doing damage to your opponent, drawing you cards, and allowing you to play an extra land each turn. This deck also has a fun damage combo: Pitch Dakmor Salvage to Seismic Assault. That triggers your Frog's draw ability, which you replace with Dakmor's dredge. Playing this deck won't give you warts, but it might just give you wins.

With the banning of Eye of Ugin, the Eldrazi menace in Modern might be a thing of the past. It could be time for a new big baddy on the block—and this one's power and toughness laugh in the face of Reality Smasher...as long as you can flip it.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's Thing in the RUG

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Like I said earlier, Thing in the Ice is so good, it might just find a home in Modern—and this list from Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is a good starting point. It shares some similarities with other cards that have historically been very powerful in the format. For example, it is cheap to cast early in the game and grows to amazing stats later. Sound like anyone you know? (Cough, Tarmogoyf, cough.)

When you only spend two mana on a 7/8 that bounces your opponent's board, even your stingy Aunt Cindy will say that's a pretty good deal. It's simple as pie to flip Thing in the Ice using spells like Serum Visions, Gitaxian Probe, and good old Lightning Bolt. This deck also contains Delver of Secrets—another card that wants to flip. Sure, if you flip your Thing you'll need to replay your Delver, but at one mana, I'm not going to flip out about it.

Draft

If you'll be drafting at FNM, get ready for an amazing experience. Flavor and synergy abound in Shadows over Innistrad, and when those two things come together, life is good for the Limited player. If you're interested in trying out some sweet combos or strategies, look no further. Shadows is full of them! Here are a few of my favorites.

Spider Spawning was easily the most popular deck in original Innistrad. It wasn't easy to draft, but when you got it, it was like playing with a work of art. Filling your graveyard with creatures then exiling them late in the game to make a billion (estimated) Spider tokens, flashing it back and doing it all over again. While we don't have Spider Spawning in this set, we do have something that may be similar: Rise from the Tides. The biggest difference here is that Rise cares about instants and sorceries—not creatures. This makes the payoff trickier to pull off in Draft, because most decks need a critical mass of creatures more than they need a ton of instants. That being said, I still think you can make it work if you draft around Rise early. Prioritize cards like Just the Wind, Compelling Deterrence, Nagging Thoughts, Jace's Scrutiny, and Pieces of the Puzzle to help your tides (and your Zombies) rise.

In the wrong deck, these cards aren't anything to write home about. But paired together in a green-blue Clues-matter deck, they are almost unbeatable just by themselves. I played in a friendly draft the other day and I can confirm: this combo is the real deal. In one game I was facing down, and I kid you not, sixteen Clue tokens. There was simply no way to race the saccing of Clue tokens/card draw/life gain machine that my opponent had so deftly assembled. It didn't hurt that his finisher was Geralf's Masterpiece, either.

This combo is the one I'm the most excited to try out. Grab a Westvale Abbey early on in the draft and prioritize token makers—especially cards that pump out Devils. Then, when it's time to strike, sacrifice the army of Devils you've built up, dealing damage to your opponent's creatures (or face) and creating a 9/7 indestructible lifelink Demon. Not only have you most likely made up for several turns of taking damage, you've probably hit your opponent within an inch of their life. And that makes a Demon very, very happy.

I hope you'll enjoy your first Shadows over Innistrad FNM. Remember to keep an eye out for Vampires, Werewolves, and other beasts in the shadows. After all, no one knows why they've all gone mad. But my personal bet is a mull to five.

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