Innistrad Roundtable: Winning Thoughts

Posted in The Week That Was on September 30, 2011

By Brian David-Marshall

Innistrad is finally here. Launch Parties are taking place the world wide and there are even even some big Standard events with the SCG Open in Indianapolis and the Grudge Match in Philadelphia. Last weekend I had a chance to play in a Prerelease tournament at New World Manga in Livingston, NJ and went 4-0 but would have had a great time regardless of the circumstances. The store was great and all of the people I met there were fantastic, and I look forward to playing there again.

Here is the Sealed Deck pool that I opened and at the end of the article I will share the deck that I ended up building out of it. What would you do with the following selection of cards?

BDM's Innistrad Sealed Deck

Download Arena Decklist
Land (1)
1 Woodland Cemetery
83 Cards

While you think about that I rounded up a handful of players who have won Grand Prix tournaments this year—and have hoisted a few Pro Tour trophies in their day—to talk about the new pool of cards and what impact they are going to have on Limited and Constructed formats. The participants were:

  • Luis Scott-Vargas (LSV) has won just about everything there is to win in Magic: The Gathering and with only a quarter of this Pro Tour season left to go he might be able to add Player of the Year to his resume. His win at Grand Prix Kansas City earlier this year was in Scars of Mirrodin Block Limited.
  • Jason Ford is a young, up-and-coming player who earned his Grand Prix Atlanta title the hard way: by getting through none other than Ben Stark in the finals of the Extended-format event at the start of this season.
  • Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (PVDDR) is right in the middle of the Player of the Year race with LSV and, like his teammate, that title remains one of the few lines missing from his impressive resume. Paulo's win this year came in Singapore while playing Standard.
  • David Sharfman has had a helluva break out year on the Pro Tour staring with his win at Grand Prix Paris to start the season off and then winning Pro Tour Nagoya a couple of months later.
  • Dave Shiels is a tournament grinder who stepped up his game at Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth to triumph over more than a thousand other players in the Standard format. The win came five years after his Grand Prix Top 8 debut in Charlotte as a seventeen-year-old in 2005.
    BDM: Did you play in an Innistrad Prerelease, and if so, how did you do?

LSV: I was spellslinging at the ChannelFireball Prerelease in San Jose, so I'd say I ended up winning—though I certainly gave away my fair share of packs. I even got to use Web [David Ochoa] and Josh Utter-Leyton's Sealed Decks, as we were all 'slinging and traded off to vary the experience. It was a blast!

Ford: Yes. I played one Sealed event going 2-2, losing to local all-stars Josh Rayden and Forrest Ryan with my bomb-filled deck including Devil's Play, Army of the Damned, and Bloodline Keeper. =/

Shiels: I played in the midnight madness. I went 3-1, losing to an old friend in the second round.

    BDM: What is the card from Innistrad you are most looking forward to playing with in Constructed, and in what formats?

PVDDR:Past in Flames, because if I'm playing it I'll almost certainly be playing a very broken deck, probably in the older formats.

Sharfman:Snapcaster Mage. I've played a few games with it, and at worse, being an extra Ponder is real sick. Don't forget that cheap 2-power creatures can kill quite quickly in control decks.

Shiels: It's hard to remember a card getting as much hype as Snapcaster Mage and it's not hard to figure out why. Standard has recently been dominated by various versions of white-blue tempo decks, more commonly referred to as Caw-Blade, and I think Snapcaster Mage will replace Stoneforge Mystic and Squadron Hawk as the premier Sword carrier in the new Standard.

Ford:Snapcaster Mage in Legacy! I know this guy has gotten a lot of press already, but as Bryan Gottlieb showed me, there are much sillier things you can be doing with this card than just what the majority of people are talking about. It's one of those cards that has a million different uses that I can't wait to try out!

LSV: I know it isn't a unique opinion, but Tiago [Snapcaster Mage] just seems way too awesome to answer any other way. He should be great in every format, and I eagerly look forward to flashing back an Ancestral Recall in Vintage. For the non-Tiago answer, Forbidden Alchemy is a close second, since it reminds me of Mystical Teachings, one of my favorite cards.

    BDM: What would you say the Top 5 cards from Innistrad are for Constructed?

PVDDR:Snapcaster Mage, Forbidden Alchemy, Liliana of the Veil, Unburial Rites, and Past in Flames.

LSV: Don't you read my set reviews? I'll excuse it this time, and give you them anyway:

5. Unburial Rites
4. Geist of Saint Traft
3. Liliana of the Veil
2. Forbidden Alchemy
1. Snapcaster Mage

Ford: The dual lands, Snapcaster Mage, Liliana of the Veil, Heartless Summoning, and Geist of Saint Traft—it's painful cutting to five!

Shiels:Snapcaster Mage, Geist of Saint Traft, Liliana of the Veil, Garruk Relentless, and the new dual lands.

Sharfman: My Top 5:

1. Snapcaster Mage
2. Liliana of the Veil
3. Mayor of Avabruck
4. Mentor of the Meek
5. Unburial Rites

    BDM: Are there any sleeper cards in the set that you have your eyes on?

Sharfman: I am keeping my eye on Unburial Rites. Reanimator seems very possible, and I'm definitely not counting it out.

Shiels:Heartless Summoning has the potential to be unfair and there has been a lot of talk about the return of Solar Flare with Unburial Rites.

PVDDR: I think Heartless Summoning is very interesting and can prove to be very good if the correct build is found.

LSV: I like the look of Kessig Wolf Run, as it is an insane mana sink and possible Knight of the Reliquary target, and does good things with Inkmoth Nexus. Curse of Death's Hold also seems sweet, and definitely will impact how decks are constructed in Standard over the next two years.

Ford:Army of the Damned, Mayor of Avabruck, the colorless lands, Curse of Death's Hold, and Brimstone Volley.

    BDM: Double-faced cards create some new scenarios for drafting. How much will the information from the double-faced cards affect drafting?

PVDDR: When the cards were first announced, I honestly thought that the biggest impact would be that people would worry so much about either hiding their cards or looking at other people's cards that they would forget to draft properly. Knowing what your neighbor has is useful but not more important than picking correctly from your own pack. Now that you have to show them, this is probably not as relevant.

I think the impact at first will be bigger than it should. People will see a card being taken in a color and assume they automatically have to pass that color, which is not necessarily true (two people open black cards, both people take them, everyone thinks "wow, I can't be black" and passes it, despite some of those being in a good position to draft black). Once people are used to them, it will prevent some clashes from neighbors in the same color, though a lot of the time people with experience can already guess which colors you are from what you pass them, so it will be more helpful for the people who are not as good at figuring that out. It's certainly helpful for whoever opens a very good card that transforms, since other players know you will not be driven away from that color, which makes opening a very good card even better than it normally is if it has this ability (such as Garruk Relentless or Bloodline Keeper).

I also think it's going to impact how judges look at peeking. They will now have to pay a lot more attention because before you had no reason to look in other directions, so it was a lot more suspicious, but now you're actually encouraged to do so and the line between looking at their cards and their hand is very thin.

LSV: The impact doesn't seem insanely large. I am curious what it will look like once we draft them at a GP or PT level, but until that happens I really can't say.

Ford: I think the information only really matters at the very highest level of competition (Pro Tours, Day Two of GPs), and that's largely because everything matters at those levels. At lower fields of play, most excess information isn't particularly relevant and I believe there are only a handful of double-faced cards that matter anyhow.

Sharfman: It creates a new aspect: being able to know what other people's colors are in team drafts and tricking the other team into cutting cards of the wrong color if you have a transform card of a color you're not in, in your stack.

Shiels: Any information that you can gain about the colors of the people around you will be valuable. If you open a double-faced rare, how quickly that you pick the card will definitely affect the choices of the people on either side of you. The majority of the transform cards are not very high picks, and in the few drafts I have done the added information has not been that big of a factor.

    BDM: Do you think drafting will be different in real life versus Magic Online since you won't have that extra info online?

PVDDR: It'll be different, but not that much. You could perhaps pick a card in paper because it's double faced instead of a slightly better card just to send a signal, which you aren't going to do online.

LSV: It will be different, and seems better [online]. It eliminates all the messiness, and I suspect the information won't be big enough to make them all that different.

Ford: Again, not significantly. Obviously there won't be that little piece of information, but the times that it does matter are so few and far between that it should hardly be noticeable.

Sharfman: Of course. That kind of information is a huge deal in paper Magic.

Shiels: I don't think the difference will affect things that often. I can't see myself ever making a different pick because of it.

    BDM: What do you think the best commons in Innistrad will be for Limited? Uncommons?

Sharfman: Well of course the removal spells! Brimstone Volley, Rebuke, Victim of Night, Harvest Pyre, etc... and Think Twice for my non-removal spell. For the uncommon, Rolling Temblor seems huge, and Skirsdag Cultist as well given that most of the creatures in the set are X/2s and under.

Shiels: Commons: Brimstone Volley, and Blazing Torch. Uncommons: Fiend Hunter, Slayer of the Wicked, Galvanic Juggernaut, and Geistcatcher's Rig.

Ford: Commons: Brimstone Volley, Dead Weight, and Smite the Monstrous. Spectral Flight is a sleeper hit. Uncommons: Fiend Hunter, Morkrut Banshee, and Slayer of the Wicked.

LSV:Forbidden Alchemy, Brimstone Volley, Victim of Night, Bonds of Faith, Dead Weight, and Stitched Drake are all cards I wouldn't mind first-picking. For uncommon, I like Unburial Rites, Morkrut Banshee, Falkenrath Noble, Grasp of Phantoms, Skaab Goliath, Fiend Hunter, and Slayer of the Wicked. There is nothing at Mind Control / Overrun / Fireball level, which is actually kind of nice, but all these are pretty sweet.

    BDM: What are the most significant cards leaving Standard with the addition of Innistrad?

LSV:Preordain, Zendikar fetch lands, Preordain, Lightning Bolt, Squadron Hawk, Preordain. Also, Preordain.


Ford: There are so many! First, there are the cards that created archetypes, such as Splinter Twin and Valakut. Next are lands—fetch lands, Worldwake "man-lands," and other nonbasics, including Tectonic Edge and Terramorphic Expanse. Playing more than two colors seems like a stretch now, and it's more difficult to overload on lands now that you lack utility in them to make up for occasionally flooding out. Then there are the cards that held all of the decks together, like Squadron Hawk and Preordain. Honorable mention goes out to Jace Beleren.

PVDDR: The "man-lands," Tectonic Edge, and Splinter Twin.

Sharfman: It will be nice not losing random games to Splinter Twin. Valakut leaving gets rid of an entire archetype as well. Those two decks can't be rebuilt with any other cards currently legal.

    BDM: If you had to guess what deck will perform the best this weekend at Standard events, what would you say?

LSV: Solar Flare looks awesome, and has always been one of my favorite decks—control/combo with plenty of card selection and card advantage can never be bad.

Ford: For best deck, blue-black Snapcaster Mage / Liliana of the Veil control, but solely because I saw Kyle Stoll testing with it and he is a machine. Basically, whatever the best control vs. control deck is that can still manage to get out of the early rounds against Tempered Steel and other aggressive decks.

PVDDR: Hmmm... in most new formats aggro performs better, since it doesn't take nearly as much tuning, so for now I'm going to say Mono-Red—though I don't think it's going to be the best deck once people start to explore the format more.

Sharfman: Blue-Black Control. I think the deck is just a solid deck in an unknown format. A lot of disruption and counterspells followed by huge threats—like the old deck with the addition of Snapcaster Mage and Liliana of the Veil. Just imagine: turn-one Despise / Duress, then being able to rebuy it with Snapcaster Mage?! MIND BLOWING!

Shiels:Birthing Pod—it did not lose much, and there are so many different ways to build it.

    Sealed Revealed

Thanks to all my roundtable participants! Best of luck to them—and to you reading at home—in any events they are playing in this weekend. As promised earlier, here is the deck I played this past weekend at the Prerelease event at New World Manga. How does it stack up against what you would have built. Feel free to share your builds in the forums—and if you happen to be in Philadelphia this weekend for the Grudge Match, be sure to come up and say hello during the event!

BDM's Innistrad Sealed Deck

Download Arena Decklist

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