Shadows Over Innistrad: Playing To Your Weaknesses – Blue

NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)

As for my rating system, I’ll be using a new format this time around. After a lot of feedback, I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:

  • 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
  • 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
  • 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
  • 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback. Most first pick draft commons/uncommons fit into this ranking.
  • 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around. No questions asked first pick in draft.

 

One day closer to the Shadows Over Innistrad pre-release, and one day closer to the end of Oath of Gatewatch standard. Today I’ll be looking over the blue cards. Blue always has a decent amount of flyers and tempo cards, as well as card draw. Shadows Over Innistrad has no shortage of these effects, but are they as strong as past sets limited offerings? Let’s take a look at today’s cards and see what we think.

 

Sleep Paralysis

Blue has two types of effects: tapping and bouncing. Tap effects tap something for a turn or two, or in some cases permanently. Sleep Paralysis is the latter. It taps something and it taps it for good unless the creature dies or the enchantment is removed. For blue this is good effect, especially if you’re lacking permanent removal in your limited deck. What I want to know is why Wizards thought that a card like Claustrophobia, which has the same effect but for 3 mana, was considered to be too powerful. Why couldn’t it just have been reprinted? Well, beggars can’t be choosers I guess. The effect is still good in limited, and better than a bounce effect most of the time. Another serviceable semi-removal spell. Playable as one of your 23 cards, but not a high pick in draft.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Press for Answers

Now this is more what I’m talking about. Press for Answers is a 2 mana “Sleep” effect that taps a creature down for 2 turns, and it also replaces itself somewhat with the investigate bonus. I would most likely take this over Sleep Paralysis because it’s easier to cast and lets you draw a card. Good support card in an aggressive deck like UW flyers, but also works well alongside other colors you might be in such as UG, UB, or UR. I’d grab 1 or two early in draft if I was focusing on a blue deck. Only thing that would make it better is instant speed.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Just the Wind

The benefit of Just the Wind is that you can cast it off a discard, which works well with various “Looter” effects on a number of cards, and it is also playable defensively against your opponents. Sure it’s just a one turn bounce effect, but used at the right time it can lead to a nice tempo swing. Instant speed is also good. Best fit is probably a flyer or aggro deck like UW or UR.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Compelling Deterrence

Compelling Deterrence is slightly better than Just the Wind, and it’s situational effect is a nice bonus. For the same cost as JTW, it bounces ANY permanent, which is good if your opponent plays a Planeswalker like Arlinn Kord that could potentially destroy you after it’s flipped. I think you’ll find it useful against a number of enchantments as well, and even some equipment if your opponent is playing a Missionaries deck. Its utility makes it rather useful and I would take this over Just the Wind any day. Great support card to finish off your 23 card deck.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Uninvited Guest

Unimpeded Trespasser

I went over Spirits at length when I talked about their white colored brethren, and the blue ones aren’t bad either. Between Skulk and flying you should find a lot of spirits with evasion that will make short work of an unprepared opponent. At 3 mana, Uninvited Geist can quickly transform, especially if you’re on the play. Once transformed your opponent will be on a clock, taking 3 damage a turn unless they can draw their removal and deal with it. There are plenty of 2 power creatures in this set though, so don’t think it will be smooth sailing. I’m sure the person playing against you will aggressively block this creature, so be sure you have some tap or bounce effects to support him on turn 4. Not a bad card for limited.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Stormrider Spirit

This is a pretty sweet spirit. A 3/3 flyer for 5 mana usually shows up quite a bit in limited, but having Flash makes it so much better. I’m sure there will be a number of 1/1 spirit tokens in limited that you’ll have to deal with, or another aggressive flyer, but Stormrider will be sure to greet them and swallow them whole before they deal any damage to you. Good card for UW flyers/Spirits, also decent for any other blue deck.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Niblis of Dusk

I’m going to guess that most limited decks will be playing 6-7 non creature spells on average, but you could push that higher if you’re playing a large number of flyers or creatures with evasion. For the most part you’ll be able to pump this spirit up to a 3/2 every other turn or so, but on rare occasions you could pump it up a second time to a 4/3. This is the kind of card you want to be playing with Ethereal Guidance or Tenacity for the double bonus. I think I’d take this rather early in draft for a blue deck. Those 3 drops are important, and this one is rather good for a common.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Aberrant Researcher

You gotta love the flavor of the card. It’s never going to be as strong as Delver of Secrets was, but it continues the story of this poor researcher that was transformed into an insectile aberration. It seems like he was able to get some of his humanity back, only to lose it once more. Poor guy. He won’t be constructed playable, but as far as SOI limited goes, he’ll be in quite a few decks. He starts out as a 3/2 flyer for 4 mana which isn’t bad, but if you can flip him a 5/4 body is going to absolutely wreck anything else in the skies. Another use of this card is for Delirium decks. His transform condition puts cards into your graveyard which can help to speed up your Delirium activations. You could say you’re killing two birds with one stone, or two bugs in this case ^_^.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Stitched Mangler

It sucks that he shows up tapped, but in a tempo based deck this “Sleep” effect stuck on a creature is most welcome. It assures you’ll hit for some damage on turn 3, and if your opponent doesn’t play anything on their next turn then you can attack with him too. If I had to choose between an instant spell like Just the Wind or this, I’d probably take the Mangler. Creature + ETB effect = value.

RATING: 3 Stars

Lamplighter of Selhoff

A looting zombie? Sweet, I’ll take it. It’s a huge blocker, it can swing in for damage without having to worry too much about being killed, and being able to draw a card then use the discard for a madness trigger is the bee’s knees. Of course you’ll probably be playing this in a UB zombie-based deck, but be sure to play cards like From Under the Floorboards and or Gisa’s Bidding for maximum value. It’s value goes up if you have some zombies to play with him, but if you’re lacking the undead then at best he becomes filler or a choice for that final 23rd spot in your deck.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Drunau Corpse Trawler

Another card for the UB Zombie limited archetype, however Drunau Corpse Trawler is sweet no matter what blue deck you play him in. Sure it’s a 1/1 for 4 mana, but it gives you 2 creatures which is nothing to scoff at. Blue has a lot of bounce effects, so don’t be afraid to block with him, bounce him, then play him against the following turn for another zombie. Giving zombies deathtouch later in the game is a good way to go on the offensive. The undead have no fear of dying as it is, so send them to their deaths with a rotting smile on their face.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Daring SleuthBearer of Overwhelming Truths

The last creature I’m going to recommend today is Daring Sleuth. It’s a cheap investment that can has a nice pay off. Sure it’s only a 2/1 for 2 mana, but have you seen how many cards make clues in this set? Tons. You’ll have at least 3-4 different ways to make a clue in your deck, and I wouldn’t say it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to transform Daring Sleuth on turn 4. Cast a Press for Answers on turn 3, draw a card on turn 4 and flip Sleuth into Bearer, and you have quite a powerful 2 mana creature at this point. The best place to play him is in a blue based aggro deck with lots of tempo or ways to give him evasion. If you see him coming around the table after you’ve gotten your 5 or 6th card, grab one or two. In the right deck he can be powerful.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Rise from the Tides

We’re done with creatures, but not with playable cards. Rise from the Tides is similar to Spider Spawning from Innistrad in that it’s one card with a potentially huge upside. Playing a tempo deck with a large number of tap, bounce, and kill spells can pay off big time later in the game. I think you’re looking at a minimum 3 zombies on average when you play this card in limited. One card making 3 creatures with 6 total power is pretty efficient in my books. The only time I wouldn’t play this is if I don’t end up with a lot of instants or sorceries in my pool, but otherwise I think it would make the cut in my 23 card deck.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Pore+Over+the+Pages+%5BDDQ%5D

Speaking of value, Pore Over the Pages is pretty good. Sure we have a lot of clues in this format to help us draw cards, but the benefit of POP is that you draw 3, untap lands, and possibly play a card with madness when all is said and done. There is no downside in that situation, and to a lesser degree it helps with Delirium as well. By all means get your tempo and removal spells first, and if you have a lot of clue effects you probably won’t need it, but otherwise I think it’s a good card. Slower blue decks will want this. Grab it if you don’t have lots of card advantage, cause odds are your opponent will have lots of ways to draw cards.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Catalog

Catalog has a similar effect, but what makes it great is instant speed. You can draw 2 cards then discard a card to activate a madness cost. If you don’t have a card with madness to cast it’s not as good, but in a UB deck with lots of black madness cards, it should be playable. For most blue decks Pore Over the Pages should be good, but I think I’d rather have Catalog in madness decks due to the instant speed and cheaper casting cost.

RATING: 2.5 Stars

Other Cards That Will Probably See Play

  • Erdwal Illuminator – If you have lots of Investigate effects this card can lead to quite a bit of card advantage in your game. It’s cheap and flies, and would probably be alright as the final 23rd choice for your limited deck if you  have nothing better.
  • Fleeting Memories – seems like a fun card to build around if you can get enough investigate effects going. Illuminator is a must, as well as some green cards like Ulvenwald Mysteries or Tireless Tracker. The archetype is there, but might be hard to put together.
  • Furtive Homunculus – seems alright if you’re putting together an aggressive blue/white deck. You’ll need 2 and 3 mana creatures and he has skulk which isn’t too bad. Just make sure you have some pump effects. I see it as a roleplayer card in those strategies.
  • Ghostly Wings – seems like a good card for UB madness or UW flyers. Being able to save your creature from death is nice, but it’s too bad you lose the aura in the process.
  • Gone Missing – not a great bounce effect (would rather have Griptide), but it does hit ANY permanent which is nice. Might be alright for slower control decks like the UG Clue/Mill deck.
  • Ongoing Investigation – Another piece of the UG Investigate archetype puzzle. Provides you with lots of clues, also lets you gain life from dead creatures. Make sure you play flyers with it.
  • Drownyard Investigators – it’s a good blocker and gives you a clue which is nice, but I feel there are better cards at 4 mana with better stats and benefits than this card.
  • Reckless Scholar – possible card for UB madness. Easily repeatable discard effect plus card advantage.
  • Stitchwing Skaab – it’s a glass cannon, but you can easily get it back into play with its ability while also casting some madness cards if you have any. I like it in UB Madness/flyers. Problem is it dies to everything in the air. Should trade with a lot of creatures though.

 

Coming Up Next

 

Like I said, blue has a decent amount of flyers, lots of ways to draw cards, and some good tempo effects. Some are better than others, but you should be able to construct your limited deck in a way that benefits your strategy the most. Blue seems like a good card for Madness and Delirium effects, so keep all of these “discard” effects in mind when you’re building your deck. Blue evasion is also pretty good this time around thanks to skulk and a decent number of flyers, but there aren’t too many large creatures to hold your opponent’s at bay if they’re playing an aggressive deck.

After two colors I would say that UW flyers/spirits still seems like one of the best archetypes right off the bat, but UB Zombie/Madness could be playable too with the right combination of cards. Your thoughts? Are there some cards or combos you think would work well? Post them below if you’d like. Otherwise, I’ll be back Tuesday or Wednesday night with the black article for Shadows Over Innistrad limited. Hope to see you back then, thanks for reading.

 

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