Shadows Over Innistrad: Playing To Your Weaknesses – White

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.
  • 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.

 

And just like that, Oath of Gatewatch standard and OGW limited are done. After next weekend, we’ll all be doing SOI drafts/sealed. The Shadows over Innistrad spoiler was just released, but leading up to the full reveal we had one of the most interesting and interactive spoiler seasons ever. Through Twitter, MTG websites, and even escape rooms at Grand Prix around the world, Wizards of the Coasts revealed a number of cards for the new set. Before I start today’s article, I just want to say bravo to Wizards. They did a great job with the spoilers, and the set is overflowing with flavor.

Moving on to the reason you’re here, Shadows over Innistrad seems to be an incredibly tricky and complex limited experience. There are a number of strategies that I can skim off of a quick look at the spoiler: madness, flyers, zombies, vampires, delirium, werewolves. There are tons of cards that support each of these archetypes, and I’m going to try and make it my job this week to see which are the best ones to play in that strategy. Today I’ll be looking the white cards, home to humans and spirits, as well as number of decent removal effects.

 

Silverstrike

I always like to start off with the removal. If the removal is good, then it makes things a little less dependent on getting the bomb rare in your opening pack. When I looked through the set I noticed a decent amount of removal that was highly playable in limited. Silverstrike is one of those cards. While it’s not Divine Verdict, being able to kill a creature and gain life is good. Limited tends to be about who has the most powerful, aggressive creatures, and Silverstrike does a good job of evening out the playing field. It takes out your opponent’s big attacking creature and the life gain can counteract any other damage that gets through. Four mana is a little high, but I think this will be a great pick for your limited deck.

RATING: 3.5 stars

 

Angelic Purge

Angelic Purge is hands down the best white removal in the set. I don’t care if it’s a 3 mana sorcery. For the cost of a permanent you can exile just about anything. I mean, this can be a token, a clue, just about anything that isn’t of great value to you. There are even a few 1 or 2 mana creatures that can be played from the graveyard for more value so you’re not losing out too much by sacrificing things to play this card. This is a great way to make sure your opponent’s card is gone for good, especially with all of the graveyard shenanigans that allow you to bring a creature back transformed or flipped. If you’re looking to take damage from an Ormendahl, Profane Prince (the 9/7 indestructible land demon), you better hope you have this removal to deal with it on your next turn. I would take this high in draft, if not first if the rare wasn’t that good. I think this card will see play in constructed.

RATING: 4.5 stars

 

Bound by Moonsilver

I don’t usually like playing cards like Pacifism in limited unless my choices for removal are pretty bad, but Bound by Moonsilver has the benefit of being able to move from creature to creature when you need it to. If you don’t have the specific removal you need at the moment, Bound helps you to bide your time until you do and once you can take out your opponent’s threat easily, you can switch the enchantment to another target. I think the sacrifice effect is also great to use with Delirium because it allows you to get rid of ANY permanent. If you need a land in the graveyard, sac it. If you need an enchantment, sac it. I think this will be a roleplayer in many a white deck, both as removal and as an enabler for different graveyard based effects.

RATING: 3.5 stars

 

Humble the Brute

Humble the Brute isn’t a Reprisal, and in fact it costs a bit more than that. However, you still get an instant speed removal effect for big creatures (especially those that transform) and if you have the mana open you can draw a card from your clue. It effectively replaces itself which isn’t bad, but the cost holds it back a little. If you can’t get those other 2 spells I mentioned above, I think Humble is quite a functional card. Not a first pick card, but still solid in limited.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Expose Evil

It’s not removal, but tempo cards have their uses too. If you’re playing an aggressive deck like humans or flyers and want to make it so your opponent blocks unfavorably, Expose Evil will do that for you. If that was all it did I’d be satisfied, but like Humble the Brute, it also semi-replaces itself with the clue it makes. The card is probably alright in a non-aggressive deck, but if you want to see it shine try it in a high octane attack strategy. Don’t worry about drafting it too highly though. There’s a good chance you’ll see it come around to you again.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Topplegeist

Speaking of tempo decks, Topplegeist would fit rather well in that sort of deck. It’s a flyer, it’s cheap, it taps your opponent’s creature, and if you can activate Delirium it becomes the geist that keeps on giving. Heck, Topplegeist would be good in just about any deck you put it in. It has evasion and an ETB effect which means it should be a good card to play just about any time during the game. It’s power level is low but if your strategy is to go over your opponent’s head with a flyers deck than it’s a great card. Not a first pick but I think I would take it rather early in a draft if I saw it.

RATING: 4 stars

 

Apothecary Geist

Keeping with the white/X flyer theme, Apothecary Geist is another good inclusion. At 2/3 it won’t be winning many battles head to head when attacking, but it should be an adequate blocker in most instances and it’s evasion is always welcome. If you played a Topplegeist before it, you also get 3 life which is a nice bonus. It’s too bad there isn’t a way to take advantage of both of those cards’ effects …

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Spectral Shepherd

By itself, Spectral Shepherd is pretty ordinary. It’s basically a Wind Drake, or a 2/2 flyer for 3 mana but if you are playing UW Spirits/flyers it suddenly gets A LOT better. Paying 2 mana to bounce your Topplegeist and then play it again for 1 mana can be pretty effective, and if it’s later in the game when you can use this ability multiple times, it can be absolutely crippling to an opponent. This also works well with Apothecary Geist, Emissary of the Sleepless, Rattle Chains, and even other Shepherds. Being able to block and save your spirit from death is a good ability too. It will be a serviceable creature in most white decks, but it’s value shoots up when you have a few other spirits to go along with it. Not a high draft pick, but it’s not horrible to have 1 or 2 in your deck.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Nearheath Chaplain

Keeping with the spirit theme, Nearheath Chaplain is one of those value creatures I mentioned above. It’s good both in life and death. The toughness assures that it will die to everything, but you’ll at least trade with another creature, gain 3 life, then be able to put 2 flying spirits into play. I don’t really see a downside to this card. Even at 4 mana I think it’s worth paying for the various effects it affords you. If you can give it some kind of evasion you can give it even more value. I think you’ll want to grab the Chaplain early in draft and you’ll definitely want it to occupy one of the 23 spots in your limited deck. It’s basically 3 bodies in one card.

RATING: 4 Stars

 

Reaper of Flight Moonsilver

Reaper of Flight Moonsilver seems like it would be a good match in a token heavy deck. Activating Delirium could be a little tricky but between your removal (instants and sorceries), an enchantment or two, and creatures you should be able to activate it by the time you play this card. A 3/3 flyer for 5 mana is decent, but if you’re going to play her I recommend loading up on value creatures like Nearheath Chaplain that give you multiple bodies to sacrifice to her. A 5/4 or larger flyer can make VERY short work of your opponent, so don’t be afraid to grab one or two of her in limited. It’s not a first pick but a early pick to be sure.

RATING: 3.5 stars

 

Inspiring Captain

I really like Inspiring Captain. A 3/3 for 4 mana is good, but acting as a mini anthem effect when it comes into play is great. I’ve always had trouble deciding whether or not to play those instant or sorcery speed anthem effects in limited, but the Captain takes all of the guessing out of that. He’s absolutely playable and is an all around great card in just about any white deck. Humans, UW flyers, etc . . . they all work well with his effect. If you’re playing a lot of cheap creatures with evasion you definitely want him in your deck, but don’t be afraid to take him somewhat early in draft as well to build around. I would even consider a splash of white so I could play him in a UB zombie or BW Vampire deck. I think he could create quite a tempo swing when he hits the battlefield.

RATING: 3.5 stars

 

dauntless-cathar-pre-order-p227558-195175_image

Just like the Chaplain, Duantless Cathar is another card oozing with value. It’s slightly easier to cast and you only get 1 spirit token when you exile it from your graveyard, but still a great card no matter how you see it. I’d grab one or two rather early in draft if I could. Great card to have in your 3 drop slots.

RATING: 3.5 stars

 

 

Pious Evangel

Wayward Disciple

Pious Evangel is basically a 3 mana “Soul Sister”. His stats are alright, and the incremental life gain should be quite useful over a longer game since the amount of tokens and bounce effects are plenty in this set. What I find more useful is his sacrifice effect. This is exactly the kind of card you want to play in a Delirium deck. He helps you to turn on the effect when you transform him, and then becomes a good blocker that can use the life drain to whittle down your opponent through attrition. He works great alongside cards like Reaper of Flight Moonsilver and will block most non-werewolf creatures after flipped. Play him with lots of tokens to maximize his ability.

RATING: 3.5 stars

 

Paranoid Parish-Blade

I think Parish Blade is good enough to mention in the main article. It’s base 3/2 body for 3 mana is decent, but if you can activate Delirium on turn 4 or 5 having a 4/2 first striker can be pretty useful. I see his delirious form being good both on offense and defense. If you have enough Delirium enablers in your deck, you should play him. In past limited seasons, the 2-3-4 drop slots seemed to be pretty important. It never hurts to have a solid 3 drop that gets more powerful a few turns later.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Avacynian Missionaries

There are some decent pieces of equipment in SOI, especially the ones that transform, but I’m not sure how easy it will be to flip the Missionaries. You’ll have to play around 3 pieces of equipment if you want to transform it with any consistency, but the pay off is pretty good. It becomes a 4/4 that exiles a creature and I see this as more of a tempo swing than anything else. You can’t take advantage of their position until the following turn, but it will still put your opponent in a bad position, forcing them to use their removal if they have any to get their creature back. This is more of a “build around” card than something than can be played in any deck. If I was going to play a 3/3 creature for 4 mana, I’d probably take Inspiring Captain over the missionaries. Could be standard playable, but not sure how good it will be in limited.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Vessel of Ephemera

This could have easily have been a sorcery, but instead it’s an enchantment. This goes to help you if you’re playing a deck with lots of delirium effects, but otherwise the card isn’t that efficient at 5 mana for two 1/1 flyers. I’d much rather be playing a 2 drop and 3 drop on my early turns, but I guess it would be okay to have later in the game as well. You should grab one or two if you’re playing a delirium deck, but for other white based decks I think it would be serviceable in that 22nd or 23rd slot of your limited deck. If you’re looking to make tokens there are probably easier ways to do so.

RATING: 3 Stars

 

Nahiri's Machinations

Nahiri’s Machinations doesn’t force you into red, but it dose give you an incentive to do so. At it’s worse it makes one of your attackers indestructible. This is pretty damn sweet, especially if you’re playing an aggressive deck. It will almost always give you the advantage in a close game and allow you to swing away with your beater without any fear of your opponent double or triple blocking it. It gets downright sick in a red deck though. If you play a RW beatdown deck, it lets you slowly whittle down their forces on a stalled board until you have the advantage. Even their biggest creatures won’t last long when you’re pinging them, and you don’t even have to ping the creature that’s blocking your indestructible one. It his ANY blocker. Make sure you have some good attackers if you’re going to play this card in your deck. Attacking with a 2 power card isn’t going to cut it. If you’re in red, attack with some of those Werewolves!

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

Gryff's Boon

This is a pretty good enchantment. I usually don’t play them in limited, but I’d be hard pressed to find reasons not to play this. For starters, you can play it on turn 2 and start swinging for 2+ damage in the air before your opponent puts up any kind of defense. If you go to attach it and you get “2 for 1’d” you’re not really screwed. Gryff’s Boon lets you play it as many times as you want as long as you have 4 mana to cast it from your graveyard. I see it as a great card for delirium, but also in UW flyers and white aggro decks. This is a sweet card and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up in standard or modern in Boggles. I’d grab it pretty high in draft.

RATING: 3.5 Stars

 

 

 

Other Cards That Will Probably See Play

  • Cathar’s Companion – seems like a good card to play in a Delirium deck. If you’re playing lots of artifacts, enchantments, sorceries, and instants then he’s not bad in that 3 drop position. Not a horrible card, but not great.
  • Devilthorn Fox – trades in battle with almost everything when attacking, but good in an aggressive deck if you have lots of combat tricks.
  • Ethereal Guidance – an alright anthem effect at 3 mana, but not my first choice if I could only have one.
  • Militant Inquistor – if you can gather up enough equipment, a few of these, and some Avacynian Missionaries you can have a pretty sweet deck on your hands.
  • Moorland Drifter – it won’t be a flyer right away, but in a dedicated delirium deck it can be up up and away after a few turns. Not bad for 2 mana, but not for every deck.
  • Puncturing Light – in most cases in limited I think this will be playable. There are lots of 3 power/toughness or less creatures in the set, but there is also chance you’ll be stuck with it in your hand against a GR werewolf deck where it can’t kill anything. Probably alright in the mainboard if you need removal.
  • Strength of Arms – sweet in a equipment based deck, otherwise a cheap combat trick that will see some play in fast aggro decks.
  • Tenacity – I like this a lot more than Ethereal Guidance because it works well both on defense and offense whereas the former is only good on offense. The lifelink is also pretty sweet. It can be an alpha strike or a huge tempo swing.
  • Unruly Mob – this card can get freakishly huge if you’re sacrificing tokens left and right. Might be worth a spot in a number of white delirium or token decks.

 

Coming Up Next

 

There were a lot more playable limited cards in this set than I’ve seen in a long time. It was hard to go through and decide what to feature and what not to. After looking at all of white cards, I’d say that UW Flyers is looking pretty good, but that with the right cards white/X delirium decks can also be strong. Spirits will probably be included in that flyers archetype, as I don’t think you’d be able to get enough to build a deck of only them, and RW aggro will also probably be playable (white for support and removal, red for big attackers). It’s still too early to tell what other archetypes will develop, but as I go through the other colors we’ll see what develops.

What are your thoughts on white so far? Can you think of any interesting combos/synergies that I didn’t mention? Would have you evaluated some of the cards differently? If so, I’d like to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment below. I’ll be working on blue next and hopefully it will be out before the end of Monday, but it will definitely be out by Tuesday. There are so many playable limited cards in this set it just might take me longer than normal to get all of these articles done before the pre-release, but I’ll try my best! Thanks for reading.

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