Shadows Over Innistrad: Playing To Your Weaknesses – Artifacts and Lands
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.
If you’re reading this, then the pre-release has come and gone and you’ve gotten a taste of what Shadows Over Innistrad is like. How did you end up doing? Did my articles help somewhat? I know that not all of my evaluations were correct, but I still felt pretty confident of my choices. At the end of today’s article I’ll talk about what cards I would re-evaluate after playing SOI limited for the first time, as well as share some decks that I built over the weekend and talk about what worked and what didn’t. Before that though, lets look at the last two categories of the set: artifacts and lands. (NOTE: I left off multicolor because there are no uncommon or common multicolor cards).
There aren’t a lot of artifacts to talk about, but there are a few worth mentioning. The first, and probably one of the best artifacts at uncommon is Skeleton Key. It’s pretty obvious why this is a good card. You give semi-evasion to one of your creatures, and then you get to use a Looter effect (draw and discard). You’re probably thinking “oh boy, card advantage!”. But it’s so much more than that. The amount of playable Madness effects in this set can NOT be understated. Half of the time you’ll be able to discard a card and play it or quickly fill up your graveyard for Delirium. This is a great card for both of those strategies and you should play at least one in your deck. No need for two. Very useful card in SOI limited.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Very often I find myself debating whether or not I should add an equipment into an aggressive deck I’m making but Harvest Hand takes all of the stress out of making that decision! You get a creature that transforms into an equipment when it dies, and that equipment ends up being useful in quite a few decks. Humans are all over the place, especially in Black and White, but you should also consider playing this in a werewolf deck since it gives your wolf people a nice bonus in their human forms to make sure they flip. Would be really good on a Kessig Forgemaster. Mid level draft pick.
RATING: 3 Stars
Another sweet card for GR Werewolf, GW human, or RW decks is Neglected Heirloom. Each of those decks have access to a decent amount of flip cards and it only takes one to flip this card for good. The flipped side’s equip cost is a little high, but it’s a pretty strong bonus. Slapping this on a creature like Hinterland Logger before it flips can turn into an incredibly unfair, one way beating. A 7/5 first strike, trampler will quickly suck out all of your opponent’s happiness and send them on a one way trip to beat town. The drawback is if you’re not running a lot of flip effects though, it’s worse than mediocre.
RATING: 3 (in decks with multiple transform effects)/0.0 in non transformation decks.
I saw a few players using Wild-Field Scarecrow at the pre-release. Most of the time you’ll want to play only 2 colors, but sometimes bombs are just too good not to be played. The scarecrow helps you to fix your mana, and in other cases it assures that you hit the land you need to cast your bombs/finishers. As long as you’re not playing an aggressive deck like GW humans or GR werewolves, I recommend having a Scarecrow in your deck. Not sure if you need multiples unless you’re playing The Gitrog Monster, but whatever floats your boat.
RATING: 3 stars
Besides being a nice big wall that blocks almost everything your opponent can throw at you, Epitaph Golem also works really well with Madness effects. I found myself playing it from my sideboard against more aggressive decks at the pre-release. I was able to deter players from attacking, and also put cards back into my deck. You probably won’t ever draw those cards again in a limited game, but when games to go long and you have a way to dig through your deck quickly, it’s good to have it.
RATING: 2.5 stars
Other Artifacts that Might See play
- Explosive Apparatus – when you have little to know removal, you’ll take anything. It hits both creatures and players though, and does it at instant speed too.
- Haunted Cloak – saw this card showing up here and there in the pre-release, mostly in aggressive decks. Good card for Odric decks.
- True-Faith Censer – good card for human based decks, especially if you have the ones that get a bonus from equipment.
- Thraben Gargoyle – not sure how good this is. Cheap turn 1 blocker and becomes a 4/2 flyer. Not bad a guess, but not a first choice. Easily cut I think.
Most of the limited decks you’ll play against will be 2 colors, but if you’re splashing a 3rd color for a bomb or some removal, you’ll want to grab a Warped Landscape or two. I can’t see you needing too many though. Shouldn’t be too hard to get 2 in draft. Once you do, pass the rest.
RATING: 3 Stars
Enemy Tap Lands: If you’re splashing or if you’re lucky enough to have the deck in your color, you’ll probably want to play a tap land or two. I believe the most popular ones will be the UG and BW one. These will probably go higher in draft than the RW, GB, or UR one. If you’re running 3 colors in your deck, I suggest grabbing the one you need early in draft, but if you’re just doing 2 colors you don’t have to grab the lands unless it’s the colors you’re using.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Having had time to play with or see most of the cards in action, I think I’m ready to take another look at the cards I suggested you play before. I’ll quickly go through each color and talk about why I decided to change my opinion. If you disagree, feel free to leave a comment about it down below.
- WHITE: I initially gave Topplegeist a 4.0 rating, thinking it would be easy to activate Delirium, and allow you to tap down a creature every turn but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s still a decent card, but I’d revise my rating down to 3.0 or 3.5 (in a synergistic deck). Another card I over-evaluated was Nahiri’s Machinations. Even in a RW deck (which I played) it never made much of a difference on the battle field. Good way to break board stalls but not to be aggressive. Revised down to 2.5/3.0 from 3.5.
- BLUE: Removal is pretty bad in this format, and Sleep Paralysis ended up being better than I thought. Blue overall exceeded my expectations. I’d give Paralysis a 3.5 rating instead of a 3.0 from before. Another card I really liked was Ghostly Wings. Not only could I use it to give one of my creatures flying, but I could also use it as removal against my opponent’s creature. I actually cast a madness card off of it after bouncing a card back to an opponent’s hand for the win. I’d give it at least a 3 rating, maybe even 3.5 in certain decks. I’d give Reckless Scholar the same ranking. It was sweet with Madness cards.
- BLACK: I got beat in one round TWICE by Liliana’s Indigation (once for -2 life, another for -6 life). This card does a pretty good job of finishing an opponent off during board stalls, and I’d revise its ranking up to 3.5 from 3. I think I’d draft AT LEAST one highly in a black deck. There is usually enough removal in those colors to allow you to play that card late game.
- RED: Voldaren Duelist did a lot of heavy lifting in both my GR/w and UR pre-release decks and was one of the most useful cards in both decks. Deserves much better than a 3.0 score. I give it 3.5 instead.
- GREEN: I was caught COMPLETELY off guard by Lambholt Pacifist. I thought because I couldn’t attack with it when I wanted to it would be bad, but just like Hinterland Logger, if your opponent lets it flip turn 3 they are in big trouble. It killed me twice. I’d give it a 3.5 rating.
The Curse of 13, or “How I learned to stop worrying and love Triskaidekaphobia” – Results from the pre-release
During the pre-release weekend I took part in 3 different tournaments. Below you can find the decks I played as well as my thoughts on each archetype I piloted. I had some successes, but also some failures. Some of the mistakes came from having to play with Japanese cards and mis-reading a card, others were because I under/overvalued a card during deck building and didn’t think about playing it until it was too late, and sometimes I missed a play because I thought a sorcery was an instant or vice versa.
I went 2-1 at a 70 person pre-release with a RW deck that transformed into a GR deck with a splash of white. I felt like red was the strongest color I had in this pool. There were some good creatures (loved Sin Prodder and Voldaren Duelist), and the removal was decent too (Fiery Temper and Reduce to Ashes). I managed to beat a GW human deck with it round one, but lost to a BG deck round two. The problem I ran into against the BG deck was that I didn’t have a good enough curve to stop a turn 2 Lambholt Pacifist from transforming on turn 3 and pounding me into the ground the following few turns.
White ended up giving me some decent evasion, Angelic Purge, and an anthem effect in Inspiring Captain, but as you can see the deck was a bit too heavy in the 3 drop area. In my last game I changed the deck to a GR with a splash of white and ended up having a much more balanced deck. Green added in another removal spell and some combat tricks, but the overall power level was also higher because of of the wolves/werewolves in the deck. RW excelled at going over an opponent, but lost in lots of head to head match ups. GR allowed me trade or push through an opponent’s creatures much more easily, and I ended up adding in a Goldnight Castigator I had as well since the cards in this build had more stopping power than the last version. I won my last game against another GW deck with a splash of blue that was playing Avacyn the Purifier. That card was an absolute beating, but I managed to win games by being aggressive and in game 3 by playing a Goldnight Castigator to swing for lethal after his Avacyn’s attack left me wide open.
On Saturday I took part in my second tournament and managed to put together a rather interesting UR Madness deck. I finished 3-3, but in no small part due to variance/luck. I lost 3 times at table 13 from mulligans, mana floods, and mana screw, but won each other game I played in this 50 person 6 round tournament. Besides the final record, I REALLY enjoyed playing this deck. There synergy between the cards was really good. I had lots of discard effects that let me play madness cards, and my tempo/removal was good as well. I lost my first round to GR werewolves. My opponent had an amazing curve and high power level that forced me to either have an early answer to die to his flipped wolves. I won round 2 against UW flyers/auras thanks to my tempo effects and well timed burn. He was light on creatures and susceptible to removal. I lost against to GR in round 3 for pretty much the same reason as round 1. He had an amazing curve and removal, and had lots of card advantage with Tireless Tracker. It didn’t help I mulliganed to 5 game 2.
In round 4 I bounced back with another win against a Naya deck. Breakneck Rider/Neck Breaker helped me to push through a lot of damage and the Voldaren Duelists kept the pressure on my opponent in each game. In round 5 I was placed for the THIRD time at table 13, and ended up losing to a BW deck with great removal on a mulligan to 6 game 3. I got stuck on 2 land and wasn’t able to play any of the 3 mana cards in my hand until around turn 6. Quite a shame because I had a good match up against his creatures. I played another BW deck in round 6, this time with a splash of red and managed to easily win this game with my larger creatures. His delirium synergy was good and he was able to tap stuff with Topplegeist or snipe things with Tooth Collector each turn, but I was able to make quick work of him with Geralf’s Masterpiece, Aberrant Researcher, and a flipped Neck Breaker.
I was very satisfied with this decks depth, tempo, burn, and evasion and I think the UR madness archetype will be pretty strong going forward in Shadows Over Innistrad limited. With a little more practice with the cards I think I could have easily have gone 5-1. Geralf’s Masterpiece was especially impressive and an amazing bomb in limited, and I would take a card like Breakneck Rider high in every draft from here on out. Blue and red are VERY strong in SOI limited.
I wouldn’t call my last pre-release a train wreck because the pool was actually decent. I had good removal in white and blue with some creatures with evasion, but the creatures’ overall power level was low and I had horrible card advantage. I found it tough to finish out games and found myself blocking again and again while letting my opponent get back into the game. I think it’s because I tried to build the deck around double Thing in the Ice that I opened, but I wasn’t ever able to flip them. I could have put in other cards like the 3/1 fox or 3/1 dog and it might have made the deck a more solid Odric deck, but I realized that too late.
The second deck I tried out was a GR deck with a splash of black for removal and while the power level and card advantage was rather good for this, the deck was a little low on creatures and the overall removal probably wasn’t great. I finished 0-3-1 drop at this event. I definitely built the UW deck wrong because it was in my best colors. If I had made it a UW Spirits/Odric deck I have no doubt I would have done a lot better. I had a Ongoing Investigation I found in my pool later that would have helped. I initially glossed over it for the deck because I thought it did something else and didn’t have time to check it out until after game 3. I was angry with myself, but realizing your mistakes and shortcomings is how you get better. I plan to do a lot of SOI drafts IN ENGLISH from now on to help familiarize myself with the cards and I’m sure by the time the team Grand Prix in Kyoto comes around I’ll be a very capable SOI limited player.
That will do it for this set’s limited review, but be sure to join me in a few days for a preview of Shadows Over Innistrad standard and look for my investment articles on how SOI will affect prices through all formats sometime next week. If you have some good suggestions or tips that you’d like to share about SOI limited, or just general observations on the format I’d like to hear it. Please leave your comments down below for everybody to read. Thanks again for reading and see you back here soon.
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