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March 22, 2016

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Musings of the Madman: Mechanics of Shadows over Innistrad

Welcome back all! Let’s look at a few cards from Shadows Over Innistrad, their associated mechanics and whether they can find a niche in our Commander decks. You’ll get a fuller set review after release, so let’s start with the mechanics we’ll be dealing with in a few weeks.

Madness: The Odyssey block favourite returns, a little safer this time without hyper-powerful enablers like Wild Mongrel and Aquamoeba. Madness enabled cards must be exiled on use before reaching your graveyard, instead of opting in sending it straight to the graveyard without the Madness interaction. We know Fiery Temper is back, but it’s likely a little too clunky for EDH play at the moment.

Delirium: Encouraging spell diversity, Delirium makes your spells more powerful if you have different card types in your graveyard. We’ve already seen this in the epochal Tarmogoyf, but Delirium only sees your graveyard, not both, so it needs more focus.

Investigate and Clue tokens: Shdows Over Innistrad’s overarching story sends Jace to investigate why the angels that once protected humans have gone hostile, and perhaps find something else? Various spells and permanents provide clue tokens, artifacts which have “2: Sacrifice this token, draw a card”. While a far cry from Skullclamp, having a bunch of these tokens around produces inevitability, as you’ll be drawing, and drawing, and drawing until you find a finisher or a solution.

Skulk: Finally codenamed, the ability to be blocked only by a larger creature is now Skulk. For example, a  1/1 with Skulk may be blocked only by a 2/2 creature or larger. Will this be an evergreen ability going forward? Let’s hope so.

Double-faced Cards: We’ve seen these previously as well, both in Magic Origins and in some powerful eternal cards like Huntmaster of the Fells. Double-faced cards now have the same converted mana cost whether they are flipped or not, a change from previous iterations. So far the triggers seem reasonable to attain as well, which will be nice for constructed formats like Standard and in Limited play as well.

Shadows Over Innistrad itself is bound to send your geek-meter into overdrive. Replete with references to detective tropes and the previous Innistrad set with its werewolves and angels, there’s something for everyone here. Even Jace has added an element of coolness by turning into a planeswalking Sherlock Holmes. Old favourites return as well, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Let’s look at an example of each mechanic and their applications to Commander.

Madness:

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Welcome to the Fold reminds us of Threads of Disloyalty mixed in with Dominate. You can probably play this off a Forbid or maybe an opponent’s Mind Twist goes badly and they lose a great utility creature. This should be tons of fun from a mind games point of view and will necessitate care or a little advanced scouting on your part as the creature’s controller.

Delirium:

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It’s a Lay of the Land that can become a Worldly Tutor given your graveyard is full enough. You can’t ask for much more for one green mana and this should see play in a ton of EDH decks.

Investigate:

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You’re always going to playing lands and this gets you some payoff later on. No, it’s not Horn of Greed but it’s a nice boost to your resources.

Skulk:

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This turns into a Persistent Nightmare for your opponent in Limited. It’s probably too fragile for EDH play as there are better options for milling our your opponents. I expect this to cause some real problems at prereleases though.

Double-faced cards:

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Arlinn Kord turns into a werewolf, giving you a potential attacker and then whittling down your opponent’s forces. She’s fairly strong and is one step away from giving you that legendary werewolf you’ve been wanting. Her flipside Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon makes your team bigger or can slowly whittle down your opponents. Remember that as with all planeswalkers, you can only use one ability per turn. There will be inevitable comparisons to Huntmaster of the Fells and she’s probably weaker, but worth a look either way.

We’ll have a clearer idea of where all these cards place in our decks in a few weeks. The set is sure to be a huge hit with fans of the original and just adds more lore to one of the game’s more popular settings. I’ll be at Wizard’s Tower for the prerelease, so good luck to you and join me next week when I attempt to build an EDH deck around one of the worst cards ever printed.