Welcome to my Shadows over Innistrad Constructed Set Review! I do things a little differently than in the Limited review:
I evaluate the cards that have a shot at seeing play in Constructed. Sorry, Cathar’s Companion, you’re in the doghouse when it comes to Constructed. Sometimes I leave a card off that ends up seeing play, but I try and cast a wide net.
I try and talk about non-Standard formats if something seems applicable. For example, Insolent Neonate seems best-suited for Modern, so I’ll bring that up when I get to it. If I don’t mention a specific format, assume I’m talking about Standard.
The ratings scale is slightly different as well. I will have to change it next set to factor in Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, but for now it stands. There’s an argument for Jace, the Living Guildpact to be a 1.0, but 1.0 is the only rating that’s remained unchanged since Riki Hayashi first wrote the description 7 years ago and Jace could have seen play, even though it didn’t.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
Much like the under-qualified child of a company president, this is only here because of how successful Delver of Secrets is. This is no Delver of Secrets.
Broken this is not, though it might see a little play if there’s a madness deck that wants Cancel. You aren’t getting a mana discount, so all this does is let you get card advantage by discarding it to a looter of some kind, which is not really worth going out of your way for.
Madness would have to be crazy good for Catalog to see play, but it is possible.
This is secretly one of the most convincing reasons to go Zombie tribal, as 2-mana Recoil is a great deal (even without the ability to hit lands). If you can reliably have a Zombie in play, this card is fantastic and is a card worth building around. Hitting planeswalkers/enchantments is additional value, as it isn’t limited to just creatures.
Sadly, I have confirmed my suspicions, which are that this isn’t going to be the next Cryptic Command. There is a lot of competition in the expensive blue instant spot, and I’m going with Ojutai’s or Silumgar’s Command for now.
Engulf the Shore
I suppose there is a Howling Mine (Fevered Visions), so some strange turbo-fog/mill/bounce/Sphinx’s Tutelage concoction could emerge. Engulf restricts your mana base a lot for a middling payoff, though at least it is an instant.
Epiphany at the Drownyard
Steam Augury this is not. Being mono-color and X-spell are both huge upgrades, so don’t let the previous flop shape your evaluation too much. There’s no value for X where this is truly insane, but the fact that you can cast it on turn 2 or turn 10, and it scales, is what makes it good. It finds you land and a critical mass of spells, albeit without fine-tuned selection. Epiphany is what blue control decks are looking for, even if it is no Fact or Fiction.
Essence Flux is efficient enough that I suspect it will lurk upon the fringes of playability, and now and then make its way into a deck. More than needing Spirits, this needs good abilities to trigger, though it also serves as a sideboard card against removal. If enough people are playing Declaration and Stasis Snare, it might do better at protecting your creatures than Dispel would.
Needing to live until your upkeep is a steep cost with an equally powerful reward. Tearing through your deck is appealing, so if you figure out a way to protect this, you might have something great on your hands.
There is a discard/reanimation deck out there, and Geralf’s Masterpiece fits right in. I’m having flashbacks of Skaab Ruinator, which never really got there, but this has far fewer restrictions on when you can cast it. The effect here is powerful enough to build around, and there are plenty of ways to get it into your graveyard if that’s your goal.
This is strictly a sideboard card, and a good one at that. Envelop sees small amounts of play in older formats, so an upgraded Envelop has to be worth looking at.
Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
Did you really need another Jace? What am I going to do with my Jace Rating Scale now? I guess the answer is bump Living Guildpact to 1.0 and slot this in somewhere above it, but that will really max out how many Jaces I can accommodate.
Jace Nixilis is not a bad card, and I can see him being a solid draw engine in blue control decks. He’s actually his own worst enemy, as Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy being an auto 4-of is the biggest reason not to include this Jace in a deck. Being able to bounce twice in succession and scry + draw is quite good, but Jace VP is better, so the Unraveler may need to wait until Magic Origins rotates out.
Just the Wind
If you cast this by discarding it to Jace, you basically built your own Repeal. As is universally known, Repeal is a Vintage staple, so you can see how impressive that is. Madness decks are likely to want this, especially given how important it is to answer whatever’s brewing in the Westvale Abbey these days…
This does enough strange things that I assume it’s at least plausible. The most powerful one is letting you exile your creatures to gain life, as it gives a UG creature deck a lot of extra life to maneuver with. Generating a bunch of Clues is also good against control, so this card could be solid in a number of different matchups.
Pieces of the Puzzle
Collected Company this is not, but it can enable various synergies. Creatures are so much better than spells these days, so building a truly spell-based deck is what you have to tackle if you want to make this work.
Pore Over the Pages
Maybe I’m spoiled by Painful Truths and Read the Bones, but I’m not quite seeing it here. Granted, it could help non-black decks out—it’s just that I like my card draw to help me hit my fourth land drop. This needs 5 before it’s castable, which makes this a whole lot worse than a 3-mana card draw spell (even if it’s close to that in the late game).
I’ve got my eye on a Spirits deck, even if I suspect it’s a few links short of a full chain. Rattlechains is such a powerful and efficient card—one well-worth building around. It operates as a flash threat for cheap, can protect your other Spirits, and lets you play your whole game at instant speed. What’s not to love, besides the lack of good Spirits to accompany it?
It may sound like madness, but this might be a niche Constructed playable.
Rise from the Tides
The biggest argument against this card is simple: Declaration in Stone.
Rise is a powerful card, but it’s hard to beat that argument. It might be a viable plan once Declaration rotates out.
It’s the mono-blue Reflector Mage. Yeah, that’s it.
It’s funny that the uncommon version may see more play than the mythic, but this is cheaper than Geralf’s Masterpiece. Discarding Stitchwing for value and reanimating it isn’t a bad plan, especially if the cards you are discarding to reanimate happen to have madness.
Thing in the Ice
Thing in the Ice has wide-ranging Constructed implications and could see play in every format. How good it actually is isn’t quite clear yet, since it does ask a lot from you to enable it. Luckily, the play pattern of “cast lots of spells” is one that many decks tend to follow, and I am looking forward to trying this in Vintage up through Standard.
I’d place my bets on this being a thing, and have high hopes. I wouldn’t be surprised if older formats are where it truly shines, even if it’s not a huge hit in Standard.
Welcome to the Fold
Control Magics are great, and tend to be more powerful than people suspect. This one does need madness to really work, so if you are discarding for value, consider including it.
Top 5 Blue Cards
I like that blue got an Eternal-relevant card—one that has a good shot of impacting Standard as well. The rest of blue’s offerings aren’t quite as exciting, though they are a decent mix of build-arounds, card draw engines, and planeswalkers named Jace.