I haven’t been able to play too much Shadows over Innistrad, but from the limited amount I have played, two of the cards I talked about in my article last week have both significantly overperformed. There’s still plenty of time to sour me on the cards, but as of now, I’m been impressed with both Always Watching and Bygone Bishop.
As much as I’d like to make bad jokes on his behalf and use the phrase “son of a Bishop” as often as I possibly can in this article, I’m going to have to leave Bygone Bishop to another article. This one’s going to be focusing on everyone’s favorite nosy neighbor Always Watching.
I want to use Always Watching to its full extent.
This build tries to take advantage of Always Watching in a few ways. For one, Always Watching seems quite good alongside first strike. It allows Knight of the White Orchid and Consul’s Lieutenant to attack into a lot of boards, and more than that, it allows them to double up on blocking duty on defense, making it hard for nearly all ground creatures to punch through.
Always Watching also seems quite good paired with Archangel of Tithes. Archangel of Tithes is good on offense and good on defense, but unfortunately it’s not good on both offense and defense at the same time. This changes if you hook this lady up with some vigilance. Vigilance ensures that you can get the bonus from swinging while also getting the bonus on defense at the same time. I have a feeling that Archangel of Tithes might end up being a big player in the new format, and Always Watching seems like a natural pairing.
The best combo with Always Watching, however, is easily Dragonlord Ojutai. Vigilance on Ojutai means that it will always be a giant, hexproof, flying creature, even when attacking. The +1/+1 on Ojutai is also extremely relevant. It allows it to outclass Avacyn in combat, and it also allows it to get out of range of two very important effects: Languish and Chandra, Flamecaller’s -X ability. It also dodges Grasp of Darkness with +1/+1, but that one is less relevant because of the vigilance granted by Always Watching.
Another take here is to try to build a U/W/<> deck. Instead of white-mana intensive cards like Archangel of Tithes, Knight of the White Orchid, and Consul’s Lieutenant, you could replace those cards with some of the powerful colorless cards, like Thought-Knot Seer and Eldrazi Displacer. This would also require a more colorless (yet colorful in spirit) mana base featuring 4x Haven of the Spirit Dragon, which is really nice with Dragonlord Ojutai. I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s certainly on my list.
Another potential shell for Always Watching is GW Company. This shell doesn’t utilize Always Watching in quite the same way that the UW deck does. It’s not granting a much-needed vigilance to Archangel of Tithes and Dragonlord Ojutai, or anything along those lines.
What it is doing is flooding the board with a lot of non-token creatures, which seems to be exactly the kind of strategy that benefits from a Glorious Anthem that doesn’t work with tokens. So even though this deck doesn’t have quite the same internal synergy with Always Watching, it’s still going to be quite good with these creatures, especially Bygone Bishop and Den Protector, thanks to their forms of evasion.
There are a number of things I like about this deck. It seems very well-positioned to grind quite well very late into the game. Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Bygone Bishop, Tireless Tracker, and Duskwatch Recruiter all have natural forms of card advantage that build off each other as the game progresses. Beyond that, Collected Company, especially alongside Den Protector, threatens to bury the opponent.
I really like the internal synergy between a lot of the cards as well. Duskwatch Recruiter finds Bygone Bishop and Tireless Tracker. Bygone Bishop and Tireless Tracker generate a lot of Clue tokens. You can spend a turn cracking those Clue tokens to draw a lot of cards and flip the Duskwatch Recruiter (or alternatively, cast Collected Company on the opponent’s turn). Then, since you just drew a bunch of cards, presumably you can cast a lot of creatures for cheap thanks to the backside of Duskwatch Recruiter, generate a bunch more Clues, and flip the Recruiter back to the frontside. Rinse and repeat.
Hermit of the Natterknolls was a must-add to the sideboard. Not because I think it’s good, but because his flavor text is literally “I hate company…” With that kind of attitude, Herms, it’s no surprise you ended up in the sideboard. Nobody likes a Nattertale. This is the card I will turn to every time I brick on my Collected Companys from here on out.
I also think there is a lot of room for a good Always Watching aggro deck that is Human themed. The deck would have access to a potential 16 anthem effects between Consul’s Lieutenant, Thalia’s Lieutenant, Always Watching, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. A lot of cheap Humans plus all these anthem effects and some good, quality, removal in Declaration in Stone, Silkwrap, and Stasis Snare seems like a good mixture to me. Plus, this deck certainly has the possibility of being the most dense Lieutenant Tribal deck we’ve ever seen, clocking in at a whopping two different Lieutenants. It’s a Lieutenant Dan short of requiring Cavern of Souls. You might think they’d work better with a general commanding them, but it turns out the only general these guys need to dominate the battlefield is some General Tso from the buffet on main street.