Breaking Through – unLimited Archetypes

While many of you have been playing Magic far longer than me, qualifying the following statement a little bit on the tame side, Innistrad drafts has more unique and viable archetypes than any limited format I have ever played in. In formats like Shards (one of my favorite) or Ravnica, you could play a huge amount of colors, but for the most part, your archetypes tend to look the same. You have various degrees of control and aggro archetypes, along with specific niche versions therein, like Mill or tokens. Innistrad looks like it blows them out of the water, and we are only a few weeks into drafting it.

For the past day or so, I have been trying my best to capture the various archetypes on camera. The drafting for most of these has gone OK, but there have been some rough round 1 losses that have definitely made the exploration shorter than I would have hoped at times, but learning the ins and outs of the various decks has still been pretty rewarding, even if the opposite effect has occurred on my ticket count as a result.

Today, I would like to at least touch on the surface of some of these archetypes and what makes them work. Normally, when doing a limited archetype review, each pick and pick order is gone over in length, because one archetype is being focused on. Today though, in the interest of brevity and the ability to still fit a bunch of archetypes in the article, we will be focusing on the nuts and bolts of each archetype.

Each Archetype will have the following breakdown

Engines- These are the cornerstone of the archetype and without any of these, the archetype just does not work. Some archetypes hinge on fewer of these type of cards, making them more risky to attempt, while others have a larger spectrum to rely on. If you do not have any of the cards listed here, you are more than likely not in the archetype, with few and strange exceptions.

Important- These are the picks that are important to your deck, but also important to other decks. This means that they must be taken a little higher than normal just to ensure you end up with some and they are not stolen from you. In general, the more of these you have, the better off your deck will be.

Steals- These are the cards that are good, if not important for your deck, but they come late due to being more niche than the important cards. These will come later than they should and should be moved down the priority list as a result. Steals also include cards that are not going to be as important to your deck as they are other decks, but should still be taken if they come in dead packs or late.

Of course, beyond those three categories, there are a ton of cards that fit into your archetype and are even good in said archetype, sometimes better than important cards to the archetype, but they are more generically good and need to be valued a little differently. For example, Brimstone Volley is not a card that makes any one deck work as thought it should, but it is still a very high pick in any Red deck, for obvious reasons. So just because you see a Black deck below that doesn’t list [card]Victim of Night[/card] as an important card does not mean you should not take it. With that said, let us move into our first archetype.

(Note: I will only include rares in the Engines sections, as they can provide additional support to other common or uncommon engines. Listing them as important or steals is mostly common sense, so I will not do so for the sake of not muddling up the lists too much)

Burning Vengeance

Engines- [card]Burning Vengeance[/card], [card]Charmbreaker Devils[/card], [card]Runechanter’s Pike[/card]

Important- [card]Think Twice[/card], [card]Desperate Ravings[/card], [card]Geistflame[/card], [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card], [card]Rolling Temblor[/card], [card]Silent Departure[/card], [card]Grasp of Phantoms[/card]

Steals- [card]Deranged Assistant[/card], [card]Armored Skaab[/card], [card]Runic Repetition[/card], [card]Dream Twist[/card], [card]Delver of Secrets[/card], [card]Fortress Crab[/card]

This has been the deck I have drafted the most thus far in the format, and it can do some very disgusting things, although finding the correct balance during the draft and build period can be insanely difficult, as you will see with some of my draft videos that will be coming out soon enough. You need to weigh your cards properly, because each card requires a certain density of some effect, and each increase in one department, lowers the value of another.

For example, if you decide to take [card]Stitched Drake[/card] or [card]Makeshift Mauler[/card], how many creatures do you want to include in your deck? Creatures don’t have flashback, and they are not spells. Meanwhile, you still need to pack enough punch to actually be able to close out games, which was an issue I had (and on camera, so you will get to see me fail in this department).

This strategy gels a lot better than something like [card]Furnace Celebration[/card] ever did due to the lack of a trigger cost, but you still need to find your creatures and use them to the fullest, lest you risk dying to their small guys, or even just milling yourself out sometimes while you try to muster up enough damage to actually win. A very powerful deck though when it its working properly,

W(x) Tokens

Engines- [card]Intangible Virtue[/card], [card]Parallel Lives[/card], [card]Mentor of the Meek[/card], [card]Gavony Township[/card]

Important- [card]Mausoleum Guard[/card], [card]Midnight Haunting[/card], [card]Spider Spawning[/card], [card]Moan of the Unhallowed[/card], [card]Doomed Traveler[/card], [card]Stitcher’s Apprentice[/card]

Steals- [card]Demonmail Hauberk[/card], [card]Travel Preparations[/card], [card]Gallows Warden[/card], [card]Battleground Geist[/card], [card]Selfless Cathar[/card]

This is a tough archetype to nail properly, as so many of the important cards, and engine cards, fall in the Uncommon and Rare slots, unlike other decks. Luckily, many of these cards, like [card]Intangible Virtue[/card] and [card]Parallel Lives[/card] are rated drastically low on most people’s pick orders, so you can still walk away with a decent pool.

The heavy rarity factor is why something like [card]Doomed Traveler[/card] is in the important section. If you fail to pick up the few common token producers, your deck can flat out fail, and he helps to keep it afloat. There are plenty other insane cards in the archetype, like [card]Geist-Honored Monk[/card], or [card]Kessig Cagebreakers[/card], but those are awesome elsewhere too.

White Green is perhaps the best fit for the archetype, but you do risk being light on removal, since the only Green removal is [card]Prey Upon[/card], which does not work particularly well with small tokens. Do not underestimate [card]Stitcher’s Apprentice[/card] in the archetype though, as 2/2 tokens are pretty absurd and you have plenty of fodder with the humans that trigger upon death. This also grants you [card]Battleground Geist[/card], which can be a different form of [card]Intangible Virtue[/card] for your spirit tokens.

RB Vampires

Engines- [card]Rakish Heir[/card], [card]Bloodline Keeper[/card]

Important- [card]Vampire Interloper[/card], [card]Falkenrath Noble[/card], [card]Bloodcrazed Neonate[/card], [card]Crossway Vampire[/card], [card]Markov Patrician[/card], [card]Diregraf Ghoul[/card], [card]Reckless Waif[/card]

Steals- [card]Night Revelers[/card], [card]Vampiric Fury[/card], [card]Stromkirk Patrol[/card], [card]Ashmouth Hound[/card], [card]Bump in the Night[/card], [card]Nightbird’s Clutches[/card]

RB Vampires is one of those archetypes that hardly needs an engine, although they do help, and the Heir goes pretty late when it is opened. Playing a 2 drop vampire, like [card]Vampire Interloper[/card], into turn 3 [card]Rakish Heir[/card] will end games quickly, so you should value them highly, but unlike in other strategies, you will still take a [card]Brimstone Volley[/card] over your uncommon engine (but not over Keeper of course).

This archetype really looks to make good use out of underplayed commons, like [card]Bump in the Night[/card] and [card]Vampiric Fury[/card], while taking advantage of the fact that many people are playing slower, more inconsistent decks with dodgy mana and expensive spells. Not every creature has to be a Vampire of course, as you are mainly focusing on being a RB aggro deck. The one drops are some of the most important pieces for example, as [card]Reckless Waif[/card] can win games by him on turn 1.

This is an archetype that you can piece together with a bunch of commons, and late ones at that, and it will manage and get its fair share of wins, but the uncommons and rares really do push it over the top, allowing it to win more easily at least.


Engines- [card]Nephalia Drownyard[/card], [card]Undead Alchemist[/card]

Important- [card]Curse of the Bloody Tome[/card], [card]Dream Twist[/card], [card]Selhoff Occultist[/card], [card]Trepanation Blade[/card]

Steals- [card]Ghoulcaller’s Bell[/card], [card]Bitterheart Witch[/card], [card]Runic Repetition[/card], [card]Fortress Crab[/card]

Most of the time I draft a mill strategy, I want to be using it on myself for good effect, typically in some sort of UB shell, but we will get to that later. That said, this archetype utilizes enough cards that are just bad in most archetypes, and will therefore go very very late, allowing you to piece together a pretty nice little brew from time to time.

You will often see the following cards in a pack with 4 or 5 cards left in it:

[card]Curse of the Bloody Tome[/card] [card]Dream Twist[/card] [card]Selhoff Occultist[/card] [card]Ghoulcaller’s Bell[/card]

While none of those makes for the greatest mill strategy in and of itself, when you can create enough redundancy by jamming 8 to 10 such effects in your deck, you are left with a pretty consistent little engine. [card]Nephalia Drownyard[/card] and [card]Undead Alchemist[/card] are both quite good here, but are not essential to your choosing to play the deck. This archetype might be weaker than something like [card]Burning Vengeance[/card] for example, but it relies on its uncommons and rares so much less, that if you want to be mill, you can more than likely be mill.


Engines- [card]Champion of the Parish[/card], [card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card], [card]Butcher’s Cleaver[/card]

Important- [card]Hamlet Captain[/card], [card]Elder Cathar[/card], [card]Silver-Inlaid Dagger[/card], [card]Avacynian Priest[/card], [card]Fiend Hunter[/card], [card]Invisible Stalker[/card], [card]Slayer of the Wicked[/card], [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card]

Steals- [card]Unruly Mob[/card], [card]Doomed Traveler[/card], [card]Sharpened Pitchfork[/card]

I have not found that much success in this archetype yet, but I have heard of it doing well. This usually falls in the GW camp, although can have Blue for [card]Invisible Stalker[/card], and relies heavily on the equipment bonuses that only Humans get in so many cases. [card]Butcher’s Cleaver[/card] is by far the best, and can legitimately be called an engine, as it is reason enough to dip your toe into the water at least.

The big hero for this deck is Shakespeare himself, [card]Hamlet Captain[/card]. That guy can really get absurd with any type of buff on him, like a Cathar’s counters, or a [card]Sharpened Pitchfork[/card], as at that point, you have a walking [card]Crusade[/card] that even trigger upon blocking. Of course, he is even better in multiples.

While some of these archetypes are all-or-nothing in their nature, Humans really allows for some crossbreeding while still being effective. You can easily have a werewolf sub-theme, or a token sub-theme, and still have a solid deck, so long as you have a certain threshold for your equipment, captains, etc.

Life in the Grave

Engines- [card]Skaab Ruinator[/card], [card]Back from the Brink[/card], [card]Nephalia Drownyard[/card], [card]Mirror-Mad Phantasm[/card]

Important- [card]Stitched Drake[/card], [card]Skaab Goliath[/card], [card]Makeshift Mauler[/card], [card]Armored Skaab[/card], [card]Deranged Assistant[/card], [card]Murder of Crows[/card], [card]Civilized Scholar[/card], [card]Unburial Rites[/card], [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card]. [card]Spider Spawning[/card]

Steals- [card]Selhoff Occultist[/card], [card]Dream Twist[/card], [card]Curse of the Bloody Tome[/card], [card]Stitcher’s Apprentice[/card], [card]Ghoulcaller’s Bell[/card], [card]Ghoulraiser[/card], [card]Ghoulcaller’s Chant[/card]

This has been the deck with which I have had the most success so far, but it does require a few things to go right for you. The biggest of this, is to have the person to your right not be in the same archetype, or another graveyard abusing archetype, like [card]Burning Vengeance[/card], as some of the later picks you count on to fuel your deck may not be there.

This deck’s “engines” are more “the best things you can be doing” than true engines, but they do help lead you to playing these decks, which is nice. It is quite the luxury knowing that your deck has something to work for before taking an [card]Armored Skaab[/card] 4th and just hoping you get the proper end game to make him work.

Some of your finishers do work against each other, like Skaabs and [card]Spider Spawning[/card], but with proper set up, that can mostly be worked around unless you are desperate, in which case, it really doesn’t matter. The curse and the [card]Dream Twist[/card] are quite poor mill cards, and the Bell is barely better, but if you absolutely have to play them, they will work, albeit in a less efficient way than your [card]Armored Skaab[/card]s and [card]Deranged Assistant[/card]s.

Life in the Grave- Green

So while the above version of deck (UB) will be the most popular version, there is a UG version with only a splash of Black that acts completely different. Here’s the breakdown:

Engines- [card]Skaab Ruinator[/card], [card]Splinterfright[/card], [card]Kessig Cagebreakers[/card], [card]Back from the Brink[/card], [card]Mirror-Mad Phantasm[/card], [card]Creeping Renaissance[/card]

Important- [card]Boneyard Wurm[/card], [card]Mulch[/card], [card]Spider Spawning[/card], [card]Armored Skaab[/card], [card]Murder of Crows[/card], [card]Deranged Assistant[/card], [card]Skaab Goliath[/card], [card]Makeshift Mauler[/card], [card]Stitched Drake[/card], [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card], [card]Civilized Scholar[/card]

Steals- [card]Gnaw to the Bone[/card], [card]Woodland Sleuth[/card], [card]Dream Twist[/card], [card]Selhoff Occultist[/card], [card]Curse of the Bloody Tome[/card], [card]Stitcher’s Apprentice[/card]

So this has many of the same tools as the above UB list, but you gain another enabler in [card]Mulch[/card] that is quite potent, while beefing up your potential synergy at the uncommon and rare slot. If you have [card]Kessig Cagebreakers[/card] or [card]Splinterfright[/card], this may be a better direction to take than Black, and [card]Boneyard Wurm[/card] is another card that is really good given this archetype. Most mages would want to splash Black to take advantage of the flashback cost on both [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] as well as [card]Spider Spawning[/card], for what that’s worth.

You tend to get a little bit beefier of a creature base with this version, allowing for your deck to pull through just fine when all of your self-mill is not working properly. In addition, [card]Gnaw to the Bone[/card] is actually a very good card out of the sideboard against aggressive decks that might otherwise give the UB version fits.

RG Werewolves

Engines- [card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card], [card]Kruin Outlaw[/card], [card]Instigator Gang[/card]

Important- [card]Reckless Waif[/card], [card]Gustaf Shepard[/card], [card]Grizzled Outcasts[/card], [card]Ulvenwald Mystics[/card], [card]Villagers of Estwald[/card], [card]Moonmist[/card], [card]Curse of the Nightly Hunt[/card]

Steals- [card]Tormented Pariah[/card], [card]Village Ironsmith[/card], [card]Full Moon’s Rise[/card], [card]Kessig Wolf[/card], [card]Darkthicket Wolf[/card], [card]Hanweir Watchkeep[/card]

This ends up taking the shape of an aggressive RG deck but it has a ton of synergy that puts it over the top. I love the builds that explore the synergy between cards like [card]Curse of the Nightly Hunt[/card] and [card]Moonmist[/card] and you often get both cards pretty late, making that a reasonable goal to achieve. In addition, your larger creature base and first strikers ([card]Kessig Wolf[/card], [card]Village Ironsmith[/card]) make the Curse just a good card for you, even without [card]Moonmist[/card].

You end up with a ton of good removal, including things like [card]Prey Upon[/card], which might be worse in other decks, along with the surplus of Red removal. The only removal that is slightly weaker here is [card]Harvest Pyre[/card], as you do not fill up the yard as quickly, but it is still fine. You end up with a lot of options that feel like [card]Overrun[/card] effects ([card]Full Moon’s Rise[/card], [card]Moonmist[/card], [card]Instigator Gang[/card], [card]Mayor of Avabruck[/card] etc.) which some other archetypes just do not have the luxury of claiming.

Wrap Up

Of course, there are other archetypes that I did not even get the chance to touch on, as they are more niche than those above, or are fueled solely by some rare or mythic rare are therefore less common. Zombies may be an archetype for example, but every time I have drafted it or seen it drafted, it always ends up taking the shell of the UB self-mill deck, so there is some development need for a more dedicated version. Thus far, none of my decks have wanted an Unbreathing Horde for example, and I assume some deck probably does. The same can be said for a more dedicated spirit deck, with things like [card]Angel of Flight Alabaster[/card] and the 3/3s for five at the helm.

Innistrad has a ton of play to it and I have been doing my best to work my way into archetypes on video, so look for those in the near future. Many of them ended up as failures, but I think it was still worth the effort in most cases. As for now, well its back to more drafting of course! Thanks for reading!

Conley Woods


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