Welcome the the conclusion of my Innistrad Set Review, wherein I cover all the odds and the ends that haven’t been covered yet, and sign off with some parting thoughts on the set as a whole.
Here are the rankings I’ll be using:
5.0: Multi-format All-Star (and undoubtedly worth too much money). [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].
4.0: Format staple. [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]. [card]Preordain[/card]. In light of recent bannings, let’s go with [card]Scalding Tarn[/card] and [card]Dismember[/card].
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. [card]Raging Ravine[/card]. [card]Lotus Cobra[/card].
3.0: Archetype staple. [card]Spell Pierce[/card]. [card]Goblin Guide[/card].
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. [card]Rampant Growth[/card]. [card]Khalni Heart Expedition[/card].
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. [card]Celestial Purge[/card]. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although explanation of why is obviously important)
1.0 It has seen play once. [card]One with Nothing[/card]. (I believe it was tech vs Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card’s color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I’m playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I’ll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%).[draft]Evil Twin[/draft]
Unless you are cloning something with haste (and have two mana lying around), I’d leave this sort of work to Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph.
Clone is already a very good card in Limited, and adding the one-shot Visara ability makes this especially evil. I don’t like committing to multicolor cards too early, but this one is worth it.[draft]Geist of Saint Traft[/draft]
Geist of Saint Traft
Talk about a beating. This dodges the vast majority of removal, hits for six by itself, and even can be enhanced by your equipment/enchantments. You do have to be a little trafty to figure out how to sneak him by opposing creatures, but that really isn’t that hard to figure out. Pump spells like Angelic Destiny, Honor of the Pure, and Swords are one way, and just plain removal/counterspells is the other. Either way, many lives will be lost at the hands of the Geist here.
While I would never cut Geist from an UW deck, don’t go too nuts here. All they need is a 2/2, and you are just trading, with a little damage thrown in for good measure. It is an extremely dangerous card, but still not better than a good removal spell.[draft]Grimgrin, Corpse-Born[/draft]
After suffering through that name (Grim-Grim seems much sweeter), I feel like I deserve a better reward. Nope, he’s still terrible.
This barely misses out on the exalted 4.0, but having to invest in a creature before getting any return can be costly. Brimstone Volley conveniently always kills him, and if you are short on creatures, they may not even need to. He is insane when left unchecked, but that isn’t going to happen often enough to warrant calling him the best of the best.[draft]Olivia Voldaren[/draft]
Any time you have a combination of so many powerful cards (in this case, Masticore, Memnarch, and Vampiric Dragon), it’s worth taking note. I don’t immediately see a home, but in creature matchups, she’s a beast. Also, look at her art very closely. It seems pretty apparent that her leg was supposed to be bent, then was kind of moved down, leaving a very awkward looking dress configuration.
Is this really necessary? Only being multicolor keeps her from supplanting Devil’s Play as the best card in the set, and even then she just might take the cake. I’ve played both with and against Olivia, and if she survives, she’s actually just straight up unbeatable. If you are either color, even if it’s pack 3, slam her, and if you aren’t either, consider switching.[draft]Blazing Torch[/draft]
I still wouldn’t torch this with a 10-foot pole in Constructed.
The first ability is actually very relevant now, even if it still pales in comparison to the second. Torch is an excellent morbid enabler, a cheap piece of removal, and even grants some limited evasion. What’s not to love?[draft]Butcher’s Cleaver[/draft]
You’d have to be pretty cleaver to find a way to make this better than Sword of X and Y, and I suspect trying to will get you butchered.
If you have 5+ humans, this is an easy pick and an auto-play. If you don’t, it’s still reasonable, but really not all that special. In most decks, I can take it or cleave it, but the ones that want it, REALLY want it.[draft]Cellar Door[/draft]
This may be the most beautiful phrase in the English language, but the card leaves much to be desired.
I won’t completely rule out the possibility of siding it in, but I doubt things will ever get to that point. You just can’t pay this much mana for this small of an effect, and it is inefficient regardless of who you are targeting.[draft]Cobbled Wings[/draft]
I prefer not to cobble together my Constructed decks, and instead like to think that I sculpt them, like a master artisan. Then I throw that fancy sculpture out and play WW.
The dorkier the deck, the better Cobbled Wings becomes. Miser cards like this have always been friends with bad decks, and randomly giving a Werewolf flying does the trick more often than not. It is also a fine sideboard card against a deck with a bunch of non-flying defenders and/or flying attackers.[draft]Creepy Doll[/draft]
Yep, the name describes this one perfectly. I have a general veto on coinflip cards, and even if you automatically won the flip, this wouldn’t be a Constructed playable.
This creates a pretty formidable barrier on the ground, even if it does die to Dead Weight. It even gets to bash, if need be![draft]Demonmail Hauberk[/draft]
Speaking of gross cards…(the grosser, the less likely to be playable, is what it seems like).
I’ve seen this card be a giant beatdown and a complete mulligan, mostly based on the decks it was played in. It goes very well in the W/x token deck, and is pretty much horrible in anything else.[draft]Galvanic Juggernaut[/draft]
The key to figuring out whether Juggernauts are playable: realizes that I’ve blasted them in every set review, and figure that any new ones will follow the same story arc.
The untap mechanic on this is definitely not all drawback. When you have a tapped Juggernaut and mana up, any attack they make risks getting blown out by a timely removal spell, and once they are in chump block mode, the drawback might as well not exist. In a deck with actual zero removal, Juggs does get jammed up, so uh, try and draft removal.[draft]Geistcatcher’s Rig[/draft]
Who you gonna call? Geistcatchers!
Yeah, that just doesn’t have the right ring to it, and is probably the only thing keeping this out of Constructed (that and what the card does, which is nothing).
It turns out that adding a mana and making the ability much worse, makes the card vastly inferior to Stingerfling Spider. It also turns out that Stingerfling was absurd, and even a bad copy is still pretty awesome.[draft]Ghoulcaller’s Bell[/draft]
I’m gonna go ahead and call this one, no explanation needed.
You would have to have the actual nut flashback deck before this became good, and even then, can’t you find something, anything, better.[draft]Graveyard Shovel[/draft]
I like the flavor on this, but anyone who needs graveyard hate is going to dig up something more effective, regardless of the format.
Not having a choice slows this down nearly to the point of uselessness, though if they are really light on graveyard enablers, it might still be enough.[draft]Grimoire of the Dead[/draft]
Grimoire of the Dead
The Necronomicon! As awesome as this is, old Liliana is just better, and she wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. Even if she hadn’t rotated, she would see little play, and this seems almost strictly worse (note: I’m not going to debate the definition of “strictly worse”).
This I’m not completely sure about, but a card with suspend 3 that wins you the game seems like it has to be good. It’s not going to help you if you are getting beat down, but it will give you a path to victory if you are able to stall.[draft]Inquisitor’s Flail[/draft]
It’s getting to the point where I’m just flailing around, looking for something unexpected to say.
I haven’t run across the deck that wants this yet, since it seems best on evasion guys, but they usually don’t have high power. Putting this on a random 4/4 just seems like bad value, which really limits the uses for this.[draft]Manor Gargoyle[/draft]
I can’t tell from here. What is that on the castle wall? Is it man or gargoyle?
This is pretty sweet. You get a permanent ground blocker, and one with enough teeth to dissuade most attacks, as well as a slightly-less permanent 4/4 flying beater. Sounds good to me![draft]Mask of Avacyn[/draft]
Mask of Avacyn
Isn’t it cute when they print equipment that isn’t Swords?
Once you’ve paid the small fortune of an equip cost, you are rewarded with the Fort Knox of creatures, which seems like a fair deal. Some decks have a huge problem dealing with this, since unless they have a bunch of large creatures, they aren’t killing your guys ever.[draft]One-Eyed Scarecrow[/draft]
Sorry, those with no brains need not apply.
I’m in the camp of starting this and siding it out when it’s unneeded, but I also tend to draft the durdle control decks that want cards like this. It halts most early assaults efficiently, and pitches in to reduce flying damage later. I still think it shouldn’t be able to handle a Blazing Torch; I know I wouldn’t if I were a scarecrow![draft]Runechanter’s Pike[/draft]
If your graveyard is full of 10 instants and sorceries, why haven’t you won the game already?
First strike and +2/+0 is already enough to win the vast majority of combats, and getting two spells in the bin doesn’t seem unduly difficult.[draft]Sharpened Pitchfork[/draft]
As funny as it would be to Fork someone up, please don’t.
This is another equipment that is mediocre outside of the human deck and very good in it, and it even has a pretty sweet picture as a bonus.[draft]Silver-Inlaid Dagger[/draft]
Would I be daggering this if I said it was horrible? I don’t think so, since it’s actually just the truth.
I’m not a huge fan of [card]Bonesplitter[/card], and even at +3/+0, you need the right combination of evasive creatures to make this really sweet. Much like all equipment, it does work well with tokens and whatnot, which is a consideration. Also, how does this not do something special to the Werewolves?[draft]Traveler’s Amulet[/draft]
I know the fixing is kind of bad right now, but if you are stooping to this, you are in bigger trouble than most.
This is like a Caravan Vigil, but actually good. Not needing any particular color to get rolling is huge, and I like this in all but the most curve-tastic two-color decks, as well as obviously any three-color ones.[draft]Trepanation Blade[/draft]
Yeah, you really would need a lobotomy before you played with this instead of a Sword.
I really don’t have a good sense of how effective this is, but even hitting two or three every time still makes it fairly mediocre. Like any power-boosting equipment, the more evasion guys you have the more likely you are to be interested.[draft]Witchbane Orb[/draft]
The whole Curse thing aside, it is kind of nice that every color has Ivory Mask nowadays. It might die much more easily, but it’s sure to be the bane of some decks existence.
If they have [card]Curse of Death’s Hold[/card], then maybe you can entertain notions of bringing this in. Restrain yourself otherwise.[draft]Wooden Stake[/draft]
As you play for higher and higher stakes, the less likely you are to fool around with stuff like this.
Some deck want the slight bonus, but most are just going to side this in against the multiple Vampire deck. Branch out, see what feels best to you.[draft]Clifftop retreat
Enemy M10 Duals
These are about as unexciting as it gets, but will obviously play a key role in Standard throughout the duration of the set.
Any time you need both colors, they are obviously in, and they are actually pretty important when you are trying to splash. I wouldn’t want to pick any early, but they make good wheel cards.[draft]Gavony Township[/draft]
You get quite the deal from this land, almost reminiscent of [card]Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree[/card]. For the low cost of playing a land that taps for colorless, you get a bunch of free Ajani Goldmane activations, which is quite exciting for decks of this color. GW seems like a very real deck, and this card is a big reason why.
I would look to splash this if I were either color, since it’s just that powerful. Once you can start throwing counters on your guys for free, the game is usually all but over.[draft]Ghost Quarter[/draft]
Having this around is definitely important, but it certainly is no Tectonic Edge. All GQ really does is keep spell-lands in check, and not even all that well.
Rarely is your mana good enough to just randomly maindeck this, though it makes a fine sideboard card against the rare lands.[draft]Kessig Wolf Run[/draft]
Kessig Wolf Run
Much like Gavony Township, Kessig Wolf Run gives deckbuilders a huge incentive to go RG. It’s basically a repeatable Fireball that comes from a land, which is about as insane as it gets. It might be slow, but it makes long games much easier for aggressive decks to win.
This one isn’t quite as absurd as Township, since it isn’t a permanent bonus, but it still can be pretty brutal. Aggressive decks are much more interested, and the Wolf Run is more of a lategame finisher than anything else.[draft]Moorland Haunt[/draft]
These lands are insane, with a full 3/5 guaranteed to see heavy Constructed play. This is one of them, if you couldn’t guess. Pumping out a steady stream of threats for only 3 mana is absurd, even if you do need to have some guys die to enable it. Caw-Blade continues!
When every guy that dies comes with a 1/1 flying Spirit tacked on, the game doesn’t tend to last very long. Soon you have a horde of 1/1’s, and your hapless opponent is reduced to birdfood.[draft]Nephalia Drownyard[/draft]
I like this one the least of the five, but I have to admit that it still is a win condition, albeit not a very reasonable one. Drowning them three cards at a time sounds miserable, and so does using it on yourself for a slight hope at value.[draft]Shimmering Grotto[/draft]
Well, they grotto have manafixing for Limited, right?
If you are three colors, this is the card for you. If you aren’t, stay as far away as you can, since voluntarily getting your spells [card]Sphere of Resistance[/card]’ed seems like a bad plan.[draft]Stensia Bloodhall[/draft]
Between Bump in the Night and this, RB decks have quite a bit of reach nowadays. I can’t imagine trying to outrace this with some glacially slow control deck, which is probably an argument against that deck existing in the first place. This doesn’t have the raw power of the Wolf Run, but it is much more inexorable, stopped only by Ghost Quarter.
Of all the good lands, this helps stabilize the least, and really is only good for finishing them off. It does that reasonably well, but isn’t as exciting as the GW or RG incarnations.
Well, that’s that. All the cards, reviewed, talked about, and possibly even subjected to torturous renditions of something loosely based on their name. Let’s wrap things up with some Top 8’s!
Top 8 Commons/Uncommons for Limited
8. [card]Morkrut Banshee[/card] 7. [card]Falkenrath Noble[/card] 6. [card]Victim of Night[/card] 5. [card]Claustrophobia[/card] 4. [card]Unburial Rites[/card] 3. [card]Fiend Hunter[/card] 2. [card]Brimstone Volley[/card] 1. [card]Slayer of the Wicked[/card]
Ordering these was tough. Slayer is number one by a wide margin, but all the rest occupy about the same space. They are mostly removal, with the exception of Falkenrath Noble, who is absurd, and Unburial Rites, which is one of the best flashback cards in the set. One thing I really like about this set is how important synergy is, which makes any sort of pick order lists really irrelevant once you have a few cards. Morkrut Banshee has fallen a lot in my estimation, since it is pretty difficult to actually morbid it, especially once they know you have it. It’s still a high pick, but the common removal spells may be just better.
Top 8 Constructed Cards
8. [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card] 7. [card]Gavony Township[/card] 6. [card]Daybreak Ranger[/card] 5. [card]Garruk Relentless[/card] 4. [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] 3. [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card] 2. [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] 1. [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]
The top card is no surprise, and most of the rest shouldn’t be either. If creatures are going to rule the day, Garruk and Daybreak Ranger will have plenty of game to hunt, and cards like Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Gavony Township will be happy to provide them fuel. This set is full of awesome cards for Constructed; they are powerful, and impactful, but none of them are actually absurd. Yes, I like Snapcaster, but I’m under no illusions that it approaches Stoneforge or Jace levels in Standard. Even the Planeswalkers seem like they are in a good spot. They both give you some good value, but none of it is overwhelming, and you can certainly win even against an active Garruk or Liliana for multiple turns.
If I had to rank this set as a whole, I think I’d give it a 4.0, which is higher than recent sets (if I were to rank them, that is). It’s been incredible to draft, and I love both the power level and the flavor of the cards for Limited and Constructed.