Shreds of Sanity
“Spells matter” is a great archetype, usually involving some mixture of tempo (riding one or two threats to victory) or control (kill everything the opponent plays). While blue has some great spells-matter cards in Shadows over Innistrad, the archetype is red-based due to Thermo-Alchemist and Shreds of Sanity in Eldritch Moon. Because these cards are awfully specific build-arounds, it’s easy to tell when the archetype is open. A good strategy is to pick the quality removal spells early, and then wheel the more narrow cards that other decks can’t support.
Shreds of Sanity is particularly narrow, and needs not only a critical mass of spells (10-14) but also a reasonable mixture of instants and sorceries (4 at the lowest). The flurry-of-spells payoff is pretty sweet, however, even if it makes you discard a card. Sometimes you end up discarding an extra land, but sometimes you discard on madness for cards like Alchemist’s Greeting. This, in turn, makes madness spells a higher pickup than usual during the draft phase.
The deck has two weaknesses: It’s threat light, and because it’s threat light, it tends to need early interaction to make up for the lack of board presence. This means that Galvanic Bombardment is one of the key cards in the deck and you need to pick it highly, but that’s fine because Bombardment is a good one anyway.
The threat light problem is harder to solve. Usually it’s not a problem, and you can deal the full amount with a single prowess guy or a Mercurial Geists, but if the opponent has more removal than you have threats, then things get difficult. Sometimes you can power through these matchups with card draw, and sometimes you have Rise from the Tides to drown people in Zombies, but more often than not, the removal.dec matchup is the one that keeps you from 3-0’ing.
If you build the deck blue, you have a wider stable of prowess-type threats to choose from, particularly Ingenious Skaab and Mercurial Geists. These threats aren’t necessary, and you can win the game with just about anything, but it’s nice to take advantage of the multiple spell casts from Shreds of Sanity.
If you build the deck black, you don’t have to lean on Galvanic Bombardment as much because black has way more options for early disruption. The end result is less combo-y and more controlling than the blue build, with Shreds of Sanity as a card advantage tool to rebuy removal.
The beauty of Lupine Prototype is that it’s a tough card to evaluate, meaning that it tends to go later than it should. Even if the other players at the table know exactly how good it is, it’s still a build-around card that doesn’t fit into every deck.
Lupine Prototype is a build-around, which means my decks all end up looking similar. They’ve all been black aggro with a low curve, and they’ve all had discard outlets to help control the size of my hand. I’ve never tried making the opponent discard cards to turn it on, nor do I recommend doing so. You have a lot more control over your own hand! Only once have I been able to attack due to the opponent being hellbent, and it immediately cost them the game.
So far I’ve done four drafts with this beauty, and in one of those decks I ended up with 2 copies. Three of those drafts were against PT-quality opponents, yet my worst Prototype record was 2-1. I’ve never really had it be bad (once it was too slow, but when you don’t get a turn 5, most creatures tend to be too slow).
Due to the aggressive nature of the decks that it fits into, the game often ends the turn you get to attack with it, but a 2-mana Lava Axe is nothing to scoff at. Again, these decks are aggressive.
In some ways, Lupine Prototype reminds me of Delver of Secrets. Both of these cards require some build-around and foresight during drafting, but they feature the raw stats to be worth the investment and will eventually turn on. In Shadows over Innistrad draft, I used to joke that Delver was Moon Heron with suspend, and Prototype is kind of similar. You can guess at a range of turns it’ll come online, but you’re accepting a bit of uncertainty in exchange for efficiency and power.
In my first draft with the Prototype, Adrian Sullivan was on my team and he pointed out how a 5/5 is relatively large for the format, which makes it a bit more interesting than usual. Even if it doesn’t attack or block when you first play it, it’s not like the other 5/5s in the format are coming online on turn 3 either.
One way that the Prototype is better than a regular-cost 5/5 or a suspend card is that it slots anywhere into your curve. Suspend cards need to be suspended ASAP, and regular fatties require you to hit your land drops then tap down on a later turn. I’ve attacked with Lupine Prototype with as few as 4 lands in play, and I’ve also played it on turn 5 alongside another spell. The flexibility of the cost outweighs the deckbuilding restrictions.
When to Draft It
- If you have an aggressive curve.
- If you can pick up discard engines to control your hand size (Noose Constrictor/Olivia’s Dragoon/Haunted Dead/Ghoulsteed).
- If you want to use your removal to push in damage, as opposed to saving it for the best card the opponent plays.
When to Avoid It
- If your curve is high.
- If you rely on combat tricks to break parity (Prototype forces you to play them sorcery-speed to attack).
- If your strategy relies on sitting on reactive spells (this includes both blue counterspell decks and red Shreds of Sanity decks).
Campaign of Vengeance
Campaign of Vengeance is a little different that the other two cards because it’s a little less build-around and will make the cut in most BW decks. On the other hand, you probably don’t want to be BW unless you’re abusing Campaign of Vengeance effectively, and because it requires two colors, it tends to go late.
Fortunately, Campaign of Vengeance is a little more intuitive than the other cards. You want to get multiple triggers out of it, which means attacking multiple times with as many bodies as possible. Cards that help you go wide with evasion, like Haunted Dead and Spectral Reserves, are particularly valuable. Graf Harvest technically does this as well, but usually does a decent job taking over a game by itself, and I have yet to pair it with Campaign.
For the cost, the effect isn’t worth it if you’re only attacking with a single creature. With two, the effect goes from mediocre to good, and you’ve basically built your own Palace Siege. With three, the effect gets out of hand fast, and it’s easy to set up an alpha strike.
Because there should only be one BW drafter at the table (if any), you should have your shot at whatever Campaigns get opened. With an average curve, I wouldn’t want more than two, but with a tighter curve and an above average number of flyers, I could see playing three.
One of the problems with BW is that tempo matters in this format, and the quality black and white commons tend to cluster around the 3-drop slot. This includes the quality removal, like Boon of Emrakul and Choking Restraints. Ironclad Slayer, a sweet value dude that turns into an FTK with Boon, also costs 3.
Of the three different single-card strategies, this is the one I’ve had the least experience and the worst records with, but it’s still powerful enough to try.