As Kaladesh spoilers are already in full swing (actually kind of winding down at this point, although we’re still missing quite a few of the story moments as of this writing), it seems like a good chance to look back at Shadows over Innistrad.
I liked Innistrad. I wasn’t really in love with it, but I had fun playing it. I think the balance between the really big eldrazi (that aren’t generally even that big) and the rest was much better than in the previous block, but I couldd have lived without certain bombs that have made Standard very boring. Much of this has to do with the previous block, again, but that’s because much of what Innistrad 2 brought to the table just couldn’t compete with [scryfall]Gideon, Ally of Zendikar[/scryfall], [scryfall]Nissa, Voice of Zendikar[/scryfall] and, of course, [scryfall]Collected Company[/scryfall]. I would’ve wished there was a competitive Vampire deck or something, but it just hasn’t appeared, at least not yet. With [scryfall]Collected Company[/scryfall] and [scryfall]Dromoka’s Command[/scryfall] gone pretty soon, things might change quite a bit.
As always, this isn’t about what’s best, but more about what sparks my imagination in some way or another. Sometimes its a fun card to brew with, sometimes I like the art, sometimes they do something weird, but not very obvious, way too often they’re either black or blue or both. Sometimes (okay, often) I just have fond memories of them.
Previous “winners” include [scryfall]Pain Seer[/scryfall], [scryfall]Bloodsoaked Champion[/scryfall] and [scryfall]Inverter of Truth[/scryfall]. As I said, black is good, but also they work in weird ways, often being pretty weak, if things don’t go your way, but they are the kinds of cards I personally enjoy.
So, with that in mind, on to the list.
10. [scryfall]Geier Reach Sanitarium[/scryfall]
As I’ve said before, Innistrad is the most progressive of all the planes, because they apparently have mental health facilities. Not very safe ones, apparently (see [scryfall]Sanitarium Skeleton[/scryfall] and [scryfall]Asylum Visitor[/scryfall]), but at least someone thought to build them. This place actually promotes Madness and is thus a favorite haunt of vampires, so its not a very good place to be, if you need some help with the hallucinations you’ve been experiencing, but hey, at least their trying, right. Right?
9. [scryfall]Permeating Mass[/scryfall]
This card is kind of contentious, because its really, really hard to control. You basically need attackers with good evasion and since green doesn’t really do that, you are on shaky ground from the start, but this is what makes it fun for me. Its not an obvious choice for your limited deck (even if it was great in my prerelease deck, more on that on the next spot).
8. [scryfall]Voldaren Pariah[/scryfall]
I had a sick prerelease deck. I had double [scryfall]Ishkanah, Grafwidow[/scryfall]s (probably the best card in the format), a [scryfall]Permeating Mass[/scryfall], [scryfall]Noosegraf Mob[/scryfall], some good removal and this card. I did lose one game. A game, mind you, not a match. Pariah not only worked extremely well, but it was an interesting card to play. I could never be quite sure my opponent didn’t blow me out with a [scryfall]Clip Wings[/scryfall] or something when I used the activated ability, but that’s the fun of it. It didn’t happen once, because I usually got them off-guard with their mana tapped, and myself having three spiders on the battlefield to feed the vampire.
7. [scryfall]Shamble Back[/scryfall]
Okay, this might require a bit of explanation. It was during Finnish National Championships early this summer. It was the last round of draft and I wasn’t doing very well at that point and I had to win the match to be in competition in any way. The board was somewhat stalled, but since my opponent had two [scryfall]Paranoid Parish-Blades[/scryfall] with delirium available, some good attacks each turn and a few sources of continuous value, so I knew I had to break the stall soon, or I’d lose.
So, what happens? I had this one [scryfall]Shamble Back[/scryfall] in my deck. Why? Well, I had opened [scryfall]The Gitrog Monster[/scryfall], so I was pretty much forcing BG. It just so happened that the guy on my left was also forcing green, and the guy on my right was jumped into black at some point. So, the cards weren’t actually flowing. And since I had plenty of cards with delirium in my pile, I desperately needed cards of different types. The only sorcery I could get? Well, you should have guessed by now.
And if there ever was a moment to draw it, it was then. Not only was I able to get an additional blocker I needed pretty desperately, I managed to get delirium myself, and since my opponent only had one creature in his graveyard, I managed to break his, winning the game quite quickly after that.
6. [scryfall]Turn Aside[/scryfall]
What can I say? I’ve just blown my opponent out of the game so many times by countering [scryfall]Ruthless Disposal[/scryfall] or even [scryfall]Nahiri’s Wrath[/scryfall]. I always try to have one of these in my pool, if I’m playing blue.
For a while, I rattled the chains pretty hard. I loved playing that Saito’s UR Fliers deck and this was definitely my favorite card in it. It wasn’t necessarily the best, but there’s something about these little guy’s that just win the games on their own… It was a weird deck and games would often play very differently from each other, but this card always there in the heart of deck. The flash just makes it so difficult for your opponent to know what’s going on until its too late. I just love these marginal, underappreciated decks…
4. [scryfall]Identity Thief[/scryfall]
This card just has weird possibilities, but at the same time its anything but easy to use. For me, this is primarily an EDH card, where it can shine in decks devoted to ETB-effects, but in such a deck, attacking with it can be problematic, as creatures with good ETB-effects don’t generally have the best bodies. Still, copying any ETB-effect even once might be really good and this card brings just so many different uses with it.
3. [scryfall]The Gitrog Monster[/scryfall]
Funnily enough, this was the only card to survive from the preliminary list.
I wrote a full EDH list on the day this was spoiled. I missed plenty of good cards to (ab)use with it on that first run (like Dakmor Salvage), but the fact that it inspired me to write the whole list immediately is noteworthy in itself.
I haven’t read the short story on it, but just look at the art. Its great. The abilities are weird, but fun. Of course, saccing a land each turn might feel bad, but as you get to draw a card for it, its not bad. And you get to play all sorts of other shenanigans to draw even more cards. Assuming your shenanigans are doing something else as well, the card draw as a bonus is great as well.
2. [scryfall]Fortune’s Favor[/scryfall]
I actually haven’t played this card once yet, nor have I had it played against me (strange, actually, since I have drafted the format a decent amount). However, just the possibilities and the subgame presented by this card are interesting to think about. I’ve seen LSV making the piles a few times and I always follow it intently. There’s just so many ways you can try to mitigate the card, but they might just backfire also. I love it. Its the card [scryfall]Fact or Fiction[/scryfall] should always have been and it actually prompted me to go through the whole history of those cards in a separate article.
1. [scryfall]Liliana, the Last Hope[/scryfall]
Okay, so, as I said, I don’t really like putting powerful cards on this list, especially on first, but what can I say? I just love it. Okay, so maybe it isn’t in the same category of weirdly wonderful tools for brewing like the previous winners of these lists, but you can’t say her power was obvious from the beginning. Me personally, I just love how wonderfully versatile each of the first two abilities are, even if they don’t initially seem that way.
Just simple things like making creatures killable by [scryfall]Gilt-Leaf Winnover[/scryfall] or be within the reach of [scryfall]Grasp of Darkness[/scryfall] or [scryfall]Languish[/scryfall] makes the first ability great, never mind forcing the opponent to overextend into a sweeper. We’ll see what becomes of her now that [scryfall]Languish[/scryfall] is gone, but I bet there’s some. Just killing [scryfall]Selfless Spirit[/scryfall] is a great value for a card. I hardly ever use the second ability, but getting back creatures, putting more targets for [scryfall]Goblin Dark-Dwellers[/scryfall], enabling delirium and much more, makes it a great ability as well.
And even if the ultimate isn’t as achievable as those of certain other planeswalkers (see the new Nissa for example), I’ve still won plenty of games with it.
What can I say? I’m a fanboy.