The release of Innistrad is upon us. I love the arrival of new blocks—new mechanics, new synergies, a turnover of old Standard into something fresh and exciting, and a brand-new Limited format to sink your teeth into. A lot of people will be attending, or have already attended, a prerelease or release event for the set. While there are many exciting Limited bombs in the rare slot, it is important to remember that the vast majority of the cards we encounter will be commons and uncommons. I have gone through the full spoiler for the set and picked out my top five nonrare cards in each color for Limited. These are cards that I would be very happy to have in my Sealed pool, and that would make me strongly consider running those colors in my deck. For each color, it was hard enough selecting just five cards, let alone ordering them, so the lists are in no particular order. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
I like a lot of the White cards, and the synergies between some of them are really sweet. Here’re my top five:
- Avacynian Priest – I hope you got a chance to play with Gideon's Lawkeeper in M12 Limited. This guy is the equivalent for this set, although being both more expensive and unable to tap Humans makes him decidedly worse than the Lawkeeper in a straight-up comparison. He can, however, tap around two-thirds of the creatures in the set, which means he is still eminently playable. There are matchups where he may want to be boarded out, such as when an opponent is running a lot of White creatures, since many of these are Humans.
- Bonds of Faith – I love this card! It’s either a Pacifism or a buff depending on the situation. Dual-purpose cards are really great in Limited. I expect mostly to use it as a Pacifism (don’t forget that it only works on non-Humans), but the ability to make one of my guys bigger is an awesome option, and I look forward to trying this card out soon.
- Village Bell-Ringer – I may be overrating this card, but it looks like a fun (and powerful) combat trick. You swing in with all of your creatures, and then it looks like your opponent has a free counterswing, but no! Suddenly all of your guys are ready to defend, plus there’s one more. It will be a slaughter. This has to be good, right?
- Fiend Hunter – This is the Leonin Relic-Warder of this set and a classic two-for-one. You get an extra creature on the board, and one of his takes a walk. Admittedly, it isn’t permanent removal, but it is a huge tempo swing. You can move a potential blocker out of your way to get in for some damage, and even if he gets his card back, it will have been at the expense of a removal spell, which now can’t be used on your bomb. These are the sorts of cards that win Limited events, and I will be very happy to open or draft this guy.
- Slayer of the Wicked – Even better than Fiend Hunter if there is a legitimate target. Just a straight up two-for-one with no coming back for the target, and he has a damn fine pair of legs.
I always find Blue to be such a hard color to analyze in a vacuum. I was surprised by the number of good, if not particularly special, creatures that Blue has available to it in this set. Here are my top five to look for:
- Murder of Crows – This is a 4/4 flyer for 5, which is pretty good value in and of itself. What makes this card special is the Looter ability stuck onto it, which triggers when a creature dies. If you played with Merfolk Looter in M12, you will know how valuable this is for making your draws live or for finding that answer.
- Civilized Scholar – Speaking of Merfolk Looter, here it is again, but this time it costs 3 and has a worse body. However, it is a Transform card. I think this card will be good in a slower, more controlling deck to filter your draws, and then, when the board is empty, he can be flipped to wreak havoc. Maybe I am wrong—if you get a chance to try him out, let me know!
- Stitched Drake – Blue has three creatures at common and uncommon, which are aggressively costed, but which require an additional cost of creatures being exiled from your graveyard. This one, I think, is the best of them. A 3/4 creature with Flying is always going to impact the board state, so even though you may not be able to cast it on turn three, it will still be good. This creature will really shine in a deck that enjoys trading early on so that you can power these bad boys out.
- Invisible Stalker – When I saw this card, I almost fainted. How can they print an utterly unkillable creature? You can’t kill it by blocking or using a removal spell. It has to be an untargeted effect, and there aren’t too many of those knocking around in Limited. If you have a few Auras to buff it , the game is going to end pretty darn fast. That said, don’t run five Auras in a deck with one Stalker, but if you have the good fortune to open two copies, then I would run some Auras that would otherwise be put in the sideboard.
- Frightful Delusion – It was a hard choice for the last slot in Blue. This card may turn out to be a flop, but it got me all excited, so I decided to put it in anyway. It’s not a hard counter, and late-game, your opponent will be able to pay the cost. However, the discard effect still happens, so it’s not completely dead, and if you do hit a spell early, you get a sweet two-for-one. Am I wrong about this card? Maybe, but I look forward to trying it out on someone.
This set is basically a black mage’s paradise. It’s all about graveyards, so obviously Black got some pretty good cards. Let’s see what’s looking hot at common and uncommon:
- Altar's Reap – Did you play with Vivisection in Scars Block Limited? This card is similar, although it costs 2 less and only draws you two. If you have a pool containing creatures that will net you advantages when they die, such as Mausoleum Guard, this card is going to fit in fine. It also allows you to ditch that no-longer-relevant creature in the late game to look for some fresh blood.
- Ghoulraiser – Alternatively, you could sacrifice a Zombie to your Altar's Reap and then play this guy. He is a cheaper Gravedigger who can only return Zombies, but with so many Zombies in the set, you may have a deck that he is just right for.
- Morkrut Banshee – This card is a perfect example of my ideal Limited card. An amazing body for a great cost, plus I get to kill one of his creatures at the same time. Perfection!
- Unburial Rites – This is the first card with Flashback to make it into a top five, and I’m sure some of you have been howling in pain about it. The truth is that I am finding the Flashback costs hard to stomach or evaluate. Some of them will be good, but this is the first one to leap out at me for Limited. You do have to be running W/B, but if you are, this card is going to be sick. A Rise from the Grave that only targets your graveyard and with a cheap Flashback cost? Any opponent will have a hard time not breaking down in tears after he has finally killed your bomb only to see it return . . . and knowing that he will have to deal with it once more after this incarnation!
- Falkenrath Noble – Not a super-exciting card to finish Black with, but it’s a well-rounded creature. A 2/2 flyer for 4 isn’t amazing, but the drain for 1 every time a creature dies may well make this guy a very valuable asset in Limited games. Just don’t forget the triggers.
I have a bias toward Red in every Limited format I play. I love burn that can be purposed as a player or as a creature-kill spell. Plus, this time Red seems to have gotten a lot of very sexy Transform cards. This was the hardest top five to put together, as I kept changing my mind. Let’s see what I ended up with:
- Brimstone Volley – This is a great card. It would be perfectly respectable as just a 3-damage-for-3-mana spell. However, with the Morbid trigger, it is so much more powerful. You can alpha-strike your opponent, knowing that it will drop him to 5 and that something will die in the process so that you will be able to finish him off with this spell. Alternatively, it is still a fine removal spell and very splashable. I would strongly consider running any copies I have of this card in any deck.
- Nightbird's Clutches – Another Flashback spell, and this one will be a great addition to any aggressive deck. The Flashback cost is very reasonable, and I’m pretty certain that this gem will be winning many games.
- Reckless Waif – This is, without a doubt, the creature I am most excited about in the set. It’s not big and flashy, but it is going to rapidly beat your opponent to a pulp if he does not have a spell to cast on turn one on the draw. I am also excited about the potential for this card in Constructed.
- Rolling Temblor – This spell can kill around 45% of the creatures in the set, plus any Spider or Zombie tokens that get strewn all over the board. It has great potential to turn a game in your favor, and it is one of the few ways to kill the Invisible Stalker. Just remember, it doesn’t affect creatures with Flying.
- Pitchburn Devils – My final choice for Red was difficult, but in the end, I plumped for this guy. A 3/3 for 5 mana is not great value, but the trigger after he dies makes him a good attacker or defender as long as there is something for him to take down with him.
Dear Green, I hope people will love you more in this set than they did in M12. I think you got a bit of a rough deal, but I’m sure everyone is ready to make it up to you. Especially if you have goodies for us . . . oh dear!
Yeah, I’m not super-excited about Green, I’m afraid. Its Transform cards are good, old-fashioned fatties, but nothing awesome. Still, here are my top five:
- Ambush Viper – Don’t be confused by this card. It’s a removal spell disguised as a creature. Your opponent attacks with his bomb creature into your seemingly helpless board state, and boom! Out comes this guy to trade with it for a mere 2 mana. Great value, and you can use him to do damage once in a while, if the situation requires it.
- Spider Spawning – I do hope I get to cast this card sometime. Top-decking this in a late game where there has been a lot of back-and-forth will probably seal the game up nicely. If the format turns out to be fast, though, this may not be playable.
- Make a Wish – Classic card advantage, in that you use one card to get two. The effect is at random, but all of the cards you are playing are good, right? If you have this in hand, you know you can trade aggressively and come out ahead when you recur your creatures.
- Woodland Sleuth – In a similar vein to Make a Wish, this creature offers card advantage. Again, the random element is annoying, but you may play it into a board state where any creature will do or where there is only one in the graveyard. If you trade your 3-drop for his during combat, you can then play this guy and be ahead in cards and in tempo.
- Ranger's Guile – An interesting card, this one. A combat trick or a protection spell for your important creatures. The dual-purpose nature of this card will make me happy to have one in any deck running Green.
There you have it. I think all of the cards I have chosen will be strong players in the forthcoming Limited season, but if you think I have missed a particularly exciting common or uncommon, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week.