Shadows over Innistrad has finally gained some real traction on previews, and while I do want to talk about all of the new cards, I feel it is best to wait one more week before theory-crafting too much with the new Standard. This time around, I want to take a look at some of the possible playables that may have been collecting dust in the bulk bins for the past six months to a year. I also want to talk about some of the cards that may have already made an impact on Standard but are poised to strike again in the coming months.
This week may be a little light on complete decklists, as we only have a third of the cards previewed so far as I sit down to write, this but I promise that will be remedied in weeks to come. This week, instead, I want to look at some basic shells of sixteen to thirty cards that just need new pieces to slot in once we have the full set preview. This allows us to have an idea of what type of effects we are looking for from the new set to interact with existing cards and also give us an idea of what an existing card may need to be playable moving forward.
While I am not a fan of lists, I am going to break this down by color and stick to just the rares and mythic rares to conserve some space. I will focus on the mono-colored cards so as not to dilute the power level of those by forcing gold cards right away, and I will instead focus on gold and artifacts next week as we have a better idea of what colors may pair well together. This doesn't mean that many of the cards will be talking about cannot fit into decks with other cards, merely that these interactions already exist within a specific color identity.
Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector — I am going to count these cards together, as they seem to always find a home together anyway. I expect that to continue with any play they do see moving forward. Both of these cards reward you for filling your graveyard, and while both may have been a little slow for where the format was, it seems Shadows over Innistrad is pulling us in a less aggressive direction overall. It is difficult for green to match the card advantage these two can provide, and Deathmist Raptor’s ability to trade with all of the larger creatures we have seen previewed so far is certainly a huge push. Den Protector has even more reign over the grave now, as some of the cards holding it back recently will be rotating and cards coming in look to give a superior selection in what we can bring back.
Evolutionary Leap — While I may have some personal bias toward this card, it is easy to see with cards like Relentless Dead on the way why I am becoming so hyped now. Not only can this card create card advantage through grave shenanigans, it can help us to fill the grave in the first place. At the current price, if you do not have a set, you should remedy that soon.
Oath of Nissa — I have been a huge fan of this card since it was revealed, and since then, it has done next to nothing in any format, and I think that has driven the price down significantly. With the rumor of four ’Walkers in this set and the already existing power level of the current ones, Superfriends may be looking to have a strong year, and it seems this card may tie that deck together.
Green Shell ? Shadows over Innistrad Standard | Ryan Bushard
If we see enough madness enablers to push the theme further in that direction, I would not disapprove, but even without a great deal of support, a shell like this already appears to have enough versatility to make an impact right at the beginning of Standard. Evolutionary Leap with Deathmist Raptor has been one of my favorite interactions in Standard and to see that in a main-deck-playable position gives me a great deal of hope for midrange Gruul decks such as this.
Avaricious Dragon — Of all of the cards I expected to be touting about come this release, this card was nowhere on that radar—but, suddenly, with the return of madness and reason to fill the graveyard, I cannot help but continue to come back to this card. We have stronger bodies, but the ability is beginning to seem to be much more of a boon than it used to be, and that certainly deserves a nod moving forward. At nearly bulk now, this seems to be another card you just should not pass up having a set of just in case.
Chandra, Flamecaller — While this card has already been picked up in a number of decks, the discard-and-draw ability is about to become a whole lot more powerful, and if we see another Wrath of God variant or one in a color that plays well with red, the +1 also threatens to close out games much more quickly than most control decks can. I am not certain this will be a full set, as Elspeth, Sun's Champion was in control, but it should certainly have a place next to cards like Fiery Temper in the coming Standard.
Thunderbreak Regent — With the 4-drop position now taking applications after quite the job freeze, it seems some of the previous contenders that had been pushed aside may have a second shot. The Dragon theme is still alive and well, and Draconic Roar is not becoming any worse as far as targets go, meaning, if there is the lower curve and removal to support a deck with this and Avaricious Dragon, we may be seeing some red skies in our future.
Red Shell ? Shadows over Innistrad Standard | Ryan Bushard
Dragons of Tarkir has certainly been a player through Standard all the way back to W/U/b Dragon control with Dragonlord Ojutai last year, but we have yet to see a version in red and green that pushes the aggression and not just the late game. The keys may not all be there after the first set, but it is an archetype to keep an eye out for. With Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury rotating, it is even more of a push to steer away from black for this aggressive build, opening the door not just for green—that is just my frontrunner, with the already powerful Dragonlord Atarka having proven itself last season.
Archangel of Tithes — This card has been begging for a place to shine for eight months now, and I believe the part holding her back the most is how good mana was. With the loss of fetch lands, I expect to see a lot more decks relying on one primary color with a single splash, making cards like Archangel Avacyn much more enticing moving forward. This, coupled with a number of other double-cost cards we already have previewed, leans me toward a deck supported on white. And at the current rate, this seems far too easy to not get in on it now just in case.
Hidden Dragonslayer — The large creatures we have seen in Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch do not seem to be letting up with Shadows over Innistrad thus far, and this card pairs very well with Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector already, so if Selesnya Midrange is to have answers to all of the other large threats, I foresee this being a great place to start. Outside of that, I would expect a reasonable amount of board play regardless, and now that we are far enough away from Dragons of Tarkir’s release, I expect to see some upward movement.
Knight of the White Orchid — Though not the first time this Knight has seen Standard play over the past year, it does seem that with W/x growing in strength, this card will naturally follow. It provides the early defense most of these decks may need to survive to cards like Archangel of Tithes while also ramping into the more powerful threats against control to begin the game on your terms and staying ahead of the counterspells.
Linvala, the Preserver — With the new Utter End variant in Anguished Unmaking, this card has become even more appealing for control moving forward. I already was warming up to this card after rotation, and with the shell that is shaping up, I have even more hope for this card beyond just a random one-of. If we manage to get any cards that interact favorably with Angels, that would push this—and a few other cards such as Avacyn and Archangel of Tithes—to an archetype that may even be more aggressive than the one that is currently shaping up. This would still be a fine backup plan in a deck like that, and like many of the other cards on this list, it has pretty much it the bottom as far as price goes.
Myth Realized — Most of the cards I have been looking at have some sort of synergy with cards from Shadows over Innistrad, but this hidden gem is probably the easiest to identify a place for immediately. Thing in the Ice has made some huge waves since it has been previewed, and having another “creature” that sticks around after the transformation seems to be a huge boon and a way to quickly end the game. Wouldn't you know it? They both trigger from the same thing and happen to be in two of the best colors for a control shell, this one seems to be an easy pickup considering you are getting in at bulk.
White Shell ? Shadows over Innistrad Standard | Ryan Bushard
- Creatures (13)
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 2 Linvala, the Preserver
- 4 Archangel of Tithes
- 3 Archangel Avacyn
I am not sure what the splash color for this shell would be yet, but the Battle for Zendikar lands push toward green and blue so far. It is plausible that you stick to one color or even look at colorless options to gain cards like Eldrazi Displacer, which plays very well with a number of creatures already in the deck. If white gains any more early efficient creatures to fill that current void, that is the direction I would be looking to go.
Day's Undoing — While this card does not directly become better from anything printed so far, it is among the more efficient ways to empty the graveyard at any point in the game. A more aggressive deck would probably have to arise to make use of a card like this, but if U/x aggro takes off, this is certainly a plausible ’board card. The downside is negligible if you are just looking to reload and keep your opponent’s strategy from snowballing too hard in the midgame—at the current bulk price, I like the potential upside.
Oath of Jace — Oath of Jace is not the most exciting card on this list, but it does offer a great deal of utility to any deck that can also make use of the second ability regularly, and with the additional Planeswalkers we are seeing, it certainly has a shot in Superfriends at least. The discard being a boon in certain situations now makes this one of the more efficient draw spells in blue for the cost, and even if you only have a few ’Walkers, the synergy it can have with other strategies may push this card into a multitude of decks.
Blue Shell ? Shadows over Innistrad Standard | Ryan Bushard
- Creatures (14)
- 4 Oath of Jace
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 3 Narset Transcendent
- 3 Gideon, Ally of Zendkiar
Blue certainly seems to be lacking in cards that synergize with the new mechanics so far, which is not something I expected going in. There are a few other cards, such as Thopter Spy Network, that may have a chance if we see more cards to support them, but as of now, there is just nothing that flashy about the best color in Magic.
As I approached black, I realized this set really has a lot to offer the existing cards, but it seems none of the themes have quite enough previewed yet to be able to tell which ones of the many potential pick-ups would be best. For this reason, I am going to also push black to next week. This additional week will give a far better idea of what cards only have a base level synergy as opposed to which ones seem to happily join an already existing archetype within Shadows over Innistrad.
One card from the color that does seem to be slam dunk—and that I would not hold off on buying—is Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Though the Ally theme does not seem to have ever taken off, this card also happens to be a Vampire, and thus far, we have already seen a number of playable Vampires that are looking to come down quickly. I expect Vampires to be similar to what Zombies was last time Innistrad was around, as it has the most existing support already, and if this deck does gain traction, Drana will be at the top of the list for cards moving up in price.
Join me next week as we finish out the rares and mythic rares in the existing Standard—and we’ll hopefully have enough new previews to better identify some of the build around themes and which of these cards look best within those archetypes. As always, thank you for reading, and if you have any cards within these four colors you feel deserve a mention, please post in the comment section below or find me on Twitter. Enjoy your week, and keep the previews coming!