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World War Innistrad - Mini Set Review


Prerelease time!

Because of my very demanding schedule, I don’t get to play as much Magic as I’d like. Despite this, I’m always excited whenever a new set comes out, and Innistrad looks like a blast. I’m somewhat of a film geek, and there’s something about the horror genre that draws in the film school crowd. Though I’m more of a science-fiction guy, I do love a good zombie flick. Zombies are hot right now—The Walking Dead is one of this year’s most anticipated shows, and the impact of the undead menace has been felt in all areas of pop culture. Just this past week, I watched both a zombie-themed episode of Epic Meal Time and Vampires vs. Zombies on Deadliest Warrior. It’s no surprise, then, that the zombie virus has infected Magic R&D.

Instead of going through a full set review, I’m just going to cherry-pick a few cards that I’m excited to play with, whether for Limited or Constructed, or for my own twisted reasons. Before we get started, a brief aside on GP: Montreal. I didn’t do so well, but I want to give big props to my friends Andrew Noworaj and Alex Hayne for making Top 4, and of course to Rich Hoaen for taking the whole thing down. For the most part, my trip wasn’t all that interesting, but I have a little brain-teaser for you: In one of the rounds, I played my good friend and former Canadian national team member Jon Boutin. I defeated him in four games, meaning that one of the games was a draw. I also drew a game in M12 Limited at the Pro Tour, though in a different way. How did I draw in two different ways? I’ll leave you to think about it while we go through some Innistrad cards.

Forbidden Alchemy

I love me Impulse-style effects. The closest analogue to this card is Strategic Planning from Portal Three Kingdoms. The extra mana makes it unlikely that we’ll see it outside of Standard, but I look forward to abusing the crap out of this card in FNM for many moons to come. This segues nicely into . . . 

Skaab Ruinator

I have no idea if this will be actually good, but any Dredge-style deck will be interested in this guy. Forbidden Alchemy plays nicely with cards like this, and it’s really starting to look like Jace, Memory Adept will have his day.

Snapcaster Mage

I’m sure that everyone has gotten the memo that Tiago Chan’s Invitational card is one of the best cards in the set. I love everything about it—the efficient mana cost, the decent-sized body, the flexibility . . . heck, even the art is pretty sweet. The question you should be asking yourself isn’t, “Why should I play this card?” . . . it’s, “Why shouldn’t I play this card?”

Morkrut Banshee

To me, this is the standout Limited card of the set. I often look for what I call “power uncommons” in every set. For M12, the “power uncommons” were Mind Control, Fireball, and Overrun. They are basically really strong uncommons that you almost always take over every common and most rares. What I love about this card is that if one player has one, it creates a subgame wherein the player with the Banshee is trying to force a creature to die on his turn, and the other player is trying to avoid it. I keep attacking with some durdle with 3bb up—do you just keep taking it forever? What if you can profitably block with some giant monster? What if I don’t have the Banshee and I’m just tricking you into taking extra damage? What if you have a counter or a trick to stop the Banshee? These kinds of mind games are my favorite aspects of strategy games, and Magic is no exception. Cards like this are one of the reasons that I think Innistrad will prove to be a very skill-testing Limited set.

Ancient Grudge

With Tempered Steel being the most obvious deck in post-rotation Standard, I love having the option to play this card. Like most players, I hated losing to Affinity, and while Tempered Steel is nowhere near as bad as the O.G. robot menace, it’s good to know that I can always beat it if I really want to.

Burning Vengeance

I’ve always loved drafting “gimmick” decks. One of the first Draft formats I got really good at was triple Champions of Kamigawa, due in no small part to the Dampen Thought mill deck. Most recently, I tried very hard to make Furnace Celebration work when Scars of Mirrodin came out. I’m going to do the same thing with Burning Vengeance. I don’t know if it will be good, but I’m going to find out, and I’m going to have a lot of fun in the process.

Kessig Cagebreakers

This is definitely going to be my pet card of the set. Not always, but often, I find cards where I will say something I find funny whenever I play them. In Scars of Mirrodin, I was fond of saying, “MY AXE,” in the style of Gimli from Lord of the Rings, whenever I played Darksteel Axe. This is a card that will cause me to act like a fool and laugh hysterically whenever I get to attack with it. If you’ve seen Borat, you already know where I’m going with this. When Kessig Cagebreakers attack, “THEY BREAK THE CAGE AND THEY GET THIS!”

Transform Cards

I’ve saved the best for last. Transform cards are a completely novel way of exploring new design space in the game. Time will tell if they prove to be a success, but I can’t wait to play with them. I talked about Morkrut Banshee creating a subgame before. That isn’t unique to that card, as every card with a Morbid ability is going to create a similar subgame. Similarly, most of the Transform cards create a subgame, wherein one player is trying to fulfill some condition and the other player is trying to prevent it. The Werewolves leap to mind as the most interactive from this set of cards. This is going to lead to some very interesting board states and require players to come up with more complex lines of play. The only downside I can see is that not many of them will see play in Constructed, making Transform another one of those mechanics that only rarely get used outside of Limited. I can see Reckless Waif and Garruk Relentless getting some play, but that’s about it.

That’s all of the cards that stand out to me right now. I’m going to be playing in the prerelease, so there will be plenty of opportunities for more discussion on the set. I’ll post the answer to how I managed to draw two games of M12 Limited in the comments, but feel free to guess in the meantime. I also have a very special article in the works, so stay tuned.

Until next time,

Nassim Ketita

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