Having been reviewing preconstructed Magic decks for some eighteen months now, it's not at all unusual to get comments from readers on older articles that reviewed a deck they were interested in. And so it was some time back on our article of the Magic 2012 Booster Battle Pack release, "I do wish they had these booster battles for non-core sets, would be neat to play ISD only." I suggested in my reply that it might be a fun thing to build, but it stuck in my mind a bit until I decided I'd give it a try myself!
For those unfamiliar, the Booster Battle Packs were a riff on the popular "Pack Wars" limited format where you take an unopened booster pack, some land, and shuffle them together. Last September's product was an attempt to give the format a little bit of shape and direction. Each pack came with two boosters as well as "two 20-card semi-randomized decks."
What this really meant was that each player would get two 10-card packets which contained five cards of a single colour (four common, one uncommon) and five of the corresponding basic land. To mix things up, Wizards designed two different packets for each colour, many of which explored a small sub-theme or aspect of the colour represented. The randomness came in which packets you found waiting for you when you opened the Battle Packs up, but in all cases you got a nucleus for a 25-card two-colour deck, as you'd open the booster pack and pick exactly five cards from it.
This was a novel way to play with Magic 2012 cards. But what if we took the same approach with Innistrad?
Today I'll be building ten sample packets for some Innistrad pack wars, which is a great way to teach and develop those folks who may be new to the game, or just have a bit of fun yourself.
We'll break down the Magic 2012 packets to give us an idea of what Wizards' intent was and then rebuild using Innistrad cards. Together with some Dark Ascension booster packs, you've got a fully operational
Death Star limited format! Here goes!
M12 White A
M12 White B
As you can see in these first two packets, there was some thought given behind how each packet would be composed. In this case, you have two different facets of White creature-based strategies.
Packet A has the ground forces of the lot, with a solid aerial finisher in the Serra Angel. The Divine Favor gives you a bit of a battlefield boost for one lucky trooper, with a dollop of lifegain thrown into the mix.
For packet B, we have the core of a skies deck, including a nifty interaction between
cards focused on the Griffin Rider. One thing to bear in mind here is that these cards form the core of a deck in miniature- 25 cards is not a lot, so even with singletons you'll have a good opportunity to draw and play them. Add to the fact that these quasi-Limited matches tend to be a little on the slower side and you see that the Griffin Rider is a solid pick here.
For Innistrad, we'll be mirroring these two constructions.
INN White A
This is your 'ground forces' core, with a combat trick (Moment of Heroism) thrown in. The Avacynian Priest is a good lockdown/stall card, and can pry open a defense to help keep the beats rolling. Thraben Purebloods is a functional reprint of Siege Mastodon, and a good finishing beater as its high toughness can be hard to deal with.
For the uncommon slot, while the Fiend Hunter is considerably stronger than the Spectral Rider, I kept the power level deliberately lower in keeping with the original, but you could just as easily make the substitution to give this player an extra dose of removal. It should also be noted that in a Booster Battle Pack there is no colour overlap between packets, so if you get the White one, your Rider is free and clear!
INN White B
For our skies construction, we have an easy recourse to the Spirits tribe - though the [/card]Abbey Griffin[/card] makes a fine midrange body. Our uncommon here is a creature card and surprise removal all in one, Midnight Haunting. Mausoleum Guard would be alright as well, but you'd have to find room for another noncreature card, as each pack had at least one.
M12 Blue A
M12 Blue B
Again the pattern is clear here, taking two different aspects of the colour and highlighting each.
For pack A we see a milling sub-theme through the enchantment Jace's Erasure and the Belltower Sphinx. That's not a lot of arrows in the quiver, but the tactic is aided by the small size of the deck as well as in the slower pace of the format. You also want to be careful not to overload a packet, which can gain a serious advantage if the corresponding booster pack has a lot of cards that support that strategy.
The second pack gives you your aerial option, much as it did in White. You also get some of Blue's signature element - countermagic - as well as a combat card in Frost Breath. This pack had a lot of special effects to help take over the later game, such as the Chasm Drake's passenger ability as well as the card-drawing mana sink of the Azure Mage.
For Innistrad, we'll need to change things up a bit.
INN Blue A
INN Blue B
There was a certain temptation to invert Blue A, turning it from a minor offensive mill theme to a self-milling theme to take full advantage of Innistrad's various incentives for doing so. Deranged Assistant, Stitched Drake, Armored Skaab and Skaab Goliath would form a superb nuclear core for such a deck, with a Dream Twist to round it off. The problem here is that such a construction would run a very real risk of self-decking with only 28 cards left in the library after you draw your initial hand.
Another consideration worth mentioning is that this is a product largely keyed to the novice. It's been well established that self-milling is a "feel-bad" tactic for newer players, so it might be something we avoid this time around. By the same token, we're also excluding all dual-faced cards. Though they'd make for some entertaining inclusions, we'll take our cue from the Intro Packs and make do without.
Back to our packs. We'll include a Selhoff Occultist in pack A for a dollop of offensive milling, the Crab for some defense, and give the merest hint of what is possible with your graveyard by including the Stitched Drake. For our uncommon, we're going with Curiosity for some card drawing. As a creature aura, this will go well with the Stitched Drake or any other evasive creature we find. For B, we want something a little more aggressive to contrast the two packets, so we're going with some birds in the air and some removal and countermagic.
M12 Black A
M12 Black B
Notice the theme that jumps out of Black B? Bloodthirst! Everything there either enables it or takes advantage of it, and with that being a set mechanic we have carte blanche to make a replacement packet however we like. Packet A by comparison is a much more generic construction, with some typical Black effects (draining, discard, recursion) and a couple fat beaters. With Innistrad as heavily tribal as it is, these packets almost create themselves!
INN Black A
INN Black B
Both of these packets are similar in composition, drawing almost exclusively upon Black's tribes for the set. That said, there's enough differentiation between them that they don't feel like carbon copies of one another. For A's uncommon, we passed up the Diregraf Ghoul. A strong second-turn 2/2 attacker, they go rapidly downhill when drawn later in the game. The Abbatoir Ghoul is more expensive, but it is useful at any point and keeps us on-theme with the Zombies.
A shortage of suitable Vampires forced the inclusion of the Typhoid Rats in pack B, but they also can come in handy. Even when drawn late, they can be a strong defensive threat thanks to their deathtouch. It was a bit of a coin toss for the uncommon slot, as Falkenrath Noble would do a job there as well. Consider bringing along Dead Weight if you decide to go that route instead.
M12 Red A
M12 Red B
It might not jump out at you, but packet A for Red actually contains a fairly clever little interaction. Use the Goblin Tunneler to make a low-power, pumpable creature unblockable, then pump them up once they get in for damage. The Fiery Hellhound combos perfectly here, but any small weenie will do when you've got access to a Firebreathing. As we saw above in Black, Red also comes equipped with a bloodthirst-theme, meaning we'll be starting from scratch there. As with Black, though, we can easily fill the gap with a tribal core.
INN Red A
This packet seems to hearken back to the old Bard's Tale/Wizardry computer games when your party would be attacked by the most random and ridiculous gaggle of unrelated mobs you could possibly imagine. Since we're passing up Werewolves, we have to make do with what we get. Fortunately, there are still some synergistic options available to us.
The Pitchburn Devils offer up a free Lightning Bolt when they die, and if you happen to pop them with the Skirsdag Cultist (perhaps in response to removal) you get a free Shock to go with it. It would be a shame to let all that killing go to waste, so there's a handy Harvest Pyre to stack the bodies onto to help eliminate your opponent's biggest threat.
INN Red B
Aaand here's the thematic choice! The all-singing, all-dancing, all-Vampires troupe, you don't need to open any others in your booster to still get some good use out of the Vampiric Fury or the Rakish Heir, though of course the more the merrier. Regardless of which creatures you end up with, the [card Bloodcrazed Neonate]Neonate[/card] becomes a must-deal-with threat, and the Crossway Vampire can blunt your opponent's best defender to help you go for the jugular with one last attack.
M12 Green A
M12 Green B
Alas, poor Green. Sadly typecast in the role of red zone beaters, you don't find a great deal of differentiation between these two packs. Both the [card Garruk's Companion]Companion[/card] and [card Spampeding Rhino]Rhino[/card] in packet A have trample, but everyone gets invited to that party once you land your Overrun.
Meanwhile, packet B promises a brutal Greater Basilisk + Trollhide + Lure combo to kill off your opponent's best three defenders while the rest of your army rushes past, but doesn't give a great deal of flavour besides. Luckily, Innistrad's bursting with it, so let's make two very distinctive replacements.
INN Green A
INN Green B
Packet B gives us a fair sampling of Innistrad's morbid mechanic. If there's a weakness there, it's that these creatures tend to be a bit on the expensive side, to to even that out we have a couple of cheap options. The Boneyard Wurm only gets better as the game goes long, and in the creature-heavy limited environment of pack wars, you can expect casualties in the red zone. To force the issue, there's also a Prey Upon. In this packet, it should work for you almost every time - even if you use it to 'fight' one of your useless weenies against a better creature, your own chump's death will give you a morbid trigger!
For packet A, you get a more rounded sampling of Green's creature power. The Ambush Viper is occasionally exaggerated as "Green's Doom Blade," but there's no mistaking that it has some strong killpower as a surprise blocker. The Orchard Spirit gives you some evasion while Lumberknot can become very large very quickly. Ranger's Guile is there for a combat trick as well as a way to counter your opponent's targeted removal.
For each packet, you'll want to throw in five basic lands of the appropriate type. Then all you need is two booster packs of Innistrad and a friend, and you're good to go!
We'll be giving away an "Innistrad Booster Battle Pack," sleeved and ready for play, to one lucky Quiet Speculation reader!
The prize package includes every card listed above from Innistrad - all ten packs. Each pack is fully sleeved, containing the five cards listed in each packet above, five land of the appropriate type (also sleeved), as well as three empty sleeves for the cards you pick out of your boosters.
Boosters? That's right! We're throwing in four Dark Ascension booster packs to get you started on your path to Limited gameplay! And just to make sure you've got something more tangible than glory to play for, we've even thrown in a prize - a pair of foil, promo Mondronen Shaman, the giveaway for Dark Ascension's release parties.
This will be a random drawing from all participants, and will end on Monday, 20 FEB, with the winner to be announced in the next Magic Beyond the Box feature.
Here's how you enter:
1. Leave a comment on this article in the comments below. Simply let us know what you thought of the original Booster Battle Packs or of the new one we've created above. If you would have done it differently, what might you have included? Was there anything we left out? Is this a good way to tech new players Limited, and, if not, do you have any ideas of your own? Any of these questions are fine, or leave some comments of your own! As ever, it doesn't have to be the great American novel, but we always like to hear the community's thoughts - especially when Wizards attempts something new. Doing this will get you an entry in the pot.
2. If you retweet the "official contest announcement tweet" on Twitter (from me, @ErtaisLament), you'll get another chance to win as well!
Good luck to all, and as ever thanks for reading!