How are we more than halfway through preview season, and months into leak season, and we still have no idea who (or what) is causing all the madness on Innistrad? Hats off to Wizards for running a tight, riveting, and relatively spoiler-free march towards the official Shadows Over Innistrad set reveal this coming Friday. I can't decide if I'm on Team Emrakul or Team Marit Lage, but I do know I'm excited for a number of Shadows cards in Modern. That's especially true of some Clue generators, which are the perfect tools for my Shape Anew brews. Team Blightsteel, anyone?
We just published a new writing announcement and all the associated details, so today's article is going to be a bit shorter than usual. I know I've said that in the past, before regaling you with 3,000 word dissections of metagame numbers, but I really mean it today! We'll just be looking at a pair of the new investigate and Shadows staples to see how they synergize with Shape Anew and Blightsteel Colossus. Or Platinum Emperion, if roadblocking aggro is your thing instead.
First up is the intrepid [tippy title="Thraben Inspector" width="330" height="330"][/tippy], a daring sleuth who's just as confused by the tentacled blight as most of the Magic community. Hopefully we'll get some answers to that later this week, but for now, Shape Anew decks are definitely interested in this early-game answer. Played in the first few turns, the detective walls off a Wild Nacatl, Goblin Guide, Glistener Elf, or Tarmogoyf as you build towards your critical turn four. If she dies in combat, you still get the Clue. If she gets Bolted, you still get the Clue. If she's still alive into the mid-game, you get another Restoration Angel target and now get two Clues instead. She's even a decent late-game topdeck, cycling out her Clue for an additional card, a rarity for one-drops that typically lose a lot of power once the early game concludes.
To be sure, Inspector is by no means a "powerful" card in a vacuum. Her power is largely contextual. Clue tokens feel like they were made for Shape Anew targeting: I'm convinced someone on R&D has a secret love affair with the card like I do. They are immune to every form of commonly played removal in Modern outside of Abrupt Decay and Maelstrom Pulse. Even Lightning Bolt, the historic menace of Shape Anew decks, can't stop them! As an added upside, if the Clue dies, you are still profiting because a) you earned the Clue off another effect and the opponent had to expend a card to deal with your secondary product, and/or b) you can even sacrifice a Clue in response to draw a new card. Casting Shape Anew on turn six with both Dispel and Clue-activation mana up will make you feel invincible. I know because I've tested it.
In that context, Inspector becomes much better than her one-drop, 1/2 stats suggest. She deploys on-curve into your Shape Anew, either on turn one if you don't have the Serum Visions, turn two with Bolt and/or Path to Exile backup, or turn three with Mana Leak, Remand, or removal in reserve. This isn't quite Splinter Twin and Deceiver Exarch, but it's definitely giving me flashbacks.
Our last Shape Anew partner for today is [tippy title="Expose Evil" width="330" height="330"][/tippy], one of the leaked Shadows cards from earlier in the season. Assuming the instant is as real as the rest of the leak, this card adds a critical interactive element to Shape Anew decks while also deploying a Clue token en route to the turn four Blightsteel Colossus. Again, we're not quite at Deceiver Exarch levels (notably, Expose can't tap down lands, doesn't block creatures that get through, and can't deal damage), but the parallels are close enough to get even the pessimists taking a good look at Team Blightsteel. As an added ray of hope, like the one paralyzing those hapless vampires in the art, Expose even has a few upsides Exarch and Pestermite couldn't match.
[tippy title="Expose Evil" width="330" height="330"][/tippy] is at its best in aggressive matchups on turns 2-3. Against Burn, you're locking down both a swinging Guide and Monastery Swiftspear for a turn and building towards your Clue reshaping. Against Affinity, you can tap down the Cranial Plating-bearer (watch out for instant-speed re-equipping!), stall a Signal Pest charge, or stymie a hefty Master of Etherium. In the Infect matchup, you can lockdown both an Elf or Blighted Agent on top of a mana dork in the upkeep. Be careful for Vines of Vastwood here, but also rest easy knowing Spellskite can't redirect the multi-targeting Expose. The same wasn't true of Exarch or Pestermite, both of which also couldn't tap down multiple targets.
On top of its obvious stalling applications, [tippy title="Expose Evil" width="330" height="330"][/tippy] also helps Shaped Blightsteels swing for lethal. The instant can tap down blockers to screw with an opponent's combat math and survival odds, although remember the Colossus doesn't have haste (without Thopter Engineer's help, at least), so you can't go turn three Expose into turn four Shape Anew for game. Finally, [tippy title="Expose Evil" width="330" height="330"][/tippy] doesn't actually require targets ("up to"), so you can cast it on an empty board to get a Clue for later, or just cast it and pop the token to cycle for more business.
We have a little less than half of the set left, and any number of investigate cards could become Blightsteel Colossus's new best friends. Wizards may have dropped the ball on countermagic (was Cancel plus Clue really that broken?), but I'm still optimistic for the Shadows brewing possibilities.
That's all for today, coming in as-promised at an unprecedented sub-1,000 words. Guess I'll have to make up the deficit in tomorrow's "Fixing Modern" column! See you all in the comments for some Shadows speculation, Shape Anew discussions, and any and all questions you have on the new set and all things Modern.