Editor's note: Some key madness enablers were left out near the end of this article. This was an editorial oversight and has been fixed.
Welcome back, readers. Today we'll focus on the spoilers from Shadows over Innistrad (SOI).
Something weird is going on with the color distribution among the spoilers. Here's what we know so far:
- The set has 297 cards in it.
- We've never had a set this large in the post-mythic era.
- Typical large set breakdowns are 15 mythic rares, 53 rares, 80 uncommons, 101 commons.
- We have seen 119 cards spoiled as of writing, including 14 mythics. Of the mythics, there are more black cards represented than any other color, and no non-gold green cards.
The color distribution in the original Innistrad set skewed slightly towards black. (For the purposes of this discussion, I'll count gold cards as half of each of their colors.) This makes some sense given the set's Gothic horror theme, and overall it was still relatively even.
But looking at the spoilers for SOI, we see zero pure green mythics. While WoTC doesn't always have the same number of each colored mythic in each set, the fact that we have three blue and three black, but no green, seems heavily imbalanced. The natural conclusion is that there are more than 15 mythics in the set.
With black already representing so many mythics in the color breakdown, it seems it won't get any more. This means no Liliana of the Veil reprint.
If that's the case then she'll likely continue her trend upward due to strong Modern demand. This will only get worse if/when one of the Eldrazi lands, Eldrazi Temple or Eye of Ugin, gets banned and B/x Midrange decks take over the space left empty by Twin and Bloom.
Manabases in New Standard
So far we've seen seven rare lands in Shadows over Innistrad, five of which fix color. We also got five uncommon mana fixers for enemy-color combinations (completing the cycle began in Oath of the Gatewatch.)
The new rare land cycle comes into play untapped if you reveal an appropriate land type from your hand. They look to be a crucial part of Standard mana bases, and happen to pair well with battle lands.
Consider how the battle lands will interact with these new allied duals. The battle lands actually greatly help the new SOI duals in the early game and actually have more value staying in your hand early on (to enable the maximum number of SOI duals to enter untapped). Luckily, as I mentioned earlier the BFZ lands get better later in the game anyways, so they may end up being the last land one plays from their hand.
With the new spoiled lands, here's what the mana fixing options look like in Standard:
- Allied Pairs: Battle lands, Shadows "reveal lands," generic tapped lands
- Enemy Pairs: Creature lands, pain lands, generic tapped lands
Of these, the pain lands are the only ones guaranteed to come in untapped. The lands spoiled yesterday are also reasonably reliable, though. The best comparison is to the Scars of Mirrodin fastlands, which also tended to come into play tapped later in the game. So you may be able to cobble together a three-color deck, but the days of perfect greedy mana are definitely over.
What this means is gold mythics from the new set may have to be scrutinized more heavily. With two cycles of strong duals in allied combinations, it seems shards (Naya, Esper, etc.) will be easier to manage than wedges (Abzan, Jeskai, etc.). Gold cards that fit into just one shard may have a harder time finding a home.
Of the three planeswalkers spoiled so far, Sorin and Nahiri will only fit into one shard, whereas Arlinn Kord can go in two (Jund or Naya). That gives her more potential archetypes to get tried out in.
The Return of Madness
With the return of madness, the ability to discard at instant speed will become very valuable. This makes Jace, Vryn's Prodigy even better. The first time madness debuted, 7th Edition was legal and players got to abuse Merfolk Looter. Jace is a clear upgrade to say the least.
In fact, madness was one of the defining decks of the Odyssey block format with the U/G Madness archetype.
The power of the madness mechanic came from the reduced mana cost. Discarding cards to activate an ability was previously a negative, and thus WoTC could push the power level of these spells. Madness turned the cost into a potential benefit.
So far we've only seen six cards with madness specifically (and one which gives other cards madness), so it'll be interesting to see how far they're willing to push it. One of the cards, Incorrigible Youths, does a great Arrogant Wurm impression.
The other half of the madness equation is tied to how good the discard enablers are. The best ones have abilities that can be done at instant speed at no additional cost (tapping, mana requirements, etc). Without Wild Mongrel, the original U/G Madness deck would have been nowhere near as powerful.
As of right now, a search for "discard a card" within post-rotation Standard shows only a handful of instant-speed discard outlets. Only three of them are mana-free and of those only Kozilek, the Great Distortion can be used multiple times in a turn... Even that requires your opponent to cast spells with the same converted mana cost as what you want to discard.
SOI does of course offer the new vampire madness enablers in Olivia, Heir of Falkenrath and Ravenous Bloodseeker, as well as Sinister Concoction. These newcomers look to be the main way we'll be madnessing out spells post-rotation.
Shadows over Innistrad is looking to be a very flavorful set with some pretty powerful cards. Decks will likely focus more on one to two colors and we will likely see a lot fewer 3+ color decks. Especially if any form of B/R Vampire Aggro deck appears (that's the one I keep hearing people claim will be the #1 deck out of the gates). Having to play a lot of tapped lands will cause you to lose games before you really do much of anything.
If the B/R Vampire Aggro deck does end up formalizing, then Smoldering Marsh is most likely to be the first BFZ land to stand out in price.