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Insider: Standard Specs Before Shadows Over Innistrad

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The spoiling of Ravenous Bloodseeker and Incorrigible Youths may have come quietly, but it harkens the return of a competitive madness deck to Standard. A U/G Madness deck with analogues to the new cards, Aquamoeba and Arrogant Wurm, once defined Standard, and it was even a highly successful Legacy deck. These cards are for real, and they are going to play a part in Standard.

RavenousBloodseeker IncorrigibleYouths OliviaMobilizedForWar

Heir of Falkenrath is a new take on the two-mana madness accelerator, and it seems like a great alternative to Wild Mongrel. It’s a one-shot use of madness, so it’s not a reliable engine through a game, but the 3/2 flying threat it creates is very powerful and efficient for the low cost, and it allows this deck to generate extremely aggressive openings.

Falkenrath Gorger adds a new tribal element to the madness deck, ensuring it will be centered around vampires. It means that any vampire is a potential consideration for the Vampire Madness deck. The playability of all other vampires in Standard has just sharply risen, and the the market will act accordingly.

Olivia, Mobilized for War further cements the tribe’s position as a discard-oriented aggressive deck, but also into black and red. It also makes non-creature madness cards more reliable, so it helps the deck enable Fiery Temper and any others that will be printed.


The marquee vampire of Battle for Zendikar, Drana, Liberator of Malakir, has seen upward movement online, and it’s only gotten better. It’s ability to grow a team is very potent in a rush aggro deck, but because it grows itself it’s also capable of winning a game on its own. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vampire Madness decks include four copies, and if it becomes a tier-one deck the price is going to get high.


Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is one of the most powerful creatures in Standard after rotation, and it also happens to be a vampire---great news for the vampire madness deck. The activated ability will have plenty of fodder in a dedicated vampire deck and won’t have to rely on generating zombies, so the card will be at its best in Vampire Madness.


I’ve had my eyes on Stoneforge Masterwork ever since my Four-Color Rally deck was soundly defeated by a Stoneforge Masterwork-wielding Goblin Piledriver. It’s of course at its best in a deck with lots of tokens, which is why I think this card has much potential in a Eldrazi aggro deck with lots of Eldrazi scion tokens, but it could also find a home in a tribal vampire madness deck.

All eyes should be on the remaining Shadows over Innistrad spoilers for any vampires or madness cards that could make the cut into the Vampire Madness deck. I expect we’ll see at least a few more cards with potential in the deck, perhaps more, but I’ve sketched a sample decklist with the cards we already have available:

The curve of this deck is higher than I’d like, so ideally some of the most expensive cards would be replaced by more aggressive vampires that are printed. The deck may also want to trim down on some of the legendary creatures.

Building Around Arlinn Kord

arlinnkord arlinnembracedbythemoon

Arlinn Kord has everyone excited for the return of a flip-card planeswalker. It's aggressively costed with abilities begging to be built around, so it’s the sort of card red decks might want to play four of.

Its printing has made me re-examine all of the other red and green cards in the format, and there are a few that stand out as working well with Arlinn Kord. If these cards become staples alongside the planeswalker, then they are sure to see an increase in demand and price.


Oath of Chandra is a reasonable removal spell in a world without Siege Rhino, meaning Roast is less important. It’s not far off from Draconic Roar, but over a long game could deal a lot more than three damage in a deck with lots of planeswalkers, like Arlinn Kord and Chandra, Flamecaller.


Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh // Chandra, Roaring Flame also has nice synergy with Arlinn Kord. Giving it +2/+2 and vigilance allows it to attack and tap to deal a free damage, but more importantly it attacks as a 4/4, meaning it will immediately transform into a planeswalker if it connects with the opponent. Red decks will be forced to change in the future, and losing Hordeling Outburst opens up space for cards like this.

Battle Lands



The Battle for Zendikar dual lands are going to become a much bigger part of manabases in Standard. Previously manabases were centered around playsets of fetchlands and one- or two-of dual lands, but four-of duals are going to start being commonplace.

Demand for these lands is going to increase, but supply is going to dwindle as players cease to draft Battle for Zendikar and begin to draft Shadows over Innistrad and future sets. I like all of these lands as a stable growth spec over the coming year. If you are playing Standard, it’s time to fill out your playsets of these lands.

Post-Rotation Eldrazi


As this Standard season comes to a close before the imminent rotation at the release of Shadows over Innistrad, Eldrazi Aggro decks have become a major player in the metagame. Eldrazi decks are strong contenders going into rotation, and they're widely considered to be a likely future top-tier archetype.

It’s not clear how these decks will look, but be sure Eldrazi staples like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher will be a part. Eldrazi Mimic and Endless One are two other highly-played Eldrazi.

Matter Reshaper and colored Eldrazi like Drowner of Hope and Eldrazi Obligator are also considerations. Corrupted Crossroads might be an excellent spec because of its applications in any Eldrazi deck, and the dearth of quality mana-fixing in the format.

What cards are you targeting in anticipation of Shadows over Innistrad?

- Adam

3 thoughts on “Insider: Standard Specs Before Shadows Over Innistrad

  1. Does Chandra trigger oath of Chandra when she flips? Why doesn’t Arlinn flipping trigger oath of Chandra? Interestingly, when I was googling that question I came upon an answer from your article on TCGPlayer, but it didn’t include an explanation.

    1. Most likely because when Chandra flips she goes from a Legendary Creature to a Planeswalker…when Arlinn Kord flips she’s still a planeswalker named Arlinn Kord, hence a “new planeswalker” hasn’t entered the battlefield, it’s the same one with different abilities.

    2. Flip Chandra actually leaves the battlefield when she transforms and then returns to it, whereas Arlinn just transforms in place without actually changing zones (i.e. entering the battlefield again).

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