In the past my set reviews have focused largely on pre-order prices, though with more in-depth spoiler coverage on the free side that would just be redundant. You already have plenty of information about first impressions.
So today I'm going to discuss what I consider the standouts for Standard from Shadows over Innistrad, after gathering more information on the hypotheticals posed when cards are first spoiled. Now that I've had the time to absorb what the big names of the game are saying and do some brewing myself, I have a list of the cards that are poised to see the most Standard play in the coming weeks.
Out of the gates these lands are significant, but not dramatic. They will see play in Standard as upgrades from straight tapped lands, but until the battle lands rotate these are not particularly important. They will see play and be worth a few bucks, but it's hard to put them in the actual top ten.
I want this card to be in the top 10, but there is a pretty big question mark here. As I mentioned in my piece on the free side, it's not clear whether this is a maindeck or sideboard card. The incentive to play this card is real, but so is the downside.
Right now my gut is telling me there will be decks with two of this card main and two sideboard, and indeed it is the one mythic that I am enticed to pre-order and gamble on, but just to be clear---this is a gamble.
When I first saw this card, my thought was that I will be forcing an archetype around it in draft often. It's the new Spider Spawning! The more I think about it, the more that I find it likely that this card is Standard-playable.
The zombies coming into play tapped and being a sorcery isn't great, but a couple copies of this card in a deck low on creatures sounds excellent. This card has the potential to have an absurd power/toughness-to-casting-cost ratio spread across tons of bodies. I don't have a deck that I can endorse at this point, and that's why this one fell just outside of my top 10.
Now onto the real list!
10. Arlinn Kord
Arlinn Kord is a very exciting card, and abstractly it seems odd that a card like this isn't lower on the list. Planeswalkers have a reputation for being one to threes, and this card is exciting!
That said, every account I've heard and read has reported Arlinn performing worse than anticipated. Part of the problem is the inability to just stream 2/2's, one of the strengths of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. If your opponent doesn't control creatures with three or fewer toughness, your second turn of controlling Arlinn won't be very exciting.
She is still a quite powerful card, and there will definitely be decks with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar alongside her, but the pre-order price is simply obscene for Arlinn. She should be coming down to the $10-20 range in no time. That said, she is definitely a well above-average spell, and is a card to pay attention to once her price drops.
9. Prized Amalgam
Deathmist Raptor and Liliana, Heretical Healer are two cards I expect to see play that pair well with Prized Amalgam, and Relentless Dead could fill this role as well. I spoke highly of the card on the free side, and I stand by it. I think it's an easy inclusion in a Sultai Collected Company deck, which could look something like this:
This deck is exceptional at gumming up the ground, which can lead to you winning by overpowering your opponent or building up to a Jace or Liliana ultimate. A weakness here will be fliers, and I'm not certain that Archangel Avacyn is beatable.
That said, this is a shell worth exploring, and it's going to be hard to imagine a deck out-valuing this one, shy of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet exiling the Raptors and Amalgams.
I haven't seen a zombie list yet that looked especially good, but if there is one I assume Prized Amalgam slots right in there as well. This is also the type of card that just gets better the more effects they print that can recur it, so this card could only get better with Eldritch Moon.
Prized Amalgams can still be had in the $2 range, and I think this is a reasonable position to gamble on. The card is bland as just a creature, but if Standard becomes about grinding value then Prized Amalgam decks could really thrive.
8. Thalia's Lieutenant
The human tribe is looking quite good in Innistrad, and Thalia's Lieutenant will be a flagship card of any Humans archetype. Champion of the Parish was a pretty strong Standard card, and while costing a mana more is arguably downside, offering an anthem effect is well worth that extra mana. The tragedy is that neither Gideon nor Secure the Wastes make humans.
That said, Tom Ross is super excited about Thraben Inspector, as evidenced by his Vs. Video piloting Mono-White Humans, and if one-mana 1/2's are exciting then you'd best believe Thalia's Lieutenant is even more so.
You can pre-order a set of Thalia's Lieutenant for about ten bucks, which I think is a very good price. I could see this being a format where the white deck is the best aggressive shell, with Thalia's Lieutenant leading the charge. People have definitely been disappointed with vampires thus far, so this is absolutely worth exploring. If this deck is good, then the price will easily double.
7. Insolent Neonate
At first blush, this is mostly just a color-shifted Hapless Researcher. That card saw Legacy play 100 years ago, but it's nothing exciting. Then Patrick Chapin wrote an article featuring the card in several aggressive red decks.
Basically, it's a beater that will get a couple chip shots in, and then when you sacrifice it to discard a madness card, you actually just break even on cards and get a discount on casting the madness spell. Suddenly I was putting Insolent Neonate in all of my red brews. And then Sam Black wrote about the card. Sam pointed out that this is just another card that plays excellently with Liliana.
I've written about Liliana a couple times in the past few months, and she's starting to increase in value now. Liliana and Insolent Neonate are actually among the best madness enablers in Standard, and the fact that they also play well together---sacrificing the Neonate flips Liliana---is huge. Sam highlighted this interaction in aggressive madness decks, but if you get particularly crazy you can even start slotting these two, and Jace, into a deck intent on triggering delirium quickly.
I don't know if the best Neonate/Liliana shell will be discovered week one, but I know there is something there, and if you don't have your Lilianas I recommend getting them now. She's very close to the price she has held without seeing much Standard play, so she has nowhere to go but up.
6. From Under the Floorboards
On the topic of madness, I think this is probably the best card with madness in Shadows. Not only does it just have a great rate for a black deck on five, but the upside provided by madness could be huge in a long game.
When you get up to seven lands and discard this card, say to your Liliana or Insolent Neonate, you get ten power worth of creatures in addition to gaining five life. That's superb potential upside on a card that's just fine to cast under normal conditions.
As I wrote on the free side, pre-orders on this one are a bit high, though I like trading for a set. This card has all the makings of a constructed staple.
5. Thing in the Ice
When I initially reviewed this card, I referred to the pre-orders of $10 as crazy-town. Well, SCG is pre-ordering them for $20 now. Egg on my face, right!?
Well, not really. You can still find sets on eBay in that $10 range, and I'm still confident that the number decreases as packs are opened. There aren't fetches or Expeditions to drive sales of Shadows, though with Innistrad being such a revered block and the set looking so awesome I expect good sales. As such, I don't expect Thing to be more than a $5-8 rare in the near future.
Of course, the stupidly high pre-order price only distracts from the merits of the card. If Reflector Mage is seeing a lot of play, that will limit Thing's efficacy. That said, this card pays off in a big way when it works. You get a massive tempo swing and a huge creature. Todd Anderson is giving the card positive reviews, and he's not alone.
This one will definitely be showing up in Standard, though it's still unclear exactly how good it will be. Again, I'd wait on buying, though if you already have Jaces then this is one you will be likely to want to sleeve up with him. Of course, if you don't have Jaces you should probably just continue ignoring blue as a color.
4. To the Slaughter
I might have this one ranked incorrectly, though there's a lot to be said for a removal spell that's good against aggressive and controlling decks alike. That was, after all, the big draw of Hero's Downfall. A removal-heavy deck that is good at enabling delirium will happily include 2-4 copies of this card. Having a lot of removal is, of course, the best way to get the most out of your edict, and will also enable you to kill a Gideon in response to him making a 2/2 even when delirium isn't enabled.
A clean answer to planeswalkers is always welcome, and this card also answers a very powerful card a little further down in this piece. I think that pre-ordering for $2-3 is about right, though if there is a heavily played deck playing four copies then expect this value to increase significantly.
The lists that I have come up with featuring To the Slaughter have only played two copies thus far, so I'm kind of cold on pre-ordering. Though I will say that this card plays a vital role in the decks that do feature it. This is the sort of card that will see more or less play depending on what kind of threats you need to answer, and I imagine it will stagnate or decrease in value before increasing.
3. Declaration in Stone
I gave this card a glowing review initially, and given its place on the list, it's clear that I stand by this. If you're killing your opponent quickly, this is an extremely efficient removal spell with a very minimal drawback. With the hype around the Humans aggro decks, I'd say this easily finds a home there.
Currently you can pre-order this card in the $3 range, and that sounds solid to me. If this one sees a good amount of play it definitely can't go down from there, and has solid potential to increase in value. I like buying at least a set of these.
2. Westvale Abbey
As a land the abilities here aren't very good. There is no shortage of colorless sources in Standard, and five mana and a life to make a 1/1 isn't an ability that I see being used super often. Making a 9/7 with haste though? Now we're talking. There's not much to say about the card that Ross Merriam didn't cover in his article on SCG this week, though he's not the only one writing about the card. Sam Black also featured the card in a couple decks and had good things to say about it.
Pre-orders on this card have apparently skyrocketed from $6 to $15+. I do think that the card will go in multiple decks and that it is very good, though I don't see this price as sustainable. Unless literally every deck starts incorporating it, which is hard to imagine for a card that requires sacrificing five creatures, expect this price to decrease.
1. Archangel Avacyn
As soon as this card was spoiled, it was clear that it was going to be a contender for the best card in the set. With the dust settled, I think it's clear that this is the card you can most indiscriminately throw into a deck to improve the power level. People are going to play Avacyn, and people are going to win with Avacyn.
I said in my initial review that $20 was a reasonable pre-order price, and I stand by that. With good week one results her price could easily be $40, and I don't see her floor being much lower than $15 unless everybody is wrong and she is somehow terrible. The odds of this are extremely low though.
Shadows over Innistrad looks to be every bit as exciting as one would hope from the return to Innistrad, and I personally can't wait. There are plenty of potentially impactful cards from the set, though these are the ones which, by what I've read and theorized, show the most potential.
Thanks for reading.
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