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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Apr 25 2016 11:00am
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

> summary <

 Zendikar used to be my favorite MTG setting, possibly because I came into MTGO, and back to playing Magic, the summer before the first Zendikar block started being released. Unfortunately, our recent return to the Eldrazi-ridden plane was a bit underwhelming, so I think I'll promote my previously second favorite to the first place: I'm talking, of course, of the masterfully designed, deeply atmospheric Innistrad. What's not to love of the Gothic plane that gave birth to Sorin and his black-leather-enthusiast, angel daughter Avacyn?

 And this first comeback to the realm of ghosts, vampires and werewolves looks like a blast, especially compared to the disappointing ones that preceded it. More so, Shadows over Innistrad is a tribal set, so it contains slightly more new creatures than usual: 137. To compare this data with those of other recent, similarly-sized sets, Khans of Tarkir featured a total of 121 new creatures, Dragons of Tarkir had 134, while Battle for Zendikar 131. However, the vast majority of SOI's new creatures are strictly split between the five main tribes, each representing a different color pair: in order of decreasing impact, we have Human (WG), Vampire (BR), Spirit (WU), Zombie (UB) and Werewolf (RG). If we also add Wolf, which is directly linked to Werewolf (they even share the same tribal lord), and the theme-defining Horror type, we'll find out that a whopping 124 out of the 137 new additions feature at least one of these 7 subtypes. It is clearly a side-effect of the top-down design approach, of which all Innistrad-based sets have been a prime example, so far. Regardless, the overall number of creature types affected is still high; in fact, it's higher than average, even if most of these tribes only get a single new member. Also, the meta-human population on Innistrad is scarce, so no Elf, Goblin or Merfolk are present in the set (or the block, or any block with this setting, for that matter: Innistrad is a Human-only plan, given that Werewolf are all cursed human beings, while Spirit, Vampire and Zombie, even if they don't have the Human subtype, all represent undead humans).

 While searching for SOI creatures, it's important to keep in mind that Gatherer generates 29 fake results: the double-faced cards which have a creature on the flip side. While these transformations may give birth to cards featuring one or more creature types, they can't be counted toward the tribal total of each type, since they don't actually exist before the game starts, and are essentially the result of the use of an ability in-game.

 This said, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are listed alphabetically, but you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 287 (+10 duplicated basic lands)
  • New cards: 267
  • New creatures: 135
  • Reprinted cards: 20
  • Reprinted creatures: 5 (Gloomwidow, Groundskeeper, Mad Prophet, Reckless Scholar, Unruly Mob)
  • Creature types affected: 50
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+42), Vampire (+17), Spirit (+16), Zombie (+15), Werewolf (+12), Horror (+11), Soldier (+10), Wolf (+9), Angel (+6)

Angel: +6

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 125 (online: 124)

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Angels are a big component of the Innistrad flavor, at least since Avacyn Restored. And now Avacyn herself is back, and she's gone Ultron, apparently, deciding Humans are all filthy parasites and must be removed from the plane. And with "removed", she actually means "hunted and butchered like animals". So that's swell, but what this new bloodthirst translates into, mechanically, is the fact that the new Avacyn incarnation drops for half the P/T but for a mere 5 mana (to be fair, she had done that for her M15 version Avacyn, Guardian Angel, too), which immediately makes her interesting for Constructed purposes. Also, the indestructibility she grants now lasts only until the end of the turn, but she got flash in exchange, and you know, midrange Angels that get cast at the end of the opponent's turn unless they need to make some removal fizzle? We might be onto something here. Ironically, Avacyn also protects the despised Humans, but I guess at that point she's not mad yet; it's the transformation that does the trick, because, yeah, this Avacyn has literally two faces, and one simple death trigger later, there she is, bigger and badder and redder and casting Lightning Bolts on everything but herself and her controller. The fact that she doesn't care about other Angels dying is bummer for Angel decks; then again, you don't particularly want to see your other Angels die, so maybe you could just use something like Bloodsoaked Champion. Seems flavorful, too. Anyway, she's a great all around, catches opponents by surprise, counters removals, then wipe the board and hit hard. And even if they kill her, by that point she provided so much value already that it's always a "X-for-1" situation. Daddy Sorin should be proud.

 Avacyn is not the only Angel in the set; in fact, she's not even the only mythic Angel. Remember the Powerpuff Angel Girls? Bruna and Gisela have joined Avacyn's crusade of insanity so they didn't show up (yet?), but good ol' Sigarda is not having it, and she firmly opposes her sisters. So now her hexproof is transferred from her to all your Humans and you yourself, the player (because you're human, too! Got it?). And this, unfortunately, made her not just worse than her previous, magnificent incarnation, but generally bad, because there's no way you'll put a 5-mana green Angel in a Human deck, or replace Leyline of Sanctity with an easily killable midrange creature. She even lost one power in the process, for crying out loud. But yeah, she can now create Human tokens for 2 mana and a graveyard card apiece. Sorta meh, if you ask me. Or not. I mean, Human token generators are very rare. She might be Falkenrath Aristocrat's new best friend! In a very Johnny/Timmy casual Human deck that I'll probably build at some point.

 Goldnight Castigator (hey, this is one of Gisela girls!) is also not very impressive. To get a Dragon-like, 4-powered red hasty flyer for 4 mana you double all damage to your dome, which is not something you want to do, because it pretty much cut your lifespan in half, and a 4/9 is not particularly going to save the day there, wings or not. Plus, she's not even really a 4/9, 'cause all damage is doubled against her, too, so she's actually more like a 4/5.

 The two rare Angels are more interesting (Reaper of Flight Moonsilver is just meaningless, although she has great art from Magali Villeneuve). Flameblade Angel deals 1 damage to the opponent for each of their sources that damage you or your permanents, which shuts down endgames like Deceiver Exarch with Splinter Twin or Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens in Storm. Yeah, too bad she's a 6-mana card that doesn't do much else. Whereas Angel of Deliverance is arguably the flashiest of these new Angels. Repeatable exiling on a 6/6 body? Yes, thanks! We'll find a way to make delirium work, which is the new Tarmogoyf-friendly mechanic where you need to have 4 different card types in the graveyard for an effect to happen. Yeah, too bad Angel of Deliverance costs 8 mana to hardcast. Even reanimator might not bother, at that point. Dredge might, as a way to surgically clean the opponent's board? I don't know, I said they were interesting, not successful.


Beast: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 332 (online: 327)

 Related Tribes: Mole

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: We've come to this: the Mole type is a thing in MTG now. "Finally! It was so sorely missed!", says no one, ever. And the first and only Mole is also a Beast, just to make it even more irrelevant. Why couldn't it just be a Beast that comes in the form of a monstrous mole? Whatever. This one cares about the Clues, that are parts of the investigate mechanic: they are artifact tokens that you can sac for 2 mana to draw a card, and are created by instances of the investigate keyword. Graf Mole adds 3 life to the benefits package and is a honest 2/4 for 3, so I could say it's not that bad. I could, but I won't.


Berserker: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 60 (online: 57)

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The Berserker job description is entirely a red Vampire prerogative in Shadows over Innistrad. And the only worthy one also only cares about Vampires (he's in fact their tribal lord), by giving them madness equal to their normal mana cost, which just means you can freely pitch Vampires to discard effects and still cast them. Sort of a good thing, and Falkenrath Gorger is a 2/1 for 1, the first of this kind in red which doesn't have a downside, so he doesn't make his presence all about comboing. Incidentally, all these Vampire Berserkers either have madness, give madness, or enable madness. In case you missed it, madness has made a comeback in SOI, now with a more convoluted, but I guess more rule-proof wording in the reminder text.


Bird: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 197 (online: 190)

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Of course the only Bird in the set is not really Snow White-friendly. Also not particularly interesting, though.


Boar: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 29 (online: 27)

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: This sad pork is a terrible 6-drop that, thanks to delirium, may become infinitesimally less terrible. Are there delirium decks out there? If they are, they certainly are not self-milling to enable this kind of cards.


Cleric: +5

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 300 (online: 278)

 Related Tribes: Human, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: A ghost Cleric, Bygone Bishop, is one of the best poster boys for investigate: a 2/3 flyer for 3 is acceptable, and then every time you cast another creature with CMC 3 or smaller, there it is, a shiny Clue in all its card advantage brilliance. The whole card-drawing thing is a bit mana-intensive, a la Mind Stone, but there's no need for hurry, the Clues can wait until you don't have better uses for your mana, and you're able to sac them at instant-speed, which is important. Plus, they're free artifacts, I'm sure there's crazy shenanigans to be done with their entering the battlefield.

 A couple other Clerics deal with equipments in ways that aren't particularly noteworthy; the delightfully flavorful Pious Evangel (hey, is that MTG saying something about religious zealotry?) tries to be a cross between a Soul Sister and Blood Artist, but he's way too resource-intensive to be good. Nearheath Chaplain looks like something you want to directly dump into the graveyard in order to cast the quasi-Midnight Haunting effect.

 By the way, isn't weird that these clerics' deity is Avacyn, who is just right there? I mean, they can talk to her, go visit her in her house and such. Being the priest of a religion whose worship doesn't really require faith must be a completely different job. Also sort of irrelevant, especially since Avacyn, before going mad, would answer everybody's prayer across all of Innistrad, so who even needs an intermediary? Plus, there's people there (well, vampires, but vampires are people, too!) who are related to the guy who physically created that deity. So weird.


Construct: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 83 (online: 82)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Are the phantom horses a Construct, too?


Demon: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 83 (online: 81)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It looks like there's only one Demon left on Innistrad, but at least it's a good one. Mindwrack Demon is big for only 4 mana, and is a flyer and a trampler, plus it fits well in graveyard strategies, since it dredges four cards upon arrival. Granted, that upkeep cost is unforgiving if you don't have delirium, and I'm still not clear if delirium will be that easy to attain, even in dredge-devoted decks. I mean, you sure aren't going to hit it in virtue of Mindwrack's dredge alone, so that significantly reduces the number of builds this Demon will feel at home in. We can add suicide black to those, though.

 Anyway, speaking of Demons, we also get the very fearsome Ormendahl, Profane Prince, aka Griselbrand's country cousin, but he only hits the board in his Westvale Abbey form, so no dice for the horned tribe here. There's another card that creates Human tokens, by the way.

 


Devil: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 18 (online: 17)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The old Innistrad block had raised the Devil population from 4 to 15, and the first set in this return adds 3 more, albeit only one feels like a significant addition. Sin Prodder is sort of a reverse Dark Confidant, in that it draws you free cards each upkeep, or the opponent takes damage. I guess it won't ever be as popular as its black counterpart, though, because it drops a bit later (even if it's more battleworthy, sporting a bigger body and menace), and especially because revealing lands has the opposite effect compared to the Confidant: the opponent will just mill all of them and take no damage. This also means that once you drop it, you might find hard to drop lands, but maybe that's the plan, and it's solid deck-thinning at any rate.


Drake: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 72 (online: 71)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A new Drake, and it's not a small-sized Limited filler for once. In fact, this one has the cost and body of an actual Dragon. Too bad its abilities are pretty stupid for its cost.


Druid: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 134 (online: 130)

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The latest druidic tech is great for Golgari decks, and the off-change of this guy getting deathtouch later on is just gravy. No more endless damage with Elves of Deep Shadow! He's not as pretty, though.


Dryad: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 30 (online: 28)

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Even the Dryads are horrific on Innistrad (I never saw the widely reviled Shyamalan's film, Lady in the Water; maybe that was the inspiration here?). This one's a 1-drop mana dork that for a higher-than-standard toughness asks for another creature to be tapped along with her (which is actually good flavor) in order to generate any color of mana, Birds of Paradise-style. It's actually less clunky than it appears, given that tapping creatures might generate value, as we had several "untap matters" cycles in the past, and there's many "when this gets tapped" effects that would require an attack to trigger, and that's not always a good option.


Elemental: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 363 (online: 359)

 Related Tribes: Hound, Wolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: What's with Elementals taking canine forms? (Also feline, sometimes). These two runs the gamut from common to mythic, and the mythic is not awful, but it's a bit clunky: you need to attack, taps mana, discard stuff, and then you get to deal damage. If properly setup can be powerful, even end-game-y (you can discard Emrakul on someone's face, after all), but it's not very fast, and I doubt there'll be many decks built around this Elemental Wolf.


Fox: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 21 (online: 20)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Frog: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 20 (online: 19)

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: It's a Frog! And it's mythic! And it's wonderful! The Gitrog Monster is just a superb specimen of a creature, a 6/6 with a relevant combat ability for 5 mana, which puts it on Spiritmonger territory (with which he shares colors, by the way). But that's just the surface: The Gitrog Monster is an unbelievable card advantage factory! Every turn you sac a land, draw a card, then probably replace the land, sometimes with two lands! And if you use a fetch, oh my, that's another card you draw! And think of what happens if you Ghost Quarter a Flagstones of Trokair! Or with Squandered Resources! Or Zuran Orb! Worshippers are coming out, already! All glory to the Gitrog Monster! 


Fungus: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 34 (online: 33)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Gargoyle: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 23

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Giant: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 128 (online: 122)

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: This big dude is a Giant, sure, but everything he does is related to his Zombie side. In fact, he really, really wants to be in a Zombie deck, being the Zombie lord and all.


Golem: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 95

 Impact of the New Additions: 

 Highlights: Is this a Golem made of tombstones?! Only on Innistrad.


Homunculus: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 10

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Homunculus is a fun tribe, in theory. I mean, they should technically be Constructs or Golems, yet a whole tribe entirely composed by the little servants of alchemists and mad scientists could be a true Johnny paradise. They seem to struggle finding meaningful members, though. And, well, this time they didn't even try.


Horror: +11

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 153

 Related Tribes: Boar, Dryad, Frog, Slug, Wolf, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: 

 Highlights: Over the years, Horror has become more of a qualifier than a type of things. When a creature gets twisted and deformed in some scary ways, it acquires the Horror secondary subtype (or sometimes, Mutant). And on Innistrad, oh boy, things get twisted and deformed a lot.

 There's a few good one in this lot. The flavor-feast Thing in the Ice has immediately become a favorite of control builds: it's a 2-drop that defends you well in early turns, then it turns into your big finisher later, coming with built-in Evacuation, to boot. Very very solid. (Honestly, it doesn't seem to be much of a mystery what the "thing" is, though. It shouldn't come as a surprise to those people. One look at it and, yep, it's a frozen Kraken. Not sure what they expected it to do once defrosted.)

 Geralf's Masterpiece (hey, remember the nerdy Geralf and his adorable crazy sister Gisa? Too bad they didn't show up again with a new version) really wants for you to empty your hand. It even helps with that, post-mortem pre-resurrection. I don't know, it feels a bit too clunky for a mythic.

 Forgotten Creation is a nice iteration of skulk, because if you can't block a 3/3 with things that kill it without trading (except for something like a 3/4, I guess), then you might have trouble stopping it, and 3 damage per turn are not healthy. Of course, the rare status is mostly due to the Tolarian Winds-esque ability, but I don't know that it's necessary to cast what amounts to a Hill Giant, give or take a skulk, in order to cast Tolarian Winds. Unless you want to keep doing it every turn, so you're trying to self-mill here, so you also have better options than this, trust me.

 And the of course there's The Gitrog Monster. All hail the Gitrog Monster!


Horse: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 23 (online: 18)

 Related Tribes: Nightmare, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Two black Horses, and one is a Nightmare. But even the other one, it's not exactly going to give you sweet dreams if you insist on playing it.


Hound: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 68 (online: 63)

 Related Tribes: Elemental, Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: I'm now pretty sure delirium is a keyword that only impacts Limited, if ever. Also, that white dog is more comical than scary. Also, these three Hounds seriously add nothing relevant to their tribe.


Human: +42

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 1786 (online: 1618)

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Druid, Insect, Knight, Rogue, Scout, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior, Werewolf, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: Human gets a bigger boost than usual, especially bigger than the Battle for Zendikar block, where they only got 26 new members in two sets. And it's partly due to the Werewolves all having the Human type on their untransformed side, to better highlight the metamorphosis, flavor-wise. We also have a few Humans with no other types, which is rare enough, but they're all run-of-the-mill commons or uncommons. They seem to be linked to a fairytale sub-theme, like the kind old lady who reveals herself to be an evil witch, or the sturdy builder who lives into the woods (the way is clear, the light is good).


Hydra: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 32

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: A Hydra that needs lands on the battlefield to be big isn't exactly the best Hydra out there. And reach is certainly not the sexier ability a big creature could have. Of course there's the fact that Ulvenwald Hydra fetches any land while entering the battlefield, and that's always a powerful effect. It's not enough to make it attractive, though, especially because for the same cost you can, you know, just play Primeval Titan.


Insect: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 139 (online: 135)

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Look, it's The Fly II! And just like that sequel was a pale imitation of the original, this feels the same when compared to Delver of Secrets. I mean, if you have to start by paying 4 mana for a 3/2 flyer, the whole thing falls apart. The idea of representing the further stages of the transformation is cool, though. Bonus points for starting exactly where Delver of Secrets had left off.


Knight: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 188 (online: 177)

 Related Tribes: Human, Spirit, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Knights fit well the Gothic setting, especially when they're actually horsemen. These four aren't particularly appealing, though. Drogskol Cavalry is a Spirit card for Spirit decks, and even there, it's way overcosted. Same goes for Markov Dreadknight: you have to spend 8 mana and 2 cards to get a 5/5 flyer?

 And even the new Olivia Voldaren, who has abandoned her fancy masquerade balls and blood chalices and is now all martial and Mobilized for War (which war is that? The war against those who want to deprive the vampires of their rights to suck humans dry?), is a little underwhelming. A 3/3 flyer for 3 is okay, and then she does two things: she's a free discard outlet, and she gives haste and +1/+1 to the other creatures; but she's not very efficient at either, because you can't discard until you cast a creature, and you can't just pump those creatures without discarding stuff, and it's not a given that you'll be able to do both for value. I'm not sold. Plus, how is that every damn time they depict Olivia, there always seems to be something wrong with her legs?


Mole: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 1

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe?

 Highlights: So Mole is a Magic tribe now. Deal with it.


Nightmare: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 22

 Related Tribes: Horse

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Apparently, the running gag of Nightmares being Horses because they're "mares of the night" never get old at the MTG creative department. Does that mean that all nightmares are female? Why, that's sexist! And this one is a stallion... who's also a mare? How does that even work? Dark equine hermaphroditism? Anyway, it's bad. It might be the single most underwhelming iteration of delirium: you need 4 different card types in the graveyard in order to turn this dork into a slightly better Nightwing Shade?


Ooze: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 22 (online: 21)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Now, this is a delirium I might be willing to achieve. A solid 3/3 for 3 that duplicates itself tapped and attacking? Okay, it doesn't exactly duplicate itself, the way Spawnwrithe does, but it's still something. Maybe Necrotic Ooze strategies in Ooze decks will help setting up delirium too, via Buried Alive or something?


Ox: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 11 (online: 9)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: I'll never understand why they think a game of fantasy battles needs Oxen, that may well be the less threatening animals in existence. I don't care if this particular Ox pulls an inquisitor's torture-carriage; it's still an Ox. Give me the inquisitor, instead! (Also, it's just another useless delirium execution).


Rat: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 48 (online: 42)

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The only reason to mention this card is that it defines skulk in a wonderfully poignant way. And because the flavor text quotes H.P. Lovecraft's The Rats in the Walls.


Rogue: +5

   

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 192 (online: 182)

 Related Tribes: Human, Werewolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Rogues become sort of disquieting in Innistrad. I mean, aren't the last two up there implied to be serial killers? Shouldn't they be Assassins? They are also mirror image of each other, mechanically, and not a bad use of delirium, for once: both putting more +1/+1 counters around or killing more 1-powered enemies aren't bad things.

 Daring Sleuth is made of Clue decks, instead. Do they even exist? If they do, they're certainly flavorful. However, once he's transformed and keeps investigating, actually succeeding in dealing combat damage to the opponent as a 3/2 will not prove that easy.

 Geier Reach Bandit is only a Rogue because of her name: it's actually a very important new Werewolf that causes all other Werewolf to skip the non-transformed step.


Scarecrow: +3

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 29 (online: 28)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The Scarecrow tribe was essentially created in the Shadowmoor block (apart for a couple of older ones that are mostly meaningless). Innistrad had one, though (One-Eyed Scarecrow), so now SOI furthers the tradition, given that, well, Scarecrows are indeed scary. Not so much for these three, though. Harvest Hand only deserves a mention because transformers that change card type on the flip side are cool. But it's a meh creature that turns into a meh equipment after death. Although, menace is not a bad ability to give, and the card advantage of the whole process is undeniable.


Scout: +4

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 106 (online: 100)

 Related Tribes: Human, Werewolf

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Breakneck Rider/Neck Breaker (if we ignore the terrible pun) is a solid uncommon Werewolf that has relevance in a Scout deck too, or just any creature deck, but the real highlight of this lot of Scouts is Tireless Tracker. If a Clue/investigate deck does exist, Tireless Tracker is certainly its centerpiece. Actually, scratch that, a Clue deck probably doesn't exist because you don't need any other Clue enabler except Tireless Tracker, turning all your land drops into card advantage (hey, almost like The Gitrog Monster! All glory to the Gitrog Monster!), and then that card advantage into a bigger threat. Very very efficient.


Shaman: +5

  

   

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 327 (online: 323)

 Related Tribes: Human, Werewolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Accursed Witch is another card that references fairytales, and also another transformer that turns into a different card type, this time a curse. There's not much there beyond the flavor of it all, though.

 Then we have a Shaman who works as a probably superfluous Werewolf deck enhancer, and three Shamans who are actual Werewolves, of which the only worth a mention is Sage of Ancient Lore, but he only becomes big in Commander, and even there, it doesn't do anything else than being a big threat; the one card it draws you is kind of a meager prize for 5 mana.


Shapeshifter: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 73 (online: 71)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Uncounterable Clone for the same mana cost (albeit in two colors), which doubles as an uncounterable Clone that you can multikicker. As Simic as you get, and not a bad card at all. I get that the name is a pun on "alter ego", but I can't for the life of me understand what's happening in the picture.


Skeleton: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 43 (online: 41)

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: None


Slug: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 6 (online: 5)

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Yeah, this is the first Slug we get since Catacomb Slug in Return to Ravnica, and it's the 6th overall, and still doesn't impact the tribe much, if at all. Because it sucks. Yeah, it's big and hard to block, but requires a sacrifice every freaking time you attack or block with it. C'mon. You can find better ways to spend your 6 mana.


Soldier: +10

   

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 546 (online: 490)

 Related Tribes: Human, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: There's a couple of great Soldiers on Shadows over Innistrad, especially the Human ones (less so the Vampires), starting from one of the chase rares of the set, Thalia's Lieutenant. Yeah, it's Champion of the Parish on steroids. Yeah, Human didn't really need yet another of these effects. Anyway, it's very very strong, and one of the five tribal lords of the set. Where's Thalia herself, though? I believe she should be still alive and kicking.

 Also strong is Hanweir Militia Captain, which is a white bear that turns into a bigger self by just having 3 other creatures on the board, which is something white weenie definitely plans to. And then she also starts sprouting Human tokens (here's another one! The best ever, probably). Extremely desirable in all aggro decks and white Human in particular (the tokens are Clerics, not Soldiers, but Soldier decks probably don't care much). Also, another statement about the dangers of fanaticism, I guess. White is the perfect home for those.

 The latest iteration of Oldric is sort of underwhelming, instead: as flashy as it sounds to give all those abilities to all your creatures, it's awfully situational, and Oldric himself is not aggressively costed. Still, he can be fun in the right deck.

 Among the minor ones, Dauntless Cathar is another of those creatures that want to be pitched to activate their Spirit-making graveyard ability.


Spider: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 43 (online: 42)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: I admit I didn't get the flavor of the additional seven creatures. What's that about?


Spirit: +16

   

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 411 (online: 407)

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Knight, Wolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Spirits are all ghosts of the deceased on Innistrad (or geists, since German is the Gothic language of choice), as opposed to the natural spirits of Kamigawa, for instance. Rattlechains is their tribal lord, and provides all Spirit with flash, their defining mechanic. As far as tribal lords go, it's not bad at all, a 2-powered flash flyer for only 2 mana, and it also counters one removal cast against a fellow Spirit.

 Certainly better than the secondary lord, Drogskol Cavalry. Remember the cool but rarely played Drogskol Reaver? Well, the cavalry from the same place is not as cool and will be played even less, because for 7 mana only gives a underwhelming body, some tribal lifegain, and the ability to spend more mana to create Spirits, which also doubles as further lifegaining, but it's 4 mana apiece.

 Bygone Bishop is sort of a lord himself, i.e. the Lord of the Clues, but not as good as Tireless Tracker at that, since it requires a lot more setup in deckbuilding and will make Clues appear a lot less frequently. Erdwal Illuminator is his pal, though.

 Other strictly tribal synergies with Spectral Shepherd, which lets you abuse of any Spirit's ETB effect, if not for cheap. Still, bouncing your own creatures at will is never a bad option.

 Among the remaining ones, Pale Rider of Trostad is only notable because it signals the fact that the Spirit tribe in SOI also reaches into black; Topplegeist is a must-have card if you plan to reach delirium status; and Uninvited Geist brings skulk to transform into its natural evolution: unblockable. Neat design.


Turtle: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 9 (online: 8)

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: I bet you didn't expect a Turtle in a horror set, did you?


Vampire: +17

   

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 139 (online: 137)

 Related Tribes: Berserker, Knight, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: There's a plethora of good-not-great Vampires here. Falkenrath Gorger is the tribal lord, and he's nice and fast and give all vamps madness, which apparently is their tribal keyword, meaning that a SOI Vampire deck should have a lot of discard outlets. And in fact, Olivia, Mobilized for War (it's kind of a stupid name, isn't it?) is one of those, rewarding your discard with combat prowess for the next vamp in line.

 Indulgent Aristocrat is a secondary lord, a streamlined 1/1 lifelinker for 1 mana that is also a sacrifice outlet; if not a very efficient one mana-wise, he nonetheless provide tribal +1/+1 counters, which is nice. I like that he basically kills people and then turn them into a banquet for his comrades. Very selfless guy, for a decadent noble

 Asylum Visitor is a constant card-drawing effect for 2 mana, the Dark Confidant way, but on the opponent's turn, too. Sounds excellent, except she needs empty hands for her ability to work, and that's not so easy to achieve even within a discard strategy. It doesn't look like something you want on turn 2, unless you plan to drop your entire hand by then. At least she has built-in madness so you can start by discarding her.

 Insolent Neonate is fast and hard to block, in the tradition of red Vampires, then doubles to looting in a pinch (or if he's getting himself killed).

 Great flavor is a common trait of this lot, especially with the two transformers, which are both discard outlets, by the way. We have the pretty heiress who turns into a crazed Halloween party-goer, and the other vamp who turns into unkillable mist, then turns back and swings for 4 on the unsuspecting house-owner's face (Innistrad vampires don't have to be invited in, I suppose). But the first prize goes to Twins of Maurer Estate, because those vampire little girls are just delightful, and so, so flavorful. They're also kind of playable under madness: a 3/5 for 3? These kids can even kill Olivia in combat!


Warrior: +5

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 518 (online: 503)

 Related Tribes: Human, Vampire, Werewolf, Wolf

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: SOI Warriors are mostly Werewolves or Werewolf-related, including the Werewolf tribal lord, which is actually a Wolf (or wolfir: those are the noble, merged werewolves Avacyn created, which are now being reverted back to killing machines by Avacyn's madness). Duskwatch Recruiter is actually a nice support guy for any kind of creature decks, digging for them, then making them easier to hardcast, all for Grizzly Bears' initial mana investment.

 Of the non-lupines, Briarbridge Patrol is a very convoluted way to cheat a creature onto the battlefield via Clues. She works as another member of the probably mythic Clue.dek, in that she investigates very easily, but she's still a green Hill Giant for Hill Giant mana.


Werewolf: +12

   

   

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 34 (online: 33)

 Related Tribes: Human, RogueScout, Shaman, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Werewolf is quite possibly the most representative creature type in Innistrad blocks, what with them being the poster children for the transformation mechanic, which is very distinctive of this setting, conveying a sense of impending dread and hidden monstrosity. There's a dozen new Werewolves in SOI, and I gotta say, none of these is especially brilliant. They're mostly vanilla or French vanilla commons or uncommons, and even the rare ones disappoint quite a bit. The Shaman one is slow, just tries to be big, yet doesn't even guarantee that; the Rogue one, Geier Reach Bandit, is the best one, in that she's a 3-powered hitter with haste for 3 mana, and upon transformation, she provides with a relevant ability that has a serious tribal impact, making all the following Werewolves skip directly to the juicier side of their cards, while still allowing for transformation triggers (as they don't come into play already transformed, they transform as an enter-the-battlefield effect).

 My second favorite may be Duskwatch Recruiter, and he's just an uncommon and not expressly designed for Werewolf decks (which is a strength, of course). I mean, their tribal lord is not even actually a Werewolf!

 Of course there was one single Werewolf star in the set, and unfortunately it wasn't a creature:

 

 Arlinn is a planeswalker that's at her best when deployed within creature decks, but even she seems to like Wolf interactions better than Werewolf ones. Anyway, I like that she can transform immediately upon descending on the battlefield, and then transform back, unlike Garruk Relentless. She's solid and versatile, if a bit frail.


Wizard: +5

   

 

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 New Tribal Total: 570 (online: 558)

 Related Tribes: Human, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Wizards are not exactly a notable feature on Innistrad, so we just have a few, none of which are unforgettable. There's Asylum Visitor, the card-drawing gal for wishful thinking discard decks (but how great is the flavor that she gets information from visiting madmen in their asylums?), and the Elusive Tormentor's "now you see me, now you don't" routine. Then some investigation, a self-milling delirium guy, and a Vampire with prowess, for some reason. Well, prowess has become evergreen, hasn't it?


Wolf: +9

  

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 39 (online: 36)

 Related Tribes: Elemental, Horror, Spirit, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: There's quite a bit of filler among these Wolves, and an underwhelming mythic in Wolf of Devil's Breach. Their (and the Werewolves') tribal lord, Silverfur Partisan, is not excellent, because he doesn't protect from mass removal, and is only a palliative against targeted removal, if an annoying one for the opponent in the long run (I guess you could use a buyback spell to generate tokens at will, but it feels like a stretch). Plus, that body is really minimal for a trampler. I could've used a 3/3.

 Pack Guardian seems solid, instead. For 4 mana and some surplus land, you can flash in a 4/3 body and a 2/2 body. It makes for a good combat trick/pseudo-removal, too.


Wurm: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 80 (online: 76)

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Dear Soul Swallower, do you realize that Kalonian Hydra exists, right? Still, a midrange Wurm that's not outright terrible, because a Wurm deck might want to try and fill the graveyard in order to reanimate the big guys.


Zombie: +15

   

  

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 New Tribal Total: 346 (online: 340)

 Related Tribes: Bird, Giant, Horror, Horse, Hound, Rat

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: We already talked about the Zombies that are also Horrors (because Geralf experimented on them!), including the mythic Geralf's Masterpiece. There's another, better mythic in Relentless Dead, although it doesn't compare favorably to Gravecrawler, because Relentless Dead asks for an immediate payment upon death. Then again, it's also able to resurrect some other, more interesting Zombie other than itself, and before dying it's a bear with menace, which means it's able to do its aggro job just fine.

 More in tune with Gravecrawler is Prized Amalgam, which is essentially Gravecrawler's BFF, because it returns from the grave at the exact same time Gravecrawler does. Kind of neat, but also awfully dependent on the way you build your deck.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


BEST IN SHOW
(click on them to go to their main tribe)

   

   

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THE TRIBAL LORDS
(click on them to go to their main tribe)

  

 

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS

 (All glory to the Gitrog Monster!)

 

3 Comments

Excellent review as always; by Bazaar of Baghdad at Mon, 04/25/2016 - 21:46
Bazaar of Baghdad's picture
5

Excellent review as always; this one quite passionate and far more fun with a higher percentage of playables. I think I agree with you in considering Innistrad to be my favorite plane. Too bad I don't like playing Standard.

Unfortunately, Wolf of Devil's Breach can't Emrakul you to the face (it only damages creatures and planeswalkers) - even clunkier than you had thought.

I would quibble with you on Devilthorn Fox, as I would rank it the #3 Fox in existence (behind Eight-and-a-Half Tails and Samurai of the Pale Curtain), as it's the only Fox to deal 3 or more damage to the face by itself until you otherwise get to 6 mana, so not a bad deal for 2! Along the same lines, the slug is bad, but it's still probably the best Slug in general for Tribal Wars ever printed (sadly), so impact should probably be higher. Finally, I would also play Thraben Gargoyle in any Cloudpost-based Gargoyle deck as a stopgap on the curve until I can afford pricier stuff. When you have the endgame advantage, it's nice to be able to play 1-drops that have decent chances of trading with or at least stalling their 2-drops and even 3-drops. Easily in the playable category.

Concur on Thraben Gargoyle. by AJ_Impy at Tue, 04/26/2016 - 06:51
AJ_Impy's picture

Concur on Thraben Gargoyle. Postgoyles can easily turn it on, and having a low cost blocker is very useful. (There's currently the 3/3 for 3 that loses defender and gains flying for 3, which is a little slow to face down aggro decks.

Gatherling by Sensei at Wed, 04/27/2016 - 14:51
Sensei's picture

Can we get a clarification on Umezawa's Jitte, Engineered Plague, Peer Pressure, Tsabo's Decree, and Circle of Solace?
Totally understandable if they're banned in Tribal Singleton but in that case you should delete the giant bold font that says 'BAN LIST: NONE!'