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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Oct 25 2017 11:00am
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Welcome back to Flashback Favorites! This time Innistrad is on the docket, and hopefully it isn't crippled by bugs this time. As with my Ravnica article, this will be a follow-up article; I won't be going over the basics I covered in my Modern Flashback Series article last year and instead will be going deeper on the format.

 

High-Level Concepts:

Playing Around Morbid:

As much as the theme of death permeates Innistrad, there are surprisingly not that many in Innistrad proper. There are only nine cards, seven of those are non-rare, and five of those are green. However, the two most-impactful cards are the removal spells in black and red (Morkrut Banshee and Brimstone Volley). In particular, Morkrut Banshee is the one you have to watch for—you can easily throw away an outmatched creature in a chump attack to get the two-for-one. As for the green cards, the Morbid there is more of a bonus—the value of a Woodland Sleuth or Hollowhenge Scavenger is nice but not essential, while Festerhide Boar and Somberwald Spider aren’t awful creatures without being boosted (and you should still prioritize curve over waiting for Morbid).

 

Tribal Payoffs:

As I mentioned in the previous article, tribal is more a theme than explicit Lorwyn-type (or even Ixalan-type) tribal. Here are all the non-rare tribal payoffs (and anti-payoffs) for each tribe:
 

Spirit: Battleground Geist, Gallows Warden, (Urgent Exorcism)

Zombie: Ghoulcaller's Chant, Ghoulraiser, Victim of Night, (Blazing Torch, Grave Bramble, Slayer of the Wicked)

Vampire: Rakish Heir, Vampiric Fury, Victim of Night, (Blazing Torch, Slayer of the Wicked, Wooden Stake)

(Were)wolf: Full Moon's Rise, Moonmist, Victim of Night, (Slayer of the Wicked)

Human: Avacynian Priest, Bonds of Faith, Butcher's Cleaver, Elder Cathar, Hamlet Captain, Sharpened Pitchfork, Silver-Inlaid Dagger, Spare from Evil, Village Cannibals, (Night Revelers)

 

Humans are clearly the most tribal-focused, as they get the only true lord effect (Hamlet Captain), protection from a lot of removal (Avacynian Priest, Bonds of Faith) and generically good cards (the removal, Silver-Inlaid Dagger). It also has the most overall cards, even outside the GW color pair (mostly because of all the Werewolves being Humans on their front side). By comparison, Werewolves have the least synergy, as you only get one per pack max (plus a couple Wolves) and not many benefits outside of (Full Moon’s Rise).

 

Removal in Innistrad:

We’re just about to transition to the world where “bad” removal is the standard at common, but in Innistrad the removal is king. Yes, Brimstone Volley, Dead Weight, and Victim of Night are the all-stars, but all the colors get in on the act. White has Smite the Monstrous and Rebuke for big things, while Bonds of Faith and Avacynian Priest are reasons to play Humans. Blue managed to get both Claustrophobia and Sensory Deprivation, two efficient removal auras. Black’s all-stars are good, but Corpse Lunge is an important instant you can play around slightly. Red’s Harvest Pyre is basically Terminate in the late game without being useless late, while Geistflame and Pitchburn Devils are both relatively easy two-for-ones. Green not only gets the debut of Fight on Prey Upon but Ambush Viper is basically Rebuke. Even colorless gets Blazing Torch, which is slightly clunky but reasonably costed. Of course, uncommon is the land of two-for-ones, but if you need me to tell you Fiend Hunter and Morkrut Banshee are good you probably aren’t reading the follow-up to a flashback draft format. All of this means you’re most likely to pick a generally good card first rather than a synergy-based card.

 

Detailed Archetypes:

White/Blue: Spirits/Fliers

I don’t really have much to add here: “pick good fliers” is hard to over-complicate. One of the main reasons to go for this deck is that you want different cards than the other decks, mostly since you’re the only blue deck that doesn’t want self-mill. Instead, your unique cards are tempo-based (Feeling of Dread, Grasp of Phantoms) and you’re one of the main aggro decks in the format where most decks are doing fancy things.

 

Blue/Black: Zombies/Self-Mill Value

It can’t stated enough that while the Stitched Drakes of the world look easy to support, it’s difficult both to hit them on curve (especially if people know that’s what you’re trying to do—it’s yet another reason to avoid trading super-early along with Morbid) and to support multiples. The biggest problem is that Zombies don’t do much if you aren’t doing self-mill, as the tribal aspects are hooked into the graveyard as well. Otherwise you’re stuck with some decent removal and average creatures—that’s fine, but in this high-powered format a basic deck at average power doesn’t do well.

 

Black/Red: Vampires/Aggro

Not much has changed here either: lots of early creatures are able to block well, and the “Slith” plan of Vampires falls apart when you aren’t goldfishing. Instead, you have to be willing to clear a path: you have lots of removal in these colors (though unfortunately a lot of it doesn’t work against the high-toughness creatures that are best against you) along with cards like Crossway Vampire, and that’s your only chance of making Vampires work.

 

Red/Green: Werewolves/Midrange

It’s hard to talk about Werewolves, as its main strengths (the signaling from DFCs and playing against players who don’t know how to play around the day/night mechanic) are absent in a Flashback environment on MTGO. As such, Werewolves have to become more aggro than midrange: you get your advantage when your opponent stumbles on their curve and transforms all your cards, so the cheaper Werewolves become better. That’s a high-risk strategy though—I never got the nerve to play Reckless Waifs and Village Ironsmiths, instead going towards the cards where the front sides aren’t embarrassing (Villagers of Estwald, Hanweir Watchkeep) giving me targets for my Prey Upons.

 

Green/White: Human Aggro

As I mentioned above, Humans are the one strategy where you can actually go for tribal strategies since you have multiple non-rare payoffs, as well a density of the type. When you combine that with Travel Preparations you have one of the best decks in the format, and one of the easiest to draft to boot. As such, it’s probably going to be overdrafted, both by people new to the format (GW “decent creatures and some removal” is generally a deck with a high floor in most formats) and people who know how busted Travel Preparations is.

 

White/Black: Human Sacrifice/Grindy Value

The message for this is the same as before: the deck relies on a lot of good uncommons (contrast to the Spider Spawning deck, which relies on a bunch of awful uncommons), and if you get them it can be good. Yes, Unruly Mob can get out of control, but even if you get five of them (which you’re likely to get if they’re opened, as no other deck really wants them except maybe RW) you can’t do that much with just them.

 

Blue/Red: Burning Vengeance

The biggest problem with this deck is that it’s reliant on an uncommon to be great, but only a single uncommon, and the deck isn’t completely dead without it (you still have a lot of good cards with Flashback). I also don’t think self-mill is at its best here, since you want to draw those cards and play them twice ideally (and can mill the Burning Vengeance itself), so your self-mill should be limited to the most-synergistic ones (Forbidden Alchemy and Dream Twist), though you can always run a Deranged Assistant or a Armored Skaab if you want the base stats. The best thing about this deck is that all the Flashback spells in your colors are good in this deck except Nightbird's Clutches and Memory's Journey, but focus on Forbidden Alchemy and the cheap removal.

 

Black/Green: Morbid Value

Most of what I could add here I already said in the section on Morbid above, and the deck itself isn’t that special: you just play big things and get value when things die. Part of the problem with the deck is that it isn’t doing anything special without the Morbid rares, and that might not be good enough in this synergy-based format.

 

Red/White: Swarm/Token Aggro

Like WB, RW is another deck that relies on uncommons to be distinctive. Pumping a bunch of 1/1 Spirits with Intangible Virtue and Rally the Peasants sounds good, but when your pump spells, Midnight Haunting, and Mausoleum Guard are all uncommon it’s going to be difficult to put the deck together often. The one good thing is that it shares a lot of cards with WB, so you can pair Doomed Traveler and Unruly Mob with whatever uncommons you do get lucky enough to open.

 

Green/Blue: Self-Mill/Spider Spawning

Repeat after me: GU Self-Mill does not need the Spider Spawning combo. I will not pick Memory's Journey and Runic Repetition over top-quality cards if I want the best chance of winning. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Spider Spawning is obviously a good card (and probably worth first-picking, since it’s playable in all the green decks), but you’re fine playing Boneyard Wurms along with your self-mill. The biggest problem is that since you want your deck to be so creature-dense in order to maximize your payoffs you don’t have as many self-mill choices as the other decks—Armored Skaab and Deranged Assistant are much better than Dream Twist and Curse of the Bloody Tome, since you probably need those few non-creature slots to be filled by removal.

 

Conclusion:

Another follow-up article, and this one took longer than the others despite being relatively short. Part of the answer is that I’ve been busy, part of it’s that I didn’t have much material (I’m dreading the Lorwyn article for that reason—it might just be a remaster if I can’t do much with it), and part of it’s that my Magic article interests lie elsewhere at the moment (Iconic Masters Limited, Masters 25 design, and something I can’t talk about just yet you’ll be seeing soon). Either way, depending on the specific timing, the next time you see me should be either the Iconic Masters Limited Review or the corresponding Treasure Chest update (which will introduce Commander 2017 to MTGO).

 

Vincent

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