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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Mar 07 2023 10:02am

It feels good to get back to more familiar ground with Designing Reprint Sets. Technically we just had a remastered set with Dominaria Remastered, but that was covering a much wider card pool, and awkward preview timing combined with the holidays meant I couldn’t get a preview article and just did the Limited Review instead. I have more lead time with Shadows Over Innistrad for multiple reasons: the calendar, the fact I’ve had a design sitting around for years, and just that it’s easier to pick from two sets than a couple dozen. Still, the set launches on Arena in less than a month, so I need to hurry up and get this article out while it’s still relevant. So let’s get started! 

However, this remastered set hits in a different place than both Amonkhet and Kaladesh did. Not only were those entire sets programmed in as part of the Arena beta, there weren’t that many reprints on Arena besides those (only standard sets for Amonhket, and Jumpstart and one Anthology for Kaladesh). Now we have a ton of outlets for cards to get reprinted: bonus sheets, a half-dozen anthologies, and most importantly Jumpstart: Historic Horizons. That set not only contains a bunch of the tribal synergies, it also has a lot of Madness and some Delirium as well. It feels like one of the goals of these Arena remasters should be to put more cards on the platform, but not only is that impossible to do here while keeping the feel of the Limited format, Kaladesh Remastered showed that isn’t important, even with rares.


The other question is what additions will we get beyond the original block. Amonkhet had a ton of them as impactful as Thoughtseize, while Kaladesh’s only bonus was Sculpting Steel as the pre-order bonus since Wizards thought the set was powerful enough (even after banned cards like Walking Ballista and Smuggler's Copter were removed). On one hand Shadows Over Innistrad block isn’t anywhere close to Kaladesh in power, so it could use the help. On the other though, it doesn’t have a Masterpiece sheet to pull from like the previous sets. I’ve chosen to add some cards to the main set, but there isn’t anything too impactful that works. The set is also limited by the lack of rarity shifts for cards in the main set. Now let’s look at what I’ve done with the archetypes.



White/Blue: Flash Spirits

The Spirit pack in Historic Horizons was mono-blue, so we get our pick of the white Spirits, getting to cut substandard redundant cards like Geist of the Lonely Vigil and Spectral Reserves. In blue however, in order to keep the flash subtheme, I kept in Stormrider Spirit and Nebelgast Herald over the first-time equivalents Silent Observer and Uninvited Geist. It’s a similar case with the rares, as Pioneer needs Selfless Spirit and Spell Queller, but I’m “wasting” slots on Rattlechains and Mausoleum Wanderer, mostly because there aren’t better rares to put in (the only missing Spirit rare is Drogskol Cavalry, mostly because that slot is taken by Bruna, the Fading Light.


Blue/Black: Self-Mill Zombies

Just like with the Spirits, the Zombie deck in Historic Horizons was mono-black, so while we only have to dodge Stitchwing Skaab in blue, pretty much every black zombie was reprinted. In particular the graveyard side was hit hard with both enablers (Wailing Ghoul and Crow of Dark Tidings) and payoffs (Cemetery Recruitment, Ghoulcaller's Accomplice, and Haunted Dead) being printed. Still, other than redundancy cuts not much is missing. It’s a similar situation at rare where Cryptbreaker, Diregraf Colossus, and Dark Salvation all got reprints, yet two of the three are here for the lack of better options. At least we finally get Relentless Dead (which was even confirmed by the prebeat) and Prized Amalgam.


Black/Red: Madness Vampires

This is the first tribe to get hit by multiple decks, as there were both black Vampires and red Madness decks in Historic Horizons, and between them it takes out most of the core of the deck. Still, if I was going to try to build the deck without pieces like the Fiery Temper/Lightning Axe combo, or Ravenous Bloodseeker into Incorrigible Youths it wouldn’t work. Some cards like Twins of Maurer Estate and Bloodmad Vampire are still new, and there’s more flexibility at rare, where I can pick Stromkirk Condemned instead of Asylum Visitor while keeping cards like Falkenrath Gorger and Bloodhall Priest.


Red/Green: Midrange Werewolves

Finally a deck that wasn’t hamstrung by reprints (unless you count all three fight/bite spells in the block getting hit), but it’s obviously the deck changed the most by double-faced cards not having a dedicated slot and instead being normally distributed in boosters (not something guaranteed, but something I’m assuming Wizards will do with a digital-only set). Still, the werewolves aren’t that good, especially at common, though at least the wolves are fine (even if this is where I wish I had access to rarity shifts the most). This wasn’t great in the original block, and hopefully it’s better here, if only because the Eldritch Moon Werewolves are better (it’s not a coincidence those are the two common werewolves I kept). They also kept all their rares, though they aren’t really important (and I don’t even know if Duskwatch Recruiter is relevant in Pioneer these days).


Green/White: Delirium/Equipment Humans

While humans are the focus of this deck, there’s also an important Delirium subtheme, which is why most of the cards in this deck weren’t taken (just Thraben Inspector, which I’m obviously going to use anyway). The equipment theme did take a bit of a hit mostly based on card quality (again, the lack of rarity shifts hurts; I’d love to put something like Harvest Hand at common in place of Field Creeper for example) and the fact constructed needs Cathar's Shield even though it’s mostly worthless in Limited. Rare is also pretty much as expected, as I’m not going to leave out Thalia's Lieutenant and Tireless Tracker even if they’ve been reprinted. I’m worried I might have hit this the most, as most of the “rank-and-file” humans in the file are focused towards other archetypes and there aren’t as many normal werewolves either.


White/Black: Wide Delirium Aggro

Now we’re to the point where Eldritch Moon starts to mess with the archetypes, as Campaign of Vengeance takes a fairly typical delirum deck and makes it go wide. To make it even worse, this is hit a surprising amount by reprints, with Unruly Mob and Inspiring Captain on the wide side and Angelic Purge and the self-mill cards on the delirium side. Still, most of those aren’t replaceable, and the delirium cards themselves weren’t hit.


Blue/Red: Spells

Another deck where major cards were hit, but Thermo-Alchemist is an iconic piece of the set (while Weaver of Lightning might have gotten cut anyway), and only one of Just the Wind and Unsubstantiate was going to make it anyway, especially when Compelling Deterrence also needs a slot. I’m wondering if I kept too much from this deck, as other than Weaver of Lightning almost nothing was cut (in part because a spells theme always leads to important constructed cards).


Black/Green: Turbo Delirium

This archetype doesn’t have many reprints (just the black self-mill cards), but it’s the one that needs a careful balance of enablers and payoffs to work. In particular, I have both Grapple with the Past and Vessel of Nascency (relevant since the latter just showed up again in Pioneer), which might make it too easy to get delirium. On balance I’d rather have it be too easy than not easy enough, and it’s not like the payoffs are that great at low rarities either, so it should be fine.


Red/White: Hyper Aggro

This was always the strangest deck that mostly existed as pieces of the other decks. As such, the key cards specific to this archetype are random pump spells and creatures that don’t fit into other decks, and most of them are generic enough they’ve been reprinted, like Cathar's Companion, Dance with Devils, and Uncaged Fury. Still, they’re generic enough that there are plenty of replacements, and cards like the Escalate spells are specific enough they won’t be reprinted in other places.


Green/Blue: Investigate and/or Emerge Ramp

This is the deck that was always going to be the hardest, as while both Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon’s Simic decks have a ramp focus, one focuses on clues while the other focuses on Emerge, and they don’t fit together perfectly. There are also a ton of build-arounds to work from, and the best (Ulvenwald Mysteries) got a reprint, which complicates things even more. On one hand I don’t have that many clue-makers, especially in blue where Jace's Scrutiny and Press for Answers got crunched out, so those build-arounds are the main way you’ll get clues. On the Emerge side, the only cut is Drownyard Behemoth


Other Notable Changes/Cuts:

The biggest cut is a surprise utility card: Invasive Surgery. It hasn’t seen much play (though after Indomitable Creativity won the Pro Tour it might show up in more sideboards) and doesn’t have Limited applications, so it might be best as an Anthology pickup. Contingency Plan is another card that’s a fringe Constructed piece, but it competes with Pieces of the Puzzle which is even more important. I’m also afraid someone will break Vessel of Volatility, especially since there aren’t many other rituals that are close to playable on Arena—maybe it would be worth playing with Goblin Charbelcher. Another way to cheat on mana is Briarbridge Patrol, but that seems ambitious too. Finally, a lot of the splashy cards just got crunched out; cards like Deploy the Gatewatch, Coax from the Blind Eternities, Ever After, Harness the Storm, and Soul Separator aren’t likely to see play, but with Brawl becoming a more important format (and Commander likely coming sooner rather than later), this could be a big mistake. I have 30 mythics and 73 rares (similar numbers to Amonkhet Remastered, but higher than Kaladesh Remastered), but that might not be enough.


Additional Cards:

Hushwing Gryff:

This is one of the only core set cards that’s obviously on Innistrad, so obviously it makes sense here even if it doesn’t really see play anymore.


Gideon, Champion of Justice:

Like with Amonkhet Remastered, the random Gatewatch planeswalkers can show up as filler. Obviously Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is a much more important card (and is actually playable), but it’s obviously linked to Zendikar, and needs to be saved for a possible Battle for Zendikar Remastered (though it feels like most of that set’s already been used, which makes that difficult).



A generic card that makes sense in a set where the graveyard is a big deal, and it’s one that isn’t obviously Pioneer-legal (it was in Magic 2014, just squeaking in).


Jace, Architect of Thought:

This was Jace, Memory Adept for a while as the most direct replacement for Jace, Unraveler of Secrets (which was already in Amonkhet Remastered), but since it ruins Limited formats just by existing, I replaced it with Ravnica’s Jace since we don’t need to save it for a Pioneer Masters. Also, it’s sad that Architect of Thought has tanked in price so much.


Lifebane Zombie:

It’s strange to only have one of a color-hoser cycle, but it’s a little relevant to constructed, tribal-relevant to Innistrad, and works as an easy replacement for the redundant Diregraf Colossus. Graveblade Marauder could also work in this slot, though it’s not as clearly an Innistrad card (the art places it on Vryn).


Necromancer's Stockpile:

Even if this isn’t a card initially set on Innistrad, it both easily fits and works well with both the Madness and zombie themes.


Wild Ricochet:

This is the worst fit by far, but there isn’t much better—it’s a generic card that works okay with the spells theme.


Avaricious Dragon:

This is another stretch: I’m not sure if it’s from Innistrad, and it’s right next to another mythic dragon (which aren’t supposed to be that common on Innistrad regardless).


Life's Legacy:

This card definitely needs a retheme (unless there are unicorns on Innistrad I don’t know about), but it’s a generic enough name and effect to work.


Nissa, Worldwaker:

Copy and paste everything I said about Gideon here, except Nissa’s non-Zendikar variant is slightly more playable than Gideon’s.


Abrupt Decay:

Another generic effect, and this one is actually relevant to Pioneer—we might as well get it reprinted before it’s fully pushed out by power creep, and we don’t need The Gitrog Monster (and it’s a mythic anyway, which is filled by Grim Flayer).


Other than those, I’m wondering if Wizards will put in some original Innistrad cards to spice things up. In particular, I think Snapcaster Mage isn’t too good for Historic and would certainly give this set a chase card. I didn’t put any non-Pioneer extra cards in this set, but I certainly could have—there are more than enough bad rares to cut. If you’re interested, my full set list is here.



Overall this is a very interesting design—how do you make an underwhelming set work when your goal is to reprint the important cards from it? I don’t know if I did the best job, but I think it’s good enough, and I’m interested in what Wizards does with it. Before I go, we have two major reprint set-related things to talk about. The first is March of the Machines, and alongside all the team-ups and massive power creep (somehow the World Championship card is the least obviously crept card), we have another bonus sheet: the Multiverse Legends. Even on a conceptual level this seems like a bad idea, since creatures are much harder to balance on a bonus sheet and there aren’t many interesting uncommon legendary creatures that aren’t extremely pushed (but again, the power creep we’ve already seen in the main set). And then of course, we have the actual cards with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer coming to ruin Limited games (and Historic if it isn’t pre-banned). That will be a mess.


The other major announcement is this year’s Masters set: Commander Masters. And as much as it hurts me to do this, I’m completely punting on doing a design for it. The main reason is that Commander draft design is such a different animal than 1v1 draft that I’m not familiar with at all (even before you get to the unknown twist—my assumption is that you’ll just be able to run two commanders, even if they don’t have Partner), and I don’t want to make a set with a ton of different cards in it and absolutely no guidelines. I will still likely do a Reprint Set Report Card on it, as it’s interesting from that angle, even if a true Limited Review doesn’t make sense for it, but that’s a long way away. No matter what happens, my next article will probably be on the actual Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered set, so until then.



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