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By: KaraZorEl, Winter Trabex
Sep 26 2011 1:56am
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 I played at the Innistrad pre-release today and I am now prepared to weigh in on what the impact of flipping cards will have on the game of magic. Flipping over cards is a brand new mechanic, though it is not necessarily unique as cards have been morphed and turned upside down. Werewolves change the flow of the game altogether because the opponent of the werewolves wants to cast lots of spells and the werewolf player doesn't want to cast spells. Werewolf tribal players might get card advantage simply because of that and when flipped, the werewolves are often stronger than they were as humans. I'll examine each flip card here alphabetically as it is given on the checklist I received out of a pack at the event.

About the flip cards

-The flip cards have one image on one side and the other image on the back. For those players who don't use sleeves with paper cards, it will be apparent what they have in their hand. In terms of drafting online, it won't matter very much because you won't be able to tell who selected what.

-If a card is foil, it will be foil on both sides.

-If a card such as Evil Twin copies a card that is transformed (ie, into a werewolf), the transform trigger will be put on the stack but it will not transform back. Only two-sided cards can transform.

Let's introduce the card that supports the entire tribe of werewolves. This card looks amazing as a foil.

Cloistered Youth/Unholy Fiend


White, blue and black get different ways to transform the cards unlike red and green cards which have to do with how many spells are cast each turn. Cloistered Youth is a different sort of card that seems to work for decks that can make interesting things happen when a person's life total goes down (ie, Death's Shadow). Unfortunately, there's no way to turn the horror back into the human so you're stuck with a drawback every turn. They could have given it flying, at least. This card won't see much play outside of sealed

Civilized Scholar/Homicidal Brute


Given the importance of creatures in most formats, this card doesn't give you much of a reward for discarding something that could help you later on. While it is true that you get 5 power for 3 mana, the toughness of 1 makes it hard to justify playing this card. At best, he's a Frontline Sage without exalted as long as you don't discard a creature. Homicidal Brute needs support, such as first strike or unblockability. Otherwise, he doesn't seem very viable.

Ludevic's Test Subject/Ludevic's Abomination


That's more like it! Here you get to level up your creature at instant speed. Blue also gets Trample at last, proving that blue will get everything magic ever had. Of course, at 13 power for the Abomination, you'd want something to get around chump blockers, but I'd rather have "when this attacks, return target creature to its owner's hand." Either way, this is a card that should make it into a lot of blue decks everywhere as it's a really big threat. If you support it with things like hexproof, it becomes even more powerful. Innistrad is also defying convention in another way- this is the first mono-blue lizard to have ever been printed.

Screeching Bat/Stalking Vampire


Those of you who like mono black should like this card. It gives you options as you can change it back and forth. There's a lot of artifacts that don't like vampires in Innistrad, so if your opponent gets one in sealed, you can just turn your vampire back into a back. It doesn't make the grade in constructed but it is very good in sealed.

Instigator Gang/Wildblood Pack


I'm going to be honest here...R&D didn't quite anticipate how powerful this would be. Before, attacking creatures getting pumped was a triggered ability. Now it's a state-based effect. For 4 mana, you get an 8/5 trampler that pumps all your other creatures. This card is so powerful that it could have easily been printed at mythic rare. As a rare, it needed to have another colored mana symbol to make it less splashable and harder to cast. As it is by itself, the card is tremendously overpowered in sealed and should see play in any green/red werewolf deck in standard. It also should have a place in any Jor Kadeen or Rith, the Awakener commander deck.

Reckless Waif/Merciless Predator


This card should be in every red deck. It's the new Goblin Guide. It doesn't have haste, but it doesn't have the drawback either. It's a very effective beatdown card as it's difficult to cast two or more spells with one or two lands in the early game. This card doesn't need Moonmist to make it worthwhile. It has a place in standard and should prove to be a tempo-changer. In sealed, it's still good in the early game but is pretty normal in the late game. A 3/2 is fairly common when everyone has their lands in play.

Village Ironsmith/Ironfang


Village Ironsmith might also see play in red deck as most the burn spells red deck uses are generally played one a victory is within reach. Having first strike on both iterations make him useful in both early and late game. Keep in mind that in werewolf tribal, he'll likely be pumped by the Mayor of Avabruck and Adaptive Automoton. The various +1/+1 pumps he can get makes the first strike all the more important. This is a card that should see play in standard, though it's not for every deck.

Garruk Relentless/Garruk, the Veil Cursed


Garruk is one of two planeswalkers in the set and as such will be the card that everyone will buy their boxes for. He is a planeswalker with five abilities- more than Jace, the Mind Sculptor- but two of them are Garruk's usual "put a creature token in play." Garruk Relentless' first ability "When he has two or fewer loyalty counters on him, transform him" is not an ability but is a triggered ability. You cannot activate abilities from both sides on the same turn. If you can cast a burn spell on him- such as Shock- then you can do the +1 that turn. His loyalty counters will stay the same after transformation and, at present, he cannot be transformed back. With only one green mana symbol, he can be played in many decks that splash green, rather than a green-strong deck such as the M12 Garruk. I am not yet sure whether Garruk, the Veil-Cursed is a multi-colored permanent.

Grizzled Outcasts/Krallenhorde Wantons


This is why you want to draw Moonmist in sealed. A 7/7 for five mana is something that usually wouldn't happen. However, this is a really good late-game beater in both standard in sealed. It's better in sealed though, because standard will likely continue to be a low-curve format where five CMC is just too high. But if you can get this card going, it will get you there.

Ulvenwald Mystics/Ulvenwald Primordials


This will likely be a card for budget transform decks. The regenerate ability isn't something to overlook, especially since it's a 5/5. Keep in mind that Cudgel Troll was a 4/3 with the same regenerate ability as an uncommon. It's a bomb in sealed because it's very hard to get rid of. As with most Werewolves, it is dependent on Moonmist. But that's not so bad if you manage to draw one or two in sealed.

Thraben Sentry/Thraben Milita


There are two drawbacks to this card: a creature you control has to die to get it to transform, and you can't transform it back unless you have Moonmist. You can either have trample or vigilance, but either way, it's not much of a benefit in constructed. Although I do like the artwork, I would rather have the card be a 3/3 or a 2/4 rather than a 2/2 for 4 mana. In sealed, you will always have the choice to transform it, though it may not always make sense to do so.

Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration


This could be a 4-of card in most control builds. A 3/2 with flying is very good in the early game and revealing to someone that you have a Mana Leak or a Negate might actually be a benefit rather than a drawback. Some players try to throw out a spell that wouldn't mind being countered and save their best spell for later, hoping that you'll take the bait. It shouldn't be that hard to find an instant or sorcery card for every deck that runs Ponder. With the enemy-colored lands, it may also find a place in a U/R burn deck. In sealed, there's not much reason to play it.

Bloodline Keeper/Lord of Lineage


Fortunately, it doesn't transform into a legendary creature. In sealed, it supports itself, though it may be difficult to transform it with all the creatures flying about everyone. This creature might see play in a new B/R vampire deck. It doesn't support the goal of getting at an opponent's life total, but it does keep you in board presence if there are games when that is important. If you do get him to transform, it will be bad news for your opponent. It has the same activated ability either way, so when transformed, you'll have 4/4 fliers.

Hanweir Watchkeep/Bane of Hanweir


It doesn't really matter that he has to attack every turn if able in sealed, because you will want to attack with a 5/5 on turn 4. It shouldn't see constructed play in that it has defender, which is always a drawback players aren't willing to play. Even the defender theme in Rise of the Eldrazi didn't change the metagame that much, it just provided Doran, the Siege Tower with some friends to hang out with. It's a card that most people will ignore for standard, even though it's P/T  when transformed is higher than you'd expect for the mana you'd pay.

Kruin Outlaw/Terror of Kruin Pass


Fortunately, it's a rare so it's unlikely that you'll be able to get a 6/3 with double strike in sealed, though it's entirely possible in constructed. This card is a staple for every werewolf deck. Players will win a lot of games with this card. Possibly, it should have been have a mythic. It is that powerful.

Tormented Pariah/Rampaging Werewolf


Given that it's conditional to transform, a 3/2 for four mana isn't all that exciting. Neither is a 6/4 in constructed. This card describes how the rise of the moon caused the werewolf to transform in order to fight off his tormentors. The transformed picture also has no clouds in front of the moon, meaning that everything is "clear." Take it sealed, pass on it for standard.

Daybreak Ranger/Nightfall Predator


You might not want to transform this guy if you're facing a deck with lots of flying creatures. In sealed, that would be a white-heavy deck. Transformed, it requires a red/green mana base, but it is definitely not a multi-colored creature. Fight is an interesting mechanic that appears to give a variety of colors ways to deal with creatures. The thing to consider here is that if you're going against red deck, your opponent might let you use the ability and then cast a spell to finish it off.

Gatstaf Shephard/Gastaf Howler


Intimidate makes the creature worth it in sealed. A lot of people will play werewolves to get the power boosts, but some people won't. Equipment that pumps this creature's power will let you win the race. I could see this card being useful in standard, though it will require other werewolves in play to help it out. A 3/3 by itself won't get you there, but if it's a part of a swinging horde, you'll be all right.

Mayor of Avabruck/Howlpack Alpha


This is the most efficient lord currently in standard. All the core set rares (ie, Goblin Chieftan) were nowhere near as good as this. Cast Moonmist during your turn, then put a wolf token in at your end step. At the event I went to, people were trading their promo Mayor away but keeping their wolf token. I suppose if people had just gotten their wolf token as a promotional card, they would not have been disappointed. Innistrad is the first pre-release in quite a while where a rare and not a mythic rare was given. It is foil on both sides.

For standard, it's the card that makes the werewolf deck work. If you choose to run Sword of Body and Mind, you'll get more wolf tokens that way as well. In sealed, it's also a good card as it supports itself, though it will tell your opponent that you're running as many werewolves as you can.

Villagers of Estwald/Howlpack of Estwald


A 4/6 for 3 mana is very good indeed. With the Mayor, it will be 5/7, which might make this card playable in a werewolf deck. In sealed, it is mostly useful as a blocker as there are not many creatures with 6 power or more. It's also another good card for a Doran deck, if you're willing to try it out that way.

All in all, the R/G deck is an aggro strategy. As with the Scars block, Wizards is pushing a specific color combination. Fortunately, it is now one for which there are already dual lands to support it. The face of standard is going to change, and that's definitely not a bad thing after blue/white got all the low cost powerful cards. With werewolves, there is now another strategy to win the game quickly through beatdown. Timmy players, Innistrad is for you.


I wonder if mayor/howlpack by StealthBadger at Mon, 09/26/2011 - 06:02
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I wonder if mayor/howlpack might be playable in some kind of U/G control deck? I'm basically thinking of dropping the mayor, and then playing nothing much except countermagic. The fact that you will barely ever be playing anything on your own turn should mean it flips fairly consistently, and once it does, it will work a bit like goyf, in that it's a 2-mana guy who should win the game single handedly.

I think it's an idea worth fiddling with anyway (and I will definitely be naming the deck ROAR-go!).

I only had a couple of flippers in my sealed pool, but gastaf shepherd was the nuts for me all day. Villagers of estwald was very meh, there are plenty of high toughness guys in this set, and it spent most of it's time crashing into fortress crabs.

Civilized scholar is nuts in sealed, so I completely disagree with you there. The flipping is randomly useful, but I think you're evaluating a deck trying to flip it, when most times I saw it in play people were avoiding flipping it. The trick is to use it at the end of the opponent's 2nd main, so if you flip it into the silly 5/1, it will immediately flip back during the end step.

Unfortunately, countering a by smack8001 at Mon, 09/26/2011 - 08:54
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Unfortunately, countering a spell on your opponents turn flips the Mayor back down on your turn, so he'll never get the token. EDIT: He flips if one player played 2 spells, my mistake. You're right.

The Bloodline Keeper shouldn't have been printed, imo. Even without the transform ability he's undercosted. He makes an army for free and then makes it huge.

I hope they print more transform cards in the next 3 sets. For all the controversy, they were really fun on release day and it would be a shame if this card type stopped getting support after only a dozen in existence.

Flip Cards by Fred1160 at Mon, 09/26/2011 - 10:05
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The flip cards weren't as bad as some people thought they would be, but
they definitely were clunky. This was especially noticeable if someone
forgot to flip the cards back and resleeve them prior to the next game/match.
I have to take up for Thraben Sentry/Thraben Militia. The one I had was a
house all day. It made for a great combat trick with Stitcher's Apprentice.
Attack with the Sentry as a 2/2, then use the Apprentice's ability and flip the
Sentry after blockers have been assigned. It just wrecked people every time
I did it. (By the way, the Apprentice's ability paired very nicely with my two
Unruly Mobs.)

Good Analysis by apaulogy at Mon, 09/26/2011 - 10:45
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I would have like to see how you actually rated it. I think your talking points are fine, but rating on a scale of 1-5 or something for each card would have been helpful to see what you mean by "awesome". I think rating in terms of the limited environment would have been fine too.

Also, Mayor of Avarbuck seems like the nuts in both...

Nice job.

Thanks. by KaraZorEl at Mon, 09/26/2011 - 15:21
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If it's in 1 to 5, 5 being highest, Instigator Gang gets 5/5. It's better than Garruk for aggro strategies, though you'll want both if you can manage it.

RG Werewolves seems like a deck by apaulogy at Mon, 09/26/2011 - 16:13
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yeah, your review will help nicely when drafting this set. I can't wait for it to be on mtgo.

"Blue also gets Trample at by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 09/26/2011 - 23:34
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"Blue also gets Trample at last, proving that blue will get everything magic ever had."

Blue has trample since 1994. There have been already 10 mono-blue creatures with trample. More than white.

"Fight is an interesting mechanic that appears to give a variety of colors ways to deal with creatures."

Err, Fight is the new keyword defining a classic green and red mechanic. No other color ever had it (except for Arena, that was a promo-only card btw), and apparently they're not changing this since only green cards have Fight in Innistrad (Prey Upon, and that one you mentioned using a red activation). It was first introduced in 1994 (again) on the green creature Tracker.

"For those players who don't use sleeves with paper cards, it will be apparent what they have in their hand."

Do you mean while drafting? It's not about the sleeves (you can't sleeve the cards for drafting), it's a new rule, and it allows you to just hide your cards in your hand, poker-style, and piling them so that the double-faced card (they're not "flip cards", those are the Kamigawa ones) will be under another card. After you finished drafting and for constructed play, you either use opaque sleeves or the checklist card.
Transform is an Innistrad mechanic, just like Morph was an Onslaught one. There will be more transfomers in the Innistrad block, but that's it (barring some future Time Spiral-like, "blast from the past" block).

It seems to me like you are giving a lot of trust to the fact that a werewolf will be already transformed on your next turn. It doesn't transform on the first opponent upkeep, since you have casted at least one spell in your turn (the werewolf!), and it will transform on your upkeep only if the opponent didn't cast anything during his turn. Unless you're planning to have a Moonmist in hand every time. :)

I like Ludevic's Test Subject but just as a Timmy card. It requires for you to put 12 mana in it, and at the end you get a creature vulnerable to every spot and mass removal in existence (including the ones that affect 0cc cards). The opponent will be very happy to see you put all that effort on a defender, while waiting for your final activation with a Dismember in hand. :)

Maybe not for standard, but.. by KaraZorEl at Tue, 09/27/2011 - 07:40
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In sealed, it happened all the time where I would cast a spell (the werewolf) and my opponent couldn't cast anything. Or, if they did cast something, it might have been a spell they didn't want to cast. Werewolves control the game by forcing players to empty their hands, which is the most significant advantage in standard.

I guess if I was playing the blue trampler I would use Swiftfoot Boots. That's a card that I think ought to be in every aggro/beat down deck in standard.

Johnny says there is a UG by Paul Leicht at Tue, 09/27/2011 - 08:54
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Johnny says there is a UG combo with Xenograft and Moonmist that makes it a bit easier to transform. :D (Not that it is not still convoluted at +7cmc)

Fight by cocheese at Sat, 10/01/2011 - 11:22
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Vein Drinker has fight, she is black

I could easily see that card by KaraZorEl at Sat, 10/01/2011 - 15:40
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I could easily see that card getting reprinted in Innistrad.