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By: gwyned, gwyned
Apr 05 2016 10:00am
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I. Introduction

In just a few short weeks, Standard Pauper will return to the plane of Innistrad, where humanity is beset by dark powers and where even the forces of light that had protected them in the past have now been corrupted by evil. If you're looking for superb analysis of this set's impact on Limited and Standard, I'm afraid you've clicked the wrong link. Instead, it is the purpose of this article to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. Double face cards and the Madness mechanic return to the format, alongside the graveyard focused Delirium, the mysterious artifacts known as Clue tokens, and the evasive ability Skulk, so it's probably good to have a solid grasp on all of these mechanics in Shadows over Innistrad. For the purpose of this article, I will be looking at all of the White and Blue Commons, examine the Black and Red Commons next time, and finish off with Green and Colorless cards in Part Three.

If you've read my previous set reviews, you should be familiar with my methodology. Rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead note each card as falling into one of four categories: "hit," for those cards that define an entire archetype or will (almost) always be played in a particular color; "grounder," which are cards that should see play in at least one archetype but won't always make the cut; "bunt," which are cards that are only borderline playable; and "myth," which are cards that should almost never be played. As always, special thanks to ChannelFireball which inspired my original "hit or myth" rating system. But enough about all that - on to the cards!

II. White Commons

1. Apparently White too now gets access to sacrifice enabled removal such as Bone Splinters. In this case though, Angelic Purge is a significant upgrade, given that it can not only target any non-land permanent printed at Common, but also allows you to sacrifice any of your cards in play (including Lands) and permanently gets rid of the threat. You're essentially giving up a card plus your worst permanent for your opponent's biggest threat, while also giving you a way to help enable Delirium. Granted, it is at Sorcery speed and is card disadvantage, but the sheer power and versatility of this card shouldn't be underestimated. I'm not sure where the ceiling on this card is, but at its worst it is still pretty good.

Verdict: Grounder - I can't imagine you would purge this from almost any deck playing White.

2. Apothecary Geist seems reasonable at first glance. While in the past White has gotten 2/3 Flyers for one mana cheaper, if you control another Spirit that extra mana is paying out an additional 3 Life, which is pretty reasonable. Such incidental Lifegain has proven to be better than it looks time and time again in the format, so it shouldn't be ignored. Unfortunately, with the exception of the mediocre Ghostly Sentinel, all of the Spirits in White come from this set, and even including every color only brings the total up to nine. Clearly this card alone isn't enough motivation to make you play other Spirits, and that decision certainly has a big impact on how good this card ends up being.

Verdict: Bunt - I geist this is okay, but it doesn't really excite me.

3. Cathar's Companion is an interesting card. For one additional mana, you get an Oreskos Swiftclaw with a built-in Ephemeral Shields that can be activated by casting any non-creature spell. In any Prowess style deck where you're strategy is to cast a lot of such spells, this card will be difficult for your opponent to deal with, as its 3 Power is high enough to trade with a lot of the other creatures in the format. It's also very good with combat tricks on either offense or defense, since your opponent has to immediately deal with it in response. This style of deck has proven to be good recently, as if that trend continues, this card is definitely one I would strongly consider running.

Verdict: Grounder - This should be a fine companion, albeit only in specific types of builds.

4. Thus far these Commons have actually been fairly interesting to evaluate; unfortunately, this is not the case with Chaplain's Blessing. While the price is certainly right, that's about it. Although gaining Life in the course of casting a creature or activating an ability is often surprisingly good, spells that only gain you Life are about as bad a card as sees print, as they do nothing to change the state of the board. Granted, there may be racing scenarios where this card would make the difference between a win and a loss. But even there, it's debatable whether another creature or removal spell would have been just as good. This card doesn't even allow for the element of surprise, since it's a Sorcery. Quite simply, it's bad, and you shouldn't play it.

Verdict: Myth - I will never bless the inclusion of this card in our midst.

5. Dauntless Cathar is a card that immediately caught my eye from the full spoiler. As a 3/2 for 2W, it would already be borderline playable, if not very exciting. In this case though, you also get a 1/1 Spirit token when it dies, albeit after you pay two additional mana and exile it from your Graveyard. In a set with Delirium and other cards that care about your Graveyard, the latter cost could end up mattering more than usual, but you're still getting somewhere around a card and a half of value. While not quite as good as Mardu Hordechief or Sandsteppe Outcast, this card at least belongs in the same category. It's a shame you can't activate its ability at Instant speed, as that would easily make this a clear contender.

Verdict: Grounder - I am undaunted by having to jump through additional hoops to get its full value.

6. Devilthorn Fox is a functional reprint of Dromoka Warrior, which itself was a functional reprint of Blade of the Sixth Pride way back from Future Sight. Of course, we've also seen this card with upside, such as the very good Daring Skyjek and the somewhat mediocre Kor Castigator, so it's hard to get excited about this vanilla creature, even if it does have pretty decent stats for an aggressive White Weenie build. Granted that this is the third iteration of this card that will be present in the format, and the fact that these cards have seen very little play, I don't have very high expectations for this card either. Maybe a build exists that can take advantage of all those 3/1s, but I'm not optimistic.

Verdict: Bunt - It doesn't take a fox's cunning to see why this isn't anything to get excited about.

7. Emissary of the Sleepless joins a long line of White Common flyers for 4W, which typically are 3/3s. In this case though, you're getting a more defensive 2/4, but one that also has the ability to gain an additional point of both Power and Toughness in the form of a 1/1 Spirit token. As we saw back in Innistrad, the requirement of getting a creature to die is one that is fairly routine, so most of the time you should be able to cast this for full value. Still, I don't think I'd want to pay 4W even for a 3/5 flyer, and while splitting that up among two creatures is better than that most of the time, this still isn't a very big payoff for your five mana. So while this card is fine, it's not anything special.

Verdict: Bunt - You shouldn't lose sleep over whether or not to play this card.

8. We've increasing seen these White anthem effects gradually getting cheaper than the original Inspired Charge, with Ethereal Guidance as the latest in this progression. In this case, you're trading one White mana for the restriction of casting it only at Sorcery speed, which isn't really a deal-breaker in aggressive White decks that typically want this type of card. Interesting enough, this is almost a reprint of Righteous Charge, an Uncommon from Gatecrash, which would seem to indicate that this three mana variant may become the more dominant version for future sets. In any case, while this card has its place within a specific archetype, it's marginal enough to rarely see play outside of it.

Verdict: Bunt - Most of the time I would guide you away from playing this card.

9. Expose Evil is very nearly a reprint of Repel the Darkness from Rise of the Eldrazi. It's one mana cheaper to cast, but requires to spend two more mana later in order to draw the card. As we go into the format, it will be interesting to see how useful the Clue tokens generated by Investigate prove to be. With the lone exception of Artificer's Epiphany, there aren't any cards in the format that care about whether or not you have an Artifact in play. But getting the ability to cycle for 2 at Instant speed to draw a card will generally be a pretty efficient way to utilize extra mana, without giving your opponent much of an incentive to use hate against them. As such, effects like Expose Evil should prove playable if not exciting.

Verdict: Grounder - This is useful enough it should get some exposure in the format in the right decks.

10. Inquisitor's Ox is our first card with Delirium, but you don't get much incentive to actually satisfy its requirements. It is strictly better than the classic Pillarfield Ox, giving you a free extra point of Toughness and the potential to boost it to a 3/5 with Vigilance. A 3/5 is certainly difficult enough to interact with in combat, and enabling Vigilance means that you can utilize it as both a solid attacker and blocker. Most of the time though, White plays more of an aggressive role rather than control in Standard Pauper, which makes me hesitant to recommend this too highly. But in a more typical Blue White Skies archetype where you want to clog up the ground and win through the air, this might be worth considering.

Verdict: Bunt - I am still questioning whether or not this card is good or not.

11. Inspiring Captain is a virtual reprint of Ampryn Tactician, save that it is actually easier to cast. This card has seen very little play in the format, which is surprising given that a 3/3 for 3W is certainly playable and the temporary "anthem" effect for all of your other creatures is also quite useful in certain scenarios. There is certainly the potential in the new metagame to generate a fair amount of tokens, and so a Boros or Selesnya token build doesn't seem out of the question. In that style deck, this card would certainly be at its best. But even in a more typical deck that includes White, you could certainly do far worse than to include this card. It may not be exciting, but it's certainly playable.

Verdict: Grounder - Maybe this will be enough to inspire some new token builds in Standard Pauper.

12. Rarely is equipment printed at Common any good, so Militant Inquisitor almost always will be a vanilla 2/3 for 3, which is barely playable in the format. The only possible exception is to pair this with True-Faith Censer from this set, which for 2 mana to cast and 2 mana to equip gives you a 5/4 with Vigilance that you've invested seven mana into total. But even on the turn that this or another Equipment enters the battlefield this becomes a 3/3, which is efficient enough to be worth considering in most White Weenie builds. However, the fact that you have to include Equipment at all in your deck to make this good is a pretty big price to pay, and even with the Censer I am uncertain the payoff is good enough.

Verdict: Bunt - I remain militant against best-case scenarios that make this seem better than it is.

13. Even in Standard Pauper, vanilla 2/2 for 2 like Moorland Drifter aren't generally good enough to see play. Unlike most such cards, however, this is better as a late game draw, since a 2/2 flyer is rarely irrelevant at any stage of the game. If a dedicated build exists centered around Delirium and Madness that includes White can emerge in the format, this card would certainly have a role to play in such a deck, as a 2/2 flyer for 2 is always a welcome addition. But such a build seems to require at least three colors, which will be quite difficult in a format without access to Common multicolored Lands. As such, I don't think this card will ever play a big role in the format, even if it is at least playable.

Verdict: Bunt - This could drift in and out of popularity pretty easily.

14. Puncturing Light is a reprint from Rise of the Eldrazi, where it was fairly weak given the larger than typical creatures that existed in that set. But now, in a format where cheap, Instant speed removal is a rarity, this card could easily become the dominant White removal spell of choice. While there will be situations where your opponent is able to save their creature by boosting its Power above 3, at the worst you're still trading card for card while keeping equal in tempo thanks to this card's cheap cost. You should probably be playing this in almost any deck that has access to White mana, even if you do rarely have to side it out when faced with an opponent with unusually large creatures.

Verdict: Hit - This premium removal spell should pierce many a creature in the format.

15. We've seen cheap tappers in White such as Gideon's Lawkeeper disappear from Standard Pauper, which makes Stern Constable a welcome surprise. Of course, having to discard a card every time you want to activate its ability would be a huge liability, save that this card is printed in a format where you're actively looking for ways of getting cards into the Graveyard. Obviously this is a great combination with Madness cards, giving you a decent effect while allowing you to cast your cards for their alternate cost at will. However, clearly that is a pretty major setup cost, and outside of that specific archetype, this card goes from solid to bad pretty quickly. It's narrow, but within that scope it could be strong.

Verdict: Bunt - I would sternly advise you not to play this card in most builds, but there will be exceptions.

16. Strength of Arms is our second card that rewards you for playing Equipment, which is still a tough sell given how generally mediocre Equipment is at Common. Of course, a one mana combat trick that gives your creature +2 / +2 is already borderline playable in a very aggressive build. And if you can reliably activate the secondary ability, this card becomes a very useful trick indeed, not only giving you a temporary boost in combat but a permanent 1/1 token as well. It remains to be seen whether Equipment is once again viable in the format, but this card certainly seems to be pushing us in that direction. I'm not optimistic, but it certainly is worth testing once the set is released.

Verdict: Bunt - Even at its strongest, this is good but not amazing.

17. We've come a long way from Gods Willing, which was probably one of the best White protection spells to see print in a long time at Common. But Survive the Night is a decent analog, albeit one that you're paying quite a bit of mana for. The Power boost often won't be relevant, and having to hold up three mana to allow your creature to sidestep most removal is pretty expensive. But at least as long as the card resolves it will almost definitely replace itself at some point. If this was one mana cheaper, I would be a lot more excited about this card. After all, compared to Gods Willing, you're essentially paying five times the cost for worse protection and drawing a whole card, rather than the equivalent of only half a card with Scry.

Verdict: Bunt - This may survive in the format, but I'm not happy about it.

18. Thraben Inspector pushes the boundary even further for what you can expect for a one mana creature. It actually puts two permanents into play; granted, neither of them are very good. A 1/2 is pretty mediocre, and of course the Clue Token merely allows you to cycle it next turn for a card. In a dedicated token build, this might actually have some use, since it can best overcome the mediocre body of this card and often is looking for some cheap ways to draw additional cards. And in a pinch, it does provide a chump blocker while allowing you to dig deeper into your deck to find a needed answer. All of these effects are fairly minor and barely worth a whole card, but it does give you enough value to save this from being absolutely worthless.

Verdict: Bunt - On closer inspection, this really isn't all that good.

19. The Unruly Mob returns from original Innistrad, but finds itself in a new format where there is less emphasis on actually killing creatures and more emphasis on getting cards to the Graveyard in other ways. This does play well with decks that can generate a lot of tokens, and in that case also has great synergy with Angelic Purge. But given the fact that you're starting off with a 1/1 for 2, the first creature that dies barely pushes this into the category of being playable, and it will take several more activations before you're really getting much value out of this. Overall I think this will be worse in this environment than it was back in original Innistrad, and even there it was decent but rarely good.

Verdict: Bunt - Don't let nostalgia let your card evaluation skills run wild.

20. Vessel of Ephemera is part of a Common cycle of Enchantments that you sacrifice for a color-centric effect. In this case, you're investing 5 mana over two different turns to create two 1/1 flying Spirit tokens. Even better, you can activate this at Instant speed, not only enabling this as an on-board combat trick but also protecting it from your opponent's Enchantment hate, provided of course that you're able to hold up three mana. You wouldn't be happy paying 5 mana for 2 1/1 Spirit tokens at Instant speed, but you would gladly pay 3 mana for the exact same effect. Obviously this sits somewhere between those two scenarios, but I think it's good enough to be worth playing in most White decks.

Verdict: Grounder - The rewards this card generates should never be categorized as ephemeral.

Overall White has some solid creatures and removal spells. Angelic Purge and Puncturing Light stand out from the rest of the pack, and should be enough motivation for White to rise in popularity in the new metagame. There are also several cards that seem like they might enable some sort of White based token deck, although it is less clear that they are good enough to make such a deck truly competitive. Vessel of Ephemera is certainly the best of those, since it should be good in a variety of different decks. Finally, Cathar's Companion and Expose Evil are cards I expect will see some play going forward.

III. Blue Commons

1. For the first time that I can remember, Divination is not part of the Standard Pauper format, leaving Catalog as one of the handful of alternatives. It is an Instant, and the discard effect clearly has synergy with Madness. But assuming you have access to any Artifacts at all, Artificer's Epiphany is strictly better, since you at least have a chance of getting to keep both cards. For an additional mana, Comparative Analysis guarantees that you keep both cards, and sometimes can even be an Instant speed Divination. With the loss of Treasure Cruise, it remains to be seen what card becomes the Blue draw spell of choice. However, I strongly doubt that this card will be the answer.

Verdict: Bunt - Having catalogued all the Blue draw spells, this seems among the weaker options.

2. It's been a long time since Essence Scatter was legal in Standard Pauper, and Deny Existence now joins several other Blue conditional permission spells that have taken the place of the paradigmatic Cancel. In this case, for one extra mana, you guarantee that the creature won't activate any Graveyard synergies your opponent might be utilizing. Even more narrowly, this also enables any Eldrazi Processor effects that you might be running, although doing so of course eliminates the main rationale for playing this card in the first place. With Cancel rotating out of the format, these sorts of situational counters will be all we have access to; if that's what you're looking for, this card seems like it could be a good fit.

Verdict: Grounder - While narrow, you can't deny that this gets the job done.

3. I've always had a soft spot for 4 mana 2/4s with a special ability, and Drownyard Explorers' ability is that it lets you draw a card when it enters the virtual battlefield, even if you will typically have to wait until the following turn to pay for that additional card. In a format that includes several viable Graveyard recursion spells, the ability to cast this multiple times and draw multiple cards over the course of a long game makes this very attractive for Control builds, and its defensive stats certainly fit right into that sort of strategy. While I don't think every Blue deck will want to run a copy of this, if your strategy is to gain small edges over time in a protracted game, this seems like a great option.

Verdict: Grounder - Better players than I will no doubt explore multiple ways of abusing this.

4. Furtive Homunculus is our first Skulk creature, and as a 2/1 for 1U is the perfect candidate to evaluate this mechanic. Assuming your opponent can't remove it or utilize combat tricks to save their own creature, Skulk creatures will generally trade with an opposing creature, which is a nice benefit from this mechanic. Early on, your opponent probably will have little problem blocking it. But late in the game when you draw this off the top, there will be scenarios where it might be surprisingly hard to deal with. A 2/1 with evasion for 2 mana is very strong, and while this is certainly weaker than that, in a tempo based Blue deck, I would strongly consider including this card.

Verdict: Grounder - It's not actually all that furtive, as it definitely got my attention.

5. Ghostly Wings is a reprint from Torment, the last set to include Madness, and serves as a reasonable discard outlet to enable that particular mechanic. While it lacks the raw power of Spectral Flight, this synergy with the set's mechanics certainly makes it an attractive option. However, like all Auras, it runs the risk of enabling your opponent to get a two-for-one, either by killing the creature before the enchantment takes effect or even later at Sorcery speed. The meager boost to Power and Toughness does little to protect the enchanted creature, so you'll need to get in several times for damage and/or activate Madness multiple times to really feel like you've gotten a card's worth of value out of this.

Verdict: Bunt - I'm uncertain these ghostly wings will really hold together under pressure.

6. Gone Missing seems quite expensive, especially when compared to the similar Whisk Away that is rotating out of Standard. You're paying 5 mana, at Sorcery speed, to virtually blank your opponent's next draw step and temporarily remove their greatest threat. Granted, you do get to draw a card as well on a subsequent turn. But whatever you target with this card had better cost at least 5 mana, as otherwise you're setting up a major tempo disadvantage for yourself. It is interesting that this card can target any permanent (including Lands), but in the vast majority of cases you'll be targeting an opponent's creature, since that is by far the most common threat. This type of ability has always been potent, but in this case it's also really expensive.

Verdict: Bunt - Blue mages will certainly be missing having access to cheaper versions of this effect.

7. In a set where Prowess-type effects were at their best, a card like Jace's Scrutiny might be an attractive option. You essentially prevent one creature from dealing damage that turn, and gain the ability to draw a replacement card somewhere down the line. But this type of effect has always been pretty marginal, and didn't even make the cut in the popular Izzet Prowess archetype that dominated the format last season. So while the ability to replace itself is nice, unless you're reliably using this as a combat trick to remove an opponent's creature and subsequently drawing a card, this isn't giving you enough value to make it worth including in your deck. And even then, it's arguable that you have better options at your disposal.

Verdict: Bunt - Any card that cycles isn't complete garbage, but this just doesn't hold up to close scrutiny.

8. Just the Wind is our first Madness card, and is a pretty typical Common effect. Bouncing a target creature at Instant speed for 1U is quite playable, and its cheap Madness cost means it's the perfect answer to an opponent who's attacking you with discard effects. However, you aren't really gaining much by forcing yourself to discard this, and the effect itself is pretty marginal except in some specific set of circumstances, such as when an opponent doubles blocks or when you use it to counter other spells cast on a particular creature. Still, this would be playable even without its secondary effect, so in some ways Madness is just icing on the cake. You should reasonably expect to play this in most Blue decks, although it may start in the Sideboard.

Verdict: Hit - The way the wind is blowing, this is just good enough to include as a "Hit."

9. Lamplighter of Selhoff is really just a 3/5 for 5 mana, which is about on par with what you would expect out of a vanilla creature in Blue. It's certainly a nice bonus that you get to "loot" when it enters the virtual battlefield, but even that is conditional on you controlling at least one other Zombie, of which there are certainly plenty in the format. But Blue typically isn't looking for big dumb ground creatures, especially not ones that cost 5 mana, and other colors simply have access to better creatures for similar costs. If this had some sort of evergreen ability it might be worth considering in the right deck, but as is I see very little reason you would want to include this in your deck.

Verdict: Myth - Sell these off, burn them for light, and find better creatures to play.

10. Unlike Just the Wind, Nagging Thoughts gives you some incentive for trying to activate its Madness cost, since it allows you to pair it with a discard outlet and cast it when you otherwise would not be able to. Although this card itself is worded in such a way as to avoid making you discard the unwanted card, in all other ways this is superior to Catalog, since for one mana cheaper you still end up with one card in your hand and one in your Graveyard. This is also a great card to include in your deck if you're up against an opponent utilizing discard effects, although I suspect such strategies will wane with Shadows over Innistrad in the format now. Overall this is a nice little effect, but not anything particularly powerful.

Verdict: Grounder - I have a nagging suspicion that this card is either better or worse than I think it is.

11. Niblis of Dusk is a functional reprint of Jeskai Windscout, a card which didn't see much play even in dedicated Prowess builds. In my estimation, this was simply a matter of better cards being available; with the rotation of Standard, I suspect that many players will give this card a second look. Its biggest weakness is its meager 1 Toughness, but since any Instant serves to protect it against spells like Boiling Earth. Additionally, there are a few cards that reward you for playing other Spirits, so that is also a point in this card's favor. Overall I would say that while there isn't anything particularly impressive here, this card is solid enough that I suspect it will see play in the upcoming metagame.

Verdict: Grounder - I think this is the dawn, not the dusk, of this card's presence in the format.

12. Pieces of the Puzzle is an interesting variant of Divination, in that it is a 3 mana Blue sorcery that draws you two cards. In this case, however, those two cards must be Instants or Sorceries, and you actually have to reveal a total of five cards and place the rest in your Graveyard. This is a nice enabler for Delirium, but since you don't actually discard the unchosen cards, it doesn't synergy at all with Madness, which is certainly too bad (although that potentially might have been too strong for a Common). As is, your deck would have to be playing an extremely high percentage of Instants and Sorceries for this to reliably draw you two cards. And that fact alone is enough to make this a card you should probably avoid.

Verdict: Myth - No matter how you assemble the pieces, this doesn't really do anything good.

13. Press for Answers is a close variation of Crippling Chill. It's one mana cheaper to cast, but can only be cast at Sorcery speed, and you don't get the additional card until after you pay an additional two mana at some point later. With multiple of this type of effect now in the format, the bar is set pretty high for any particular spell to make the cut. In a highly tempo oriented strategy, I think I would prefer Send to Sleep, while in a more controlling build Rush of Ice still seems to be better. While neither of those spells draw you a card, the additional upside they bring with them more than makes up for that lack, at least in my estimation. And for whatever it's worth, Crippling Chill is also clearly better.

Verdict: Bunt - If you press me for an answer, my rating has everything to do with the cards already available.

14. Seagraf Skab should immediately remind you of Maritime Guard from Magic Origins, since it's a functional reprint of that card. In a format where Horned Turtle defines what a solid Blue defensive creature looks like, Seagraf Skab is about on par. The problem, however, is that Blue typically has better defensive options at its disposal, so unless the creature type matters, there is very little incentive to play a vanilla creature like this. And even in Shadows over Innistrad, there is only one card that cares whether or not you're playing other Zombies, and it's pretty much a stinker of a card anyway. Given all that, I don't think it's unfair to simply label this as unplayable and move on.

Verdict: Myth - Treat this like you would any other skaab; just rip it off and throw it away.

15. Silburlind Snapper is our Sea Serpent variant for the format. As a 6/6 for 6 it's very reasonably costed, and the requirement to cast a non-creature spell if you want to attack with it should be relatively easy to pull off. But the problem is that at the end of the day this is just a big dumb beater that your opponent can easily just chump block, especially since you can't count on being able to attack with it consistently in the late game. Still, it's excellent on defense, and big enough to dodge a lot of different kinds of removal in the format. Cheat this out early or give it some evasion, and you certainly can put your opponent on a very fast clock. That said, big dumb creatures don't often fare well in the format.

Verdict: Bunt - In a snap decision, I would still just leave this buried in the virtual binder.

16. Silent Observer immediately brought to mind Monastery Flock, which when flipped over from being a Morph was essentially an 0/5 for 4. While I did see Monastery Flock on occasion, for the most part it was not seen as being a very good card, and there is very little about Silent Observer that makes it superior. Yes, it can actually attack for damage without any additional help; yes, it is a Spirit, which can enable certain other cards. But for 4 mana there are a whole host of creatures just in Blue that are clearly superior to this card. Like Seagraf Skab, this is essentially a Limited filler card that has absolutely no place in a Constructed format, even an all-Common one like Standard Pauper.

Verdict: Myth - See how bad a card has to be to earn the worst possible rating!

17. Sleep Paralysis is almost strictly worse than Claustrophobia (since technically it's easier to cast with only one colored mana symbol), and has the dubious honor of being twice as expensive as Narcolepsy, which is the gold standard by which this sort of effect at Common will always be judged. It is very unusual for a deck to only lightly splash Blue, so most decks in the format will gladly pay the double Blue cost of Claustrophobia rather than having to pay four mana for the exact same effect. And of course, if you're also playing White, Black, or Red, you already have access to several better options when it comes to removal. As such, this is not a card I suspect will see play anytime soon.

Verdict: Myth - I'm paralyzed with the fear that Blue removal will continue to be this bad.

18. Anybody remember Man-o'-War? Stitched Mangler is as close to that card as we've seen since the excellent AEther Adept. It's not quite that good, since this card enters the battlefield tapped, and rather than bouncing the creature it simply tap its down until your opponent's second untap step. But even with those caveats, this is still a very good card, especially with the extra point of Toughness. In any tempo based Blue strategy, this card should play a key role, helping to keep your opponent's creatures out of the way as you swing in each turn for the win. While this strategy wasn't quite competitive in the most recent metagame, this card alone should strongly push it back to the forefront.

Verdict: Hit - With this in your deck, you should be able to stitch together all sorts of winning scenarios.

19. Stormrider Spirit is a functional reprint of Spire Monitor from New Phyrexia that has the added benefit of being a more beneficial creature type for this particular format. In a dedicated Control build utilizing lots of permission spells, having the ability to cast a creature at the end of your opponent's turn when you didn't find anything better to do with your mana is definitely a powerful option. As a 3/3, it's also powerful enough to tangle with most of the other flyers in the format and come out on top. So while five mana may seem like a lot to pay for a 3/3, the ability to cast it either at end of turn or even as a combat trick makes this card well worth considering in the right type of deck.

Verdict: Grounder - Casting this out of nowhere certainly can bring down your opponent's spirits.

20. Vessel of Paramnesia is part of a Common cycle of Enchantments that you sacrifice for a color-centric effect. In this case, you force either you or your opponent to mill themselves for three cards, then you draw a card. Again, it's important to remember that putting cards into your Graveyard is not discarding them, so this doesn't activate Madness. But it certainly could help enable Delirium or other effects that care about the Graveyard. Even in the worst case scenario, you're essentially cycling this card for three mana, which certainly isn't the worst. I strongly doubt there's enough cards to support a true mill win condition, but it's possible this will find a home in a particular archetype.

Verdict: Bunt - I confess to being a bit confused as to whether this card is fantasy or reality.

Blue looks a lot less consistent than White when it comes to the overall power level of the cards. On the one hand, Blue has some noticeable bad cards like Seagraf Skab, Silent Observer, and Sleep Paralysis. On the other hand, Just the Wind and Stitched Mangler will probably prove to be quite important to the format. Other cards worth paying attention to include Deny Existence, Drownyard Explorers, Niblis of Dusk, and Stormrider Spirit. I don't think there's enough here to make a true Mono Blue Control deck viable, but there's certainly some great support cards here, particularly for Control archetypes.

IV. Conclusion

So that's my first look at the Blue and White Commons from Shadows over Innistrad. In closing, let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at over on Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. You can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Finally, I am the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 6:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room.

See you again soon for the next installment of  my Standard Pauper review of Shadows over Innistrad!


Great Start! by ComixWriter at Tue, 04/05/2016 - 12:13
ComixWriter's picture

I cannot believe that it's time for another set review. gwyned!

While the baseball analogies seem odd to discuss cards, I'm more comfortable with the wider range of ratings.

I think this new set offers much more synergy than our past set(s) because of buried synergies. I don't think players will make the best 'madness' decks just by shoving in all cad with 'madness' or 'discard' together.

For example, I imagine how Stern Constable and Dauntless Cathar become more valuable within a 'madness' shell that considers white, too. What happens when the Vessels cycle gets popped on our opponent's turn? Does this make enchantments any better, because of timing? Does adding two 1/1 'spirits' at flash speed matter for anything?

Do we get any new 'commons' reprinted at 'uncommon?'

IF Standard Pauper now evolves from the loss of the filter to include standard-format uncommons that were printed as commons at one point in history, we need to consider, evaluate, and rate Reckless Scholar, too. I feel we need to remind potential players of this unique twist to the format at every opportunity. Would you consider editing your evaluations to consider this card, or will you evaluate these upshifted cards in another review article?

Again, I am very excited for the new set. As I develop my own new decks for the non-Treasure Cruise/no dual lands future, I am interested to see how you may evaluate cards in a vacuum.

Beyond Set Evaluations by ComixWriter at Tue, 04/05/2016 - 12:34
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This comment takes this post in another possible direction. I'd like to pitch the idea to visitors here, too.

Problem: We lack the historical attendance that Pauper Deck Challenges typically generates. This may hinder our opportunity to give away generous prizes for this free-entry weekly event.

Possible Solution: Could we, as a community filled with writers, podcasters, and experienced players, create sample decklists based on the current metagame?

WotC already helps new players explore their new card mechanics with introductory decks. We already should anticipate (pun intended) how Izzet Prowess may still be a viable strategy. What does it look like now? What are JUST TWO possible mind-blowing synergies or interactions with that deck? What is its one glaring aegis, err, weakness? What are JUST TWO serious sideboard considerations for this deck to consider? What is the KEY card(s) in the deck?

How does any current standard pauper player deal with the loss of dual lands that that accursed incremental life gained? What defines an 'aggro' deck when players still feel groggy over the longer, grinding midgame that lasted for months? How good is madness in this set, compared to our past experience with madness? Is delirium really a viable strategy? Can humans punch an archetype worthy of a Top 4 finish (or better?)

While I don't want to rob others of deckbuilding experiences, I think having a few 'pre-made' decks (including each primary color or mechanic, as determined by the deck creator) may gives NEWER or returning players a leg up on competition. Need a deck for today's tournament, but weren't able to playtest one yourself? Grab one of the deck ideas and build it, or improve on it with insights you deem important! If people didn't ALREADY copy winning decks, this suggestion would be moot. I think a post (<500 words) that describes the deck choices, their values, and a couple of tips may make for 1) more players playing decks that they can already use, 2) greater innovations based on the blueprint of the pre-made deck, and 3) yet another opportunity to educate current or new players about standard-format uncommons that we include as commons.

You've already done mini deck reviews like this idea on your writeradept blog, gwyned. For example, BW Warriors was a great post that described how and why that deck was successful. Is it perfect? No. Is our evaluation of any deck perfect? No. I contend that other players who copied my Eldrazi Groundspawner deck performed worse than I ever did with it because I literally logged over a hundred games with it (MTGO and paper); I knew when to sacrifice a scion for mana, and when it would be a chump blocker only. I knew what to do when Impact Tremors was never drawn. I could (and would be more than willing) to describe this deck for the current metagame, because we still have that enchantment and still have a lot of tokens in red and green.

I'll pitch Eldrazi Groundspawner as an aggro deck using red and green, and could email that decklist artile by end of week, if interested. What other decks might we expect? Can we prepare our players with maybe 5 or 6 different SUGGESTED metagame archetypes before the start of the new season? I think having decks posted with commentary about them also is healthy; I'd love for Alex Ullman to offer his suggestion about what green cards I chose, and why another one he saw may be better (and why). Thanks for considering my ideas.

Thanks for sharing your by gwyned at Tue, 04/05/2016 - 13:29
gwyned's picture

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm not sure about the "uncommons as commons" issue yet, so nothing to say about that just yet. I love the idea of trying to make it easier for new players to break into the format.

Upshifted Cards by ComixWriter at Tue, 04/05/2016 - 14:59
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Unless I missed something, our pool of upshifted rarity cards now includes:

Arc Lightning (Khans of Tarkir) and Pyrotechnics (Fate Reforged)

The token generator within me rejoiced until I saw Dual Shot, and remembered Twin Bolt survives rotation.

Cruel Revival
Death Wind
Fiery Conclusion
Grasp of Darkness
Knightly Valor
Pilgrim's Eye
Rolling Thunder
Runed Servitor
Sigiled Starfish
Strider Harness
Totem-Guide Hartebeest

Reckless Scholar
Lightning Axe
Mad Prophet

So, red lost two direct damage spells, but got two cards that contribute to a madness mechanic (and one is STILL a direct damage spell); we've three madness effects if considering blue's sole contribution to the new available cards.

No cards currently printed at rare rarity were ever once printed as common cards.

OBSERVATION: Magic Origins gave us a lot of generic upshifted commons to consider. When it rotates, we lose 50%+ of the available upshifted cards. I contend that this season will host the most amount of upshifted cards we will ever need to consider in our possible pool. I think we will see more of a couple upshifted commons per set, and that these cards will contribute to existing set mechanics to enhance play with said mechanics. For example, Pilgrim's Eye's inclusion in a set that offered a above-average instances of different mana fixing seemed logical. Scholars and Prophets and Axes aid the madness mechanic, and this makes sense with the newest set. With nods to artifacts and equipment in the current format, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bonesplitter reprinted as an UNcommon card in the next set, for example.

ComixWriter's picture

With all of the hype over the delirium creature, it takes significantly more cards to activate than the Militant Inquisitor. Given how two equipment has ZERO cmc, they drop while breaking open clues. For sheer scaling, I think the Human Cleric outshines even a decent fungus. We still live in a world where Celestial Flare, Pacifism, and now Puncturing Light make an investment into fungi VERY expensive.

However, green also has Rabid Bite, and Conifer Strider is still around...let's see what green may have to trump the inquisitor!

I really look forward to seeing your write-ups, gwyned. Thank you.