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By: gwyned, gwyned
Apr 18 2016 11:00am
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I. Introduction

As of this writing, Shadows over Innistrad has officially released on Magic Online, plunging us into a world 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 before continuing with this review. In Part One, I analyzed all of the White and Blue Commons. Last time in Part Two, I took up my review of the Black and Red Commons. And so with this article I will finish off my set review with the Green and Colorless card and then conclude with some final thoughts on the set as a whole.

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. Green Commons

1. The Green Commons start off with Aim High, a combat trick in keeping with Green's need to deal with an opponent's pesky flyers. For 1G, you get a reasonable +2 / +2 bonus and Reach, plus the benefit of untapping the targeted creature. The latter effect is particularly nice, since it will often allow you to block in a way that your opponent would not expect. The problem here, though, is that this card is outclassed by others already in the cardpool for the exact same price. Plummet continues to be the gold standard of Green removal for flyers, with Aerial Volley being a secondary choice in some situations. Similarly, Titanic Growth gives you double the amount of Power and Toughness. Until those cards rotate, there is little to recommend this one.

Verdict: Bunt - It's not too difficult to aim higher than this one.

2. Byway Courier is surprisingly solid. A 3/2 for 2G is only worse than Centaur Courser and its variants, which in the past have been decent in Green aggressive strategies. But the fact that you get to replace this when it dies makes this excellent value, even if you do have to pay an additional 2 mana to generate that replacement card. If you had to pay the full 4G upfront, obviously this card would be much worse. But the fact that you can wait until you have unspent mana to cash in for the extra card goes a long way towards making the full price much more reasonable. As such, I would expect this to almost always see play in most decks with access to Green, and particularly in more aggressive versions.

Verdict: Grounder - By the way this looks, my message to you is to play this often.

3. Clip Wings is quite an unusual card. While it is not unheard of to see "edict" effects in both White and Black, I cannot remember ever seeing one in Green before. It is also unusual to see two cards dedicated to Green's typical anti-Flying role at Common. But like Aim High, the real detriment to this card is the fact that Plummet is still legal in Standard, which has the same casting cost and speed but also allows you to select which creature you wish to destroy. And while Clip Wings does sidestep some forms of creature protection, that advantage is negated by the increased number of flying tokens in this set. While this might be an interested card in multiplayer, I don't expect to see much of it in Standard Pauper.

Verdict: Bunt - This card doesn't seem likely to get off the ground.

4. Confront the Unknown depends entirely on how good Clue tokens end up being in the format, and specifically on how often you have multiples of them waiting to be cashed in. At its worst, this card allows you to pay 2 at some late point to replace it while also granting the targeted creature +1 / +1. On the other end of the scale, if you already have two or more Clues prior to casting this, you're getting pretty decent value for you combat trick. Of course, that seems like a lot of work just to make this card decent, and the fact that most Green based decks often won't have the available mana to sacrifice a high number of Clue tokens makes me reluctant to recommend this card.

Verdict: Bunt - I'll admit this card's power is unknown, but I'm still not optimistic.

5. Equestrian Skill is one of the largest Auras we've seen in the format in some time, granting a very hefty +3 / +3 to its target. Trample is somewhat unusual at Common, and combined with such a large increase in Power is certainly desirable. However, it must be mentioned that there aren't that many Humans in Green in the format, meaning that you will probably have to also play White to reliably have that option. And like all Auras, this of course opens you up to multiple opportunities for your opponent to get a two-for-one, either immediately as you cast it or almost anytime subsequently. If you can use the extra Power to inflict significant damage on your opponent in that time, it might be worthwhile. But given its high cost, I don't think this gets there.

Verdict: Bunt - You'll have to be quite skilled indeed to get a card's worth of value out of this reliably.

6. It's been a long time since we had Rampant Growth in the format, and Fork in the Road doesn't quite measure up in most circumstances, since at its base value you're only adding a Land to your hand, not to the battlefield. It also thins not one but two Lands from your Library, which depending on your situation may do more harm than good. Of course, in this particular set it does have synergy with Delirium, since this is an easy way to get a Land into your Graveyard, a task which otherwise isn't that easy. It's also worth mentioning that it plays well Evolving Wilds, Warped Landscape, and Stoic Builder, for whatever that is worth. Even at its best then, it's not quite a 2-for-1, but in the right deck this might be worth considering.

Verdict: Bunt - The road leading to where this card is good is fairly narrow, but not impassable.

7. Hinterland Logger / Timber Shredder is one of two double-faced cards in Green at Common, and both sides are pretty unremarkable. For 1G, you're only getting a mediocre 2/1, and even if you manage to transform it, you're still only getting a 4/2, which will typically just trade with just about any other creature in the format. After some of the more impressive double-faced cards in original Innistrad, I had hoped we would see similar such cards in this set. Unfortunately, the four cards that made it to print at Common are pretty disappointing, and this particular card may be the worst of the bunch.

Verdict: Myth - Let's just log this as a miss and move on.

8. Intrepid Provisioner is a pretty typical 3/3 for 3G with Trample, meaning that while reasonable it's not anything too impressive. In this case though, we're getting a one-time bonus of +2 / +2 when it enters the battlefield, but only to another Human. As mentioned above, while there aren't all that many Humans in Green specifically, there are actually 59 cards in the pool with this subtype, centralized mostly in Red and White. So as long as you're not mono-Green, it should be trivial to find a reasonable target for this ability. That said, since you're only getting this ability once, this is really only worth it a fairly aggressive archetype. It will be interesting to see just how strong the synergy and support is for this 'Humans-matter' subtheme.

Verdict: Grounder - While not as intrepid as I would like, this provisionally seems like a fine addition in Green.

9. If you're looking for something big to do in Green, Kessig Dire Swine is about as large as they come at Common. It's hard to argue for much more value than a 6/6 for 4GG, especially since it's reasonable for it also to have Trample, since by that point in the game you would expect to have activated Delirium without having to work too hard at it. Whether or not these type of big, expensive creatures have Trample seems to be one of the biggest factors on whether they see play or not, which certainly is a point in this card's favor. That said, this card already has plenty of competition from both Rhox Maulers and Stampeding Elk Herd, which arguably fit better in the same slot, which doesn't bode well for its impact in the format.

Verdict: Bunt - I hate to make such dire predictions, but don't be horrified if this doesn't see much play.

10. Loam Dryad is a 1/2 creature for G that is otherwise identical to Holdout Settlement from Oath of the Gatewatch. While the ability to turn any of your creatures into a virtual Land for a turn in order to generate any color of mana has proven to be helpful (if somewhat unnecessary given all the Common Duals in the previous cardpool), this same effect seems much worse when it costs you two creatures rather than a creature and a land. This same restriction also makes it much harder to use as a source for mana ramp, despite its cheap cost. Finally, its mediocre stats as a 1/2 make it unsuitable for just about any other role. Somehow, in a card that should be both creature and land, this seems worse than either.

Verdict: Myth - While it might be fringe playable, my best advice is just to leave it a loam.

11. Might Beyond Reason is a decent combat trick that turns out to be quite expensive. Compare this to Earthen Arms, which at Sorcery speed generates the exact same effect for half the price. And while you can reasonably expect to be able to activate Delirium by the late game, Green decks that rely on these sorts of combat tricks aren't typically aren't favored when a game goes that long. Granted, you should expect to pay a premium for getting permanent counters as opposed to just a temporary boost. But for whatever reason, these sorts of effects haven't proven to be very effective in Standard Pauper, and I don't see any reason to believe that this card will fare much better.

Verdict: Bunt - I certainly have my reasons for not considering this a mighty good card.

12. If there is a card that finally offers some major payoff for activating Delirium early, Moldgraf Scavenger is that card. In Blue, a two mana 0/4 wouldn't be that out of the ordinary. But Green rarely plays such a defensive strategy. So for this card to be good, you'll need to be able to get Delirium active. The problem is, it doesn't take too long for an otherwise vanilla 3/4 to be overshadowed in the mid to late game, so it's a pretty narrow window where you can actually get Delirium active and still have this card be worth the effort it takes to get it there. Unfortunately, the reality is that while getting a 3/4 for 1G is compelling, I'm not convinced that you can reliable pull that off early enough for it to be all that relevant.

Verdict: Bunt - I'm sure someone will scavenge up a plan where this card might seem good.

13. Quilled Wolf is a strictly better version of Kraul Warrior from the Return to Ravnica block, and arguably an inferior version of Oran-Rief Invoker. While in each case you're getting a 2/2 for 1G, the activation cost is slightly lower on this card than the Invoker, but it's missing Trample, which makes the difference between letting your opponent chump block your huge investment of mana or having to take most of it to the face. Worse, with only 2 Toughness at its base, by the time you've got the mana to activate its ability, it should be trivial for your opponent to destroy it in response, again effectively wasting your investment. While in Limited these types of cards can be pretty good, that simply isn't the case in this format.

Verdict: Bunt - Don't get all prickly about this card's low rating.

14. Rapid Bite is a cheaper, color-shifted version of Tail Slash, bringing this one-sided "Fight" effect back to Green where it belongs. While this is a great effect to have in Green's arsenal, in this case it is only at Sorcery speed, which is a pretty big downside, even if it is less expensive to cast as a result. In general, these sorts of cards are at their best at Instant speed, and otherwise don't typically see much play. If you're looking for this type of effect in Green, Unnatural Aggression might remain the superior choice. Similarly, Epic Confrontation is also probably superior in most board situations. So while this particular card isn't bad on the face of it, the fact that better cards already exist in the format hurts its chances of seeing much play.

Verdict: Bunt - The overall weakness of these Green cards really bites.

15. Root Out is our Naturalize variant for Shadows over Innistrad, offering a significant advantage but also a serious downside. On the one hand, for the extra mana you do get the opportunity to replace this card for yet another two mana at some point in the future in the form of a Clue token. On the other hand, not only are you paying an additional three altogether for that replacement card, but you're also getting the initial effect at Sorcery speed. Most of the time, it's painful creature Auras that are the best target for these sort of spells, and it's those times when they effectively work out as pseudo-removal that earns them a spot in the Sideboard. Overall, I think the downsides far outweigh the small upside.

Verdict: Myth - Your best bet is just to root these out of your cardpool altogether.

16. Solitary Hunter / One of the Pack is the last of the double face cards at Common, and overall it's pretty reasonable. A 3/4 for 3G is solid if not particularly exciting, but the potential to transform it to a 5/6 is certainly a strong incentive to play this. By the stage of the game when this comes down, it's much less of a sacrifice to go a whole turn without casting spells. Even better, 6 Toughness is enough to sidestep a lot of the removal that's available in the format. It's still just a big dumb creature, but compared to most of the other Green Commons in the set, this actually looks playable.

Verdict: Grounder - In the hunt for good Green creatures, this is near the top of the pack.

17. Stoic Builder is a decent 2/3 for 2G, but what makes this card worth a second glance is its synergy with some of the other cards in the set. The ability to return Lands from your Graveyard is pretty decent value with Evolving Wilds and Warped Landscape in the format, and it's not unreasonable to assume that other effects will drop Lands there from time to time as well. This is also a Human, which plays well with Intrepid Provisioner as other effects that care about that particular creature type. Essentially, if your gameplan makes it lightly that you'll be able to take advantage of its ability when it enters the battlefield, this is pretty good value. Maybe not quite Civic Wayfinder, but not too far off either.

Verdict: Grounder - I believe there's enough value here to be worth building around.

18. Thornhide Wolves is actually a functional reprint of Blanchwood Treefolk all the way back from Urza's Saga. It should go without saying that creatures have changed a lot since then, and while it might have been a decent card back then, it's fairly suboptimal now. While a 4/5 is certainly big enough to tangle with most other creatures in the format, you're investing a lot of mana into a card that often won't be much of a threat. Without any evasion or other abilities, your opponent can often just chump-block or even double-block this. Besides, even in a Constructed format like Standard Pauper, you almost never want to find yourself playing vanilla creatures like these.

Verdict: Bunt - Sorry, these aren't the sharpest wolves in the brambles.

19. Vessel of Nascency is part of a Common cycle of Enchantments that you sacrifice for a color-centric effect. In this case, you're paying 3 mana over the course of two turns to pick one card out of the top four and put the rest into your Graveyard. This does cast a wider net than other similar effects in Green, allowing you to keep any permanent type except Instants and Sorceries. In fact, this functions quite similarly to Forbidden Alchemy, which is certainly high praise. However, like in the original Innistrad, how good this card ends up being depends highly on how much value you get out of the cards you place in your Graveyard. The potential is certainly there, but the ability to get solid value seems more difficult in this environment.

Verdict: Bunt - It's very close, but I'm not sure this is really the start of something good.

20. Watcher in the Web certainly is unique. As a 2/5 for 4G with Reach, it's only slightly better than Ancient Carp, which isn't saying anything positive about it. On the other hand, this has the unique ability to block eight creatures all by itself. Now that seems pretty mediocre, and most of the time it won't matter. However, in a tight race, or when you're facing off against a large number of tokens, that unusual ability could actually make a decisive difference in the outcome of the game. Now, none of that is to say that this card deserves a spot in your deck most of the time. But, depending on what happens in the metagame, it wouldn't be the worst play to include a couple copies of this in your Sideboard.

Verdict: Bunt - Its ability is so unique it's worth watching for environments where it could be good.

On the whole, Green looks pretty wretched, not only in comparison to the other colors, but even measured against other recent sets. Only four of the twenty cards are worth playing most of the time: Byway Courier, Intrepid Provisioner, Solitary Hunter / One of the Pack, and Stoic Builder. None of these by themselves are strong enough to make you want to actually play Green, but certainly could supplement decks built around better cards.  Vessel of Nascency is also worth a honorable mention. While I am not convinced the payoff is really available, any card worth comparing to Forbidden Alchemy is one that could prove to be better, either later in the metagame or with the release of the next set.

III. Colorless Commons

1. Explosive Apparatus is interesting as a colorless source of removal, but ultimately is probably too expensive. It does come down for only a single mana, and can deal 2 damage to either a creature or player at Instant speed. But you're paying 4 mana over the course of two turns, 3 of which must be played at the time of casting, which is at least twice as expensive as similar spells. Worse, while you can sacrifice the Artifact itself at Instant speed, you have to cast it at Sorcery speed in the first place, so your opponent always knows you have this at your disposal. With the lone exception of Artificer's Epiphany, there's no payoff to controlling an Artifact, so in the end there is very little reason for you to play this card.

Verdict: Bunt - Just pick it up and toss it back.

2. Almost anything can be a weapon in Innistrad if Shard of Broken Glass is any indication, but that doesn't mean you should be playing them. To be reasonable, equipment needs to pass two checks: 1) Is it cheap to cast and to equip?; 2) Does it significantly upgrade the equipped creature? While this card certainly passes the first check, getting a mere +1 / +0 doesn't even come close to passing the second. And the ability to mill yourself doesn't really save this card either, as there just isn't enough payoff for getting cards into your Graveyard. I just don't see any way that throwing away creatures and mana in an attempt to quickly activate Delirium is going to be a winning strategy.

Verdict: Myth - This is trash, not a weapon; don't treat it any differently.

3. Just like the previous card, we have to ask the question whether True-Faith Censer passes the checks for good Equipment. If you're attaching this to a Human, you are getting a reasonable upgrade with +2 / +1 as well as Vigilance, which just passes the second check in my opinion. The problem is, you're paying twice as much as the previous card, costing you 4 mana upfront and 2 more mana every time you move it. Now, this does have some decent synergy with both Militant Inquisitor and Strength of Arms, and in a particular White Weenie build you might actually be able to get a decent return on your investment. But even in that specific build, I am not certain that including this card would actually make that deck consistently stronger.

Verdict: Bunt - I just don't have much faith in Equipment at Common.

4. If there was some big payoff for playing Artifacts, Wicker Witch might be worth playing in that sort of deck. This has the same stats as Oreskos Swiftclaw or Devilthorn Fox. A 3/1 is actually decent for 2 mana, but in this case you're paying an extra mana because this is an Artifact creature. The only redeeming feature of this card is that because it is colorless, it has synergy with cards from the previous block like Kozilek's Sentinel that reward you for playing colorless cards. That particular archetype never proved to be quite competitive in the format, but if such a build is viable, this card would at least be worth considering in the right slot. But outside of that particular deck, there is absolutely no reason that you should be playing this.

Verdict: Bunt - No matter witch deck you put it in, it's still going to be pretty marginal.

IV. Final Thoughts

Shadows over Innistrad is our second return in a row to a beloved and familiar plane, where Wizards was charged with creating a brand new set that evokes the ethos and gameplay of the original but does so in a way that feels fresh and new. And while the final verdict will await the release of Eldritch Moon, since this is the only large set in the Block it falls to Shadows to pull off most of the heavy lifting. Unfortunately, I think the result is somewhat mixed. On the positive side, Shadows definitely evokes the same horror theme, giving us plenty of new Commons that still reflect the brave champions of light fighting against the ever encroaching darkness. Including the Madness mechanic seems to have worked well, giving us access to some solid Commons. Similarly, Clue tokens breathe new life into what are otherwise pretty typical Commons, and really help cement the theme of the set as a whole. On the other hand, Delirium seems to have missed the mark. While Flashback provided you with some amazing results if you were willing to get cards into your Graveyard, the payoff for Delirium simply isn't there. And the double face cards, several of which were quite strong at Common, are barely present at all in Shadows over Innistrad at Common, and are unlikely to have any real impact.

Now that doesn't mean that the set as a whole is bad for Standard Pauper. In fact, there are plenty of good and interesting cards, and with the rotation of Standard, I'm looking forward to seeing how the metagame evolves. But at least from the standpoint of its Commons, Shadows Over Innistrad doesn't quite live up to the experience of playing in the original Innistrad.

With that said, here are the cards I think will have the biggest going forward, in simple color order:













V. Conclusion

So with that I conclude my Standard Pauper set review of 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.


Rodman-like Rebound by ComixWriter at Mon, 04/18/2016 - 20:12
ComixWriter's picture

Thanks for the set review, gwyned. Based on your most recent blog post, I wish you a speedy recovery, too!

Does green (and really, every other color, too) suffer from TOO MUCH removal available in Standard Pauper?

In red, we have possible plays like Lightning Axe (5) + Fiery Temper (3) + Boulder Slavo (4), with numerous other direct damage spells. Go ahead and drop any three creatures of your choice by Turn 4; mono-red could kill 'em all.

In black, we have Grasp of Darkness (-4/-4), Murderous Compulsion (destroy target tapped creature), and Bone Splinters (destroy target creature), Dead Weight (-2/-2), and exiling options like Oblivion Strike, along with deathtouch.

In blue, we can return target creatures to their owner's hand, or tap 'em. Blue also hits opposing creatures' power, too. Tightening Coils is interesting for blue, for example.

In white, we have a tap-dancing partner for blue, or other options like Pacifism, Angelic Purge, Gideon's Reproach, or Puncturing Light or Celestial Flare.

The new metagame does not look friendly to creatures of any power or toughness. I suppose this set capitalizes on a graveyard-matters theme. With so much removal available in many colors, maybe trading creatures or spells makes delirium and spell mastery attractive options in a delve-free world. While aggressive decks may flourish until the metagame stabilizes, they need to have gas to survive through another possibly top-deck removal answer to a grinding finish. Lack of easy mana-fixing also suggests non-linear decks may need time to build critical mass.

I offer three observations, based on your analysis:

#1 Loam Dryad makes fantastic use of scion tokens. Essentially, Loam Dryad and Holdout Settlement allow 1/1 colorless scions (green and blue, I'm lookin' at you) to pop for TWO mana, and one of those mana will be a specific color.

#2 Wicker Witch fuels delirium easier, since it counts as TWO card type matters. Its pilot hopes that a 3-power will do some trade-damage before serving in the graveyard for fungi stuff.

#3 Watcher in the Web blocks, then gets a Touch of Moonglove. This play is quite possibly the funniest combat trick available in Standard, let alone Standard Pauper. Against tokens or any weenie rush, 8 x 2 = 16 damage...on!

Do we have too much removal now, since we allow now-uncommon-but-once-printed-as-common (i.e.: Lightning Axe) in the Standard Pauper metagame? There is only one reasonably safe creature: Confider Strider (and go look at Rabid Bite, now) with hexproof. Glint and some other indestructible considerations require at least one other card, while the elemental has hexproof built-in. What do you think of the current removal in standard pauper, gwyned? Will we see creature-less decks, like "Izzetstrad" blue/red decks? What of lifegain options, too, with the non-prowess monk still kickin', Pulse of Murasa to fetch those traded creatures, and just Chaplain's Blessing?

I always look forward to your set reviews, gwyned. I find myself having more questions than answers - even if we disagree about any given card's utility or metagame impact - because you really seem to care about the game and your writing shows it. These are exciting times! Please take care of yourself along the road to recovery!