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

We're less than a week away from the online prelease event for Shadows over 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 before continuing with this review. In Part One, I analyzed all of the White and Blue Commons. For this article, I will examine the Black and Red Commons, and finish off my set review 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. Black Commons

1. Alms of the Vein is the first Madness card we've seen where the alternate cost is a significant upgrade from its mana cost. A 3 mana spell that grants you a six point Life swing at Sorcery speed isn't typically something you'd want to play, since it doesn't really doing anything to affect the board state. Getting the same cost for only a single Black mana at Instant speed is obviously much better, but still probably only belongs in a very aggressive Rakdos style deck where this card becomes your plan to deal the last few points of damage. If a dedicated Madness deck comes together, this is also a reasonable discard choice, especially if the extra Life gives you the breathing room to setup something more impressive.

Verdict: Bunt - Alm not satisfied with this as either a 'bunt' or 'grounder;' it falls somewhere in-between.

2. Crow of Dark Tidings as its base is a typical Black Common, where you get a 2 Power Flyer for 3 mana with an ability that ties in with the set. In this case, you can reliably count on getting four cards into your Graveyard from this card, which has the potential to synergize with Delirium (but, as mentioned in my last article, does not trigger Madness since you're not actually discarding). If that isn't part of your gameplan, milling yourself for four may seem like a steep price to pay, but in truth it's not truly something you should be too concerned with. And given the other minor Graveyard synergies that do still exist, it will still probably help you more often than it hurts. On the whole though, this is still basically just Gloomhunter.

Verdict: Bunt - I'll eat crow if this ends up being an important card in the format.

3. Dead Weight has been reprinted from the original Innistrad, and it's particular good in this set. Given that the average creature size at Common is still 2 Toughness, this will often take out a creature outright, or if nothing else make it so weak that your opponent can no longer trade it off on offense or defense. And even if your opponent has a trick to save it, often the Aura will still stick around to affect the creature on the next turn. This card also has the nice bonus of synergizing with Delirium, since it's a cheap and easy way to get an Enchantment in the Graveyard, which is otherwise not a card type that ends up there very often. Even at Sorcery speed, this is about as solid as removal gets now, and thus it should see plenty of play.

Verdict: Hit - Rare is the game where this would be dead in your hand.

4. Farbog Revenant seems like the perfect design for a Skulk creature at Common, especially in Black. It will be very difficult for your opponent to deal with this apart from a removal spell or combat trick, since any creature that can actually block it will be unable to actually kill it without help. And even if your opponent can just block it with their own defensive creature, you still gain the extra point of Life when it deals damage. While not overtly powerful, this seems ideal in a Black control build, where it can shore up your defense when needed, attack profitably in a variety of board states, and grant you some incidental Life over the course of a long game. Just watch out for the gang block from a bunch of 1 Power creatures.

Verdict: Grounder - Does it boggle your mind just how far this card might go?

5. Ghoulcaller's Accomplice is practically the 'fixed' version of Gravedigger, since you're getting a 2/2 that will always be able to return a creature from your Graveyard but can't be repeated over and over again for value. In this case, of course, you're paying a premium for the second creature, since 3B for a 2/2 is a pretty bad deal. On the other hand, this card should almost always be a 2-for-1, and it's this sort of incremental advantage that adds up to wins in Standard Pauper. Interestingly enough, this is also a great card to discard or mill, since its ability is virtually Flashback for creatures. I would have loved to see more of this type of effect in the set, but sadly it's limited to this card and the White card Dauntless Cathar.

Verdict: Grounder - This could be an accomplice in all sorts of Graveyard shenanigans.

6. Grotesque Mutation is like a poor man's Butcher's Glee. For one mana cheaper, you get an additional point of Toughness while still retaining both Lifelink and +3 to Power. But it's the Regeneration effect that makes Butcher's Glee so powerful, since it guarantees that the creature will not only give you a significant Life boost, but will still be around on the next turn to attack or block. Given the Butcher's Glee is from Dragons of Tarkir, it will continue to be an option in the format for some time to come. And until it rotates out, there is very little incentive to play this card over it. That said, it's not a bad combat trick overall, and in an aggressive deck might be worth a slot sometime in the future.

Verdict: Bunt - This is indeed an ugly variant of Butcher's Glee.

7. With Delirium absent from Blue at Common, Hound of the Farbogs is our first card with this new mechanic. Paying 4B for a 5/3 is a pretty poor deal, since its low Toughness means that your opponent can probably trade for it with a less expensive creature or trick, and it's expensive enough that you probably won't be able to use it to apply much pressure. Once you have Delirium active and force your opponent to at least double-block it, at least you have decent odds of being able to 2-for-1 your opponent in some situations. But honestly, that's not much of a payoff for all the effort required to get four different permanent types in your Graveyard; in fact, this card could have Menace innately and still not be that good.

Verdict: Myth - A mistake like playing this could hound you far a long time.

8. Macabre Waltz will survive the rotation of Magic Origins as a reprint in this set, where it certainly seems to be a flavor-win if nothing else. In this case, it does synergize perfectly with Madness, since in the ideal scenario you can return two creatures to your hand from the Graveyard and then cast a Madness card as you discard it from your hand. That's a significant setup cost to get full value, but even in the worst case scenario this is still a slightly more expensive Disentomb. Any sort of control or value Black-based deck will probably want access to this, even if it's just in the Sideboard, and the potential to pair it will Madness certainly means it is at its best in this environment.

Verdict: Grounder - It will be a tricky dance figuring out how to best take advantage of this card.

9. Merciless Resolve is almost a reprint of Altar's Reap, save that like its White counterpart Angelic Purge, you can sacrifice a Land in addition to a creature in order to pay for its secondary cost. You are paying an extra mana for this flexibility, and the difference between holding up two and three mana is surprisingly significant. That said, this is probably preferable to Altar's Reap in a very aggressive Rakdos deck, since that style of deck is more than happy to sacrifice Lands in order to advance its gameplan. But in the more typical Control build where Altar's Reap has been at its best in the past, I think I would actually prefer it to this new version, despite the added flexibility, unless you're specifically trying to activate Delirium.

Verdict: Grounder - Most of the time, when this resolves, you'll get a significant advantage over your opponent.

10. Murderous Compulsion isn't quite the return of Doom Blade, but it's actually not that far off. While it does require the target to be tapped, it doesn't have any other requirements or restrictions, and it's cheaper than its analogue Assassinate. And when you have some sort of discard outlet you can activate at Instant speed, this becomes a very effective way of dealing with a lot of different creatures, since you can actually destroy them before they deal combat damage (which has always been the major downside of this type of card). To me this doesn't quite cross over into premium removal, but it's still powerful and cheap enough that it should see plenty of play in the format.

Verdict: Hit - Despite its flaws, I have no compulsion about rating it this highly.

11. Rancid Rats is a somewhat disappointing variant of Typhoid Rats. For your one additional mana, it gains the Skulk ability, making it more difficult for your opponent to block this. The problem with this, of course, it that the whole point of having a creature with Deathtouch is its ability to block and kill much larger creatures. Typically, attacking with a cheap Deathtouch creature is pretty safe, since your opponent would rather take a point of damage rather than trading for such a mediocre card. All that to say, most of the time your opponent wouldn't block this card even without Skulk. Nonetheless, Typhoid Rats saw plenty of play, and with it rotating out, this card will clearly slot into the same spot.

Verdict: Bunt - This is what happens when your design space starts to get stale.

12. Typically I'm a fan of 2/4s for 4 with a neat ability, but Rottenheart Ghoul is an unfortunate exception. In most sets, the discard clause would be enough to make your opponent leery of blocking it, since he or she knows it will cost them a card. But in this case, forcing your opponent to discard could be enabling their own Madness cards, making you much more likely to use the ability on yourself. And unless you've constructed your deck in such a way as to take advantage of that, you're not really getting much of an upside from this creature. As such, in too many scenarios this is just a vanilla 2/4 for 4, which is generally not a card you should be playing in Standard Pauper.

Verdict: Bunt - It's not totally rotten, but it certainly doesn't warm my heart.

13. For many years in Magic's early days Black boasted the Common Drudge Skeletons, and Sanitarium Skeleton is one of the closest variants we seen at Common in a very long time. It's just a 1/2 for 1, but as a Sorcery speed effect you can essentially return it from your Graveyard to the battlefield for 2BB. This card is amazingly good paired with Exploit creatures from Dragons of Tarkir, is a perfectly fine mill target, and at worst is a late game chump blocker you can reuse each and every turn. You're certainly paying a premium for the ability, but the fact that this can endlessly be cycled from your graveyard to your hand to the battlefield immediately makes this card one of the strongest Commons in the whole set.

Verdict: Hit - You should seek professional help if you can't see how crazy good this is.

14. The format has been lacking some solid Graveyard hate, and Shamble Back seems to be the answer to that lack. You're actually getting a surprisingly good deal for your mana: you get to exile a target creature from any Graveyard, put a 2/2 token into play under your control, and gain 2 Life it he process. Of course, most players would have gladly paid several more mana if it meant that you could cast this at Instant speed, since that is pretty much a requirement for any effective counter to most Graveyard synergies. Having to use this proactively makes it much weaker as Graveyard hate, but fortunately what you're getting is good enough that it's still worth considering against certain strategies.

Verdict: Bunt - I went back and forth on my rating, but this doesn't quite seem to get there.

15. Stallion of Ashmouth may be trying to evoke Nightmare, but it's really just another Shade variant, albeit one with respectable stats as a 3/3 for 3B. Given that, it doesn't take much in the way of extra mana to make this survive combat with just about any other creature in the format. On the other hand, once again this doesn't seem like that great a payoff for all the work it takes to actually activate Delirium. At the end of the day, it's a vanilla creature that sometimes can also be a less-than-desirable shade. You could certainly do a lot worse than this card, but the combination of two somewhat mediocre creature concepts doesn't really come together to make this something you really want to play.

Verdict: Bunt - In this case, you actually should look a gift horse in the mouth.

16. Stromkirk Mentor is a very aggressive 4/2 for 3B, which once again has the major downside of often trading for a much less expensive card thanks to its low Toughness. Not counting itself, there are 11 other Vampires that will be in the new Standard Pauper format, concentrated mostly in Black, so it shouldn't be too hard to find good targets for its secondary ability. However, there's not any other incentive to playing multiple Vampires, so unless you can tie this in with some of the Allies from the recent Zendikar block, it's hard to see why you would want to limit your creature selection simply to make this card better. Obviously in the best case you're getting 5 Power and 3 Toughness for 4 mana, but I doubt this will be that good very often.

Verdict: Bunt - If I was your mentor, I wouldn't recommend trying to make this card good.

17. It's no Grasp of Darkness, but Throttle has been reprinted once again, keeping it in the format even after Standard rotates. This kind of expensive removal has become the new norm at Common, and with Flesh to Dust no longer available, this is probably a necessary evil to get rid of large creatures at Instant speed. The negative counters means that this does at least sidestep Regeneration effects. But with plenty of other removal options in White, Black, and Red, this is probably more of a Sideboard card to be brought in to deal with specific threats that your other, cheaper spells aren't able to effectively destroy. Frankly, I would be more than happy to see this kind of removal relegated to such a role permanently.

Verdict: Grounder - I would throttle back the urge to play a full grip, but this card certainly gets the job done.

18. Getting a 3/5 for 5 mana is generally more of a White or Green part of the color-pie, but as Twins of Maurer Estate shows, Black sees these from time to time as well. Siege Mastodon and its ilk rarely see play in the format, so apart from its Madness cost, there would be little reason to consider this. But if any card incentivize you to make Madness work, this card does. The two mana discount you're getting, particularly at Instant speed, is quite strong, and assuming you have a reliable discard outlet, this becomes a very potent combat trick or even end-of-turn mana sink when your other options didn't work out. At the end of the day, this is probably comparable to Stormrider Spirit and worth considering if you can reliably cheat it out.

Verdict: Grounder - Sometimes trouble can also come in twos.

19. For a while it seemed we were seeing a lot of 2/3s for 3 in Black, but now the trend is running more towards cards like Vampire Noble, with higher Power rather than Toughness. If there was a greater payoff for constructing a dedicated Vampire tribe build, this card would at least be worth looking at for that deck, as its stats are perfectly reasonable. But even the most efficiently costed vanilla creatures are rarely good enough to see play in any Constructed format, and Standard Pauper is no exception. Perhaps a very aggressive Orzhov or Rakdos build might slot this in, but even there I would argue there are definitely better options. This is just too generic to make the cut almost every time.

Verdict: Bunt - There's nothing noble about including this card in your deck.

20. Vessel of Malignity is part of a Common cycle of Enchantments that you sacrifice for a color-centric effect. In this case, you're getting a slightly more expensive Mind Rot that can be paid over two turns. More to the point though, you're also permanently getting rid of the cards via exile, rather than allowing those cards to fuel Delirium or trigger Madness. In addition, by sacrificing this, you are helping to enable your own Delirium, although up to this point we've seen very little incentive to do so at Common. So while you won't want this is every deck, against any opponent who tends to hold on to late game spells or timing-specific effects, this is probably worth a second look.

Verdict: Bunt - It may be malignant, but it's still not anything to be too worried about.

As is typical with Black, its creatures aren't very impressive but the removal more than makes up for this lack. Dead Weight and Murderous Compulsion are the clear winners in this color, and by themselves will be enough to tempt players to give their decks access to Black. Sanitarium Skeleton is one of the most value oriented creatures we've seen in Standard Pauper in quite some time, with Farbog Revenant and Ghoulcaller's Accomplice also deserving an honorable mention. And if the Madness deck can come together, Twins of Maurer Estate might be the big payoff, with Macabre Waltz possible having a role to play in that deck as well.

III. Red Commons

1. Bloodmad Vampire is a strictly better version of Gore Swine from Fate Reforged that utilizes the Vampire tribal ability from the original Innistrad that grants +1 / +1 counters when it deals damage to a player. While extremely weak on offense due to its miniscule Toughness, it makes a solid defender, trading with most creatures in the format. And if you have an Instant speed discard outlet, it also can function as a solid combat trick, or even as a last minute addition during your opponent's end step that can then swing in unopposed on your next turn and immediately gain a counter. The combination of Madness and the ability to generate counters takes an otherwise mediocre card and makes it much more interesting.

Verdict: Grounder - Don't get mad when your opponent pulls off a sweet sequence with this card.

2. Convicted Killer / Branded Howler is one of four double-face cards at Common, and it's about as generic as you'd expect. As a 2/2 for 2R it's certainly overcosted, but if for some reason your opponent fails to have a play on their next turn, you are rewarded with a strong if still not amazing 4/4. Of course, having to essentially skip your own turn 4 in order to flip this is much less good, as that's a pretty big setup cost for what amounts to a vanilla 4/4 with Haste on turn 5. While it's great to a few such cards got printed at Common, this one at least is too generic to see much play.

Verdict: Bunt - I might just be convicted to howl at you for thinking this is good.

3. Dual Shot is a slightly weaker version of Twin Bolt, even if it will often be used to a similar effect. Apart from the obvious advantage of being one mana cheaper, you also lose the flexibility of Twin Bolt, since you always have to split the damage among two different targets. While the primary purpose of this card is to give you a nice two-for-one against a couple 1 Toughness creatures, it can also be used as a combat trick to finish off two of your opponent's weakened creatures. And while trading this for two 1/1 tokens is probably the least exciting option, even there you're probably getting most of a card's worth of value. In any case, with Twin Bolt gone, this is definitely the most similar replacement.

Verdict: Grounder - Losing flexibility hurts, but this still has a good shot of seeing play.

4. Ember-Eye Wolf is a nice upgrade from Bellows Lizard in just about every way. While it does cost one more mana, you're not only getting Haste and an extra point of Toughness, but also doubling the effect of paying the 1R mana cost for its activated ability. Played on turn 2, this could easily connect for four damage by the end of your third turn, and still leave you an extra mana to use for Fiery Impulse or another cheap spell. On the other hand, this is a pretty bad mid to late game drop, since at best it will trade with one of your opponent's worst creatures. If there is an extremely aggressive RDW build, this card will probably be good enough to earn a spot, but outside of that, I don't expect to see much of this.

Verdict: Bunt - I'll keep an eye on this, but I don't think it will set the format on fire.

5. Lightning Bolt is back - provided, of course, you can manage to discard Fiery Temper from your hand at a moment when it's advantageous for you to do so. It's a pretty strong payoff for setting yourself up to take advantage of Madness. But even if you can't reliably do so, this card is quite similar to Annihilating Fire, which saw plenty of play while it was legal in Standard. In effect then, the Madness cost is just gravy; a nice bonus if you pull it off, but hardly necessary to get your value out of this card. This card and Fiery Impulse should be the staple Red removal spells in the upcoming metagame, and I expect both will see plenty of play in the upcoming Standard Pauper metagame.

Verdict: Hit - Don't lose your temper if you miss the opportunity for casting this on the cheap.

6. Gatstaf Arsonists / Gatstaf Ravagers is the other Common double faced card in Red. For 4R, you get an otherwise vanilla 5/4 that, like all of the other Common double face cards, flips to the opposite side if no spells were cast in the previous turn. On its flip side, it not only gains an additional point of both Power and Toughness but Menace as well, which is certainly at its best on a creature with such high Power and Toughness. The biggest issue here though is that Red generally doesn't want big beefy creatures, and I don't think this offers enough for this to be an exception.

Verdict: Bunt - These are the guys I'd trust to stoke the fires of victory.

7. Howlpack Wolf is a very efficiently costed 3/3 for 2R with the drawback of being unable to block unless you have another Wolf or Werewolf in play. Generally speaking, even an excellent vanilla creature like this isn't good enough to see much play in this format, but if there are enough similar cards in Red, this could end up making the cut. Indeed, it seems like it would be quite at home in an aggressive RDW style deck, since you rarely if ever want to be blocking in that archetype. In any case, it certainly isn't worth trying to shoehorn in other wolves or werewolves just to gain the ability to block. However, outside of a potential role in RDW, this isn't a card I would expect to see much play.

Verdict: Bunt - Several of these in play would be pretty ferocious, but this still isn't the leader of the pack.

8. Similar consideration as the previous card apply to Hulking Devil as well. This is actually a functional reprint of Cobblebrute from both Return to Ravnica and Magic Origins. A 5/2 sounds impressive, but again it's simple an efficiently costed, aggressive, but otherwise vanilla creature. Even worse, this trades for any 2 Power creature in the format, so unless you can keep all of your opponent's creatures off the table, the 5 Power isn't really going to do you much good. Sure, it can trade with just about any creature in the format, but that's hardly what Red is typically looking to do. As far as I know, Cobblebrute never saw any play in the format, and the environment in this new metagame probably won't change that.

Verdict: Myth - Resist any devilish urges to play this card.

9. Insolent Neonate has got to be the most complicated 1 drop we've seen in many years. You don't expect to see Menace on a 1/1, but if you can actually drop this on turn 1, it will probably be several turns before your opponent manages to put up two creatures to block it. And once they do, you can then cash it in for a replacement card at any point, although doing so costs you a second card from your hand - essentially a very bad Tormenting Voice. Of course, the dream is to discard a Madness card, in which case you're getting pretty decent value. Overall, while none of this is great, this card is certainly better than it looks, and might be enough to tempt players to build a deck to take advantage of it.

Verdict: Bunt - Maybe my rating strikes you as insolent, but it's only good in a very specific deck.

10. Magmatic Chasm is literally a strictly worse variant of the original Falter, in that you have to cast it at Sorcery speed rather than as an Instant. That said, in most situations where this card would be good that difference shouldn't really matter, as there is little your opponent can do to respond during your first main phase that they couldn't do during your beginning of combat step. I'm certainly noticing a trend here in Red at Common of the majority of cards being quite aggressive, and this particular card is another prime example. As before, if you're playing that sort of strategy, this card is at its best, although it still can be a pretty bad draw off the top. Outside of that one deck though, this is not a card you should play.

Verdict: Bunt - Seeing Falter return from the chasm of ancient history is no reason to celebrate.

11. Pyre Hound was definitely a card that made me do a double-take. Red has had a few Commons in the past that temporarily gain Power and Toughness from casting spells, such as Kiln Fiend or Nivix Cyclops, but none of them ever did so in the form of permanent +1 / +1 counters. If this had merely been a 2/3 for 3R with Prowess, that would have been good enough to see play in certain decks. But give it not only Trample (already unusual at Common) but permanent counters as well, and you have a card that I frankly am surprised to see at Common. This is easily the best Common in Red, perhaps in the whole set, and certainly is a card that rewards you quite strongly for building around it.

Verdict: Hit - I predict this card will set the whole format on fire.

12. Red has had several cards in the past that deal 5 damage for 5 mana, and Reduce to Ashes is pretty much what you would expect from that sort of card. While it has the same casting cost and damage output as Lava Axe, the fact that this targets only creatures instead of only players is definitely the preferred choice, and getting to exile the creature instead of merely putting it in the Graveyard obviously can be important in certain situations. That said, you are paying quite a bit, especially when compared to a card like Bathe in Dragonfire, which dealt one less damage but cost two less mana. Like Throttle, this probably isn't your first choice for removal, but sometimes it does the job that's required.

Verdict: Grounder - Being so expensive definitely reduces my excitement about playing this.

13. Red always has a host of cheap combat tricks, and Rush of Adrenaline is probably not the best among the options you'll have at your disposal in the new metagame. Titan's Strength is probably the gold standard for cheap Red combat tricks, since it not only boosts your creature by +3 / +1 but also allows you to Scry as well. This card gives you one less point of Power, and grants Trample instead. That may not seem like a big difference, but it will be a rare situation where you'd prefer this over Titan's Strength. And even once Titan's Strength rotates out, for just one additional mana you could cast Brute Strength or Sure Strike, both of which are arguably better as well.

Verdict: Bunt - No need to rush out and get this card anytime soon.

14. Sanguinary Mage is a color-shifted virtual reprint of Jeskai Student, but the fact that this card is now Red instead of White will probably make a big difference in how often it sees play. Red and Blue tend to have the most versatile spells, and the colors that are most likely to see the Prowess keyword ability, so this card is already a great fit for whatever the Izzet Prowess deck might look like after Standard rotates. This card also pairs very well with Pyre Hound, and these two cards will probably see plenty of play side by side. So while Jeskai Student was not a popular choice in the prior metagame, I think Sanguinary Mage will do much better than its White cousin.

Verdict: Grounder - This should make many a player see red.

15. As a basic Aura, there is little to recommend Senseless Rage. You take on a certain element of risk playing any Aura on a creature, and as such you want that enchantment to give you a pretty good reward for your risk, and a mere +2 / +2 is a bit underwhelming in Red, especially compared to Infectious Bloodlust, or even Goblin War Paint. It's a little better if you have a reliable discard outlet, since it then becomes a combat trick, but even then it's still subpar compared to similarly costed combat tricks. You do have to factor in the benefit of its flexibility, but even in a dedicated Madness deck, there are just better spells you could be discarding. As such, I don't think this quite gets there.

Verdict: Bunt - It's not logical to play this card; in fact, it's pretty much senseless.

16. Wizards figured out long ago that good Land Destruction cards shouldn't be printed, so when seeing a card like Structural Distortion you're first instinct should be that this won't be very good. It is strictly better than the classic Demolish in that it both exiles the target (preventing it from helping to activate Delirium) and even deals two damage to your opponent. If Artifacts were to prove an important part of the metagame, this might be worth considering in a deck without access to the better hate-cards in Green, since at least then you would have the backup plan of destroying a Land instead. But at least in my early estimation, I don't think the new metagame will be unusual enough to disprove my first instinct that this type of card should be avoided.

Verdict: Bunt - The bonuses on this card are distorting my habit of just rejecting land destruction cards outright.

17. Tormenting Voice sees yet another reprint, guaranteeing it will be around not only in this metagame but even past the next rotation of Standard. On an initial read, you could be forgiven for thinking this isn't very good, since you're essentially just cashing in two cards to draw two more. But in a format where you're trying to trigger Prowess or similar effects, or even just as a way to help smooth out your draw when you pull too many Lands, the card selection this gives you is surprisingly effective. It turns out it's pretty easy to cash in this plus some other worthless card in your hand in order to draw two new cards, and getting to do so for only 1R is definitely a reasonable price to pay.

Verdict: Grounder - I never would have thought it, but this time I'll gladly voice just how good this really is.

18. Temur Battle Rage proved to be one of the most powerful and frustrating cards from Fate Reforged, and many were relieved to see it scheduled for rotation, only to have Uncaged Fury come to fill a similar role. While it does effectively grant two additional power and Double Strike for only one additional mana, the biggest difference is that it doesn't also grant Trample, which means that your opponent can much more confidently block your creature without worrying about massive damage spilling over and finishing him or her off. Anytime Double Strike is available in the format it has proven to be pretty good, but this shouldn't be quite as painful to play against as its predecessor.

Verdict: Grounder - Fewer players will be infuriated by losing out of nowhere to Double Strike.

19. Vessel of Volatility is part of a Common cycle of Enchantments that you sacrifice for a color-centric effect. In this case, you're effectively getting a mana battery, allowing you to store up four mana in two equal payments and then unleash it all at once. In the past, Red has gotten access to similar "ritual" spells that generate additional Red mana, but they haven't really ever made any impact in the format. Generally, there just aren't enough expensive spells or rewards for playing multiple spells to make this sort of effect worth playing. So while this card is probably the best version of this type of effect we've seen in the format, I still strongly doubt it's worth playing in almost any deck.

Verdict: Myth - The effects of this card are just too unstable to make me want to play it.

20. Voldaren Duelist is one of the best four drops I can remember for an aggressive Red deck, in that it not only adds a 3/2 with Haste to the battlefield but also prevents one of your opponent's creatures from blocking this turn. On an empty board or one with only one opposing creature, this is almost like Lightning Javelin without the Scry, but one that leaves a reasonable 3/2 creature behind. And while clearly not as good of a finisher as a pure burn spell in a complicated board state, there are probably a similar number of situations where you'd actually prefer this off the top. Four mana is about all you'd want to pay in an aggressive deck, but I think this is well worth consideration in that sort of deck.

Verdict: Grounder - This card should easily outdo the competition for a spot in any aggressive deck.

Red looks to be surprisingly good in Shadows Over Innistrad. It has one very strong and one decent removal spells in Fiery Temper and Reduce to Ashes respectively, as well as several solid creatures like Sanguinary Mage and Voldaren Duelist. Along those same lines, I would not be surprised to see Pyre Hound end up as the strongest Common in the whole set. Additionally, Bloodmad Vampire, Tormenting Voice, and Uncaged Fury will probably all see play, and even Insolent Neonate might end up finding a role in a very specialized build. Given all that, I expect Red to make a pretty big impact in the forthcoming metagame.

IV. Conclusion

So that's my first look at the Black and Red Commons from Shadows over Innistrad, with only the Green and Colorless cards left to cover in Part 3. For now, 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 next week for the final installment of  my Standard Pauper review of Shadows over Innistrad!


Ratings System by ComixWriter at Mon, 04/11/2016 - 14:55
ComixWriter's picture

I continue to enjoy your set reviews, gywned. As MPDC Host, you have an undeniably close pulse on the format as it may evolve. I do not expect any prediction, by you or anyone, will be 100% correct in hindsight. However, I do have some questions about this article.

#1 Dual Shot. You wrote, " In any case, with Twin Bolt gone, this is definitely the most similar replacement." Since this card was printed in Dragons of Tarkir, this is an incorrect oversight. Will it change your evaluation of the card?

#2 Alms of the Vein. You declined to give it a firm rating. If you stuck with your ChannelFireball inspiration of 'hit' or 'myth,' I see a struggle. However, you ADDED two more categories to avoid this exact situation of wavering, yet cannot commit. Why, and why do you lack faith inn your own reviews? If you lack faith in your evaluations, what am I or any reader supposed to do to value such a rating? Let's look at the evaluation.

We agree that this card could have a home in madness decks. Will it always make the cut? In a dedicated madness deck, I think it may make the cut. Why? Remember, we live in a world without access to common-rarity dual lands that ALSO gave +1 life. Those lands are GONE. A second insight builds on the loss of those lands, and suggests how (non-green) tri-color decks, let alone how some difficult dual-color decks may struggle to adapt. Is/could mono-black decks that deal player damage a viable deck? In a vacuum, it seems doubtful. However, with Thornbow Archer, Foul-Tongue Shriek, Touch of Moonglove, Dominator Drone, and Qarsi Sadist staying in the format, we may have enough tools to re-evaluate it.
Considering these things, I urge you to evaluate the card again, perhaps as a 'grounder' because it could fit inside two possible shells. It isn't a myth, and should have enough friends to see play for a 6-point life total swing for 1 or 3 mana, negating it as a 'bunt,' but more in line with your own rating system as 'grounder.'

Similarly, red's Fiery Temper gets love, while a black lightning bolt - Alms of the Vein - that does more gets cast aside, gets doubt. If anything, I expect more players could more easily hard-cast the latter, since it only requires one colored mana, while Fiery Temper costs two red mana if hard cast. Sure, red also has Tormenting Voice and Lightning Axe, but look more closely to black's discard options, or other colors that play well with black (i.e.: Stern Constable, in white).

#3 Pye Hound. We can bemoan Izzet Prowess all we want, but its shell only gets better with the new vampire and more 1cmc spells like Rush of Adrenaline. You seem to acknowledge Izzet Prowess, here, but ignore it with Izzet Prowess' newest toy (even OUTSIDE of a madness shell): Insolent Neonate. In whatever draft you participate, please include me so I can scoop those 1cmc vampires with MENACE...who get buffed by Titan's Strength, and Rush of Adrenaline or even Sure Strike. That scenario is not one I look forward to playing against, but fully expect it to happen. If you evaluate a card with an eye cast towards the metagame, as you did for Pyre Hound, then apply that same consideration to other cards, too.

#4, 5, 6: Why no evaluation of the new upshifted once-common-now-uncommon cards? Why pretend that our filterless Standard Pauper DOESN'T acknowledge or include 'em? There are only three cards to consider, and all have been in colors reviewed. There are three cards, including Lightning Axe, which could really dictate how other cards are ranked. Knowing Lightning Axe exists makes cards like Fiery Temper (AND Alms of the Vein) much, much better. Why hide the facts that our community swallowed the once-common pill for new cards to make our filterless world easier?

Archetypes may be something very unique that also dodges the frustrating ranking system as constituted. I think more players, especially NEW players, may want to see how these new cards might see play. For example, you rate XYZ card as a hit- prove it. Build a simple shell of mostly 4x copies of cards. WotC slings preconstructed decks; maybe we should anticipate the new metagame by pitching maybe 5 or 6 decks for new players who just don't want to copy Izzet Prowess or copy a deck that requires a lot of practice.

Overall, I am always excited to see set reviews, especially ones that are mindful of Standard Pauper. However, I walk away from this post feeling more confused and thankful I evaluated cards in my mind before reading your thoughts. I felt very confused, and thought that this evaluation seemed less robust than usual. For example, to miss Twin Bolt as a surviving card is quite an oversight, because it likely affects other evaluations as a result.

Another view by ComixWriter at Tue, 04/12/2016 - 14:33
ComixWriter's picture

Today, Eric Froehlich wrote about Fiery Temper. Specifically, he acknowledged,

"Fiery Temper can kill lots of creatures and planeswalkers in the format, which is a pretty sweet deal for a single mana."

Understand how he includes planeswalkers, which suggests he speaks to the current Standard format in general.

With the new inclusions of upshifted common-now-uncommon-but-gets-included-as-a-common-spell-anyway-because-we-lost-the-Standard-Pauper-filter cards, I wonder:

Do we have too much targeted removal in Standard Pauper (sic) as currently constituted? Do we need to continue with the upshifted rarity cards, like Lightning Axe and Grasp of Darkness? What creatures would be safe, outside of Conifer Strider (the only hexpoof critter in Standard Pauper, aside from Glint tricks)? We have enough token-creature hate with Boiling Earth, Twin Bolt and Dual Shot (among others). We have Lightning Axe for 5 creature damage. We have Grasp of Darkness. We even have combat tricks and a LOT of possible tapping effects. Like tapped effects, there are a lot of spells that will halt creatures regardless of overall toughness, like Puncturing Light, Angelic Purge, Containment Membrane, and maybe Rabid Bite (but we admit green rarely has targeted hard removal spells, but this is a good one-sided fight spell).

Is our Standard Pauper metagame positioning itself to host creatureless decks as a viable, non-rogue adaptation to the influx of targeted removal spells? Seriously, bemoan whatever 1/1 creature I want to play, and I'll laugh at your 10/10 without hexproof, that gets tapped, exiled, or enchanted. Toughness doesn't seem to matter (and if it does, Shape the Sands will see more play). Am I right?