HydraLord's picture
By: HydraLord, Charles Sutphin
Jun 15 2008 3:17pm
Login to post comments

Shadowmoor is due out online next week. Or maybe it's already out, depending on when this actually gets posted. That's some exciting stuff right there. The release means lots of Sealed tournaments and lots of triple Shadowmoor drafts. Whee! I plan on spending a lot of time once I'm done with exams doing both those things. I've done some real life drafts and played in the prerelease, and I have a fairly large number of things to share about the format. This could take some time, so let's get started, shall we? I like alphabetizing, so that's how I'll roll.

Holy hell. This is one of the most insane blowouts imaginable when you Conspire it. It basically says gain like ten life and double Time Walk. They're going to spend two whole turns rebuilding – quite possibly the whole of each turn's mana if the creatures are expensive – while not drawing anything else. That's really good. Sadly, there isn't much you can do to play about this badboy.


At this very moment, I refreshed magicthegathering.com. Oh, an Eventide preview pack. How original. Let's see here...enemy hybrids is old news. Desecrator Hag is freaking scary looking, while Inside Out is awesome looking. More Ouphes? is this really necessary? perhaps an Ouphe Lord? Drain the Well looks like it's a knock-off of Poison the Well...gain 2 life probably? That Soul Snuffers looks way too tall to cast 2BB. XRRR? Weird. Overbeing of Myth, eh? Wow. That's a nice piece of art to go along with a pretty good ability. I expect it to be heavily played in Block. That's your Constructed advice for the day.


I'm trying to write this straight through to the end, you see. Thousands of words...only so may hours before I collapse on my keyboard of exhaustion. We'll see how it works out. Anyway, Aethertow will basically destroy you. What can I say? Don't attack into blockers? You can't really live in fear of this card, since I'm pretty sure there just isn't much you can do. Early it isn't that threatening, but going long...I'm already terrified.

Barkshell Blessing
A bunch of these categories will be tricks. I have long felt that knowing the common tricks in a Limited format will take you a long way to succeeding. As GI Joe said, knowing is half the battle. Anyway, Barkshell Blessing is a lot less good than Aethertow, but it is still quite powerful. At it's most innocuous, it turns a small attacker on a stalled board position into a super Lava Spike. Let me tell you about the number of Lava Spikes I drafted. Okay, it wasn't high. But this card do so much more. Block with two guys, tap them...pump my team and destroy yours. The sickest thing is that this is one mana. Really, really good.

Bloodmark Mentor
Nothing to really say about this guy. He is definitely not good. Don't consider playing him. Pass them to me. Would I lead you astray? Of course not. It isn't like I actually posted my article telling you to play Mono-Red control at Regionals. That would be leading you astray, since I don't think it really beat all the decks I said it did. It certainly couldn't be an Oversoul of Dusk. So trust me...this guy is definitely bad.

Bowfly Infestation
This card is really powerful. It isn't upfront about it, but in my experience it tends to just be a Plague Wind in a couple of turns. There are often a lot of -1/-1 counters flying around, and this lets you really eek out some extra margin with them. I was a bit skeptical the first time I say it. Doesn't really seem worth the investment was actually my first response. But then I decided that it was sufficiently grinding and Orzhov-ish that I would try it. I'll be honest...I'm pretty sure you can't lose from any reasonable board position with this card in play if you sculpt a deck around it at all. This is why I want enchantment removal. This is what you want to open in Sealed. Embrace the maggoty goodness of the bowflys and spread some counter love.

I have seen this guy go way to late. Think about what all it can do. Not only is it sort of a 3/3 for two (yeah, not really) but it is also extremely synergistic with the whole counter thing going on in this set. I forsee a lot of persisting with this guy in play, for example. I also see Bowfly Infestation looking a lot worse. He isn't that high of a pick, but he definitely shouldn't be going like tenth.

I both love and hate Cinderbones. On the one hand, I can try to use him to set up whatever stupid long game plan I want. That can be a lot of fun, particularly in concert with something like Cinderhaze Witch (which is better than it looks). Visions of sugarplums eaten off the backs of opponents toppled by sheer boredom dance in my head. This somebody plays Scar or Puncture Bolt and attacks me for a bunch. Huh. I think this guy will not end up being good enough, simply because he never seems to stick around when he would be best. When I'm getting attacked for a bunch in the air, there he sits, firmly stopping any and all ground beats. Honestly, probably attacking for one. But then I die anyway. You can try, but it isn't as good he looks. I'm pretty sure this is Adam Chambers' favorite common in the set, by the way.

These aren't all good, but some of them are. I guess really the blue and white ones are the best. The green one and red one are fine too. We won't talk about the black one. Anyway, those blue and white ones might look underwhelming at first blush, but I really think they're some of the best commons in the set. It isn't that hard to keep another creature of the same color in play, and these cards are significantly overpowered when you can. A 2/2 flier for 1U is pretty sick in a format where you are typically paying at least one more mana for that kind of creature. Ballynock Cohort is actually filthy. Remember Kithkin Greatheart? Part two, right here. Take these highly; most other creatures at these costs just don't measure up.

Curse of Chains
If you're the kind of person who reads magic articles, I imagine that you already know that this is a really good enabler for creatures with untap abilities. For a long time I treated like that it's only use. I guess it's the danger of cool things, but it basically never occurred to me to use it as a removal spell in a removal poor white/blue deck. Now I almost always draft that particular combination of colors. They have so many savage cards. There aren't really many cute tricky things, just more solid cards than your opponent is likely to be able to handle.

Elsewhere Flask
I bring this up only because people, again, seem to undervalue it. Maybe it's wrong, but I like playing even totally random cycling cards in my Limited decks, particularly Sealed. Often, this doesn't do nothing though. I've seen Flow of Ideas into Corrupt in the same turn. Yeah, they won. That isn't the norm, but mana fixing lets you play whatever cards you want. That's good, you know?

Farhaven Elf
Once I got tired of drafting Curse of Chains, I switched to this guy. I'm going to write an acutal primer on the archetype next week, but I'll talk about it a little here. It isn't actually that difficult: if there's a bomb or removal, take it. If not, take mana fixing or acceleration (Devoted Druid, Farhaven Elf, Scuttlemutt, or Elsewhere Flash). After that, take whatever seems best. This deck can be very, very powerful for two reasons. First, it can play with substantially higher card quality than the typical deck. As I'll discuss later though, this is already a pretty high power format. I feel like the more important facet of the deck is its unparalleled ability to come out of the gates faster than the opponent. The value of that cannot really be overestimated.

Fate Transfer
I mention this one because it is another common trick. Whenever you attack or block, just ask yourself: what would happen if those counters moved from one place to another? Usually it's like a Steal Strength. That's pretty good, but not usually terrifying. Chain Breaker makes it pretty good though, as does Grief Tyrant. Just don't forget that it's there, since it does only cost one mana.

Savage in every format; absurd with Persist. Try to remember that there is a powerful board sweeper at uncommon, because it will wreck you if you just charge out there guns a-blazing.

Flourishing Defenses
Sort of a reverse Bowfly Infestation. This is another card that is best exploited by building around it. Any sort of repeatable way to move counters makes this quite filthy. There is a bit more of an incentive to work for this one, since it does cost five mana. But when you fire it up, it looks at least as impressive as Huntmaster in the last block, and those never really lived.

Glamer Spinners
Please don't make the same mistake I did with this card. You can't steal that Runes of the Deus midcombat. Sad, isn't it? It's still good – almost as good as Sentinels of Geln Elendra – but don't plan on doing anything too devastating with it in combat.

Goldenglow Moth
A bomb common if I ever saw one. Do you know how much life this gains you? At least four. Sick.

Gravelgill Axeshark
I lied. This is Adam Chambers favorite card. Sadly, I don' t think it's particularly good. In this format where the average deck has lots of powerful cards, this inconsistent and expensive two-for-one just isn't that impressive. Don't get me wrong – it isn't bad, especially with a way to remove the counter from it, but it isn't as powerful as it might look at first glance.

Hungry Spriggan
I think somebody already wrote about how this guy is quite annoying. They were right. This guy can lay out a ton of damage in no time flat. I think this card is profoundly frustrating, since it just punches through whatever plan you have and forces you to answer this annoying early game creature. That said, it's probably a good thing. I think formats are kept interesting by this sort of “stupid” aggro deck, even if players who consider themselves “good” are annoyed by them.

Inescapable Brute
I understand that Provoke is a good mechanic, but this guy does not have Provoke. He will never stop a Leech Bonder, for instance. He isn't the dregs or anything, but I can speak from experience when saying that if you think you're being clever and playing it, you're probably wrong. I know I was.

Juvenile Gloomwidow
It might seem dumb that this card is so good, but I really think it is. In a color short on removal, this guy is good at holding off attackers, particularly fliers. They can't even really try to sneak in damage since they're creatures will be getting smaller every time. Imagine this guy against that annoying Spriggan...are they gonna attack? Wither that. Enjoy your second main phase. Ok, so it can't really battle Ballynock Cohort, but it's got most other things – at least commons – pretty well covered.

Knacksaw Clique
I bring this one up because I have seen people not play it. Good lord. It might not always single-handedly win the game for you, but it will almost always get you a lot closer to winning. I guess these are the same people who didn't play Muse Vessel in Draft...while it is much less flexible than that card, this is still super effective. Play it. Good lord.

Kulrath Knight
Speaking of insane cards. It's usually wrong to not play a blank 3/3 flier for five, but this has two relevant abilities. Do you understand how good this is with, for instance, Cultbrand Cinder or Corrosive Mentor? Or, heaven help your opponent, Bowfly Infestation? It might not be obvious at first, but anything that turns the main theme of the block into Pacifisms is a friend of mine.

Leech Bonder
Another insane uncommon. The first level use of this guy is just as a 3/3 for three that probably removes a creature getting there, then maybe kills something else. And that's pretty good. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. Slap a Power of Fire on this and you've got a machine gun. Presence of Gond let's you produce as many elves as you care to pay blue mana for. Yeah, go read Leech Bonder again. It just targets a creature, not a creature with a counter. Oh, and those are both commons? This card is on the No Pass List for sure.

Lurebound Scarecrow
In a deck with lots of creatures of the same color, this card is definitely worth it. I know there's a risk of it dying, but what happens when they don't kill all your creatures? Seems like a beatdown to me. Really, how often do all your creatures die? Not often. The drawback isn't irrelevant, but it is almost always worth the risk to get such an efficient creature. The flavor text definitely tries too hard to be clever...lame.

Memory Sluice
I've never tried to put together a mill deck with Sluices and Drowner Initiates, but it seems like it might be good. Given that the main enabler cards are both common, it ought to be pretty easy to pick up the deck if no one else is trying to move in on your action. I'm not positive that that sort of deck will actually have enough defense not to get run over, especially against Spriggan.dec. That will definitely require some testing. It's wonderful how these things sort themselves out once there are hundreds of drafts a day on MODO, isn't it?

Old Ghastbark
It isn't particularly powerful. I only mention it because the flavor text is very insightful: “Beware of trees that talk.” Very good advice right there. There are a number of things that should frighten you when a tree does them: talk, sell you lemonade, tackle you, or try to drive your car. Just avoid that kind of foliage.

Parapet Watchers
This is the kind of card you might play in the Memory Sluice deck. See? I definitely should sleep more when writing this so I don't start these little entries with no more information than that.

Power of Fire
Obviously one of the top commons in the set. I already mentioned how good it is with Leech Bonder. Really, this card is pretty revolting on any creature that can untap. If they don't kill it...I just have a really hard time imagining losing. I've gotten one of these fourth pick. That wasn't even against particularly bad players. I don't know what else to say about this card; just take it.

Power Level
I previously alluded to the fact that this format is pretty high powered. I stand by that statement. There are a number of factors contributing to that. First is the fact that hybrid mana almost doubles the number of on color picks there are for you in a two color deck. That alone means fewer people will be wishing they had a 23rd playable. There is simply more room for more people to have good decks at a table when the colors are as broadly defined as in Shadowmoor. The other reason is that there are just a lot of good commons. I didn't talk about the cycle of Hill Giants or the Duos, though everything in each of those is at least a decent card to be running. Most of these cards are nothing to write home about (though the duos are mostly quite spicy, especially the U/W one), but they all raise the bar above the point where having a merely solid deck is going to get there. Much like sombody (Zvi?) said about Lorwyn draft, I feel like Shadowmoor draft will be defined by decks trying to do something powerful. I don't have to experience to say that definitively, but that is definitely the sense that I have gottten from the format to this point.

I want to play this guy in Constructed. He isn't anything special, but he doesn't really need to be. He just needs to clear a path while you smash with some other good creature. Have you noticed that W/U has a lot of those? That's the big reason I love drafting it so much. There are just lots of good cards, even when you don't rip open bomb rares. Steel of the Godhead, for instance. I can give something +2/+2, lifelink, and unblockability? How absurd.

Viridescent Wisps
This is actually all the wisps. I might be too paranoid about them, but I got completely wrecked the other day. I have out Ballynock Cohort, Briarberry Cohort, and Somnomancer. I make some good attack into vastly inferior creatures all of a sudden, neither Cohort has a friend around, my opponent has a new card in hand, and he's destroying me with a Barkshell Blessing. While it isn't usually so dominating, the Wisps are rarely bad. Even when they're just cycling, it tends to be fine.

I seem to have left out Prismwake Merrow. That guy is good too. Play 'em.

Now that you've read all that, what should you take away from it? I think the most important lesson is the one I talked about under power level. There are a lot of possible archetypes in this format, but it is really important to be in one of those if possible. Clearly you can win without that, but I think that it will be a lot harder. The more hopeful message if that one is getting you down is the fact that there are a lot of cool things to do in this draft format. There are lots of subtle interactions to be found and used. These things will all get sorted out over the course of the next couple of weeks, so get cracking on it.

Now that I've come back and edited this, I hope I caught all the mistakes. If not, forgive me. Too much work to do really, and not enough sleep.



Sarcasm by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sun, 06/15/2008 - 21:41
Anonymous (Unregistered)'s picture

It doesn't translate into text as well as one might think; you might want to watch out for that.