The Innistrad Experience

The Innistrad prereleases are over, and the one week wait till release is on. Even though I can’t draft till I get the 27 packs I’m owed on Friday, this weekend gave me plenty of interesting experiences to digest and understand, so I won’t be bored.

I should warn everyone before I really start passing out the Innistrad Kool-Aid. The M12 flavor of everyone’s favorite drink was so bland and tasteless that maybe, just maybe, even something that might end up actually being a bit bitter seems better at first. After M12, Innistrad is almost literally the Sprite commercial where people get hit in the face by bats, pucks, and fists, but all they feel is a refreshing splash of the best selling citrus drink in the world.

That said, after 13 rounds of Sealed over two events, I am in love with this set, and barely know where to begin. The colors are all clearly defined, each with a fairly specific theme. Tribes that stretch across colors to create a natural link in Limited. Complex decision making to defend against the ‘werewolf’ transform ability or morbid/graveyard based strategies. All of this combined with what turned out to be beautiful art in a style that is difficult to convey on tiny canvasses makes Innistrad a success.

Other, less easily explained factors help in making this set interesting, the most striking being how the removal is designed. Almost nothing just kills a target or deals damage without a variable. Removal is restricted by tribe, or by the power of a creature you exile from the bin as you cast, or  just taps it down instead of removing it, or just prevents attacking or blocking.

Weaving all this together is the want of trading creatures in combat, or sometimes just the desire to have ANYTHING get binned to trigger morbid. Not a single time all weekend did my opponent play an instant that grew their creature. This keeps boards from getting too bogged down with creatures you normally might want to sit on to wait for a trick, or an Overrun type blowout card.

The end result of all these factors is a very enjoyable experience for the thinking player. There are tough decisions to make at every turn, and usually many ways for a game to play out, without having to be cluttered with Bears(Zombies now?) Bluffing a suicide attack with a creature has much more meaning now, especially once an opponent knows you have a powerful Morbid effect somewhere in your deck.

Innistrad grades well in building Sealed pools as well. I built two pools for the two events, but also looked at/test built a half a dozen other builds. From this I’ve learned that Innistrad is pretty deep in terms of how you build your deck. That’s not to say there are two or more equally good decks in every pool, but that there are probably 3 or four builds using different color combinations that look good, but aren’t the best you can build. Many formats are a one and done sort of deal. Given 84 cards, there is an obvious  slant in the power level of the spells towards a particular build, and once you find anything that works, it’s a small matter to tinker with the last few spells to finish it up. Innistrad is tricky, or at least seems so until what cards are ‘better’ is really determined. The value of a particular card is also vague sometimes. For example, I knew this was a graveyard set, but a card like Corpse Lunge seems like a meh removal spell in most sets. I quickly learned it was just fine in almost any deck, and excellent in B/U, which tends to fill it’s yard with spare bodies.

Instead of a detailed report on the weekend, I’ll focus on some highlights:

My first pool contained 2 Geist Honored Monk, Mentor of the Meek, Champion of the Parish, Dearly Departed, and Bloodline Keeper. Backed by four or five removal spells, this was a relatively easy 4-0 then draw to secure Top 4 with a friend of mine. I would have absolutely played anyone I didn’t know with a deck like this.

I lost two games during the event, once on the draw to Elf, Flyer, Flyer, cast and flashback Travel Preparations. Yikes. I won a game where I had to play dead and get my opponent to flashback Rally the Peasants, then remove a dude and slowly climb back into the game. The same guy, only playing three mountains, Devil’s Played my one drop in game three, and flashed it back on five to kill Mentor of the Meek. Must be nice, but still won.

Pool two was easier to build, but far less powerful. I avoided playing the five Red transform cards from my first pool because frankly I wasn’t confident that I knew how to use them correctly, but with five rounds in tow I felt good about it.  I ended up B/R with 15 creatures and 8 removal spells, with on color removal sitting in the board. I had five red transform creatures again, along with Rolling Temblor and Blasphemous Act(only drawn once in 8 rounds). It’s possible I didn’t build this correctly, and will revisit it in the future after I’ve thought on it a bit more.

I lost a few more individual games since my deck wasn’t overpowering and relied on curving, but it was generally solid. For the two matches I actually lost, the final games were fairly absurd. Once, on the draw, I faced turn one Reckless Waif into Vampire Interloper into +2/+0 equipment. I had to bag my Geistflame(drawn on two, thanks) and Interloper to flip the werewolf back. After the opposing Interloper that was holding the equipment died in geistfire, opponent passed without equipping, but I had little choice at ten life but to try to equip blazing torch to my Nezumi Cutthroat Interloper, which was killed by Corpse Lunge. My other option was to play Tormented Pariah, but I’d rather him kill the Interloper and bring me to five than kill the best creature in my hand. Next turn, I played the Pariah, and Crossway Vampire let the Waif reach 13 damage for that game. He also had Brimstone Volley in hand, so I was dead pretty much no matter what I did. That’s the power of attacking for 3 on turn 2.

My semi-finals loss was lame. Geist Honored Monk into Cackling Counterpart EOT into flashback CC. Fun. I only had one decision that game. I had Skirsdag High priest with one dude, two mountains three swamps, no creatures and one swamp in hand, but a Geistflame and a Dead Weight also. I made the decision to Dead Weight a Chapel Geist(which according to my opponent costs two mana. jokes) so in the event I drew ANY dude in my deck except Kruin Outlaw(or Diregraf ‘Groovy’ Ghoul), I could Geistflame the now 0/1 flyer and make a Demon. I also save two damage each turn until I get a Demon and remove a blocker for said Demon. Opponent plays the first of his trio of Geist Honored Monks, and I then drew Kruin Outlaw. Awesome. I might have seriously made a game of it had I either waited a turn but possibly have five  less creatures to turn on the Priest, or you know, drawn Blasphemous Act once he had the 3rd Monk on the board.

I’ll leave with just a few Standard thoughts.

People are playing Snapcaster with eight targets. Please stop so the price comes down a bit before States.

Speaking of Snapcaster, the guy who dealt me 13 with Waif opened a foil one. So did my friend Farmer Pat in Nebraska, who spent most of the events texting me about magic. I hate the both of you, and enjoy your Benjamin.

Invisible Stalker is annoying. Get used to seeing him in weird blade brews.

Sun Titan is the best Titan.


See ya.


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