“The Flavor of Shadows Over Innistrad”
Writer: Jesse Lopez
Innistrad originally released in Fall of 2011 with a gothic horror themed setting where humanity is beset by all manner of creatures of myth. The theme most notably featured the classic horror tropes of vampires, zombies, demons and werewolves. Mankind clings on to survival by the protection offered by their Patron ArchAngel Avacyn who wards off the majority of these foul creatures; allowing the humans that worship her to live another day.
The story told Avacyn imprisoned in an obelisk appropriately named “The Helvault” along with several powerful demons that she had banished.
To make a long story short, at the end of the original Innistrad story arc; Avacyn is freed from The Helvault and she, along with her angelic host, flies around the land beating back the darkness as well as the creatures who were preying on people to the brink of extinction.
The ongoing Magic the Gathering storyline now takes you back to just after it left off from Avacyn beating back the darkness, however something is wrong with Avacyn. She has begun attacking her followers. Avacyn has grown angry with the humans. Avacyn, along with her host of angels, have begun to bring her angelic wrath down upon them. Could it be that Avacyn has been driven Mad?
The main hallmarks of the original Innistrad set were flip-cards. A card that when the right conditions are met will flip over to reveal the flavorful results of its transformation.
In all of her glory, the Archangel Avacyn transforms into a brutal angel of wrath ready to make all of those worship her die a fiery death.
Other monstrous horror tropes exist as flip-cards that are just oozing with flavor. One of which that is both my personal flavor favorite, and one of the better cards in the set is Thing in the Ice.
This card drops down as an early game defender, then once you have casted four instants or sorceries, it flips over into a massive 7/8 Kraken horror that bounces all non-horror creatures on the field to their owners hands. Meaning that in most circumstances this guy is going to hit your opponent for 7+ if he flips. His drawback of needing to have spells cast to flip him is barely a drawback at all since he is Blue, the color that loves to cast more spells than any of the other.
Now that you have seen some great examples of what flip cards lie in store for you in the new set, lets take a look at what new mechanics Shadows Over Innistrad has to offer. The first of the two new mechanics in Shadows over Innistrad is delirium.
Like Descent Upon the Sinful showcases, the delirium mechanic rewards you for having your graveyard filled with a variety of different card types. This represents a player slowly relinquishing their sanity in favor of something more…rewarding.
The Second sample of delirium is a personal favorite of mine from the set, Mindwrack Demon (who’s artwork looks like something out of a Death Metal music album cover art; a serious plus in my book). At a glance, this card is very high on the power curve. A 4/5 flying trampler for four mana is nothing to scoff at. When he enters play, Mindwrack Demon dumps four cards into your graveyard, making him an excellent delirium enabler. He has the negative effect that at the beginning of your upkeep you lose four life unless you have delirium enabled by having four different types of permanents in your graveyard, which is something that Mindwrack demons encourages you to do with his enter-play ability. Oi! Such flavor based synergy!
The Other new Mechanic is different then most other mechanics that have ever been used in the 20 plus years of Magic’s history. That mechanic is called investigate.
The flavor of the mechanic represents the people trying to figure out what happened to Avacyn. They are not alone. One of the main protagonists of storyline; Jace Beleren has come upon the journal Tamiyo, a Planeswalker like himself. The Moonsage, Tamiyo, travels the multiverse recording knowledge, and here is what she found…
I’ll leave you to investigate all of the different uses clues (see what I did there? ) can have and what new interactions they can create with old cards in order to move on to the last mechanic of the set. It is a pretty big deal. Enough to warrant being in the title of this article; though that also has a lot to do with my love for Iron Maiden as well.
In SOI, Black and Red get the majority of the madness cards with Blue only getting a small handful. Traditionally Blue and Green, and to a lesser extent red, are home to the madness mechanic, Black getting only a few cards in the Time Spiral Block that have the madness keyword. Madness lets you play spells by an alternative casting cost when they get discard from your hand by other effects. Normally discarding a card is bad, with madness it can become good, Crazy Good!
The first card gives you a powerful effect at the cost of having to discard a card from your hand, but with madness and enough available mana, you will find yourself trying to find ways to discard to gain more advantage in game.
This wraps up my initial rundown on the Flavor of Shadows over Innistrad. There is still so much more to talk about, I may need to write a follow up…or maybe I’ve just gone mad.