Saturday, September 24, 2011

Random Thoughts on Innistrad

It's been a long week at work. I haven't been able to do any of my normal gaming as a result and I couldn't make the midnight prerelease because, frankly, I'm too old to stay up that late anymore. For the same reason, I'm up before 10am on this fine day Saturday. Next Innistrad event isn't until 1, so I might as well type up those thoughts I didn't have time to on Monday when the full spoiler went up.

Bonds of Faith is great for experienced players because it offers conditional removal with an alternate use as creature pump. I'm not sure it's as great a card for new players because they could be confused by this dichotomy. On the other hand, those that try it out despite this uncertainty might be in for an excellent lesson.

I'm curious to see how Midnight Haunting does, considering its parentage in Spectral Procession. Two's a lot less than three, though. Pity the Procession couldn't be reprinted here because of the hybrid mana.

It's odd having dogs the size of a Siege Mastodon (Thraben Purebloods).

Urgent Exorcism is awesome: Two random conditional removal spells stapled together by awesome flavor.

I find it suspicious that Skaabs both mill (Armored Skaab) and 'delve' (Skaab Goliath and Skaab Ruinator.) Mechanically one is needed to enable the other, but the flavor here is one of the few failures of this set.

Back from the Brink is blue? I guess that makes sense in Innistrad where mad scient--er wizards are restoring life to the dead. Giving all your creatures flashback is pretty sweet. If you check out the FAQ, you'll see a fascinating point that you can pay WUBRG to bring back Bringer of the Red Dawn et al because of the way those alternate costs were worded. Neat.

There were a bunch of cards that were functional identical or mighty frickin' close to cards designed by the amateur designer circles I travel in. Many of them were inevitable, like Chapel Geist, Bramblecrush and Typhoid Rats, and many were just likely to be parallel designed (but not inevitable) like Moment of Heroism and Dream Twist. I won't go too far into this subject since I've touched on it before, but this is pretty common and nothing to write home about, but don't let that diminish the coolness factor. It also lets us know that we're on the right path.

Runic Repetition should totally have flashback. I'm kidding of course: this card is nuts as it is. Twice as good as the slightly-too-good-to-reprint Regrowth in the decks where it will be played.

Flight is a really good ability so I'm always a little surprised how rarely drafters will play cards like Flight, Leap and Levitation, including myself: They just tend not to make the cut. Spectral Flight will not have that problem. It's a bit odd for blue to give a P/T boost and I thought it was going to be justified by a five-card cycle, but it turns out it's just Bonds of Faith and Furor of the Bitten. This also causes me to step back and realize blue is really big in this set. The average P/T of a blue deck has to be at least +1/+1 larger than normal.

Why does Abattoir Ghoul have first strike? Anyone? Buehler?

Skulltap was in the initial list of black commons for M13. I liked what it was meant to do, but I hated playing with it. Altar's Reap, with its instant speed, now that is a sacrifice effect I can enjoy. (Too bad it would be weird to reprint it 9 months later.)

Ghoulcaller's Chant is one of many cards that could have warranted the use of the Tribal card type. Okay, in the case of the Chant, it's one card that couldn't have been printed if they'd used Tribal, but it still raises the question "why not?" Mark Rosewater has publicly declared that he intends to never let Tribal be printed again. That makes me sad because it had a lot of potential, but it makes me sadder because now there's this random basic card type that has no value other than to demonstrate to players that R&D still makes massive, embarrassing mistakes. I still lean toward trusting them on crazy moves like Transform, but this 'fifth Beatle' prevents that trust from approaching 100%

Pretty weird that Manor Skeleton has haste. Ignoring the fact that the added text isn't worth 1 potential point of damage, the flavor here is terrible. Skeletons aren't fast and the exceptions to that rule don't live in Manors. Come on!

Blasphemous Act sounds like a Threaten effect. I love the card, don't get me wrong, but the name is too close to Act of Treason and Act of Aggression.

Congratulations to the designer or developer who managed to make Brimstone Volley 3|5 instead of 2|4. Seriously.

Who loves Burning Vengeance? They keep printing this card each block (Lightning Rift, Rumbling Aftershocks) and I just don't appreciate it personally. Apparently a lot of people do, though, starting with Jacob Van Lunen. And that's an important lesson for a designer.

I like Infernal Plunge as a nerfed version of Dark Ritual because it's very hard to cast on turn one. (Memnite anyone?) But it feels odd here since all the other additional costs are removing cards from graveyards. Wouldn't that have been an acceptable nerf as well?

Pitchburn Devils' name seems a bit literal. (Otherwise love the card.)

Why are Riot Devils so cautious?

Why is Tormented Pariah so strong in its natural form? 2/2 is the normal maximum for a really buff and/or well-trained Human. Yet this one cowardly little outcast is a 3/2? Madness.

Is Kindercatch the end of the line that started with Craw Wurm and was mostly recently filled by Vastwood Gorger and Alpha Tyrranax? The designer in me kinda hopes so, but the Timmy in me hopes not.

I'm curious to see how the random return of cards from the graveyard will play. Will folks shuffle or roll a die? The cards that use it tend to be pretty darn good (Moldgraf Monstrosity, Make a Wish) so I'm sure people will bear with the inconvenience. I'm guessing it's worth it, but we'll see.

Why is equipment good at Humans and not the other way around? Butcher's Cleaver, Sharpened Pitchfork and Silver-Inlaid Dagger are freaky. How do they know who's holding them? Why do they care? I'm forced to assume this theme (humans need to be prepared if they are to compete with the forces of the night) played out this way because too many Mirrodin, Zendikar and Scars cards have already played out the way creatures can be good at using equipment.

Spare from Evil seems... racist. It makes sense in this set where the only races are humans and monsters, but in every other Magic set it's quite odd. This card seems to contradict the open-ended movement.

I'm not a fan of Victim of Night. It's not terrible, but I would have vastly preferred something like "Choose a Vampire, Werewolf, Zombie or Spirit you control. Destroy target creature that doesn't share a type with it." Or maybe "Choose a non-Human creature you control..."

It seems odd that Intangible Virtue aids tokens rather than Spirits. Spirits are the only tokens white produces, so that's clearly the group this card is primarily intended to support and the flavor supports that. Considering all the cards that specifically help Humans or Vampires, it wouldn't be out of place to name Spirits as the beneficiary. It's a tribal set, after all. I think there's something else happening here.

The tribal component of this set is of particular interest to me since I spent some time in November thinking of new ways to implement a tribal set (and mostly failed—badly). Some of the tribal support cards in Innistrad are pretty standard and 'eh', like Vampiric Fury, but a lot of these cards have been implemented in more open-ended ways (like Intangible Virtue, Spare from Evil and Victim of Night above). It's also fascinating to see the impact including Human as a tribe has had because it allows you to make cards like Night Revelers that won't suddenly become much worse in other environments.

More to come, I think. For now, I'm off to the prerelease. This is going to be awesome.


  1. In my mind, Abattoir Ghoul has First Strike for two reason:

    1)He's wielding a knife/sword, apparently skillfully.

    2)Rules wise, this really helps his ability grok for new players. If this 3/2 runs into a 2/3 and they both die, does his ability trigger for that creature, or not since the 3/2 is already dead? Adding first strike means that ghoul will almost never die at the same time as his victim. Problem solved.

    I like the flavor/mechanics of the human based equipment. The other creatures of the night don't become skilled at using those weapons. That said, their ability to equip them at all is so weird flavorwise. Zombie WEILDING a blazing torch you say? Hmm. The equipment is neat from a game play perspective in how it gives big weapons to the human tribe AND give werewolves something to spend their mana on without casting spells. Sure, the wolves will then lose the human benefits if they flip, but on the plus side, they just flipped!

    Manor Skeleton's haste reminded me of the trope of the quick moving blur in a dark room. You look behind you for monsters, turn around and he's RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.

  2. Who loves Burning Vengeance? Limited Johnny Spikes (Conley Woods)

    Funky, build around me, red enchantments spawn interesting subarchtypes in limited. This one fits in great for the UR deck, which otherwise doesn't have a lot going on. But with a few copies of this, maybe some Armored Skabbs, think twices and dream twists, you've got the possibility for quite a UR zombie deck.

  3. And according to Tom LaPille's article this week, Intangible Virtue was made as a build-around-me for WB tokens decks (spirits and zombies).

    I like the skeleton. The flavor isn't perfect but for some reason the combination of abilities appeals to me even though they don't have obvious synergy. Better flavor might have been a "skeleton in the closet" that pops out and scares you. Actually, that might have been the original flavor inspiration for the card but got changed by creative for some reason; a shame, as I like all the other "literally named" cards in the set.

  4. Corpse Lunge got the "Skeleton that pops out of a closet" flavor, but it should have been "Don't go near the defeated villain! It's not dead yet!"

  5. I'm pretty sure Manor Skeleton has haste as part of a more comical trope regarding butlers, which I guess you guys aren't familiar with.

  6. Stitched Drake : Illusionary Servant :: Makeshift Mauler : Phantom Beast
    (And Skaab Ruinator : Phantasmal Dragon KINDA)
    Suppose that means this is coming in Dark Ascencion:

    Tissue Reanimatant 1U
    Creature - Zombie
    As an additional cost to cast ~, exile a creature card from your graveyard.
    ~ ETB as a copy of any creature on the battlefield (or the creature card exiled?)

  7. I suppose Stitched Bear wouldn't be much use, huh?

  8. In your list of Burning Vengeances, don't forget Furnace Celebration, Rage Extractor, Where Ancients Tread... A set-specific red enchantment saying "Whenever [vaguely set-specific thing], ~ deals [some] damage to target creature or player" is a classic for casual build-arounds. I've got a Furnace Celebration deck, my wife's got a Rage Extractor deck, and I'm looking forward to making my current River Kelpie deck into a Burning Vengeance deck!

  9. "I'm curious to see how Midnight Haunting does, considering its parentage in Spectral Procession. Two's a lot less than three, though. Pity the Procession couldn't be reprinted here because of the hybrid mana."

    Midnight Haunting is instant, Spectral Procession is sorcery. That means you can use new card as a combat trick.