Innistrad is by far my favorite plane in Magic’s history. I’ve always been a huge fan of horror media, especially eldritch and Victorian-themed horror. I even host yearly Shadows Over Innistrad Halloween drafts (in which I’m undefeated lifetime!). When I heard MTG Arena would have a Shadows Over Innistrad remastered set, I was over the moon (pun intended).
Shadows Over Innistrad is sentimental for me as a limited set for a few reasons. When I was living in New York City I was a part of the New York Team Draft League, and played through both the Shadows and Eldritch Moon to a semi-finals and finalist appearance. While the Arena remastered set isn’t a 1:1 recreation of the set, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the original paper set that are important to know for the digital release.
Whether you’re planning on doing some drafts for fun or planning to cash the Arena Open, I’m here to help dive into the horrors of one of my favorite sets of all time!
The Mechanics of Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered
Investigate is a keyword action that creates Clue tokens. Clues are artifacts that can be sacrificed for two mana to draw a card.
Clue tokens are obviously useful in that they can help you draw ahead of your opponent, however there are multiple ways to utilize Clues in this set. Here are some examples:
Delirium is when you have four or more card types in your graveyard. Many cards in this set gain bonus effects once you have Delirium. Cards such as Wild-Field Scarecrow and Vessel of Nascency can help you hit Delirium quite easily.
Similar to the most recent Innistrad sets, there are various werewolves and other cards that transform. It’s worth noting that this set does not include the day/night mechanic, so werewolf cards will only initially transform in the upkeep if no player cast a spell on the previous turn.
Madness is a triggered ability that allows you to cast certain spells when you discard them. Call the Bloodline is one of my favorite cards to have in Rakdos Madness, as it allows you to build your board while giving you a clean Madness outlet.
Selesnya Humans is a deck that I really enjoy in draft. You can draft a high density of powerful two-drops that synergize well with each other, especially original Innistrad all-star, Hamlet Captain. You have some quality common and uncommons in Thraben Inspector, Courageous Outrider, Hamlet Captain, and Veteran Cathar. Ulvenwald Mysteries is a great way to draw ahead when your creatures inevitably bite the (silver) bullet, and Angelic Purge is a great way to clean up a large opposing Eldrazi or Vampire by sacrificing a token or land. Heron’s Grace Champion is your signpost rare, and you’re mainly looking to aggro the opponent out while growing your board.
Izzet Spells is one of my favorite and trickier decks to draft in this format. The signpost card of this archetype is Rise of the Tides, although there are other various ways to end games such as Mercurial Geists or Thermo Alchemist. You can draft some pretty neat combos such as Mad Prophet plus Fiery Temper or Alchemist’s Greeting. Your ultimate goal is to stall the game long enough to resolve a huge Rise from the Tides, however you can win some games by comboing off with Mercural Geists and other prowess creatures.
As I’ll mention later on in this article, Green gets some pretty sweet card rarity rebalances in this set. Green Delirium is all about shoring up your defenses with cards like Gnarlwood Dryad and gaining value with cards like Obsessive Skinner. Grim Flayer is a nice signpost rare that’s been downshifted from mythic in this set. Vessel of Nascency is a nice set up card, and cards like Pack Guardian can pull you closer to Delirium while providing some added value. Black gives you some payoffs in Dusk Feaster, Kindly Stranger and Mindwrack Demon, Blue gives you Manic Scribe, and White gives you Reaper of Flight Moonsilver and Topplegeist. The point of the Green Delirium decks is that you can branch out into other colors with good mana fixing and even splash a third color for solid Delirium payoffs or bombs.
Rakdos Madness is my last favorite deck of the format. With various Madness enablers and payoffs you can pull super far ahead of your opponent, drawing deeper into your deck and casting cards for reduced costs, granted you have an easy discard outlet. Rakdos usually leans into more of a vampires deck, since you have Call the Bloodline, Furyblade Vampire, and Ravenous Bloodseeker as discard outlets. You have removal in Fiery Temper and Alchemist’s Greeting, and cheap Madness creature spells in Insatiable Gorgers, Bloodmad Vampire, and Stromkirk Outcast.
One interesting aspect about Shadows over Innistrad Remastered is that multiple cards have been upshifted or downshifted from their original rarity from their original paper printing.
Green-based Delirium is so strong in this format because of three key rebalances: Gnarlwood Dryad and Obsessive Skinner from uncommon to common, and Deathcap Cultivator from rare to uncommon. Skinner is a card that can completely win games on its own, especially if you can power out Delirium fast. Dryad and Deathcap aren’t as powerful, but being able to stack multiple copies of them in your deck is a bonus, something that wasn’t as possible in the paper version of this set.
Red has a slew of interesting rebalances as well. Fiery Temper is now an uncommon (upshifted from common), which makes it less likely to see. It’s a key piece of removal that’s exceptional in both Izzet Spells and Rakdos Madness. Rakdos also gets Stromkirk Occultist and Scourge Wolf (downshifted from rare to uncommon) and Incendiary Flow and Deranged Whelp (uncommon to common) as some nice buffs as well. I think this makes Red decks a little more potent than in regular Shadows draft. I think Red having powerful early game that’s easier to pick up can combo nicely with some of the Black removal spells and Madness payoffs/enablers. Shadows over Innistrad is definitely a much slower format than any recent Standard set, but these rebalances to Red make me think that you should be aware of losing to fast draws, especially in best of one queues.
Which brings us to our next set of rebalances and fixing – the land cycle. We get five dual tapped lands as well as the downshifted “show” lands from rare to uncommon. Having a cycle of ten dual lands allows for better fixing, especially in Sealed. In Sealed, especially playing the Arena Open, you should prioritize playing a stronger three-color deck than a weaker two-color deck that has more synergies. You can get away with aggro decks sometimes, but Sealed is about winning the long game and controlling the board state. That being said, look out for stronger rares and removal spells you can splash off of your dual lands. Heck, it might even be worth forcing some Skinners in your deck if you have a Green splash. You can get away with higher-powered multicolored decks in this format than in the regular Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon sets.
Going off that note, I’d tackle the Arena Open as you would for any other sealed format. Prioritize the power of your pool, look to your removal spells, ways to gain card advantage, and mana fixing. I really like the Delirium payoff cards in Sealed, since you’ll have more time to setup in the early game for later powerful turns.
Manic Scribe is a card I’d probably play in any deck because I love winning games without dealing combat damage, but this is an example of a card that’s way better in Sealed than draft. You can sit behind your board and watch as your opponent mills their whole deck. It’s pretty easy to hit Delirium if you have a Wild-Field Scarecrow and a discard outlet, plus some instant and sorceries here and there. Your opponent drawing 10% of their deck every turn is a pretty fast clock that you can protect. I would definitely recommend finding your best cards in your pool, but also looking for intricate synergies that can help pull your deck together.
I hope you’re all embracing the horrors of Innistrad and enjoying its remastered set, I know I am. Best of luck in the Arena Open and any drafts you might do. I might have to dust off one of my booster boxes to get in some nostalgia. Until next time!