Innistrad Review: WHITE

I’m not sure how excited I am about Innistrad right now, so I thought I should start looking over the set and see what I think. On the one hand, I do like vampires, and I like the idea of new Magic cards. On the other hand, the thing that drove me away from the game last time was this relentless release of new cards every three months. For someone who can’t afford to buy booster boxes of cards for every set, doesn’t play regularly in tournaments or drafts, and only has a limited amount of time to spend on the game, this is a really frustrating aspect of the game. Every set brings new cards for old decks, new deck ideas, and, of course, new cards I’ll never be able to afford. As I’ve mentioned before, in spite of the exciting prospect of picking up some sweet new cards, it’s hard to get too excited about buying booster packs, since most packs are just duds. Too much “limited fodder”. My review will take a slightly different approach to the new cards – let’s call it the “super casual’ approach:

Rather than trying to rate each card, I’m just going to break the cards up into three categories and make some comments:

  • Buy List: These are cards I’m going to try to acquire (if the price is right). It’ll fit into one of my current decks, or it brings the possibility of a new deck, or it just seems too cool to pass up.
  • The Rest: These aren’t necessarily bad, I’m just probably not going to buy these unless a future deck calls for it. I may also comment on the obvious decks these cards seems to support.
  • Limited Fodder: Really, if a card is so unexciting for me, whose constructed decks are little better than limited decks anyway, then the card must have been designed solely for drafting purposes, and can be ignored by anyone who isn’t really into drafting. Imagine me making a big raspberry sound as you read this list. I don’t plan to make any comments in this section.

Buy List

Champion of the Parish
A one-drop that gets better over time seems perfect. Reminds me a little of the allies from Zendikar. This could fit really well in some kind of soldier deck, since those are mostly humans. If there’s a White Weenie constructed playable deck in Standard, I’m pretty sure this is going to be in it – it’s not quite a Steppe Lynx, but sometimes it gets even bigger.

Cloistered YouthHere’s a nice complement for the Champion of the Parish; it comes in on turn 2 as a human, boosts the Champ, and then on your next turn, it’s ready to attack as a 3/3. If you’re playing an aggressive deck, you sure don’t care about the life loss drawback.

Doomed TravelerHere’s another one-drop (again a human, note), and this one basically upgrades itself when it dies – how’s that for a chump block! A 1/1 flyer for 1 is nothing to sneeze at.

Elder Cathar

In some sense, this 2/2 replaces itself when it dies, if you’re playing with enough humans. 3 mana may be a little pricey for a 2/2, though. It’s looking like a WW deck is coming together.

Geist-Honored Monk

A 3/3 for 5 isn’t great, but I guess it’s more like a 5/5 for 5, which isn’t too bad (plus you get some flying action), and hopefully by turn 4 or 5 you have more creatures than this out. I see a lot of potential for a WW finisher here, or maybe just coupled with some kind of token generating engine (like Elspeth?).

Intangible Virtue

Clearly, someone in R&D is pushing a (White) token deck. This is a “build around me” kind of card.

Mikaeus, the Lunarch

I expect Mythics to be out of my price range at first, so we’ll see what happens, but this goes nicely with the previous cards. Any deck with lots of little creatures is going to like this guy, and he can come out early or late, and provides his own engine to keep the benefits flowing.

Thraben Sentry

A 5/4 trampler for 4 seems quite reasonable, and in the right deck, getting someone to die isn’t too hard (sac outlets and what not). Plus, even the transformed dude is a human, which could make a difference with some cards.


The Rest

I’ll try to group these into sub-categories as most don’t need specific commentary. One sub-category is Sideboard cards. These do something useful or powerful, but they have such a narrow use that it’s unlikely that you’d put them in the main deck (and alas, I don’t usually play with a sideboard). Other sub-categories may be based upon thematic connections like tribal affiliations or mechanics.

The Spirit Token Deck (or White Weenie)

White creatures in Innistrad seem to fall into the human or spirit tribes, and there does seem to be the makings of a Spirit deck here, especially with a token sub-theme. That could include the following cards:

Angel of Flight Alabaster - 4W
Creature - Angel: 4/4
Flying
At the beginning of your upkeep, return target Spirit card from your graveyard to your hand.
Chapel Geist - 1WW
Creature - Spirit: 2/3
Flying

A 2/3 flyer for 3 seems OK. Plus it’s a spirit.

Dearly Departed - 4WW
Creature - Spirit: 5/5
Flying  
As long as Dearly Departed is in your graveyard, each Human creature you control enters the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter on it.

This probably doesn’t actually go in the Spirit deck, since it’s too slow to cast. Rather, you want to get this into your graveyard as early as possible.

Fiend Hunter - 1WW
Creature - Human Cleric: 1/3
When Fiend Hunter enters the battlefield, you may exile another target creature.  When Fiend Hunter leaves the battlefield, return the exiled card to the battlefield under its owner's control.

As Luis Scott-Vargas notes, it’s not a permanent solution, but you get quite a bit for 3 mana. In White Weenie, this clears out their most annoying blocker.

Gallows Warden - 4W
Creature - Spirit: 3/3
Flying  
Other Spirit creatures you control get +0/+1.

Sort of half of a Spirit Lord, beefing up your spirits’ toughness. The only problem is probably its mana cost: 5 for a 3/3 with flying and an ability is average enough, but the effect here needs to come earlier.

Mausoleum Guard - 3W
Creature - Human Scout: 2/2
When Mausoleum Guard dies, put two 1/1 white Spirit creature tokens with flying onto the battlefield.

Here’s a card that synergizes with Champion of the Parish and Intangible Virtue, as well as the spirit deck in general. A 2/2 for 4 is a little pricey, but it does replace itself with improvement (flying, spirits, and tokens).

Mentor of the Meek - 2W
Creature - Human Soldier: 2/2
Whenever another creature with power 2 or less enters the battlefield under your control, you may pay 1. If you do, draw a card.

The makings of a White Weenie deck seems to be in here with all the puny humans and spirits running around, and with this card, you keep the flow of Weenies coming.

Midnight Haunting - 2W
Instant
Put two 1/1 white Spirit creature tokens with flying onto the battlefield.

Here’s another one for the spirit token deck. If only it had flashback…

Spectral Rider - WW
Creature - Spirit Knight: 2/2
Intimidate (This creature can't be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it.)

A 2/2 for 2 with intimidate is pretty average these days, and this could be weak if lots of white weenie decks are running around. I’m not sure if he’s good enough for my Knight deck either.

Unruly Mob - 1W
Creature - Human: 1/1
Whenever another creature you control dies, put a +1/+1 counter on Unruly Mob.

OK, not necessarily for the spirit deck, but a white weenie or token deck is going to expect some deaths, and like the Champion of the Parish, this guy could grow to great proportions. Obviously, this could go into a deck with lots of sacrificing (Eldrazi Spawn tokens, anyone?)

Voiceless Spirit - 2W
Creature - Spirit: 2/1
Flying, first strike

This card really demonstrates the problem with a potential white weenie spirit token deck (or some such beast): Lots of these white weenies are just a little overpriced, which means that draft or sealed might be the only place we really see such a deck, and thus most of these cards should just be relegated to the “Limited Fodder” section. Too bad, really. I mean 3 mana for a 2/1? Even with its two abilities that just doesn’t seem good enough for a constructed deck, even for me.

Sideboard Cards

Divine Reckoning - 2WW
Sorcery
Each player chooses a creature he or she controls. Destroy the rest.  Flashback 5WW (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)

The new Day of Judgment, sort of. This seems particularly good against a weenie (R or W) deck where your one creature is much beefier than their one surviving creature. Look for this in UW control decks, I suspect.

Nevermore - 1WW
Enchantment
As Nevermore enters the battlefield, name a nonland card.  The named card can't be cast.

Obviously only useful in an environment where you know what to name.

Paraselene - 2W
Sorcery
Destroy all enchantments. You gain 1 life for each enchantment destroyed this way.

Is this better than Tranquility? Are enchantments going to be common in this block/standard? This is a weaker verison of Multani’s Decree, but in White. And probably not better than Patrician’s Scorn in a White deck, but almost strictly better than Tempest of Light (I feel a new Into the Scrapheap? column coming on).

Purify the Grave - W
Instant
Exile target card from a graveyard.  
Flashback W (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)

An important card in a set with a graveyard theme. Is it too limited to be useful in large formats?

Silverchase Fox - 1W
Creature - Fox: 2/2
1W, Sacrifice Silverchase Fox: Exile target enchantment.

A bear in fox’s clothing? Perhaps most importantly, it exiles rather than destroys – no return from the dead.

Stony Silence - 1W
Enchantment
Activated abilities of artifacts can't be activated.

Can we say, “An answer to several Scars of Mirrodin block cards”? Possibly even useful in larger formats, if some powerful artifacts are dominating the scene with their activated abilities.

Block Specific Cards

Some of the cards in this set seem like they will only be useful when playing with Innistrad block cards. They’re not quite as bad as “limited fodder”, but in more diverse formats than draft, block, or standard, these may be too limited in scope to be useful. This is particularly true of the references to Humans/non-Humans or Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies on some of the cards:

Angelic Overseer - 3WW
Creature - Angel: 5/3
Flying
As long as you control a Human, Angelic Overseer has hexproof and is indestructible.

Of course, this can be controlled in your deck. A four turn clock that is tough to kill, and a little evasive. This is no Baneslayer Angel, though.

Avacynian Priest - 1W
Creature - Human Cleric: 1/2
1,T: Tap target non-Human creature.
Bonds of Faith - 1W
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature  
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 as long as it's a Human. Otherwise, it can't attack or block.

This could have wider applications than just Innistrad block, having the potential to be 2 cards in 1 – a pumper for your humans, or a Pacifism for their beasts. The former can be controlled by your deck construction, the latter, not so much.

Elite Inquisitor - WW
Creature - Human Soldier: 2/2
First strike, vigilance  
Protection from Vampires, from Werewolves, and from Zombies

Seems like an awesome sideboard card IF you know you’re going to face some vampires, werewolves, or zombies. It’s certainly a strong bear that might make a White Weenie deck anyway.

Slayer of the Wicked - 3W
Creature - Human Soldier: 3/2
When Slayer of the Wicked enters the battlefield, you may destroy target Vampire, Werewolf, or Zombie.

4 mana for a 3/2 plus removing one of their creatures? A good deal, but only if you know you are facing Vampires, Werewolves, or Zombies.

Urgent Exorcism - 1W
Instant
Destroy target Spirit or enchantment.

I like the flexibility of this card, but when else are you going to need something to deal with Spirits? You’re better off packing a Disenchant in other formats.


Limited Fodder

Whether they’re just overpriced compared to other available cards, or offer an effect that only a limited deck would be willing to spend a whole card on, these are cards that I rate as essentially constructed unplayable. I suppose some could end up as sideboard cards in a tourney constructed deck, but even I doubt that.

Abbey Griffin
Feeling of Dread
Ghostly Possession
Moment of Heroism
Rally the Peasants
Rebuke
Selfless Cathar
Smite the Monstrous
Spare from Evil
Thraben Purebloods
Village Bell-Ringer

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