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13 Shadows over Innistrad Limited Build-Arounds

Shadows Over Innistrad is about to hit the shelves and it looks like it might actually stack up well against its esteemed predecessor. There’s a lot of what made Innistrad amazing in this set, but it’s different enough to give us a different play experience and I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on these awesome new cards. What’s even cooler is that there are a ton of interesting build-arounds in this Limited format, which means there’s a lot of brewing and fun around the corner. Some will end up better than others, but finding out which paths are worth jumping into early is a fun adventure that leads to more wins down the line.

Avacynian Missionaries/Lunarch Inquisitiors

A 4/4 Banisher Priest is clearly very good. The question is how often will this flip and is it worth building around? Some of the equipment in the set doesn’t look entirely depressing like it did in BFZ block (though I still love me a Pathway Arrows or Bone Saw when the time is right). Murderer’s Axe and Neglected Heirloom even look to be genuinely good. The Missionaries are a build-around to look out for because they might end up as good as their upside would lead you to believe, and I’m certainly going to try this card out as soon as I can.

Spectral Shepherd

On face value, this helps keep your creatures from dying to removal spells. It can also enable pseudo-vigilance since you can recast your Spirits post-combat after attacking with them. But all I really want to do is abuse enters-the-battlefield triggers. Apothecary Geist life turn after turn? Don’t mind if I do! A sweet value creature with combo potential, the Shepherd is one to keep your eye on.

Erdwal Illuminator

Get a clue! No really, get another Clue! This card is just pure value and its stats line is totally reasonable. I love that it’s cheap because it helps buy time while setting up the Clue value train that will follow. Not to mention that cheap casting cost helps prevent your opponent’s ferocious Werewolves from flipping. If there’s one thing I hope ends up good in this set, it’s the investigate deck. The fact that cards like Erdwal Illuminator exist give me hope that Clue decks will actually be good.

Fleeting Memories

Speaking of Clues, here’s a payoff card that kills your opponent very quickly. Saccing 7 clues sounds like a lot of work, but if that equates to milling 21 cards and decking your opponent, I’m much more on board. This is a classic do-nothing card so it does have the potential to be horrendous, but if the rate is quick enough, it can steal games like no other card. It’s also incredibly hard to interact with, especially in game 1. If the format is slower than it was in Magic Origins, a Sphinx’s-Tutelage-type card might be fantastic.

Rise from the Tides

Spider Spawning is back! Well, sort of. This card is the hybrid between Spawning and Burning Vengeance, which sounds like a pretty intriguing combination. The trick, of course, is finding this card in your self-mill deck since it doesn’t have flashback like Spider Spawning. I imagine there will be lots of tales that end with “and it was looking good until my opponent cast Rise from the Tides.”

Vessel of Paramnesia

If your deck wants to go a bit crazy, this is a good way to enable delirium. The upsides for delirium are often very minor, but some others like Descend upon the Sinful leave you a 4/4 Angel post-wrath. Clearly, it’ll be worth going out of your way at times while not at others. Collecting a few of this Vessel will make sure your graveyard is well stocked and delirious.

Call the Bloodline

If madness is more your flavor of choice, there are few better enablers than Call the Bloodline. 1/1 lifelinkers add up very quickly to take down bigger creatures, and can even swarm an opponent while preventing good counterattacks. Having this in play also makes life miserable for the opponent because you could have an instant-speed flash creature via madness at any time, which makes attacking into it a nightmare.

Sanitarium Skeleton

This guy looks innocuous but there are a lot of sacrifice payoffs in the set. What’s better to sacrifice than the creature that just keeps on giving? It’s certainly a bit on the expensive side, and a 1/2 isn’t all that exciting, but between repeatable fodder and an easy way to block annoying skulk creatures, this little monster might have the bones for the job.

Pyre Hound

The Jeskai taught us that spell-based creature decks can be pretty good, and that’s why I have some hope for this dog. Combine it with the various other prowess creatures in the set and some removal, and you have a recipe for a powerful deck. I like that picking up the first one of these incentivizes you to try and pick up a couple more since that will keep your deck streamlined. Drawing multiples is sometimes even great since they’ll all grow into large monsters together.

Stensia Masquerade

Tribal elements abound in this set and are almost easy to overlook with all the other new mechanics around, but there are some strong cards to synergize with your creature types. This could very well be one since many of the Vampires have a high power level to start with. If you’re ever able to madness this in as a combat trick, all the better. It could also be the case that the Vampire clause is a trick here and you want to pair it with big attackers like Hulking Devil. The reality will probably be somewhere in the middle, and you’ll want it when you have enough high-power creatures and some Vampires for added value.

Graf Mole

More Clue value! The thing I like best about this is that it gives you the requisite time to durdle while cracking your Clues. As a 2/4, it will also be hard to punch through until later in the game and all together, I think you have a nice little engine. It’s just too bad Felidar Sovereign was printed in Oath of the Gatewatch and not here to combo with the Mole.

Ulvenwald Mysteries

This card doesn’t have to be built around since it can be in play and generate value, but pairing it with sacrifice outlets is a sure-fire way to get your Clue engine rolling. These are often the best types of build-arounds because the fail case has such a high floor. Another route is creating a deck that tries to go wide and push through damage while losing creatures. This gives back cards and small creatures to help carry that plan across the finish line.

Epitaph Golem

This doesn’t exactly look like a build-around, but do you remember the old Spider Spawning decks? This can help loop a key card once you completely self-mill yourself to help you create a favorable repeatable game state until you win. What game state is that you ask? I’m not sure yet, but I can’t wait to find out!

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