Welcome to my Shadows over Innistrad Constructed Set Review! I do things a little differently than in the Limited review:
I evaluate the cards that have a shot at seeing play in Constructed. Sorry, Cathar’s Companion, you’re in the doghouse when it comes to Constructed. Sometimes I leave a card off that ends up seeing play, but I try and cast a wide net.
I try and talk about non-Standard formats if something seems applicable. For example, Insolent Neonate seems best-suited for Modern, so I’ll bring that up when I get to it. If I don’t mention a specific format, assume I’m talking about Standard.
The ratings scale is slightly different as well. I will have to change it next set to factor in Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, but for now it stands. There’s an argument for Jace, the Living Guildpact to be a 1.0, but 1.0 is the only rating that’s remained unchanged since Riki Hayashi first wrote the description 7 years ago and Jace could have seen play, even though it didn’t.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
While I’m not fully confident that this is going to dominate Standard, I do think it’s a powerful card-drawing engine. Even without the madness part, it offers good stats and a very enticing ability. Add in the benefit of being able to discard it into play and the natural synergy with cards that let you discard, and you have a deal. Every now and then it can even punish the opponent for going to 0 cards, though that will be infrequent.
Behold the Beyond
This text box is too cool to pass up. I don’t know what it’s going to do, but there has to be something. At 7 mana, I’m more thinking older formats—ones with broken mana acceleration—though if you find a good enough 2- or 3-card combo in Standard, this could make an appearance.
Effects like this want to be cast on turn 3, so Flaying Tendrils is going to hold that card slot for now. I like the idea of discarding this for value and casting it, but that’s not reliable enough on the turn where you need to make it rain.
Call the Bloodline
While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this Bitterblossom, it’s still a powerful card. It provides an unkillable madness outlet and a steady stream of relevant creature tokens. It also works nicely with Vampire synergies such as Indulgent Aristocrat.
At 4 mana, this is likely a turn behind where it needs to be. Effects like this do punish control, but you are living in a world of proactive control decks, and playing this into an Ojutai or something is a dreadful plan.
Dead Weight enables delirium and is an efficient removal spell. It will see a decent amount of play, even if it operates at sorcery speed.
It’s not hard to imagine this coming down as a 4/4 or greater, and it can easily generate a couple Zombie tokens per game. Between Diregraf Colossus and Compelling Deterrence, Zombies may be a tribe for the first time since Onslaught block.
Is this the elusive Aetherling replacement? Probably not, but it is a solid early blocker and a difficult to kill threat. That’s worth something, and I can see this at the high end of an aggro deck just as easily as a finisher for control. Being the same cost as Mindwrack Demon is tough because I think Mindwrack is fantastic, but that’s not to say that this has no hope of seeing play.
Given that most Zombify effects cost 5 these days, paying 6 mana and getting 2 creatures back is an impressive deal. This puts you up on cards and mana, with the only precondition being that you need to fill your graveyard. That seems like an achievable goal, and one that gives you a real payoff for achieving it. If Dragonlord Kolaghan is one of the 2 creatures coming back, you are bashing your opponent for a ton, and even getting back any two 4+ cost creatures should put you far ahead. There are a lot of graveyard-based cards in this set, and this is one of the better ones to build a deck around.
From Under the Floorboards
Given that you get Zombies + life instead of cards + life, this is more of a Stinking Revelation than Sphinx’s Revelation, but a Revelation nonetheless. I am underwhelmed by token-makers in light of recent Declarations, though this being an instant when you madness it makes me a lot more willing to try it. If you can add enough good ways to discard this at instant speed, a control deck could use this as a finisher. Gaining 5-7 life makes it a legit way to keep yourself from dying, and 10+ power out of nowhere does end games.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, if there’s a graveyard deck, this kind of card could be put to good work. I doubt you’d need this, Geralf’s Masterpiece, and Stitchwing Skaab, but some combination of them is good.
Heir of Falkenrath
This is one of the most important pieces of both Vampire decks and madness decks. It has great stats for the cost, and comes with an upside if you are in the market to discard cards. Heir of Falkenrath is a cheap card that presents a good threat at any point in the game and lets you discard at no mana cost—there’s not much more you can ask for.
I’m less high on this than Call the Bloodline, though they do work very nicely together. If all your creatures are Vampires, this can add a lot of power to the board, but being so weak by itself is a cause for concern.
Mindwrack Demon is awesome. It’s not difficult to put together a deck that achieves delirium quickly, especially after the mill for 4, and a 4/5 flyer for 4 is a real payoff for doing it. It fuels your other delirium cards and graveyard synergies, and does so while paying you for playing it. The combination of enabler and reward in one card is a very appealing one, and I expect this card to be quite strong over the next season of Standard.
It’s a little too expensive for Modern, even if delirium is even easier to hit there, but there are more powerful graveyard synergies there too. It’s a long shot, but not completely insane to consider.
This is the kind of tribal enabler I can get behind. Olivia’s Bloodsworn is good on its own and rewards you nicely for playing a bunch of other Vampires. It keeps the pressure on and is a solid card at any stage of the game. You don’t even need to go all-in on Vampires to play Bloodsworn, though it becomes more threatening once you do.
Pale Rider of Trostad
Given how many different discard outlets there are in Constructed, you should only be playing Pale Rider if you care about getting a 2-mana 3/3. An aggressive deck certainly does want that, so this could easily factor into a Skaab reanimator deck of some kind. Note that it’s a better discard outlet for things like Geralf’s Masterpiece than for actual madness cards because you want to play this on turn 2 and use the card you discarded later (as opposed to needing to wait until you have the mana for a madness card).
Pick the Brain
Pick the Brain is a good sideboard card if you are hitting delirium reliably, though it doesn’t fail if you miss on delirium. For me to be happy including this, I’ll want to be able to strip their deck of whatever I take, with Coercion being an acceptable fallback. I also wouldn’t board this in against random midrange decks, and would only plan on bringing it in against decks like Ramp that have a small number of big threats.
The dead are indeed relentless. This keeps coming back, and even if you find an opportunity to kill it while your opponent is tapped out, a second copy starts the chain again. There are a couple other good Zombies to return, and getting a 2-for-1 or even 3-for-1 when you barely overpaid for the original card is something I’m interested in. It also randomly has menace, something I’ve forgotten about roughly ten times during playtesting so far.
To the Slaughter
If your black deck has trouble against planeswalkers and you aren’t looking to play Ruinous Path, this does answer them. It’s also a better Foul-Tongue Invocation for the non-Dragon decks, and sometimes it snaps off a 2-for-1. That’s all good stuff, even if you give up the ability to choose which creature dies.
I hope people pore over this entry looking for the references to 13, because there are none (at least not intentionally). The card itself is more amusing than it is effective, and the presence of painlands (like Shivan Reef) certainly don’t help. Plenty of people will win games with this in Constructed, and I wish them the best of luck doing so.
Top 5 Black Cards
It’s interesting how few good black cards in this set overlap. Black got plenty of powerful cards, and for the most part they are geared toward specific decks. Granted, Dead Weight is pretty flexible, and Mindwrack can fit in a bunch of different shells, but I have a hard time imagining Relentless Dead and Heir playing with too many of the other cards on this list.
I like that black supports the delirium theme while also pushing multiple tribal and/or aggro decks. It’s looking like interesting times ahead.