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 to cast a wide net.
I talk about non-Standard formats if 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 making Jace, the Living Guildpact 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.)
I’m adding this one in for a bit of context—now that tri-lands (Mystic Monastery) and fetchlands (Flooded Strand) are gone, Evolving Wilds is one of the better fixers around. It also is critical in any deck trying to get to delirium, and it’s going to get played all over the place now that Shadows over Innistrad has descended. When evaluating delirium cards, I’m assuming Evolving Wilds are present in the majority of cases.
This has some interesting differences from the vanilla version (Glorious Anthem). I suspect Anthem would be better in Standard right now but vigilance is a real upside, and the price you pay is building your deck without too many tokens. That seems doable, and eventually the WW deck will be good, right?
I suggest you get well-acquainted with exactly how Avacyn works and how to play with/against her. She’s a complicated card (flash, combat-relevant ETB ability, flips on a delayed trigger), and an incredibly powerful one. Avacyn gives aggro a ton more power while also being great in midrange and solid in control. She combines well with counterspells and Collected Company alike, while doing just fine on her own.
If have an Avacyn who is flipping, you can let her flip on upkeep, and in response to the deal-3 trigger, flash in a second copy. Now you have a 4/4, a 6/5 (different cards with regard to legendary status) and none of your creatures die to the 3 damage thanks to new Avacyn. Of course, if a creature dies after that, you will flip new Avacyn and have to bin one of the two 6/5s.
Another neat trick with Avacyn is to put her in your deck and cast her. It works really well.
Bound by Moonsilver
You are bound to find better options than this if you just want a removal spell, but this provides a sacrifice outlet that sticks around most of the game. If you are looking to fuel a Zulaport Cutthroat, this could be of service.
Mentor of the Meek never really got there, and this looks very similar. The biggest upside is that Bishop is a 2/3 flyer and can at least rumble a bit. As a card advantage engine, this is a bit pricey, likely relegating it to a 1- or 2-of in a beatdown deck. It is a Spirit, so if you are looking to rattle some chains, the Bishop could help.
If your opponent is casting Lava Spikes, well, you’re in Modern, so play something like Leyline of Sanctity. If you are playing Standard and you need to gain some life quickly, this could see some niche play.
Declaration of Stone
Get used to busting out those Clue tokens, no matter what you are playing. Declaration in Stone is one of the most impactful cards in Shadows over Innistrad. It exiles creatures at a very low cost, gets additional value against multiples, and completely owns tokens. If you can put this in a fast deck, the opponent won’t have much time to crack open their Clues, and this stacks very well in multiples (Clue-flooding is a real thing in Constructed). Declaration of Stone is going to see a ton of play, and basically every white deck will either play this or need a strong reason not to.
Descend upon the Sinful
I already thought 5 was expensive for a wrath, but add in an Angel and all is forgiven (well, in a wrathful vengeance kind of way). This is one of the delirium cards that doesn’t require a ton of setup since it gets cast later in the game, and decks that want to play this will naturally have a big range of card types.
I don’t know that you have the critical mass of good ETB effects in Standard these days, but at the very least, the Modern Ghostway decks get a strictly-better Ghostway (you get to pick and choose which of your creatures vanish).
It’s not fully ridiculous to consider this as a way to push through extra damage in an aggro deck. It’s not likely, but stranger things have happened (like the art, which is bizarre).
Hanweir Militia Captain
Hanweir Militia Captain offers a lot of power for only 2 mana, which is why I’d be interested. She is feeling suspiciously like a win-more card, as 4 creatures is usually enough to take most games. That may limit her to “mirror-breaker” status, though with Avacyn flying overhead, even that isn’t a guarantee.
It may sound like an exaggeration to call this Lingering Souls, but that’s only because it’s a gross exaggeration and Lingering Souls is vastly superior. Still, Nearheath Chaplain is a powerful card, and one that can provide good value in a deck with ways to discard it for profit. A 3/1 lifelink adds a relevant body to the board, and if you are getting value by putting this into the graveyard, it’s not as far from Lingering Souls as it may first appear. Given that Lingering Souls is a fantastic Magic card, that’s high praise indeed.
Odric, Lunarch Marshal
Odric might not even crack the list of Top 8 Marshals, but it does have enough abilities listed on it that I figured I should include him just in case. That Odric works the turn you play him is a relevant upside, and I could see him as a way to break creature stalls if you have some particularly good keywords to share.
Open the Armory
Given how cheap this is and how many cards it can search for between Standard and Modern, I’m going to give it some respect. It’s an open question of what exactly you are getting (and in what deck), but 2 mana is a bargain if there’s an equipment or Aura you are building your deck around.
If only Evangel were a little cheaper to flip! He is exactly the kind of effect that sacrifice combo decks want, and Zulaport Cutthroat 5-8 would be huge. At 3+2 mana, that’s a lot harder to pull off, though you do get extra stats for your trouble.
This is likely a touch too inefficient for Constructed, but I’m interested in seeing if there is an actual Spirit deck to be had. Rattlechains is a powerful incentive and works very well with the Shepherd.
OK, now White Weenie is good again. A Champion of the Parish that buffs your team is a very strong card, and this is relevant at any stage in the game. It’s generally going to be more powerful to land this last rather than first, as getting 3-4 counters on creatures that can attack right away gives you more immediate value.
Finally, white has its own Elvish Visionary. That card has done a lot of winning over the course of its career, so even a slightly less efficient Visionary is worth looking at. That it costs 1 does help it curve out better, and I’d warn against underrating the mighty Inspector. There are a lot of ways to get value from random creatures in this format, and a cheap one that doesn’t cost a card is the perfect way to play into them.
Topplegeist is extremely powerful for a 1-drop and if you can reliably get to delirium, it’s a powerful offensive threat. Rattlechains lets you drop it during their beginning of combat, too (I’m also kind of tempted to just skip Rattlechains for value at this point, given how much I’ve mentioned it).
A 1-drop that flips into a Firebreathing Kird Ape (old card reference limit reached) is worth talking about, and Neglected Heirloom pays you off nicely for transforming. That may be enough of an incentive to spread some gossip.
Top 5 White Cards
It’s hard to complain when you might have the top 2 cards of the entire set. The Standard landscape will be shaped by these 2 cards as long as they are legal, which isn’t to say that the other white cards are meaningless. The rest are solid role-players, and pretty interchangeable at that. How good Descend, Always Watching, Thalia’s Lieutenant, and even Thraben Inspector are largely depends on how their niche archetypes end up shaking out. Declaration and Avacyn don’t depend on anything—they will be incredible.