Welcome back to Shadows over Innistrad draft archetypes! Last week I discussed the Ally colors and this week I have the enemy ones. Some of these archetypes go quite a bit deeper than the Ally color pairs, so let’s get started:
The Clue deck! I know this was the deck I most wanted to see in action when looking at the spoiler. There are a ton of different build-around cards, and also a lot of sub-archetype themes like delirium; splash enablers like Groundskeeper, Fork in the Road, and Stoic Builder; and enchantments. Vessel of Nascency finds those key enchantments and can also find key creatures or removal in the form of Sleep Paralysis. With all that going on, UG can be confusing. In times like these, I like to refer back to the pair’s gold card (in this case, Ongoing Investigation) to give me hints into the design behind the archetype.
Ongoing Investigation incentivizes combat and trading off creatures since then you get more use out of its second ability. It also encourages a longer game so that you have enough time to sacrifice all your Clues for cards. With that in mind, UG wants to be a creature-based deck to take full advantage of its build-arounds. Luckily, Ulvenwald Mysteries lines up well with that plan, and both Graf Mole and Erdwal Illuminator push it further so that your value engine is really churning. Play creatures, trade, profit. What’s not to love?
This deck is all about delirium and turning the corner in the midgame. Its cards are all a little underpowered at first. Vessel of Nascency is fine, but it’s a mana sink for card selection. That is, of course, until it turns on all your delerium cards, at which point it can give +3/+0 to a creature, transform another creature, and enable your Shriekmaw. That sounds pretty fantastic, and that’s why it’s a central card to the archetype. Moldgraf Scavenger is also very nice because GB needs time to set up. Without it, or similar early defense, you’ll fall too far behind and then all the sweet delirium payoffs will be meaningless because you’ll be dead.
One upside of these delirium cards is that you can get access to a bunch of cards no one else really wants. Merciless Resolve isn’t exactly an all-star but it is very good at getting different types of cards into your graveyard, and can even turn on your delirium cards when you’re two types away at instant speed. That’s really powerful! Macabre Waltz can pull off a similar impression later in the game and get a sorcery and another needed type into your graveyard while also giving you value on some earlier creatures you traded off. Of course, there are other times when you’ll flip an early Autumnal Gloom and bash for 4 repeatedly. That’s pretty good too.
BW is admittedly way less sweet than UG and GB, but it still has a lot going for it. Both black and white are colors with strong delirium cards, but there aren’t as many ways to dump a bunch of cards into your graveyard. Luckily, there are a ton of scrappy creatures like Sanitarium Skeleton, which can both buy time and enable your Angelic Purges. Angelic Purge is also a great way to get an unneeded land into the graveyard, at which point you only need some random instants or sorceries to turn on your delirium. Call the Bloodline is also a one-stop shop for delirium since you can get rid of unneeded lands or creatures while getting value out of your lifelinking Vampires. It’s not going to be a great madness enabler like it is with blue and red, but BW offers more cards that are relevant in the graveyard. Between Ghoulsteed, Sanitarium Skeleton, Ghoulcaller’s Accomplice, Dauntless Cathar, Gryff’s Boon, and Nearheath Chaplain, it should do enough to earn a spot.
Inquisitor’s Ox and Reaper of Flight Moonsilver are both cards that are fine normally but become absolute monsters with delirium active. Nothing can battle through the Ox easily, and once it starts attacking into opposing boards, it can become your main threat. With the various white tricks in the format it also becomes hard to block and I think this will be one of the more underappreciated cards at the beginning of the format.
WR is the one enemy color pair that is all about efficiency. That’s why Devilthorn Fox makes the cut on key cards. It’s not exciting, but it’s a 2-drop that beats down so it fits the bill here. Your 3-drops are all replaceable so when drafting WR, I’d focus first on 2s, and then pick up key 4s like Voldaren Duelist. While not quite Goblin Heelcutter, the Duelist can impersonate it pretty well and is a scary card that is always looming on the horizon from opposing red decks. To make blocking even harder, WR has access to Nahirir’s Machinations, which is only really bad without creatures, in which case the WR deck was probably losing anyways.
For all these reasons, the best way to beat WR is with removal spells or to beat it at its own game. Trade early but then go bigger, or try to win the race. The WR creatures themselves aren’t all that impressive but put on a ton of pressure with support spells. WR also forces you to block early on because it applies so much pressure, which makes it the perfect tricks deck. I really like Uncaged Fury here for this reason. WR has a ton of creatures with high power and low toughness, which means some of the smaller pump spells won’t work quite as well. Uncaged Fury will take down any opposing blocker, but it also will deal 10+ damage from time to time.
I saved the best for last. I always enjoyed UR Burning Vengeance in original Innistrad and this deck is a nice callback to that. It doesn’t revolve around a single card as much as Burning Vengeance did, but the deck can accumulate a ton of cards through the blue draw spells, while growing its various prowess creatures and Pyre Hound. Because of all the card draw, it can also find timely answers to problematic cards, making this a pretty frustrating deck to play against.
The exact composition of UR will vary from draft to draft but the most important thing you need to keep in mind is the creature-to-spell ratio. Too many creatures and you won’t get enough prowess triggers or will constantly miss with Pieces of the Puzzle. Too many spells and you’ll just be drawing cards without doing anything meaningful. I think splitting right down the middle is generally best, but certain builds can skew a bit more in one direction or another if there’s a less spell-heavy emphasis. I’m super excited to see this deck in action more and dig into all the little details of how to best build it!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this initial look into the draft archetypes. Now all that’s left to do is draft the set and start fine tuning this information!