Greetings, readers! As you’re very well aware, Halloween is upon us, so in the spirit of the holiday, I’m writing my first in a spotty choice of flashback articles for my ongoing segment, Hits and Misses. This week, we’ll cover the set of vampires, werewolves and zombies, the horror-themed Innistrad!
Innistrad brought to us a number of interesting strategies, ranging from tribal lords to dual-colored utility lands to some insanely powerful legendary creatures. It also had its fair share of missed opportunities, mostly cards that just don’t do anything, but a couple standouts in cards that either missed their mark or just were not strong enough to accomplish what they tried to do.
We’ll start counting down the top ten misses before we go to the top ten hits. There are mostly just bad cards to cover, but they’re definitely not “just Limited cards”.
#10 – Ludevic’s Test Subject
I really don’t understand what the point of this card was. It was given out as the release party promo, and usually, the promos Wizards gives us are cards they think will see play in some format.
Clearly, the Test Subject saw no play anywhere, even in EDH, where it’s fine to have a slow, durdly do-nothing as long as you can pump mana into it. It’s a decent-ish creature for a control shell, as it can threaten to win the game on its own, but really, other creatures can fit this role better.
#9 – Angel of Flight Alabaster
Angel of Flight Alabaster is overall a disappointment for the investment you’re putting into it. Sure, getting Crib Swap back has its benefits, but a 5-mana creature that doesn’t immediately impact the board is rather underwhelming, and it’s very easy to deal with both the Angel itself (with a sweeper or a piece of spot removal) or its trigger (by exiling its controller’s graveyard).
#8 – Undead Alchemist
I don’t really see what the point of attacking the library is in the first place, except when you’re either all-in with cards like Grindstone or Tunnel Vision, or you do it with cards like Archive Trap or Hedron Crab, cards that have more value and don’t require you to punch through your opponent’s blockers.
Speaking of punching through your opponent’s blockers, this guy has a grand total of 2 toughness. That has to be what holds it back the most; I mean, really? 4/3 would have at least made it a little bit more interesting overall. Dying to a Shock just seems like poor design.
#7 – Back From the Brink
Cards like this that are overcosted and do something flashy tend to find right a home in EDH; however, such is not the case with Back From the Brink, which does a grand total of nothing for 6 mana, and then requires you to not only recast the creature you want to make, but it exiles the creature from your graveyard, making Back From the Brink an inferior tool when it comes to graveyard shenanigans anyway.
#6 – Endless Ranks of the Dead
Honestly, while an effect like this seems strong on the surface, not only does it do nothing immediately when playing it, it requires you to not only untap with it to be effective, but it requires you to have board presence as well, making it win-more in nature. Besides that, zombie strategies in this day and age are in no short supply of decent enablers, most of which impact the board by themselves, not to mention immediately, so look to cards like that instead if you want to be doing something effective.
#5 – Heartless Summoning
I really never could get on board with this card. It has a powerful effect, that’s for sure, but there’s really only one thing that a card like this does; enable combos. The combos this card enables are decent in 60-card (like Havengul Lich with Perilous Myr and whatnot), but this card really doesn’t serve much of a purpose in EDH.
#4 – Grimoire of the Dead
This card has a decently powerful effect, I’m not going to lie, but it wouldn’t be as high up on the list as it is if not for the fact that it fails at its one job; being a “powerful” mythic rare. I mean, sure, being colorless is a benefit, so that decks of all colors can have this effect.
The biggest problem this card has is its card type; artifact destruction is not in short supply, and it attracts attention to itself like a Planeswalker does; “it’s going to do something crazy powerful soon, so we should stop it”, and so most players go out of their way to do so. The difference between this card and a Planeswalker is that, unlike a Planeswalker, it doesn’t have two other abilities, so that while Planeswalkers can do something of decent use, Grimoire instead requires you to discard cards to make its ability work, making it very attractive for opponents to remove to exhaust multiple resources from you. When it all adds up, it ends up being pretty bad for the Grimoire, when in most cases, you can just run Rise of the Dark Realms or Living Death instead, which actually do something.
#3 – Angelic Overseer
There are many design choices Wizards makes that I quite frankly don’t agree with. For one, why just create a 5-mana mythic do-nothing in the first place? It doesn’t affect the board, it’s not really cost-effective mana-wise, and it requires additional board presence to be effective, making it not really do much on its own. As an overseer, it really doesn’t do much to oversee when it’s requiring the help of humans to be effective. If it was a 4/4 that made all your Human creatures gain hexproof and indestructible, it would be more flavorful, more impactful, and overall, more effective. As is, it’s just a decent combat creature and nothing else.
#2 – Essence of the Wild
Like Back From the Brink, you’d expect rares and mythics too overcosted for Standard to fit right in in an EDH crowd. Again, though, such is not the case for Essence of the Wild. There is something to be said about this card’s interaction with Sprout Swarm, but there’s just one problem this card has – it fights sweepers incredibly poorly. If given support with artifacts and enchantments that give it relevant combat abilities (Akroma’s Memorial, True Conviction, etc.), Essence of the Wild can be a cute “make me work” card, but as is, it just gets screwed by sweepers, and makes every creature in your hand weaker in almost every situation.
#1 – Mirror-Mad Phantasm
Let me summarize my thoughts on the card in a very simple phrase I’m sure will, unlike Mirror-Mad Phantasm, be very simple to digest: I don’t get it. Very clearly, the card gets more value the less of it you run. Clearly, it lends itself to a self-mill strategy where for 1U, you mill an arbitrarily large number of cards from your own deck.
…And then what?
Dredge? Honestly, there are much better enablers for the strategy. Sure, there are shenanigans with Bridge From Below and an Eldrazi of your choice to make a huge amount of Zombie tokens. Literally, though, this card screams “endgame”, and I’m not seeing it. I don’t know what Standard, Modern, or especially EDH deck would want to try this, and because of that, it’s to me the biggest miss of Innistrad.
Now we move onto greener pastures, the more favored designs of Innistrad. The set had its fair share of powerful cards, for Standard and for EDH.
#10 – Snapcaster Mage
Now, this may confuse a lot of people, because when asked, I’ll tell you that Snapcaster Mage is bad in EDH. Truth be told, I’ve been convinced otherwise, but I still don’t believe the price tag of the card merits its inclusion in EDH. At the end of the day, the card’s ridiculously easy to cut.
That being said, the card is just as powerful in EDH as it is everywhere else. Tiego Chan and the design team truly knocked it out of the park with this one, and flashing back anything is a pretty powerful effect, especially when the spells you’re flashing back have much more interesting effects than a Lightning Bolt.
#9 – Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
I’m not going to lie and say I’m not the biggest fan of this card, because Grimgrin has honestly inspired more headaches from me than anything else. It’s stupidly easy to build, lends itself to more infinite combos than even I probably have thought of, and is just ridiculously linear. Congratulations, you resolved a Rooftop Storm. Do you want a cookie?
My personal distaste for Grimgrin aside, it’s powerful, it’s got a lot of variance despite its combos being linear (because nearly all of them revolve around Rooftop Storm), and it’s insufferably resolute in its dullness, like Oona, Queen of the Fae. Just…don’t expect mercy if anyone sees you playing this. That’s the only advice I can give you when piloting this.
#8 – Laboratory Maniac
A longtime MVP of ours at the CG Realm, Laboratory Maniac is the go-to win condition of hyper-draw blue decks like Azami, Lady of Scrolls since its printing. Being able to indulge in the greedy action of drawing a boatload of cards and then gain the ultimate reward for doing so – winning the game – is quite powerful in and of itself. The only reason it didn’t score higher on the list is because few strategies utilize what the Maniac offers.
#7 – Geist of Saint Traft
Geist is by far one of the most powerful creatures to have ever been printed. It’s an aggressive legend who offers a huge punch if your opponent can’t prepare for it. What makes the card useful in EDH is that it is one of the infamous Hexproof Five, a set of five generals with hexproof (shared with Sigarda, Host of Herons, Uril, the Miststalker, Thrun, the Last Troll and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind) who are extremely powerful as generals because they threaten general damage very quickly and lend themselves to aggressive strategies.
While Geist is very inept on its own in creature combat, it’s easy to support it through things like Steel of the Godhead, Spectral Flight and various Swords. It’s also one of the premier picks for Duel Commander generals, being in the upper echelon of deck choices in that format. Overall, Geist is an all-star in all formats, and EDH is no exception.
#6 – Olivia Voldaren
Olivia is the legendary Vampire creature a lot of players had been waiting for, and despite questionable art, the card was an absurd beating in Standard, remains a powerful threat in Modern, and is one of the most popular cards of the entire block for an EDH general.
She wears Basilisk Collar better than just about every other general in the game, and threatens to take over any creature you don’t need to kill. Overall, Olivia is a massive threat to any bogged-down creature war, and functions as a powerful Vampire tribal general as well as just independently being a fantastic card.
#5 – Blasphemous Act
Blasphemous Act mostly makes the list for being a near universal sweeper for very, very cheap. I believe the most I’ve ever willingly cast this for was 5 mana, which really speaks to how amazing the clause of cheapening the card’s cost is. In addition, both indestructible and protection from red help make Blasphemous Act Plague Wind in certain situations (play alongside Akroma’s Memorial for great success!), and it really isn’t difficult to make Act a worthwhile addition to your red decks.
That’s, of course, the power of the card. Blasphemous Act dealing 13 damage can create some rather hilarious situations. For one, try casting Blasphemous Act on turn 8 after dropping Vigor turn 6 and Avenger of Zendikar on turn 7. Also, Swans of Bryn Argol turns Blasphemous Act into a hilarious turbo version of Ancestral Recall. Also, playing this with Repercussion can create a lethal 1-2 punch of obliteration for your opponents! The sheer amount of interesting combinations Blasphemous Act provides gives the card flexibility as well as power, and is personally my favorite card of the set.
#4 – Kessig Wolf Run
Kessig Wolf Run is an incredibly powerful card both for Voltron and for general GRx aggro strategies in EDH looking to punch through damage. Whether it’s killing a Planeswalker or just getting Lord of Extinction through while being chumpblocked, Kessig Wolf Run’s power is undeniable. Add to that that the card is a land, which requires no initial mana investment, and we have ourselves the ingredients of a winner. There’s a reason this card dominated Standard alongside Inkmoth Nexus.
#3 – Parallel Lives
I’m not typically a big fan of talking in-depth about an effect like this, so let me be brief – even half of Doubling Season is still incredibly powerful.
#2 – Gavony Township
All of the dual-color utility lands printed in the Innistrad block were rather decent, to be quite honest, but none moreso than Gavony Township. Enabling +1/+1 counters in the age of Kalonian Hydra is just stupidly powerful, and in green/white token decks, being able to make your army steadily more powerful by the turn makes for a card that’s just impossible to ignore. It’s without a doubt one of the most powerful lands in EDH.
#1 – Charmbreaker Devils
Charmbreaker Devils may have the issue of needing to untap with it to really get the most out of it, but truly, what makes the card absurdly powerful is just how simple it is to abuse. Case in point: Rite of Replication + Time Warp. Just in general, being able to constantly recast spells from your graveyard is an incremental that’s just too attractive to pass up, and even at 6 mana, the Devils make for a powerful finisher in RUx control as well as simply a great value creature. Overall, the Devils are one of red’s greatest tools to utilize in EDH, and is a personal favorite creature of mine.
And there you have it, folks, my take on Innistrad’s top 10 best and worst cards for EDH!
Next week, I’ll likely return to Let’s Build, highlighting the Shattergang Brothers!
Check out my previous articles here:
Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454
Building on a Budget:
Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Let’s Talk M14:
Planeswalking and You:
Stacking Up Commander 2013:
The Slippery Slope:
Trial & Error:
7-Geist of Saint Traft
4-Kessig Wolf Run