This weekend saw the Magic the Gathering pre-release of possibly the most exciting set I’ve seen, Shadows over Innistrad. The Victorian Gothic art stylings look like something from the pages of HP Lovecraft and are nothing short of stunning.
The main themes of this set are straight out of horror movies, Werewolves, Spirits, Zombies and Vampires. A set derived from, I found out on the night, one of the best and most beloved sets ever released by Wizards of the Coast, Innistrad.
The pre-release started for Al and I on Friday evening, with Double Jump Communications ‘Magic on Tap’, an amazing event full of beers, pizza, networking and a little game called Magic the Gathering. You may have heard of it?
Walking into the Arcade, the place looked amazing and hadn’t lost any of its ‘wow’ factor from my first visit. Hearing the howl of wolves in the distance, we started to get excited on what Double Jump had in store for us (I had kept up to date with the spoilers, so was excited for this set). We walked down through the banks of computers, past the offices filled with art works, toys and all things nerdy and amazing.
I rounded the corner and was met with a sea of people-filled trestle tables (Thanks Al for saving me a seat, otherwise I may not have actually gotten one). I was only 15 minutes late from when the event was due to start, and last time arrived much later than this and was the 8th person there. This time there were people everywhere, the judges and helpers were all standing as there was no place for them to sit. There were heaps of people from the first event, several I heard say they had left work early or taken the day off especially for this event. This is just testament to how successful, enjoyable and well run the last Magic on Tap was.
So when I finally made it to my seat after numerous ‘hellos’ and ‘hand shakes’, there was a Sorin deck box and sleeves, a pre-release box and a mighty fetching hat (if you were at the Melbourne GP, you would know the stylish and fetching hats I’m talking about). Packet wrappers were everywhere in minutes, with people excitedly checking out the flip cards, which I personally love and got well excited about.
The night started with us all making sealed decks. I decided on a red black vampire deck, as my pre-release card was too pretty not to use. To the Slaughter, a huge monster reaching out of the shadows, with only the whites of its eyes visible from said shadows and a little lamb, framed by a stream of light as it munches on some grass unaware. Stunning imagery and the only thing making it even better, was it was foil and the colours popped even more.
The deck handled well; I actually won 7 games with it and only lost 1. I was pretty impressed! Considering normally I only have a lot of fun, but don’t win many games. This time I won and had a heap of fun.
After a little pizza and chatting, I got called to the big boy table, playing Paul and The Dutchman from Double Jump, in a little Two Head Giant action. This is possibly becoming my favourite way to play Magic the Gathering. We cracked our packs and I opened up the new Jace planeswalker card and my partner, who’s name I forgot, but man was he an amazing player and taught me a lot, cracked a Sorin. So we had a little luck on our side, and managed to pull off a win… then a second win… and a third… okay I’m kidding we only played twice. But by that point it was just before 10, and I was shocked that we had played 6 hours of Magic and it hardly felt like an hour had passed.
But enough about the event and a little about the cards. There are some amazing cards in this set and I would love to give you my top 20 or rank the best cards, but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to tell you some of the cards that impressed me and that were real standouts for me during this event. These cards are not necessarily the best cards in the set, just ones that stood out for me and also a prediction of the card to watch in this set.
From under the Floorboards – This card looks spooky and can be brutal. I love this card, especially for its madness cost. This card single handily won me a game. I had 11 mana open and was on the ropes, until discarding it to give one of my Vampires a +1/+1 and paying its madness cost to get 9 life and 9 2/2 zombies. An awesome card, especially in sealed or drafting format.
Skin Invasion – A flip card (so loving these cards) that you put on an enemy or your own creature and once you kill it, it transforms into a 3/4 horror creature. Amazing early game and I had 2 in my deck, and by turn 2 managed to have both transform in one game. A great card that I can see being overlooked.
Heir of Falkenrath – The stunning artwork on the front, looking like a portrait straight off the walls of a Romanian castle, flipping into a flying vampire. This card was possibly my MVP of the night.
Dead Weight (Innistrad reprint – Al) – Talk about a card that is worth it’s weight in gold in a sealed event. With a lot of people playing aggro decks, this annoyed so many people including myself on a few occasions.
Gryff’s Boon – Something awesome about an enchantment that gives a creature flying and a +1/+0. This card probably only made the list due to watching someone playing a white blue deck and removing or countering every flying creature his opponent had and killing him with a flying enchanted Ox. Probably my highlight of the night watching that match.
And last, my pick for the card that I believe is one to watch and one I think may fly under the radar to begin with. Brain in a Jar. I believe this will be a bit of a sleeper but will eventually see a lot of play in many decks. (I’m going to disagree, the card is cute. Cute means not an X of in many decks – Al)
I may not have had the pleasure of playing the original Innistrad, but after playing with this set I’m ok with that. This set is amazing and I’m so excited for standard that I’m already planning several decks.
Thank you again to Double Jump Communications for an amazing event and Wizards of the Coast, this set is truly amazing and I can’t wait to see what’s to come.
SHADOWS OVER INNISTRAD IS OUT NOW! So rush out and buy boxes of cardboard goodness!
This article originally appeared on the ‘Hittin’ Crits’ website April 8th 2016 and has been copied to the Australian Tabletop Gaming Network website with permission.