After weeks of hearing nothing but Eldrazi this and Eldrazi that, we are on the verge of a brand new set looking to inject some new life into Legacy. Shadows over Innistrad is the long-awaited return to one of the most popular sets in Magic history, with the flavour of gothic horror oozing through every card. After looking over the full spoiler list, I’ve been able to make my quarterly list of the most Legacy playable from this upcoming set, and while I doubt there will be anything as game changing as Snapcaster Mage or Liliana of the Veil, there are some seriously powerful effects despite the obviously toned down nature of the set compared to the original.
I find it funny in an ironic way that WotC has gone to such dramatic lengths to pretend Dredge never happened, and yet, with the new Delirium mechanic, they’ve developed cards that are absolutely insane in that deck. That is why, first and foremost, I would like to talk about Invasive Surgery. This card doesn’t seem like much at first glance. It’s just Envelop with an extra paragraph stapled to the end, right? Envelop has occasionally seen sideboard play in Legacy, so right off the bat that makes Invasive Surgery a strict upgrade, but what happens when you have Delirium makes Invasive Surgery absolutely insane in the right matchups. With Delirium, you get to Surgical Extraction away all the remaining copies of the sorcery you countered. What makes this so good is there are entire decks that hinge around resolving a single sorcery to win. Decks that rely on Show and Tell or Terminus to get a combo going to survive long enough to establish control get absolutely ruined by Invasive Surgery, and since Dredge is able to quickly get a variety of card types into their graveyard, being able to turn on Delirium as early as turn 2 should make any Sneak & Show or Miracles player think twice if they see open mana. What’s even more impressive is that this card makes Tarmogoyf decks like RUG and BUG Delver even scarier in these matches since they often rely on getting a bunch of cards in their graveyard to make their Tarmogoyfs huge, which makes this card a viable option in a lot of different decks.
The set also has two other huge boons for Dredge decks: Insolent Neonate and Prized Amalgam. Insolent Neonate fills the role that Putrid Imp and Tireless Tribe have in the past in a slightly different way. While its predecessors can discard as many cards as they want, Neonate can only do it once. However, the Neonate also draws a card after, allowing you to discard a Dredger and immediately start milling yourself. As well, because Insolent Neonate has to sacrifice itself to get the ball rolling, it can also trigger any Bridge from Belows you may have in the graveyard. This card lends itself to a far more aggressive build of Dredge that I look forward to testing out.
Prized Amalgam, on the other hand, is a card tailor-made for both midrange Dredge and Manaless Dredge. When it’s in your graveyard, if a creature would enter the battlefield from your graveyard, you can return Prized Amalgam to the battlefield tapped at the beginning of the next end step. Everything about this card just screams Dredge, since all it takes is a single Narcomoeba trigger to bring back each copy of Prized Amalgam in your graveyard. This gives you even more free creatures to sacrifice to flashback Cabal Therapy and Dread Return on your next turn, or even just to attack alongside whatever Ichorids you bring back on your upkeep. Furthermore, because Prized Amalgam is Black, you can pitch one to bring back an Ichorid which will in turn revive all your other Amalgams. The synergy this card has with Dredge is astounding, and it’s something I expect to see in Dredge lists for quite some time.
Next we have what is essentially the White Maelstrom Pulse: Declaration in Stone. This is a card that gives base-White deck like Death & Taxes an efficient way to handle token decks like Grixis Pyromancer or Monastery Mentor, while also handling threats as large as Gurmag Angler and Endless One, all for a mere 1W. As well, because you get to investigate for each nontoken creature exiled, it can also act as a form of long term card advantage by letting you draw extra cards, an ability Death & Taxes has been sorely lacking. Declaration in Stone also works very well in a UWR deck like Delver or Miracles, which has access to Snapcaster Mage. Because Declaration in Stone is so cheap to cast, it’s far more feasible to flashback with Snapcaster than, say, Council’s Judgment or Terminus, while still maintaining a similar effect. While it’s no Swords to Plowshares, I feel the ability to hit multiple creatures while gaining potentially multiple extra cards in the long term should warrant a least a slot in these decks.
To the Slaughter is one of the more depressingly beautiful arts in the set. It tells a particularly cringe-inducing story with just one line of flavour text. But in the Legacy metagame, the only people cringing will be your opponents when you cast this on their end step. Admittedly, the card is unimpressive with an empty graveyard. Giving your opponent the option to save their planeswalker by sacrificing a creature can give them plenty of time to get more out of their cards. However, with Delirium active, you get an instant-speed two for one that hits one of the more difficult card types to remove. This is great for getting around hexproof effects like True-Name Nemesis, while also picking off the Jace, the Mind Sculptor that’s looking to Brainstorm its way to victory, all in one card. While the 2B price tag is a bit hefty, Tarmogoyf decks like Shardless BUG and Jund are more than capable of paying for it while still getting Delirium with ease.
Next we have two cards suited for UR Delver variants: Thing in the Ice and Dual Shot. Thing in the Ice is a curious card, in that it doesn’t actually do anything the turn you play it. All you have to do is cast four instants or sorceries, which Delver decks are conveniently about 50%, and all of a sudden you have a 7/8 that bounces all non-Horrors from the table. This is a huge body, outsizing even Griselbrand, all for two mana. On top of all this, it’s a Blue card, which means in a pinch you can pitch it to Force of Will, thus automatically making it Legacy playable. Dual Shot, on the other hand, is vying for the position currently held by Forked Bolt. While this can’t go to the face or hit X/2s, Dual Shot has one advantage that Forked Bolt does not: it’s an instant. This lends a tremendous amount of flexibility against the various Young Pyromancer/Delver of Secrets/Vendilion Clique decks that are just rife with X/1 creatures. The ability to cast it in response to something like a Clique trigger lets you kill their creature, whereas with Forked Bolt the Clique would be able to take it away before you got to do anything with it. This is especially important when facing decks like Elves or Death & Taxes, where being able to remove creatures in response to something like a Mother of Runes or Wirewood Symbiote activation could make or break your turn.
Finally, we have The Gitrog Monster, possibly the most entertaining card in the set. As cliche as it sounds, this card was practically made with Nic Fit in mind, especially considering that Nic Fit these days typically runs a minor Titania, Protector of Argoth package with extra fetches and Wastelands. This big bad Chub Toad can come down as early as turn 2-3, and can draw a considerable amount of cards over the course of a game, which is something that Nic Fit has been traditionally lacking. The Gitrog Monster also fits in well with Knight of the Reliquary decks as a top end card draw engine, since you’re often going to be sacrificing your lands anyway to grow your Knights. Again, these types of decks have been at a loss for card draw effects, so having a 6/6 threat that synergizes so well with the already core strategy can only be a net positive.
While Shadows over Innistrad doesn’t have anything nearly as flashy as our first foray into the plane, I believe that this time around we received several cards that were more subtle in their power. We have some serious game changers for archetypes that rarely see much support, which is something I adore about the set, and I think there are just enough of these cards to breathe new life into these decks and bring them back to the forefront of the Legacy metagame. There’s still quite some time before we get to see if any of these cards have the impact I’m hoping for, but in the meantime, there’s still plenty to discuss. Do you think there any cards I may have overlooked? Sound off in the comments and we can see just how Shadows over Innistrad shapes the Legacy metagame.
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