Set Versus Set: Shadows over Innistrad or Battle for Zendikar?

Written by Jeff Zandi on . Posted in Casual Magic, Competitive Magic, Kitchen Table, Limited, Modern, Standard

Set Versus Set: Shadows over Innistrad or Battle for Zendikar?

Jeff Zandi

Jeff Zandi is a level 2 judge and an eight-time veteran of the Pro Tour. He has written continuously about Magic for over eighteen years. His team, the Texas Guildmages, have the longest running regular game in history, meeting at his home every Tuesday night since 1996.

Welcome to the beginning of another Summer. School’s out and swimsuits are in. It’s time for fun. The current Standard format is maturing nicely after the addition of Shadows over Innistrad. Players await Eldritch Moon but that new set is more than a month away. Eternal Masters just hit the streets and dreams of ripping open a lottery ticket and winning Jace, the Mind Sculptor are in everyone’s mind. We’ve all grown used to Shadows over Innistrad. That makes this the perfect time to take another look at the set and decide, once and for all, how good is it, really? I thought it would be interesting to compare Shadows over Innistrad to another recent set on a number of different levels. I have chosen Battle for Zendikar, another important set in today’s Standard format, a set that is not quite a year old.

First things first, we’ll go straight to the scoreboard. We’ll see if we can take the merchants of Magic at their word. According the pricing tool I use on my iPhone, the top five Shadows of Innistrad cards are, by retail value:

Nahiri, the Harbinger at $28.73
Archangel Avacyn at $27.44
Sorin, Grim Nemesis at $13.56
Arlinn Kord at $12.00
Westvale Abbey at $8.95

These prices are not amazingly high. I paid significantly more when I recently gave up on my attempts to extract mythic rares from booster packs and purchased two copies of Archangel Avacyn. Only two cards over twenty bucks. Only four are over ten.

How much are the top five cards from Battle for Zendikar going for currently?

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar at $22.00
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger at $13.44
Ob Nixilis Reignited at $7.64
Drana, Liberator of Malakir at $7.00
Part the Waterveil at $4.89

Granted, the prices for these cards from Battle for Zendikar were higher at some point. Gideon was over $30 for quite a while. Still, compared to Battle, the best Shadows cards are pretty valuable. I’ve played with most of these cards in Standard decks recently and feel these cards probably deserve their relative positions on these lists. I think it’s funny that Part the Waterveil has climbed into the number five slot for Battle for Zendikar. The mono blue deck using Part the Waterveil is a recent design. I recognize that some players (including my son) were already playing green/blue decks with Part the Waterveil powered by lots of green mana ramp spells.

Shadows over Innistrad in Constructed

When Shadows over Innistrad first debuted, I heard a lot of grumbles that the individual cards weren’t very good, that there weren’t very many valuable cards. The common chatter was that Shadows wasn’t good for constructed. Outside of bringing back double faced cards, which I super hate, by the way, I was immediately charmed by how good Shadows over Innistrad was for Limited play. I prefer Sealed Deck and Booster Draft to Constructed, it was okay with me if Shadows was only good for Limited. Less than a month later Shadows over Innistrad started making noise in Standard.

The first time that Shadows really mattered for Constructed was at Pro Tour Madrid in late April. What an exciting championship bracket! Eight entirely different decks.  Steve Rubin won with Green/White Tokens, a deck that featured plenty of Shadows over Innistrad cards. Playsets of Thraben Inspector and Archangel Avacyn along with four Fortified Village and three copies of Westvale Abbey. Now we’re talking! Three copies of Declaration in Stone in the sideboard along with two Lambholt Pacifist and one copy of Sigarda, Heron’s Grace.

Andrea Mengucci took second with the top deck pre-Shadows, Bant Company. At Madrid, Andrea added a few gems from Shadows to his tried and true Collected Company deck. He played a pair of Tireless Trackers and a full set of Duskwatch Recruiter. The Recruiter is an uncommon that plays like a rare, both in Limited and Constructed. Andrea found room for a pair of Declaration in Stone in his sideboard.

Among the other decks in the top eight a few more Shadows cards appeared. Jon Finkel only played one Shadows card in his strange green/black control deck, but it was a very significant one. Two copies of Seasons Past. This card turned a midrange deck that would have suffered the fate of having too many one-for-one trades into a real control deck that could refill its hand not once but several times in the late game. Brad Nelson played Red/Green Goggles without much help from the new set. He played Tormenting Voice and Traverse the Ulvenwald along with some new lands, Drownyard Temple and Game Trail. He also had Tireless Tracker in the board. Luis Salvatto played Red/White Goggles also with very few new cards. He needs Tormenting Voice as well and also plays three Fiery Temper and three Lightning Axe along with a single Nahiri, the Harbinger. Luis Scott-Vargas played Black/Green Aristocrats, another deck in which Duskwatch Recruiter found a home. This is also the first time we see a new Shadows card go to work, Cryptolith Rite. Outside of some lands, Shota Yasooka’s Esper Dragons deck had no use whatsoever for Shadows over Innistrad. One Sorin, Grim Nemesis and one Anguished Unmaking in the sideboard. Seth Manfield’s take on Esper, with planeswalkers instead of Dragons, also was not very interested in the new set although he played two Sorins in the main deck.

Since Madrid in April, not too much has changed, at least at the top of the competitive food chain. Seth Manfield won Grand Prix Costa Rica a week ago with Green/White Tokens. The second place deck, Naya Walkers played by Brandon Fischer, is a fairly new design. The planeswalkers include Nissa, Gideon, Chandra and a Shadows card finally getting the Constructed spotlight, Arlinn Kord. Otherwise, this deck looks a lot like Green/White Tokens with Lambholt Pacifist and Archangel Avacyn and a lot of other non-Shadows cards frequently seen in Green/White Tokens. Another big name, Brian Braun-Duin, reached the top eight in Costa Rica with Bant Company. This deck has changed to include Eldrazi Displacer to flicker things like Reflector Mage and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. But on the Shadows over Innistrad front, not much has changed in Bant Company. Tireless Tracker, Duskwatch Recruiter and a couple of Declaration in Stone and Lambholt Pacifists in the sideboard.

What about Modern and Legacy? Has Shadows over Innistrad made any inroads with these more expansive constructed formats?

At Grand Prix Charlotte, just a few weeks ago, Jon Bolding finished second with Naya Company. His deck is full of Hall of Fame quality cards like Tarmogoyf and Lightning Bolt, but sure enough, there was a Shadows card in his deck, a single copy of Tireless Tracker. The deck that won GP Charlotte was Ad Nauseam piloted by Andreas Ganz. His deck had no interest whatsoever in Magic’s latest expansion set. Neither did the Jund deck, nor the Scapeshift deck, nor Sam Black’s Death’s Shadow deck. Robert Graves played a Kiki-Jiki/Chord of Calling deck that included two copies of Nahiri, the Harbinger. The bottom line is that Shadows over Innistrad has not landed many cards into the deep end of Magic’s competitive card pool.

As for Legacy? Please. Not a single Shadows card in the top eight of either of the recent Legacy Grand Prix events in Columbus, Ohio or Prague, Czech Republic.

Shadows over Innistrad in Limited

How exactly am I going to compare Shadows over Innistrad with another set with regards to Limited play? There are ways.

Last month, while I was furiously practicing Shadows sealed in preparation for a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier in which I bombed badly, I built some successful sealed decks to practice against. Namely, six sealed decks that went undefeated on day one at Grand Prix in Albuquerque and in Barcelona. In order to test Shadows over Innistrad sealed decks against Battle for Zendikar sealed decks, I found six BFZ sealed decks that went undefeated at Grand Prix in Sydney, Australia and in Madison, Wisconsin back in October. You know what happens next. I played all six of my undefeated BFZ decks against each of my undefeated SOI decks. I wish the results had been more useful. At first, the Battle for Zendikar decks were winning a high percentage of matches. Many matchups went like this: Shadows decks came out better in early turns only to be pushed back when BFZ decks got enough mana in play to throw out a huge Eldrazi. In games where Battle for Zendikar won before turn twelve it was usually due to a higher content of flying creatures. When you play Shadows sealed you sort of get used to the smaller number of flying creatures being played. Shadows would have won more games against BFZ if the Shadows sealed decks were fast and hard-hitting, but they really weren’t. The undefeated Shadows decks had so many bombs in them that they didn’t need to try to win fast. These decks set up winning late game positions (against other Shadows decks) by keeping it close long enough to play late game bombs like Archangel Avacyn or Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Playing the undefeated SOI decks against the undefeated BFZ decks, this strategy didn’t work as well because the BFZ decks simply had more to do late in games. Here are the best two decks from each format in the thirty-six matches I played between them.

When I was ramming my “normal” Shadows over Innistrad sealed decks into Patrick Stein’s juggernaut from GP Albuquerque, I was convinced that Stein’s deck was the sickest-ever sealed deck. So many rares. Archangel Avacyn and Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Holy crap! Patrick’s deck only managed to beat half of the six undefeated Battle for Zendikar decks. He did not beat either of the two listed above. It just goes to show that everything is a matter of perspective.

When I played out the matches between the twelve undefeated decks, I tried to play no more than two matches in a row with any one deck. I didn’t want to get familiar enough with one particular deck to give it an unconscious edge against other decks that I knew less well. All I can tell you is that halfway through these thirty-six matches, the Battle for Zendikar decks were way ahead. Then, with only two matches left to play, the score was much closer. With two matches left to play, the Shadows decks were only two wins behind the Battle decks. If the Shadows decks had won their last two matches they could have ended my lengthy exercise with a perfect tie. The final score, as it happens, was 19-17 in favor of Battle for Zendikar. Pretty close to a dead heat.

Deeper into the Void with DC-10

We’ll have to go deeper into the weirder side of Magic to find some answers. It doesn’t get much weirder than DC-10. DC-10 is the quick and dirty format where two players each open a booster pack and shuffle up the contents playing without opening hands but with the player going first drawing a card in his first turn. My house rules have each player starting each game with twenty basic lands in play in token form, four of each basic land type. In my house rules you take out the basic land and the token card from the booster before you shuffle.

I play out a mini-tournament with each set as it arrives. When Shadows over Innistrad came out I promptly took sixteen booster packs and played them against each other in a single elimination bracket keeping the winning booster together in perpetuity in order to battle it against other sets’ best DC-10 boosters from the past. I don’t just keep these boosters together, I foil them out! Everyone has their weird Magic kinks. Here’s my championship Shadows over Innistrad booster:

Here’s my Battle for Zendikar championship booster:

Here is the play-by-play of a best-of-seven games match between Shadows over Innistrad and Battle for Zendikar. Don’t worry, the war was fairly brief.

GAME ONE

T1 Shadows draws and plays Tireless Tracker.

T1 Battle draws Angelic Gift.

T2 Shadows draws Apothecary Geist, attacks with Tracker (17-20), plays Apothecary Geist.

T2 Battle draws and plays Molten Nursery.

T3 Shadows draws Dual Shot, attacks with Tracker and Geist (12-20).

T3 Battle draws and plays Dominator Drone, Nursery triggers targeting Shadows (12-19), Drone triggers (12-17), plays Angelic Gift enchanting Dominator Drone drawing Stasis Snare.

T4 Shadows draws and plays Fleeting Memories putting a Clue token onto the battlefield, activates and sacrifices Clue token drawing Gibbering Fiend, Fleeting Memories triggers milling Lavastep Raider and Breaker of Armies into Battle’s graveyard from the top of his library, Tracker triggers and gets a +1/+1 counter, Shadows plays Gibbering Fiend (11-17), attacks with Tracker and Geist, Drone blocks Tracker (9-17).

T4 Battle draws Serpentine Spike.

T5 Shadows draws Epitaph Golem, attacks with Fiend and Geist (5-17).

T5 Battle draws Ondu Champion, plays Serpentine Spike targeting Gibbering Fiend and Apothecary Geist and Epitaph Golem, Molten Nursery triggers dealing one damage to Epitaph Golem, Shadows responds activating Epitaph Golem putting Tireless Tracker on the bottom of his library, Battle plays Ondu Champion.

T6 Shadows draws Rabid Bite.

T6 Battle draws and plays Mire’s Malice for its Awaken cost targeting Shadows and putting three +1/+1 counters on an untapped Plains token, Shadows discards Dual Shot and Rabid Bite, Battle attacks with Plains and Champion (5-10).

T7 Shadows draws and plays Breakneck Rider, at end of turn Battle plays Stasis Snare targeting Breakneck Rider.

T7 Battle draws and plays Giant Mantis, attacks with Plains and Champion (5-3).

T8 Shadows draws and plays Alms of the Vein targeting Battle (2-6).

T8 Battle draws Ondu Greathorn, attacks with Plains and Giant Mantis and Ondu Champion (2- -3).

BATTLE FOR ZENDIKAR WINS GAME ONE ON TURN 8, LEADS MATCH 1-0.

GAME TWO

T1 Shadows draws and plays Fleeting Memories putting a Clue token onto the battlefield, activates and sacrifices Clue token drawing Seasons Past, Fleeting Memories triggers milling Stasis Snare and Lavastep Raider into Battle’s graveyard from the top of his library.

T1 Battle draws and plays Breaker of Armies.

T2 Shadows draws and plays Stitched Mangler tapping Breaker of Armies.

T2 Battle draws and plays Molten Nursery.

T3 Shadows draws and plays Moldgraf Scavenger, attacks with Mangler (18-20).

T3 Battle draws Valakut Invoker, attacks with Breaker of Armies blocked by Mangler, plays Valakut Invoker.

T4 Shadows draws and plays Militant Inquisitor, at end of turn Battle activates Invoker targeting Stitched Mangler, activates Invoker targeting Militant Inquisitor.

T4 Battle draws and plays Ondu Champion, attacks with Invoker and Breaker (18-8).

T5 Shadows draws and plays Tireless Tracker, plays Seasons Past returning Moldgraf Scavenger and Stitched Mangler to his hand from the graveyard, plays Stitched Mangler tapping Breaker of Armies, plays Moldgraf Scavenger, at end of turn Battle activates Invoker targeting Tireless Tracker.

T5 Battle draws and plays Mire’s Malice for its awaken cost targeting Shadows and putting three +1/+1 counters on an untapped Forest, attacks with Invoker and Champion and Forest, Scavenger blocks Forest (18-1), activates Invoker targeting Shadows (18- -2).

BATTLE FOR ZENDIKAR WINS GAME TWO ON TURN 5, LEADS MATCH 2-0

GAME THREE

T1 Shadows draws Stitched Mangler.

T1 Battle draws and plays Molten Nursery.

T2 Shadows draws and plays Epitaph Golem.

T2 Battle draws and plays Ondu Champion.

T3 Shadows draws Dual Shot, plays Stitched Mangler tapping Ondu Champion, attacks with Epitaph Golem (17-20).

T3 Battle draws Stasis Snare.

T4 Shadows draws and plays Breakneck Rider, attacks with Mangler and Golem, Battle plays Stasis Snare targeting Epitaph Golem (15-20).

T4 Battle draws and plays Lavastep Raider.

T5 Shadows draws and plays Fleeting Memories putting a Clue token onto the battlefield, activates and sacrifices the Clue token drawing Gibbering Fiend, Fleeting Memories triggers milling Valakut Invoker and Brilliant Spectrum into Battle’s graveyard from the top of his library, plays Gibbering Fiend (14-20).

T5 Battle draws and plays Ondu Greathorn.

T6 Shadows draws Seasons Past.

T6 Breakneck Rider transforms into Neck Breaker at the beginning of Battle’s upkeep, Battle draws and plays Mire’s Malice for its awaken cost targeting Shadows putting three +1/+1 counters on an untapped Forest, Shadows responds playing Dual Shot targeting Ondu Champion and Ondu Greathorn, Shadows discards Seasons Past.

T7 Shadows draws and plays Tireless Tracker.

T7 Battle draws and plays Dominator Drone, Molten Nursery triggers and Battle chooses to deal one damage to Gibbering Fiend, Drone triggers when it enters the battlefield (14-18).

T8 Shadows draws and plays Reduce to Ashes targeting and exiling Ondu Greathorn, attacks with Neck Breaker and Stitched Mangler and Tireless Tracker, Neck Breaker triggers and gives Shadows’ attacking creatures trample and +1/+0 until end of turn, Ondu Champion blocks Neck Breaker, Dominator Drone blocks Stitched Mangler, Forest with three counters blocks Tireless Tracker (10-18).

T8 Battle draws Serpentine Spike, attacks with Lavastep Raider, activates Raider four times (10-9).

T9 Shadows draws and plays Militant Inquisitor.

T9 Battle draws Breaker of Armies, attacks with Raider blocked by Inquisitor, Battle pumps Raider one time, plays Breaker of Armies, Molten Nursery triggers and Battle targets Shadows (10-8).

T10 Shadows draws Rabid Bite.

T10 Battle draws Angelic Gift, attacks with Breaker of Armies (10- -2).

BATTLE FOR ZENDIKAR WINS GAME THREE ON TURN 10, LEADS MATCH 3-0

GAME FOUR

T1 Shadows draws Stitched Mangler.

T1 Battle draws and plays Molten Nursery.

T2 Shadows draws and plays Moldgraf Scavenger.

T2 Battle draws Angelic Gift.

T3 Shadows draws and plays Gibbering Fiend (19-20).

T3 Battle draws and plays Lavastep Raider.

T4 Shadows draws and plays Apothecary Geist, plays Stitched Mangler tapping Lavastep Raider, attacks with Fiend (17-20).

T4 Battle draws Stasis Snare, plays Angelic Gift enchanting Lavastep Raider drawing Breaker of Armies, plays Breaker of Armies, Molten Nursery triggers and Battle chooses to target Gibbering Fiend.

T5 Shadows draws and plays Rabid Bite targeting Stitched Mangler and Lavastep Raider, attacks with Geist (15-20).

T5 Battle draws and plays Mist Intruder, Nursery triggers (15-19), attacks with Breaker of Armies blocked by Moldgraf Scavenger.

T6 Shadows draws and plays Breakneck Rider, attacks with Geist (13-19).

T6 Battle draws and plays Valakut Invoker, activates Invoker targeting Breakneck Rider, activates Invoker targeting Apothecary Geist, attacks with Mist Intruder and Breaker of Armies (13-8), Intruder triggers exiling Alms of the Vein from the top of Shadows’ library.

T7 Shadows draws and plays Seasons Past returning Rabid Bite and Breakneck Rider and Apothecary Geist, plays Breakneck Rider, plays Rabid Bite targeting Rider and Invoker.

T7 Battle draws Brilliant Spectrum, plays Stasis Snare exiling Breakneck Riders, attacks with Mist Intruder and Breaker of Armies (13- -3).

BATTLE FOR ZENDIKAR WINS GAME FOUR ON TURN 7, WINS MATCH 4-0

It’s a blowout! This blowout has played out more or less the same way every time I pit these two sets against each other in DC-10. It may suggest that the average card in BFZ is stronger than the average card in SOI. I have a DC-10 “champion” booster pack from the past twelve sets. All earned their status using the same procedure, each survived a sixteen pack single elimination bracket. Of the last twelve sets, the only pack that my SOI pack regularly defeats is a Khans of Tarkir pack led by Ivorytuck Fortress and Hooting Mandrills. Sometimes the Khans pack beats the Shadows pack but the battle is at least a fair one.

The Final Challenge – Full Set Singleton

I also play another construction-free game that lets me pit different sets against each other. It is called Full Set Singleton. A Full Set Singleton deck is built from one of every card from a given set (not including basic lands) to which basic land is added so that the finished deck contains forty percent basic land. These decks are gigantic and require patience to shuffle and play. However, Full Set Singleton gives you unusual insight about how one set stacks up (no pun intended) against another.

In this corner, weighing in at 414 cards including 165 basic lands is Battle for Zendikar. In this corner, weighing in at 472 cards including 190 basic lands is Shadows over Innistrad. Here are the highlights of a best-of-seven games match pitting these two sets against each other.

In game one Shadows gets a good start with Fork in the Road on turn two and Thing in the Ice and Thraben Inspector on turn three after a turn one Town Gossipmonger. Battle for Zendikar looks good on turn five with Ob Nixilis, Reignited and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar a few turns later but Shadows has been able to apply pressure and has Battle down to eight life when Shadows plays Tenacity to remove the last ice counter from Thing in the Ice allowing him to bounce all the other creatures and attack through for eight damage. Shadows over Innistrad wins game one on turn nine, leads match 1-0.

Battle for Zendikar’s deck sort of poops on itself in game two. Turn two Transgress the Mind eliminates Reaper of Flight Moonsilver but reveals a handful of smaller, easier to play creatures in Shadows’ hand like Falkenrath Gorger and Asylum Visitor and Indulgent Aristocrat. Battle never gets going and the big blowout happens when Carrier Thrall and Rot Shambler are taken out at the same time by Dual Shot. Shadows over Innistrad wins game two on turn eight, leads match 2-0.

Shadows gets the best of game three as well. It starts small with Moldgraf Scavenger holding back damage from first Blisterpod and then Serene Steward. Then The Gitrog Monster arrives on turn five. Battle’s team is too chumpy for Gitrog to attack. Battle has a large group of small dudes including Zulaport Cutthroat, Cryptic Cruiser, Snapping Gnarlid, Lifespring Druid and Veteran Warcaller. The Gitrog Monster stays back on defense but still propels the deck forward with the extra card draw each turn. Only once did Shadows not have at least one land to play each turn after Gitrog arrived. By the time Goldnight Castigator landed Battle had Gruul Draz Overseer. Drana, Liberator of Malakir arrived for BFZ soon after. The big play came when Shadows enchanted the Castigator with Hope Against Hope making him a gigantic 13/18 flying monster. Castigator attacks and Battle takes it once expecting to score a lot of damage on the swing back with Gruul Draz and Drana. When those two flyers attack Shadows untaps Goldnight Castigator with Tenacity to take control of the game once and for all. The Gitrog Monster attacked exactly once and was blocked by Blisterpod. Shadows over Innistrad wins game three on turn fourteen, leads match 3-0.

Zendikar battles back in a must-win game four. Turn two Stone Haven Medic is followed by turn four Grove Rumbler. Smothering Abomination arrives next and even though BFZ doesn’t have many creatures, it’s more than enough to overrun the poorer prospects on the other side of the board where Shadows plays Jace’s Scrutiny to slow down the assault but doesn’t have a creature until Geralf’s Masterpiece on turn five. Not much of a masterpiece, this flyer is only a 2/2 because of all the lands in Shadows’ hand. With the score 20-11, BFZ had Smothering Abomination and Grove Rumbler (strangely, Molten Nursery is in play as well) when Shadows thinks he may have calmed things down playing Flameblade Angel on turn six. With the sacrifice-a-creature trigger on the stack at the beginning of turn seven, BFZ plays Turn Against to take control of Flameblade Angel and then sacrifice it to Smothering Abomination drawing a card in the bargain. Turn Against triggers Molten Nursery, then BFZ plays a land to trigger Grove Rumbler and attacks for nine damage. The score is 20-1 but technically Shadows has one more turn. Shadows doesn’t have a flyer or a removal spell. Battle for Zendikar wins game four on turn eight, trails match 1-3.

Game five is the longest game of the match. Battle for Zendikar starts out fast with Expedition Envoy followed two turns later by Fathom Feeder and then Bloodbond Vampire. Shadows makes do in the early turns with Spectral Shepherd holding off the attack until Silburlind Snapper shows up on turn six. Even with the fast start, Shadows is barely bruised, only down (20-16). Then Arlinn Kord shows up and just never, ever leaves. The bodies start stacking up all over the battlefield, notably Hero of Goma Fada and Ondu Greathorn on BFZ’s side and Hanweir Militia Captain and Mad Prophet on Shadows’ side. Once Shadows had good enough defenses to keep Arlinn Kord alive with Mad Prophet improving draws and taking advantage of madness it should have been easy for Shadows to start chopping down BFZ’s life count, but Shadows drew so many lands. Another way to look at it is that without Mad Prophet, Shadows’ many empty draws would have given Battle for Zendikar the edge. There were nine basic lands in Shadows’ graveyard at the end of the game. Incredibly, it is turn eighteen before either team has a flying creature in play, not counting Spectral Shepherd on turn three who never attacked. Shadows lands Aberrant Researcher. On Shadows’ next turn, the Researcher attacks up high powered up first by Intrepid Provisioner and then by Veteran Cathar. It only takes two punches of that kind to knock Battle for Zendikar out of the game and the match. Shadows over Innistrad wins game five on turn twenty, wins match 4-1.

Is Shadows over Innistrad a Good Set?

Outside of the hassles caused by double faced cards I’d have to say that I think Shadows over Innistrad is a fun set to play with. It has a lot of the pros and cons associated with Magic expansions from the past ten years. There is some power creep. I notice this when I play Full Set Singleton pitting Shadows over Innistrad against some older sets from Modern. You develop your opinion about a set by playing with it, and I’ve played a whole lot with the set primarily in booster drafts and sealed deck tournaments. I like Shadows, but that’s just my opinion. Is there a way to say something more objective? Yes.

Sometimes Magic is a bottom line business. We can’t play this game without buying the new cards when they come out. Wizards of the Coast likes this part of the Magic cycle quite a bit. When we spend our money to collect the cards from a set we would like the overall value to be good. It doesn’t appear, from singles prices that Shadows over Innistrad is a particularly valuable set. Of course, the set has only been out for a couple of months. As far as Standard is concerned, we’re all still getting used to the new system of when sets rotate out of the format. It’s hard to know how long Shadows cards will remain valuable considering how few of them are being used in Modern. I’m sure some Shadows singles prices will go up when it is no longer the current expansion set and when fewer Shadows boosters are being opened.

The most important measure of a set’s value is playability and card power. Judging the strength of one set against another is particularly tricky. That’s why I created Full Set Singleton. In the small sample of games I detailed today pitting Shadows over Innistrad against Battle for Zendikar the newer set had the upper hand most of the time. On the other hand, my best Battle for Zendikar DC-10 booster destroyed my best Shadows over Innistrad DC-10 pack. I trust the results from the Full Set Singleton games more.

Based on play against another representative Magic expansion, in this case Battle for Zendikar, I have to conclude that Shadows over Innistrad is a good set. The cards are just as powerful, pound for pound, as other recent sets. The set is more than good enough for Standard and may even be more popular in Standard once Eldritch Moon arrives with some more Zombie or Vampire cards. It’s a serious strike against Shadows that not many of its cards are finding their way into Modern or Legacy decks.

Thanks for reading.

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