Friday, September 23, 2011

Innistrad Prerelease Primer

Hello all. As tomorrow is the day of the Innistrad Prerelease, I wanted to touch on a few points about the set, specific cards and the archetypes I can see being strong in Limited. This is to give people a bit of a heads-up to things you might see. Hopefully, some of our readers are going to attend their local prerelease and this info will help you to prepare.

Like homelands, but better!

First off, in case you don't know what a prerelease tournament is, it is a tournament (or series of tournaments) held using only the new set which is not yet available for purchase. This makes for a VERY level playing field, where people show off their creative use of new cards and to evaluate things on the fly.
Of course, with the advent of the internet, various sources are able to pull card data together and get a complete set list with all card information together, typically called a "spoiler". As with any spoiler's, if you aren't interested in knowing before you arrive, stop reading now.

For the rest of us, here are some facts about the set:

The theme is based off classic horror (think Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies). The play elements tie in to this using tribal themes, graveyard mechanics and new "transformable" cards (more on that later).

Tribal - Tribal, to those who don't know, simply means effects keyed to a particular creature type (similar to Eldrazi or Ally) across all colors and in unified strategies. For example, in Innistrad, Humans are subjugated and terrorized. Due to this, many cards in white and green deal with humans dieing and acting as martyrs (Doomed Traveler, Elder Cathar, Selfless Cathar) or banding together (Champion of the Perish, Spare from Evil, Mentor of the Meek). Together, they form the identity of the human "tribe" which is like a traditional white-weenie deck. There are 5 major tribes in the set: Vampires, Werewolves, Humans, Spirits (ghosts) and Zombies. Each color has 2 major tribes (though all colors have some form of human in it):
White: Human/Spirit
Green: Human/Werewolf
Red: Werewolf/Vampire
Black: Vampire/Zombie
Blue: Zombie/Spirit

Graveyard Mechanics - One old keyword and one new keyword: Flashback makes a return, with several excellent new flashback cards, including a flashback Impulse and a flashback Wrath variant. Morbid is a keyword which gives the card a comes into play ability, activated ability or additional effect if a creature died that turn. Some of the effects are very powerful, especially in blue and black. Blue and black, as you would expect have the most graveyard effects, with several recursion effects and creatures that use the graveyard as a trigger. Green also has several, mostly involving creatures.

Transforming cards: These cards are double sided; thats right, no familiar brown backs. One side has a sun marker (which is the true "face" of the card) and the other has a moon. These cards represent one creature (or planeswalker...) becoming something new. For example, blue has 3: one is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reference, one is a "The Fly" reference and the last is an experiment which "hatches" into a monstrosity. Though these cards are in every color, Green and Red get the lions share, as every werewolf in a transforming card; showing their "human" form and their werewolf form. Very cool mechanic!
(In case you were wondering: the bonus 16th card in the packs is a "checklist" card, which can be checked to represent a specific transform card, so that you can use those cards with no sleeves or with clear sleeves)

So, those are the basics of the set, next I want to touch on a few strategies/archetypes I foresee being strong in the format.

White/Blue Spirits - A classic "skies" built army, with many evasive creatures, removal and delaying tactics (tapping or bouncing) allowing an outright race to kill the opponent before he kills you. Spirits are almost all evasive (flying or unblockable) and white has a very nice suite of removal this time around. Both colors feature strong cards at common and uncommon.
Key Commons: Chapel Geist, Bonds of Faith, Rebuke, Voiceless Spirit, Moon Heron, Silent Departure

Black/Blue Zombie Recursion: This deck abuses blacks cheap zombie recursion cards like Ghoulcaller's Chant and Ghoulraiser along with other cheap zombies to gain early advantage, before dropping bombs. Black's removal is a little lighter then usual in this set, but still significant. This deck needs multiple copies of its key commons to be worth playing, but the massive card advantage can make it a good strategy if signalled strongly enough.
Key Commons: Ghoulraiser, Ghoulcaller's Chant, Alter's Reap, Armored Skaab, Dead Weight, Stiched Drake

Blue/white/black Mill: This deck is completely based off the extremely powerful Curse of the Bloody Tomb. Multiples of that common can make the deck hard to beat given even an average draw, where you are essentially put on a 10 turn clock on turn 3. Given blue's extremely potent delay tactics and white/black's potent removal, winning by turn 13 in a limited format is going to be tough.
Key Commons: Curse of the Bloody Tomb (obviously), Dead Weight, Bonds of Faith, Silent Departure, Claustrophobia, Dream Twist)

Green/Red Werewolfs: Traditional Green-Red deck, with medium sized creatures all game and direct damage from red. The werewolf theme gives them the ability to get huge quick with a moonmist. My advice is to build like a normal deck, but keep an eye on werewolves and pick them up when possible. This should give you a solid deck that takes advantage of an opponent with a bad draw or who runs out of gas and the possibility of a well timed moonmist acting like a one sided wrath.
Key Commons: Villagers of Estwilde, Grizzled Outcasts, Moonmist, Tormented Pariah, Brimstone Volley)

Black/Red Agro Vampires: Vampires seems to have one of the strongest creature bases of the set, with a good collection of early game beaters and mid-late game finishers. Even their B/R flashback spell is 6 damage to the opponents face, which seems very strong in limited. Vampires also get a top tier combat trick in Vampiric Fury, which even the threat of can make blocking a nightmare for the opponent. Overall, very strong deck that needs a few of the better uncommons for the deck to be top tier. Look for the key rares/uncommons coming around mid-pack as a signal you might be able to move into this deck archetype.
Key Commons: Corpse Lunge, Vampiric Fury, Brimstone Volley, Bloodcrazed Neonate, Vampiric Interloper, Crossway Vampire

So, those are some archetypes I think you are likely to see tomorrow. Last but not least, here are my rankings for the top 10 commons, uncommons and rares. This is assuming first pack, otherwise you need to weigh the contents of your deck before absolute power level.

1. Brimstone Volley
2. Bonds of Faith
3. Curse of the Bloody Tomb
4. Dead Weight
5. Rebuke
6. Chapel Geist
7. Festerhide Boar
8. Claustrophobia
9. Silent Departure
10. Vampiric Fury

1. Tribute to Hunger
2. Slayer of the Wicked
3. Morkrut Banshee
4. Rolling Temblor
5. Murder of Crows
6. Battleground Geist
7. Gatstaf Shepherd
8. Rakish Heir
9. Midnight Haunting
10. Fiend Hunter

1. Divine Reckoning
2. Bloodline Keeper
3. Angel of Flight Alabaster
4. Blasphemous Act
5. Charmbreaker Devils
6. Creeping Renaissance
7. Kessig Cagebreakers
8. Instigator Gang
9. Angelic Overseer
10. Mindshreiker

So, I hope this primer has been helpful to everyone attending a prerelease tomorrow, or planning on playing limited in the next couple of weeks. This set looks great, and I wish everyone luck.

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