Innistrad has a problem. Since we last visited Magic: The Gathering‘s terrifying world of creatures of the night, tough humans and the angels that stand between them, someone or something has upset the natural order of things. The numerous tribes and clans of vampires and werewolves of Innistrad are not immune to this change. This is the story of Shadows over Innistrad, the latest expansion for Magic: The Gathering.
The Vampire Bloodlines of Innistrad
There are four major bloodlines of vampires on Innistrad, all of whom reside in the Innistrad provinces of Stensia and Nephalia: Falkenrath, Markov, Stromkirk and Voldaren. The Falkenrath are masters of flight. The Markov have mastered psychic magic (and share a namesake with planeswalker Sorin Markov). The Stromkirk are adept at mist transformation and disguise, and the Voldaren love to morph into other animals.
The vampires of Innistrad have been on the defensive ever since the angel Avacyn went mad and angels destroyed Castle Falkenrath. Additionally, all of these bloodlines are affected in different ways by the mysterious force plaguing Innistrad, causing them to be more vicious and less isolated than they would be otherwise. For example, the Falkenrath have been been lost to their base instinct of feeding. The flavor text of the uncommon card Heir of Falkenrath’s transformed side, Heir to the Night, speaks to this point:
“The Falkenrath have relinquished all pretense of nobility, losing themselves completely to their all-consuming thirst.”
The Werewolf Howlpacks of Innistrad
Among the surviving howlpacks of werewolves on Innistrad are the Krallenhorde and the Vildin. As with the vampires, whatever is affecting Innistrad is bringing out the vicious side of these werewolves (well, even more vicious than usual), leading many of them to kill indiscriminately. Even the merged wolf beings called Wolfir are affected, as only the elder Silverfur remain. The werewolf Planeswalker, Arlinn Kord, is the only one able to calm these werewolf packs and keep them from overrunning the human settlements completely.
The Art of Magic: The Gathering – Innistrad
The beauty of this seismic shift in Innistrad’s balance has never been more apparent thanks to the upcoming Art of Magic: The Gathering – Innistrad hardcover book. Following in the footsteps of the previous Art of Magic: The Gathering – Zendikar book, this collection features amazing card and incidental artwork from throughout Innistrad, including plenty of werewolves and vampires. Here’s an exclusive look at some of the gorgeous pieces from the book.
Twins of Maurer Estate
This amazing piece by artist Darek Zabrocki depicts twin girls who were turned into vampires at a young age. Now they roam around the grounds of their ancestral home, picking off unsuspecting villagers who think them a couple of lost kids. As you can see in this preview page from the art book, not only do you get a bunch of great art pieces, but there’s background info on powers and abilities of each of the beings on Innistrad.
Gavony Province / Humble the Brute
Here’s a two-page spread from the Art of Magic: The Gathering – Innistrad. On the left is background information on Gavony Province, one of the human strongholds on Innistrad and the home to Thraben, the largest city in all Innnistrad. Long-time Magic players might remember this province depicted on a frequently-played land called Gavony Township.
On the right side is a piece of art from a card called Humble the Brute. What card is that? Read onward.
Exclusive Shadows over Innistrad Preview: Humble the Brute
Because the vampires and werewolves have become more vicious, the humans of Innistrad are forced to step up their efforts to combat them. Take a look at Humble the Brute:
Humble the Brute costs 4W and is an uncommon instant that says:
Destroy target creature with power 4 or greater. Investigate. (Put a colorless Clue artifact token onto the battlefield with “2, sacrifice this artifact: Draw a card.”)
The flavor text says:
“The element of surprise only works when it’s backed up by a bolt between the eyes.”
The beautiful art by Daarken can be seen earlier in the article as part of the art book, and depicts an Innistrad human stalking a particularly large werewolf with a crossbow.
Analysis of Humble the Brute
A high pick indeed in Shadows over Innistrad drafts (a special Magic format where players take turns picking cards from packs and building decks from those cards), as removal is always a priority, especially in white. Though Humble the Brute’s cost is high, the fact that it destroys the biggest threat on the board at instant speed is nice, and the Investigate text is like icing on the cake. The token it creates will let you draw a card later in the game for 2 mana, and the set is also full of cards that trigger when you sacrifice Clue tokens. The synergy with this card and others in a limited environment can’t be underestimated.
This particular uncommon might not see a lot of constructed play, as there are less expensive and more versatile kill spells in decks that tend to run white. Still, if you’re playing in a draft, pick this one up early, as you’ll be casting it multiple times throughout the tournament to clear the way for your white creatures and, later, draw a card.
It’s All about Atmosphere
Just like the last time Magic fans visited Innistrad, the flavor is bursting out of this Magic set, with spooky creatures, stalwart humans, fallen Angels, and investigating Planeswalkers around every corner. Shadows over Innistrad releases April 8 on paper and April 18 on Magic Online. The Art of Magic: The Gathering – Innistrad comes out Summer 2016. You may just want to stream A Nightmare Before Christmas at the same time and celebrate Halloween a little early.
Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast
Feature Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast