Shadows over Innistrad Remastered is no longer a random thing I ask for month after month. It’s now officially a release coming to MTG Arena in the first half of 2023. Its announcement also means we’re unlikely to see any cards from that block in Explorer Anthology 2, which was also announced in the Weekly MTG stream earlier this week penciled in for “end of 2022”.
Currently, there are 51 Shadows over Innistrad cards already on MTG Arena, and 29 cards for the smaller set Eldritch Moon. We can also infer that, like Amonkhet Remastered and Kaladesh Remastered, it will curate around 250 cards from the two sets, and we may get at least one card not from the original block tossed into the mix specifically for Historic players.
With this set, we’re 95% of the way to a playable Pioneer format even if we’re missing a majority of the cards from the Return to Ravnica, Theros, Khans of Tarkir, and Battle for Zendikar. The key cards from these sets will likely be in Anthology sets (like Supreme Verdict) and the rest of the cards not included in Remastered sets (like Felidar Guardian) will have to be filled in as well.
With all that said, let’s break down what the most impactful cards in this set are likely to be, as well as go over some possible cards that can appear here to bolster Historic as a format (and potentially Arena Cubes, as well, of course).
First up, we have Sigarda's Aid, arguably one of the most important cards in this block currently. “Hammer Time” is a prominent deck in Modern that combos with Colossus Hammer, and getting more pieces for the deck in Historic is a great boon. This card is the glue for the deck, allowing you to combo off as early as turn two. If you were to tell me this ends up being enough to make the deck a real presence in the Arena format, I’d definitely believe you.
Selfless Spirit and Spell Queller are lumped together as the two remaining pieces missing from Pioneer Bant Spirits. Getting both of these in Explorer, a format where Mono Blue Spirits is already a presence, means we’re likely to have greater diversification of options for a tier deck, which is a net positive for the players of the format. I’m a big fan of Collected Company decks, so consider me someone who will be jamming Bant Spirits on the client as soon as these cards go live!
Thing in the Ice
I believe I’ve touched on this one previously, but Thing in the Ice is such a power house card. Izzet Spells decks have been missing some power in Explorer for some time, largely due to several key cards being absent from Pioneer Phoenix lists on the client. The arrival of Thing in the Ice means that some variation built for the Explorer format can potentially now exist and have a big power spike card that rewards them for the strategy. Plus, we have that really awesome promo art for the card coming in 2023, and maybe that can be a style on Arena, which would be really sweet!
I’m lumping Pore Over the Pages and Pieces of the Puzzle together, despite them being key components of very different decks, because they function similarly. Both seek to fuel the “combo” potential of their decks, the former being Hidden Strings Combo and the latter being Izzet Phoenix. We’re much more likely to be getting the latter fully playable as a deck, but both are cards desperately wanted on the client, and it’s exciting to likely be getting both together via a single release. I’m sure many will try to have some version of Pioneer Phoenix in Explorer once these drop.
Imprisoned in the Moon
Imprisoned in the Moon likely won’t see too much play in Constructed, but historically it’s been a fairly popular Cube card. Hard answers to threats in the color blue are relatively rare, and this one hits a wide range of important targets. I imagine we’ll see it in most Arena Cubes come next year, and you’ll often consider it a high pick in the drafts.
Behold the Beyond
Behold the Beyond is an exciting card at face value. Many will just leave it at that, but it’s also a powerful tool used in a lot of the Hidden Strings Combo decks in Pioneer. Again, that’s the deck likely missing the most pieces in Explorer, so I doubt we’ll have it playable once this set hits, but we still need these cards, and having another one here is a good thing. Mythic rarity stinks, of course, but luckily the decks usually only run a single copy.
Liliana, the Last Hope
It’s Liliana, the Last Hope. She’s an extremely popular Midrange planeswalker who was previously played a lot in Modern. Will she have a home in either Explorer or Historic? Difficult to say, but I assume she’ll at least be tried out in Historic Jund Midrange sometime next year.
Collective Brutality is in a similar place as the Liliana above: A former Midrange all-star in Modern who may not have a home in Arena formats, but is a solid card to have on the client all the same. Perhaps the versatility of this card will give it a home in Best of One, specifically, where the modes can impact a wider range of decks? We’ll find out in 2023.
Poor Bedlam Reveler is a card whose time in the sun has largely passed. It used to be considered in all sorts of Modern decks, back in the days of Mardu Midrange. Today, it’s relegated to some Cube play, and not much else. That said, again, you never know whether or not the contexts of Arena formats could give this one a chance to shine once more.
These three I’m lumping together as the “Green Delirium Package”. Golgari Delirium Midrange was a popular deck very early on in the life of Pioneer, and at least two of these cards have seen some play in Modern previously, as well. Diversifying the Midrange decks in Explorer is likely something very desirable for the Arena team, since Rakdos is king there, and Golgari getting a bunch of new tools could help put it into a better position to challenge that deck moving forward.
Cheat cards are always going to be potentially powerful, just because of the effect of cheating threats into play being so strong. Eldritch Evolution is a card with room for a lot of exploration, though it’s current role in Pioneer is in Abzan Greasefang, turning lesser threats into the Rat. Abzan Greasefang is already a presence in Explorer, so you can look forward to those decks either running this or considering it soon.
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Speaking of cheating in threats, next we have Nahiri, the Harbinger. This card currently sees play in Five-Color Niv-Mizzet in Pioneer with Bring to Light, so the Explorer equivalent, which has largely fallen out of favor, will likely be very excited to add this card to its arsenal. On top of that, she’s a staple in a lot of Cubes, often being considered one of the best Boros Planeswalkers for Big Boros decks.
Emrakul, the Promised End
Last, but not least, we have Emrakul, the Promised End. Early on in Pioneer’s life, this was seeing some play in the Golgari Midrange decks, but you could convince me that it’ll be a potential cheat target for decks in Historic come the release of the set. On top of that, people love jamming big Eldrazi in Cube drafts, so it’ll almost assuredly end up on Arena Cubes. I almost didn’t want to include this one in my discussions, but it’s at least worth mentioning because of it’s perceived power level.
Those were my main picks, but there’s a bunch of other exciting cards worth mentioning briefly. Cards like Anguished Unmaking, Prized Amalgam, Cryptolith Rite, Eternal Scourge, and more will likely have players excited across a wide spectrum of Arena formats. Shadows block is one of the more impactful missing from the client, after all.
That being said, I do want to touch on one remaining element of the Remastered set: The bonus cards added to the experience. Because of the theme here, I’m guessing if we get any extra cards tossed in, they’ll be from other Innistrad sets. Thus, to end this article, I want to briefly talk about the five cards I think would be the most exciting cards to toss into the set for Historic and Cube on Arena.
Snapcaster Mage is an iconic card. It’s a powerful card. To this day, it still sees play in both Constructed formats and Cubes. This card being in the set but straight-to-Historic would likely excite a lot of players, and I’d be super curious as to how good it’d be in Historic Control lists.
Huntmaster of the Fells
Huntmaster of the Fells was a presence in Modern Jund for years and years. It’s now no longer truly a major player in that format, but Historic is a format where competition isn’t as powerful, especially since Bloodbraid Elfhasn’t been added to the format yet. Plus, it’s not too shabby as a Cube card, and even has the most popular Cube stat-line possible (4 mana 2/2).
Cavern of Souls
People love their tribal decks. Cavern of Souls is extremely popular in paper as a result. It would make a lot of sense to stick this card here for Historic, especially since the Shadows Over Innistrad lands aren’t exactly the most exciting for players.
Garruk Relentless is a very “classic” Cube card that has never really broken out in Constructed formats. To me, that makes it a very safe pick to toss into Historic for the player base. Planeswalkers are a lot of fun to play, and this one’s Cube legacy could give it the edge here.
I’ve saved the least exciting but potentially most impactful card for last. Avacyn's Pilgrim has a LOT going for it. It’s a one mana dork, which is crazy powerful at face value. It helps you play off-color cards, another great boon. It’s also a Human, which makes it really explosive, given that Humans is still a relatively a prominent deck in Historic. Would this card be enough to push that deck to be the best in the format? I’m personally unsure, but it’s definitely a card that I’d be super excited to see tossed into the set specifically for Historic and Cube.
Those are my initial musings on the announcement of Shadows over Innistrad Remastered. It’s the Pioneer Remaster I’m personally the most excited for, and the one most likely to have major affects on Explorer as an Arena format, and potentially impact Historic, Historic Brawl, and the various Arena Cubes. Shadows over Innistrad block has the most Pioneer playables of the remaining Pioneer blocks not on Arena, after all.
We’re still many months from previews starting for this release, but I’m already dreaming up all sorts of lists I want to try out once the cards make it onto the Arena client. Hopefully you’re all sharing in my enthusiasm for the set and for the future of both Arena and the Explorer format!