The Best Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered Cards for Historic & Explorer
Table of Contents
- Shadows of the Past
- Main Set
- Honorable Mentions
Hey everyone! With the release of Shadows over Innistrad Remastered just around the corner, I’ve gone through the whole set and picked out the cards I think have potential to see play in either Historic or Explorer. Let’s get into it!
The main set will be legal in both Explorer and Historic but we’re also getting a number of curated older cards in a collection called Shadows of the Past (which is essentially this set’s version of the Mystical Archives) which are only going to be legal in Historic so I’m going to cover those first. I’ve also put up a video version of it on my YouTube channel if you’re interested.
Shadows of the Past
This is a really iconic card and is definitely still powerful enough to see play in Historic. The only existing deck this could potentially slot straight into is Izzet Wizards since Snapcaster Mage is a wizard itself and there are a few nice synergies here – in general Snapcaster Mage decks want very cheap instants and sorceries so you don’t have to wait until turn 4 or 5 to use it, and Izzet Wizards is full of cheap spells including Wizard's Lightning which Snapcaster Mage will be able to cast for 1 mana.
Having said that the current builds of Izzet Wizards are all about speed and closing the game out as fast as possible and Snapcaster Mage doesn’t really play into that game plan too well so I’m not sure it’s better than alternatives like Balmor, Battlemage Captain, but I could potentially see a slightly slower build that’s looking to have a better long game running it so it’s definitely worth testing.
Even though there aren’t a lot of pre-existing homes for Snapcaster Mage to fit into in Historic, it’s definitely the sort of card that I think could birth new archetypes and decks. Since you want to pair it with a lot of cheap spells I could potentially see it working well in a Dimir or Grixis interactive shell to pair with cards like Fatal Push and Thoughtseize, plus Historic will be one of the only formats where you can still play Snapcaster Mage with Lurrus of the Dream-Den which seems like a really strong pairing.
Finally I’m also excited to try it alongside Saiba Syphoner in a UWx control shell – I really like Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate as a lategame engine in a control deck to lock opponents out but the issue was that Ephemerate was basically a dead card when you didn’t have Saiba Syphoner, whereas if you’re running 4 Snapcaster Mage and 4 Saiba Syphoner alongside 2 Ephemerate, chances are you’ll have a good target for it.
This is a potentially very scary card that I could see slotting very nicely into the Auras deck since Hexproof and unblockable are perfect for what that deck wants to be doing.
I’m not sure what you would cut (maybe Sram, Senior Edificer since that’s generally the least impactful 2 mana creature) or the exact numbers you’d want to run this in since it won’t produce you card advantage like Kor Spiritdancer or Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice so I doubt you’d want to run more than 2 or 3 copies, but I definitely think it deserves a slot since the majority of decks rely on single-target removal to beat you and this completely bypasses that.
This is a really exciting addition to the format because it now makes Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo viable! Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is one of my favorite cards in Historic and it barely ever sees play but it’s definitely powerful enough to, and getting a decent combo could be what it needed to bring it back into the limelight.
The goal with this combo is to set up Yawgmoth, Thran Physician alongside two undying creatures and a Blood Artist-style effect, and you can then get infinite Yawgmoth, Thran Physician triggers by sacrificing one undying creature to remove the -1/-1 counter on the other, draining the opponent out and drawing you infinite cards.
Having Young Wolf as the only undying card in the format does mean you lack redundancy but that hasn’t stopped other combos like Putrid Goblin from being viable in the past, and you have multiple ways to tutor it up .
This seems like a really interesting deck-building puzzle – the build I’ve theory crafted that I’m most excited for is a Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler shell using Fiend Artisan to be able to tutor Young Wolf and other combo pieces like Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, running Priest of Forgotten Gods as a backup sacrifice engine that works really well with Tyvar, Jubilant Brawler, and Eldritch Evolution (which is another new card we’re getting in the main set) to consistently tutor for Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and potentially even something like Ranger of Eos to find 2 copies of Young Wolf to combo too.
This is another really iconic card and will be most at home in Reanimator. Griselbrand is a really powerful target to reanimate but I have my reservations whether it will be better than Atraxa, Grand Unifier or Serra's Emissary, because unlike older formats like Modern and Legacy, we don’t have free spells like Force of Will or the pitch elementals to be able to protect our board state the turn we get Griselbrand into play.
Additionally having to pay 7 life to get the card advantage could potentially be an issue against aggro compared to the other two premier targets – Atraxa, Grand Unifier provides card advantage without having to pay life and has vigilance so can freely attack to gain life and still be back to block which makes it much better against aggro, and Serra's Emissary doesn’t produce card advantage but can often just lock creature decks out from winning altogether, whereas I can definitely see board states where cheating Griselbrand into play doesn’t save you if the opponent has a big board already.
I think the versions of reanimator that will be most interested in Griselbrand are ones that can give it haste so you can gain life immediately by attacking to offset what you pay for the ability, so I could definitely see it being good in Bitter Reunion builds.
There are other ways you can cheat it into play too, and one other idea I had was that it could be decent with Indomitable Creativity alongside Sheoldred, the Apocalypse so if you x=2 and get them both, you’re able to draw your whole deck. I wasn’t sure how you’d win from that point though, and Nagsor Inaste on Youtube pointed out that you can go infinite with Griselbrand + A-Queza, Augur of Agonies instead which seems a lot better, so I’ll definitely be trying that out once it releases.
Getting a new 1 mana dork is always big news, and I think the two most natural homes for this one are Humans and Angels.
This seems great in Humans since it’s a Human itself so works with all of your Human payoffs, Humans already often plays in Selesnya colors, the deck wants to play a good amount of 3 drops for Collected Company and Inquisitor Captain so being able to ramp into them on turn 2 is a big deal, and it can ramp into your Collected Company or Inquisitor Captain on turn 3 as well. I could even potentially see a build that runs this alongside Katilda, Dawnhart Prime to ramp into Kayla's Reconstruction instead of Inquisitor Captain to give the deck a stronger top end.
Angels is another tribe that could be interested in this – my current build of Selesnya Angels in Historic is already running 4 Llanowar Elves (since its 3 drops are very impactful and it’s a deck that runs 4 Collected Company and 4 Kayla's Reconstruction), and Avacyn's Pilgrim producing white is generally much more desirable in that deck so this will be a slight upgrade there too.
Outside of that there could also be decks that want to run 12 1 mana dorks just to maximize the fast ramp starts (the only one that comes to mind immediately is maybe Selesnya Elves with Kayla's Reconstruction in addition to Collected Company but that might just be me getting too lost in the sauce) so if a deck really wants a lot of early ramp this is a great option to have.
As we’ll get to in the main set later, we’re getting a few really nice Spirits cards in Azorius colors, and this seems like a really nice boost for the Historic version of that deck. Spirits runs a lot of must-kill threats and so giving them hexproof is huge particularly against a deck like Rakdos Midrange that relies quite heavily on single-target removal, and if you can manage to get two in play at the same time, it essentially shuts down the opponent’s ability to interact at all unless they have a sweeper.
It’s an interesting choice whether you want to play Azorius or Bant Spirits (splashing green for Collected Company), I would probably want to be on bant personally from what I’ve seen so far since so many of the impactful cards are at 3 mana, plus it gives the deck more power at the top end which seems important in the current meta.
This is a really interesting reanimation card that seems very powerful. We’ve recently seen Mardu Reanimator decks pop up at Arena Championship 2 and this seems like it could be a great addition to that deck – you probably don’t want to cut Priest of Fell Rites since that enables the fastest starts, but I could definitely see this being better than Unburial Rites because of the repeated reanimation.
There are obviously some downsides like the fact that you have to wait until your upkeep, the fact that Séance permanently exiles the creature, and it’s much more vulnerable to discard spells whereas Unburial Rites has flashback, but getting repeated reanimation seems really powerful, and enchantment removal isn’t very common in the format right now so it’ll be hard to remove once it’s resolved.
You may need to build the deck differently to enable this since you don’t get the reanimation immediately, and it will want a new creature in the graveyard every turn, but the power level is definitely up there on this card, and I’m really excited to try it out.
Bump in the Night
This is definitely more of a fringe pick, but if Rakdos burn ends up being a deck, this could potentially slot in nicely there. Getting 3 direct damage for 1 mana isn’t possible any other way in Historic since Lightning Bolt is banned so this would be a good tool for efficient reach.
Obviously losing the flexibility to target creatures is a big downside but it’s great for efficiency. Whether Rakdos burn actually ends up being a deck will remain to be seen, but it wouldn’t shock me if it was since burn decks are usually happy to splash a second color for Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and removal to be able to kill bigger creatures so it could be worth trying out.
Geist of Saint Traft
This is another quite iconic card that has seen play in the past but I’m not sure that many decks are will be interested in this right now aside from maybe in the sideboard for the control matchup. In theory this can apply a lot of pressure against decks that don’t commit to the board like control and they’ll struggle to deal with it without a sweeper because of the hexproof, but my main issue with that is that The Wandering Emperor is pretty common in most control lists which is capable of just ambushing this in combat by making a 2/2.
Azorius or Bant Spirits can get around this issue by providing buffs to it with its lord effects like Supreme Phantom and Drogskol Captain which means it’ll be too big to get ambushed by The Wandering Emperor tokens so that’s one home that I could see this in. In Azorius spirits you might just want additional counterspells in the sideboard, but in Bant spirits you do need to keep the creature count high for Collected Company so I think that’s probably the most likely home for it.
Now we’ll move onto the cards that will be legal in both Explorer and Historic.
This is going to be a big deal for the Colossus Hammer decks in both Explorer and Historic. We’ve seen Colossus Hammer decks have some success in Explorer and the best lists have been running Sigarda's Aid so that you don’t have to run both Kemba, Kha Enduring (which wants you to ideally run other cats), and Resolute Strike (which wants you to run Warriors), so it enables you to pick a lane.
While I don’t think the Colossus Hammer decks in Explorer are likely to be top tier (mainly due to a lack of redundancy and backup plan), I think they have the potential to be very strong in Historic where we have both Kemba's Outfitter and Belt of Giant Strength.
Kemba's Outfitter is an incredibly strong card in the archetype, and Belt of Giant Strength provides you redundancy for your powerful equipment so you don’t need to run hard tutors like Fighter Class and can instead run better cards like Ingenious Smith and still be likely to find your key pieces.
The great thing about the addition of Sigarda's Aid to this deck is that you no longer have to run creatures of a specific type to enable either Kemba, Kha Enduring or Resolute Strike, which means you can just fill your deck with generically good creatures that are good to equip the hammer with like Esper Sentinel and Ornithopter.
Traverse the Ulvenwald & Vessel of Nascency
I’m pairing these two together because they were both recently used in Team Handshake’s build of Pioneer Abzan Greasefang that did really well at the last Pro Tour so I expect these to slot straight into Explorer Greasefang decks too. Even though it’s not quite as fast as Eldritch Evolution (that I’ll get to later), Vessel of Nascency in particular is really great at improving the consistency, helping you find sideboard cards, filling your graveyard for Greasefang, Okiba Boss and Traverse the Ulvenwald, and grinding into longer games too.
Since the Vessel of Nascency build is running fewer early creatures (so Eldritch Evolution as a tutor isn’t really viable), it instead uses Traverse the Ulvenwald which can fix your mana early on, and then turns into a tutor for Greasefang, Okiba Boss once you have delirium online.
Even outside of Greasefang decks, I think these are both solid cards in any creature-based combo deck that is looking to fill the graveyard so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this shows up in other lists in future too.
I’ve already mentioned this one a couple of times already but this is a great addition to both formats and already has some good homes to slot into. As I just alluded to, this is another way you can build Abzan Greasefang if you’re running more cheap creatures like Stitcher's Supplier, Satyr Wayfinder etc., which you can then sacrifice to Eldritch Evolution to tutor Greasefang, Okiba Boss straight onto the battlefield.
As I also mentioned earlier I think this is also a great fit for the Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo deck in Historic, and there have been a ton of decks in the past that I’ve built that has wanted this card so I’m really excited to get my hands on this one since it’s great as both a combo enabler, and a ‘fair’ toolbox enabler as well.
This is a pretty simple one, but I think this will be a nice addition to Auras decks in both formats – we already have 1 mana auras that give flying like Fly and Arcane Flight, but the recurable nature of this means it’s very appealing for the first copy at least.
This is a nice addition to the spirits deck, and is another incentive to move into Azorius or Bant rather than just mono blue. Spirits have a lot of important to kill threats and so having this alongside Mausoleum Wanderer as ways to protect your board is going to make life very difficult for interactive decks.
I could also see this seeing play in non-spirits decks if you’re interested in protecting your board from destruction-based sweepers since the best alternatives we currently have like Selfless Glyphweaver and Guardian of Faith are all 1 mana more expensive.
This is another huge addition to the spirits deck and is one of the biggest incentives to run Bant spirits (since hitting this off Collected Company to counter an important spell at instant speed is so powerful). Having played a bit of Modern spirits in the past, this is the card I was most excited to have added, and should make Azorius or Bant Spirits a contender in the format.
One of the disadvantages to running bant spirits is that you need to have a high creature count for Collected Company which means you can’t run many counterspells but Spell Queller acting as essentially a counterspell on a body is a really good way to mitigate that weakness.
Thing in the Ice
This is a really nice option for the Izzet spell-slinger decks. Explorer Izzet Phoenix lists are already very creature light mainly due to a lack of good cheap threats more than anything else, so I could potentially see this seeing maindeck play in Explorer Phoenix decks, especially if you’re concerned about aggro.
Historic Izzet Phoenix on the other hand has a plethora of good threats and this is defintely outclassed by cards like A-Symmetry Sage and A-Dragon's Rage Channeler, but it’s a nice tool to have access to in the sideboard if you’re concerned about go-wide aggro decks. Portable Hole could definitely be a potential issue from the white-based aggro decks, but outside of that not many aggro decks run tools that can kill this quickly so I could see certain metagames where you might want this in your Izzet Phoenix sideboard.
This is a nice flexible spell that will mainly be of interest in decks that are looking for additional discard outlets and removal on the same card.
We do have a lot of great discard outlets in Rakdos colors particularly in Historic where we have Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Seasoned Pyromancer, Crucias, Titan of the Waves etc. but this is nice in that it’s a discard outlet on interaction both for creatures and hand-hate against interactive decks, so while I think there are better options on pure power level, there will definitely be decks that might want this to up their interaction count while also providing redundancy for discard.
As with Thing in the Ice I don’t think this is good enough to see play in Historic spell-slinger decks since we have better options, but I could see this seeing play in Explorer even though it almost never sees play in Pioneer. The main reason for this is that we don’t have the delve spells like Treasure Cruise – Treasure Cruise is one of the most powerful payoffs in spell heavy decks and Bedlam Reveler directly competes for the same slot so in the absence of delve spells like Treasure Cruise there’s a chance Bedlam Reveler could see play.
Having said that, it doesn’t synergize entirely with Arclight Phoenix which is probably the most popular non-Creativity Izzet deck in the format, it’s slower to get online because of a lack of cheap spells compared to Historic, and it also makes the deck even more vulnerable to graveyard hate which is already fairly popular because of decks like Greasefang, so I wouldn’t be shocked if it doesn’t end up making it but it does have potential.
Pieces of the Puzzle
This one is pretty much exclusively for Explorer since it’s mainly a tool for Izzet Phoenix and the Historic version has much better options like Faithless Looting. In Explorer where you have less options for ways to fill your graveyard this seems like it could be a good option there as a way to get your Arclight Phoenix into the graveyard, and dig for spells to bring back your Phoenixes the following turn.
Being able to fill your graveyard quickly could even potentially make cards like Bedlam Reveler more viable, although at that point you might just want to run something like Ox of Agonas instead.
Prized Amalgam: I’ve built heavy self mill decks in the past using cards like Narcomoeba, Creeping Chill, Silversmote Ghoul, and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath before it was banned, and this fits perfectly into that sort of shell. The issue with those decks though is that they can only really work in Best of 1 since they get hosed by graveyard hate, and they’re just too slow to consistently win in Best of 1 especially when you compare it to other all-in graveyard decks like Dragonstorm, Reanimator, or Greasefang.
Geier Reach Sanitarium: This is a nice addition for 2 color control decks running high numbers of Narset, Parter of Veils as a way to cut the opponent off their draw step if you activate it during their upkeep with Narset, Parter of Veils in play because of its passive ability.
Alms of the Vein: This is another nice madness payoff – madness as an archetype is only really playable in Historic but I could definitely see this seeing play there in a very aggressively slanted build since we have so many good options for discard outlets now, so any new good payoff is very desirable so you can go more all-in on your discard synergies.
Liliana, the Last Hope: This is a generically strong planeswalker – it doesn’t currently have any great homes in either format and very rarely sees play in Pioneer either, but it’s a notable addition to the format that some decks might be interested in in future, particular if 1 toughness creatures become more prevalent and your deck is interested in filling the graveyard.
Pore Over the Pages: This is a commonly played card in the Pioneer Lotus Field combo deck – we’re still missing some of the key cards like Hidden Strings so this deck isn’t currently viable in either format but once more pieces are added, this definitely has the potential to see play there, and the deck feels very scary in Historic where we still have Underworld Breach available.
So those are my picks for the most impactful cards in both formats. I’m really excited for this set since I have a ton of brews ready to try out that I think could have real potential, especially in Historic like the Colossus Hammer deck with Sigarda's Aid, the Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo deck with Young Wolf, as well as multiple deck ideas for Snapcaster Mage and Griselbrand just to mention a few. Thanks a lot for reading!
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