"And thus preview season was upon us, and it was good. Maro 1:15"
As I mentioned last week, we've kicked off the previews properly this Monday and boy have there been some doozies. This week we saw four planeswalkers, a bunch of playable mythics, and plenty of other strong or interesting cards. The art and flavor has also been unmatched compared to recent sets, with only a few duds. Here's a few more cards that I'm hoping to crack once the set releases.
If I had only one disappointment in Shadows Over Innistrad it's that the planeswalker design feels just a bit samey. Sorin, Grim Nemesis,
Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, and Nahiri, the Harbinger are all decent enough cards in a vacuum, but they all basically plus for card advantage, minus to remove things from the board, and feature a flashy ultimate. From the flip walkers in Magic Origins to the walkers in the Zendikar block that lack typical ultimate abilities, WotC has been experimenting with planeswalker design in interesting ways, while these new ones feel like they just got stamped out of a mold.
Thankfully, that's not true of every planeswalker in the set.
Harkening back to Garruk Relentless, Arlinn Kord is a transforming planeswalker giving her access to a large array of abilities. Having a bunch of abilities means you have a lot of versatility to respond to the situation, in much the same way that the cycle of charms and commands are good. Arlinn even has more control of her transforming than Garruk Relentless did. Most often you're going to be aggressively flipping her back and forth making wolves and tossing Lightning Bolts, but sometimes it will be right to just keep ticking up her human side punching in your threats until you can flip and ultimate. She's a threat all her own against control and can help stabilize against aggro. I expect her to see a lot of play.
Let's just accept that this is probably the closest we're ever going to get to a Vindicate reprint. From Maelstrom Pulse to Utter End, this kind of costly, but unconditional, removal has become an almost constant presence in Magic. The three life loss is a real cost, but being instant speed and hitting any non-land is pretty worthwhile. Functional it's going to play a lot like Hero's Downfall that occasionally gets to tag an troublesome enchantment or artifact. In an aggressive Black/White deck it's a unconditional way to punch through big blockers, and controlling shells with probably want to pair with something like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to offset the life loss from it and any Read the Bones and Painful Truths they are running.
Note that Anguished Unmaking is also the Game Day promo, which while not always the case often means WotC thinks it's constructed viable card.
Harness the Storm
It's cheap enough to come down early in the game, it offers a repeatable effect, there's a not-so-subtle nod to the Storm mechanic, and it doesn't even exile the card out of the graveyard like flashback.
This card just screams combo.
Sigarda, Heron's Grace
Alright, let's just get this out of the way. Yes, she's no Sigarda, Host of Herons, which was generally just a giant evasive unkillable threat. In theory, Sigarda, Heron's Grace fails the "dies to Doom Blade" argument, but that might not entirely be the case. Languish, Ultimate Price, Roast, Grasp of Darkness, and all the small burn miss the mark. While she doesn't protect herself, the hexproof will keep you safe from discard and edicts, and her second ability means you won't need to over-commit to the board. In addition, it's pretty hard to race taking four in the air while you chump their biggest attacker each turn.
Also, you should take a moment to appreciate the marrying of lore and card design in Sigarda, Heron's Grace. Sigarda is the only uncorrupted angel left on Innistrad, at least of the big bad named ones. As such, she's extended her protection to the humans forgoing her own defenses. Her second ability represents her fighting the delirium and confusion caused by Avacyn's betrayal by trying to muster order against it.
I played a lot of Champion of the Parish back in the day, whether it was curving into Silverblade Paladins or Burning-Tree Emissarys+Lightning Mauler. Thalia's Lieutenant plays a very similar role of growing steadily bigger with each subsequent tribal drop. However, at the cost of coming down a turn later, Thalia's Lieutenant is a more relevant creature when you're top-decking - if you have a board.
While we loose a number of the counters matter cards, like Hardened Scales and Abzan Falconer, there's plenty of playable humans floating around the remaining sets. A quick search turned up: Consul's Lieutenant, Dragon Hunter, Expedition Envoy, Kytheon, Hero of Akros, Knight of the White Orchid, Reflector Mage, Abbot of Keral Keep, and Arashin Foremost - edit: boo warriors only. That's not a bad start from the looks of things, and who knows what else will get printed in Shadows Over Innistrad. We already know about a Glorious Anthem-esque card. We'll have to wait and see what other support comes around, and if it can play around the formats various sweepers.