Innistrad: Spectral Legions Review (Part 2 of 2)
All good things must come to an end, and in saying that we’ve reached the final review for our long-anticipated Innistrad decks. We’ve had an absolute blast with these in a way we didn’t with Scars of Mirrodin, and are quite taken wit hthe set’s overall themes and flavour. We’ll have another dose coming up with Dark Ascension (and the Innistrad Event Decks at the end of the month), but we don’t want to just leave it there. Since Innistrad was in essence a reimagining of 2001’s Odyssey, that’s the set we’ll be reviewing next!
But of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. We still have Spectral Legions to put through its paces, and to do so I’ve enlisted Jimi’s help. She’s selected the flashback extravaganza, Eldritch Onslaught, and here are the notes from our clash.
Jimi’s on the play, and gets things started with a Dream Twist, milling off a Deranged Assistant, Merfolk Mesmerist, and Desperate Ravings. Next turn she plays her first creature- another Deranged Assistant- then on turn 3 she adds a Cellar Door. After hitting my first three land drops, I begin with a Voiceless Spirit and we’re off!
Now turn 4, Jimi triggers her Cellar Door and whiffs, ditching a Burning Vengeance. Back to me, I swing in for 2 with my Spirit, then add a Moon Heron. Next turn Jimi flashbacks the Dream Twist, putting another Dream Twist and pair of Mountains into her graveyard. With a clear creature advantage, I punish her for another 5 damage, taking her to 13.
Jimi looks to solve the Heron with a turn-6 Harvest Pyre (exiling the pair of Mountains), but I’m ready with the Negate to nip it in the bud. I’d wanted to save it for any eventual Burning Vengeance that might appear, but keeping the pressure on seems the better option here. With little else to do, Jimi triggers her Assistant to help pay for another Assistant, milling off a Fortress Crab in the process. She then ends her turn. I follow up with another 5-point attack in the sky, then add a Mausoleum Guard.
The Moon Heron is solved with a turn-7 Grasp of Phantoms, buying Jimi a little extra time. My next attack is only for 4, sending across both the Voiceless Spirit and the Guard. Replaying the Moon Heron, though, leaves Jimi with few answers, as I now have lethal damage on the wing. She draws, then concedes.
Jimi’s opening Dream Twist gave her little to work with last game, and she’s hopeful that her opening Ghoulcaller’s Bell will do the trick. She festively rings it once its on the table, and each of us mill a card from library to graveyard. For me, a Spirit Mantle, for her a Pitchburn Devils. Over to me, I drop a Plans and a Doomed Traveler. Back to Jimi, the Bell goes a-ring-a-ring and off go a Silent Departure and Unsummon to their respective graveyards. Jimi then drops a Merfolk Mesmerist and passes. I play my land, then attack with the Doomed Traveler, hoping he lives up to his name. Jimi- having been burnt by hard-to-block Spirits, is having none of it, and in he goes for the game’s first point of damage.
Now turn 3, Jimi mills some more with an Armored Skaab, sending off a Dream Twist, Fortress Crab, Into the Maw of Hell, and an Island. She rgins the Bell, and we further add a Chapel Geist and Curse of the Bloody Tome to the exodus. Over to me, I attack with the Traveler for 1, then add a Chapel Geist. Back to Jimi, she flashes the Dream Twist back (milling a nearly-useless Rolling Temblor and pair of Islands), then triggers the Bell for an Island of my own and a Fortress Crab. I upgrade my offense with a Divine Favor on the Geist and attack for 4, taking Jimi to 14 life, with me at 23.
Jimi solves that problem nicely with a turn-5 Grasp of Phantoms, putting my Chapel Geist on top of my library (and the Favor into the graveyard). The Ghoulcaller’s Bell then mills off a Murder of Crows and my poor Chapel Geist, both cards we’d have rather have drawn and a clever combination on Jimi’s part. Still, when I hit my fifth land drop on turn 5 it opens up a Gallows Warden. I send in the Doomed Traveler for 1, and pass. Back to Jimi, she plays the Scourge of Geier Reach, which is a 5/5 thanks to my two creatures in play. The Bell rings, and we each mill a land. The Scourge is sizeable, but eminently manageable and I send in both creatures without hesitation to leave Jimi at 9 life.
Now turn 7, Jimi swings for 7 with her team, looking to choke off my attack through offense. Instead, I simply Unsummon the Scourge and take 2. Chagrined, she replays it and passes after triggering her Bell (again we both mill land). At the end of her turn, I sneak in a Midnight Haunting, and untapping I’m able to swing in for 6- which becomes 8 after I add a Moment of Heroism to my Gallows Warden. This puts Jimi at 1, and takes me up to 24. Not willing to go down without a fight, Jimi fires back led by the massive Scourge of Geier Reach.
Which I promptly Rebuke. Jimi scoops.
Once more the Ghoulcaller’s Bell drops on the opening turn, and it’s unique chime sees Jimi and I both mill an Island from our library to graveyard. Next turn she Dream Twists, adding a Curse of the Bloody Tome, Think Twice, and Murder of Crows to the boneheap, then rings the Bell again to add an Island (I mill a Spectral Rider). An Armored Skaab comes down on turn 3, and that throws in two Islands, a Mountain, and another Curse. Add on top of that the Bell (milling me for a Mausoleum Guard, Jimi for another Island) and that’s quite a bit off graveyard building before I’ve made a single play! That first play comes on turn 3, however, with a Voiceless Spirit.
Now turn 4, Jimi plays a Merfolk Mesmerist, then Geistflames my Spirit. The Bell mills off another Voiceless Spirit for me, and a Mountain for Jimi. Jimi attacks for 1 with the Skaab and passes. Over to me, I play a Moon Heron and pass. Next turn Jimi flashbacks the Think Twice in her graveyard to draw a card, then triggers the Bell to mill off a Divine Favor and Rolling Temblor. For my part, I add a Curiosity to the Heron and swing in for 3, drawing a free card.
Jimi attacks for 2 with the Merfolk and Skaab on turn 6, then plays a Think Twice. before adding a second Merfolk Mesmerist. The Bell shaves a land off of the tops of each of our libraries, and she passes turn. At the end of her turn I play Midnight Haunting, so when I can untap and attack I’m swinging in for 5. With Jimi down to 12 life (and me at 17), I end my turn. Back to Jimi, she flashes the Geistflame back to pick off one of my two 1/1 Spirit tokens, then uses a Mesmerist to mill off a Mountain and Fortress Crab. The Bell then mills off a Plains for me and a Grasp of Phantoms for her. I then attack in again for 4 with my Spirits, following up with a Mausoleum Guard.
Now turn 8, Jimi gets some offensive threat in the form of Charmbreaker Devils, triggering the Bell to grind off an Island and a Silent Departure. Back to me, I have just enough on the board and my hand to seal the victory. Adding a Spirit Mantle to my Mausoleum Guard means it won’t be able to be blocked, and I put a Divine Favor on my 1/1 Spirit token. This lets my three creatures swing in for lethal unopposed, and I complete the sweep.
Thoughts & Analysis
Of the three tribal-themed decks in Innistrad, the others being Carnival of Blood (Vampires) and Repel the Dark (Humans), Spectral Legions is perhaps the strongest. In a removal-weak environment like Innistrad, we immediately found that the Vampires could run into trouble if the red zone became too congested. Unusual for Black and Red, Carnival had few tools to clear you a path to your opponent. Sure you could keep the herd thinned a bit with Tribute to Hunger, and falter their defenses with the Crossway Vampire, but your most effective option was the singleton Fireball.
The Green/White Repel the Dark fared at least a little bit better. Smite the Monstrous is strong for culling top-of-curve beaters, but useless against smaller, swarm-based decks. Bonds of Faith and the Blazing Torch offer additional choices, and the Fiend Hunter is perhaps the most reliable of all. Unlike Carnival, which had some representation in the air (six of 21 creatures), Repel the Dark is entirely ground-based, and looks to achieve tactical superiority through building up individual cards with pumps and +1/+1 counters, like the Elder of Laurels or Elder Cathar.
Although it is saddled with a steeper mana curve, Spectral Legions offsets this by having an easier time getting damage in as the midgame develops and transitions into endgame. For one, nearly every creature boasts some sort of evasion. Secondly, the removal suite here is quite robust: two each of Pacifism, Rebuke, and Unsummon, and I suppose even a Ghostly Possession. While Carnivalcould be an exercise in frustration, as you stopped being able to get past your opponent’s defenses, Spectral Legions is right next to Repel the Dark in terms of fun level. Overall, a solid addition to the Innistrad stable.
Hits: Bountiful evasion helps you get through the red zone to pressure your opponent’s life total; quality removal package, considering the standards of Innistrad; tribal Spirits isn’t quite as fun as tribal Humans, but it does a fine job of it
Misses: Slower to start, can find itself overwhelmed early; creatures tend to be on the smaller side, to compensate for their evasion
OVERALL SCORE: 4.25/5.00