Shadows over Innistrad: Horrific Visions Review (Part 2 of 2)
We’re back to round out our coverage of Shadows over Innistrad, with a look a the delirium-filled Horrific Visions. To help test the deck, I’ve enlisted the help of Josh, running the Blue/White Spirits deck, Ghostly Tide. Which deck will emerge victorious?
I’m on the play for our opening tilt, and live the dream with an opening Vessel of Nascency while Josh simply plays an Island. Next turn I pop the Vessel, finding a Soul Swallower and three land- not exactly a home run. Although taking a land is the correct play for delirium, I can’t let a card as good as the Swallower pass, so three lands get dumped into the graveyard. For his part, Josh then deploys a Vessel of Ephermera.
Now turn 3, I drop a Wicker Witch, while Josh counters with a Dauntless Cathar. After adding a Crawling Sensation, I send the Witch in for first blood to take Josh to 17. He fires right back with the Cathar.
The Crawling Sensation hits on turn 5 for a 1/1 Insect, just as it would the rest of the game. I’m also now 3/4ths of the way to delirium, and send in the Witch for 3 more. Josh does his part to help, blasting the Witch with a Puncturing Light. Huzzah, delirium! I play an Explosive Apparatus and pass. Back to Josh, he summons an Apothecary Geist after counterattacking for 3, leaving me at 14.
Next turn, after getting another 1/1 Insect, I play another Vessel of Nascency. This time, I pop it for the card rather than delirium, and find a Forest I’m in dire need of. Now at four land, I pass the turn. Josh drops me to 9 life with an attack in the air and ends his turn.
Now turn 7, I neutralize the offensive threat of his Apothecary Geist with Dead Weight, then swing with two of my Insects to take Josh to 15. At the end of my turn, he cracks his Vessel of Ephemera for a pair of 1/1 Sprits, then replaces the lost Vessel with another one once his turn rolls around. Josh then attacks in for 5, and I chump the Dauntless Cathar with one of my Insects. The Spirits get through, though, and I fall to 7.
Next turn, after spawning a new Insect, I bring out an Obsessive Skinner who puts his +1/+1 counter on himself. I then use Rabid Bite to kill one of Josh’s 1/1 flying Spirits, followed by a 2-point attack. Back to Josh, he swings in with his remaining Spirit token, chipping away at my life total.
Now turn 9, I get another Insect, then put a +1/+1 counter on the Skinner courtesy of delirium. At the end of my turn, Josh then flashes in Stormrider Spirit, then main-phases a Spectral Shepherd. I’m on the ropes now, and Josh presses his advantage with a 4-point attack behind the Stormrider and his Spirit token. I nuke the token with my Explosive Apparatus, falling to 3.
Despite a turn-10 bug, Dead Weight’ing his Soul Shepherd (which he yanks back to hand in response), and playing a Soul Swallower… I’ve got no answer, and scoop at the end of my turn.
Back on the play and looking to even things up, I open with a Foul Orchard; Josh drops a Plains. Next turn we both hit our land drops, with my opening play an Explosive Apparatus, his a Vessel of Ephemera.
A add a turn-3 Tooth Collector, opting to forego trying to get extra value from the card in return for added speed. Josh uses his third turn to pop the Vessel. Next turn, I swing for 3 with the Collector, and Josh unsurprisingly goes to gang-block with the Spirits for an all-around trade. I’m happy to pop the Apparatus to kill one of them, and the Collector snuffs out the other. Back to Josh, he plays Catalog and passes.
Now turn 5, the Collector connects for 3, after which I summon the Hound of the Farbogs. Josh summons a Niblis of Dusk and passes. I go to pick off the Niblis ,with a Dead Weight, but Josh flickers it in response with Essence Flux, and it returns with a +1/+1 counter. So much for attacking, I simply summon a Stallion of Ashmouth and end my turn. For his part, Josh adds a second Niblis of Dusk, then attacks for 3 with the first one.
At 17 life, I go all in, attacking Josh for 11. He immediately kills off the Collector with a Puncturing Light, then trades a Niblis (buffed thanks to prowess) with the Stallion. That leaves just the Hound, slamming in for 5 to leave Josh at 12. I replace my losses with an Inexorable Blob and end the turn. Over to Josh, he summons a Reckless Scholar, then attacks in for 3 with the remaining Niblis.
Now turn 8, I Throttle the offending Niblis, which gives me delirium. I then attack with the Hound and Ooze, with the Ooze’s delirium trigger adds another attacking Blob. Josh takes the full 11, going down to 1. Although he tries to find a rally with Pore over the Pages and Apothecary Geist, he scoops at the end of turn. It’s going to the decider!
Josh kicks things off with a land drop, which I match before pulling ahead with a turn-2 Mold Scavenger. Josh isn’t down for long, following right behind with a turn-3 Reckless Scholar. Undaunted, I add an Inexorable Blob.
Now turn 4, Josh summons a Silent Observer before passing, while I drop a Crow of Dark Tidings for some self-mill (alas, just a pair of land). Next turn, Josh swings in for 3 with both creatures, and I chump the Observer with the Crow (in hindsight here, no clue why I didn’t instead trade with the Scholar instead). Josh then replaces his casualty with a Niblis of Dusk and passes. For my part, I bring out a Wicker Witch.
Josh’s air force flies in unopposed on turn 6, and I fall to 15 life. I counter for 3 with the Witch, then play a second Wicker Witch and an Obsessive Skinner (placing the +1/+1 counter on a Witch). Next turn, Josh hits in for 3 more in the air. Back to me, I try and pick off the Scholar with a Rabid Bite, but Josh thwarts that with Essence Flux, flickering it away. I swing in for 7 with the Witches, and Josh has another trick in store: Puncturing Light. That kills the smaller Witch, but the other connects for 4.
Now turn 8, Josh shuts off delirium with a well-timed Not Forgotten, sending my deceased Witch to the bottom of my library. 3 more points in the air, and I’m down to 9. Back to me, I play a Vessel of Nascency and pop it, hitting delirium at last and keeping a Tooth Collector from the revealed cards. I then swing in for 14 with the Mold Scavenger, Blobs, and 5/2 Wicker Witch. Josh chumps the Witch with a 1/1 Spirit, taking the rest to fall to 4 life. He loots again at the end of turn, hoping for an answer.
Next turn, I add another +1/+1 counter to the Wicker Witch from the Skinner, thanks to delirium. Josh replenishes his troops with a Niblis of Dusk and Spectral Shepherd, but I’m able to close in for the win when I Throttle the Shepherd.
Thoughts & Analysis
This deck is the type I often refer to as a “feast or famine” deck, where unless you meet a certain condition it doesn’t play all that well. However, once you’re able to do what the deck demands of you, every play feels a lot more powerful and you can then move in for victory.
Here, of course, that condition is delirium. If you can get four or more card types in the graveyard, the deck punches well above its weight with cards like Obsessive Skinner and Moldgraf Scavenger. Fall short of that, though, and things don’t come together very well.
Part of the enjoyment of this deck, then, will be the degree to which its pilot enjoys that sort of challenge. If you look at it as a riddle needing to be solved, you’ll love Horrific Visions. If you don’t, you probably won’t enjoy this deck at all.
And ‘riddle’ is probably the right metaphor for the deck’s mechanic. I’m reminded of another ‘feast of famine’ deck, Scars of Mirrodin’s rather eponymously-named Metalcraft, which featured- surprise!- the metalcraft mechanic. Metalcraft triggered with three or more artifacts under your control. Until then, your cards were weaker, and you had to try and make do while you dug for artifacts.
Now, what sounds like more fun? Playing three artifacts? Or getting four card types in your graveyard. Mileage may vary, of course, but for me the latter sounds a lot more interesting- and it was. Kudos to Wizards for finding ways to reinforce the puzzling mystery of Innistrad in so many small ways.
Hits: Delirium mechanic is tremendously fun for those who enjoy not only attempting to defeat their opponent, but doing so while trying to solve the riddle of their own deck; both rare creatures (Soul Swallower, Inexorable Blob) are excellent inclusions that really deliver the “feast” when you solve it
OVERALL SCORE: 4.40/5.00