Drafters’ Corner: TDC’s FoA Set Review – Shadow

Hi everyone! To review the shady Cabal cards, we have none, other than the mysterious and elusive Isomorphic. Similar to how stories about the Cabal are often hearsay and whispers from the void, there are only a rare few who have met Isomorphic and lived to tell the tale. Countless people have asked who he is, but no-one really knows. Some suspect that he is the Yeti Jesus, others claim that he is merely a mathematical symbol while there are also those that think him being Horus Traver is the only explanation for his ridiculous draft placements. All I can say is, I’ve never seen LSV and Isomorphic in the same room. The previous set reviews are available here: FireTimeJustice, Primal.

Draft Rating Scale

For this set, I’ll be using the same rating scale as my previous tier list, which is a slight modification to LSV’s rating scale. The lower half of the list is identical to LSV, while the top half is slightly different to better distinguish between 3.0/3.5/4.0/4.5 tiers.

5.0: Premium bomb, card that consistently dominates the game and is hard to answer. (Accelerated Evolution, Black-Sky Harbinger)
4.5: Bomb, card that usually dominates the game if unanswered. (Unseen Commando, Sky Terror, Paladin Oathbook)
4.0: High impact card that often generate strong value or tempo. (Annihilate, Shogun’s Scepter, Archive Curator)
3.5: Premium playable that pulls you into a color. (Torch, Amber Acolyte, Dark Return)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Brightmace Paladin, Ornate Katana, Jotun Cyclops)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Nocturnal Creeper, Argenport Soldier, Predator’s Instinct)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Teleport, Flashy Duelist, Hipshot)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Rebuke, Aerialist’s Khopesh, Crownwatch Legionnaire)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Pit Fighter, Tinker, Belching Behemoth)
0.5: Mostly unplayable card that is worse than playing an extra sigil in most decks. (Water of Life, Cult Aspirant, Slow)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Mind Link, Temporal Distortion, Azurite Prixis)

Cabal Standard

Cabal-Standard Average Rating: 3.0

Isomorphic (3.0)
This is the second-worst standard (above only Temple Standard), but still a nice card for most decks (better in more aggressive decks).

Harbinger’s Bite

Harbingers-Bite Average Rating: 0.5

Isomorphic (0.5)
Playing this puts you down a card. Don’t play this unless you are truly desperate for a Nightfall or Lifeforce enabler.
Mgallop (0.5)
This also can function as a spells matter card (as we keep saying) if you have enough wurmstones.

Horrifying Helm

Horrifying-Helm Average Rating: 2.5

Isomorphic (2.5)
This will occasionally do powerful things, such as killing a 0/x unit or letting a Curator attack for 7 out of nowhere. More often it will just provide a minimal acceptable amount of value by giving +0/+3 to something and adjusting stats somewhere to be slightly more favorable.
Mgallop (2.5)
You also still have Triggerman and Cabal Bludgeoner in Shadow to pay you off for weapons.

Sewer Sludge

Sewer-Sludge Average Rating: 1.0

Isomorphic (1.0)
This can be good if you have it on turn 1 and curve out, but it’s pretty lousy later on.
Flash (1.5)
I think this card has the ability to snowball out of control pretty scarily if you are able to play this on turn 1. It’s pretty lacklustre later on, but that is also true of most 1-drops.

Spitefeeder

Spitefeeder Average Rating: 0.5

Isomorphic (0.5)
Humbug is a very bad card, and you should consider playing this only if you have strong Wisp synergy (e.g. three Preserver of Dualities and two Spiteful Lumens).

Xenan Lifespeaker

Xenan-Lifespeaker Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (3.5)
This is great in your opening hand and still relevant as a topdeck later on (since you can immediately make it a 4/2), which is a good place to be.
Drifter (3.5)
Lifesteal is a very powerful ability to grant your units and there is a bunch of synergy with it like Umbren Thirster and Cabal Slasher.

Abduct

Abduct Average Rating: 0.0

Isomorphic (0.0)
This is a dead topdeck later in the game and also not good earlier in the game (since you spent 2 power trading 1-for-1 with your opponent’s 0 power). In addition, in this format a lot of the more expensive plays are actually Spellcraft weapons, so this becomes dead even earlier than in most formats.

Back-Alley Delinquent

Back-Alley-Delinquent Average Rating: 2.0

Isomorphic (2.0)
This is an acceptable 2-drop, but you should only make the Sabotage if you have some specific reason (e.g. triggering Wurmstone or if you know your opponent has a fast spell in hand) or if you are sure that the card you are discarding is useless to you. There’s just a very real chance of Sabotage missing and being down a useful card.

Blackhall Warleader

Blackhall-Warleader Average Rating: 3.0

Isomorphic (3.0)
It is hard to infiltrate with a 2/2 in this format and the payoff isn’t amazing (just good), but this is at least a reasonable tribute enabler.

Cull the Deck

Cull-the-Deck Average Rating: 2.5

Isomorphic (2.5)
Taking turn 2 off to play this is generally fine in this format, and this does a decent job of smoothing out your draws. Not as good as having an extra good card in your deck, but should usually make the cut.

Fearbinder

Fearbinder Average Rating: 0.0

Isomorphic (0.0)
This is a cool card, but very slow and requires very unusual card interactions for the effect to be helpful.

Fenris Nightshade

Fenris-Nightshade Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (4.0)
Ignore the “cursed enemy” text – this is just a powerful card advantage machine that doubles as an Argenport Soldier when you are behind and can’t afford to play the life.

Feral Spiteling

Feral-Spiteling Average Rating: 0.5

Isomorphic (0.5)
As with Spitefeeder, this requires extremely high amounts of Radiant/Wisp synergy to be playable.

Lethrai Target Caller

Lethrai-Target-Caller Average Rating: 3.0

Isomorphic (3.0)
If your units are mostly 1/4s and 2/5s then you shouldn’t be very excited about this, but if your deck has a bunch of units with 3 or more attack (especially Bladewhirls) then this can be quite good.
Flash (3.0)
Quickdraw is a very powerful keyword and as long as your deck is reasonably aggressive, you will be able to take advantage of the quickdraw keyword. It also synergizes really well with Bladewhirl as well as units with Deadly.

Lock Horns

Lock-Horns Average Rating: 0.5

Isomorphic (0.5)
This is mostly just a 2-cost deal 1, which is very bad.
Flash (0.5)
Besides what iso said, another reason to consider playing this trick is if your deck is loaded with quickdraw units or spell matters cards.

Lunging Wisp

Lunging-Wisp Average Rating: 0.5

Isomorphic (0.5)
Again, you really need unusual amounts of Radiant/Wisp synergy for this to be at all acceptable. A 1/2 body does not brawl effectively, even with ambush.

Magenta Wisp

Magenta-Wisp Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (3.5)
3-cost Suffocate is a strong card in draft and this is better in several ways – gives tribute, can be bought back with Dark Return, and is a Wisp. One of the best uncommons in the set.

Territorial Elf

Territorial-Elf Average Rating: 1.0

Isomorphic (1.0)
“Can’t block” is a huge drawback in draft, and this doesn’t provide enough upside to compensate in the vast majority of decks. Occasionally you’ll have an aggressive Argenport deck with multiple Master-at-Arms and this will be good, but for the most part you should save this for constructed.

Thief’s Pick

Thiefs-Pick Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (3.5)
This turns a unit into a must-answer threat while replacing itself with a new card. Not very useful when you are behind, but very strong apart from that.

Afterimage

Afterimage Average Rating: 0.5

Isomorphic (0.5)
Even with warp, it’s the rare deck that wants this card – you need some combination of being aggressive, having powerful infiltrate cards, and spell synergy.
Flash (0.5)
Great card to have in your market, but you really need a good reason to consider main-decking this.

Banished Umbren

Banished-Umbren Average Rating: 1.0

Isomorphic (1.0)
2/3 for 3 is not a good rate and the activated ability is almost irrelevant. Sometimes you’ll be desperate for another unit or specifically want more Radiants, but this is pretty bad.

Coronal Umbren

Coronal-Umbren Average Rating: 1.5

Isomorphic (1.5)
3/2 for 3 is also not a good rate. Flying is powerful upside, but there aren’t many playable wisps in Shadow so this doesn’t get there that often.
Mgallop (1.5)
This card also does carry the risk of getting 2-for-1ed if you lose your wisp prior to your opponent declaring blockers.

Daggerclaw Howler

Daggerclaw-Howler Average Rating: 1.0

Isomorphic (1.0)
This is not a good card, but if it curves nicely into some 4 or 5-cost tribute cards then you can definitely do worse.

Hair-Trigger Pistol

Hair-Trigger-Pistol Average Rating: 2.0

Isomorphic (2.0)
Being double influence is rough and the deadly text is not very relevant usually, but this still can make a flier hit hard or give you one swingy quickdraw attack.
Drifter (2.0)
This card gets a lot more powerful with cards like Lethrai Target-Caller/Triggerman/other quickdraw units.

Kerendon Merchant

Kerendon-Merchant Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (3.5)
As with the other merchants, if you pick one of these up early then you should be on the watch for situational but strong cards (e.g. Cover of Darkness) to put in the market.
Flash (3.0)
Sadly, I think the Shadow Merchant has the worst body of all the merchants. Dying to random pings is really bad and deadly matters much less in this format loaded with silences.
Drifter (3.5)
I think the Shadow Merchant has a fine body, there aren’t really that many pings other than Hotblood Barbarian and I’d rather have a creeper than a 3 power 3/2 (in the primal one). (Note: Flash included this comment under protest and is not responsible for any drafts trainwrecked due to this =P)

Marionette Cross

Marionette-Cross Average Rating: 2.5

Isomorphic (2.5)
A 5/5 on turn 3 or 4 is very strong, but this comes with significant deckbuilding restrictions – you really want at least 11 shadow sources to be happy with this card.
Mgallop (2.5)
Important to note that even if you cast this on turn 5 or so, its still bigger than most of the format, and you can often play a 2nd card.

Sporebreath

Sporebreath Average Rating: 1.5

Isomorphic (1.5)
This can be a dead card at times and has poor synergy with Dark Return, but it’s still a good removal spell in most longer games. Don’t hesitate to cut this if you are are low on units (18 or lower, say) or are an aggressive deck that doesn’t expect to trade many units early.

Surgeon’s Saw

Surgeons-Saw Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (3.5)
Most of the power of this card comes from the 6-drop mode, but the 3-drop mode can still win a race if not answered.

Umbren Deathwatcher

Umbren-Deathwatcher Average Rating: 1.0

Isomorphic (1.0)
If you are heavy Shadow and have a high unit count (especially units that tend to chump or trade off early) then this is acceptable, but usually you should stay away. Note that this is bad against silence.

Void Drummer

Void-Drummer Average Rating: 2.5

Isomorphic (2.5)
Lethrai Nightblade is a fine card and better in this format than in most, but double influence hurts and the extra text is largely irrelevant.

Wingbrewer

Wingbrewer Average Rating: 4.0

Isomorphic (4.0)
3 quarries and a lifestealing Humbug Swarm is a huge amount of value for one card, even if it is a bit slow. If you have other plays on 3 and 4 then you should wait until 5 to play this so that you are guaranteed at least one use from it.

Burglarize

Burglarize Average Rating: 0.0

Isomorphic (0.0)
This is a dead card most of the time, so you really shouldn’t put it in your deck. (It’s a reasonable market card though if you draft a Kerendon Merchant.)

Corrupted Umbren

Corrupted-Umbren Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (3.5)
This is one of the scarier cards in the format, since with a weapon or combat trick this represents a huge life swing. It’s still a double-influence 3/4 for 4 though, so it can have trouble attacking safely on its own.

Holdup

Holdup Average Rating: 1.0

Isomorphic (1.0)
This is a 2-for-1, but it doesn’t affect the board, is usually dead later on, and interacts poorly with stuff like snowballs and echo.

Kyrex Coach Driver

Kyrex-Coach-Driver Average Rating: 3.0

Isomorphic (3.0)
3/3 for 4 are not good stats, but deadly is a powerful inspire ability and can take over the game if this survives for long.
Drifter (3.0)
Also combos very well with Lethrai Target-Caller.

Lethrai Provocateur

Lethrai-Provocateur Average Rating: 4.0

Isomorphic (4.0)
The infiltrate ability is mostly irrelevant, but 3/5 deadly for 4 are very good stats.

Mazag, the Waking Terror

Mazag-the-Waking-Terror Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (3.0)
Triple influence is rough (see Marionette Cross) and getting this removed hurts, but the reward if it doesn’t get immediately answered is very high. If you are already in heavy shadow and have good sacrifice fodder then this goes up a lot.

Shadowstalker

Shadowstalker Average Rating: 2.0

Isomorphic (2.0)
If you aren’t in a dedicated nightfall deck then this is pretty bad – double influence 3/3 for 4 that doesn’t even reliably enable itself for one turn. Even in a nightfall deck this isn’t that exciting, just good.

Soulbringer

Soulbringer Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (3.5)
Good Wisps in Shadow are hard to find, but this card is very strong if it gets anything back.

Transmogrifier

Transmogrifier Average Rating: 0.0

Isomorphic (0.5)
You need a ton of good targets (probably 7+) for this to consider playing it, and there aren’t many – the main ones that come to mind are Triggerman, Archive Curator, and Illumination Wisp.

Vile Varmint

Vile-Varmint Average Rating: 1.5

Isomorphic (1.5)
This is easily answered but does sometimes trade with some pretty good cards. Mostly you’ll want this as a nightfall enabler, but if you feel weak against fliers then this is fine.

Betray the Cause

Betray-the-Cause Average Rating: 0.5

Isomorphic (0.5)
5-cost Madness is a lot harder to combo with other cards than 3-cost Madness.

Grimy Alp-luachra

Grimy-Alp-luachra Average Rating: 2.5

Isomorphic (2.5)
A 4/3 flier is very large in this format. This is a lot worse than a 4/3 flier, but it’s still a reasonably good threat for a 5-drop.

Lethrai Bladewhirl

Lethrai-Bladewhirl Average Rating: 3.0

Isomorphic (3.0)
This card gives a lot of immediate value the turn you play it, either enabling an attack or just making a flier do 3 more damage. Even in more defensive decks, this is a good way to turn the corner and start beating down.

The End is Near

The-End-is-Near Average Rating: 0.0

Isomorphic (0.5)
In a deck with a standard power ratio this just doesn’t do enough – even if you have absolutely no use for extra power, you are still effectively only drawing an extra card every 2.5 turns or so and this costs a card itself. This might be good in a 30-power draft deck if you find yourself there, though.

Cut Ties

Cut-Ties Average Rating: 3.0

Isomorphic (3.0)
6 is expensive for removal, but this is still quite good. Having an unconditional answer to the huge units or weaponed-up units that dominate the late game in this format is nice.

End of the Line

End-of-the-Line Average Rating: 4.0

Isomorphic (4.0)
This is a bit expensive and won’t necessarily kill everything you want it to kill, but it’s still usually going to be a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 that gains you a bunch of life.

Umbren Occluder

Umbren-Occluder Average Rating: 3.5

Isomorphic (3.5)
8 is a lot, but this format has good enough defensive decks that this is a fine finisher.
Flash (3.5)
Umbren Occluder is an extremely powerful finisher. Having Ambush means the card often gets a lot of value on entering the board since you can eat up to a 6/7 flier for free and a gigantic 7/7 flier is great. The only drawback is the huge power cost so you run the risk of dying before you are able to play this card.

Closing Thoughts

This is probably the blurb that I’m least confident about. Despite drafting over 30 decks in this format, I’ve only been base Shadow 4 times. It is definitely a strong faction, but there is little I can do when I don’t get passed any of the top shadow commons (Lethrai Bladewhirl, Corrupt Umbren, Lethrai Target-caller, Cut Ties).

Shadow also shares the wisp subtheme, though most of the payoffs and powerful wisps are in Time or Xenan. Lifeforce also got better in this set due to more incidental lifegain, so picking up Katra is a great reason to go into Xenan. Cards like Umbren Thirster and Cabal Slasher also becomes higher picks in Xenan decks. It is also a great supporting faction if you are drafting a Nightfall deck since it is a great source of nightfall (Extinguish, Duskcaller, Duskwalker) and even has a comparable payoff to Moonlight Huntress (Moonlit Gargoyle)!

Have you found much success with Shadow this format? As always, let me know your thoughts in the reddit thread!

The end draws near,
Flash2351

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