Rants of Valakut: Episode 1 Ben Iverach-Brereton October 15, 2016 Rants of Valakut Of all the really sweet cards that came out of Shadows over Innistrad, There was one card in particular that I needed to get my hands on, and it’s probably not what you would have expected. No, as cool as Arlinn Kord is, and as good as Avacyn is, I was most excited for a lowly common. A 1/2 creature for a single white mana. Yes, that’s right, I was super excited to get a copy of Thraben Inspector. Let’s look at this card for a moment. I’ve already gone over its power and toughness, which are slightly better than you expect for one mana, so that’s good. It’s also a Human Soldier, which could be relevant. But it’s the trigger when it enters the battlefield that I’m happy to see: It investigates. That is to say, when it comes into play, you get a clue artifact token that you can sacrifice to draw a card. You could look at it as a three-cost creature that draws a card as it enters, if you wanted, but from that standpoint it looks a little over-costed. So why should I care about this potentially over-costed card, you might be asking? What’s so special about this creature? Well, to explain that I need to first tell you about a Commander deck I have. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Angel of FinalityAngel of JubilationAngel of SerenityAngelic OverseerArchon of JusticeBanisher PriestCaptain of the WatchCelestial CrusaderCourt Street DenizenDeath-Mask DuplicantDust ElementalEldrazi DisplacerEmancipation AngelEmeria ShepherdEternal DragonEvangel of HeliodFiend HunterFlickerwispGeist-Honoured MonkGlimmerpoint StagGlowriderGoldnight CommanderHerald of WarHixus, Prison WardenImposing SovereignJeskai BarricadeKarmic GuideKnight-Captain of EosKnight of the White OrchidKor CartographerKor SanctifiersKor SkyfisherLeonin Relic WarderLuminate PrimordialMagus of the DiskMentor of the MeekOreskos ExplorerPilgrim’s EyePlanar Guide Quarry ColossusResolute ArchangelRestoration AngelSolemn SimulacrumSpringjack ShepherdStonecloakerStormfront RidersSun Titan – Prerelease PromoSunblast AngelThraben InspectorVryn WingmareWall of OmensWar Priest of ThuneWhitemane LionCaged SunConjurer’s ClosetGauntlet of PowerStrionic ResonatorCathar’s CrusadeGrasp of FateOblivion RingDrifting MeadowEmeria, the Sky RuinForbidding WatchtowerHaunted FengrafMirrorpoolMyriad LandscapeNew BenaliaNykthos, Shrine to Nyx22 x Plains (331)Reliquary TowerSecluded SteppeSnow-Covered PlainsSpringjack PastureThespian’s StageWindbrisk HeightsWinding CanyonsKarooVesuva This is perhaps my favourite Commander deck that I have ever built, and that’s saying something when you consider that I have over twenty of them. The deck’s commander is Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which some of you may remember from the first time we were on Innistrad. She has a particular ability that is often referred to as a ‘tax’ effect: “Noncreature spells cost 1 generic mana more to cast.” My deck was designed to work around this penalty by running as many creatures as possible; this way, while my opponents would have to pay extra mana for their spells, I would not! In its current incarnation the deck runs 54 creatures, including Thalia herself (the rest is 39 Lands and 7 noncreature spells). Because I still needed spell-like effects in the deck, most of my creatures have abilities that trigger when they enter the battlefield (or “ETB”), like Duplicant, who exiles another creature, or Geist-Honored Monk, who puts creature tokens into play. It also has a lot of cards that let me re-use those ETB triggers by returning creatures to my hand or by ‘flickering’ them (i.e. exiling them temporarily, then returning them to the battlefield). Cards like Flickerwisp, or Kor Skyfisher give me a lot of extra uses out of the same ETB triggers, potentially exiling several creatures at once with a single Duplicant, or flooding the board with tokens. So this brings us back to Thraben Inspector. As you might already see, being able to constantly replay this card would result in a lot of extra Clue tokens, which in turn would result in a lot of extra cards I could draw. That does seem pretty good, but we already established that the card draw from Thraben Inspector may cost more mana than it is worth. So we ask again, why am I so excited by it? Surely there are better cards for my deck! Spoiler alert: there aren’t. If you look at the history of white creatures, you’ll quickly discover that very few of them let you draw cards. This is supposed to be this colour’s big weakness, after all: White has the most versatile answers, but no way to easily draw them. This is especially true when this effect is tied to a creature. In fact, out of all of the White creature cards in the game, only four of them let you draw cards when they enter the battlefield: (Mentor of the Meek has a similar effect, but he triggers when other creatures ETB, so I won’t discuss him further here.) Let’s take a closer look at those four card drawing creatures: Wall of Omens is a 0/4 defender for two mana that lets you draw a card on ETB. It’s really good, and is already in my Commander deck. But it is only one card, and the best commander decks have some redundancy. That means finding at least one other card that has basically the same effect. Orator of Ojutai looks almost the same as Wall of Omens: it’s also a 0/4 defender for two mana, but to draw a card it requires you to have a Dragon either in play or in your hand when you cast it. Since my deck only has one Dragon in it, this just won’t do the trick. Carrier Pigeons is an obscure card from Alliances. It’s a 1/1 flying creature for four mana. Already things are looking grim. When it ETBs you do get a card for free… but you draw it at the beginning of the next upkeep. This has been sitting in my Commander deck for a little while, now, and while I like the silliness of having it there, it’s bad enough that I’d be happy to replace it. And so here comes Thraben Inspector . It’s effectively three mana to draw a card, but in White that’s so rare I was already willing to spend four mana on that effect. On its own the Thraben Inspector is already better than Carrier Pigeons by costing one less mana, but it also allows you to draw the card immediately; that’s huge. When you also consider that I could save mana one turn and sacrifice the Clue token later makes Thraben Inspector a lot more flexible. It has some problems with cards that put creatures directly onto the battlefield, like Flickerwisp or Restoration Angel, since you have to pay mana to draw a card with the Clue token, but that seems like a small price to pay, especially when the card draw need not be delayed like it is with Carrier Pigeons. There you have it. While there are so many cards in Shadows over Innistrad that I had fun playing with, both in Draft and in Commander, it is Thraben Inspector, that lowly common, that is easily my favourite card from the set. ~Ben Iverach-Brereton~ Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName Email Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.