Love the Dark: Shadowmoor Pre-Release Coverage

Guest Post: this post contributed by Rev. Joe.

Well, I went to the April 19th pre-release event for Shadowmoor, the newest installment of Magic: the Gathering. Regardless of what Josh writes I think it is a phenomenal set, full of darkness and twists that keep you on your toes.

First, let’s break down the new abilities:

Hybrid Makes Color Matter (But Not That Much)

The hybrid casting costs make it even easier to combine two [allied] colors. Or to play a “mono-color” deck borrowing hybrids which share two neighboring colors, to make a three-color deck for the price of one.


Wither is an exciting new ability that a creature can possess, making the creature deal damage to other creatures as -1/-1 counters. Creatures with wither still deal damage to players (and planeswalkers) as normal. This makes for a good farewell “screw you!” when you defend against a big creature by throwing a small creature with wither in front of it.


This new ability allows creatures to come back from the graveyard when they die, as long as they have no -1/-1 counters on them. When they come back, they get a -1/-1 counter. Good thing there are ways to take off those counters! Persist also works extremely well with comes-into-play triggers.


Remember Fork? Mirari? A spell with conspire allows you to copy the spell (and choose new targets for the copy) by tapping two untapped creatures which share a color. You do not have to conspire, it just rocks if you do. Just evil.

Untapping (or, How to Surprise/Freak-Out Your Opponent)

Some creatures now have abilities with untap as part of the activation cost. That’s right, instead of waiting and holding your creatures back from attacking so they can tap to use a cool ability, now you can attack with them, or tap them for some other nefarious purpose, then untap them to get an effect and be ready for blocking (or tapping again, etc.).

At the pre-release, this ability tripped up more players than you might think. I could not keep track of how many times I heard, “Oh, man, I could’ve untapped!”


I had never heard of counter annihilation, until watching this video
(around 1:00 in)

Finally, the last thing that makes this set’s use of counters cleaner is not an ability but a little-known aspect of the rules. When a creature has both a +1/+1 and a -1/-1 counter, they are both removed. Since Shadowmoor is made for use with Lorwyn and Morningtide, a creature could build up a bunch of these two types of counters. Wizards decided to go the easy route by allowing a pair to annihilate each other, like particles of matter and anti-matter.

I would have preferred that they keep both counters. That way, we could still do special abilities based on the counters they have (think Oona's Blackguard). But I am good at math, what can I say.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the pre-release went well and I found making decks (though not “good” ones, as was often pointed out to me) easier because of the hybrids out there. Going 2-2 in both of my flights wasn’t bad. I opened some good cards in my boosters. I also found many a castaway card lying abandoned, and after turning in a stack of abandoned cards that someone left lying around even received an extra booster for my trouble. The best thing was that I was able to spend a fun day playing a good game and talking over all sorts of stuff (mainly games) with a good friend of mine. That is why I go to pre-releases.

    Scott Says:

    All right, our very first guest post here at Pair O’ Dice Games!

    Thanks Joe!


    I’m glad some people are enjoying Shadowmoor. At least, at this point I am (glad others are enjoying, as I am still not). I wasn’t glad to see people enjoying Ravnica because I hated Ravnica so much that I never wanted to see another set like it again and feared that the glowing praise most people heaped upong it might lead to ALL sets being like it.

    I think this is akin to how some people refuse to pay for movies they know will be bad and get frustrated by people that go to see these movies. I think Scott has often commented on the idea of “voting with your wallet”. Basically, you are telling Hollywood “Thank you master, may I have another!?”.

    At any rate, I am more than willing to give Shadowmoor another chance, both in a casual format in a week or so and then in a more formal form when it comes online.

    Thanks for the post Joe. If you get a chance, could you maybe compare Shadowmoor to some other sets? My main thing at the moment is that it just dosn’t seem to measure up. I would like to see other peoples opinions on this.

    Scott Says:

    I do feel that way, particularly when going to see a movie in the theater. There is undoubtedly a direct correlation between money spent on tickets for a movie and movie studios’ likelihood of bringing out another, similar movie (or sequel, but the highly derivative nature of Hollywood, and video games, is a big enough topic for its own post).

    So when I do vote with my wallet at the theater (and to a lesser extent with DVD purchases), it had better be for the kind of movie I really want to see – otherwise I just told the studio executives to make more Swordfish clones or something (thankfully I saw that at a friend’s house and spent nothing on it).

    By the same token Josh has a point about Magic sets. Wizards is not exempt from making moves to maintain and increase their profits, or in a less cynical sense to give their players more of what they want. They are by no means going to ignore “the wallet vote.”


    The Limited Information Column over on has some information on the Auras in limited. I had sort of been thinking about how this sets lack of removal made the old Enchant Creatures more playable. Do I like this? Well, no, I love removal and while I find it interesting to play with enchantments again it gives me no great pleasure.

    Still, I feel a bit better knowing that they had their reasons for doing what they did.

    Limited Infromation: Allies, Enemies and Auras

    Scott Says:

    One of the many reasons why Mirrodin was such a great block… equipment. Pumping up creatures is fun, but card disadvantage is not.

    Of course artifacts don’t really play the color game as well as auras, and as Steve Sadin points out in that article at Wizards several of the Shadowmoor hybrid auras are pretty good. The fact that there’s less outright removal in the set makes them somewhat more playable.

    Since one of Shadowmoor’s design themes seem to have been “creature size matters” it’s a small step to see why they made less removal. They want creatures to shrink (and grow again) and die from damage or terminal cases of subtractivitis. Too many destroy effects take an end-run around all of this creature size business.

    Initially I was looking forward to this set because of its ties to the very enjoyable Lorwyn, while there was question in my group of moving up the schedule on our looming Magic-hiatus. More recently I found myself on the fence, while the rest of my group’s members are now rubbing their hands gleefully, hoping the notch down in complexity will give them equal footing in Shadowmoor compared to my relative domination of our Lorwyn-Morningtide league play (it’s a small group 😉 )