(FLASHBACK) Week 1 of Drafting Shadows: Analyzing 100 Trophy Drafts

Scuffle shares some insight into the LOTR Draft format after analyzing 100 MTGA trophies

This is an article written Week One of Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered on March 26th, 2023.

The information within is still valuable to the current drafting experience.

I collected 100 Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered Trophy Lists between release and Sunday, March 26th! I collected ~15 per day at random from discord servers, 17Lands.com, and Twitter submissions. All lists are from players ranked Diamond or Mythic on Magic Arena. Here’s the complete raw data, including anonymous decklists, and…

Here’s What I Learned:

The Data!

ArchetypeTrophiesOther DataCount
Green/White20G/W Humans10
U/W Spirits14G/W Delirium9
G/R Werewolves110 Rares6
U/R Spells10Fewer than 16 lands0
G/B Delirium6More than 17 lands0
U/G Clues5Three-Color Decks3
R/W Aggro5Splashes(>4 Cards of a color15
U/B Zombies3Splash Reasons
Esper Control3Planeswalker7
Black/White1Ulrich of the Krallenhorde4
Top 20 Cards by Appearance
Thraben Inspector45Guardian of Pilgrims32
Galvanic Bombardment37Dead Weight31
Incendiary Flow36Jace's Scrutiny30
Dauntless Cathar35Insolent Neonate29
Drag Under35Drownyard Explorers26
Gisa's Bidding35Olivia's Dragoon26
Ravenous Bloodseeker34Sigardian Priest26
Alchemist's Greeting33Ghoulcaller's Accomplice25
Bloodmad Vampire32Take Inventory25
Bound By Moonsilver32Apothecary Geist24

Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered:

What’s Working?

The archetypes! The decks with the strongest archetypes are dominating, with a sharp correlation to how well-defined the archetype is at common. 90% of these trophy lists played with a clear archetype plan, and the top two color pairs had an even split across two archetypes. 

Overall, try and find the open archetype rather than color. You can make other archetypes or niche decks work with the rare cards, but otherwise stick to:


Vampires and Madness have a lot of overlap, but there are enough of both to lean hard into one archetype or the other. Madness decks tended to have two-three more cards with madness than enablers and 6 or more removal spells, with Gisa’s Bidding in nearly every list. While the archetypes compliment each other well and are by no means mutually exclusive, lists from the first half of the week leaned more towards vampires and lists from the weekend had more Madness cards. This trend will continue as we lose some vampire lords and gain flashback spells.


The stated archetype of Green/White is humans, but nearly half of the trophy lists this week had either a very small amount of support or leaned hard into delirium. From draft logs, it seems that this shift was around Gnarlwood Dryad. Bound by Moonsilver, Angelic Purge, and Vessel of Nascency enable delirium extraordinarily well- G/W wants the first two early anyway, and the vessels have been going surprisingly late. It was a lot of fun seeing experienced drafts realize in real time that humans were gone but there were plenty of Noose Constrictors and Gnarlwood Dryads.
This is a solid draft plan in the future- You don’t have to give up on your Byway Couriers or Ulvenwald Mysteries just because the humans aren’t flowing, and suddenly you’re happy to have Pack Guardian over Intrepid Provisioners.

Gnarlwood Dryad (Eldritch Moon #159)
Angelic Purge (Shadows over Innistrad #3)
Byway Courier (Shadows over Innistrad #196)

White/Blue Spirits

When drafting or playing against Spirits, remember that it’s always a race. Spirits are hard to block and often can’t block opposing creatures due to size or at all. Faith Unbroken will inevitably be broken and free their creature, and Nebelgast Herald will eventually just be a Wind Drake. Winning with this deck will often be a matter of gaining just enough life to survive a combat with an Apothecary Geist or dodging a single removal spell with an Essence Flux.
During the draft, keep an eye on what you’re doing to survive on the ground while your Spirits do the rest. Many trophy decks ran several copies of Devilthorn Fox as a simple way to trade up with opposing werewolves or Guardian of Pilgrims to hold the ground while keeping pressure in the air.

Faith Unbroken (Eldritch Moon #24)
Nebelgast Herald (Eldritch Moon #71)
Apothecary Geist (Shadows over Innistrad #4)

Red/Green Werewolves

There were a couple of human lists, but most R/G trophy decks focused around werewolves. One surprising aspect of this archetype is the lack of burn-based removal; the successful Werewolves Drafters followed a draft path that prioritized creatures and paths to winning the game, relying on late Moonlight Hunts and uncontested Rabid Bites for removal. Galvanic Bombardment or Alchemist’s Greetings were often passed in favor of Howlpack Resurgence or Hinterland Loggers, since these drafters knew their Moonlight Hunts would table!
I myself had a werewolf deck with four Galvanic Bombardment and four Incendiary Flow from which I cut two Moonlight Hunt that couldn’t quite get the trophy, simply because I didn’t have enough on-curve wolves. Had I followed the same path of these trophy drafters, I wouldn’t have wasted so many picks.

Blue/Red Spells

U/R Spells decks have three main elements mixed and matched across all ten trophy lists, and usually just one package from each of the following sections. When drafting U/R, try and sort your cards into 3 categories and answer these three questions:

1)Where is my card advantage coming from?

Take Inventory

-Red Madness Spells

-Clue Engine

-Rares: Bedlam Reveler, Epiphany at the Drownyard, Jace

2)How do I survive until my late game?

Galvanic Bombardment

-Red trade blockers: Scourge Wolf, Ember-Eye Wolf, Make Mischief

-Blue Tempo Cards: Drag Under, Nebelgast Herald, Counterspells(dangerous)

3)What payoffs am I using to take the game back?

Rise from the Tides

-Speed: Thermo Alchemist, Mercurial Geist, Burn-based removal

Uncaged Fury

-Rares Or Splashed Bombs: Thing in the Ice, Docent of Perfection, Nahiri

Each package has weaknesses: Counterspells are particularly weak against wolves letting them transform; Clues are too slow for a lot of the VampireDecks; Blocking doesn’t work against spirits. Most of the U/R trophy lists had a few red rares as those have the most flexibility in targets.

In my personal experience, U/R Spells is the strongest deck in traditional best-of-three drafts. 

Blue/Green Clues

All five Clue Decks had full clue engines, with the exception of one trophy list that splashed for two planeswalkers. The core of this deck is all uncommons: Ongoing Investigation and Erdwal Illuminator to generate clues, Ulvenwald Mysteries and Graf Mole to survive, and Fleeting Memories or Confront the Unknown to turn clues into a way to win.The way into the clue deck is to open a pack with one or more of these cards and remember it- If you take a strong green card from a pack with a Graf Mole, keep an eye out for a second uncommon from the above list and grab it when it comes back around.

Esper Control

Esper is the only three-color list to appear in any trophy list, and performed better than W/B or U/B by covering eachother’s weaknesses. Esper in this format requires absurdly high card quality, but gets strong late draft picks.

What’s Not?

Blue/Black Zombies

U/B Zombies requires more than just Diregraf Captainto compete with the other tribal decks, and the trophy lists I received had a large number of bombs and splashed planeswalkers. The only Diregraf Captain+Rise from the Tides was the only zombie-centric synergy that seems to work, with a few occasional Compelling Deterrence and rare payoffs in Gisa and Geralf/Havengul Runebinder.U/B/splash is about to get a lot of upgrades from the flashback cards, and I imagine we’ll see more controlling variants this week splashing green for Spider Spawning or white for Unburial Rites and Lingering Souls.

White/Black Random Crap

It bothers me that WotC didn’t see it fit to give W/B any sort of synergy or combination identity. Lingering Souls and Unburial Rites will give this deck a better value goal and set of win-cons to build towards.

Three-Five Color Decks

Esper performed as an outlier, but I suspect that we saw very few three-color decks because they’re just not necessary. There’s enough to do in highly-synergistic two-color decks that it’s not necessary to stretch a mana base for a third color. We may see a lot more three color decks this week, as the flashback cards reward flexibility where tribal lords reward commitment.

Anything Other Than 16 or 17 lands

I don’t actually have a reason for this, it’s just interesting that 100 out of 100 trophy lists had 16 or 17 lands. Usually there’s a subset of aggressive decks or control decks with 15 or 18.

What’s Changing?

(Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered was initially released with a plan to change 20 cards in the set every week for one month. As that’s not the case this time, I omitted this section but kept some of the tips)

  • Werewolves losing Immerwolf is a significant blow. Overall the deck will be weaker because flashback spells make it so much easier to keep them from flipping
  • Zombies doesn’t get anything new, but U/B can become a Rise from the Tides deck, Sultai and Grixis become stronger control decks.
  • U/B gains a new identity as a control deck splashing for bombs, digging with Forbidden Alchemy to either win with a splashed bomb or close the game with Spider Spawning.
  • U/R Spells will often become Grixis, either speeding up with more direct damage or slowing down with Silent Departure to stay alive until their late game comes together. 
  • Rally the Peasants takes R/W from a pure aggro deck to a go-wide aggressive tokens deck, which is also stronger as a result of less cohesive creature strategies from competitors.
  • Delirium decks in general get stronger, as the ability to mill flashback cards make Grapple with the Past and general Self-mill stronger.

20 Takeaways for your draft!

1)Finding the open archetype is more important than finding the open colors

2)Build around a bomb that comes around late. Clues give you time to dig for a strong card

3)If you can’t find a two-color archetype, build little packages and two-card combos in single colors.

4)You can generate time tempo with timing- holding a Galvanic Bombardment to respond to a Shrill Howler activation will win the game

5)If you have a pile of Thraben Inspectors that you took because it’s the best common, grab some weapons for it to wield- Travel Preparations and True Faith Censer.

6)Travel Preparations, Lingering Souls, Spider Spawning, and Silent Departure are worth a first pick. People who played with these cards seven and twelve years ago will also tell you this, but it helps to play with them to see exactly why.

7)U/R spells is a Lego deck, build it according to the instructions and try to play your pieces in order.

8)Think about what your two-drops are doing as you pick them, they’re very situational and not as easy to play just due to their creature type when the lords rotate. 

9)U/G Clues is a combo deck. Assemble your combo as you draft, and prepare to abandon it if you only get half.

10)Clues are a bank for later, after the board stalls. Try to affect the board until you need to withdraw- if you spend too much time drawing cards while your opponent assembles their engin then you’ll lose

11)U/W Spirits is a deck that will always be racing- count your damage, and know what you’ll do to skew the race in your favor. Count your blockers, removal, and lifegain both during the draft and during each game.

12)Delirium enablers are found in most colors, but the good payoffs are green. Get your packages first and then assemble a way to turn it on from open colors.

13)Count your Madness Cards and Enablers as you draft them, and give pick weight to what you’re missing. Sometimes you’ll need to take a Mad Prophet over a Gisa’s Bidding in Pack three.

14)There are a lot of creatures with flash in this format, including every creature and token creator with madness. If your opponent has mana up, try and figure out how they’ll block with creatures you can’t see before you make your attack.

15)When Drafting Werewolves, take your creatures first and take advantage of the removal spells that only work in Werewolves coming back around.

16)There were hardly any Puncturing Lights or Counterspells in these 100 lists- flash creatures, madness, and werewolves all make these cards weaker and harder to time.


17)Do I die to Uncaged Fury? = (Largest unblocked attacker+1)x2

18)Do I die to six mana and Rally the Peasants

= (Unblocked Creatures Power+(Unblocked Creatures x 4))

19)Fleeting Memories + Fleeting Memories + 2 other clues + Opening hand = 31 cards. 

That’s nine turns, one Startled Awake, a few Manic Scribes, or some Grapple the Past away from milling out a library. If you’re playing with or against Fleeting Memories, keep track!


20)This format will change every week, but only by 20 or fewer cards out of 280. That’s enough for a couple of new archetypes or changes, so don’t ignore the format of the previous week (no longer relevant!)

Wrapping Up!

Thank you PlayingMTG.com for giving me a platform! Thank you Scryfall.com for just being a generally great tool for content creation. Thank you 17lands.com for so much useful data. But mostly, thank YOU for taking the time to read my article. Until next time!

If you happened to find this helpful, stop by ScuffleDLux – Twitch some time for a stream! I stream competitive content with an eye on education.

You can also find my content on YouTube or join my Discord for general draft help!

  • Scuffle D. Lux

    Scuffle is a Demon Gambler Vtuber with 23 years of drafting experience. He’s been ranked Mythic in MTG Arena every season for the past two years, with three Mythic Rank 1 finishes, two MTG Arena Limited Open wins, five SCG Open Top 8 finishes, and two Grand Prix Top 8 finishes. He streams regular educational draft content and loves turning data into useful information to help your draft.

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