Planeswalker Portal #4: Inside Innistrad

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Welcome back, fellow Planeswalkers! In this article, I thought I would take a break in explaining Magic’s game mechanics and instead bring you into the exciting new world of the latest Magic set, Innistrad. This new and frightening plane is full of darkness yet also hope as well.


The story and feel of Innistrad



Innistrad is a plane that is full of power and dangerous magic. Though it has always been surrounded by vicious beasts and dark fiends, the humans have been protected from the darkness by the Archangel Avacyn and the holy wards. However, in recent times the wards have started to lose their strength and it seems that even the Lunarch, the head of the Avacyn Church has feared that Avacyn has abandoned them and the powers of darkness now grow unabated.

Those that are fond of 18th to 19th century Gothic horror will be right at home in Innistrad. Hoards of ravenous zombies, aristocratic vampires and lost spirits abound in Innistrad. Though these creatures have existed in earlier Magic sets, they are on the forefront this time. There is a new creature type, however, in the form of werewolves. Though they seem, for the most part, as normal humans … when the conditions are right, they become vicious and powerful beasts. The last remnants of regular humans are also putting up the good fight to drive back the forces of darkness or perhaps, to help it. Some have even resorted to extreme measures for survival.



There are also two familiar faces returning, the Planeswalkers Liliana and Garruk. These two planeswalkers have been at odds with each other since Planeswalkers have been introduced in Magic: The Gathering.  Now they have crossed paths yet again, this time in Innistrad. Liliana’s mission has been the same from the start - to free herself from a demonic force by any means necessary. Innistrad presents a grand opportunity for her to seek out the strong demons to help her become more powerful and overcome the bonds of darkness within her.



Meanwhile, Garruk’s endless hunt to track down Liliana has slowly started to take a huge toll on his body and mind. In their last encounter, Liliana placed a dark curse upon Garruk that slowly has eaten away at his soul. Now upon entering Innistrad, he can no longer hold back the darkness in him and has become a vicious monster that will destroy anyone that gets in his way.



The mechanics of Innistrad

As with every new expansion, there are new keyword abilities that go with it. In Innistrad, there are some very interesting ones.


Double-Faced Cards

A double-faced card has a Magic card face on each side rather than a Magic card face on one side and a Magic card back on the other. Each face may have abilities that allow the permanent to transform, or turn over to its other face. Tokens and cards with a Magic card back can‘t transform.

- Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules




So, in short, when the conditions of the double-faced cards are met, the player will flip it to the other side. All werewolves in Innistraid have the ability to transform but there are other non-werewovles that can transform under different conditions. For example, with Thraben Sentry will transform into Thraben Militia when another creature you controls dies and will stay as Thraben Militia unlike the werewolves that can transform back into their human forms. The transforming of these cards results in a stronger creature with more power, toughness, and even added abilities as well.



The morbid ability word indicates an ability that checks whether a creature died this turn.

-Magic: The Innistrad Mechanics Article



The morbid ability brings up some unique combos for players to take advantage of. Since morbid will trigger any time a creature dies (old phrase “put into owner’s graveyard”) that means that it can trigger when it dies during combat, from a damage or destroy spell or ability, or even if the creature is sacrificed. This is an important since Innistrad has a lot of cards that work well in the graveyard zone. As shown in the card example Hollowhenge Scavenger, when it enters the battlefield and any creature has died, the owner gets 5 life. Since it states “any creature” it includes the owner of Hollowhenge Scavenger creatures as well.



Flashback [cost] means  you may cast this card from your graveyard by paying [cost] rather than paying its mana cost and if the flashback cost was paid, exile this card instead of putting it anywhere else any time it would leave the stack.

-Magic: The Gathering Comprehensive Rules



Flashback is a returning ability that has not been Magic expansion theme since the Odyssey block in September 2001 and a minor appearance in Time Spiral in October 2006. Flashback presents the player with option to cast the instant or sorcery a second time from their graveyard. The Flashback cost is usually higher but can give the player an extra push in the late game.




A Curse is an Aura that enchants a player and does something nasty to them.

-Magic: The Innistrad Mechanics Article



A Curse acts like a normal Enchantment Aura with the exception that it only targets players. The curse is something that will inflict harm on whoever player it enchants. Since it states “Enchant Player” the player can even target themselves with the curse if they choose to.




For a creature to fight another creature, each deals damage equal to its power to the other.

-Magic: The Innistrad Mechanics Article


The Fight is new evergreen term (evergreen meaning an ability that can be used in any sets) that will let the creature with the fight ability force a target creature to fight it and do damage to each other equal to their power. This can be a powerful ability because it can force an opponent’s creature to duel with a fight creature that they may not necessarily want to take any damage.

Fight also has a few other important rules to remember:

  • The damage is dealt simultaneously, and it is dealt by the creatures themselves, so abilities like deathtouch, lifelink, and infect will work as normal.
  • Damage dealt while fighting is not combat damage, so abilities like first strike won’t have any effect.
  • Fighting does not cause the creature to become tapped.
  • Only creatures can fight.
  • No more than two creatures can fight
  • If a creature somehow fights itself, it will deal damage to itself equal to its power twice simultaneously.


That will end our tour of the dark and foreboding world of Innistraid and I have only gone over just a small part of its lore. If you would like to learn more about the world of Innistraid, just click here to Wizard’s official product site for more info on the rules, awesome wallpapers and the full card gallery for Innistrad. Even better, Innistraid has just released and is available in stores now! So go out there and hunt the darkness, or perhaps, become it.

Battle well, planeswalkers!!

Related posts:

  1. Planeswalker Portal #1: The Journey Begins
  2. Planeswalker Portal #2: The Magic Dictionary
  3. Planeswalker Portal #3: Play Your Cards Right

About NeoJames82

Justin "NeoJames82" Schuber is lover of many things geeky and a follower of Magic: The Gathering for almost a decade. In his spare time he plays all sorts of PC and console games, tabletop RPGs and loves to write as well.