Magic: The Gathering expansion brings madness to game table

(Michael Coghlan/Creative Commons)

“Magic: the Gathering” is one of the most popular trading card games in the world, with millions of players worldwide and a history spanning more than 20 years. In addition to deep and complex gameplay, the series tells an epic fantasy story crossing dozens of different worlds, or planes, filled with mystery, adventure and, of course, magic.

Players take the role of “planeswalkers,” powerful magic-wielders who traverse the planes, and pit them against each other in a contest of casting spells and summoning creatures to do battle. Players conventionally win by reducing an opponent’s life points from 20 to zero.

The newest expansion, “Shadows Over Innistrad,” will be officially released April 9, but fans were able to get a sneak peek of the set at prerelease tournaments held over the past weekend. The set returns to the plane of Innistrad, first introduced in 2011, based on classic Gothic horror. Cards feature vampires, zombies, witches and werewolves as well as the humans and angels fighting against these creatures.

In “Shadows Over Innistrad,” a strange, eldritch force has crept into the world and has corrupted the very angels that have worked to keep its denizens safe. Cults worshipping old and forgotten deities have skulked from the shadows, and the world itself is warping in strange ways by some unknown hand. 

Gameplay mechanics such as madness, which rewards players for discarding cards from their hand, and double-faced transformation cards, crucial to the set’s werewolf creatures, return in glorious fashion. Heavy support in present for decks centered on a particular theme, like the werewolf, vampire and zombie creatures. The set also introduces a new delirium mechanic that gives spells and creatures a boost if there are multiple card types in your graveyard, or discard pile. 

Video by Magic: The Gathering

Magic has had many great sets in its long history, but few combine the storytelling and atmosphere of a plane to the gameplay mechanics as well as “Shadows Over Innistrad.” Delirium and madness work perfectly to give you the sense that your wits and resources are slowly slipping away, and you are left facing the same race against time as those affected by the eldritch insanity.

Many of the cards feature references to classic Gothic horror and to cosmic horror, much like the Cthulhu mythos by H.P. Lovecraft. Fans of the genres will spend just as much time poring over the cards, admiring the gorgeous art and storytelling as they will crafting their decks and dueling opponents. 

“Shadows Over Innistrad” promises to have a strong impact on many different formats of “Magic: the Gathering” play and is certain to go down as one of the better sets in recent memory. It officially releases on April 9 with the second set of the block, Eldritch Moon, scheduled to be released later this summer.


Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at nicholas.shigo@uconn.edu.