It seems that in the years since the early ’90s, the excitement surrounding Halloween dwindles more and more. There are less horror movies in theaters, Christmas decorations hit stores in the first week of October and from what I have seen over the last two Halloweens (on a Saturday and Sunday no less), less trick-or-treaters.
In a way, it makes me feel old – I remember a time when Halloween was like a second Christmas and, all the days leading up to it, being distracted by my anticipation of a day full of adventure and candy. Then again, the other side of the coin is that I am having more fun with Halloween as an adult than I ever did as a kid and every year I try and find a way to make Halloween stay, just a little bit longer.
Last year, I spent days whacking Grubbins on the head with a candy bucket in Double Fine Games’ most excellent Costume Quest and then keeping the spirit of Halloween alive with their Grubbins on Ice expansion. Also, after working a Halloween brunch shift in costume, ever frustrated by the lack of trick-or-treaters, I decided to embark on my own trick-or-treat mission to the houses of the parents of Team Unwinnable and managed to stretch that bucket of candy all the way to Thanksgiving.
This year I have the release of the latest Magic the Gathering expansion set Innistrad to keep my Halloween spirit alive through 2012.
The plane of Innistrad is one filled with vampires, werewolves and even Frankenstein-esque creatures straight out of classic Universal Monster movies and imagery straight out of Hammer Studios. Dark roots stretch deep below the surface of the world.
Innistrad’s storyline is a power struggle between the humans of its world and the creatures of the night that also inhabit it. If you decided to fight alongside the forces of good, iconic items like wooden stakes, blazing torches and sharpened pitchforks are there for your arsenal. If you so choose to tip the balance of power towards the night, Innistrad is loaded with enough curses, creepy dolls and cellar doors to keep any necromancer happy.
The attention to detail in Innistrad goes far to envelop you in this sinister world and, as always, the artwork is top notch. But the true standout of this set is the flavor text found on the bottom of most cards.
Take Sensory Deprivation: “They call it ‘stitcher’s anesthesia,’ a spell to deaden the senses while the mad doctors begin their grisly work.”
Or Invisible Stalker: ‘All that concerns me is the vampires’ sense of smell and those freezing Nephalian nights.’
Or Bump in the Night: “It’s not just the wind. It’s not all in your head. And it’s definitely something to worry about.”
I have had almost as much fun reading the text as I have playing some of the nastier spells – and there are so many nasty spells.
There is something for everybody in Innistrad, including Double-Faced cards, in which an angry villager can become a Werewolf or a Vampire can turn into an even bigger, deadlier Vampire simply by transforming them. The lore involved may not match the classic stories, but the ability to do so adds a nice flavor to the world and pays a nice homage to the stories that inspired the creatures in it.
Although there may have been Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies and Ghosts in Magic the Gathering before, the plane of Innistrad brings them all together in a place where it is Halloween all the time. So when all the candy goes on sale, the decorations are taken down and the lines for Santa begin at the local malls, I will still be fighting the forces of evil.
Or maybe, by then, I will have become a foul creature of the night. Happy Halloween, Dear Reader.
John McGuire’s Monster Squad deck is almost complete. All he needs now is an artifact to protect the Wolfman’s nards. Follow him on Twitter @johnmiserable – he’s open to suggestions.