Prior to Innistrad, the phrase “return all” or its plural “returns all” has shown up on 43 cards. Many of them, like Evacuation, are mass bounce. Others, such as Empty the Catacombs, gives everyone back their dead creatures, whether to the hand or back to the battlefield. From the perspective of these cards, our card only has a handful of previous comparisons for being one-sided, easy to use, and having no drawbacks.
Prior to Innistrad, returning a card from your graveyard to your hand has shown up on many cards, but most restrict you to a card type. There are around two dozen cards that let you get back one of more than one card type, though some will allow only instants or sorceries and others will allow only artifacts or enchantments. The best ones you’ve heard of. Regrowth. Eternal Witness. Praetor’s Counsel. Things like that.
Things like this…
Where does it fit in the pecking order of awesome green recursion? Pretty highly. Restock has the same mana cost and returns two cards, but it exiles itself. All Suns’ Dawn has the same converted mana cost and returns up to five cards, but with significant restrictions, before exiling itself. In the vast majority of situations, you’ll get at least two cards for the same cost with Creeping Renaissance, but you’ll get the chance to use it again.
While Praetor’s Counsel returns everything all at once, but it also exiles itself and costs a ton. And in the late game, do you really need half the things you get back? Creeping Renaissance lets you get back what you want while leaving you some mana to replay what you get. Twice. Even if your opponent makes you discard your hand, you still get to use it! Regrowth effects are so powerful that Regrowth itself was one of the first restricted cards, and Creeping Renaissance is easily one of the top five or even top three Regrowth effects, behind Eternal Witness and Praetor’s Counsel, but not much else.
To wrap your mind around the possibilities, let’s look at the available choices for permanent types:
Creatures. This is the obvious use and probably the most effective in a typical board state. There’s nothing wrong with a rebate on your fatties. At 3GG you can use it as an anti-Wrath, or you can hold on to it as a card advantage blowout. The flashback lets you recover from a second Wrath, something very few cards can lay claim to and also something that lets you recast your best creatures fearlessly. A Creeping Renaissance in hand means that you can play much more aggressively, knowing that you’re not overextending even if your opponents wipe out every creature you play.
Artifacts. Outside Praetor’s Counsel, Magic hasn’t printed a card that lets you and nobody else return artifacts en masse from your graveyard. Not in Alpha, not in Combo Winter, not anywhere. This is a new thing, and I’m sure somebody will use it that way. Metalcraft decks of 60- and 100-card varieties might be interested here, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this is a 1-of or a 2-of in some tournament-worthy decks. Glissa, the Traitor decks in particular will benefit from this.
Enchantments. There’s similar support for this in Crystal Chimes, Replenish, and its lesser cousin Retether, but there are plenty of enchantments you might want to return with this, especially if you’re in G/W. Aura Gnarlid decks could use Creeping Renaissance to great effect, as they can recur their Gnarlids one time and their Auras the other based on whatever they don’t have at the moment. (That dual functionality is a hot property of the card.) Getting back Auras removes some of their card disadvantage, which makes them significantly more playable.
Lands. It’s a bigger Life from the Loam. No clue if that’s good or not, but as this and (again) Praetor’s Counsel are the only other cards to let you get back more than three lands at once, this is unexplored territory.
Planeswalkers. The spiciest use of all! Most Commander decks don’t mind running multiple planeswalkers for value, but some opponents might use their resources early just to off them, making you and your planeswalkers sad. What if you just brought them all back? Again, this is new territory outside Praetor’s Counsel. It probably isn’t worth it in 60-card Super Friends decks, as it’s just more efficient to draw more planeswalkers, but in Commander this might be one of its best uses for a deck that wants to try it out, especially if you’re playing three or more colors.
Instants and Sorceries. Easy there. Go back and read the card. If you were hoping for some kind of degenerate loop using Creeping Renaissance to get all your sorceries and another Creeping Renaissance out of the graveyard (and Windborn Muse was totally hoping for that), you’ll have to keep looking. While I don’t doubt there could be something completely degenerate out there with Creeping Renaissance, it will involve returning permanents to your hand, not instants and sorceries.
While this card can look like all upside, it is important to remember that you still have a maximum hand size. There is a good chance that you’ll be returning many of the cards you just pulled out of your graveyard back into your graveyard. Thankfully, you’ll only be returning the crappy ones.
There is also the limiting factor that it is only your graveyard and your hand. If you wanted to get all of an opponent’s creatures (or a teammate’s artifacts) out of the graveyard and into their hand, Creeping Renaissance is not what you need.
Up to this point, we’ve focused on using Creeping Renaissance to get back a bunch of cards from your graveyard. This card will also do double duty though. There are times when you really only need to get one or two permanents back. You are beating your opponents with a Reaper from the Abyss. After a few turns someone destroys him. The Reaper doesn’t like to sit in the graveyard, he likes to send creatures there.
At this point you can play your Creeping Renaissance and now the Reaper is back in your hand, along with all the other creatures that your opponents killed. Soon he’ll be back in play, and you’ll be enjoying the fruits of his reaping, knowing the next time he dies, you can do it again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
They have to kill your best permanents three times to keep them dead. And that’s assuming you don’t draw another Creeping Renaissance.
This is a card that can work well with Mirror-Mad Phantasm as a search tool. Using the Phantasm in a Commander deck will likely result in plenty of permanents in your graveyard.
There are a whole host of permanents that benefit when you have a large hand of cards. Empyrial Plate, Sword of War and Peace, and Thought Gorger are just three cards that can hammer someone for a single turn, while cards like Venser’s Journal let you keep the fun going for turns afterward.
Hopefully that rundown gets your brain going, but while you’ll probably use it in 60-card decks for whatever card types you’re building around, in Commander its flexibility will put you way ahead of the board state by getting back whatever you need. The flashback lets you discard it safely or even build around a self-milling plan, but Creeping Renaissance will shine primarily as one of the best value cards ever printed. This can be a finisher for several casual decks, a blowout in a few tournament ones, and a Swiss Army flamethrower for Commander decks of any stripe.