Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Prelude

Three lines say it all:

Set Name: Magic 2012
Three-Letter Abbreviation: M12
Number of Cards: 249

Some people are talking about the new set, Mirrodin Besieged. Some folks are speculating about the next set to come, New Phyrexia.

I, on the other hand, will jump right to the meat. The savory heart of the Magic: The Gathering release schedule. The annual Core Set.

Some of the bigger bits of speculation I've heard about:

1. They are printing new planeswalkers. This happens every core set. The peanut gallery is evidently sick of the old Lorwyn-born planeswalkers: Ajani, Chandra, Liliana, Garruk and Jace. Me, I would absolutely love to see all the old walkers back. And there's really no signal Wizards is pulling any kind of switcher-oo. There's new art coming, certainly. But last year there was "new art" too, and it turned out to just be some planeswalker-themed spells. And we have some strong indicators they are doing the same thing this year.

2. They won't be re-printing the Titans. I think this is pretty obvious. The Titans are a cycle of 5 mythic-rarity spells. We already know they are reprinting the planeswalkers. If the Titans were going in too, that would leave about 4 cards or so left in the mythic slot. I don't imagine the designers would tie one arm behind their back that early in the reveal schedule.

3. They are getting rid of either Giant Growth or Giant Spider. This is thanks to Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment #63 on Scathe Zombies. Since the Alpha-Beta-Unlimited days, we've seen a lot of reprints. But only a few cards have gotten reprinted in every core set. Now apparently it's down to one. If I had to choose the card that was most ready to go, it'd be Giant Spider. Creatures have improved noticeably since I opened my first pack of Revised at the counter of the Eden Prairie Shinders. Giant Spider has not had a competitive mana cost for at least a decade. On the other hand, who doesn't love Giant Growth? Are you a man or a mouse? With Giant Growth you can be both.

4. They are going to reuse the Ally mechanic. Since last year's surprise re-introduction of Scry, the floodgates have opened on which mechanic R&D might decide to reuse in the M12 Set. The tagline for M12 carries the non-so-mysterious words "Gather Your Allies" and so the speculation is obvious. But it might be a little too obvious. "Allies" might just refer to your friends in REAL LIFE, you know, the people you play magic with. For a couple summers now, Wizards has used the season of easy living to introduce new multiplayer casual variants like Planechase and Archenemy. This year, they've already said the multiplayer variant will be Elder Dragon Highlander, a.k.a. COMMANDER. So the tagline for M12 might very well be referring to that. Or maybe there will be some Two-Headed Giant specific cards in M12. Probably not. But the return of Allies is hardly assured.

5. Lightning Bolt is not making it in. This I can handle. I actually scrounged the cash for the Fire and Lightning Deck, so my stock of Lightning Bolts is sufficient. If Wizards replaces it with some other awesome single mana reprint I will be pleased as punch. If they just replace it with Shock, I will be disappointed. Hmmm.

Anyway, the midnight reveal on the Wizards website will undoubtedly refute everything I've said here. But I'm not staying up for it…I just snowblowed my driveway for the second time this evening and its definitely bedy-bye time.

Good luck with all your game related endevours!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What a weird set

A friend of mine almost went insane the other day when he saw a "futureshifted" card from the Future Sight set. The reworked design, the bizarre location of the mana symbols…the general weirdness of it all.

If you haven't been around for very long, be warned…occasionally the designers do something really crazy. In the cast of "Future Sight" they wanted to make cards literally from the "future" of magic, brought forward into the present day.

What kinds of cards might be in the future?

Maybe new types of cards. Back in the original Mirrodin, we got Equipment. These were the reusable artifacts Wizards had been trying to do for more than a decade with cards like Runesword. Finally a new kind of artifact was born.

But Equipment can only "attach" to creatures. What about equipment for LAND? Darksteel Garrison fills that logical hole we've all been agonizing over. In Dungeons and Dragons, this spell would be called Daern's Instant Fortress.

Clap on (pay 3 mana) - Castle!
Clap off (pay 3 mana) - No Castle!

And if you're wondering about the thought process regarding the weird card layout, take a look here here.

Not the bomb-throwing kind

People generally love recursion. Getting to use your cards over and over again, preferably in a never-ending loop, has been the goal of many a deck builder. But just because you have recursion, doesn't mean you have good targets for recursion.

I think I may have misjudged Anarchist.

At least matched up against my current Niv-Mizzet deck. While initially I had envisioned casting Disaster Radius every turn, my last game the only target in my graveyard always seemed to be Incendiary Command.

Which is good for getting rid of annoying land, the first couple times around. But then people don't have super-awesome land anymore, and you want to cast other things than a 10 mana cantrip Stone Rain.

Looking through my deck, there are quite a few sorceries. So perhaps the problem is I just wasn't lucky. The lack of a couple of decent tutors is perhaps the real problem. Gamble. Mystical Tutor. Fact or Fiction.

On an additional note, it is a fact: Anarchist is clearly outclassed by his fraternal twin brother Izzet Chronarch.

But I actually don't have the Chronarch.

So the Anarchist stays for now.

Current Sorceries in my deck:

Incendiary Command
Time Reversal (the "fixed" version of Timetwister)
Disaster Radius
Rite of Replication (wow!)
Telemin Performance (who I once decked a guy with)

All wonderful Anarchist targets.

Now I just have to get lucky.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A General in the hand is worth 3 cards…in the hand.

Sometimes a tutor is more than just a tutor. Take, for example, the fresh new Distant Memories the Mirrodin Besieged set has brought us. Karn, wracked by his own personal demons. Urza's always in there. Venser, too. Nag Nag Nag Nag Nag.

The response from the peanut gallery has been fairly negative. A previous post examined the card as blue's response to Browbeat. A card that would give you whatever your opponent deemed least dangerous.

What I completely failed to grasp at the time was the EDH ramifications of this card. Because when you add all kinds of screwy rules, things are bound to get screwy.

Generals have a nasty habit of coming right back again as soon as their owning player hunts down 2 additional mana. That's why cards like Spin into Myth are so good, because they hide your General in the one place you normally can't easily get to them.

What Distant Memories does in the case of your "decked" General is find him and put him in the "command" zone. Then your opponent can either stick him in your hand, or allow you to draw three cards. Suddenly, Distant Memories is a pretty good tutor!

I am no genius. I didn't wrangle this little interaction out of the aether.

Instead, I read about it in Cranial Insertion, perhaps the best rules-lawyerly column in existence in this modern age.

Would your opponent even have the choice to put the General in your hand? Technically the General goes to someplace called "The Command Zone," not exiled or removed-from-game as the card asks you to do.

I quote:

"Distant Memories talks about "that card," not "the exiled card," so it's irrelevant whether the card actually ends up in the exile zone. Distant Memories tracks the card wherever its effect puts it, and the command zone replacement effect changes where the card goes, but it doesn't change the fact that the card goes there due to Distant Memories' effect. This means that Distant Memories can find the card and put it into your hand if that's what at least one of your opponents wants."

Food for thought, and something I definitely wouldn't have come up with on my own.

As seen here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Back and Here Again

Prelease was a little different this time around.

Rather than spend the weekend with the rest of humanity…pressed within the hot, moist, claustrophobic spaces of the local gaming store…I fought my battle for New Phrexia in a decidedly old fashioned way.

On "Old" Phyexia.

Elder Dragon Highlander is always wacky, but when you add a deck of Planechase cards, hold on to your galoshes.

While I have previously spoke highly of the "Enternities Map" Planechase configuration, this was my first actual foray into its twisting backward paths.

While leaping into another branch of the Multiverse is very similar to the regular Planechase game, the first thing a player notices about The Map is how easy it is to leap back again.

While our feuding council of Planeswalkers started out in the gloomy, card-rich depths of the Panopticon…then moved to the equally gloomy and card-rich Undercity Reaches…then taking a quick detour through The Sactum of Serra to blow up everyone's creatures and artifacts. The final plane where we spent much of our time was the dreaded Fourth Sphere. And whose fault was that?


Who was my general? Malfegor. The synergy was pretty easy to see, and so I used all of my demonic resources to send me and my fellow feuding planeswalkers straight back into the slimy goo of Phyrexia every chance I got.

One particular card that seemed to combo well with the plane was Quest for the Gravelord.

While other players were making lots and lots of 2/2 Zombies, I was instead making 5/5 Giant Zombies by recurring the 1 mana-cost enchantment using Skull of Orm.

The constant sacrificing of creatures eventually proved my Multiplayer downfall. While I was slowly gaining zombie advantage I was losing much faster in the perception game. Instead of a innocent bystander, both of my opponents quickly grew to view me as the active progenitor of their slow demise.

The hate grew hot until it could be contained no longer.

Malfegor was soon locked down by one player's Puppet Strings. Then the other player, who's general was Sliver Overlord, finally managed to get both the Overlord and Sliver Legion onto the field. It must be noted (if you weren't aware of it) that both of these monstrosities are technically "black" creatures.

Playing brought two facts to the front for the next game session using this variant.

1. It is worth thinking about the "multiplayer" element when choosing which plane to move to. If your destination is beneficial only to you, your fellow players are certain to see this fact as well. Instead, I should have used the Fourth Sphere is a place of temporary sanctuary, to get ahead incrementally, before moving on to avoid the kinds of frown faces I was causing in this game.

2. It may be worth developing a way for planeswalkers to "seal" away a plane through some sort of appropriate sacrifice. Perhaps they could pay some life after rolling "planeswalk" to put a big Elder Sign over the door to that particular can of worms. It makes sense, and would probably be more fair.

Other than that, the game was a blast.