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Zendikar!

29 Aug

In case you couldn’t guess from the title of this posting, I am going to be sharing some information about the as-of-yet unreleased Magic: the Gathering set known as Zendikar. So if you don’t wanna be spoiled, then close your eyes, plug your ears, and go LALALALA! …Or just go read a different posting. ^^ I’m sure Rappy or Scotsman has something to say that’s a bit less crystal-bally.

…Okay, so it’s just us rumormongers now? Awesome. Now I get to say this:

It’s a Trap!

Okay, so I bet most of you are reading this right now and thinking, “Oh, crap, she’s about to go into a long tirade about why Wizards shouldn’t copy Yu-Gi-Oh…” based on the negative response I gave to Wizards’ suddenly changing the rules upon the release of Magic 2010 and causing some grumblings among their existing players.

First of all, I was wrong to do that. -.- The response to M10 has been very positive, so much so that brick-and-mortar stores can’t hold on to booster boxes of it for longer than two minutes, and I think it marks a change in design for the better. While I liked Shards of Alara and thought it was very innovative, I think the design team found themselves in a bind trying to correct the mistakes they made in Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, printing cards specifically designed to nerf Faeries and avoiding super-efficient mana-fixing so as to tone down the number of chase rares in Standard. M10 showed us all that powerful cards can still exist without turning the game into a “you must spend this much money to win” ride. The reprinting of such cards as Duress and Lightning Bolt exemplifies this. All in all, I think M10 is great. It isn’t so much an appeal to new players as it is an appeal to Vorthos, perhaps as a big apology letter for the Time Spiral storyline changing the nature of the planeswalker so that they could print it as a card type. >.>;

Secondly, I don’t think they’re copying Yu-Gi-Oh. Okay, so there was some bullcrap going on with the mythic rarity. Even Wizards admitted that they created the mythic rarity to keep up with “industry standards,” and it had the exact effect on the singles market that I was afraid it would have. And the terminology changes (“activate” and “battlefield” in particular), while flavorful and something we will eventually get used to, do sound like something that got ripped right out of one of LittleKuriboh’s parodies. But Traps? No. We’re not going to be laying instant cards face-down on the “battlefield” anytime soon. It’s just another card type unique to non-permanent spells, like Arcane. In fact, in his most recent State of Design article, lead designer Mark Rosewater confirmed what I have suspected of Magic’s Trap cards since the first time I laid eyes on Whiplash Trap: The reason they created Traps is because it made sense for a world like Zendikar to have Traps.

Besides, what else were they going to call them? Snares? Snare is a drum. <_<

So now that M10 has been out on the streets for a month and a half and my paranoia surrounding the set has died off, let’s talk about Zendikar. In the same State of Design article, MaRo stated that the four Zendikar cards found in the new Planechase decks are not an accurate representation of Zendikar’s mechanics. That’s all fine and good, but I think we’re still getting a couple of big hints from what little we’re seeing. The implications that Trap cards could have on the game should be obvious, if you look at what Whiplash Trap does and what kinds of things Kamigawa block did with Arcane spells.

Beast Hunt and Kor Sanctifiers give us the biggest clues, however, as well as what we know of Zendikar’s Intro Packs and boosters. Notice how one of the Intro Packs is dedicated to Vampires. Also notice how two of the set’s planeswalkers, Sorin Markov and Nissa Revane, each represent an iconic creature type found in their colors. Most importantly, notice the presence of Kor in the set. Now, Kor and Humans have co-existed side by side in Magic settings past, but with the exception of the new Chandra and possibly of the flowy-haired guy found on one of the booster packagings (he could be an Elf), I cannot find any art of Humans on Zendikar. In Lorwyn block, Wizards intentionally avoided printing any (non-Changeling) Humans because there are so many Humans in every other set that giving Tribal support to them would create a catastrophic imbalance in the metagame; They were essentially replaced by Kithkin. It is possible that Kor might be filling in as Zendikar’s resident Human analogues, but even if they’re not, there is still a strong possibility of Tribal undertones in all five colors.

There are also a few other cards than the Planechase ones whose identities have been spoiled. First of all, Wrath of God as we know it isn’t quite dead yet. Another functional reprint, Day of Judgment, has revealed itself. The only difference between it and the original Wrath is the lack of a “no regeneration” clause; Wizards likely decided to exclude that clause from most of the new kill spells in Standard in order to make regeneration a more relevant ability than it has been in recent years. Still, it’s nice to see that they’re not being too too friendly to Aggro decks. After all, one of Zendikar’s subthemes is Traps, and if you overextend too much, you’re probably going to spring one. :p

One other spoiled non-Planechase card reveals what appears to be an italicized “ability word,” indicating a recurring block theme. Rampaging Baloths, one of Zendikar’s mythic rares, is a 6/6 trampler for 4GG with an ability called “Landfall,” which triggers whenever a land comes into play on the same side of the table. In this case, the Landfall ability generates a 4/4 green Beast creature token. Now, already, the 6/6 body plus trample makes the Baloths strictly better than the vast majority of other creatures throughout Magic’s history that cost 4GG. Wizards has been turning the power dial up to 11 on fatties as of late (see also Baneslayer Angel), and the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. But this Landfall ability makes them super-good. I would even call them broken if not for the fact that most people playing them would likely have to topdeck any lands they’d wanna play to trigger that ability. On another hand, I can’t say I blame Wizards for putting this much power into a 6-mana creature compared to the old standard, Craw Wurm. With all the cheap kill like Path to Exile and Doom Blade running around Standard, creatures need as much power as they can get right now. o.o

There’s one more thing about Rampaging Baloths that I want to point out, and that’s its collector number, 176. Rampaging Baloths is probably at the tail end of the green cards, and there are 229 cards in the set (not counting basic lands). That leaves a pretty generous cushion for multicolor, artifacts, and nonbasic lands. So let’s break that cushion down. First off, multicolor. I think we can rule out the possibility of there being a whole lot of multicolor (Nissa Revane, one of the set’s planeswalkers, will likely be one of the few) because we just got through a couple of multicolor-themed blocks, not to mention cards like Sorin Markov and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle encourage mana bases that are strong in one color and weak in others. As for lands… Well, given that any kind of land, basic or nonbasic, can trigger Landfall, I wouldn’t put it past Wizards to do something ambitious and pack Zendikar full of a bunch of nonbasic lands. After all, every large set needs its own block-specific dual lands, and there are probably going to be some less rare “utility lands” splashed in there for Draft and Sealed play as well.

But I’m thinking that most of the slots in between 176 and 229 will be taken up by artifacts. We’ve seen Zendikar’s “deadly perils” in the form of Trap cards. It would only make sense that we would also see artifact cards to represent those “priceless treasures” that its people are hunting. Esper players should keep their eyes open for new cards that care about artifacts. Even if you don’t see any (and I’ll be very surprised if there aren’t any), shiny things should be safer to play in Standard now that Shatterstorm and Hurkyl’s Recall have rotated out.

So… yeah. Those are my initial thoughts on Zendikar based on what’s been spoiled so far. ^^ I’ll let you k

But I’m thinking that most of the slots in between 176 and 229 will be taken up by artifacts. We’ve seen Zendikar’s “deadly perils” in the form of Trap cards. It would only make sense that we would also see artifact cards to represent those “priceless treasures” that its people are hunting. Esper players should keep their eyes open for new cards that care about artifacts. Even if you don’t see any (and I’ll be very surprised if there aren’t any), shiny things should be safer to play in Standard now that Shatterstorm and Hurkyl’s Recall have rotated out.

So… yeah. Those are my initial thoughts on Zendikar based on what’s been spoiled so far. ^^ I’ll let you know what my further thoughts are as more about the set becomes known.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2009 in Gaming

 

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