Saturday, September 8, 2012

Magic 2013 Favorites

I had been planning on writing a design review of Magic 2013 (the official Wizards version) but I prioritized it below wrapping up the GA M13 project and then Greg Marques & Jules Robins both did excellent jobs of it, obviating the need. Even so, I can't let my second favorite set to Draft ever pass into history without sharing a few thoughts. In no specific order.

Archaeomancer might be my favorite card in the whole set. In most sets, the 1/2 body might not be worth the extra U cost over Call to Mind, but between Reckless Brute, Ring of Evos Isle and several pushed auras like Mark of the Vampire, it's doing plenty of good work. The fact that there are so many fun interactions like those absolutely plastered across the set is definitely one of the things that makes Magic 2013 so much to play. Everything's a combo! Archaeomancer appeals to three types of players that don't always see love, particularly in a core set: the guy who loves wielding 'true' magic (aka non-permanents), the gal who loves using her graveyard as a resource, and the spike who loves two-for-ones. Oh, and I guess Johnny's pretty happy to Raise Dead or Rise from the Grave Archaeomancer all day long. Home-freaking-run.

Augur of Bolas and Mindclaw Shaman also play in a similar space and the ability to build a deck with all three, as well as some sweet red and blue spells like Flames of the Firebrand and Spelltwine is mighty sweet sauce for sorcery connoisseurs.

The bond cycle—Arctic Aven, Harbor Bandit, Crimson Muckwader, Flinthoof Boar and Prized Elephant—are all very strong in the color pair that they reward and give players a reason to be excited about not being mono-colored. It's an interesting tension against the cycle of Rings (which I partly love and partly hate—when they're good they're a little too good). Quirion Dryad is another multicolor quest and I had a blast running it an otherwise durdly RUG deck last night.

Arms Dealer, Krenko, Mob Boss, Krenko's Command, Mogg Flunkies, Goblin Arsonist and Rummaging Goblin give us a tribal theme we can really sink our teeth into, something we haven't really had in a core set since Magic 2010.

Roaring Primadox is a single uncommon responsible for an entire archetype all to itself, with the help of innocuous utility creatures like Battleflight Eagle and Elvish Visionary. Much of 2013's depth is due to power plays like this, where one card transforms a number of cards that would have been in the file anyhow into a whole new path for players to explore.

During last night's draft, a friend put together a deck with—no joke—4 War Falcon, 4 Attended Knight, 2 Aven Squire, 2 Crusader of Odric, a Captain of the Watch, a couple Captain's Calls and I don't know… some Plains or something. He won. All the things. It was glorious. And terrifying.

People are terrified of Chronomaton. They will do anything to kill it. I don't care what else a card does, when I can pay one mana for that effect, times will be good.

The Grixis deck isn't so much good as it is sexy. For me, Augur of Bolas and Gem of Becoming are so hard to pass because of their potential value. Disciple of Bolas and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker are fine too. Mostly I just like taking removal, drawing it off the Augur and recurring it via Archaeomancer.

The quality of Duty-Bound Dead, which it took us all at least a couple weeks to discover, speaks volumes about the exalted deck. And, of course, the best part about BW exalted is Ajani's Sunstriker.

Speaking of which, fans of lifegain have to love Healer of the Pride and Rhox Faithmender. Yet another archtype enabled by an uncommon or rare (and made legitmate by a common that would've been printed anyhow).

Fire Elemental's common! Did you know that? It took me at least a month to realize. Awesome. Torch Fiend is uncommon. Took me two months to realize that. Weird.

Everyone underestimates Hellion Crucible. Free spells are good.

Yeva's Forcemage does so much for the game. I love it hard. Pumping a Scroll Thief, a Welkin Tern, an Ajani's Sunstriker or a Spiked Baloth always satisfies. And keeps the game moving forward. Comboing with Intrepid Hero is the cherry on that cake.

Jace's Phantasm makes the Mind Sculpt / Vedalken Entrancer / Sands of Delirium deck more approachable. Kraken Hatchling, Fog Bank and Augur of Bolas (again) make it defensible.

Watercourser is great. Liliana's Shade is too.

Xathrid Gorgon is miserable, if very resonant.

Volcanic Geyser is a fair Blaze that other colors won't poach. Approve.

Vile Rebirth doesn't feel like a core set card. It's like it was cut from the Innistrad file, but they wanted it anyhow and stuck it here.

Trading Post makes some Johnny/Spikes happy. Like, really happy.

Talrand's Invocation is one of the obviously awesome uncommons that helps new players by not hiding it's value. Also, you feel strong when you play it. Even better when you Archaeomancer and then Spelltwine it.

Thragtusk is nuts, but it's green so it won't break anything. Sigh. #TrollBait

Staff of Nin is so much better with its two simple effects than if they'd kept piling things on. Like the Strong, Silent Type, respect is earned by doing/saying only relevant things.

Still not sure Sublime Archangel need to be pushed so hard. Would 3/3 really have been unexciting?

Slumbering Dragon is great because it's resonant on an obvious level as well as a subtle one. Not only does it read like a sleepy dragon should, but it plays that way too. Some players will tiptoe around it judiciously, while the cautious will cease attacking all together, and those with powerful magic behind (Murder or Plummet) them will charge in regardless.

Predatory Rampage is clearly the correct replacement for Overrun (he said, knowing M13 used a nearly identical solution). The important difference being that it's more about smashing than straight-up winning and a player would be happy to rage on a turn he didn't expect to win.

Odric, Master Tactician's ability, when active, is strictly better than "defending player can't block." Did we really need to leapfrog that?

Murder is sweet. And it didn't break anything. Part of that is the 3cc cost not being that much lower than it's targets' and part is the double-black requirement, but ultimately no card that just answers other cards and only does so at a 1:1 rate will ever break the game. You could print a 0cc instant with the same text (Dismember isn't far off) and it wouldn't break the game. Yes, it would skew it heavily—every player would maindeck four copies, and expensive creatures without ETB/LTB effects would see a lot less play, but the game would still
work. 1BB is perfect though since the game is more fun when most colors don't have that ability and when answers as good as this aren't cheap.


  1. I just played in the Magic Celebration event today and Rancor was my VIP. Also: the Faerie with flash killed a lot of guys.

    1. Rancor was always amazing. Fascinating to play with. Usually brutal, but if you could kill their creature in response to casting it, your sad face became theirs. Ironic that this attempted fix to the aura problem is actually exacerbates that moment of pain.