Last weekend was relatively dull in places other than San Diego and St. Louis, as many local games stores opted not to run release weekend events and many draft pods failed to fire. Players got their first chance to play with M13 at FNM and financiers were working hard to get their hands on their called shots before they went up.
I spent the weekend swimming in a bathtub full of [card Thragtusk]Thragtusks[/card] I preordered when they were still $6, then watching all of season four of Breaking Bad (added to Netflix this weekend) in a sixteen hour period.
It goes without saying that I spent part of the weekend wishing I was at San Diego Comic Con. I've been to this event many times before, but always spent the whole time working and didn't get much time to enjoy it.
This year Comic Con attendees who were willing to brave the line were treated to a panel hosted by Maro himself about what's in store for the future of Magic. The name of the second set of Return to Ravnica block was announced. "Gatecrash" may sound more like a mechanic than a set name, but if you know Ravnica lore (I don't) it's a pretty evocative title.
For those of us who couldn't make the trip, Maro summarized a lot of the salient points from his presentation on Twitter:
- All ten guilds are returning in Return to Ravnica block. Each guild will get a new keyword. No old guild keywords are coming back.
- Return to Ravnica will be a large set coming out this fall. It will feature five guilds (Azorius, Rakdos, Selesnya, Izzet & Golgari).
- Gatecrash is the name of the 2013 winter set. It too will be a large set with five guilds (Dimir, Gruul, Orzhov, Boros & Simic).
- Return to Ravnica will have two planeswalkers, one of which is Jace. Gatecrash will also have two planeswalkers, one of which is Gideon.
- RTR and GTC will each have five guild leaders, two-color mythic rare legendary creatures.
- Azorius: Isperia, sphinx -- Rakdos: Rakdos, demon -- Selesnya: Trostani, dryad triumvirate -- Izzet: Niv-Mizzet, dragon -- Golgari: Jarad, elf zombie
- Dimir: Lazav, shapeshifter -- Gruul: Borborygmos, cyclops -- Orzhov: Obzedat, ghost council -- Boros: Aurelia, angel -- Simic: Zegana, merfolk
According to Maro, any returning guild leader (the ones they didn't kill off in the novels, supposedly -- R.I.P. Momir Vig) will get a new card. Apparently they don't want Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Curiosity legal at the same time.
"Guild packs" were also announced, similar to the faction packs from Mirrodin Besieged Limited. Each "guild pack" will have cards in the two colors of a guild of your choice in addition to land and artifact cards.
As a limited player, this is exciting. You get to receive a pack from the guild of your choice. You don't have to build your deck in those colors, but having an entire booster dedicated to one guild will be a big help.
I'm Simic. Which guild are you?
Speaking of Simic, did you notice that Momir Vig has been replaced by Zegana, a merfolk? If you were worried about the playability of Master of the Pearl Trident in Standard, you may not have to wait long for a playable merman, besides Augur of Bolas, to pump up.
And the Community Weighs in
Left to digest the news about the upcoming sets, the community has already come up with some interesting stuff.
Redditor Benjyt21 brings us this handy visual guide to the two-color combinations and their corresponding guild insignia. My first thought: "Does anyone else think the new Gruul symbol looks slightly goofy?"
Redditor Wormslol answered my question with this hilarious theory about the inspiration behind the Gruul seal of approval. It looks suspiciously like the kind of thing certain Italian plumbers might be prone to consume.
Redditor daragovelicant brings us yet another visual guide, this time for the guild configurations for the upcoming two sets (It's not the same as it was last time we visited the City of Guilds). Something tells me he wasn't the first to notice the pattern made by these color combinations.
Redditor Alextfish thinks the expansion set symbols might be based on the patterns made by connecting the dots. It's not a bad theory, especially given that the Gatecrash symbol doesn't look all that much like a gate. Not that a picture of a gate isn't already taken.
An Altered Reality
I think Altered Reality would be a sweet name for a future column by yours truly. Here are some of the killer alters I ran across on the net this week.
Redditor trunksshe brings us this killer Delver of Secrets alter. I'm so impressed I'm willing to ignore the fact that spiders are arachnids, not insects.
The talented Mr. Klug brings us this stormy panorama of power. It looks like the guy on the Recall is really afraid of thunderstorms. What a sissy.
The Spirit of St. Louis
The first impact of the newly legal M13 was felt at the SCG Open in St. Louis. We have a lot to cover so I won't keep you waiting.
Naya proves it's no joke, giving us an exciting finals showdown between Caleb Durward's Naya Pod deck and Lance Behrens' Naya Aggro list. Durward took home top honors, but both lists are compelling.
The two decks feature a combined four copies of Thragtusk (TUSK!) and a combined zero copies of Thundermaw Hellkite. I really like Thragtusk in pod strategies as it fills the role of both Obstinate Baloth and Blade Splicer at the same time. When you gain five life, make a 3/3 beast and tutor for Zealous Conscripts all on the same turn, your opponent ends up on the back foot rather quickly.
With three Elvish Visionary (which pods nicely into Blade Splicer, I might add), this deck maximizes card advantage every way it can. I find it telling that the pod decks with the best finishes haven't been running blue cards for quite some time. That is a testament to the advantage generated from value creatures as well as the sheer one-sidedness of Bonfire of the Damned.
As cool as it is that my favorite M13 card (TUSK!) is getting attention, some other decks got a bit of attention, too.
Wizards and Drakes, Oh My!
First, the spotlight was on Adam Prosak and his innovative Mono-Blue Wizards build.
Jamming three copies of Talrand, Sky Summoner makes good use of the instants and sorceries already in abundance in the deck to flip [card Delver of Secrets]Delver[/card] and ruin lives with Snapcaster Mage. A smidge of white mana (i.e. a mana base nearly identical to U/W Delver lists) provides access to four Restoration Angel out of the board, not to mention the maindeck Moorland Haunt.
Talrand has great potential, and the 4th place finish seems to reinforce that assessment. It doesn't hurt that the deck was piloted by Adam Prosak, either.
Also in the top four was a deck that has been making some waves of its own. Running an impressive zero copies of Delver of Secrets, this deck instead opts to beat face on the ground. I'm referring, of course to Michael Alakayleh's Mono-Green Aggro deck.
This deck is a sleek, Dungrove Elder-based strategy that jams three copies of a favorite card of mine, Predator Ooze. The ooze is so good, the only reason Michael didn't make the finals is he took a beating to the dome from his own conscripted ooze.
This deck would happily run more copies of Rancor if it could, given that Dungrove Elder's main weakness is his inability to trample over dorky 1/1 spirits and 2/2 wolves even when his power approaches double digits. Rancor is great in a format full of Vapor Snag and it makes Strangleroot Geist an even better threat than it was before.
I love this deck, and Rancor solves all of the problems green decks had before, namely their inability to deal with chump blockers and their tendency to get pantsed by Vapor Snag. Traditional auras are terrible in a format where the best deck is tempo control with bounce spells. But Rancor comes back to your hand when the creature is bounced, mitigating the tempo loss by adding damage to the next attack for only one mana.
The top eight was rounded out by Bant Pod, G/W Humans and Naya Humans, all of which ran cards from M13. In fact, the only deck in top eight that didn't run M13 cards was the Esper Midrange deck.
There were more copies of Thragtusk than any other card in the top eight, proving that this guy is the real deal. I'm still waiting for Thundermaw Hellkite to make the showing everyone is expecting, and which its $30 price tag would seem to indicate.
The M13 innovation didn't stop with Standard, however. I'll gloss over how awesome it is that another Belcher deck made top eight to head straight to the Merfolk deck.
The Triumphant Return of the Fishes
I'm sure Corbin will write the entirety of his next article about this. But I want to briefly mention how the Merfolk deck solved a problem I foresaw with Master of the Pearl Trident, namely that there was no room for it in Legacy lists. Jospeh Gebhart solved this problem by cutting the most expendable card in the deck so he could jam four Masters.
Can you guess which card he cut to make room?
If you said "Force of Will," I don't believe you, because no one would guess that. While it's true that decks had been cutting back on Force of Will in the past, that was at a time when Mental Misstep was still legal. Merfolk has a huge liability, namely its tribal affiliation and reliance on overextending. A well-placed Engineered Plague or Pernicious Deed can wipe a merfolk deck out.
And yet Gebhart bravely cut all of his Forces to run more creatures. Joshua Snider, the pilot of the 11th place Merfolk deck, wasn't so brave. Maybe it's true what they say — no gamble, no future.
My favorite brewer, Jeff Hoogland (you may remember him as the architect of the Glissa Bomb deck I wet my pants over) is back with another top eight. This time he jammed Deadguy Ale, a tasty brew whether constructed with hops or two-drops.
Essentially an Orzhov goodstuff deck, Deadguy Ale uses discard and removal to clear a path for such beatings as a Tombstalker wearing a Batterskull. Continuing the "stuff with zealous in the name getting there" motif we see carried over from Standard, it uses Zealous Persecution to invite Maverick players to shuffle up for the next game.
Sam Black is also back, jamming his Zombardment deck in an otherwise not-all-that-remarkable top 32.
Very few M13 cards other than Master of the Pearl Trident have been tried in Legacy, but expect good things from a few more in the future. I really think [card Talrand, Sky Summoner]Talrand[/card] has potential and it will be interesting to see how this diverse, healthy format continues to evolve.
Also worth noting is the return of Burning Wish to Ad Nauseum Tendrils lists (listed as "Storm" by SCG, which I find misleading). This has financial implications. Badlands was the cheapest dual land for a while, but as it's seeing more play, expect the price to rise along with the new-found demand. You can still get these at around $35 and I wouldn't pass on the opportunity if you see them that cheap.
You Don't Have to Log Off But You Can't Stay Here
Join me next week when I will regale you firsthand with tales of my experiences at GP Columbus and watching all three Batman movies with Ryan Bushard. Spoiler: He takes up the whole armrest and sucks his thumb during the scary parts.
As always, if you can't get enough of me in this weekly dose you can always follow me on Twitter or check out the Brainstorm Brewery podcast.
Until next time!
@JasonEAlt on Twitter