Sunday, November 1, 2015

Back to back return sets (Shadows Over Innistrad)

A return to Innistrad is awesome because, well, it's Innistrad. But two return sets back to back is a sign of a lack of creativity even as Wizards is saying that there are more people involved in the design and development of Magic sets. To be fair, two return sets are great training for the expanded design and development team. Yet, this is a decision that is more fitting for a lagging and dying brand than one at its height of popularity. I was really hoping for a hybrid block in the style of Shadowmoor, but not a Return to Shadowmoor. Success is great, but maintaining it can become quite the challenge. Two return sets is a very safe play. Slap 'Zendikar' on a bunch of jank plus two gimmicks-full art lands, expeditions, then sell packs; Slap 'Innistrad' on a bunch of jank, plus at least one gimmick, then sell packs; repeat. I long for some raw creativity coming out of a future block that is not a revisit. I long for a block that is as good as Innistrad and is not a revisit to Innistrad,

To be fair, every set after Alpha/Beta/Unlimited to Legends is some kind of a return set, an elaboration on a theme. Every set since has to play well with tribal, multicolored, and artifact themes. But there is a difference between trying a lot of enchantments again, as was the case with Theros after Urza, or trying a lot of artifacts again, as was the case of Mirrrodin after Antiquities, and a copy and paste revisit with powered down cards. The challenge for Wizards is to attain three very difficult objectives in the same block: revisit the theme, which they must do to be Magic; offer powerful new cards that breed a lot of deck building creativity; offer new and creative game play that is a lot of fun. Theros, for example, attained two of these three objectives-it failed to offer powerful new cards. Innistrad attained all three, and so did Zendikar.

The only good news here is that if Shadows over Innistrad is just as powered down a revisit as Battle for Zendikar is, its only two sets and we can forget the revisit happened. As it is, Battle for Zendikar has taken a bunch of cards and slapped one more mana on them, moved effects that were Instant speed to Sorcery speed, and broken the flow across blocks that had made deck building so much more creative. Wizards does not need to worry, though, I love the game, and even a very powered down block like Battle for Zendikar gets my money, and lots of deck building love. What's more, its more cards to add to my battle cruiser cube, and more cheap packs. The Battle Cruiser cube loves the new Battle Cruiser Standard.

No way Snapcaster Mage, Lilliana of the Veil, or Griselbrand are getting reprinted. But we could see over-costed and/or under-powered versions of everything... that is what we have gotten with Battle for Zendikar. Expect a new Griselbrand to cost 10 mana and to read something like "Pay 3 life, draw three cards. Activate this ability only once per turn."

To end on a good note, Flashback and Undying are awesome. Even in a powered down Standard they should prove very playable mechanics. I am especially looking forward to Undying. We need many more cards with this awesome mechanic.