Editor’s Note: New column where the point is short and sweet, just like a piece of pie. Except this piece is a little bigger then I thought it was going to be. Title reference for you younger readers.
Today Tom LaPille announced some of the card choices to M11. The biggest news was the official confirmation of M10 hottie Baneslayer Angel making the return to the Core Set this year. There was some speculation of her returning or not and making her a one-hit wonder. After all, her $50 price tag is pretty expensive (and something I touched on earlier) and taking her out of Standard so there would be that (possible) drop in price because she won’t be in high demand. Then there are those that say Baneslayer getting reprinted will cause her price tag should go down since there will be more of her. Those who already have a playset of Baneslayers and happen to open more might be more compelled to trade/sell them off getting more of her into the market.
That, luckily, isn’t the point of this article. Looking at the card choices so far, it’s easy to see what direction the Core Set is taking: Flavor.
Here’s what Tom spoiled:
Open the Vaults
Let’s not play the speculation game on all of these cards, but take a look at the philosophy of their decisions so far.
This is the first Core Set that Wizards is printing a year after the previous one; it had always been two years between printings. Now, with the ability to rotate every year, Wizards can push the power of cards then get rid of it for the next block if it would be too good. This set-up allows them to adapt to each new block and not try to plan fail-safes for two years in one Core Set (See: Warped Devotion in 8th Edition for Moonfolk in Kamigawa Block and Aura of Silence in 10th Edition for Esper in Alara Block). This might be the decision of Open the Vaults to be gone for Scars of Mirrodin, but we’ll see when that set is released.
Three of the cards now confirmed for M11 all drip of flavor. In fact, that’s all Tom talked about. Fireball was created to mimic the spell Fireball in D&D and Lightning Bolt, which was feared to be too powerful but never reached that point, feels like Magic. Baneslayer, besides being efficient and a beatstick, does have a huge amount of flavor to it. Besides being semi-relevant some of the time, we’ve only seen protection from Dragons once, and that was in a set with a ton of Dragons (Scourge). If you want a cover girl to sell your product because she has everything, it’s her; powerful and flavorful put together in a great package.
The rotation and flavor reasons intersect with the cards that weren’t included in M11. Twincast and Shivan Dragon were the only repeats that were confirmed gone. While Twincast can be flavorful, it had been in print for quite a while now and maybe give it a rest for a year. The only real questionable move is the absence of Shivan Dragon, which I just talked about being one of those iconic cards, but it seems like this is a “In Wizards We trust” decision. Every other named card in the list was a “new” card.
And that is important.
Flavor was a big part of M10, as Aaron Forsythe told us when that Core Set was first announced. Cards were created to invoke flavor as well as playability. However, this was also an experiment for certain cards and now Wizards are going to try something else in its place. Gone are useful but easily replaceable cards. Planar Chaos will get replaced by another sweeper (Day of Judgment comes to mind, but it’s on the same rotation schedule as Zendikar) either a reprint or a new one. Blue most likely wants better draw and counterspells and Green would like a better Black/Blue uncommon hoser (obviously in creature form). Nothing of playability value was lost that couldn’t be replaced.
This flexibility and idea of what the Core Set should be allows Wizards to keep making flavorful cards while trying new things. The new creature Reassembling Skeleton (which is sure to replace Drudge Skeletons) that was previewed in the Archenemy deck is very, very flavorful and looks like a blast to play with. It looks like the perfect card this new age of Core Sets promotes mixing flavor and function/playability.
It doesn’t mean that they’re going to stop printing powerful cards in Core Sets (that’d be stupid and they’re already putting in Baneslayer) but create/reprint cards that make the game come alive. The dual lands might be a little underwhelming for some but now we know that there will be an emphasis on those in the expansions. As for those who are hoping this is a signal for enemy “M10” duals, I wouldn’t hold your breath. Ever since the Core Set shrunk down, I doubt they’d use ten spots for rare lands. 10th Edition did it and that was one of the largest Core Sets ever.
As we start to see M11 come together, keep in mind that it might be one of the most flavorful sets ever constructed. Along with M10, we are finally seeing a pattern on how the Core Sets will be constructed in the future. Wizards has a plan on how to put this together to make the game accessible to old, new, casual and competitive gamers. Or at least they should, right?
In Wizards We Trust indeed.