The Interblock Synergy of Ravnica and Theros

ATF - Theros - Anax and CymedeWay back in the first “Sate of Design”, Mark Rosewater talked about interblock design. To the quote machine:

Not only will the designers have to design between sets, they will have to design between blocks. We’re getting an earlier jump on future blocks to make sure that the designers know where we are going and allow them the ability to set up the next block.

The first time this was truly implemented was our previous trip to Ravnica and I thought that it was important to take a look at what we’ve got so far.

But what does interblock synergy really mean? Before Ravnica (Part 1), the most powerful Standard decks tended to be block decks with very few cards from outside those three sets. This was fine for testing because it gave you a deck to run through your gauntlet. Examples include Affinity in Mirrodin and Goblin Bidding in Onslaught. Both of those decks didn’t really rely on too many cards that weren’t from their respective blocks.

This made Standard pretty boring (But remember, this is was still coming off the heels of Affinity however the basic concept is there). This also led to not tying into the surrounding blocks in general and have each one fend for itself.

Ravnica changed all of this.

Continue reading “The Interblock Synergy of Ravnica and Theros”

Good Gates Make Good Neighbors

Orzhov Guildgate

This has been a long time coming (though not as long as some other pieces I have in the pipeline). Let’s talk about Gates (Baby).

It all started 10 years ago. One of the fancy improvements to the new card frame was this little feature:

Why “Basic Land – Forest?”
We added “Basic” in order to help new players understand the difference between basic and nonbasic lands. By explaining this distinction on the type line, we did not feel the need to add reminder text to cards like Blood Moon that reference “nonbasic lands.”

We added “Forest” to the forests for two reasons. It allows us to make cards like the Dragon Lairs from Planeshift be “Land – Lair,” and then they need one fewer sentence in their text boxes. This also opens up design space for future cards. In addition, this change allows us to clean up an obscure rule that most of you won’t care about. (For the technically minded: the current rules say that every land has a subtype equal to its name. We needed that rule so that cards like Wood Elves don’t have to say “card named Forest,” but that rule has prevented us from making some cards we wanted to make, plus it’s kind of a silly rule to have anyway – if the cards have subtypes, we should just print them on the cards instead of having them be invisible subtypes. Then we can get rid of that rule because all lands will just have whatever subtypes are printed on them.)

Yes, the “new” frames are turning 10 this year and will have been in Magic the same amount of time as the old frames. But back to the point at hand. Because lands were now free to have a subtype, there were crazy things that you could do with them. It opened up so much design space and when I first read this I was like, “awesome.” Since 8th Edition we have seen the following land subtypes:

  • Eighth Edition – Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power-Plant, Urza’s Tower
  • Mirrodin – Locus
  • Ninth Edition – Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power-Plant, Urza’s Tower
  • Time Spiral – Desert, Urza’s
  • Scars of Mirrodin – Locus
  • Return to Ravnica – Gate

Yeah, huge innovation here. The Urza’s Lands helped with templating, Locus have been on two lands (but both benefit from multiples in play), and Desert is just a Desert to help with powerhouse Camel‘s ability. The Locus subtype is actually pretty powerful so it’s not like it can be really used again and Urza’s Factory is put there because of flavor.

So why hasn’t land subtypes been used more? Continue reading “Good Gates Make Good Neighbors”

The RTR PAX Party

That’s a Breeding Pool. Can you make it out, internet? Believe me!

Probably the most entertaining portion happened later in the night. The Rakdos dance floor was packed as the DJ was spinning song after song. A larger member of the Gruul guild had climbed up onto the stage and started dancing, exposing the tattooed Gruul symbol on his chest. The Rakdos faithful went wild. The eyes of the Azorius, Boros and Selesnya were watching from their higher ground\ trying to decipher the madness below them. The Orzhov were behind the stage, playing games; Golgari were the gate keepers to who came in an left the party. Meanwhile, the Simic were trying their hand with new drink concoctions, the Izzet were steampunking around and the Dimir, hidden from view, were trying to assassinate everyone.

This was the Return to Ravnica PAX party. And I honestly wish you were there.

I’m not gloating that I got to go and you didn’t. I happen to live in the area that both PAX and WotC make their home so it is shear luck that I’m able to do this. I kept getting requests for a link to a live stream of the party so they could watch on their computer, but there isn’t one. It’s a party, and even though I’m a fan of people watching, staring at a computer screen of people dancing, talking while music pumps in the background isn’t much fun. This isn’t a panel where people speak and there’s a Q&A afterwards, this is a full blown party.

With cage dancers.

We’ll get back to them in a moment.

Continue reading “The RTR PAX Party”

Story Blocks

Editor’s Note: Sorry for the lack of any new work lately. I’ve been enjoying time with the baby, but time flies fast. I have enough half written columns that I really need to get something up. I’m looking to do an “All new content” week early in September that will include my almost usual PAX write up (as well as a final redo of the way this blog looks). There will also be new content from me on GatheringMagic as well. You don’t want to hear about personal stuff,  you just want Magic. Alright, here we go.

The riskiest block structure that WotC ever printed was the Ravnica Block. So, by revisiting that plane years later we’re going to get something even more out there. WotC hopes that they strike gold again; I have no doubt that they will. But to understand everything going on we need to return not to Ravnica but to Mirage, the first Block set. From there we can put together all of the pieces that has lead to WotC doing something so drastically different that it could cause some trouble. We’ll get to the history in a moment, but if you didn’t see the San Diego Comic Con panel (and you can with that link), here are the important details. The old Ravnica block looked like this: However, this coming block looks like this: Both Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash are large sets, so the drafting experience goes like this: And what we have here is the biggest and most ambitious set and block design that WotC has ever attempted exceeding the most “complex” block ever: Time Spiral. And how did we get here? Let’s take a history lesson. Continue reading “Story Blocks”

Evidence for Actual Dual Lands in Return to Ravnica

I hate speculation. It’s a waste of time.

So of course, I’m kinda doing it here. Why? Because we all wanted the Ravnica Dual Lands to be reprinted in M13. They weren’t. I argued last year why that was ok, and I’m still sticking to those points. With, sigh, a “Return to Ravnica” around the corner, we know it’s going to be a multi-colored set (Zac Hill even said as much today). It wasn’t a surprise, that’s the plane; it’s like going back to Mirrodin and having us care about the Graveyard. Flavor just doesn’t work that way.

Back to speculation. Sometimes you have no facts to back it up, but just a “gut feeling.” Everywhere people were talking about how Noble Hierarch was “Absolutely” going to be in M13 since they brought back Exalted. “Why not? It fit the name/number crunch and Exalted was in the set.” That was all the evidence that people needed. The evidence against was A) Exalted was only seen in White and Black (The other returning mechanics had splashes), and B) no three colors were ever seen on a card, unless they dealt with Nicol Bolas (Blue/Black/Red). Obviously pushing a Bant card in a set with no “Bant” wasn’t going to happen.

We have evidence though for Dual Lands with Basic Land types for Return to Ravnica. Evidence in this Core Set, M13. We know this because Wizards puts cards in the Core Set that work with the Block printed before, and after (though mostly after). That’s another post in itself, but you get things like Index (helps Miracles) and Disciple of Bolas (Undying and Morbid) that help out the previous block. What “evidence” do we have this time? What could possibly happen that would make me believe that Dual Lands are going to happen in Return to Ravnica.

Because of the increase use of the Basic Land type in M13.

Continue reading “Evidence for Actual Dual Lands in Return to Ravnica”