1800 or Bust!: A Fond Farewell?

I love block rotations. W hat cards will I miss, what mechanics will we see the back of, and what cards didn’t see the play they were supposed to?

Once again, a block rotation is about to occur. For many people, it’s their favourite time of the year – a time of discovery and excitement. For others, it’s a sense of uncertainty, as their tried and tested decks no longer serve them as they once did, losing to newer ideas and strategies.

I fall squarely into the former camp. I love block rotations. I love to see new cards and new (or not-so-new, in some cases) ideas and mechanics fitting into this game we all play so much. This doesn’t mean that I like to see cards go. Blocks of cards rotate out of Type II far too fast for my liking. I’d prefer a set to rotate out on its own (so as Invasion came in we’d have lost Saga, then losing Legacy as Planeshift came in). I know that it’d raise a few hairs in R&D, but they have to think about the interactions between sets for Extended anyway…

So what are we losing with Masques? What cards will I miss, what mechanics will we see the back of and what cards didn’t see the play they were supposed to?

Lots of people will love to see the back of Lin Sivvi and her friends in rebellion. The difficulty of killing her and all of her minions has frustrated more than a few people over the last two years, especially when backed up with counterspells.

Counter spells eh? They’re obviously not good enough if you have to pay mana for them, so let’s make them free.

Who thought of that?

Wasn’t Force of Will a big enough giveaway that counter spells shouldn’t be free to cast? I don’t care if you have to discard two cards or return three islands – they shouldn’t be free. The whole point of Magic is that you have to build up your resources before you can cast spells. Free spells make a mockery of the whole idea and mean that it’s very bloody difficult to get around a player with a lot of counterspells in hand.

From a control player’s point of view I’ll miss them, as they were very unfair. From a Magic player’s point of view, I’m glad they’re on their way out.

A lot of people will be happy to see Saproling Burst and Blastoderm leaving, too. It’ll slow Fires down, maybe even neuter the archetype. One of Fires biggest advantages was its diverse threat types. It’s no use having a Disenchant if your opponent casts a Blasty, or a Wrath if your opponent plays a Chimeric Idol. Fires will now have to rely a little more on creatures – and creatures that can be the target of spells and effects, too.

What of other cards that didn’t see much play? Avatars and mongers all saw a little play – but not much. The mongers’ abilities proved to be a little too helpful to your opponents, and the Avatars proved to be just as vulnerable as any big creatures are. Mercenaries saw some play, but the lack of a Lin Sivvi-like creature for them meant that they were relegated to the second division.

Spellshapers, on the other hand, were a real hit. In both MBC and Type II, spellshapers were used to great effect. Waterfront Bouncer and Kris Mage are, without doubt, the two that saw more play than any other, as reusable bounce and cheap pinging are always in demand. Stampede Driver saw a little play, as did Undertaker, and Devout Witness helped many players out when Wildfire was still a common archetype.

On top of all the generalities, we’ll be losing a bunch of cards that never really saw play, but looked interesting.

Magistrates Sceptre struck me as a combo piece when I first saw it. You only need to find a way to untap it three times and get twelve mana a turn and you’re onto a winner! Of course, if you can do that there are plenty of other, more efficient ways to kill your opponent.

Seahunter and Moggcatcher promised to give us a little more consistency in our Goblin and Merfolk decks, but we were denied the Goblins and Merfolk to really make them work – until Invasion block, and by then four casting-cost creatures were a little too slow against the giant that was Fires, or too vulnerable against the many Wrath-filled decks of Counter Rebel and Probe-Go.

Finally, the Fields. Noxious and Barbed Field offered difficult to prevent land damage to all creatures, or just to one creature, but were never really played. You can understand it in the days of rampant land destruction while Ponza and Wildfire existed in the days of the Urza’s block – but when land destruction took a dive, the Fields stayed unplayed, conventional wisdom being that local enchantments are generally bad for your card advantage unless they are Rancor.

All in all, I’ll miss the Masques block. I’ll miss searching for rebels, removing creatures from the game with Parallax Wave, and especially my favourite three casting-cost, Wrath-proof creature: Chimeric Idol.

Type II players can’t live in the past, though; we leave that for Extended and Type I players. There’ll be a new set this weekend, and it’ll be Type II-legal on November1st.

Ladies and Gentlemen… start your engines.

Cheers, Jim Grimmett

Team PhatBeats.