18,000 Words: The Complete Fifth Dawn Set Review, Part 1

Welcome back from the Fifth Dawn pre-release! The set looks really fun for sealed play, and compliments the rest of the block perfectly for draft. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Welcome back from the Fifth Dawn pre-release! The set looks really fun for sealed play, and compliments the rest of the block perfectly for draft.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Today we’re going to have a little of a history lesson. Tomorrow, I’ll explore the effects of Fifth Dawn on Type 1. On Wednesday, we’ll move forward towards Extended. Thursday will be Standard day (which I’m sure is the day the majority of you are looking forward to), and Friday will bring the end of the week – and a look at which Fifth Dawn cards will have an impact on MD5 Block Constructed (I love saying MD5!).


Doesn’t that sound so much better than MBC or Mirrodin Block Constructed or OBC or OLS or MDF? MD5 sounds like a sleek vehicle, perhaps a Delorian or a Lamborghini. MDF sounds like a division of some space police which is situated on a remote asteroid, patrolling the solar system in search of threats to life on Earth.


MD5, I’ll form the head!

It’s only fitting to make a Voltron reference here, because Fifth Dawn has more combo-oriented cards than any set since Urza Block. In a way, Magic has come full circle since the days of combo winter/Mercadian Masques block.

A brief Magical timeline:

1) Urza’s Saga sees print. Combo decks run rampant, fuelled by the likes of Tolarian Academy, Time Spiral, Voltaic Key, and other combo-oriented cards.

2) Urza’s Legacy sees print. Combo decks continue to run amok, with the additions of Memory Jar, Grim Monolith, Frantic Search, and others.

3) Massive bannings ensue in Standard, because games were ending with second and third turn kills.

4) Mercadian Masques is powered down horrifically, as a knee-jerk reaction to the brokenness of Urza’s block.

5) People flee Magic in droves – first because of the second and third turn kills in Urza’s block, and then from the underpoweredness of Masques block.

6) Wizards hires Randy Buehler for R&D.

7) Invasion block is a huge success, and the modular (not the ability) nature of the cards are a popular smash with the players.

8) Magic sees a surge in popularity, due to many well-designed blocks that have powerful yet not-broken spells and lands.

9) Wizards keeps pushing the power envelope of cards, looking for the line where a card will finally need to be banned because it is too good.

10) This happens with the printing of Skullclamp in Darksteel.

11) Fifth Dawn happens – and while MD5 block is probably the most popular draft format since Invasion block, the combo-oriented nature of the cards harkens back to Urza’s block. Several cards push the barriers of combo engines, for all formats. Many candidates are likely for restriction in Type One, and banning for Extended. Standard and Block await the verdict on Skullclamp (which will 99.99% get banned in Standard this coming June 1st).

12) Kamigawa block will be a”different type of set,” meaning that either it will continue the power push with recent sets, or will roll back down to the modular nature of Invasion, where there were a ton of playable cards but nothing horrifically broken.

It’s interesting to see that Magic has come full circle in the past few years. We’ve definitely reached a crescendo in the power level of cards in the sets, where a slight push on a few combo-oriented cards would end with a major dive off of a cliff. Invasion brought about popular multi-color decks, where the sheer number of mana fixers made virtually any color combination possible and playable. Mirrodin Block has a large number of mana fixers, with Fifth Dawn being a set designed around multiple colors of mana. However, there will not be as many playable color combinations. This is not a design fault, but a metagame fault – with Skullclamp and potential combo decks running rampant, all decks will not be on an even playing field.

Over the next few days, I’ll be taking a look at the impact of Fifth Dawn on Constructed formats. Intrinsically, many set reviews are flawed because they rate cards across several formats a once – Block, Standard, Extended, 1.5, 5 Color, Type 1, Booster Draft, Team Sealed, Casual Play, Group Games, and others. This dilutes the usefulness of said set reviews, because the result of these explorations tends to get mired by disclaiming”this card is good in one format but bad in another,” which sends crossed signals to the reader.

With this model in mind, my set reviews will come over a five-day period:

Day One: Today, in which I explain the set reviews.

Day Two: Tomorrow, when I’ll take a look at Type One. I’ll also discuss which decks in the format gain the most, and which cards might need to be restricted in both in and because of Fifth Dawn.

Day Three: Wednesday. We’ll move forward through time to Extended, and see which cards will impact this format.

Day Four: Thursday. Naturally this will be Standard day, and we’ll be discussing the largest quantity of cards. Are all the chase cards what they’re hyped up to be? Yes and no.

Day Five: To end the week, we’ll take a peek at the metagame for the PTQ season as of June 20th, 2004. Will there still only be three viable decks (Ravager, Big Red, and TwelvePost) or will new powerhouses emerge?

See you all over the next few days!