At the Gathering – Dr. Rosewater, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mythic.

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Wednesday, September 30th – This has been a tumultuous week in Magic. First came the revelation of Lotus Cobra at Mythic, which many people are pointing to, along with Warren Instigator and Mindbreak Trap, as proof that Wizards is in fact a horrible, evil entity, replete with (Magic) Missiles aimed at our homes and children, and determined to run off their customers, but milking them for all their cash as fast as possible first!

The scene: Mark Rosewater, in a dark blue three piece suit, with a Blue mana symbol tie, and a flannel overcoat, is about to speak in front of the Congress of Magic. Delegates from Mirrodin, Dominaria, Ravnica, Alara, among others, and even a representative of the lost realm of Serra are present. There are areas of gathered Planeswalkers as well, with representatives from many different groups of players, writers, and even judges. In the back, Chandra and Ajani Vengeant discuss the joys of fire, while Nicol Bolas accepts tribute from a number of yet unrecognizable creatures. I chat with Riki about the next piece of original art we seem destined to fight over, then make my way to my seat. I don’t want to miss the speech.

“Gentleman,” an unseen emcee announces. “Mr. Mark Rosewater.”

There is applause, and even a few hoots and whistles. Mirri appears to have thrown some sort of leotard onstage. Awkward.

“Before I jump into what I said and didn’t say, let me make this point clear. When I wrote this, R&D was still forming its ideas about what mythic rare was supposed to be. An important part of Magic design and development is allowing the game to adapt and evolve. Our ideas and beliefs shift as we get more information. I wrote this when R&D had zero feedback (from players, retailers, distributors, etc.) about mythic rares.”

There is an audible pause, as if he’s analyzing the audience. The mood is… tenuous? I wonder how the after-party will go.

“Now let me get to what was and wasn’t said. A lot of people seem to want to attribute to me things I didn’t actually say. For example, I did not say mythic rares wouldn’t be powerful. I did not say mythic rares wouldn’t ever be tournament-viable. I did not say that mythic rares would never have low mana costs. The dividing line that R&D made between rares and mythic rares was this (and yes, in retrospect I could have been a little clearer on this point): We wanted mythic rares to feel special. We wanted them to be cards that felt worthy of being mythic rare.”

Then, before Mr. Rosewater can continue, a cry comes out from the back!

“You Lie!”

We all turn to see who is shouting, but all we see is ourselves. Did we yell this outcry? No, it is Mirror Entity, but is he merely reflecting our internal thoughts? What is really going on here?

This has been a tumultuous week in Magic. First came the revelation of Lotus Cobra at Mythic, which many people are pointing to, along with Warren Instigator and Mindbreak Trap, as proof that Wizards is in fact a horrible, evil entity, replete with (Magic) Missiles aimed at our homes and children, and determined to run off their customers, but milking them for all their cash as fast as possible first!

Then, we find out that the Candelabra was real! The cake is not a lie! Okay, maybe the cake is a lie, but the power is the truth. Sorry, for those not playing the home version of our game, it was revealed that yes, older, original cards are in fact to be found in very limited packs of Zendikar. Confirmed cards include Dual lands, Moxen, Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus, among others. Reports place the total number of individual card possibilities at over 90. Initial estimates are placing the ratio anywhere from 1:360 to 1:1000 packs, although many seem to be settling in at the 1:720 packs (every 20 boxes) ratio. Patrick Chapin spent roughly the first half of his article covering it, and rightly so. This is pretty big news, and likely would have sold out Zendikar, if it weren’t already sold out. Curiosity abounds at whether or not they’ll do it again in the second run. If they do, I imagine sales for this set will continue at record highs.

All of that, and we haven’t even gotten to the prerelease!

First, let me cover the Mythic thing. I want to outline some of my thoughts on the three aforementioned cards, and what my take on them is. First, a disclaimer:

This is all personal opinion. Heck, the definition of Mythic is about as subjective as you can get. How does it feel? That’s practically the exact definition of subjective. So please keep that in mind when you too have an opinion on the mythic status of a card.

Here. We. Go.

Lotus Cobra:
Mythic: There are some pretty amazing things you can do with this, as evidenced by the “Turn 3 Ultimatum” examples running around. For those of you not in the know, it goes a little like this: Turn 1, Birds of Paradise. Turn 2, Fetchland, Lotus Cobra. Turn 3, Fetchland again (+1 mana) crack both Fetchlands (+2 more mana, for a total of +3 mana) tap 3 lands and the Birds for a total of 7 mana. Cast the Ultimatum of your choice that contains Green, typically. Seems Mythic. Furthermore, R&D may have decided “Let’s make a mana-accelerating Mythic that will allow you to do crazy things with the right nutso draw,” and that card also happened to also have good utility.
Not-Mythic: It does appear to have some pretty good utility, and most Green archetypes seem like they could utilize this guy pretty well. He removes the drawback for lands that Enter the Battlefield Tapped, because you can still effectively use the mana on that turn. I’m not sure playability should make a difference, but many people equate its ease of playability with its utility. While some may argue the term Lotus is Mythic, I don’t think anyone would accept Lotus Petal at Mythic were it to see reprint. Lotus Cobra is like sex: When it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

My personal stance: Undecided. This one could go either way, really, although I lean towards Mythic.

Warren Instigator:
Mythic: This card allows you some crazy good draws, but with far more consistency than Cobra. By that, I mean it’s easier to do something Mythic-feeling with him than Cobra. Cobra has more normal usage than Instigator, which seems to feel like Instigator has less utility. If Instigator doesn’t get its amazing use, it’s pretty bad, while Cobra is still a good accelerant. For instance, Colossal Might and this guy seems really good, just like Lotus Cobra and Sac-lands are good. But Lotus Cobra is good with all lands, while the Goblin needs specific cards to help, especially Goblins in hand. Unlike Lotus Cobra, Warren Instigator isn’t good unless it’s really good.
Not-Mythic: It’s a goblin, cheap, and could be amazing in the right builds. I don’t see the utility of the card, as I think it needs to capable of more widespread use than just a goblin deck. Take Bitterblossom, for example. Very good in Faeries, but also good in tons of other decks. Perhaps there’s a correlation between utility and splash-ability?

My personal stance: Mythic

Mindbreak Trap:
Mythic: It exiles spells, even spells that can’t be countered. Furthermore, it does it to as many spells as you want. (Or more feasibly, are on the stack.) The power can’t be denied, but I’m not sure it feels Mythic. It is only good in certain situations, (Storm, uber-cascade, etc.) otherwise it’s a four mana “Exile up to two target spells” which seems like a natural upgrade to the three mana Double Negative. Add one mana, add the ability to counter uncounterable spells as necessary. Perhaps that’s where the Mythic-ness lies, in the ability to counter the uncounterable?
Not-Mythic: Counterspells are hard to justify as Mythic, because they feel like they have a lot of utility. Furthermore, making its alternate cost 0 instead of, say, U gives it far more utility, in that it can be used by any deck, even without U mana, as a “splash.” Heck, it’s not even really a splash, as you don’t have to really change anything if it’s a hate card. Is this an instant speed hate for Storm? The zero cost hate that’s a corollary to Tormod’s Crypt?

My personal stance: Mythic, but just barely.

So, there’s my view on the Mythics. Do I think any of them are horribly powerful tournament staple utility cards gone wrong? No. They’re cards that need specific interactions to work, and do not have the broad-ranging utility of man-lands or Thoughtseize. Are they good? Yeah, probably, but is that an issue?

Moving on to the prerelease weekend, I managed to get in on three drafts. In the midnight 8-man draft, I managed a decent 3-1 record with Blue/Green ramp. I had two Khalni Heart Expedition and a Harrow, and used that to get enough beats in with River Boas and friends. I lost to some sort of Black/X deck, and definitely made a lot of mistakes in that match.

When I got to the site the next day after work, I managed to jump into a non-sanctioned three-versus-three team draft with some guys, and completely sucked it up. I won the first match against U/B, then lost a hard fought match against a U/W deck that I should have beat, but didn’t. Then, in the final match, I actually punted the game away with the win in hand. It may be the most embarrassing play I’ve ever made. Opponent at 12, two cards in hand. I have a Woodfall Baloth in play with a Hellfire Mongrel, and another Hellfire Mongrel in hand. I got all cute, cast a Rampaging Baloths, played a land to get a 4/4 and give my Rampaging Baloths pump and trample, swing for 8, and pass with him at four. Instead, I should have just played the land, beat for 8, and then played the second Mongrel, passing the turn and WINNING THE GAME. Instead, I lost game 1, won game 2, and then lost game 3 when he swung for 46 in one turn with double Woodfall Baloth, Harrow, Fetchland.

After that little episode, I announced I was forcing Black in the main event, and would suicide with anyone who tried to get in my way. I will pass pretty much anything not a bomb, just stay out of Black. If you are drafting Black, I will take you down with me. It worked pretty well, as my deck had not one, not two, not even three, but four Hideous End, 2 Disfigure, and a Gatekeeper of Malakir to boot. A splash for Light Blue to get some card draw and a Sphinx of Jwar Isle gave me enough gas to go undefeated throughout the whole show. Most times I would drop one of three Vampire Lacerators, back it up with plenty of removal, and win with 2-3 small beaters and a metric ton of removal.

I think Black is very good in this format, and the removal is very good. There is enough removal and common early drops that B/x can be a very powerful archetype, and it will be interesting to see how the format evolves in the next three months.

Sadly, we did not see any priceless treasures in any of the events of the day, but then again we didn’t have as many people as some locations. We’re hoping to get some on our double Launch Party weekend.

Until next time, this is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice.