Ben Bleiweiss’s Guide to Everything Time Spiral, Part 1 (White)

Tired of the traditional set review? Ben Bleiweiss’s Guide to Everything Time Spiral is a look not only at the strategic value of Time Spiral, but the relation of Time Spiral to the history of Magic, to the Magic community, and to the hot-topic issues of Magic.

Are you as tired of traditional set reviews as I am? You know the type:

* = This card is so bad that I used it as kindling.

** = Two starts means it’s half as good as four stars, but twice as good as one star!

*** = Maybe this card will see play, maybe it won’t — I’m covering all my bases!

**** = Bravo! It was much, much better than cats.

***** = I would allow this card to make puppies with my Shih Tzu.

What’s the point of ranking these cards? All it does is give people fodder for arguing against what is said, instead of concentrating on the matter at hand — does this card have a use, and if so, what? Who cares if Meloku is four or five stars? All that you want to know is “Gee, this guy looks pretty decent. I like men who make 1/1 flying tokens with little drawback.”

The only two people on this planet excepted from this are Zvi Mowshowitz and Ted Knutson.

Many times, the little details that go into making a set are lost to the players. R&D, creative, whatever section of Wizards of the Coast you hail from — this article is for you! I, for one, appreciate your work, enough so that probably half this series is going to be dedicated to the cards themselves, and not just to “Hey, play this in Sligh you knuckleheads.” Time Spiral is a set rich with Magic’s history, so why not embrace that aspect full on and delve straight into the Belly of the Beast?

Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Akroma won the “You decide!” vote on MagicTheGathering.com around the end of March this year. A few months later, Akroma was in Time Spiral, as one of the Timeshifted cards. Coincidence or fate? Who knows — either way, Akroma is clearly the most popular Legend ever printed (to date), and was the basis of advertising the Time Spiral reprint cards both in print and on television. Adult Swim ads (on the Cartoon Network, in case you’re living under a rock) were the first official source to break the Timeshifted cards, whereas several other cards – Mindless Automation, Consecrate Land, Sengir Autocrat, Shadowmage Infiltrator, Fire Whip, and Evil Eyes of Orms-By-Gore — were leaked in an auction on eBay days earlier.

One of the contentions that Wizards of the Coast has had with unofficial spoiler information is that wrong impressions can be garnered from a set based on the wrong cards being leaked at the wrong time. I’ll offer up the eBay auction as evidence — let’s say that all of the above cards had been spoiled, minus Shadowmage Infiltrator. The first introduction to Timeshifted cards would have been a mediocre Exodus artifact, an uninteresting Unlimited reprint a-la the forgotten Invisibility and Dwarven Demolition Team in 8th Edition, a Hectomb-enabling Homelands rare, Psionic Gift, and a 3/6 control creature from the summer of Fires of Yavimaya in Standard. These are hardly cards that inspire excitement in players, aside from the novel concepts of A) reprints being in Time Spiral with B) the old card frames and the Time Spiral expansion symbol.

On the flip side, I think Wizards did themselves and the community a disservice by attempting to hide/not explain the Timeshifted cards until after the Time Spiral prerelease was held. Attendance at the Richmond prerelease smashed previous prerelease attendance records, and the Timeshifted cards were almost universally praised. I can only think that there would have been even more people coming to our event (and other events worldwide) if they knew about the existence of the Timeshifted cards — but since the majority of the Magic-playing population did not, this was not to be.

In addition, the lack of a list of the reprinted cards hurt a lot of non-dealers at the prerelease. There are 121 reprinted cards, but they weren’t listed on the Time Spiral checklist — instead, there were empty slots where you were supposed to hand-write these cards. This means that, aside from word of mouth and self-verification, players who came into the Time Spiral prerelease had to either read MTGsalvation.com or risk getting ripped-off during trading. I’m sure that there were many floor dealers across the world who were targeting the less-than-informed at their prereleases to grad the hotter (Call of the Herd, Shadowmage Infiltrator) reprinted cards, due to player ignorance.

In short, I don’t believe that the benefits of the “pristine prerelease experience” (attending a prerelease without knowing the cards in advance) is worth decreased attendance and fostering an environment where players can get ripped off in trades at prereleases. What I read into the increase in prerelease attendance this time around is as follows: make a good set, and you’ll get a higher attendance and have higher sales (Ravnica block, Time Spiral). Make a bad set, and your attendance will go down and sales will suffer (Kamigawa block, Coldsnap). This is not to say that Kamigawa block and Coldsnap are horrible products — it’s just to say that relative to other set, they are worse.

Amrou Scout
I’m really surprised that Wizards didn’t reprint Whipcorder in this set. He’s a relatively popular guy, who combines both the Morph and Rebel mechanics. Maybe they intend on adding more Rebels to future sets in this block (or into 10th edition), and they didn’t want to overstuff the set with Rebels right now.

On a side note, remember Amrou Kithkin? I’m really confused about the Amrou and the Kithkin. According to the flavor text of Amrou Scout, Amrou is a nationality, whereas, by creature type, Kithkin would be more of a race. For instance, Amrou Scout (from the nation of Amrou) is a Scout (occupation), Rebel (Designation) and Kithkin (Race, like Elf). What does that make Amrou Kithkin? If Magic cards were equivalent to real life, that would be like having a card called “American White” or “Asian Chinese”. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

Amrou Seekers
While we’re on the topic of the Amrou not making sense, what exactly is the “special ability” of the Amrou? The original was unblockable by large creatures, whereas the two new Amrou are a Rebel search engine, and a Severed Legions mixed with Seeker (from Legends and 4th Edition). My gut feeling is that they should have given Amrou Scout some form of evasion, even if it was horribly bad, just for flavor reasons. For instance, maybe Amrou Scout could have had “Amrou Scout cannot be blocked by creatures with one power or less.” Just saying. Without that, it’s kind of hard to see a reason for the existence of Amrou in general — it’s just one more meaningless adjective.

Angel’s Grace
That angel would be Platinum Angel. This is a handy tool for dealing with non-traditional forms of losing the game (for instance, decking), and might see play in Extended as an anti-Storm tool. Bet you thought there wouldn’t be any strategy talk in this article, eh?

Aaron Stevenson, who is in charge of eBay for StarCityGames.com, really loves his Legacy Enchantress deck. I keep jokingly bringing up Auratog as a card that he’d want to run in the deck, but he doesn’t seem to listen. I don’t blame him though — most Atogs in Magic have been pretty bad.

To date, there have been twelve Atogs in Magic. They are, in order of introduction:

Atog: From Antiquities. Atog saw some play during Mirrodin block, when he was inserted into a block filled with artifacts. Outside of that, he’s pretty much filler. Atog had a key role in revolutionizing the distribution of rarities in base sets. Wizards of the Coast received numerous complaints that Atog was a common in Revised, whereas no artifacts were. This led many players to end up with dozens of Atogs, and less than a dozen artifacts to feed to him — and most of those artifacts were Crystal Rod, Wooden Sphere, Throne of Bone, Iron Star, and Ivory Cup. Since they, Wizards has made an effort to keep from making cards more common than the other cards they need to function.

Foratog: From Mirage, and later reprinted in 8th Edition. Both times, Foratog was pretty awful. In fact, the main use for Foratog, back in the good ol’ days, was as a sacrifice outlet so your opponent couldn’t Forestwalk on your Erhnam Djinn.

Chronatog: From Visions. Chronatog was played in both Mirage block constructed (after all, a 4/5 blocker on turn two is nothing to sneeze at), Standard, and in Vintage. Yes, Vintage. Chronatog, outside of Time Vault, is the easiest way to skip your own turn, every turn, in Magic. This can be beneficial if you want your opponent to be decimated by, say Smokestack, or, in Standard at the time, if you want to lock your opponent down permanently with Kismet/Stasis.

Necratog: Part of a PTQ-winning deck in Mirage Block Constructed that revolved around Ertai’s Pet, Tolarian Serpent, and Necromancy. Otherwise, Necratog wasn’t really played — Barrow Ghoul served a much better purpose for the role of “large fatty feeding off of the creature cards in your graveyard.”

Auratog: As you might notice, the five first Atogs formed a mega-color cycle of Atogs that spanned over the course of five sets and three blocks. Auratog would have been better suited for Urza’s Block (which revolved around enchantments as a subtheme) than Tempest block. Auratog saw play in Enchantress decks back when they liked to use Rancor for the win, but nowadays Enchantress decks just like to go infinite and then Brain Freeze you dead.

Atogatog: Originally slated for Unglued II (later known as Unhinged), Atogatog is, quite possibly, the worst five-color card in all of Magic. Worse than Karona, False God because at least Karona can win you the game. Atogatog might as well be a 5/5 for five, and I’d rather play Silverback Ape.

Lithatog: Almost there…

Phantatog: Almost there…

Psychatog: There we go! Quite possibly the best creature in Magic’s history. Definitely in the top five, without debate. Psychatog has defined multiple formats, from inception to present. I’ve said a lot about Psychatog in my “Top 50 Gold Cards” article on MagictheGathering.com, but chances are you already know how good Tog is.

Sarcatog, Thaumatog: I’m contractually obligated to mention these guys.

Megatog: You wouldn’t think much of a 3/4 for six mana, but Megatog singlehandedly killed many an opponent during Mirrodin Block Constructed in Big Red decks. This would not have been the case without the existence of artifact lands, but when you can use Great Furnace as both a mana source and a no-mana Predator’s Strike, good things can happen.

Benalish Cavalry
The original Benalish card, Benalish Hero, has banding. Banding is conspicuously absent from Time Spiral. Instead, we get a 2/2 for two with flanking — and that was quite good on Fallen Askari, back in the day. There are no previous Cavalry cards in Magic with flanking, and there are no previous Benalish cards in Magic with flanking. It kind of makes you wonder how, when you combine Benalia and Cavalry, you end up with a flanking creature.

Castle Raptors
These guys are pretty unexciting, so let’s talk about Castle instead. Here’s the as-printed text on Castle from various sets:

Alpha: Your untapped creatures gain +0/+2. Attacking creatures lose this bonus.
Beta: Your untapped creatures gain +0/+2. Attacking creatures lose this bonus.
Unlimited: Your untapped creatures gain +0/+2. Attacking creatures lose this bonus.
Revised: Your untapped creatures gain +0/+2. Attacking creatures do not get this bonus.
4th: Untapped creatures you control get +0/+2 when not attacking.
5th: Each untapped creature you control gets +0/+2 unless it is attacking.
6th: Untapped creatures you control get +0/+2.

Hands up if you can explain the arbitrary functional change made to this card starting with 6th Edition? From Alpha through 5th Edition, Castle gave +0/+2 to untapped, non-attacking creatures. Pretty much the only time this mattered was with Serra Angel, the prototypical Vigilance creature. Maybe that’s why they took out the “non-attacking” clause. Still, the original intent of the Alpha version of the card is clear, and remained the same through 5th Edition. If they wanted to change the entire functionality of Castle, they could have just printed a new card. I don’t see them changing Terror to take out the “non-artifact” clause just because it suits their needs.

Cavalry Master
Many players don’t realize that flanking is a triggered ability, as it was not triggered previous to the 6th Edition rules change. Prior to the major rules overhaul with 6th Edition, if you blocked a flanking creature with a one-toughness non-flanking creature, your blocker would die immediately, before you had any chance to use their activated abilities. Flankers would kill Dream Fighter before Phasing happened. Under 6th Edition rules (which are the current rules), flanking is triggered, uses the stack, and can be responded to. If a creature has two instances of flanking it gives non-flanking, blocking creatures —2/-2.

Celestial Crusader
I think that this guy is pretty exciting, even though 2/2 flyers for four are a dime a dozen in White. The ability to drop Crusade into play, as an uncounterable instant, seems well worth two mana. Add a 2/2 flying body onto that effect, and you’ve got a winner. Will this be played in Standard or Block? Maybe, but I think that many people will overlook it in Standard at first, since they see Ekundu Griffin, and not Crusade-on-crack.

Celestial Dawn
This used to be one of the top three chase cards in Mirage, behind Grinning Totem and Hammer of Bogardan. Nowadays, I’m sure it’ll have a lot of appeal to casual players (see Fist of Suns), but we know better about the value of such effects.

Children of Korlis
Martyrs of Korlis are the only other Korlis card in Magic, but both they and the Children are of a race that is dedicated to sacrifice for others. It says as much on the flavor text of this card! Unfortunately, this is probably worse than Holy Day/Kami of False Hope, as you still have to gain it back, meaning if you get hit by a lethal spell/attack, you’re just plain dead before you can sacrifice.

Black and White, more so than any other colors in Magic, have mirror-image cards. White Knight/Black Knight, Hand of Honor/Hand of Cruelty, Stromgald Crusader/White Shield Crusader — most of the time, these are contained to smaller creatures. Chronosavant is the mirror image of Necrosavant, except you skip turns instead of sacrificing creatures in order to cheat it into play. Note that Chronosavant is in the same pose as the skeleton on Necrosavant — that’s a nice homage paid there. Does anyone know why this guy needed two drawbacks — both skipping a turn and coming-into-play tapped? Shouldn’t skipping a turn be enough?

Cloudchaser Kestrel
For what it’s worth, Ronom Unicorn and Kami of the Ancient Law seem to be better choices than Monk Realist and Cloudchaser Kestrel, although that might be a function of power/toughness ratio rather than now versus later. Seal of Fire/Shock each have pros/cons, whereas there haven’t been equal effects for equal cost on creatures. We can debate whether Ronom Unicorn is better than a “comes-into-play” enchantment destroyer when Wizards prints a 2/2 for W1 that destroys and enchantment when it comes into play.

Consecrate Land
There seems to be quite a few Uncommons from Alpha/Beta/Unlimited that get reprinted over the years. For the most part, they have been pretty awful — Invisibility and Dwarven Demolition Team spring to mind. Consecrate Land is probably going to fall into that category, unless there’s some reallllly spectacular manlands somewhere in this coming block. You can’t even use Consecrate Land with Genjus (which are rotating out of Standard anyhow) because they are destroyed by the Consecrate effect. If you really are worried about land destruction, play Sacred Ground or the newly printed Flagstones of Trokair.

D’Avenant Healer
The first, and only other, D’Avenant creature is the Archer. Printed in Legends (and many other base sets since), the Archer set the precedent for White getting the Tim/Ping ability, except only against attacking or blocking creatures. Previously, Green had this ability, but only in spells — Sandstorm, for instance. Sandstorm, much later on, became Blades. Meanwhile, Green got Hail Storm, which makes a return visit in this set.

In general, it seems like White and Green share an overlap in more allied abilities than any other color pair in Magic. Do any other colors even have an overlapping spell like Naturalize/Disenchant right now? Both colors destroy artifacts and enchantments, both colors gain life, both with spells and on creatures, and both colors have a lot of creature pumping spells – Green’s tend to focus on individual creatures, such as Giant Growth, whereas White’s tend to focus on all creatures in play, such as Kjeldoran War Cry. Part of the problem with Green, as a color, is a lack of identity. The failure to distinguish many of Green and White’s strengths stems from this.

Defiant Vanguard
Back when Rebels dominated Mercadian Masques/Nemesis constructed (something along 70% of the field of PT: NY 2000 was Rebels), Wizards of the Coast decided to fix the format by banning Lin Sivvi and Rishadan Port. In later years, many debated if Lin Sivvi was the right Rebel to ban to help keep the Rebel deck in check — many felt that Ramosian Sergeant was the true culprit. Few decks in the format could deal with a turn 1 rebel, whereas a turn 3 summoning-sick Lin Sivvi was much less of a problem. To whit — when Rebels was ported into Standard and duked it out with Fires of Yavimaya for deck-of-the-format during Regionals 2001, Ramosian Sergeant was the best drop in the deck, not Lin Sivvi.

In the new Standard, there will be nine Rebels — two that can search (Amrou Scout and Defiant Vanguard) and seven others (Amrou Seekers, Ballista Squad, Children of Koilos, Errant Doomsayers, Knights of the Holy Nimbus, Outrider en-Kor, Zealot il-Vec). Most of these are actually quite playable, but the lack of searchers (the original Rebel chain contained three times as many searchers as are available now) will probably keep Rebels from being a competitive deck — for now. There’s always later in the block for more Rebels!

Detainment Spell
It came as a complete shock to me that Pithing Needle ended up being the most expensive card in Kamigawa block. Pithing Needle will probably hold a lot of its value, since it is very usable in Extended — and Vintage and Legacy, if you don’t subscribe to Null Rod. The second most valuable card in Kamigawa block was Umezawa’s Jitte, and that piece of equipment will also hold value — it’s played in Extended, Legacy and Vintage. The Jitte was the in the Rat’s Nest theme deck, which helped keep its value from going completely bazonkers. If the Jitte wasn’t available in that theme deck, it would have topped the north end of $30 during States/Regionals time. Note that both of these cards are artifacts, and both can be played in a variety of decks.

Detainment Spell, unlike those two, is not and will not.

What’s the value of a Disenchant? If you believe Naturalize is a staple card (and I do believe it is, even if it’s as a four-of in the sideboard), then Disenchant is as well. However, Disenchant is among the most printed non-land cards in Magic — it’s seen service in Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, Anthologies, Battle Royale, Ice Age, Mercadian Masques, Mirage, Tempest, Urza’s Saga, Collector’s Edition (and International Collector’s Edition), as a promo card, and as a foil promo card.

The great divide between Timeshifted cards and previous versions of cards is that, for all intents and purposes, Timeshifted cards are all rares. It isn’t hard to approximate the value of cards that were previously rares — Shadowmage Infiltrator and Call of the Herd will return to their Standard price-ceilings of around $12-$15 each. There’s no reason to think they won’t — this is what happens when cards are printed in the base set, and the base set is essentially a 350 card Timeshifted set.

It is more difficult to gauge the price difference for cards that have jumped rarity, such as Avalanche Riders and Withered Wretch. If these cards are $2 cards as uncommons, what are they worth as rares? My guess is around $5-$7.50 each, but the existence of a readily-available supply of older versions will suppress the price to a degree. I anticipate the Uncommon versions of these cards rising halfway to meet the rare versions of these cards.

And then there’s Disenchant. There are a quabillion Disenchants out there. If this was the first set that had Disenchant, it’d be a $3-$5 card (see Hide/Seek). It’s not, and there are a lot of Disenchants already on the market. The Time Spiral version of Disenchant has two things going for it — A) It’s a Rare, and B) It’s a black-bordered version of the original Disenchant picture, and that’s always been the most popular picture on Disenchant. My guess is that the Timeshifted Disenchant will settle in the $1-$1.50 range, but that the foil version will be in the $7-$10 range.

Divine Congregation
Wizards has been going out of their way to stop Limited stalemates in recent blocks, and for the most part they’ve been successful. Gone are the days of 30-33 turn Limited games — back in the day, a well-constructed defensive deck in Saga block could stall the game to a decking. Congregate was a primary offender in that sort of archetype, capable of gaining its caster a full game’s worth of life in a single cast.

Divine Congregation is a descendant of Congregate (note the name and mana cost), but it’s nowhere near as good. It’s a Sorcery and it only counts the creatures on one side of the board. Suspend costs on cards seem to be weighted in one of three directions:

Suspend acts as a way to get your board set up
Suspend gives an alternate cost to a high-cost spell, or
Suspend trades time for mana.

Divine Congregation falls into the first category, since the two-mana savings isn’t proportionate to the five-turn delay. Some Suspend cards are quite juicy — this one is just a bad Congregate, suspend or no. And by bad Congregate, I mean in the “Grizzly Bears versus Wild Mongrel” sense, not in the “Shock versus Lightning Bolt” sense.

Duskrider Peregrine
As opposed to Divine Congregation, Duskrider Peregrine lands in the second category — suspend cards that have an alternate cost to a high-mana spell. If you suspend Duskrider Peregrine on turn two, you get a 3/3 haste pro-Black creature on turn 5 — essentially, Melesse Spirit. If you don’t suspend Duskrider Peregrine, you get a 3/3 pro-Black creature on turn 6. The difference is noticeable, but not as noticeable as on something like Divine Congregation.

Is suspend worth it on cards such as this? If you draw Duskrider Peregrine later in the game, it’s pretty suboptimal compared to other five/six drops that White has access to. If you suspend it on turn 2, you’ll have a pretty good flyer dropping down on turn 5 — plus you won’t need to tap any mana, so a control deck will have a field day protecting unsuspended creatures with massive counterspell backup. I tend to think that suspend spells in category two are going to be worth it for control decks, but not as worth it for aggressive or tempo decks (tempo decks tend to need spells right now, and not three-to-five turns from now). Combo decks? We’ll get to combo and suspend in Wednesday’s column.

Enduring Renewal
The original Enduring Renewal deck of note, Pebbles (including Fruity and Dark pebbles, depending on your color choice), was one of the early combo decks that was capable of winning convincingly. The deck usually revolved around a zero-drop creature (typically Phyrexian Walker or Shield Sphere), Enduring Renewal, and Goblin Bombardment. Once you got the combo set up, you could recur the zero-drop creature an infinite number of times, killing your opponent.

No such engine exists in Standard right now, at least as a three-card combination. There is Ornithopter, but there is no sacrifice outlet that can double as a kill condition. This is not the case for Extended — combine Enduring Renewal, Blasting Station and Ornithopter for a three-card kill that is only one mana more expensive (and a colorless mana, to boot — no more unnecessary Red!) than the original. This deck is capable of killing as soon as turn 3 (acceleration on turn 1, Blasting Station on turn 2, Enduring Renewal on turn 3), so it definitely warrants at least a look-see.

Errant Doomsayers
The other end of Aysen Bureaucrats from Homelands/5th Edition. These are a Rebel, so if there’s a good Rebel deck at some point, expect it to see play. Otherwise, they don’t see like a great choice for any sort of control deck, unless the format is suddenly overrun by weenies with less than two toughness. Right now, Kird Ape and Watchwolf set the post-Kamigawa Standard for large weenies, although White/Black has smaller creatures.

Essence Sliver
Essence Sliver was always overshadowed by Exalted Angel — both were in the same block, but somehow a 4/5 flyer with Spirit Link seems better than a Hill Giant with Spirit Link. Slivers are going to be a good deck again in the new Standard, so this might see play a second time around. That seems to be the focus of many of these Timeshifted cards — cards that were overshadowed by a ridiculously powerful card the first time around, but might be viewed in a more favorable light in the new format.

Evangelize is the descendant of Preacher, from The Dark. If it were an Instant, it’d be somewhat playable, even though five mana is a lot for a conditional Control Magic. As a sorcery, I doubt any decks are going to play it. Aggro doesn’t want to play a spell like this, and control doesn’t want to tap out to get another deck’s worst creature. Instead, I’d recommend going to the local bookatorium, and picking up the Garth Ennis Preacher series. It’s a few years old now, but it’s quite a good read even now. Mike Flores, care to chime in about Preacher in the forums?

Flickering Spirit
It looks like Blinking Spirit, but it blinks like Flicker. Hence, it’s Flickering Spirit! If I had to pay four for a 2/2 White Flyer, I’d more likely go with Celestial Crusader than this. Four mana is a lot to pay to dodge removal/stall the board, and the 2/2 body isn’t large enough to seal the deal late game.

Foriysian Interceptor
Just to note, the Interceptor in the artwork are the soldiers in the foreground, and not the monster in the background. Don’t pay attention to that Two-Headed Giant of Foriys — it’s just there for show. This card is also in the set just for show, because nobody will play a 0/5 instant defender in Constructed.

People still have interest in Army of Allah, but there are many better cards than Army of Allah that have been printed over the years. Fortify is probably the best three-cost version of that spell ever printed. Path of Anger’s Flame only pumps offense — this spell can pump either offense or defense. Will it be playable in Constructed? Maybe in block, as Fortify can double as a finishing spell or as protection against direct-damage based mass-removal. I don’t think it’ll be played too much (if at all) because you need a critical mass of creatures to get this going.

Gaze of Justice
Hand of Justice is on the Reserve List, so it couldn’t be reprinted. For those who are not familiar with the Reserve list, let me give you a history.

Back in 1995, Wizards decided to print an expansion set for 4th Edition. This set contained cards from Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark. However, many of the cards reprinted in Chronicles (and in 4th Edition) plummeted in value by being reprinted. Why was this?

Back in the day, and we’re talking 1993-1995, Magic cards were extremely rare. The entire print run of early sets sold old almost immediately, and there was a lot more demand than supply. Wizards of the Coast used to release print run numbers on their early sets. Arabian Nights had a total print run of five million cards. According to the numbers in an old Usenet post by Nick Sauer, there were 10,000 Uncommon sheets printed, with the rarer cards on this sheet appearing as a two-of. This means that on several rarer Arabian Nights cards, there are only 20,000 in print — and several of these have probably been destroyed, thrown-out, discarded, etc. Assuming all 20,000 of each card exist, that means there’s only 5,000 playsets in existence — keep that in mind next time you want a playset of Bazaar of Baghdad.

Anyhow, demand far, far outweighed supply. Legends sold out its entire print run within ten days. By the time 4th Edition rolled around, there were a ton of cards that were spiraling out of control in value — cards like Killer Bees, Erhnam Djinn, and Nicol Bolas. By out of control, I literally mean that these cards were selling in the $20 range, just a couple of months after seeing print.

There was a lot of backlash against 4th Edition in general, because many of the chase cards were removed (all 10 Dual Lands, Demonic Tutor, Sol Ring, Regrowth, etc.), and many of the cards that were reprinted were printed at a different rarity (Killer Bees and Carrion Ants went from Rares to Uncommons), devaluing the originals greatly. Then came Chronicles. Chronicles was envisioned as an expansion set for 4th Edition, but people genuinely hated the set. Since essentially every card in Chronicles was a reprint of a non-base set card, every card in Chronicles stabbed the value of the original through the heart.

Because of the backlash against Chronicles, Wizards of the Coast established the Reserve List. This was a list of cards that Wizards said they would never reprint in a tournament-playable format. To date, this list has only been breached once in over a decade (Intuition as a Promo card), and even that is open to interpretation of promotional versus non-promotional meaning of “tournament playable”.

It’s interesting to note that the economics of Magic have done a complete 180 degree turn from the times of Chronicles. These days, the value of cards revolves almost entirely over their tournament playability, so cards depreciate as they rotate out of Standard (if they aren’t good in other formats) and rise as they are reintroduced. The Reserve list, at this point, hurts the value of older cards more than it helps.

A Reserve List of some sort is a valuable tool, but it is so all-encompassing of older cards that is strangles many potentially fan-pleasing reprints out of existence. You’ll hear a lot more from me about the Reserve List over the coming columns, but let me leave this topic alone for the rest of this column — I’ve already spent enough time talking about why it exists, and it would take too much space to talk about why it shouldn’t exist. More on this Wednesday.

Griffin Guide
Griffin Guide is a playable creature enchantment. See Elephant Guide. Any Enchantment — Aura that can circumvent the inherent card disadvantage of playing Enchantment — Auras, while doubling as a win condition, is okay in my books.

Gustcloak Cavalier
I can imagine how the meeting went to develop some of these Time Spiral cards.

Aaron: All right, what White abilities haven’t we covered yet?
Mark: Tapping a creature when attacking, and the Gustcloak ability.
Aaron: Great, and we need another flanker.
Mark: I like 2/2 flankers.
Aaron: So, let’s make a 2/2 flanker that taps a creature when it attacks, and then can Gustcloak itself.
Mark: And let’s make it cost eleventeen!
Aaron: Mark, that’s too much. I’m also pretty sure that eleventeen isn’t a real number.
Mark: When’s the last time you wrote your column, Aaron?
Aaron: Eleventeen it is!

My best guess is that eleventeen mana is too much mana for a 2/2 creature of this nature.

Honorable Passage
There are some cards that are just satisfying to play with. Honorable Passage is one of these cards, because you get to beat the Red mage at his own game. “Fireblast me? Fireblast yourself, punk!” Honorable Passage is potentially a maindeck consideration in a Red-heavy metagame, because it still acts as a damage-prevention spell against non-Red decks and/or in creature combat. Against Red decks, it completely shuts down removal, creature combat, and direct damage. Color hosers tend to be really bad or really good, and this one is definitely really good.

Icatian Crier
Once it was revealed that Time Spiral was the “nostalgia” block, I anticipated that the first set would use mechanics that were introduced in the first set of a block, that the second set would use mechanics that were introduced in the second set of the block, and the third, from the third. This was not the case, and early indications point to the sets being separated by era, rather than abilities. For the record, most of the abilities in Time Spiral were from the first set of a block (Mirage, Tempest, Mercadian Masques, Invasion, Odyssey, and Onslaught). These include Flanking, Buyback, Slivers, Morph, Spellshapers, Rebels, Split Cards, Morph, Shadow, Flashback, Threshold, Echo, Kicker and Domain. Unfortunately, Madness and Storm put a crimp in this theory — both are prominently featured in Time Spiral.

I’m still holding out hope that we’ll see Fading make a return before the block is over.

Icatian Javelineers
Mogg Fanatic is an amazing card. Icatian Javelineers is halfway to Mogg Fanatic — it has summoning sickness, and it can’t both attack and shoot a creature/player in the same turn. Still, it can shoot and stick around, plus it’s a removal spell that you can play on the first turn and keep on the board. Icatian Javelineers is probably the second best one-drop for White Weenie post-Kamigawa, behind Savannah Lions. It’ll see play, though some might prefer Suntail Hawk.

Ivory Giant
The theme of Time Spiral is playing with Time. This theme is extremely well done, from the homages to older cards on new cards, to the Timeshifted cards themselves. All the new mechanics in this set also play with time — Suspend uses time as a resource, Split Second stops time, and Flash lets you change time around (although, Flash is more of a keywording of an old ability, but I’ll fit it in here). Bravo on the design of Time Spiral! Frowns on Ivory GiantBlinding Light was never a good card, and neither are 3/4 creatures for six mana that are useless against creatureless decks.

Jedit’s Dragoons
I have no clue what Jedit Ojanen (a 5/5 vanilla Legend for six mana) has to do with Ardent Militia plus one for Staunch Defenders, but they are both cats. Cats, apparently, are quite adept at gaining life these days. At my count, it’s five life less than they’re owed.

Knight of the Holy Nimbus
I really love these guys for Standard. They can’t be killed until the third turn, and they are 2/2 for two with a relevant ability for early combat. White Weenie (splash Blue) is going to be a force at States. Here’s an early idea of what I’d consider for that deck:

1CC choices: Savannah Lions, Icatian Javelineers, Suntail Hawk, Flying Men
2CC choices: Azorius First-Wing, Azorius Guildmage, Benalish Cavalry, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Leonin Skyhunter, Pride of the Clouds, Serra Avenger, Soltari Priest
3CC Choices: Paladin en-Vec, Paladin en-Vec, and Paladin en-Vec

Spells: Mana Leak, Remand, Rune Snag, Psionic Blast

If I were going to play in States, I’d run either WW/u or WW/r. That’s just me, though.

Magus of the Disk
The Magus cycle is quite insane, as a cycle. Two of the five are Tier 1 rares (Red and White), two have potential in combo decks (Blue and Green) and the Black one is the Black one (can’t win them all!). The best part of Magus of the Disk is not the low mana-cost, or the hugely game-swinging ability it has — it’s the four toughness.

Once upon a time, Wizards would have made this cycle with a bunch of creatures that were fragile. I can easily see Magus of the Disk as a two-or-three toughness creature in previous sets (see Loxodon Gatekeeper and Hokori, Dust Drinker). Four toughness means that Magus of the Disk will survive anything on this side of Char/Psionic Blast.

Many players are frowning on Magus of the Disk, because A) it comes into play tapped, and B) it’s a creature, and therefore more killable than Nevinyrral’s Disk. Guys, this is a bomb, it’s the best Wrath variant for an eight-Wrath deck since Rout (or Akroma’s Vengeance, though that was mainly run in Cycling decks), and it can beat for two if need be.

Mangara of Corondor
Speaking of Magus of the Disk, here’s an old spell done as a 1/1 body. Guess everything hasn’t changed after all! Is Vindicate good on a 1/1 creature? I think so, but so far Mangara hasn’t been too popular in discussions. Guys, Vindicate! One of the best spot-removal spells ever printed! Mangara will draw spot removal, or Mangara will destroy pretty much whatever you want. Mangara seems quite good for a more control-based strategy, but nobody seems to be taking her seriously.

Momentary Blink
There’s a cycle of spells in this set, that have flashback costs in a different color than in the original color of the spell. Momentary Blink is not the best of them. Next!

Moorish Cavalry
Hey look! It’s War Mammoth, but in White! For what it’s worth, I think I see Othello in the background of the artwork. He’s the second guy on the left behind the dust cloud.

Opal Guardian
As I mentioned earlier, Urza block was supposed to be the enchantment block. Recurring Enchantments (Rancor, Brilliant Halo), growing enchantments (Vile Requiem, Recantation), and sleeping Enchantments (Opal Gargoyle, Hidden Spider) — there were 159 Enchantments in Urza’s Block, all told. The Opal creatures looked good on paper. You had:

Opal Caryatid: 2/2 for W
Opal Gargoyle: 2/2 Flyer for W1
Opal Acrolith: 2/4 unkillable creature for W2
Opal Champion: 3/3 First Striker for W2
Opal Avenger: 3/5 for W2
Opal Titan: 4/4 Protection-From for WW2
Opal Archangel: 5/5 Vigilant creature for W4

None of these ended up seeing much play in Constructed, for multiple reasons. In an aggressive deck, the Opal creatures don’t attack unless your opponent wants them to. Your opponent can literally sit back and never play a creature, and you’d have no offense. In addition, Urza’s Block brought on Combo Winter, when Memory Jar and Tolarian Academy decks could pull down regular turn 2-3 kills. Creatures weren’t quite encouraged during this time, meaning that there was very little chance of seeing these dudes activated, period. Third, if your opponent already has creatures on the board, dropping an Opal enchantment after the fact will do you a fat lot of good.

Opal Guardian is the first Opal creature in quite some time, and it’s essentially Abbey Gargoyles on an Opal creature. All of the Opal creatures have traditionally been aggressively costed, and this one is no different. You can only really play this in mono-White decks, but maybe Standard is creature-based enough that the Opal mechanic will find a place this time around.

Outrider en-Kor
Remember the Life deck from Extended, pre-2005 rotation? It went something along the lines of Shaman en-Kor and Nomads en-Kor, Daru Spiritualist, and Worthy Cause. Nowadays, that deck can be rebuilt with Outrider en-Kor, Daru Spiritualist, and Miren/Animal Boneyard/Starlit Sanctuary. Look for this deck to potentially make a comeback in Extended, thanks to a new en-Kor creature.

Pentarch Paladin
Pentarch Paladin combines Voice of All with Northern/Southern/Eastern/Western Paladin. The result is a creature which may very well see play in Standard. Compare this to Gustcloak CavalierPentarch Paladin is +1/+1, and has a much more relevant second ability (destroy permanents multiple times, versus Gustcloak/tap a creature when attacking.) I also like the name Pentarch, and I hope it gets reused in the future. It’s a nice way of saying “choose your color, samurai!”

Pentarch Ward
See, doesn’t Pentarch Ward sound a lot niftier than Prismatic Ward? Pentarch seems so authoritative. Also note that “This effect doesn’t remove Pentarch Ward” clause — without it, any Aura which granted a creature protection from White would remove itself. I am surprised that Pentarch Ward doesn’t have flash though — it seems like it should.

Plated Pegasus
Benevolent Unicorn was never a particular useful card. In Mirage Limited, you’d use it to stop Hammer of Bogardan, but only if you had multiple Unicorns. The Pegasus/Unicorn also only stop spell damage, so things like Prodigal Sorcerer still work just fine. In general, a weak card in both Constructed and Limited.

Pull From Eternity
I’m glad that they made this card uncommon, and not rare. Pull from Eternity is a complete niche card — its function is to grab maybe a wish target from out of the game? Either way, I always felt that this sort of effect is best at Uncommon, and not at Rare. Mudhole — would anyone have really blinked if that was an Uncommon? How about Pale Moon? It would have just been another in a line of niche Uncommon cards that don’t make you feel like you wasted money on a pack of cards. Pull from Eternity will probably never see play except in the most esoteric of decks, but at least it’s just gumming up the Uncommon slot in a pack.

Pulmonic Sliver
Aside from Essence Sliver, there are a lot of Slivers in this set that come in the latter half of the alphabet. Pulmonic Sliver, or as I like to call it, Avenging Angel Sliver, isn’t the best Sliver in the parking lot. It’s not the worst, either. I can’t see wanting to put six Slivers on top of your deck after a Wrath of God. There are better choices to run in the five-slot of White decks if you’re not playing Slivers, but at least this guy gives other Slivers flying. There are better evasion options if you’re playing a Sliver deck, both in Standard and in Extended.

Quilled Sliver
A.k.a. Crossbow Infantry Sliver. I really, really like what they did with Slivers this time around — instead of a series of completely disparate, unconnected abilities with no reference point (the Legions slivers), Wizards modeled every Sliver in Time Spiral after a classic creature in Magic. I don’t know the full backstory of Time Spiral, but I would wager that with time coming unraveled, combined with the Sliver hive-mind and infestation, Slivers have replaced historic figures and events in Dominaria.

Restore Balance
There’s a cycle of Suspend cards that mimic really powerful older cards, but that cannot be cast without being suspended. Restore Balance is Balance, except, at the earliest, turn 7 (give or take alternate methods — more on this next time). It’s really hard to plan how the game is going to turn out seven turns ahead, especially when Balance was best used as an immediate Mind Twist/Armageddon/Wrath of God wrapped into one. Unlike other Suspend cards in this cycle, the wait time on Restore Balance is way too long. I will say that this is probably a lot of fun to throw up in the air in a multi-player game.

Solar Flare no longer needs to run Zombify/Black! Then again, Solar Flare probably wants to run Black anyhow, even post-rotation. Would Resurrection, however, be a better fit in that deck than Zombify? Is double-White better than single Black? Probably not. Breath of Life never really saw much constructed play either. There are a lot of mono-White targets worth reanimating right now, so if there ends up being a mono-White reanimation deck, Resurrection will be front and center.

Return to Dust
This is a strictly-better version of Altar’s Light, and Altar’s Light saw play. Would Altar’s Light have seen play in a format with Disenchant? It depends how much recursion exists in the format. If you play Return to Dust as a Sorcery, you get a two-for-one as well. Also note that you can remove either two artifacts, two enchantments or both an artifact and an enchantment if you play this as a Sorcery. This is a nice bonus on the card, as many other cards of this nature are modal, and can only get one or the other.

Sacred Mesa
I said a lot about Sacred Mesa in my complete guide to drafting Mirage. The three best cards in Mirage to draft were Sacred Mesa, Kaervek’s Torch, and Hammer of Bogardan, not necessarily in that order. Will it be as good when transported into another format? Possibly — I don’t see it making any big Constructed splash, given the lack of something like Earthcraft to let your deck go infinite.

Serra Avenger
Serra Avenger is a control deck’s dream. It’s also White Weenie’s dream. It’s also Aether Vial’s dream. In short, Serra Angel is but a dream. If you play Serra Avenger on turn 4, you’re going to have mana to back it up with counterspells. If you play it later in the game, you’re still going to have mana to do other things. That’s the beauty of Serra Avenger — it’s still a threat past turn 3, and it costs so little that you can layer on a complete turnaround of the board position on turn 4 without having to tap out. Compare this to Serra Angel (five mana for +1/+1), and you’ll see just how good Serra Avenger is. Three less mana for -1/-1. Serra Avenger is going to be a staple in multiple formats for the next two years.

Sidewinder Sliver
A.k.a. Mtenda Herder Sliver. White has four better one-drops in Standard right now (see earlier in the article), so I don’t expect this to see play outside of Sliver decks.

Soltari Priest
Soltari Priest was a staple of White Weenie for two years in Standard, and for half-a-decade in Extended. There isn’t Rancor or Empyrial Armor nowadays, but an unblockable 2/1 creature with Protection from Red for two mana is really great. There are so few playable shadow creatures in Standard (as of so far) that Soltari Priest will dominate that area of evasion. I’m not sure Red decks can race a Soltari Priest with, say, a Griffin Guide or a Moldervine Cloak. This is every good as it was back in Tempest.

Spirit Loop
You know, I liked these recurring enchantments a lot better back in Urza’s Saga/Urza’s Legacy. Back then, white got Brilliant Halo and Cessation, both of which were eminently playable in limited. Spirit Loop seems a lot less exciting, but who knows — you didn’t see people playing Holy Armor, but Brilliant Halo was a top-five pick. Maybe Spirit Loop will be a lot better than Spirit Link. Chances are it might just be fodder for Auratog and/or your trade binder.

At the Time Spiral prerelease, we ran a “Sorry About Squire” promotion. We offered up a pack of Coldsnap in exchange for a Squire, or five packs of Coldsnap in exchange for a foil Squire. We ended up with twenty-eight regular Squires, and three foil Squires. I think we got every Squire in the room, except for two.

You see, two guys made a point of coming to the StarCityGames.com retail table to tell me they weren’t going to trade in their Squires. They insisted that we must have figured out some secret Squire tech, and that Squire was going to be worth a lot of money once the set was released.

Well, if you two guys are reading this — the Squire tech was that I thought it would be cool to have people open the worst card (not just rare — card) in Time Spiral, and be able to trade it in for something nifty. I don’t look forward to opening Squires, you don’t look forward to opening Squires, and my condolences to the unlucky souls who open the Squire/Moonlace pack. Still, let me state for the record — no ulterior motive for us acquiring Squires other than to make our players happy by letting them trade in Squires. I have a stack of thirty-one Squires sitting on my desk, and they are probably going to be sitting there long after I’m dead.

Temporal Isolation
I really like Temporal Isolation, but I’ve always been a fan of Pacifism and Pacifism-type effects. Temporal Isolation is essentially Pacifism, except it can shut down creatures that deal direct damage, such as Gelectrode or Prodigal Sorcerer. Unlike Pacifism, Temporal Isolation can be played as an Instant, making it a great combat trick, and/or response to a creature pump spell. This may warrant a look in Standard, because it’s an instant which might as well read “target creature can’t attack, block or deal damage permanently”, for only W1.

Tivadar of Thorn
What deck would want to play Tivadar of Thorn? In Legacy, Tivadar’s Crusade seems a better choice versus Goblin decks. In Standard, Paladin en-Vec seems a better choice as a three-drop protection creature — plus Goblins aren’t a problem in Standard. Maybe this is built for Extended? Even there, White probably has better sideboard cards for use against Goblin decks. Paladin en-Vec has already been confirmed for 10th Edition. Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Soltari Priest, and Paladin en-Vec already can be played in White Weenie decks looking to outright hose Red decks, leaving Tivadar of Thorn as more of a sideline player than as a contender.

Fun facts — someone at Wizards (I believe Mark Rosewater) stated that, if they had to do the incarnation cycles from Judgment over again, that the White uncommon incarnation would grant flying, not the Blue one. That means you might have seen Wonder in this slot, instead of Valor. Valor is literally the least played incarnation in that cycle (in order: Wonder, Anger, Brawn, Filth, Valor), and it’ll still be the least-played card in that cycle, despite being available in two more formats than the other four cards.

Watcher Sliver
A.k.a. Castle Sliver. More or less — tapped Slivers still get +0/+2. Compare this to Magus of the Disk for four-drop 2/4 White Creatures in the set. Don’t worry — the Slivers in this set get much, much better in the other four colors. White got some amazing removal spells and weenies, so it’s only fair they get the weakest something (in this case, being Slivers and suspend cards).

Weathered Bodyguards
I’ve never been a fan of the bodyguard mechanic (Veteran Bodyguard, Martyrs of Korlis), and I’m not a fan of morph creatures that only deal with preventing combat damage. Between the two, I’d take a pass on Weathered Bodyguard. Note that the rare morph cards in this set all approximate classic creatures, though Veteran Bodyguard is probably less classic then, say, the Red or Blue cards in this cycle.

Witch Hunter
I’m all for the massive amount of color-pie breaking present in Time Spiral, but I should note that of all the cards in White, this is the one that most fits outside of White’s current color pie. White doesn’t get the Tim ability, and White doesn’t get bounce. Witch Hunter pings for a point (but only to players) and bounces (but only to creatures), making it the worst half of both Prodigal Sorcerer and Temporal Adept (land-lock anyone?).

Zealot Il-Vec
When news of the Timeshifted cards first leaked, and it became apparent that Wizards was going to push cards that, given a different time and place, might have stars (see Shadowmage Infiltrator in a week), I really hoped that one reprinted card would be Soltari Guerrillas. Yeah, they probably would have been on the upper end of the power curve in Standard. Still, they aren’t on the reserve list, Shadow showed up on the Orb of Insight (meaning it wasn’t off limits), and they certainly had a great ability and power/toughness-to-mana cost ratio. Zealot il-Vec is the “fixed” version of Soltari Guerrillas, a card which might have been broken if it wasn’t in a format dominated by one- and two-drops. Zealot il-Vec is probably too weak on that scale, though it might have been more interesting if it could deal it’s power in damage instead of a flat one damage.

Zhalfirin Commander
Not quite Field Marshall, if you’re looking for this effect. Hey, remember Coldsnap? There are some good cards there too!

Tune back in on Wednesday, as I take a look at Blue! We’ll talk about the reserve list some more, I’ll tell you which cards need to be banned in Extended on December 1st, and we’ll see the Ultimate Real Power of Suspend and Slivers. See you then and there!