A few weeks ago, my family and I flew out to Cape Cod for a friend’s wedding. At my parents’ condominium complex, where we stayed, they don’t allow dogs. So Turquoise, our faithful collie-shepherd mix, had to stay at a kennel. Over my wife’s protests, I reserved a "VIP" board for her (the dog, not my wife), which came with something like a Jacuzzi and a smoking jacket. But despite the very fine accommodations, we certainly felt guilty leaving her there.
A week can be a very long time for a dog. I would like to compare that sense of timeless eternity to what I am experiencing now, in the space between the Invasion prerelease and the actual release, when my box(es) will arrive through the mail and our group (following the Type I – legal calendar) permits Invasion to be part of decks.
I am that excited about Invasion.
Invasion… just… rocks.
I want to be clear that I am not just speaking as a multiplayer enthusiast. I am speaking as someone who pays a ton of attention to this game, on the web and in play, from tourney reports to Ferrett’s ramblings (what WAS the deal with that cheating article, dude? (I get a small fee for every posting about me on Usenet – T.F.) … "I don’t cheat but I can see why you kids would want to, and if you did I bet it would go a-little a-something like this!"… hmmmmmmm….) And all I can say to anyone who thinks Wizards didn’t put in The Big Effort on this expansion is: You’re just not paying attention.
Elegant but simple dual lands. New gold cards that are actually playable in a variety of environments. "Two-fers" (split cards). Multiple cross-color themes (the Djinns, the two-pile cards, the Apprentices/Masters, etc.). These are all clear signals from a company that wants to see their customers play slower and more rewarding games. Even revisits of old dynamics, like cantrips and returnable creature enchantments, are obviously geared toward the strategic concept of card advantage.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Invasion is this. The removal (particularly in black) is slow but powerful, which allows true creature battles to take place. Hey, I love red. I love black. I love toasting creatures. But in duel or multiplayer, I like to see things develop. Invasion lets things develop. That’s fantastic.
That’s not to say I don’t have a couple of quibbles with this expansion. With allied colors getting the lion’s share of attention in gold, I am trusting that Wizards will make equally palatable cards for opposing-color themes (especially green-black…I’m going to miss green-black!) over the next two expansions. And I think the Masters, with the multiple double casting/activation cost requirements, may just require a bit TOO much commitment to three colors. I get where they’re going; I just feel that they may have put the excellent Masters out of contention for constructed tourney decks. I hope I’m wrong.
And there are, of course, several prospects for the next Break this Card! contest. (At this point, I think Wizards may be printing some of these cards just to give this column more fuel.) More on that in a moment.
Let’s talk about multiplayer and Invasion. First of all, some overall comments:
KICKER: No one benefits more from kicker than the poor soul in a group of seven players who’s facing down two or three mid-sized creatures from each opponent on round five or six, has all the land in the world to play his big beefy creature when it shows, and topdecks… a Grizzly Bears. Now, there are no more Grizzly Bears. Instead of the bears, you are now drawing a 5/5 trampler.
And let’s not ignore some of the nastier, non-creature kicker effects. Wait a moment, I’m getting a vision:
CARL: …and then I will play yet another regenerating creature. Look, now I have a Child of Gaea to complement my Horned Trolls, Fogs of Gnats, Will-o-Wisps, and other boring creatures. Perhaps I will actually attack with this one…
THEO: I think you should attack Anthony. It is obvious he is the biggest threat on the board.
ANTHONY: I agree. I think you should attack Anthony. Theo is always right.
CARL: I sense no duplicity here. Very well, I see you have five open combined black/red mana, I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong. Anthony, I will attack you with the Child.
ANTHONY: You realize that doesn’t have Haste.
CARL: DON’T RULES-LAWYER ME, MR. BIG INTERNET WRITER. JUST ACCEPT IT.
ANTHONY: Very well. I will cast Agonizing Demise. A new card to us all, so let me summarize: your tree-man just went a wee bit off kilter and punched you in the crotch before collapsing in a decidedly unregenerable heap. Quel dommage.
GOLD CARDS: Of course, most casual players are happy to see these return. Maybe tournament players will be happy, too. (I’m not being difficult when I say, who cares? I’m sure Zvi & Co. are bright enough to make the cards work for them. Do they really need casual players’ blessings to have fun? Probably not. Let’s all leave the poor things alone, shall we?) The Dragon Legends are both a nod to tradition and a nice bow to playability – let’s not forget these are 6/6 flyers with strong abilities for only six mana. And the pro-color 2/2 knight commons are just terrific; you’ll see one kind or another in Pestilence decks, Inferno decks, and the like.
OPTION CARDS: Wizards injected some unpredictability into older elements when they produced both the "split" (e.g., Assault and Battery) cards and the "pile" (e.g., Stand or Fall) cards. When you put these in your deck, you’re not exactly sure how they will affect the game. For the split cards, it’s hard to know which you will find more useful, depending on what everyone else is playing. For the pile cards, it’s nearly impossible to predict whom you will end up forcing to choose (and, in some cases, who will be forcing YOU to choose). There will be absolutely amazing choices made on the spot with these cards.
DJINNS: Invasion comes with a whole array of color-manipulation cards, from Wash Out to various new iterations of Magical Hack. The Djinns play off this theme, rewarding you for choosing the color less traveled. Of course, Distorting Lens will fit nicely with all of these.
SPECIFIC CARDS TO WATCH
I am sure many cards will work wonders in group. Of course, many of them will come from the groups I mentioned above. Here are the other cards that, at first glance, look like I’ll have to consider for the imminent version 3.0 of the Multiplayer Card Hall of Fame. Look for them in a group near you:
IN RED: Mages’ Contest, a 1RR instant that gets some bidding going on whether a spell is countered or not. Tectonic Instability, a 2R enchantment that pretty much forces players to tap out every turn. (And Veteran Brawlers gets yet another boost…) Obliterate, the blue-resistant Jokulhaups.
IN GREEN: You know, beyond a couple of Saproling generation tricks, I didn’t see much here off the bat. It’s early yet; I’ll keep looking. My eyes are probably just tired and I’m missing something obvious. Wizards wouldn’t screw over green, would they?!?!
IN GOLD: Backlash, the new Delirium. Cauldron Dance, perhaps the most innovative recursion card (and one of the most expensive, too, at 4BR) to date. Seer’s Vision, a blend of Telepathy and Coercion. Tsabo Tavoc, for those of you in legend-happy groups (or for those of you who just like 7/4 first strikers). Void, the black-red version of Powder Keg. And Coalition Victory, the Sliver player’s dream. (Could more slivers be on the horizon? Don’t count on it, but we can always dream.)
Yes, yes, many more cards will be good in group. Do go ahead and write to tell me about them, and why. You know the address.
A BRIEF PRERELEASE REPORT
For those who dabble in limited formats…
At the Prerelease in Minneapolis I went 5-1; we only went six rounds due to time constraints. There were something like 200 people there. (Maybe more? I stink at counting crowds, but people were playing at table 100+ in the first round.) Kavu Titan was the FOURTH best creature in my deck. Here it is:
18 lands (Irrigation Ditch, Ancient Spring, 7 plains, 6 forests, 3 islands)
Bad creatures? What are bad creatures? It was so nice to be able to leave marginal creatures like Voldalian Serpent OUT of my deck. I also mucked around with Ordered Migration for the flying, Elfhame Sanctuary for the deck-thinning and land-searching, Reviving Dose for the cantrips, etc. But this was the deck, I think, in its best configuration. I knew no manascrew or colorscrew, save one game. Strategy: Stall with decent defense and then pound harder in the midgame than the opponent could. Red could not remove all of my beasts; black could not deal with two Obsidian Acolytes. So my own minimal removal was sufficient. (Wash Out was tricky! But worth it.)
I lost to a fellow named Nick (whose last name I’ll withhold since I never asked him permission to use it), who CLAIMS to be a loyal reader but didn’t have the decency to lay down and die like a good fan would. He beat me senseless with a five-color monstrosity including Armadillo Cloak. (Did someone forget to tell me that creature enchantments are good again?) The guy didn’t lose a GAME all day long. Hey, before you scoff about prereleases, bear in mind there were a few pro players flitting about that day. Congrats, Nick. Oh, and thanks tons for beating me out of the draft we did right after that. That was fun, too. Okay, NICK, YOU CAN NO LONGER READ THIS COLUMN. YOU’VE LOST YOUR CASUAL FRIDAYS PRIVILEGES. GO AWAY.
Anyhow, I’m not that bitter. I got a foil Global Ruin among the packs I won and I imagine that’ll get my money back. And big kudos to new group member "Jim", who started playing about four months ago and went 3-3 at his first sealed deck attempt EVER.
COMING SOON: I may have the first bit of the new Hall of Fame ready next week. If not, we’ll take a harrowing look at teaching and learning within a casual group. ALSO: the results of the Connect the Dots contest. (By the time you read this, the deadline will have passed.) AND, a new "reader mail" feature will soon be tested!