Nobody likes to be wrong and everyone wants to be the smartest person in the room.
Got that? Perfect. Moving on.
When spoiler season kicks off, the smartest people in that Magic community all come out to tell you how bad everything that is being showcased is. It’s that simple. Whatever cards SCG or WotC preview, they are inherently bad and will never see play in Standard, let alone any other format. We enter the smallest of echo chambers and become resolved to repeat that same sentiments that other people say, because nobody likes to be wrong and everyone wants to be the smartest person in the room.
“New Nissa sucks. Card will never see play.”
“I read on the internet some thoughts about the new Nissa and it’s pretty bad. It’ll never see play.”
And then that becomes:
“Everyone I know has said the new Nissa is completely unplayable.”
One of the most difficult aspects of evaluating Magic cards is doing it in the abstract. So often players look at what has come years prior and incorporate that into their logic. Take this card for example:
Den Protector is not Eternal Witness, so when it was first shown, a lot really smart people who are never wrong commented how terrible it was in comparison and that it might see minimal play. I’ve gone back and checked out some reviews and she averaged around a 2-2.5 out of 5 stars.
In Belgium, while having a pretty interesting conversation with Michael Majors, we started talking about the best cards that has just hit the shelves from Dragons of Tarkir. I immediately thought Dragonlord Atarka was the best card in the set based on the few days of testing we had under our belts and the impact it had in every game, while Michael explained that Den Protector was and that it wasn’t even close. I kind of wrote off his opinion until I started watching the numerous games he was winning because of it, and when I walked by friend Craig Wescoe Bant Megamorph deck flipping Den Protectors and absolutely crushing his opponents in card advantage, I was forced to reevaluate my initials thoughts on in.
Why the history lesson?
Because I can’t remember a time where I saw so much vitriol directed at a set as I have with Magic Origins.
Full disclosure: I like this set. I like this set a lot. I love the flavor of most of the cards, the flip planeswalkers are ridiculously underappreciated, and I truly believe it’s going to heavily shake up Standard despite the fact that as of writing this we have less than 120 cards in the set spoiled.
However, over the last few weeks I have seen nothing but contempt on forums (which I have since left) from players about how awful everything to come out of Magic Origins is. I want to shed some light on some of these cards today – the ones getting the bulk of the hate – and show you all why all the complaining and unreasonable analysis is only making you a worse player.
Well. Those of you doing it. If you’re not… thanks!
The most unimpressive thing about Chandra is her cost-to-stats ratio, which is admittedly off-putting. When you really start to dig deep, however, it’s clear that there is far more to her than meets the eye.
Her ping ability puts her in a class belonging to cards that don’t see play often anymore, or haven’t for years (Cunning Sparkmage being the exception). What makes this Chandra special is that if you untap with her, flipping her into quite a powerful planeswalker shouldn’t be all too difficult. I imagine this scenario shouldn’t be too difficult to pull off:
“Attack with Chandra. Before blockers Lightning Strike your creature – untap the Chandra. Take two. Ping you for one. Flip Chandra. +1 her to five loyalty. You take two. Go.”
“-2 her. Kill your other creature. Go.”
Does this sound like Magical Christmas Land?
Well it shouldn’t. The kinds of decks that are going to play Chandra are the ones who can maximize her power. Red decks don’t often have the reach that she provides. Cards like Prophetic Flamespeaker are great in theory, but it usually requires other cards in the same turn to help it punch through, which can make the “benefit” it provides less good due to how mana sensitive those decks can be.
Where Chandra blows past other cards in the three-drop slot is that if your opponent can’t kill her immediately, things will eventually revolve around a subgame where they have to avoid letting your flip her for fear of the absurd advantage she gives. Her plus ability is a very real clock with a red deck, and her ultimate feels like an ultimate: the kind that, if you resolve it, you win the game 100% of the time.
People aren’t looking at her like this though. Most of what I’ve read is about what a waste of a planeswalker she is and that she’ll never see play. Mind you, the spoiler isn’t complete and 99% of the people making these claims are the type of underground dojo keyboard cagefighters who refrain from trying to innovate anything and are waaaaaay more content letting tournament results dictate what they play because they are the smartest people in the room and they are never wrong.
That brings me to this:
Trying to take the mantle from Jace, the Living Guildpact as the worst incarnation of the fabled planeswalker is this clown.
This clown who represents a very good effect in Magic that traditionally sees play every time it’s printed.
Years ago, Merfolk Looter saw a fair bit of play in U/G Madness decks due to how powerfully it interacted with Madness spells and showed up in mono-blue Merfolk Opposition decks; it has seen play again as recently as U/W Delver. A two-mana card that lets you sculpt your hand can be quite strong, and what had historically been two-mana “looters” have now been relegated in the last few years to costing three or more and requiring you to discard a card first before drawing one.
When flipped, Jace can pass one of the required tests for a planeswalker to be good: protecting itself. Shrinking a potential attacker may seem pretty low on the totem pole, but it complicates attacking and blocking math since the effect lasts until your next turn. His minus ability could prove to be very helpful as well, potentially letting you rebuy Wraths, card draw, or kill spells depending on what your need is.
Another pretty nifty fact about Jace – and all the other flip planeswalkers – is that you can have their flipped form in play along with their unflipped form, which gives them more value than traditional planeswalkers! They’re prone to being less dead some of the time.
Nissa, Liliana, and Gideon are all facing similar criticisms, but I find them heavily unwarranted.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer is similar to a card we are all very familiar with – Borderland Ranger. Despite only getting Forests, it is an effect decks will rarely turn down as a body that comes with making land drops is usually at a premium in Standard. Flipping her can be taxing, but the rewards seem fairly awesome.
Immediately where she grabs me is her +1, which is either going to further accelerate you or draw you a card. Together with Courser of Kruphix I see these two making beautiful music for as long as they can be together. Her minus is impressive, and acts to protect her while putting a reasonable body on the battlefield. Much like Chandra, her ultimate can end the game on the spot. Whatever they’re doing with most of these flip planeswalkers, it feels like their ultimates are exactly what you’d want them to be.
One card that has caught my eye has been this beautifully-designed card:
Three mana for four damage that can’t be countered isn’t a card people are readily equipped to judge, it would appear, because the word “sorcery” goes against the grain of the more popular and utilized burn spells over the years. Pulse of the Forge could be comparable, but it didn’t hit creatures – and that’s where Firecraft also impresses me.
In a burn deck, this card will almost always meet the Spell Mastery criteria, which gives these decks the kind of closing power they never had before.
But a lot of people smarter than me who are never wrong have been calling it bad because – you guessed it – this card can’t be cast at instant speed.
And that’s how it is with so many cards coming out from Magic Origins! Watch. I bet this will look familiar.
This card can’t kill Siege Rhino or Tasigur. It’s mediocre/bad at best.
Elves suck. They probably won’t be playable.
Without Goblin Warchief it’s pretty subpar. It’s cute with Rabblemaster, but once it rotates this card is not good.
There won’t be enough good Elves to make this card relevant.
This is the worst of the cycle. It’s not good in anything.
Does all of this sounds like something you’ve read before? Maybe over the last couple of weeks? I can’t even talk about all the negativity that has been directed at this set because I try to keep things under 2500 words a week and we’re creeping up on that number.
I believe in free speech. People should be able to say whatever they want, but like an infection, sometimes when all people do is bash on new cards, their friends or people who read those opinions take them to heart and believe them. Then they spread the infection further and further and before you know it, a lot more people believe it than the people who don’t.
I’m not saying all of these cards are fantastic. There’s a chance they may never see play. I certainly want to live in a world where Jace and Chandra are tier-one staples and people are clamoring to get their sets because they didn’t preorder them. With everyone trying to convince everyone else that they’re right because they’re the smartest people in the room and if you’re one of the smartest people in the room too then of course you agree with them, suddenly everyone is thinking they are bad up until they see a new deck in action that they want to play. That last part might not happen. I’m okay with that.
What I do know is this set looks a lot better than people are giving it credit for, and it is that reluctance to accept that it’s okay to try new cards and strategies that is stifling deckbuilding and creativity. Whether you like to admit it or not, a mind without boundaries is the one that comes up with the driving forces in Magic. Do you think Brad Nelson or PVDDR are content letting everyone do the work for them, or do they always want to be the kind of player that is ahead of everyone in the room a few steps?
Today is your reckoning.
You can sit at that table with the people who like to be the smartest in the room and are never wrong.
Or you can come sit with us, and play some Magic.
It’s up to you I guess.