Before getting into today’s article, it’s my turn to chime in on the Organized Play changes announced December 23. I never thought I’d be so happy to see one of my articles invalidated after just two days! Wizards found the third option I didn’t see: splitting the World Championships into the World Magic Cup (international team-based competition) and Players Championship (sixteen players for the individual title) with prize support equivalent to a Pro Tour between them.
Wizards also dropped the FNM Planeswalker Points multiplier back to 1x, which, while not universally popular, is a step toward orienting the Friday Night Magic championship away from current professionals trying to stay on the Pro Tour and back toward the “store warriors” for whom it was made. The Planeswalker Points multiplier shift also makes it far more likely that the 2013 Friday Night Magic Championship will have essentially the same structure as 2012’s version, meaning I’d have to pay up on my proclamation from my last article, but that’s a small price for a livable Organized Play system.
Speaking of Friday Night Magic, if you play, what’s your motivation? Seeing acquaintances? Supporting your local shop? (Relatively) friendly competition? I like all three, but if I’m being honest, my favorite part of Friday Night Magic—when I get to go, which is all too rare now that Jeff the Intern is back in school—is the chance at Friday Night Magic foils. What can I say? I like the shinies. On the desk next to my computer is a copy of Dante’s Inferno, the Ciardi translation,* with an FNM foil Carnophage in a sleeve marking the place in Canto III where its flavor text appears.
What’s “Rawr!” in medieval Italian?
In addition to Magic, one of my favorite hobbies is baseless speculation. Wizards has the Future Future League, playtesting decks that we can’t imagine for now; if there were a pool of players predicting which promotional cards Wizards would print in the near future (call it the Future Foils League), what would be the categories, the criteria, and the chances?
I’ll focus on three major categories: FNM/WPN foils, judge foils, and the “Grand Prix foil.” Oh, and here be spoilers, so this is your chance to back out if you don’t want any surprises ruined.
Spoilers. Last chance.
Still here? Let’s get to it.
The FNM/WPN foils** are commons and uncommons (never rares or mythics) with a strong likelihood, according to Future Future League members, of seeing play in at least one of Standard or Modern. Power is preferred; in fact, the December 2010 FNM foil, Wild Nacatl, just had a paw smashed by the Modern banhammer, and Cloudpost (May 2010) was told to take its talents elsewhere.
If a Goblin Bookie were taking bets on the Future Foils League, these would be closed, thanks to a mix of Magic Online spoiler information and distributor tips. Glistener Elf is primed for January, and Despise and Tectonic Edge shouldn’t be that far behind.
My shortlists (ten cards) for the various colors and the colorless are as follows, keeping in mind the principles of non-rarity, rate of play, and power. The explanations are similarly short and simplistic; if you’re an active tournament player, they’ll be old news, but they may help out someone else.
White shortlist – Doomed Traveler (pushing Humans); Feeling of Dread (taking Dispatch’s potential slot as a combat trick usable in a wider variety of decks); Glint Hawk (a weaker choice, possibly too narrow, especially considering what I wrote about Dispatch); Leonin Relic-Warder (narrowly over Fiend Hunter); Loam Lion (the white Kird Ape will see more play in Zoo with Wild Nacatl’s exit); Midnight Haunting (for popular weenie decks); Pacifism (despite its many printings, a promo is not among them); Revoke Existence (Disenchant sorcery-speed exiling counterpart); Steppe Lynx (a surprising omission in the Standard run and perhaps just as important for Modern); Timely Reinforcements (decently costly for an uncommon and heavily played). Oblivion Ring already has an FNM printing, or it would be a candidate here.
Blue shortlist – Delver of Secrets (currently seeing play in both Standard and Legacy and a great “power card” in common); Forbidden Alchemy (Intuition Innistrad cousin); Gitaxian Probe (a weaker candidate due to the lower power and Phyrexian mana elements); Invisible Stalker (everyone’s least-favorite sword-carrier since Squadron Hawk gets the shiny treatment); Mystical Teachings (for Modern but potentially too confusing as a non-Innistrad flashback card); Phantasmal Bear (potentially toxic to Stephen Colbert); Sleight of Hand (sorry, but the Phil Foglio art isn’t coming back); Spell Snare (a $6 uncommon that could use more supply for Modern); Think Twice (another card-drawer with flashback); Vapor Snag (perhaps a bit too basic, but popular in tempo-oriented blue decks). Dissipate might be a good candidate for the first FNM foil repeat/reprint; it was offered in March 2002. Notably not on the list: Mana Leak, due to its textless version, and Serum Visions, which has an Arena foil.
Black shortlist – Bump in the Night (the new Lava Spike and already a Burn staple); Crypt Champion (a weaker possibility, as the Saffi Eriksdotter deck is currently less popular than Melira combo in Modern); Dismember (not as high-dollar as before but still plenty appealing as an FNM prize); Distress (mono-black Infect-style decks are rocking it, as in this Justin Cruz list); Inquisition of Kozilek (more “money” than usual for an FNM card, though less so now than when it was Standard-legal); Phyrexian Rager (simple and clean, seeing a degree of play in Birthing Pod decks and others); Stinkweed Imp (people will try to make a graveyard-based Modern deck work, Dread Return or no, and this would also have Legacy value); Unburial Rites (if a Reanimator-style deck takes off in Standard); Victim of Night (perhaps later in the year, after Go for the Throat has had time to settle); Viscera Seer (formerly a Vampires rock-star, now an essential part of Melira combo). As mentioned above, Despise is almost assuredly seeing print. Doom Blade has a textless version, and Vault Skirge has a WPN foil.
Red shortlist – Ancient Grudge (Standard-legal, but perhaps more useful for Modern); Arc Trail (a defining two-for-one spell); Brimstone Volley (narrowly over Tribal Flames); Desperate Ravings (will have its moment, probably with a Patrick Sullivan-style U/R Tempo deck); Galvanic Blast (a nice pairing with Shock); Goblin Fireslinger (a Standard essential with a built-in fan base as a Goblin); Gut Shot (a $2 uncommon seeing great Standard play); Lava Spike (a $2 common in non-foil that could use some more supply); Simian Spirit Guide (the best turn-one acceleration available to most combo decks in Modern with Rite of Flame being banned); Volt Charge (one of the surprise adoptions of the metagame, but gratifying to Aaron Forsythe). Lightning Bolt has a judge foil, Stormblood Berserker an extended-art version.
Green shortlist – Acidic Slime (a played staple with several years’ tenure); Avacyn’s Pilgrim (widely played new mana producers in common are like FNM gold—as opposed to edible lactose gold***); Beast Within (the Vindicate uncommon of my dreams); Explore (which I’m surprised didn’t get a 2010 FNM slot); Hamlet Captain (I’m guessing G/W Humans was big in the Future Future League); Naturalize (rather venerable for a staple card not yet given an FNM promo); Nature’s Claim (thoroughly Modern-playable with bonus Legacy applications); Overrun (a niche card in token strategies for Constructed, but a Casual favorite); Utopia Sprawl (if there’s a green ramp deck in Future Future League Modern, this card almost has to be part of it); Viridian Emissary (seeing play in a number of Wolf Run Ramp builds).
“The Rest” shortlist – This is the most crowded list and the place where missed FNM foil choices are most likely. Here goes… Bant Charm (flexible Modern card for Bant decks, akin to the Rhox War Monk FNM printing from earlier); Cranial Plating (key card of Affinity, the sort of older early common that can benefit from an FNM foil); Manamorphose (staple color-fixing for Modern combo); Putrid Leech (for Modern Jund); Quicksand (perhaps not, if Tectonic Edge is in); Sphere of the Suns (Wolf Run Brown and a few other acceleration-loving decks); Springleaf Drum (again, mostly Affinity, but other decks can benefit); Sylvok Replica (seeing play in Birthing Pod decks); the Urzatron (possibly staggering the Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Tower, and Urza’s Power Plant in different weeks—I haven’t solved the implementation problem); Violent Outburst (a fun Casual card with plenty of Modern applications as well). Tectonic Edge is strongly tipped due to the spoiler. Shrine of Burning Rage has a WPN foil, while Murderous Redcap and Kitchen Finks have FNM printings.
The judge foils** are more wide-open, frequently with at least one “money card” in each pair, though the Reserved List is in play, and usually the judge foils don’t tread into three-figure territory, much less high-three-figures. (It’ll take a lot to make Imperial Seal a judge foil card, no matter how awesome the prospect may sound.) With that in mind and considering the casual or “less-money” judge foils to be a crapshoot, here’s my ranking of the most likely “money cards” for the next judge foil batch:
10. Loyal Retainers – A bit more costly and more niche than usual, but if there’s a Portal Three Kingdoms foil reprinting kick (and the set needs it, if it’s going to be Legacy-legal), it’s a worthwhile choice, though I see better.
9. Ravages of War – Portal Three Kingdoms once again. Is there a great cry for another Armageddon variant? Considering how many local groups discourage use of Armageddon, probably not. It’d still make for a fun and valuable foil reprint.
8. Imperial Recruiter – Another Portal Three Kingdoms card, which would open up Aluren with its reprinting. Making a new archetype more accessible to Legacy players is a worthwhile idea—and for the judges who choose to sell, a worthwhile award.
6. Mana Drain – Sounds crazy, right? Yet a moderately played Mana Drain is under $100 – in English. That’s a worrying sign for the health of Vintage. A foil Mana Drain likely would price higher than that, and as a bonus, it might revive interest in Vintage. Sounds like everybody wins to me.
5. Temporal Manipulation – Let’s do the Time Warp again! But let’s call it by a Portal Second Age name. Take-extra-turn cards get a mixed reception in Commander, but there will be plenty of players who will grin at the chance to add another foil in the same vein as Time Warp to a stack of 99 cards.
4. Strategic Planning – Portal Three Kingdoms. Here I am, once again… There is no direct equivalent to Strategic Planning in regular Magic sets, though Intuition comes close. That’s why it gets the top slot among the possible P3K reprints.
3. Force of Will – I have far less concern about this now that original Force is a $60 card in Near Mint, not a $90 card. I think its time has come, and Legacy players who love shining up their decks but are worried about getting “deck-checked and wrecked” for non-foil Force of Will copies will be begging for playsets—and shelling out the cash, too.
2. Tarmogoyf – Speaking of $90 cards, something has to give here. Tarmogoyf is not the same constraining force in Modern as Force of Will is in Legacy, but can a $90 card be healthy for a format Wizards is trying to cultivate? A judge foil would help alleviate the pressure.
1. Karakas – This legendary land with the quirky Emily Dickinson quote is increasingly important to Legacy, thanks to Vendilion Clique and similar interactions. It’s a $60 card in Near Mint, close to the sweet spot. I think its time for reprinting has come. My best guess for a judge foil in 2013 is Karakas.
Grand Prix Foil
My shortlist of three:
1. Birthing Pod – Sees appreciable play, albeit in narrowly defined decks, rather like Maelstrom Pulse and Goblin Guide but fitting the “combo-control” archetype combination rather than pure midrange or aggro. This is my top pick.
That’s my crack at the Future Foils League. What’s the right baseball metaphor for my picks—did I hit it out of the park, go out in left field, or strike out swinging? Let me know in the Facebook comments.
Before I go, here’s yet another short list of three items: my recommended reading for 2012. Pick a book that speaks to you, acquire it legally, and crack it open.
Patrick Chapin, Next Level Magic. If I hadn’t read this, especially the sections on shortcuts and Limited, I wouldn’t have won my Draft Open. This $37 book put hundreds of dollars in my pocket and got me to the Invitational. That’s the best testimonial I can give it.
Hasbro, 2010 Annual Report. When it becomes available, check the 2011 report as well. If the game of Magic is important to you, it’s worth your while to know how the parent company’s financial health is—and to realize that no matter how awesome it seems to have a “Million Dollar Pro Tour,” that’s almost exactly the base salary of the CEO, Brian Goldner—and a pittance compared to the millions in stock options he gets each year. Like economics, or eye-opening numbers? It’s dry but strangely fascinating reading.
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day. A heartbreaking and beautifully written novel by a Japanese-born British writer. I read it when I was 13 for Academic Decathlon, and it was the first book I appreciated in a grown-up way. An excellent read about the importance of living one’s own life—by negative example.
Jack London, The Iron Heel. This book was published first in 1908, and Jack London, at least for one book, was one of the original dystopian novels, coming before Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, or even Yevgeny Zamyatin. Anyone who knows my political views could tell you that I am far from the Socialist leanings of Jack London. That said, if you’re remotely politically involved, this is a novel you need to read. You won’t look at world events from 2008 the same way after you’re done.
Stephen Weese, God Loves the Freaks. Gamers and Christianity, among other intersections of “freakishness” and faith, are at the heart of this slim but useful volume about living a subcultural yet religious life. The book has strong roots in Protestant Christianity and is one of the best arguments for self-publishing I’ve found: clearly not for everyone, but important to its audience. If you’ve wrestled with contradictions between your gaming and your faith—even if it isn’t the Protestant Christianity of the author—this book can prepare you for talking with family and reassuring your own conscience.
As always, thanks for reading.
@jdbeety on Twitter
*I’m a creature of habit; when I searched for a book link, my first impulse was to go to the now-defunct Borders chain. I can also be well behind the times on the music front as well; I didn’t hear Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” until the line “public visitation, we met at Borders” dated the song.
Decree of Justice
Hammer of Bogardan
Maze of Ith
Oath of Druids
Stroke of Genius
Survival of the Fittest
Sword of Fire and Ice
Wheel of Fortune
Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed
***No, I didn’t link the entire Ke-dollar-sign-ha song. That’s here if you want it. I won’t judge you if you click. I promise.