Insider Trading – Making 11th Edition (Part 2)

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Thursday, December 11th – In his last article, Ben outlined some mechanics he would include in 11th Edition. In the follow-up article, Ben tackles the meat of the issue – which cycles should be in 11th Edition? Which Mythics should be included to maximize sales of the set without hurting the Standard environment? Is there such as thing as too many good cards in the base set? And what mechanic, never included in the base set, is the absolute no-brainer slam-dunk to include? Find out in today’s edition of Insider Trading!

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Insider Trading! In this week’s column, I’m going to continue my exploration into what I feel would make for a terrific base set. In last week’s column, I discussed cycling and multicolor as two mechanics I felt were good fits for 11th Edition. Let’s start off today’s column with the third mechanic I’d like to see:

Do you consider Slivers a mechanic? Most consider it a tribe but, unlike other tribes, each Sliver (give or take the artifact Slivers) pumps each other Sliver in play. The mechanic (every creature of this type affects every other creature of this type) is simple, clean, and most importantly, popular. Quick quiz: Which is the most popular tribe in Magic? Answer: If sales are any indication, it’s not Goblins or Elves or Angels or Dragons — it’s Slivers! Sliver theme decks sell a multiple better than other theme decks from that same sets; Sliver Queen is one of the most expensive cards from that era of Magic, and is not really a tournament-played card. Slivers have been used as a mechanic three times now (Tempest Block, Legions/Scourge, and Time Spiral Block), and have been popular each time.

In short, the no-brainer to include in 11th Edition is Slivers. Most players love slivers, slivers sell product, ergo, why not have Slivers in the base set? And if I were going to design 11th Edition, I would have no less than 16 Slivers in the set — Five Common, Five Uncommon, Five Rare, and one Mythic.

Sliver by color (Common/Uncommon/Rare)
Black Slivers: Mindlash Sliver/Vampiric Sliver/Toxin Sliver
Blue Slivers: Screeching Sliver/Shifting Sliver/Synapse Sliver
Green Slivers: Gemhide Sliver/Horned Sliver/Brood Sliver
Red Slivers: Two-Headed Sliver/Homing Sliver/Magma Sliver
White Slivers: Sinew Sliver/Quilled Sliver/Essence Sliver

Note that I moved around one rarity (Homing Sliver from Common to Uncommon), but I think we can agree that cycling (and tutoring) is probably best reserved for the Uncommon slot in a base set. Outside of that, these slivers all have clean mechanics, and leave room for further sliver expansion in later expansion sets.

Oh wait, did I mention 16 Slivers? I only count fifteen, above. Well, that brings me to today’s second topic:

I believe that 11th Edition will have fifteen Mythic Rares, and 53 Rares (of the regular variety). Let me outline the distribution of these rares, and we’ll use this as the basis of all further discussion for this and next’s week’s topics (next week will be the third and final part of this series).

Mythics (15 Total):
5 Planeswalkers
5 Legendary Creatures
5 Miscellaneous Cards

Rares (53 Total):
10 Lands
5 Gold/Multicolored Rares
3 Artifacts
5 Rare Slivers (outlined above, in the Sliver Section)
6 Black Rares
6 Blue Rares
6 Green Rares
6 Red Rares
6 White Rares

I think all five of the Lorwyn Planeswalkers (Ajani Goldmane, Liliana Vess, Jace Beleren, Chandra Nalaar, Garruk Wildspeaker) will be included as Mythic Rares in 11th Edition. This is a pretty radical notion, if you consider the rules complexities involved with Planeswalkers. However, Planeswalkers have been among the most popular cards printed over the past two years. Planeswalkers are a great selling point for Intro Packs (Garruk’s Wildspeaking? Don’t mind if I do!). More importantly, Wizards has been focusing almost all of their advertising on Planeswalkers, pushing the figures on this card-type as their flavor blitz across all of Magic. It would be foolish to have such a big budget put towards promoting Planeswalkers, and then leave them entirely out of your introductory product.

The five Legendary Mythic Rares should be popular creatures from each color; I advocated including Legendary Creatures in 9th Edition as a selling point, and Wizards (in spirit) agreed with me by 10th Edition. Which five Legendary Creatures do I feel are the best choice for 11th Edition?

Black: Visara the Dreadful — the ultimate expression of a very Black ability
Blue: Keiga, the Tide Star — again, a big, splashy, balanced Blue creature with a pretty Blue ability
Green: Either Kamahl, Fist of Krosa or Silvos, Rogue ElementalOverrun, or a huge, popular Green Fatty
Red: Either Jaya Ballard, Task Mage; Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker; or Rorix Bladewing
White: Time for an aside!

Wizards announced yesterday the new Duel deck, due out in April: Demons vs. Angels. It is likely, based on the spoiled artwork, that Akroma, Angel of Wrath will figure prominently in this box set. I would have said Akroma would be the best choice for 11th Edition as the White Legendary creature, except April is too close to the release date of 11th Edition to reuse the same card twice. This leaves me looking for another White Rare for this set, but also got me to thinking about the Demons vs. Angels deck in general.

I personally find the Angel deck a lot more interesting than the Demon deck, because the Angel deck will inherently have more popular creatures (there are a lot more popular Angels than Demons in Magic). The Demon deck will likely have more interesting spells (Diabolic Edict seems for sure, especially if White gets Protection from Black creatures; will the Black deck have Demonic Tutor?) I discussed a list of spells that might be included in the White deck with Ken Adams and Pete Hoefling on the way to Worlds in Memphis, and one card Ken brought up was Radiant’s Judgment as removal.

That got me to thinking: how many cycling cards have a direct Angelic theme? As it turns out, quite a few!

Akroma’s Blessing
Akroma’s Vengeance
Angelsong (was this an intentional plant in Shards?)
Decree of Justice
Radiant’s Judgment

Decree of Justice would make for an awesome inclusion on a duel deck set, as would Akroma’s Vengeance. Long story short, the White Angel component of this duel deck could very well have a sub-theme of cycling, just as the Jace deck had a sub-theme of morph/illusions. Keep your eyes out for this; let’s see if it happens in April!

Anyhow, the last Legendary Mythic? Jareth, Leonin Titan would be a great tie-in with Ajani, with the whole cat theme. A shame that Radiant, Archangel is on the reserve list, eh? Radiant would be a great (and popular) choice for reprinting.

For the five “Other” Mythic Rares, I’d break them down as follows:

Sliver Overlord: A cool addition to the Sliver sub-theme in 11th Edition, and effectively the “King” sliver for this set. Much more interesting than Sliver Legion. This would be Sliver Queen in a heartbeat if Sliver Queen wasn’t, you guessed it, on that darned Reserve List!

Darksteel Colossus: Truly a mythic-feeling rare. Wizards has tried to avoid universally used cards at Mythic, or cards that are an automatic four-of in any deck that might want to run that card. Darksteel Colossus fits both of those bills — huge, not used as a four-of, and not for every deck. The indestructible reminder-text even fit onto the Darksteel version of Darksteel Colossus, and it’s very self-explanatory for the base set as a one-of for that ability.

Sword of Light and Shadow/Sword of Fire and Ice: These two go together, have been extremely popular in the past (and overshadowed by Loxodon Warhammer and Umezawa’s Jitte) and also have that “mythic” feel about them. Again, not usually run as four-ofs in decks, and popular with both casual and competitive players.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: A really simple effect (all lands are Swamp), with no more complexity in layering than base-set mainstays Blood Moon and Clone. Legendary, Mythically-named, and not a four-of or for every deck, again fitting the criterion for a Mythic Rare as set forth by Wizards.

You’ll notice that I included 10 lands on my list of 53 Rares for 11th Edition. I believe that one way or another, there will be a full cycle of SOME dual land in 11th — maybe it could be pain lands, or Shock lands, or filter lands. My money would be on Shock lands, for what it’s worth — the cycle of lands from Ravnica, Guildpact and Dissension. They were passed over for inclusion in 10th Edition, and would fit brilliantly in with the themes of Shards block. Have you noticed that there are a lot of land-matters plants? Wild Nacatl and Worldly Counsel (spoiled to be in Conflux) are two cards that immediately spring to mind. Other have speculated that the five Fetch lands from Onslaught will be in 11th Edition (to keep them from rotating out of Extended next year), but this leads me to another question:

Would Wizards of the Coast include a card in the base set that has never seen print before?

Think about that for a second. There’s no rule that says “hey, all of the cards in the base set need to be reprints!” This falls along the line of assumed thinking (it’s always been this way, excepting Alpha/Beta/Unlimited, so it always will be this way), just like the White Border/Black Border theory on the base set. Oh man, here comes…

Will 11th Edition be White or Black bordered? While there has been no official word on-the-record (or off-the-record to me, to make that clear), I would think it’s obvious that we’re never going to see a White-Bordered Magic set again, if Wizards can help it. Black-Bordered cards are more popular than White-Bordered cards, Black-Bordered cards sell better, so why would Wizards intentionally, and unnecessarily, handicap themselves by releasing an arbitrarily inferior product? For further proof on this, take a look at the recent Duel Decks (Elves/Goblins and Jace/Chandra). Previous box set? White-Bordered (Anthologies/Beatdown/Battle Royale/Deckmasters). Post 10th-edition Reprint sets? Black-Bordered all!

So would Wizards ever put new, never-printed-before cards in the base set? Personally, I see absolutely nothing wrong with this, as long as the cards are inoffensive. And by inoffensive, I mean stuff like Commons that act as filler for the set. That way, you wouldn’t end up with stuff that are filler and plants in Expansion sets (Prodigal Pyromancer, 4/3 Black Vanilla creatures, etc) that mostly serve a purpose to make cards exist to potentially put in the base set. These would act like the “special” cards in 8th and 9th Edition (Sliverback Ape, Coral Eel, etc), allowing Wizards to fill holes without taking up space in advanced-level product.

I would not put, however, a cycle of enemy-colored Fetch Lands in 11th Edition; I would make those enemy-colored Fetch Lands a huge focus for selling an Expansion set, and use them to fill the gap of the Onslaught Fetch Lands, which I would allow to rotate out for the time being. Wizards at one point didn’t want to make the Fetch lands prevalent because they encouraged too much shuffling, which in turn took up a lot of time during sanction match play. Recent sets have made it clear that this is no longer a concern; take a look at Terramorphic Expanse in 10th and in Time Spiral, and a full cycle of common shard-based fetch lands in Shards of Alara.

So I would rotate out the Ice Age/Apocalypse pain lands, and bring back the Ravnica block Shocklands. Along with them, I would have cycles of color-based lands at every rarity.

Rare: Shocklands
Uncommon: Mirage Fetchlands
Common: Onslaught Cycling Lands

Barring an immediate entry of enemy-colored Fetchlands (which I 100% believe will be printed in some reasonable time frame, be it a year from now or five years from now), the Mirage Fetchlands would serve the same purpose, except A) on more of a budget, and B) a half-turn slower than the Onslaught versions of the lands. The common cycling lands are self-explanatory, but I’ll jump in anyway; simple, on-color, and popular.

Join me again next week when I wrap up this article series, and go over each and every Rare I would include in 11th Edition, and why I would include them in the set. See you in seven days!