Is Summer Really Almost Over?

A first look at some of the Odyssey cards, and why the Invitational may leave the Pro Tour empty.

Man, is summer really almost over? I look at the calendar and confirm, but it’s surprising nonetheless. Hard to believe, but in a week it’ll be September. Of course, that just means we’re closer to States, that useless dead-end annual amateur-fest that I seem to do so well in. Still not a PTQ top 8 to my name… But by golly, I rule at States!

That also means we’re closer to the release of Odyssey and the next major Type 2 rotation. I personally love major set rotations. It really gives Type 2 a fresh jolt of energy, throwing all conventional wisdom and”best decks” right out the window. Having the Mercadian Masques block leave is going to kick a huge hole in Standard. The ever annoying, dull-as-dishwater rebels will be gone. We shall be relieved of the presence of the ever-annoying, ubiquitous Nether Spirit. No longer will deckbuilders have to ask the questions,”How do I deal with the ever-annoying Blastoderm?” and”How do I deal with the ever-annoying Saproling Burst?”

Counterspells will actually cost mana again. Life will be good.

Of course, I’ll be very sad to see my beloved Saber Ants leaving. Perhaps Wizards will be so kind to reprint them in another set or 8th edition? Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Getting back to Odyssey, though, that wonderful source of rumors and spoiler information, MTGnews.com, has given us a little teaser of what’s in store for us in the near future. Evidently the new mechanics of Odyssey include”Flashback” and”Threshold.” Both seem quite interesting in theory. Inquest was granted a peek at two cards featuring these mechanics:

Firebolt (Common)



Firebolt deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

Flashback 4R (You may play this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then remove it from the game.) Reach out and torch someone.

Illus. Ron Spencer

Firebolt is like a bad Hammer of Bogardan, but I don’t think we really needed a flashback burn spell to be too good. Invasion has boosted burn fairly well already. The nice thing about this is it’s an easy replacement for Seal of Fire. Use it early for cheap removal; later, when you’ve exhausted your hand and need to squeeze out a little more damage, it’s sitting there waiting in the graveyard. One thing about this in comparison to Hammer is that you can see what you draw before spending the mana to reuse it. I can remember having to decide between spending the mana during my upkeep to retrieve the Hammer or hoping I draw an X spell.

As someone who has always enjoyed using my graveyard as a resource, I really like the concept of Flashback. There’s inherent card-advantage built into these cards, and yet there’s limits built right there into the design of it. It’s hard to see these cards being too good, like some of the buyback spells; they’re simply cards that can be used twice. The one thing I hope for is some sort of”fixed” Recurring Nightmare/Corpse Dance or something like it. My favorite graveyard recursion has always been creature recursion, and we have had very little of it in Masques and Invasion.

I also heard there’s supposed to be a flashback counterspell. Now that’s something I don’t want to see… But I suppose it’s inevitable, given R&D’s recent proclivity towards anything blue. Let us pray they screw up and make it unplayable.

Mystic Zealot (Common)


Creature – Nomad Mystic 2/4

Threshold – Mystic Zealot gets +1/+1 and has flying. (You have threshold as long as seven or more cards are in your graveyard.)

Nomad youths aspire to one of two roles in the tribe: priest or warrior. Their secret dream is to become both.

Illus. Paolo Parente

The Zealot could very well fill the role of a Mahamoti Djinn in a U/W control deck. Now, put away the rope, tar, and feathers and hear me out first; the Zealot costs two less mana than Fat Moti — so, in a world without free counterspells, it’s going to be easier to cast him and protect him in the same turn. And by the time you are going to want to cast him, your graveyard is bound to have reached threshold level. Between counters, Fact or Fiction, and Opts/Sleight of Hands, you’ll easily have seven or more cards in your graveyard, making Mystic Zealot into a 3/5 flier for four mana. A pretty darn efficient critter. The nice thing about the Threshold mechanic is that it’s also self-balancing. It would be very difficult to get a Threshold creature into play on turn 1 or 2 with seven cards in your graveyard.

The Magic Invitational: The”You Owe Me” vs.”I’m Honored to be Here” Attitudes

It’s that time of year again when the all-stars of Magic are invited to participate in this prestigious event. When the list of players went up two weeks ago, I was curious to find asterixes beside several names. It made me wonder if Ferrett was moonlighting for the Sideboard. So I dutifully scroll down to the bottom of the page to find out what they mean.

* Already Invited

** Reason for Ineligibility: Late tournament report

*** Reason for Ineligibility: Banned from 2001 Invitational

No big deal on the single asterix, obviously. Only Mike Long’s name earned the three-asterix mark, evidently for some disruptive behavior at last year’s Invitational if we read between the lines of Mark Rosewater report. How about some more details, Mark? If the Invitational is supposed to be an all-star event for the Magic public, we want it — blood, guts, feathers, and all!

But it’s asterix dos that I found interesting.”Reason for Ineligibility: Late tournament report.”

Late tournament report?!? Wow… This statement really rocked my socks. I mean, getting invited to this event is generally earned through strong performances on the pro tour. It was the ultimate reward for the top players in the game — a free vacation, getting to play in a small, unique tournament with some of the best in the world, and the chance to immortalize yourself in the design of a Magic card. The chance of a lifetime for people who’ve dedicated their life to Magic. Twelve of the invites go those with impressive Magic accomplishments. World Champion. Pro Tour Winner. Highest Ranked Player. These are the guys at the pinnacle of prowess, who have every right to strut around, flex their mental muscles, and boldly proclaim their right to be in Capetown. Whether good guys or jerks, all that matters is their performance.

But then there are the four other guys. Guys who earn their slots from votes from the DCI members. These are guys that the general Magic populace at large wants to see there. How cool is that, to be picked by your peers to go to the Invitational? These are players that are not only good (having to either have been invited before, or to have at least eleven pro tour points), but are also well liked and well respected by the Magic community. How do these guys become popular?

By giving back to the game.

I find it interesting that Mark Rosewater has made it a requirement that all Invitational participants write a tournament report in order to be eligible for the player’s ballet next year. In a way, he’s setting the tone for the event, by saying no matter how you got invited, it’s an honor and a privilege to be there. The only price you have to pay is to give back to the game in the form of a tournament report.

Of course, there’s a loophole. If you earn one of the twelve performance-based slots, like Kai Budde won for Player of the Year, you don’t have to be an ambassador for the game and write a report. I personally feel you should be made ineligible period for the next Invitational if you don’t submit a report, regardless of your performance the next year.

And please, please, please (all of a sudden I’m channeling James Brown)… Submit a report in a timely manner. I don’t think having a deadline of two months after the Invitational is too much to ask. Having Finkel’s report pop up nearly a year after the event seems a bit ridiculous, don’t you think? I mean, Clinton is getting a fortune to write his memoirs, but I’m willing to bet there’s a clause in the contract that says he can’t wait twenty years to write it.

“High-level Magic needs more ‘forced writing.’ Jon Finkel Invitational report is pretty darn entertaining – proof that holding a gun to peoples’ heads is a viable way to get some quality articles. Mark Rosewater should ban PT winners if they don’t write reports.”

Aaron Forsythe, Meridian Magic

Aaron’s comment is pretty accurate; Finkel’s report is pretty good, and Rosewater’s account is fascinating but ultimately both are stale from the length of time that’s passed. Let’s put a reasonable deadline on the report and increase the penalty for not submitting it to being banned from the running of next year’s invitational. Heck, I’d love to see some rule where PT winners have to write up a report for Sideboard before they get their check. Yeah, you worked hard to win it all, but give something back to the game that just handed you a $30,000 paycheck. Just imagine how many jerks would drop out of Magic if this rule were implemented? Hm, maybe too many? Would there be enough people left to populate the Pro Tour?

I think the answer is… HELL, YES!

Speaking of Finkel, did he work up the most unimaginative card for winning the last Invitational or what? How bad it truly was didn’t really hit home for me until I saw Olle Rade’s card idea, which has been overdue for four years now. For those who haven’t seen it, here it is:

Olle’s Card


Creature – ?


Sacrifice a land: Target creature you control cannot be the target of spells or abilities until end of turn.

I haven’t seen such a cool one-drop critter since Quirion Ranger. His special ability is perfectly in flavor for green, and yet is fresh and new, much like Long’s Rootwater Thief, Kastle’s Avalanche Riders, and Pikula’s Meddling Mage.

Then we have Finkel’s card.

Shadowmage Infiltrator



Cannot be blocked except by black or artifact creatures.

If Shadowmage Infiltrator deals damage to an opponent, draw a card.

You know. It’s like Ophidian. With Fear built in. Get it?


No doubt the card is powerful… But it’s like something WotC’s R&D would have come up with anyway in a year or two while searching for ways to recycle old card ideas. They already gave us Thieving Magpie. Something like this would come around eventually. Winning the Invitational gives someone the chance to force something new down R&D’s throat, something outside the box, a card that might have never occurred to them. I daresay Meddling Mage would have never been made without Pikula winning the privilege. Meddling Mage is like Mark”Combo” Rosewater’s worst nightmare.

I hope they publish every participant’s card idea prior to the Invitational, because I’m going to pull for the guy with the coolest card. My early money’s on Brian Kibler coming up with something really fun, dealing with Dragons or fatties or something.

What’s that? Ah, all the Finkel fans are giving me a hard time about slamming his card design. Alright, I’ll put my money where my mouth is and tell you the card I would design if I somehow snagged eleven PT points and proved popular enough to get the votes:

Kudzu Grappler


Creature – Zombie Fungus

GB: If Kudzu Grappler is in your graveyard, you may put it into play. Kudzu Grappler has haste. Sacrifice Kudzu Grappler at the end of this turn.


Now THIS is something I’d love to play. In flavor for green and black, yet different enough. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a creature quite like it. Cheap, playable. Artwork would be pretty cool, some leafy zombie looking dude (with a slight resemblance to me) grabbing some adventurer’s leg from the underbrush. Some long, shapely, half-nude elf-babe’s leg, preferably.

I just hope whoever wins this year submits something interesting.