As I did before with my Born of the Gods flavor review, I have to make a disclaimer.
I contributed names and flavor text to the Magic 2015 Core Set. Due to my advance knowledge of the set, I am ineligible to play in the Prerelease events next weekend. I also am prohibited from playing in DCI-sanctioned Magic events from the time Magic 2015 becomes legal until after the end of the Magic Game Day weekend for the set, August 9-10.
Any flavor review is necessarily subjective and a matter of taste, but on cards where I contributed the name or text, I naturally have a clear bias. My contributions are listed below. Rather than reviewing those items, I will provide “behind-the-work” tidbits as appropriate.
Polymorphist’s Jest [originally accepted as “Jalira’s Jest,” but made more evergreen]
Satyr Wayfinder [a reprint from Born of the Gods]
In addition to the above, several purchased submissions went unused or were changed drastically enough that I am no longer certain I can claim them; flavor text writers often riff on others’ submissions – never directly copying, but often elaborating upon them or boiling them down to their essences – and so when a four-line flavor text submission is purchased but only two related lines see print, it is hard for me to claim the two lines as my own.
Ah, but that’s enough “inside baseball” for now. On to my thoughts!
Ajani Steadfast – Just as Ajani joined his fallen brother’s axe to his own to create a signature weapon, the leonin Planeswalker now wears the cloak of the fallen Elspeth Tirel. In his younger Ajani Vengeant days, he would’ve gone on a revenge rampage against the pantheon of Theros; so far, though, he’s not gone over to the Angry Side and is Steadfast instead. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Avacyn, Guardian Angel – The idea of a Gothic (and maybe a little goth) angel with thigh-high boots and no patience for nasty beasties still amuses me in a good way.
Boonweaver Giant – Without an obvious scale marker, this fellow looks smaller than he would be in-the-flesh. Of course, when paired with his natural Aura, Eldrazi Conscription, he’s a big boy indeed!
Constricting Sliver – I’m still not a fan of the Great Sliver Redesign, and judging by Doug Beyer’s comments, I wasn’t alone. The type line says this is a Sliver. Even though it’s dialed back from the M14 vision, I’ll cheerfully disagree.
Dauntless River Marshal – Wins the “Wish I’d Written That” Award for Flavor Text.
Divine Favor and Ephemeral Shields – Man, those look weird side-by-side.
Geist of the Moors – Cards with big empty text boxes are a luxury for flavor text writers, so when this card came up I went “home run or strikeout” and came up with a piece of… I guess you’d call it Innistrad folk verse. It definitely isn’t anything that’d be chanted in Thraben Cathedral. While poetic meters and rhyme schemes are notoriously hard to translate, I’ve been impressed by the efforts made for the various Western European languages, like Italian:
Marked by Honor – I can’t say that I’m a fan of that pose. It’s completely unnatural. It’s also the Betty Grable pose that’s been exaggerated in way too many unfortunate comic book and Magic card illustrations to count.
Meditation Puzzle – Gorgeous art, why must you appear on Limited fodder so often?
Raise the Alarm – New non-Mirrodin art from Zoltan Boros. Maybe it’s the illustration angle, but doesn’t the woman on the right look about to take a tumble?
Resolute Archangel – If you’re looking at that flavor text and going “huh?” I don’t blame you. Paired with the Prerelease promo art, it makes a whole lot more sense.
Sungrace Pegasus – Unlike Geist of the Moors, which doesn’t explain what “flying” means, Sungrace Pegasus is a common and does. The flavor text originally purchased for this card didn’t all fit and what’s on the card is a significantly cut-down version. This is a natural part of the set-building process; sometimes templating issues come up, cards get cut completely, and what-have-you. So it goes.
Wall of Essence – This one hurts. The Stronghold original had one of the best flavor texts of all time. This is not an improvement in any sense.
Chasm Skulker – I’d never heard of Mikey Neumann before seeing this card. All I can say is, thank you for the squid.
Coral Barrier – Along with some land art, this is the Standard-legal debut of Florian de Gesincourt, who started with Exploration in the Conspiracy set.
Diffusion Sliver – It has legs. Not a Sliver. Not. A. Sliver.
Ensoul Artifact – The name was a takeoff of Ensouled Scimitar. Unfortunately, my matching flavor text about a matchmaker reconsidering her pairing of an artificer’s daughter and a tailor’s son didn’t get picked up.
Jace, the Living Guildpact – Congratulations, Jace. You’re the ultimate legal authority on a plane that never really asked for you. The least you could do is support a local barber and get that ridiculous hair tamed!
Jalira, Master Polymorphist – I like Jalira and think she has the potential to be this generation’s Jaya Ballard, albeit from a blue perspective rather than red. I wish I’d written that flavor text. It’s so perfect… so her. Argh.
Mercurial Pretender – Sometimes a name just comes together. Mercury is used as a mirror in some telescopes; a “mercurial” temperament is changeable, just like the card; and a claimant to a throne is a pretender just as much as a clone is.
Polymorphist’s Jest – As noted above, originally this was “Jalira’s Jest” but changed to make it more usable in contexts where Jalira’s not around. I can only hope the flavor text is just the start of her quippy career.
Statute of Denial – Take a look at the bottom right part of the card art. Looks like there’s a tiny homunculus hiding out from the big boom…
Blood Host – Cynthia Sheppard definitely was on a “sexy vampire” kick with this set, between Blood Host and Shadowcloak Vampire!
Carrion Crow – When I saw the preliminary art for this card, my mind immediately jumped to a folk ballad I learned in elementary school: “The Old Carrion Crow.” While my real-world flavor text quoting from the ballad didn’t make it (in fact, there is no real-world flavor text in Magic 2015 at all, which gnaws at me), the name stuck.
Cruel Sadist – A bit of an awkward name, as sadists typically are cruel in their own ways. The art is really unsettling; maybe it’s the spotless purple gown?
Flesh to Dust – Julie Dillon, who made her Magic debut with the Soulcatcher reprint in Conspiracy, is now Standard-legal for the first time.
In Garruk’s Wake – A great name with real gut-punch art. There’s just enough green at the edges to know what Garruk’s become… and what he does, just by existing.
Leeching Sliver – That’s still not a Sliver. I see legs. Not. A. Sliver.
Necromancer’s Assistant – Ever since I saw this card in one of the earliest Duels of the Planeswalker spoilers, I’ve regretted using “preferred” instead of “better.” The longer Latinate word is unnecessary and gives the statement a worse ending.
Necromancer’s Stockpile – Hello creepy art! I didn’t know Seb McKinnon had this in him.
Stain the Mind – This art is Jason Rainville’s debut in a Standard-legal set; his previous appearance was Spontaneous Combustion in Conspiracy. The Canadian artist’s site isn’t work-safe, so no link, but I trust you know how to use Google.
Unmake the Graves – Now that’s some puntastic flavor text! On a scale of one to Luis Scott-Vargas, I give it a Rich Hagon.
Wall of Limbs – I thought Necromancer’s Stockpile had the creepiest art in the set until I got here. Oof.
Aggressive Mining – Of course it seems so obvious in retrospect: the art description with its “blocky” specifics, the references to mining, and all that. At the time I was writing names and flavor text, though, I had no reason to suspect anything was up with this card. It was just an interesting draw engine with equally interesting creative behind it. As for the end result, I love it. It’s different enough to be notable while not far from Magic’s current style.
Belligerent Sliver – Getting closer, but that’s still not a Sliver.
Crowd’s Favor – I wonder what plane this is set on. The clothes made me think Theros for an instant, but Theros didn’t do gladiator games; those were Roman, not Greek.
Generator Servant – This cute little Elemental reminds me of a miniature Skizzik. Fun times!
Goblin Kaboomist – There’s a significant element of throwback humor relating to Goblins in this set, including the Kaboomist and James Ernest’s Hot Soup.
Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient – I get that Ogres aren’t supposed to have human anatomy and this dude’s been dead awhile besides, but doggone, that posture doesn’t look right, and what’s with those huge arms?
Scrapyard Mongrel – I love almost everything about this card. I can’t decide which is most fun: the scattered junk around the mongrel, the gent working obliviously in the back, or those marvelous five words of flavor text.
Back to Nature – Well, Theros block, it was nice knowing you. Also, I’ll stick to my Magic 2011 copies with the Emerson quotes.
Carnivorous Moss-Beast – New artist sighting! Filip Burburan is a Croation artist with a knack for the unsettling. (As with Jason Rainville, I trust you know how to use Google.) In addition to Carnivorous Moss-Beast, Mr. Burburan crafted the illustration for the unfortunatel- named “Scuttling Doom Engine.”
Hornet Nest – Mark Rosewater’s longstanding dislike aside, bees and hornets will continue to give green things it “shouldn’t” have. Hornet Nest wound up not having room for the flavor text Wizards bought for it. Ah well. Perhaps in another printing…
Nissa, Worldwaker – Nissa has a lot of redeeming to do after she let the Eldrazi loose. “Worldwaker” is an epithet, and not the kindest one!
Phytotitan – Dear flavor text: I wouldn’t say that. A little Caustic Tar might work…
Venom Sliver – The much-heralded “Sliver Change” doesn’t seem to have amounted to much, at least as the Slivers themselves go. This thing has legs and cable-things. Not. A. Sliver.
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard – He’s a one-eyed rogue with a lyre in his hands and beasties by his side. I don’t recommend making an enemy of him.
Multicolor, Artifact, and Land
Garruk, Apex Predator – The four abilities leave precious little room for art, yet the clever use of frame overlap to show the axe gives the illustration a great sense of motion, as if Garruk is about to barrel through his own text. Well done!
Sliver Hivelord – Now this I’ll accept as a Sliver, if only barely. It’s more “grudging acceptance” at this point than anything else.
Avarice Amulet – When he blogs, Steven Belledin is one of the most consistently useful sources of information among current Magic illustrators. His breakdown of Avarice Amulet is well worth the read.
Hot Soup – As noted by Mark Rosewater, James Ernest now belongs to the elite group to have both designed a Magic card and illustrated one. The painting may adhere to modern Magic style, but its sense of fun is vintage.
Meteorite – Taking the term “mana rock” to a whole new level, this giggler has been one of my favorites ever since I laid eyes on it.
Rogue’s Gloves – Part of me appreciates the flavor text. The rest of me thinks “trying too hard.” I may change my mind next week.
Soul of New Phyrexia – The Phyrexians don’t believe in souls. Their world apparently does. Hmm…
Tyrant’s Machine – If anyone can tell me what this thing is or what it does, let me know. I don’t mind abstract artifacts, but this is over-the-top.
Basic Lands – New entries come from landscape specialist and recent Magic stable addition Florian de Gesincourt. They’re suitably dramatic.
Sliver Hive – Well, there it is. I found the one true Sliver in Magic 2015. It’s good to see you back, little hyper-evolutionary living-dagger buddy. Hop up beside me! Can you wave good-bye to the nice readers? Yes, that’s a nice Sliver…