Out of Time

In his final article for StarCityGames, Kelly takes his customary look at the highs and lows of the new set. Time Spiral has got everybody talking… and Kelly will have everybody laughing.

You are standing on a barren plain, lightning flashing overhead. The wind whips across the ashen waste, filling your nostrils with the acrid stench of a world gone dead and dark. In the distance, hooded figures watch silently from perches atop jagged outcroppings of weathered stone.

There’s a sudden shifting behind you, the sound of tumbling scree dislodged by something big. You turn to see a monstrous shape, horrible yet strangely familiar, with four great arms, dull eyes, and a toothy maw. Its horrid features are illuminated as lightning lances across the sky once more.

All at once, realization strikes you. You and this abomination have both been pulled across time and space to a terrible reckoning at the end of all things. And worse, you know this creature.

It’s an Orgg.

… and you’re a Squire.

Welcome to Time Spiral.

Yes, my friends, we’ve entered a world gone mad, a world in which new and old frolic together like childhood playmates. With three new keywords, numerous returning ones, revamped versions of old favorites, and a special subset of “Timeshifted” cards from throughout the game’s history, Time Spiral is sure to offer mind-bending new strategies that will turn Constructed and Limited on their ears!

Man, am I ever glad I’m not a strategy writer.

Reading this won’t make you a better player. In fact, if my record is any indication, it might make you worse. Others will speak to you of formats and archetypes. I’m here to talk about fun, flavor, and more nostalgia than your grandpa on D-Day. Let’s get started.

Time Spiral has taken some flak for being named after an existing card, and people complained even more loudly when it was revealed that the other two sets of the Time Spiral block would be named likewise. What people don’t realize is that this is hardly a new trend. Just look at Visions (originally in Legends), Prophecy (originally in Homelands), Apocalypse (originally in Tempest), Torment (originally in Stronghold), Judgment (also available in Radiant’s, Dominaria’s, Harsh, and Final varieties), Onslaught (originally in Exodus), Coldsnap (originally in Ice Age, albeit as “Cold Snap”), and of course Betrayers of Kamigawa, which I believe was in Legends.

Before we can talk about all the throwbacks, though, let’s take a look at…

New Mechanics
Playing into Time Spiral’s obvious theme of bizarre energy fields nostalgia, the new mechanic are closely based on existing cards: Flash gives every card a built-in, well, Flash; Suspend gives your opponent a free Ertai’s Meddling; and Split Second is, um, a cross between… split cards, and, uh, Second Chance. Obviously.

Suspend (When you suspend this, play it without paying its mana cost… eventually.)
Reminiscent of: Amazon Super Saver Shipping
Motto: “You get what you pay for.”
Appeals to: People with long attention spans, compulsive slow-rollers

Flash (Play this whenever you want to. See if we care.)
Reminiscent of: Overnight Mail
Motto: “It’s not as much fun as it sounds.”
Appeals to: People with ADHD, people who use Overnight Mail

Split second (Dowhatthisspellsaysrightnowinfinityplusonenotakebacks!)
Reminiscent of: Replicators from Star Trek
Motto: “You can’t respond to this… except by weeping.”
Appeals to: Quick people, Ninjas

Returning Mechanics
Like a big keyword block party, Time Spiral finally brings back all the keywords they’ve been “saving for later,” just when it started to seem that they were wrapping them in napkins, putting them in the back of the freezer, and forgetting about them, just like Grandma. Most of these keywords got new reminder text:

Echo (The turn after this comes into play, really think about whether to draw your card, okay?)
Flanking (Whenever a creature without flanking blocks this, it gains bushido -1 until end of turn.)
Threshold (Threshold is an ability word and has no rules meaning.)
Shadow (Win the game as fast as possible. If you don’t, lose the game instead.)
Morph (You can play this face-down as a 2/2 creature and turn it face up any time for its morph cost, and the rules will just have to deal with it.)
Madness (Whenever you would discard this, even to pay a cost on one of your own cards, play it instead. It’s cheaper for some reason. Wait, can that be right?)
Buyback (When you play this, if you paid its buyback cost, annoy target opponent.)
Flashback (You can play this from your graveyard for more mana, less mana, the same amount of mana, a different color of mana, or something other than mana. We honestly just roll dice on this stuff.)

Like a houseguest in some bad comedy sequel, slivers are up to their wacky hijinks again. There are more of them than ever, with two commons, an uncommon, and a rare in each color, plus another eight in the multicolored, artifact, and Timeshifted cards. Compare this to a common and uncommon in each color in Tempest and another artifact Sliver (plus six gold ones in Stronghold), and one of each rarity per color in Legions (plus one in Scourge), and you’ll see that the number of Slivers per block is ever-increasing. By my calculations, by 2014 there will be a set in which every creature is a Sliver. Dude, that’ll be awesome!

Pulmonic Sliver
“Pulmonic,” of course, comes from a Latin term meaning, “Ew.”

Telekinetic Sliver
Getting Slivers in on the hot fashion trend set by the guys with the throbbing heads from Beneath the Planet of the Apes and continued by the Neurok in Mirrodin.

Basal Sliver
Speaking of paradoxes, this flavor text implies that Basal Thrull exists because of Basal Sliver. Take that, causality!

Plague Sliver
“…Even herpes.”

Vampiric Sliver
How come Fungus Sliver gets to be a Fungus but this guy doesn’t get to be a Vampire?

Fury Sliver
Wait, double strike is bullet time? Sweet!

White Cards
White in Time Spiral combines a Lil’-Orphan-Annie-meets-Mad-Max fashion sense with all the excitement of preventing damage – though to be fair, there’s going to be more than a bit of attacking for two in there as well.

Castle Raptors
This would be a great title for a Jurassic Park sequel set in medieval Scotland. I’ll file that one away… just in case it comes up.

Cavalry Master
Look closely – he’s not rallying the troops, he’s flipping the bird at somebody who cut him off in traffic.

Moments later, Gruuhg realized why everything looked sideways.

Cloudchaser Kestrel
Dear Daren Bader,

This is what a kestrel looks like. Thought you should know.

D’Avenant Healer
“With bandages, I heal the wounded. With arrows, I wound the healed. With my bunny rabbit helmet, I strike terror into the hearts of men. And with my hookah… dude, take a guess.”

Detainment Spell
If a girl ever tells you to “bind the mind rather than the wrist,” well… you’re going to have an interesting night.

Foriysian Interceptor
Is it beautiful or terrible that what started out as a pun on “four-eyes” has become an established part of the Magic mythos?

Jedit’s Dragoons
I was going to quibble about the definition of dragoon, but then I got distracted… ‘cause man, that is one ugly cat.

Magus of the Disk
I don’t know what’s worse… the fact that he’s wearing a hubcap, or the fact that he seems to think this makes him ghetto. “Word to Nevinyrral, homes.”

Outrider En-Kor
I was going to ask what that thing he’s fighting is, but I realized that the answer is trivially obvious: Land squid.

Plated Pegasus
I need to get something off my chest. A largeish albatross weighs 22 pounds and has a wingspan of 11 feet. Quetzlcoatlus, a pterosaur, weighed about 110 pounds and had a wingspan of as much as 40 feet. A good-sized horse weighs about 1500 pounds. Even accepting that hollowed bones and such could cut that weight in half, the amount of wing surface required to lift such a creature would be staggering… and that’s without strapping armor plating to it, to say nothing of depicting it with a wingspan of only about twice its body length (the span : length ratio of an albatross is more like 8:1, and I’m assuming we’d rather our pegasi soared majestically than fluttered like sparrows).

Okay, I’m done. Really.

Spirit Loop
Incidentally, snakes with spines are on my list of things never to wear around my neck, right between the entries for “snakes” and “things with spines.”

Blue Cards
In Time Spiral Blue, mysterious energy fields are common, and goggles are mandatory – probably because of all the mysterious energy fields.

You know when someone swears they’ll never do something but refuses to take simple steps that would make it impossible, and then for months or years you take them at face value but never really believe them deep down? When they finally do cheat on you or repaint your old room or come out of the closet or obsolete Counterspell or whatever, you feel vindicated even if you’re not actually happy about it, but remember: it’s still impolitic to say “I told you so.”

Careful Consideration
[This spell or incantation does not cite its references or sources. You can help by playing it during your main phase.]

Errant Ephemeron
I don’t actually have anything to say about this one; I just wanted to see what the autocard program did with it. Is anyone else worried about that with this set? Is it Balance or Restore Balance? Mawcor or Fledgling Mawcor? Mindstab or Mindstab Thrull? Time Spiral or Time Spiral? Who knows?!

Fathom Seer
The art of this card is actually a special throwback to Kamigawa, when art frequently depicted a big mass of glowing things and stuff that made no sense. If you look closely, though, you can in fact make out a face and hand, which is kind of cool. And if you look even more closely, you’ll see that yes, that thing in the background is the front half of a dolphin balancing a sun going nova on its nose. Or something.

Fledgling Mawcor
All the nostalgia that welled up in me when I read the name trickled out when I saw that the art references the Seventh Edition version. Weak!

If Onslaught were a video game, this is the guy you’d have to fight at the end.

Magus of the Jar
“Yes! Ultimate knowledge shall be mine! As soon as I figure out how to get out of this ridiculous get-up.”

“O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb…”

Moon = change

This is not a tough concept!

Ophidian Eye
Ahh! It’s Voldemort!

Sage of Epityr
Look for “randomfolk” as a creature type in Planar Chaos.

Dragor the Merciless didn’t know why he was upside down, but he found he rather enjoyed it.

Spell Burst
I was going to wonder what web site she was looking at… but I think I know.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
“I may not be a planeswalker, but I’ve still got my whackin’ sticks.”


Vesuvan Shapeshifter
Fun activity for stupid children: Can YOU spot the difference?

Black Cards
I’ll say this for the Black cards: They’ve got guts, and they’re not afraid to show it. Uh, ew.

Call to the Netherworld
New from Sprint! The charges are a bitch, though.

Cyclopean Giant
They wanted to call this Cyclopean Giant Tomb Mummy, but it wouldn’t fit on the card.

Demonic Collusion
Take note: This is the kind of collusion that doesn’t get you DQ’d.

Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
He busies himself with making Thrulls until he makes too many and they kill him… +10 million flavor points.

Evil Eye of Urborg
Wasn’t this one of the beholderkin from the AD&D Monstrous Manual?

Faceless Devourer
Faceless? Are you kidding me? That thing has, if anything, a surfeit of faces.

Fallen Ideal
Don’t be such a grumpus! It’s Halloween!

Liege of the Pit
The thing to do is run this with Lord of the Pit and then sacrifice them to each other. COM-BO!

Living End
“Oh, Homer, you are the living end!”

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: This is a Greek word for tuberculosis. It’s pronounced “TIE-sis” or “THIGH-sis.” Not “FI-sis,” “FTHIGH-sis,” “P’TIE-sis,” “PTHIGH-sis,” “PITH-sis,” or “that black kill spell that’s too hard to say.” Thank you for your cooperation.

Better let Sangriaphage get his drink on… or he’ll rough you up.

Skulking Knight
Coming in Planar Chaos: Lurking Samurai, Whooping Ninja, and Jumbo Dwarf.

“For instance, I egged your house AND ate the last Oreo. Mwahahahahahaha!”

Sudden Spoiling
What’re you gonna do, cry about it? Oh. I see. Uh… Can I get you a tissue or something?

Tendrils of Corruption
This art was rejected from the Discworld TCG for being just barely too serious.

Red Cards
Time Spiral’s Red cards feature bonfires, lantern-fires, balls of fire, whips of fire, jets of fire, breathing fire, and fire with a light white wine sauce. As usual.

Ancient Grudge
Coming in Future Sight: New Mutiny

Flamecore Elemental
Fireball art from Fifth Dawn + angry face + grabby claws = Elemental!

Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
To everyone who said Lyzolda was hot: THIS is what a hot Magic chick looks like. Ditto Saffi Eriksdotter. She can run away from me any day.

Magus of the Scroll
“Let me see here… Grandma’s Yummy Crumblecakes – Dammit, wrong scroll!”


Thick-Skinned Goblin
Dude, get some skin cream or something. Seriously.

Undying Rage
As you can see from her picture, Radha is only half-elven; her mother was from Skyshroud, and her father was a porcupine. It’s best not to think about it.

Green Cards
Breaking Black’s usual stranglehold on putrition and things that stink, Time Spiral green features fungus, mold, moss, decay, and art by Rebecca Guay.

Oh! That was harsh. I almost feel bad. Almost.

Durkwood Baloth
Adjective from one Magic card + noun from a different Magic card = card name for Time Spiral.

Another piece of art featuring a haunted-looking elf chick with red hair? Man, that is so guay.

That guy looks almost like he’s wearing a cloak of molder-vines. Doesn’t seem to be going so well for him, though.

Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
“Operating, generating / New life, new life…”

Search for Tomorrow
The great thing about searching for tomorrow is that it really doesn’t matter how hard you look.

Strength in Numbers
“…Then they die, too. Actually, pretty much everybody dies. Didn’t mean to get your hopes up.”

Artifacts and Lands
‘Cause the gold cards aren’t funny.

Chromatic Star

Gauntlet of Power
Like the Nintendo Power Glove, but with fewer buttons.

Functional reprint of Conspiracy.

Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII
Read a book, and the past comes alive!

(Oh, and how cool is it that they made a card whose entire name is in italics?)

The (non-Grinning) Totems
Some of Magic’s most iconic creatures have returned, albeit as the kind of kitschy little figurines and commemorative plates you sneer at in crummy little corner stores in Indiana.

Famous for its shapeshifters. I mention this only because apparently some people missed it. Not you, of course, and certainly not me, just… some people.

Timeshifted Cards
…Oh holy God. It’s like Aaron Forsythe crapped a rainbow in my brain… and then crapped some actual crap, too, which explains Squire.

Akroma, Angel of Wrath
I wonder if they keyworded vigilance just for her… Also, you’ll notice that her hair was already purple. Have they been planning this for years? Clearly!

Defiant Vanguard
Ballista Squad is the only card in Standard that this can fetch and Amrou Scout can’t. I just thought you should know.

Ooh, an Alpha Naturalize!

Icatian Javelineers
Okay, the javelins are a given, but what’s with the hats?

Ghost Ship, Pirate Ship, War Barge
Contrary to what Time Spiral would have you believe, Tom Wänerstrand actually can draw things besides boats.

Lord of Atlantis
Standard Tribal is increasing in popularity… and here he sits, with four Standard-legal Merfolk. That is pretty cold.

Wait, did Warcraft steal this from Magic, or did Magic steal it from Warcraft? It’s been so long I’ve forgotten. And more than likely, so have they.

Prodigal Sorcerer, Psionic Blast
Ahh, burn has finally returned to Blue’s slice of the color pie! This lets Red focus on its true strengths of terrible creatures and cards that keep things from blocking.

Human! Really. Really? Head covered in tentacles, yellow-green skin… Human. Really?

Dauthi Slayer
Notice that Dauthi is a creature type now? Kor got the same treatment on Outrider En-Kor. I’m not sure I quite… get it.

Sengir Autocrat
Shouldn’t the Smurf tokens be blue?

Oh. Ohhhh, Serf. Nevermind then.

“Any player may have Browbeat…” BUT WHAT IF THEY DON’T?!

Craw Giant
Ho ho ho! Green giant.

Hunting Moa
Moa were actually grazing animals. Tiny little heads, no big nasty beaks. Just sayin’.

Thornscape Battlemage
“With this end of my battle-stick, I shall swat the flies of injustice! With the other end, I shall flip the pancakes of truth! And I will try really hard not to get them mixed up again.”

Jasmine Boreal
“Come in, Synergy. It’s Jem.”

Mystic Enforcer
Am I the only one who looks at that picture and sees kitty ears?

Shadowmage Infiltrator
I wonder if they ever put Finkel’s face on a poker card.

I’m sorry… That was mean.

You know, I really hated how Mirrodin made Magic all sci-fi for the first time. Give me the good old days of titan engines and soul bombs!

NOOOO! How could they reprint Desert without giving us Camel to keep it in check? Standard is doomed!


The Sincere Epilogue

That, as they say, is that. And they really mean it this time. You see, by the time you read this, I will already be dead. I’ve –

Oh, jeeze, sorry, wrong window. Didn’t mean to alarm you there.

By the time you read this, I will be zipped up under NDA as the copyeditor for magicthegathering.com. Without getting into specifics, I can say that the full NDA treatment was strongly encouraged but not mandatory. Weighing all the variables, I chose to give up going to tournaments and writing for StarCityGames.com in order to better be able to do a job that’s very important to me. It wasn’t an easy choice, but it was mine to make, and I made it.

This is my last article here, almost exactly a year after the one that set things into motion. I don’t mean to get all mushy, but you’ve been a hell of an audience. To Anusien, bateleur, Vrax, Pselus, Noumenon, Poukis, violentjesus, Vyolynce, lathspel, SeekerAfterChaos, Nips, RisingPheonix, Spencer Cushing, Paul Kory, Ben Lorenz, Evan “Misterorange” Erwin, Pugg Fuggly, John F. Rizzo (where the hell is Rizzo, anyway? I need my fix!), Talen Lee (ditto), the mysterious rbuehler, Mike Turian, Mark Rosewater, Daron Rutter, Aaron Hauptmann, Richard Feldman, Craig Stevenson, Ben Bleiweiss, blisterguy, Ben Goodman, the Ferrett, Lee Sharpe, Ted Knutson, and everyone else who’s ever taken the time to email or post or tell me in person about your reaction to something I wrote: Thank you, truly. That’s why I did it.

Don’t worry – you haven’t heard the last of me. My invisible editorial hand will be placing the commas and fixing the typos on most of the content on magicthegathering.com (you know you only ever loved me for my excellent use of commas), and I’ll do some actual writing for them whenever I can, be it feature articles or coverage or whatever else. Granted, it won’t be the same, which is why I’m thinking of taking a page from the Book of Ferrett and starting a blog. If that happens, I’ll do my best to spread the word (to them’s as need it, as the good shepherd would say). It won’t be about Magic, but it was never just about Magic anyway, was it?

Take care, everybody. I’ll be around, lurking in the forms, tinkering with hyphens and en-dashes, and generally loving every minute of it. Whatever you do, have a hell of a time. I know I will.

Kelly Digges

[Editor’s Note: Kelly submitted this on October 1st, the day before he started his new job. Cheers, Kelly! We’ll miss you. – Craig.]