In my first ever draft, triple Urza’s Saga, I opened a Morphling in my first booster and passed it because it had too many abilities and I couldn’t figure out whether it was any good or not, taking the “safe” Pacifism instead. I regretted that later when I saw a guy with infinite mana out and that very Morphling in play enchanted with Hermetic Study. He proceeded to throw away that game by blocking a Hollow Dogs with the Morphling and just shooting some stuff instead of pumping the Morphling’s toughness to save it. Nice play.
My memories of Urza’s block are, of course, those of a Newbie, and the only draft I ever won in the format I had a mono-White deck infinite lifegain spells and a whopping eight creatures, one of which was Serra Avatar. So everything I say should be treated with suspicion. I know I’m suspicious. And paranoid. They’re after me! With that out of the way, let’s have a look at what Urza’s block contributes to ye olde brand new Time Spiral.
Returning Mechanics: Echo
Echo is a strange ability in many ways. On the one hand it lets you play bigger creatures early in the game, which is good for your tempo; on the other hand it keeps you from playing anything the following turn, which is poison for your tempo. An aggressive deck wants to curve out, adding a new guy every turn. A control deck wants to put up defenses, and needs to be able to stem the tide of men. Echo creatures are actually quite good at doing this, and if one dude is big enough to stop an army it doesn’t even matter that you can’t do anything the next turn. So echo is a good way to help slow control decks in a fast beatdown environment. Just pray they don’t get bounced.
The problem with Urza’s block is that all memories of it are dominated by Constructed. Yes, it’s the most broken set ever, but it wasn’t that bad in Limited. Yes, there were many powerful artifacts, but the set was really all about enchantments, and the only reason people perceive it to be about artifacts is Tolarian Academy, which, by the way, sucks in Limited. There are cards in Time Spiral which may lead to broken combo decks, but that has next to no bearing on Limited. Not that the new combo winter is upon us, or else they wouldn’t have scheduled almost a year of Constructed Magic.
Returning Mechanics: Rebels, Spellshapers
I was never a fan of rebels in Masques block Limited. It was rare that you could actually assemble an entire chain, and they were just so puny compared to mercenaries, plus you were paying more mana for each rebel you fetched rather than played. What helped rebels was the fact that Masques block was relatively slow, and so the card advantage granted helped a lot.
Time Spiral is a different beast. The faster speed will make the card advantage less important, and the small number of rebels will make it harder to collect a significant amount. Paying four mana and tapping your two-drop to tutor up a four-drop isn’t a very exciting play. In one of the drafts I did at the prerelease I tried drafting a rebel deck, and it didn’t really seem all that exciting. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try it, but I don’t see rebels being a great strategy this time around. The presence will give a minor rush of excitement for old skoolers who want resurrect their counter-rebel deck in Standard, and then every rebel reveller will wind up disappointed.
One of the great things about gaining card advantage with rebels was that you could pitch all the other cards you drew to your spellshapers without too much trouble. That being said, spellshapers, while an essential building block of Masques, err, block, had very little real synergy with the rest of it. But boy, would they have been at home in Odyssey block (see Waterfront Bouncer in Extended U/G madness decks). Now the two worlds have completed the collision course they were always destines to be on, and you can discard your madness cards to your spellshapers. What a brave new world.
Just from playing with one Sealed deck at the pre-release I managed to get really excited about this interaction. Discard all your madness cards to Ication Crier and then bury them under an avalanche of citizen tokens. Y’know, I always knew U/G madness really always wanted to be B/W…
In summation, echo will provide some support for slower decks to survive in a fast environment, rebels will be quite minor and spellshapers, despite their small numbers, should provide an awesome effect on the format.
Join me tomorrow, when bang on even more about B/W madness and go completely mad.