On the day of the Invasion prerelease, a friend of mine showed me a split card for the first time and I exclaimed: “What the hell is that? Really? No way!!!” I haven’t had that kind of reaction to anything since as far as I can recall, but it was the beginning of my love affair with Invasion block that lasted until GenCon the following year where I played far too many triple Apocalypse drafts to truly enjoy it any more. How could Wizards possibly follow-up such awesomeness?
The simple answer is, of course, with Odyssey. The more abstract answer is with a very strange, off-the-wall kind of set that throws any and all rules and preconceptions out of the window and just does stuff. Odyssey was nothing short of a complete and utter triumph, a total headscratcher of weirdness that to this day doesn’t stop to confound and amaze. Just look at the rise of Ichorid last year, a card that lay dormant for many years to come out of nowhere into the tourney scene. Extended is filled with Odyssey block cards more than with any other set, but a lot of them are very subtly powerful and not obviously so at first glance.
Time Spiral is the natural heir to the throne of Odyssey, having to follow from the triumph of a brilliant multi-colored set. Time to continue the exploration of whether it’s deserving of the crown or whether it’s time to introduce democracy.
Returning Mechanics: …none really
I find it surprising that they took virtually nothing from this beloved block. One or two kicker cards wouldn’t have looked out of place… would they? They only just did more split cards, and they probably won’t make any more for another five years because it will take that long to come up with five or ten more suitable names for them. They cunningly planted a domain spell in the set, which will go nicely in a five-color sliver deck. All in all, though, Invasion just isn’t feeling the love. Sob.
Returning Mechanics: Madness, Flashback, discard engines
The basic tenet of Odyssey block is, of course, that the graveyard matters. Odyssey block Limited usually came down to who could abuse that game zone more. There was no greater advantage possible than having seven cards in the bin. The best way to achieve this was by abusing various discard engines like Wild Mongrel, and having madness and flashback cards made this particularly unfair. Madness, flashback, and discard engines are all back, but the absence of threshold changes the way entire dynamics of the block and hence how to view these cards. I know Mystic Enforcer is purple, but one ultra-rare doesn’t change the dynamic of the block.
Madness was always ludicrously overpowered, since most of the time you discarded them to pay for an effect and then you got to play them at a reduced price! They kept that the same this time round – madness still comes with the insane discount. The curious change is that where in Torment (interestingly, the Black set…) there were two cycles of madness cards spread evenly across all five colors, in Time Spiral all non-purple madness spells are Black. Furthermore, four of the five new madness spells are common. This means that, if you’re playing Black, madness has been elevated from a fairly insignificant ability that nicely complements the major driving force behind your deck to something that can actually drive your deck. My prerelease Sealed deck contained seven madness cards, which meant Icatian Crier became the best card in my deck. So madness is the new threshold.
Flashback should play differently as well. In Odyssey block you always had to look through your opponent’s graveyard, as well as your own, in search for the little tombstone symbol that the bastards chose not to bring back. As Flashback was everywhere, most players became acutely aware of the possibilities they and their opponents have out of necessity. With only ten non-rare flashback cards in Time Spiral, few of which are particularly exciting it won’t really matter very often that you aren’t rifling through both graveyards all the time.
Of course, if the graveyard mattered too much in Time Spiral that would’ve just been shockingly unoriginal because they would’ve just solved the problem of how to follow the “new Invasion” the same way they solved it for the old one. Wizards R&D are much too clever for that. They just pay homage. The returning abilities can even become more interesting because of the simplified rules. I especially like how Split Second is basically how interrupts always should have worked, especially since they didn’t print any counterspells with it (unless you count Trickbind yadayadayada).
Reading MaRo’s article on Monday got me thinking. It implies the Time Shifted cards from Future Sight are going to be shifted from the future. How can “pre-print” cards that haven’t been properly developed yet? What if they make cards with abilities that then turn out to be too good to build a set around? I’m not even going to attempt to think about what it means that cards are Time Shifted from the present, for fear my head will explode.
Tomorrow we shall talk about ye olde face-downs and rap this up.
Until then, may your graveyard be full of tombstones.