Most writers like the time of a new set rotation. It gives us a lot of free material to work with; every idea is equally stupid so there’s no problem in putting an opinion out there. The added bonus is you can do a retrospective, “Why didn’t this see play?” piece on a bunch of cards, as well. It’s like getting a weekly for free.
Anyway, as I was saying, this time of transition gives writers a lot of options, and ironically, we can’t take them all. I thought when I started this, I’d have a lot of decks seriously hurt by the departure of Kamigawa block; I liked Kamigawa a lot, and I felt it got a far too knee-jerk reaction from your average Magic player. I hated Mirrodin far more than I hated Kamigawa, so hearing people saying Kamigawa was the worst block ever made my gut tighten.
What I have noticed in this experiment, however, is that few of my decks really lean on Kamigawa much. That doesn’t make sense to me – Kamigawa had so many good cards in it, surely there are more that had decks built around them. Well, seems that that wasn’t the case; I found to my embarrassment that for the better part, all the Kamigawa representations I had were easily replaced.
Hinder – the only Kamigawan card in my Dimir control deck with which I won the first Battle Royale I played in – was replaced readily with Cancel. Wow, that was hard. How am I going to spin a few hundred words about that? Kamigawa’s been edging out of my vision as I relied less on its rares.
This is what struck me as worth mentioning; that Kamigawa did not lack for power, nor for fun; it merely had less focused power. There was no Affinity, there was no Mono-Black Control. Gifts Ungiven was amazingly non-obvious – who thought a seven-mana control engine that didn’t actually do anything would be a powerhouse? – and once I’d sold all but three of my Kamigawa rares, I was left with finding cards to fill the holes in the mean time.
That said, there are a number of Kamigawan cards I’m going to miss. When I started this exercise, I was sure that the departure of Kamigawa would leave a number of my decks foundering, meaning there was some real meat to the article. Then, as I went through the actual process, I found myself caring less and less about what Kamigawa took away, and instead found myself looking for ways to shoehorn in these new, and interesting themes from Time Spiral. I realised that I no longer owned any cards from Kamigawa that I was going to need for decks – having sold my rares, all the uncommons and commons are fairly forgettable or reliant on those very rares to be any good.
Many of Kamigawa’s good cards were lynchpins. They held together entire decks, or coerced whole archetypes around them, but they didn’t do much that was remarkable aside from that. And for the better part, the real power cards in the format were rare. This has meant that my desire to flush out my collection of cards I won’t play in Extended (the few times I dabble in Extended) has left me bereft of any of these lynchpin cards. The reason why I don’t have much Kamigawa in my decks any more is because the cards have been gone from my mind for about a month.
With that in mind, it put me thinking about the design of Kamigawa. People complain about the set at length, even going so far as to write stupid articles comparing the set to Homelands; I defend the set in these situations, and yet, here I am quietly cutting it out of my life a month before it’s technically due.
Here, we stand on the threshold of the Old School. Magic has been defined by eras. In my mind, the modern era of Magic started with Invasion; those were the days when the Future Future League started, when Randy Buehler was new. For a guy who started playing in Scourge, this was not in fact my defining start at the game; it’s where I first noticed the beginning of clear decisions to change the way the game had run beforehand.
That was the beginning of what I thought of as Modern Magic. The time of clear templating, the time of designing with Sixth Edition in mind and a clean slate to play with novel mechanics instead of overcosting everything by one or two, or making the game all about dumb creatures smashing into one another.
I mean, I love rebels.
Anyway. That was Invasion block.
And now, as Kamigawa breathes its last in Standard and the top twenty cards or so, like Gifts Ungiven or Cranial Extraction, make their way into the fields of Extended while their lesser brethren like Godo and Tatsumasa make their much, much quieter way into That Great Night, it dawns on me.
We are standing on the end of that era. In the next few days, Kamigawa – the last of the Old Sets – leaves. The last Magic Set designed without the interleaving policy of Wizards, goes. It has a large number of mistakes in it. A large number of them. The Color Pie early on started out wobbly, still tracing in the footsteps of the Old School, with Blue and Black owning most everything. Our first babysteps towards a balanced color pie had their errors – Odyssey Block – and for the first time ever we saw a truly broken aggressive deck. We finally saw a weenie deck pushed to its logical extension, and it was… harrowing.
And then, as the last age ended, the final hurrah for this Age of Magic was quiet; it was humble; and unfortunately, it will be one of the most reviled blocks ever for that.
Farewell, Kamigawa. We will miss you – and I will miss what you represent. I feel things are changing, in the long run, for the better. But just as we see where we’re going, it’s important to remember where we’ve been. Thank you – most importantly of all, thank you for not being Mirrodin. If there was only one card in you that was truly unfair, then that’s a damn sight better than the block that came before it.
Hugs and Kisses
Talen at dodo dot com dot au
PC Nezumi Shortfang plz