Ten Things I Like And Don’t Like, Including “The List”

Cedric Phillips shares his thoughts on the “The List” in Zendikar Rising Set Boosters, critiquing metagame breakdowns, and Luminarch Aspirant.

Figure of Destiny, illustrated by Scott M. Fischer

Here are ten things I like and don’t like from this week in Magic: The Gathering:

1. Are We Really Complaining About This?

Earlier this week, Magic ESports shared the metagame breakdown of the Mythic Invitational (courtesy of Frank Karsten). And you know what happened?

People complained that Mono-Red Goblins was split up from Rakdos Goblins with the idea that… wait for it… Wizards of the Coast (WotC) didn’t want to make the tournament look like Goblins was 33.8% of the metagame. As if that’s a thing that’s important for them (and Frank!) to waste their time doing.

As someone who is working on the coverage side of the Mythic Invitational (I’m actually writing this right now during one of my breaks) and names decklists for a living, differentiating between Mono-Red Goblins and Rakdos Goblins is the right call to make not only for those out there who care about data deep dives but also because… again, wait for it… they’re different decks in a meaningful way.

Do these same people get upset when we differentiate between Azorius Miracles and Jeskai Miracles in Legacy because “they’re only splashing for two red cards”. Do they also get upset when we differentiate between Mono-Red Prowess, Izzet Prowess, and Rakdos Prowess in Modern because “they’re all just Prowess decks”.

No, they don”t, because that would be ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as having to explain why this whole thing is ridiculous.

2. What Did I Say Last Week…

Here. Let me copy + paste it for you:

Few things frustrate me more than someone saying “That’s the new ________!” or “______ is the new ______” because if it were, they would have reprinted the previous card. My (least) favorite example of this is “Oath of Nissa is the green Ponder.”

Last week, it was Sea Gate Stormcaller being compared to Snapcaster Mage. This week, it’s Wayward Guide-Beast being compared to Goblin Guide. Fortunately I saved the same John Mulaney gif

This is Wayward Guide-Beast:

Wayward Guide-Beast

And this is Goblin Guide:

Goblin Guide

Here’s what these two cards have in common:

  • They’re both a 2/2
  • They both cost R
  • They both have haste

That’s it.

Just like Sea Gate Stormcaller and Snapcaster Mage last week, Wayward Guide-Beast and Goblin Guide play remarkably different. So much, in fact, that the kind of deck that you put Wayward Guide-Beast in is, almost assuredly, entirely different than the type of deck you would put Goblin Guide in. To act like these are similar cards at all is utter nonsense and people (hopefully not you) need to stop being lazy when analyzing new cards.

Does it feel like you’ve read those paragraphs before? Good because you did. Last week. And you may read it again next week if this keeps happening!

3. Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeow

Look. I’m not sure if Felidar Retreat is the best card in Zendikar Rising for Standard level play. But lets just say that I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.

Felidar Retreat

As PVDDR explained earlier this week, Felidar Retreat is a perfect example of power creep in 2020. Comparing this card to Return to Emeria, a perfectly reasonable midrange card and combo enabler in 2015, is comical. The Cat Beast tokens (2/2) are larger than the Kor Ally tokens (1/1) but, more importantly, there’s a significant difference between putting a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control and granting them all vigilance as opposed to simply giving your creatures +1/+1 until end of turn.

But the biggest difference between Felidar Retreat and Return to Emeria is that Felidar Retreat is a win condition in and of itself in a very real way. I’m not going to be foolish enough to compare Felidar Retreat to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for a myriad of reasons, but I am getting some real vibes of “this is an awesome thing to tap out for on Turn 4” because it’s powerful enough to dominate a game on its own and, unlike Gideon, only gets better in multiples.

There’s a lot to like here. Don’t ignore it.

4. Is That You Watchwolf?

From one white card to another, besides Autumn Burchett, why aren’t more people talking about Luminarch Aspirant?

Luminarch Aspirant

I mean, I know the answer to that question — it’s a vanilla looking two-drop and when one reviews a new set during its preview season, who gives a crap about a 1W 1/1 that grows when there’s cool looking stuff like Jace, Mirror Mage, Turntimber Symbiosis, and Leyline Tyrant to be consumed by?

Me! I’m the one who gives a crap! Because I like to give zie beatdownz!

And there are few cards that are better at doing that in Zendikar Rising than Luminarch Aspirant. Its floor is Watchwolf and its ceiling is a whole lot higher than that (and, unlike with Watchwolf, it gets better in multiples). Throw in two creature types that matter (Human and Cleric) and we’re looking at a creature that’s going to be Standard staple for sure with the chance of it being a cross format all star.

5. What’s Old Is New Again

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. And with Time Spiral Remastered on the horizon, folks are already trying to figure out what could look the coolest with the old frame:

Lets get this out of the way right now — this is why this product is going to sell. There’s such a wide range of cards they can put in this frame that are exciting that people will flock to them in the same way we see it happen with box toppers, Secret Lair products, and everything else. Frankly, it’s genius and I’m excited for it.

The card I want to see in the old frame the most? My favorite creature off all time of course!

Figure of Destiny

6. Tangrams The Master

On Monday. David “Tangrams” Inglis won SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier 5 with his take on Jund Sacrifice

Three weeks ago, Historic seemed to be all about breaking Bolas’s Citadel in Jund Sacrifice alongside Woe Strider and Mayhem Devil. Then things changed once everyone adopted Grafdigger’s Cage. Now it’s Jund Sacrifice that ignores the problematic artifact entirely. Good luck keeping up!

Much like Dylan Donegan last week and Alexander Gordon-Brown a few weeks prior, people are getting paid off in major ways for their metagame analysis and deck building decisions. This time, it’s Inglis, a player who has dominated the SCG Tour Online with regularity and is bound to become a household name in competitive Magic sooner rather than later.

Expect this to be the first of many for Tangrams.

7. You Just Made The List

For all my wrestling fans out there, 2016-2017 was a pretty fun year due to the The List of Jericho™

GIF by Eric - Find & Share on GIPHY

There’s a lot of things that made The List of Jericho™ a lot of fun but by far my favorite part was the fact that no one knew every person that was on the list. It felt completely random (which it was) and had the WWE ever shown every person that was on the list, it likely would have lost some of its luster (don’t show us who’s on it, just communicate to us that being on it is a bad thing in wrestling kayfabe).

This is a roundabout way for me to not only get Chris Jericho into my weekly article but also for me to express my disdain for Wizards of the Coast revealing the contents of “The List” for Zendikar Rising Set Boosters.

You know the best part about a promotion like this? Not knowing what’s included in said promotion! If you remember way back to our first trip to Zendikar, WotC absolutely killed it with the Priceless Treasures promotion. I’ll never forget the social media posts of people opening pieces of the Power Nine and other cards that were on the Reserved List and everyone having no idea what the hell was going on. That kind of word of mouth promotion and excitement certainly helped make Zendikar an all-timer, and while I wouldn’t have expected Zendikar Rising Set Boosters to do the exact similar promotion, I greatly prefer the idea of acknowledging the idea that “The List” exists but that the contents of the list are never shared so that social media can go wild once again.

For me, “The List” is a really cool idea that’s lacking in execution. Sometimes it’s better to leave the mystery a mystery for as long as possible, which is what I would have greatly preferred to have seen in this instance.

8. Are We Trending Yet?

I’m pretty good at Twitter but it looks like I’ve still got some more work to do…

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

  • #DefundUro
  • #CancelUro
  • #UnprintUro

Thanks for coming to my CEDTalk!

9. Listen

10. Laugh