Law. Order. Soldiers. Pugilistic clergymen. Prevention. Cataclysmic board sweepers. Metal bustiers, feathery wings, and immaculate, shapely cherubic bosoms. Grab a beverage and settle in. Let’s talk about white in 8th Edition – the set where men are still men, except they have a brand new stylist. His name is Marketing, and he’s not really human.
So it’s like clockwork, right? Each year or so, the coming of a new base set is heralded by an excited scurry of conversation in the Magic community. Projections are ladled out like they were on sale for $19.99, and myriad questions skitter and skip from lip to lip. This should come as no surprise to anyone: The insatiable curiosity and keen intellect of the Magic player dictate that when set release time comes, speculation will blanket the player base like a bumblebee swarm on pollination duty.
Cloistered in chatrooms, we’ll wonder ceaselessly about the big shakeup that’s on the way. The powers that be, did they reprint? Rotate? Rearrange? Rarify? Render obsolete? I consider myself a pretty devout follower of Magic, (Richard Garfield, that venerable old white warlock, has hooked me), and so I’m shuffling my way through 8th Edition info with a fair bit of interest. Set release time almost always gets the eyebrows up.
I likely won’t be buying any more of any base set (I’ve been down that road before – I sold a Juzam Djinn to get a box of 7th once and my reward was a foil Trained Orgg, and keep your smart remarks to yourself) but even a grizzled gaming grouch like myself feels a stirring somewhere in the cockles of his heart this time of year. I was turning ’em sideways when Kamahl was diddling in his sandpaper barbarian diapers, since before Akroma, Angel of Wrath was a stir in the loins of the Wizards marketing department, and I’ve seen cards come and cards go, but I can’t help but perk up my ears when the subject turns to this”Core Set.”
(shrug) It’s the gamer in me. Let’s review.
In a nutshell, God said”Let there be light!” and there was, and it was good and so on, and then I think he created chocolate bars and TV with five hundred channels. My details are sketchy – I’m a wannabe pro, not a theologist. Anyhow, let’s skip forward a few pages, past the creation of man and woman and also the creation of Alpha, Homelands (thankfully, this dark chapter is omitted from the King James version) and seven incarnations of the base set, and then pow! We’ll skid to a halt just before 8th becomes the talk of the cyber-town.
It started off innocently enough. First, there was the”Selecting 8th Edition” voting. While this bit of blatant pandering for public favor was a good idea on the surface, large groups of people tend to manifest unfortunate flaws when they’re called upon to make decisions. Sure enough, it was in this decision-making capacity that the Magic community at large seemed to collectively grab two ankles and dive down with a flourish to lodge cranium in nethers. I mean, I’ve always had an inkling that the internet is full of mopes with minerals where brains usually go, but these votes erased any and all doubt from my mind. I’ve taken my first step into a larger world. Let’s take a moment and weep for innocence lost.
You want more? Okay. I don’t know how many lines of Colombian flake I’m going to have to do to forget the terrible sight of Rewind outpacing Dismiss, but I better get started on the nosecandy in a hurry – any result short of catatonia is probably a small price to pay if I get to block out the horror. Aaron Forsythe, that storied officer and gentleman, assures me that the votes were not rigged… But if Rewind was able to beat Dismiss, then by God they should have been. Was Aaron asleep at the switch?
Seriously – they knew Counterspell was on the way out, and they let Rewind go in over Dismiss? I don’t care what you have to fudge to shoehorn Dismiss into the set – if the voting drones are smuggling enough short-bus Jedi power in the overhead compartment to pick an unmitigated abortion like Rewind over Dismiss, it’s time to take matters into your own hands for the good of the game. Fraudulent polls? I’d have run that, no question. Rewind can’t carry the boots of Dismiss.
But I digress – let’s get to the next stage of 8th Edition’s formation.
The second bit of excitement was dropped on us a while back, when the Mafioso marketers from Renton brought the new card face out for Pro Tour: Chicago, a fine event that I had occasion to attend. It’d be fair to say that there was a fair bit of bedlam when the slick new designs were presented to the public. Looking contrasted, painfully utilitarian, and sporting more boxes and compartments than an android’s uterus, each layout seemed to epitomize the final, painful death of style – skewered by the ratcheting, scraping claws of function.
“I don’t like all the dividing lines!”
“It’s not… Arcane enough!”
“I’m gonna hurl!”
So a cry rose up from the masses. Kinda. Sorta. Mostly just from the intermediate masses. Like, the novice masses didn’t care – they were too busy trying to figure out if rocks were edible, you dig? And professionals and wannabe pros didn’t care – too busy trying to win or trying to Q, or hitting on the jail-bait dance recital chicks at the convention center. To be fair, most people may have cared a little – just not enough to quit playing because of it. There was an embarrassing petition and a great big ol’ rhubarb, and much crying and gnashing of teeth, but in the end, like a false-alarm trip to the john, the movement died. Even the most virulent anti-cardfacers eventually had to admit that, uncanny resemblance to a chrome toaster-pastry notwithstanding, Millstone was still Millstone.
You could almost hear the rustle of thought as they went about reconciling it with themselves.”Sure, the chrome finish for artifacts is a little unsettling at first,” they would venture, trying the rationalization on for size,”But if you can stomach playing with a Star Compass that looks like it came out of a license-plate stamper at the Fort Bragg stockade, you’re sound as a pound!”
The subject was put to rest, (like the proverbial horse with a broken leg) and here we are. Sure, in keeping with the striking similarity it has to a case of athlete’s foot, the card face bit might flare up again when people actually get to hold the new product in their grubby little paws – but for now, it’s dead like Tight Sight in Standard.
Looking up at what I’ve written, I see 8th Edition has got a little bit of everything.
Experimental user input? Check.
New card face? Check.
Rewind vomited forth into the set by morons? Check.
Bad flavor text? Check. (This one is an educated guess.)
Now we’re at the next big turning point for the set, the next big moment of discussion. We’ve got a spoiler. Put your hands together and scream”Hallelujah!” I’m all excited, my heart is all pitter-patter! Let’s celebrate. Raise the roof! Heck, if Toby Wachter were here, he’d get down on the shag carpet and do a spinerooni.
I guess the point of this article is to talk about White in particular, where some interesting things are brewing. A while back, R&D cooked up this idea called the”color pie” and Buehler stepped down from Mount Hereb with some groovy stone tablets in hand soon afterward, stuff like”White shalt have good weenies” and”White shalt not destroy artifacts” and so on. I’m pretty sure he even said something about how it was bad to covet someone else’s Exalted Angel. Sure, White wasn’t the only color touched by R&D trying out the new chisel – Hystrodon got printed and green started drawing some cards, then decided it didn’t like the ability and shipped it in favor of giving stuff +X/+X again – but times certainly are changing for a color that has long been fairly predictable.
You’ll see some of the changes if you look at the 8th Edition spoiler. White is the good weenie color as promised, but it is also the damage prevention color whole hog – they removed Fog and put Holy Day into the set. And that’s just one example. Check it out yourself and I’ll just hit the highlights.
The color of life and law has got some things going for it with 8th edition. First and foremost, they cut some of the bad chaff out of the set. I don’t know who they got to sign the walking papers for garbage like Shield Wall and Knighthood, but whoever did it should be given the Silver Star and sent to a house full of geisha girls. Castle got the axe, too (I don’t think anyone is sad to see that outdated old piece of junk get shipped off to the landfill), and they got rid of the worst hoser ever, Starlight, and put Karma in. Kjeldoran Royal Guard, Sustainer Of The Realm, Serra Advocate – all gone. This is good, but unfortunately you’ll see in a moment that they put in a bunch of other marginal cards to fill up the space. In fact, White has got all of two playable creatures in the entire base set.
I’m glad to see all of the above cards go because they were really just terrible, and the flavor of white can be better expressed through alternatives. Karma instead of Starlight is the best example of this – law and order and goodness need not be so docile as to sit there, gaining life. It should be able to bury you in righteousness. Knighthood and Castle were both junk, though it might have made sense to keep Castle in the set for flavor reasons. They should have left it and kept that piece of crap Solidarity out of the set (and if you’re wondering why Defensive Maneuvers is bad, compare it to this card, which is also bad, and figure it out for yourself). Kjeldoran Royal Guard has been stinking up the rare slot since 5th edition and it’s never been any good. I don’t know why R&D has got such a fetish for this redirection mechanic (and indeed, they did add Oracle’s Attendants to the set to replace the Royal Guard) but their time and Kleenex would be better spent elsewhere.
Blinding Angel is coming back, and that’s good. Any card that can potentially create an entire deck type by itself is certainly worthy of a space. Savannah Lions? Great. I couldn’t be happier. Now… Why remove Longbow Archers?
Story Circle? Also a great choice. There really isn’t a lot to say about these – I’m glad to see all five of them in the base set. Karma would have been a lot more interesting if it’d been reprinted maybe a year ago, perhaps in Judgement, but it should still give black decks something to think about.
I’m not joking – look at the spoiler. Serra Angel doesn’t count since Blinding Angel is almost strictly superior, and Serra isn’t that good anyway. Read through all the creatures and tell me how many you see that you’d actually run in Standard. It’s a sad state of affairs and when you sit back and look at the big picture, a canvas dotted with the likes of Sunweb and Master Healer, you realize it’s no wonder that so many white players are disreputable alcoholics on workman’s comp.
(Sorrowful Italian voice): Wizards, why you so mean to Guiseppe?
Of all these, Longbow Archers is probably the dumbest card to remove from the base set. Seriously, they ejected a solid 2/2 for WW, and brought in Sword Dancer? That’s like trading gold bullion for bronzed puke, and I can’t imagine the reasoning behind it. Well, actually I can – they probably couldn’t fit the first strike reminder text in the box alongside”This may block creatures with flying.” If they’re so mindful about space, perhaps they can tell me how best to maneuver my foot up their collective poop chutes (with a minimum of chafing on entry or extrusion on exit)? For besmirching the 8th Edition experience with another 1/2 for two mana, the think tank behind this little gem loses 1,000,000 points.
Disenchant was replaced by Naturalize, but that sterling example of color-wheel causality still waters down White like back alley hooch – the only saving grace is that all the artifacts are awful so it doesn’t really matter. The exit of Reprisal ticks me off as well, because they left Vengeance in the set despite adding Chastise. How many four-mana pieces of removal does one man need? A million? A hojillion? Come on, get off the crack – people aren’t too stupid to understand what”Instant” means. I’m on to you – I know that’s why you left it out.
I’m sad to see Gerrard’s Wisdom go, but I think that the world of Magic sorta”passed it by” like it was Roland the Gunslinger from Stephen King’s”Dark Tower” series. By that, I mean that this formerly-strong card doesn’t really have a place in Magic anymore. It’s strange – the Wisdom used to be played in Control decks (older Oath decks) and that environment was pretty fast, but nowadays you’d just rather cast Wrath. Pariah I can take or leave. I just always thought it was underplayed, as one of the few cards that can reliably handle a Wild Mongrel (in this capacity, it works better than Pacifism).
Let me ask you a question: Is removing stuff from the game too hard? Does the very thought of the”removed from game zone” pop blood vessels in your forehead? When the rest of class has group reading, do you go with two other students to a special room in the basement? No? You’re in control of all your mental and most of your physical faculties? You can, in, fact comprehend the concept of removing things from the game?
Tundra Wolves are just awful, and the thought that Longbow Archers are on the way out while the Wolves are basking in glory just turns my stomach. 5th Edition was a four-hundred-and-twenty-card train wreck and it had Tundra Wolves, too – why associate yourself with that? Solidarity is a mechanic that White needs like it needs a serrated-instrument colonoscopy – when I list the great abilities of Magic’s history,”toughness pumping” doesn’t see much action. Sword Dancer is terrible, and Oracle’s Attendants is replacing a card that no one liked anyway.
I can’t get over Tundra Wolves. The set has Honor Guard and Savannah Lions already in the one-mana slot, and yet they have to leave Eager Cadet in, bring in the Wolves, and boot Longbow Archers? Who made that decision? Why is he or she still employed? Seriously, the next time I see the braincase behind this, I want it to be through a drive-through window or mopping the floor at a peep show.
Not again. Who do I have to gratify (monetarily or in any other way) to get Blessed Reversal removed from the base set? This card, especially with the advent of the super-efficient Peach Garden Oath (a great name, by the way) is just a complete waste of space, and you just know it’ll still be rare by the time the set ships. Every time I look at the butt-ugly mug of whatever backstory-irrelavent planeswalker they decided to represent in the Urza’s Legacy card art, I have to roll into bed.
And speaking of rolling… Rolling Stones? My bad rare box called and it wants its card back. Rolling Stones is a card that exists only because it needs to exist for the game to be”complete.” There is no need to ever print it again, just like other cards that fill a niche just for the same of filling it – like Rune of Protection: Lands.
Eager Cadet was probably printed just to annoy me – I wouldn’t put it past the bastards. Is it that difficult, really, to find something else to feature in the example game? Vengeance I’ve already mentioned as a joke with Reprisal getting the boot – just…why? It’s Vengeance that should get sent out to sea to die like an Eskimo octogenarian. Sacred Nectar is not only terrible, but likewise invalidated by Peach Garden Oath. Double-threat! It’s multifaceted in its total ineffectiveness – you don’t see that sort of mediocrity too often anymore. I feel special just for having been allowed to write about it.
Actually, I have something that I say every time I add a card like Sacred Nectar to my collection – it’s called Loud and Inappropriate Oath.
As unhappy as I am to know that Rolling Stones is still lurking somewhere in 8th Edition, I’m glad they didn’t remove another narrow card – Sacred Ground, which I maintain is the only excuse you need to allow a good land destruction deck to exist. The other four cards are staples – staple creature destruction, staple creature neutralization (though to be honest, I think they should have just left Reprisal in and reprinted Arrest instead), staple creature pump, and of course Circle of Protection: Red, the only CoP that is really relevant. Sure, they have to have ’em all for the sake of completedness, or the sake of the cycle, or whatever, but I suppose that’s a small price to pay to have CoP: Red to keep those burn decks honest.
Glorious Anthem will likely be instrumental in any resurgence of white weenie that might arise as a result of the Savannah Lion inclusion – but I’m not so sure any such resurgence is going to take place, what with the generally mediocre power level of the other creatures in the base set. Still, Onslaught Block will be around for a while yet, and that means Deftblade Elite, Whipcorder, Stoic Champion, Silver Knight, and a lot of other efficient white creatures will be available to take up the slack. And who knows what Mirrodin holds? The biggest problem may be that White Weenie as a concept is just flawed. It’s an aggro deck with no disruption (unlike black aggro), no countermagic (unlike U/G) and no removal (unlike red aggro).
That’s about it for the overview of White in 8th Edition – I think that more than any other color, White’s new spot on the color pie is exemplified by the cards in the Core Set. You can see the new themes coming in and the old themes on the way out. Say goodbye to the groundpounders blocking as if they had flying – say hello to lifegain.
What do you think of the state of white in 8th Edition?
What themes do you think should stay in white?
Which themes do you want to see go?
White players, chime in on the forums! Meanwhile, I’ll be at Canadian Nationals all this week – if all goes well, I’ll be a member of the Canadian National team by next week – if I can grind through the numerous French-Canadian players who will be trying to take me out. Wish me luck everyone!