Ah, it’s here at last! The last three guilds are unveiled, the Ravnica Block is completed in spectacular fashion, and there’s nary a Nephilim in sight. That’s right, it’s time for…
For those of you just tuning in, this set “review” isn’t like the other ones you’ve been reading. Unlike Mike Flores, I’m not going to tell you that the exciting world of post-Dissension Standard will unexpectedly be dominated by a mono-Green Merfolk deck (and then reshape reality with sheer force of will such that it comes to pass). Unlike Nick Eisel, I’m not going to tell you how to draft a mono-Blue control deck that tears through the Magic Online draft queues (which are, I’m beginning to suspect, populated mainly by chimps). And unlike Ben Bleiweiss, I don’t have any idea what you should be trading for.
No, we’re going to talk about something else today. We’re going to talk about art, flavor text, and a startling abundance of frogs.
In accordance with the 4-3-3 model of guild distribution, Dissension brings us three entirely new guilds. Yes sir or ma’am, you’ve seen your last Izzet watermark and your last Black/White pinlining. I’ve got it straight this time.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the new guilds, starting quite arbitrarily with…
The Simic Combine
Schtick: Green’s love of animals meets Blue’s love of gooey things and talking down to people.
Named for: Obscure Serbian-born poet Charles Simic. Also, combines.
Symbol: A tsunami sprouting leaves, or possibly a tree squirting water.
Stated Mission: To make life forms better, faster, stronger than before.
Hidden Agenda: To one day create monkey with four asses.
Darkest Secret: Cytoplasts actually made of delicious gummi.
Style: Mutated, multi-legged, covered in jam.
HQ: Novijen, where you can take a dip in the “breeding pool.” Sign me up!
Signature Ability: Graft (This comes into play with n +1/+1 counters on it. If you’re playing at Steak ‘n’ Shake at 1am after the prerelease and don’t have any glass beads or dice with you, it comes into play with n oyster crackers on it instead. Also, you need a girlfriend or something.)
Cytoplast Root-Kin and Cytospawn Shambler
I love how diluted the word “Elemental” has become in Magic. I mean, Ivy Elemental? Since when is ivy an element? Or War? Or Desecration? These guys just complete the process, by apparently being elementals of mutation. Or something.
A Snake Elf? I can do better than that. Look! I made a pigeon-rat!
From the Comprehensive Rules, Section 503, Copy Effects:
503.13. The art of all copy effects features a creature mirrored with another that is copying its shape. This has no effect on game play.
An Advisor Mutant! And people think Magic is getting too sci-fi.
Simic Sky Swallower
As confusing as it is, I do love the idea that the Simic found a creature that was really, really terrible and improved upon it. And Sky Swallower, you must admit, bit the biscuit.
When I was sixteen, I wrote a short story that had aquatic alien animals in it, that humans called “mantacows.” The lawsuit is already in the works.
I’m so curious, and
I’m so curious, and
I’m so curious, and
I’ve got laser eyes!
Careful not to drop the Signet in the shower!
When I first heard that there was going to be a Vedalken Mutant in this set, I theorized that he might have some outlandish mutation like, say, an extra set of arms. Uh, who called it? Thank you.
Meanwhile, on the third leg of the Simic’s love triangle with the Selesnya, there’s…
The Azorius Senate
Schtick: Blue’s love of controlling the game weenie flyers meets White’s love of setting rules weenie flyers.
Named for: A word that’s hard to say before “senate.”
Symbol: The mystic and immortal symbol of the Illuminati. Also, that thing on the back of money*.
Stated Mission: To ensure that all Ravnicans fill out Form 218b, Request For Oxygen Requisition Form Request Form.
Hidden Agenda: Actually, it’s a very important form.
Darkest Secret: Weeaboo.
Style: Better than you… and well aware of it.
HQ: Prahv, Spires of May I Take Your Order, where they tell you if you want fries with that.
Signature Ability: Forecast (At the beginning of your upkeep, you may accidentally drop this card. If you do, it’s probably best to pay some mana and pretend it was on purpose.)
“In her single joojooflop are bound the records of every stufftastic whackdoodle since the time of Puffinstuff.”
See? I can write nonsensical, self-concerned flavor text, too.
Ooh, a sexy lady Vedalken!
Oh, get off your high horse, you thought it, too. Um, right?
Minister of Impediments
Thummon the Minithter of Impedimenth at oneth!
Man, keep an eye out for that guy.
When you play this spell, you have my permission to shout, “Objection! Overruled.”
Paladin of Prahv
At first I wondered what he was looking up at, but then I realized that he’s probably about to be crapped on by a griffin.
Proclamation of Rebirth
Remember that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where they can’t go into REM sleep and they start seeing things, and Dr. Crusher hallucinates that all the dead people in the morgue sit up? Yeah, I thought so.
Every time you reveal or play this guy, feel free to cue up The Ride of the Valkyries on your iPod. Then turn it up loud enough so that I can hear it, too, because that seems to be all the rage at PTQs.
The fact that this guy looks uncannily similar to Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card Name Ever Elemental makes me entirely incapable of seriously considering it as a card.
Actual rules oddity: Thanks to the latest complete restructuring of the way static abilities are layered (look for the next one soon!), switching this guy’s power and toughness then giving him +0/+1 makes him a 4/1. Strange but true.
Diametrically opposed to the Azorius, as penguins are to polar bears, you’ll find…
The Cult of Rakdos
Schtick: Red’s love of fire meets Black’s tendency to reinforce the idea that Magic is satanic.
Named for: A demon of shadow and flame (“Balrog” was taken).
Symbol: A skull… on fire.
Stated Mission: Fire! Death! Blood for the Demon Prince! Skulls! Skulls! Skulls to build His Throne!
Hidden Agenda: To quietly and indirectly encourage serious philosophical discussions about nihilism, violence, and the role of dissent in a well-ordered society.
Darkest Secret: A weakness for kittens.
Style: Think P.A.G.A.N. (People Against Goodness And Niceness) from the Dragnet movie.
HQ: Rix Maadi, home of the world-famous Demon Burger. Now hiring; inquire within!
Signature Ability: Hellbent (Ability words don’t have reminder text.)
A Brief Aside on the Design of Keywords
Couldn’t they have defined Hellbent so that it worked like Threshold? Wouldn’t that have made it feel more worthwhile? Would Threshold have gotten the ability word treatment if they designed it today? That thought makes me a little sad. I’m all about limiting the number of keywords (Amplify, anyone?), but when it would be so easy to make something a legitimate keyword and slap some reminder text on there, why let it linger in the hellish limbo of Ability Word Land?
We Apologize for the Interruption. And Now, Some Notable Rakdos Cards
Hey! I think I’ve been to that club!
Where this card makes most people think of Pirates of the Caribbean, it makes me think of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Don’t worry, even I think I’m pretentious.
Lyzolda, the Blood Witch
When this card was first spoiled, I saw people on message boards saying things like, “Hey, baby, you can sacrifice me any day.” Let me be the first to tell you, this is why we can’t have nice things.
I opened a foil one of these at the prerelease. It didn’t really matter, but I was happy about it anyway.
Alternate caption: “A Trip to the Dentist.”
Among my group of friends, it’s common for communal dwellings to have names – Chez Easy, Bob Nalder (1308 N. Alder read 133twise), the Maidenhead (named for its large red door). I’ve decided that my next home will be called The Carnarium.
It’s Ickspitter, people. Not Ipsitter, Igspecker, Ifspittle, or Ixipiter. Ickspitter.
It’s a devil in bondage gear, swinging a fuming skull. Here’s a hint: Don’t show this one to your mom.
Hmm, my visual spoiler seems to be malfunctioning. This string of gold cards is tiny and sideways… Oh, well, I can still read ‘em.
Pure / Simple
They look like they’re posing for a deodorant commercial. “Whether you’re slaying dragons or bathing in pools of mysterious liquid, you want to be… Pure!”
Rise / Fall
I love that the guy on Fall is right side up when you’re holding the card sideways.
Trial / Error
I don’t usually pay attention to this sort of thing, but note that the artists on this card are Ron Spencer and Wayne England. Either they legitimately collaborated (looks like maybe Ron did the backgrounds and Wayne did the people?), or else each one did one piece, but having two separate artists on the two sides of a split card would cause unmanageable chaos. Hmmm.
All Those Other Cards… Uh, I Mean, “The Guildless”
She is showing an awful lot of skin. Contrast this with Kamigawa’s spirits, all of which looked like a Japanese abstract artist exploded. A distinct improvement.
Blessing of the Nephilim
Whoa, dude, you’re freakin’ out! But then, I guess sand-barfing wafflefish and flaming baby-faced towers of death with teeth for legs will do that to a person, to say nothing of weird sh** like this.
You know, I think I would have that looked at.
Haazda Shield Mate
It’s an ugly midget with a notched sword and a tattered cloak. Forgive me if I feel less than protected.
Pillar of the Paruns
Man, that thing looks like the set for Ravnica Squares. “Object for the players is to get three Paruns in a row; either across, up-and-down or diagonally. It is up to them to determine if a Parun is giving a correct answer or just making it up; that’s how they get the square."
Meat and eggs? Look, I know I’ve used up my PBF quota for this article, but this is all I can think about when I read this card. Well, that and Arcbound Ravager plus four Disciple of the Vault, plus four each of Ornithopter, Phyrexian Walker, and Shield Sphere, but I don’t play you-know-what.
Well, that’s what happens if you go around throwing wolves at people.
Stomp and Howl
“Chief, it looks as if the crime involved both stomping and howling. We suspect that a Stomphowler may have been involved.”
“And now, young Sssskywalker… You shall die.”
Remember, every time you look at this card, Magic Online crashes. Please, think of the children.
Also, bear in mind that in Silver-Bordered Land (Un-sets, for the un-initiated), all colors really means all colors, not just the normal Magical Five, so this guy plus Blessing of the Nephilim or Might of the Nephilim makes an arbitrarily large creature, and this guy plus Bound gets your whole graveyard back if you want it. Of course, breaking cards in Silver-Bordered Land is like beating up midgets (it’s easy, and sure, it might be funny… but do you really gain anything from it?).
Weight of Spires
Judging by Prahv, Spires of Order, the best use of Azorius courthouses probably is causing them to collapse and kill people. Ironically, of course, for a mere seven mana, Prahv could prevent the damage. Let me know if it ever comes up.
Man, that picture creeps me out almost as much as Law & Order: SVU. Almost.
And on that note…
Well, I’m out of ideas time, so I’m afraid I must bid the plane of Ravnica dosvidanye. And I say good riddance! When you get down to it, what has Ravnica really done for us? Just because it brought back gold cards better than ever after a long and painful convalescence, redefined all ten color pairs without neglecting their heritage, brought innovations in Standard and fascinating twists in Limited with each of its three sets, successfully integrated with cards from previous blocks in a way that’s been sorely lacking in Constructed the last few years, and raised the bar substantially for the mechanical, visual, and flavorful elements of the game, is that so much to get worked up about?
Hey, hell if I know. I’m still pissed off Giant Solifuge wasn’t a 4/3.
*If you don’t live in the U.S., you might not get this joke. On the other hand, the highest political office in your country is held by someone other than George Bush. Shall we call it even?
P.S. To the Browncoats out there, I hope I wasn’t the only one who immediately thought of this:
“These are just a few of the images we’ve recorded, and as you can see… it isn’t what we thought. There’s been no war here, and no terraforming event. The environment’s stable… It’s the Plax…”
Okay, maybe it was just me.