"Invasion" is defined as "invading or being invaded as by an army." "Invade" can be defined as "to intrude upon, violate." On our calm field of Magic, an invasion is about to begin – and I’m not talking about Phyrexia.
For two years, players have reveled in the glory of the Artifacts Cycle. Urza’s Saga brought in super-powerhouses like Time Spiral and Tolarian Academy that were swiftly suppressed. It also introduced into the field solid cards such as Gaea’s Cradle, Albino Troll, Duress, and Rune of Protection: Lands. (Just kidding about that RoP: Lands bit.) Urza’s Legacy created known staples such as Deranged Hermit, Rancor, and Avalanche Riders. Finally, Urza’s Destiny crashed into the field and brought with it cards like Masticore, Powder Keg, Phyrexian Negator, Replenish, and Treachery.
But soon, these cards are to be replaced.
"History repeats itself." Well, Wizards makes a point of proving this saying every year (except, paradoxically, when it formulated its reprint policy). Annually, a new set of cards is rotated into the Type II environment, and old cards are rotated out. When the Rath Cycle was shoved aside in order to make room for Mercadian Masques, much moaning could be heard from Magic players across the globe. The Rath Cycle and the Artifacts Cycle went hand-in-hand, and the Artifacts Cycle and Masques Block, well, don’t. So, the question to ask is, "Is the so-called invasion of Invasion truly an intrusion upon what should be?"
The answer from most that I hear is, "no!" Invasion isn’t really storming onto the scene in a rude fashion like many believed Mercadian Masques to have done. Just as the Rath Cycle and the Artifacts Cycle went well together, the Masques Block and the Invasion Block (?) will go together.
Two years ago, an incredibly celeritous environment was born. Turn two kills were possible WITHOUT the aid of degenerate combos (unless you call Hatred/Sarcomancy degenerate). Insane mana could be had with or without High Tide. Lotus Petal was BANNED! Replenish decks using Pandemonium killed without attacking. And I’ll never forget that quaint little deck that used Academy Rector to get out Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Seismic Assault and discarded land to destroy you. White Weenie Bargain it was called, or something of the sort. My, hasn’t THAT archetype evolved?
But then, all of a sudden, the symmetry of Rathi Artifacts was disrupted. Mercadia uprooted Rath as the Phyrexian influence in the story line.* The speed of the Artifacts Cycle could hardly partner itself with the uncouth lethargy of Mercadian Masques and its ilk. Compromises were made, but in many instances for quite a while, most decks were UBC format with an occasional Masques card in there (but no Rishadan Port).
Then, slowly, Magic players began to accept Mercadian Masques. As Limited formats were tested, the set proved to be quite an entertaining challenge for players to master. Eventually, the lonely cry of Rishadan Port of "I’m good . . . really!" was heard by a few, and that fad caught on. Nemesis, too, slowly integrated into the format. Bombs such as Blastoderm and Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero were recognized. By the release of Prophecy, players were ready for the sheer power with a cost of patience it promised.
Several players criticized Wizards for waiting so long for Prophecy. For example, the Rhystic function, many say, should have appeared in Mercadian Masques so that it could be continued in the later sets. However, Wizards realized that a field addicted to speed would have to slowly reduce its consumption until addiction was eradicated. Although Mercadian Masques was a wake-up call for many players, they got used to it through Nemesis and Prophecy. I guarantee that if the Avatars, Winds, and Legendary Spellshapers had been printed in Mercadian Masques, they wouldn’t have received nearly the same accolade as they did when they were released in Prophecy. The reason for this is that the Avatars, et al, would have been more of a brick wall than the speed bump that Masques portrayed. Such slowness following such speed would hardly have been met with cheer.
Invasion is entering our midst similarly. When a good friend or family member gets on a plane, you stand in the airport and watch as he or she takes off. Eventually, however, the aircraft leaves your sight; you sigh and walk away to again take up the rest of your life. Like this metaphor, Magic players are watching their speed go away slowly. The Rath Cycle stepped on the plane, and we stand in the airport and watch as the Artifacts Cycle soars out of sight. When November 1st rolls around, we’ll sigh and turn back to our lives. We’ll start to think of how to use the cool new Invasion cards in our MBC decks. By the time the first expansion of Invasion hits the shelves, that friend will simply be in the backs of our minds.
So, when you think of Invasion coming to stores this October, don’t look towards that moment in dread. Instead, realize that speed had its time, and now it’s time for a new beginning. We’ve been introduced to what a slow environment might look like, but it’ll still take time to get used to casting elves without Priest of Titania and gating for rebels without Gaea’s Cradle. But, once we DO get used to those things, we’ll have an environment that boasts player interaction, longer games, and more fun. I, for one, look forward to that day.
And, who knows? That friend has to come back some day, right? Maybe Wizards will once again put us on steroids. But personally, I’d like to avoid addiction for as long as possible.
* – For those of us who don’t know, Volrath was behind most of the goings-on of Mercadia, and he’s a slave of the Phyrexians.