Weapons of Mass Distraction #182: Planeshift Preview

To avoid angering the Rizzo Gods with white space, Dave is forced to look ahead to the next expansion.

I hope everyone had a spiffy holiday season. I personally didn’t do much of anything – I slept in on Christmas, didn’t do any family stuff, just inhabited my couch and watched "Gone With the Wind" on Turner Classic Movies. I hate to say it, but MAN is that movie funny. I know that when it came out it was considered a classic, a real snapshot into life during and after the Civil War – but by today’s standards, it’s a little overdramatic, a little campy, and a LOT overacted. Still, an enjoyable watch, if only to see how embarrassed Mammy gets when she hikes her skirt up an inch past her ankles. But enough about Tara! Extended season is over, Invasion Limited season is underway, and that means we all should be talking about …


I can’t believe it’s almost time for another expansion already. I still only know about half the cards in Invasion by the picture – needless to say, I have done horrible in foreign booster drafts as of late. I had just about figured out which Prophecy cards were which when BAM! They switch on us. And now here we are again, getting ready to shift planes with another new expansion.

Planeshift comes out February 4th, which means that the prerelease tournaments will be held on Superbowl Weekend. I don’t know if Wizards knew that in advance, or even really cared, but I for one will be looking for a Saturday prerelease to attend. And you know that, since we’re under a month away from the prereleases, we’re already starting to get a few cards here and there.

On a side note – I couldn’t imagine NOT knowing what was in a set by at least the day before the prerelease. I realize that I’m probably spoiled, but having only played since Tempest (and only competitively since, oh, Exodus), I’ve never really been exposed to a set release WITHOUT that spoiler being available on the ‘net. I also can understand why people wouldn’t want to know in advance – that little bit of excitement as you see the cards for the first time – but hey, if your opponents already know how all the cards work, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage by only giving yourself fifteen minutes to figure the cards out.

Yeah, prereleases are casual, I know. Sorry.

Anyhow, we are starting to get our first leaks about the upcoming shift in planes. There will be some discussion of specific cards in here, so if you want to be surprised at a pre-release, please stop reading here. Ack! Don’t stop here; keep reading. You’ll still be surprised by the other 150 cards.


The new mechanic that Wizards is dropping on us is called Gating. Basically, this is going to let us cast insanely undercosted cards, and now instead of having to pay the casting cost again next turn a la Echo, we get to bounce one of our other permanents back to our hand.

Originally, Gating had been described as a way to reduce the cost of cards – that you could pay X, but if you bounced a creature or land or enchantment back to your hand, you’d pay X-Y. But now, with a few more specific cards coming out of the home office, we’re starting to see that Gating isn’t an optional way to play cards, but a required part, and that some of the creatures are VERY strong as a result.

The example I’ll use is Fleetfoot Panther, Wizards’ Christmas gift to us over at the Sideboard:

Fleetfoot Panther
When Fleetfoot Panther comes into play, return a green or white creature you control to your hand.
You may play Fleetfoot Panther any time you could play an instant.

To start, a 3/4 for 3, even with a drawback, is really strong. Wizards has used the printing of Invasion (and gold cards) as a chance to print some very good creatures (comparing power/toughness to converted mana cost), and Planeshift looks to be no different. Is it really that much harder to get 1WG than it is to get 1GG? I don’t think it is, but compare Noble Panther to Trained Armodon, and you’ll see where I’m going. Fleetfoot Panther is better than either of those.

The drawback, if it could be called that, doesn’t seem like a drawback at all. An entire deck was built around bouncing green creatures back to your hand, and there are still enough green and white creatures in Standard that could be recast to an advantage. Blastoderm is an immediate one, as well as Kavu Titan (for recasting with Kicker) or Quirion Elves (for shifting to another color) – anything with a Kicker that causes an effect could be re-used, like Thicket Elemental or Verduran Emissary. Anything with comes-into-play abilities, like Uktabi Orangutan. Basically, the trick will be to build a deck around Fleetfoot Panther’s "drawback" that exploits it in the most frugal way. Of course, the stumbling block here is that, if you don’t have another creature, or you have one other creature and your opponent can remove it, you’re going to end up bouncing the Panther itself back into your hand. Hopefully, green/white can provide enough creatures to keep this from happening.

The added ability of being able to play Fleetfoot Panther as an instant will really mess with people’s combat math. You have two options here: Adding another blocker the mix, letting you take down a big attacker, or casting him after damage is on the stack to save a potentially dead blocker. You can also play him at the end of your opponent’s turn, so you can attack with him on your next turn.

The benefit and drawback cancel each other out casting-cost wise, so Wizards is really going out on a limb by giving us (essentially) a 3/4 for 3. Now we’re going to be clamoring for more. The other gating creatures I’ve seen seem really strong and really undercosted as well (like Shivan Wurm, a 7/7 trampler for 3RG), and I think they’ll have a pretty large impact on Standard decks.


While as of right now, there are no gold cards using opposing colors, Wizards is at least providing us SOME means to cast them should they appear later. Planeshift will include five Lairs, one for each of the Invasion Dragon Legends, and each Lair will produce all three colors of the associated Dragon Legend. For example:

Darigaaz’s Caldera
Darigaaz’s Caldera counts as a Lair in addition to its land type.
When Darigaaz’s Caldera comes into play, sacrifice it unless you return a non-Lair land you control to its owner’s hand.
Tap: Add B, R, or G to your mana pool.

Again, Wizards is providing us with an UNCOMMON cycle of lands to use in casting the gold cards they want to keep supplying us with. Obviously, they’ve come to understand that part of making Magic multicolor again is providing us with the non-basic lands to smooth out the mana.

The lairs are pretty evenly balanced. They don’t come into play tapped, unlike their dual-land predecessors in this block. But they do force you to bounce another land back to your hand, and that will put you behind in mana for the following turns. That means that, should you be playing with BOTH lands in a deck, you may find yourself with hands where you can’t cast anything on turn one, having to play a tapland, and then slowing your mana down even FURTHER by playing one of the Lairs on turn two. While you may have all your colors of mana available, both types of land together REALLY slow down your mana development.

However, the fact that the Lairs all produce three types of mana shouldn’t be overlooked. With the wide range of two-color decks that are popular now, the Lairs may make players consider splashing in a third color for a handful of off-color spells. Fires decks might play a couple of Rith’s Groves and add Disenchants or Armageddons. Nether-Go decks might add in a couple Crosis’s Catacombs to play a pair of Voids. The deck I played in States, Borg 2K, would probably take a couple of those as well.

Because the lands aren’t legendary, they will show up in ones or twos in a couple current decks, expanding and adding to them. And, should Wizards decide to give us non-allied gold cards, the Lairs will definitely see play.

But the Lairs aren’t the only lands coming in Planeshift. Wizards is continuing to push multicolor Magic with three rare lands. These are courtesy of the spoiler on MAG2.


Terminal Moraine
Tap: Add one colorless mana to your mana pool.
2, Tap, Sacrifice Terminal Moraine: Search your library for a basic land card and put that card into play, tapped. Shuffle your library afterwards.

Terminal Moraine appears to be the Archeological Dig of Planeshift. It’s an uncommon, and its ability isn’t overly useful. Yes, it can help you smooth out your color problems, but not more than any other dual land, or even Harrow. Because it puts the land into play tapped, it’s not a mana accelerator, either. Right now, there aren’t any decks that only need ONE of a given basic land, although with Anthony Alongi current contest, Coalition Victory decks might use it in that manner, as it can tap early on for colorless mana, and then search out the basic land it needs later. It might be good in Limited due to the larger number of Domain cards that get played there, or in Invasion block constructed in a Global Ruin deck, but all in all, it’s just okay.


Meteor Crater
Tap: Choose a color of a permanent you control. Add one mana of that color to your mana pool.

Possibly harsher than Reflecting Pool, this rare land certainly offers a lot – a permanent source of the mana colors your deck needs, regardless of what those colors are. Problem is, you can’t use it to actually CAST those permanents until one of them is already in play, so it’s never going to be a first-turn play unless you’re not doing anything until turn five. Especially useless in decks with low permanent counts, but it could see use in decks that play early creatures, and need the multicolor mana for a mid-game push – Maybe Fires? A turn-one Forest, Birds, turn two Crater, Fires would allow the Crater to effectively act as a non-CIP-tapped Shivan Oasis, which is exactly what the deck needs to maintain its initial burst of speed.

I also wonder if this guy could be used in a Coalition Victory deck? A Type II version of the deck would probably use Tidal Visionaries, so you’d have access to any color mana … the only thing is, you’re also trying to get out every type of basic land. Terminal Moraine might be better in that case.


Forsaken City
Forsaken City doesn’t untap during your untap step.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may remove a card in your hand from the game. If you do, untap Forsaken City.
Tap: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

Another rare land to entice us towards multicolor decks, the City is an interesting spin on City of Brass, this time trading one commodity (life) for another (cards) in order to get every color of mana. The upkeep cost is vicious – fortunately, it’s optional. Initially this seems like a crap rare worthy of a Ferrett contest, but upon closer inspection, this card may provide a huge multicolor boost to decks using Rising Waters (which also skips the untap step, and allows you to untap one land during your upkeep instead, thus getting around the card removal). City of Brass is better in that you start with more of the necessary resource (life), but the Forsaken City can’t be used against you like the City of Brass can be.


Planeshift will complete the X-scape (heh – that reminds of that Eddie Murphy "Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood" sketch on Saturday Night Live. Remember that one? He’s talking about Christmas, which he has written on a little card as "X-mas," and then asks, "Do you know any other words that start with X? How about X-con?" And then when the police knock at his door, he says, "That reminds me of another X word – X-scape!" and climbs out the fire escape! Hrm. Had to be there. This probably shoulda been a footnote) cycle with a round of uncommons, the Battlemages. The Battlemages take Kicker costs to the next level – each one has two Kickers, and you can pay neither, either, or both when they come into play.

Thunderscape Battlemage
Kicker 1B
Kicker G
When Thunderscape Battlemage comes into play, if you paid the 1B kicker cost, target player discards two cards from his or her hand.
When Thunderscape Battlemage comes into play, if you paid the G kicker cost, destroy target enchantment.

To start with, a 2/2 for 3 is pretty average. Nowadays, creatures have to have 3 toughness before I get all excited over them – until then, they have "Shock Me" written in marker on their foreheads. That being said, in the right circumstances, these guys can be OK when cast with their Kicker(s). Thunderscape Battlemage here gives R/G decks a way (albeit a little expensive one) to have some targeted enchantment removal, without having to blow up every single one with a Tranquility. And he gives R/G control decks a nice discard/victory condition that’s a little faster than Ravenous Rats. Because the Kickers are letting Thunderscape Battlemage have an influence on the game immediately, it won’t matter that he’s Shocked the next turn, or that you have to use him as a speed bump for a Blastoderm.

(I mean, if I gave you a sorcery that cost 2RG and read: "Destroy target enchantment. During your opponent’s next turn, do 2 damage to target creature, even untargettable ones," you’d play that, right?)

The problem is, will the Kickers be only in aligned colors, much like the abilities of the Masters and Apprentices were? If that’s the case, I feel bad for Sunscape Battlemage, as he’s really providing an unnecessary ability with the green


This is just the tip of the iceberg, too. I mean, it’s still a month away – no one’s going to post the whole spoiler for another two weeks. And then we can all peruse the juicy pieces of gold goodness for even more multicolor enjoyment.


I try and figure a way to talk about Invasion Limited without inspiring Friggin’ Rizzo to continue his tirade against white space. I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Dave Meeson