“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
â€” Maria Robinson
I’m writing this from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, practically in the shadow of the Wright Brothers monument. While I’m no world traveler, I’m pretty sure these beaches are some of the best a Virginia man of humble means can go to, and I’m double-lucky to have parents who live down here year-round. I used to come down often, but it’s been a long stretch of time since my last visit. For various reasons real and imagined, my soon-to-be ex didn’t want to come down here, and so we didn’t.
Things change. While going through a divorce is no picnic, one of the benefits is that, if I want to go down to the Outer Banks for a few days to visit my mom and step-dad, I go down to the Outer Banks for a few days to visit my mom and step-dad.
It’s quiet down here. Peaceful. As Labor Day weekend drew to a close, the insanity of summer beach season has wound down. People were driving home as I was driving in so the traffic was on the other side of the road. I went down route 460, a non-highway straight shot from Richmond to Tidewater through the flatlands of Virginia, a route chock full of history and peanut stores. I jammed to my iPod’s shuffle selection, going from Blondie to Beau Jacque to Blake Babies.
Things change. One of the dominating themes in American culture today is fear of change, and it wears on me. Humans are naturally skeptical of change, but you can’t have progress without change. Yes, things can go from bad to worse, but things can’t go from bad to better without a leap of faith. I’ve been watching Lost on DVD since the series ended, and have just started Season 6, and it’s been interesting to see the evolution of one of the main dudes Jack, going from a man of science who’s consumed with running around trying to fix everything, basically living on fear and survival, to a man who’s more accepting of the things he can’t change, and having more faith that things will work out for the best.
I find it interesting the themes of change that have been swirling around my own life â€” and some of the shows and current events around me â€” and a return to Mirrodin for Magic. Things have changed there too, haven’t they?
I remember when Mirrodin came along, it was shocking, thrilling â€” a roller-coaster ride. So many innovations, so many things we hadn’t really seen before. It was exciting stuff, especially equipment and the mind-boggling indestructible mechanic. Yet by the time we’d finished up with Fifth Dawn, many players seemed to have burned out on the block. Was it was the over-dominant Ravager Affinity deck in Standard? The ubiquitous Skullclamp. Either way, while I personally found the block loads of fun, I know quite a few people expressed some strong reservations when they heard that Magic was going to be returning to Mirrodin. Their memories tended to focus on the bad things that came from Mirrodin â€” but you know what? The storyline is chock-full of flavor, and there were plenty of cool things that Mirrodin brought us that deserve to be explored further.
This fall, we’re going back to Mirrodin, and things have changed. And from what I’ve seen so far this weekend, they’ve changed for the better!
This past weekend was pretty spectacular for Magic overall. We had three new Hall of Famers announced during Pro Tour Amsterdam, including Star City’s own spectacular Brian Kibler! When I started writing for Star City, the collection of writers was small and we all felt like family. Things have changed since then, with an amazing, diverse and large group including quite a collection of stellar Pro players writing for us â€” but I still feel a swell of pride when “one of ours” does well for his or herself. I guess I kind feel like everyone’s great uncle Bennie here at Star City!
And Amsterdam was riveting, with the return of the legendary Kai Budde smashing through the formats like no time had passed, marching to his rightful place in the Top 8 â€” and what a breathtaking Top 8! Masters of the game past and present were crowded in there, it really made me wish I could have been a spectator on Sunday. With Kai on one of the end of the bracket, and our own Brian Kibler on the other end, I envisioned a strangely Karate Kid-esque “Kibler Kai” showdown in the finals, but sadly that didn’t come around. Still, it’s not like Kai and Kibler haven’t had their share of accolades.
Pro Tour fireworks aside, what the vast majority of Magic players want to chew over however are the sneak peeks into Scars of Mirrodin. And between Amsterdam and PAX, we got a healthy dose of stuff to chew on â€” peeks into what’s the same and what’s changed with Mirrodin and, of course, what’s going to change with Magic. While we’re just beginning to get a glimpse of what Mirrodin looks like after all these years, I think we have enough to start thinking about the changes and implications.
Ezuri’s Brigade is the first card we saw with the mechanic Metalcraft, which indicates some effect that only turns on if you meet the condition of controlling some number of artifacts.
It seemed strange to me that Ezuri’s Brigade was a green card, since green’s flavor has been antithetical to artifacts â€” but so far, two of the three Metalcraft cards we know about are green, creatures that get larger if you control at least three artifacts. I’ll be interested to see how the odd pairing of green and lots of artifacts in play gets justified flavor-wise, but that aside, what implications do we get from this?
My hunch is that Basilisk Collar’s stock just rose considerably! Everyone already knows that it’s a powerful piece of equipment, but typically your creature doesn’t really gain much from being equipped by more than one copy. What’s happened in the meantime is that we’re running Stoneforger Mystics instead of multiple copies of the Collar, and maybe sometimes one other piece of equipment to diversify.
What’s always been great about the Collar is just how cheap it is. In the first couple of turns, if you have a Collar in your hand and at any point you find you have an extra mana of any color you don’t need to use, you can throw it out there. Once in play, pretty much any creature with any power becomes at the least a potent blocker, and if he’s got a decent power you’ve got a mini-Baneslayer Angel in the house. (And of course we all know about the crazy fun you can have slapping the Collar on a Cunning Sparkmage.)
While having multiples of the Collar didn’t do much for your deck, Metalcraft is going to change all that. Especially Ezuri’s Brigade, which gets downright insane with Metalcraft turned on and wearing a Collar. The sweet creature ability combo is deathtouch with trample, especially in the wake of the new M11 rules â€” and since Collar provides deathtouch so cheaply and easily, it’s wise to keep close attention to any new creatures with trample. Ezuri’s Brigade with a Collar on runs right over top of a Baneslayer Angel and deals seven points of damage to your opponent. He runs right over a Primeval Titan and deals seven points of damage to your opponent.
Of course, you’re going to want to have more artifacts in your deck than four Basilisk Collars if you want to turn on your green Metalcraft dudes, but something tells me we’re going to have lots of options. I’m just saying Collars will probably be pretty high on the list, so round out your play set now.
The other Metalcraft card presents a bit of an interesting twist â€” the much-anticipated Mox Opal! When I interviewed Mike Turian for the current issue of Beckett Magic magazine, he talked a bit about Scars of Mirrodin and talked about how excited he was about Mox Opal, and wow â€” he wasn’t kidding! Nothing that needs to be discarded or imprinted to work â€” just conditions on the card that set some limitations to what we know is a powerful ability in Magic â€” accelerating your mana at a zero-mana cost.
Metalcraft makes Mox Opal a little tough to use that mana acceleration on the first turn, but it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility given our little new zero-drop 1/1 Memnite friends… And, of course, the fact that the Mox counts itself towards the three artifact requirement.
Being legendary is a bit of a kick in the teeth, and while it’s seems like a necessary drawback, the implications are a little bit troubling. It’s obviously a very powerful card that most any deck is going to want to make use of, and yet the only decks that can make use of copies in hand when one is already in play are going to be able to maximize its power. Yep â€” Jace, the Mind Sculptor just got even better, if you can believe it! Hopefully other colors will be given some ways to make use of multiple copies of the Mox, and it won’t just be the Blue decks that get juiced up (yeah, yeah â€” I had to get a little Blue-baiting in).
This mechanic is just downright exciting â€” not only does it play so well with the Infect mechanic for poison and charge counters from Scars, but there are plenty of other cards in Magic that use counters of various sorts too. Movies like Sixth Sense are so good because the plot twist makes you go back to the very beginning of the movie and look at things with a changed perspective. Proliferate is like that â€” every Magic card that uses counters of any sort needs to be thought about again in terms of what it can do with Proliferate cards.
Planeswalker cards come immediately to mind, of course, and I expect them to become even stronger forces on the battlefield when you’ve got cards like Thrummingbird and Steady Progress around â€” ramping to the ultimate ability can come even faster!
There are oodles and oodles of effects that throw around +1/+1 counters â€” but let’s not forget Quest counters from the Zendikar Block enchantments, level up counters from Rise of the Eldrazi creatures, Everflowing Chalice, Surrakar Spellblade’s charge counters, or Obsidian Fireheart’s blaze counters â€” the land continues to burn! Djinn of Wishes has wish counters, but that shuffles off to older formats once Scars is legal â€” and wow, just imagine how much fun it’s going to be to dig into EDH possibilities with Proliferate! What are some of the more obscure counters that you’ve found in Magic history?
Of course, let’s not forget that a certain pet card of mine is going to become even stronger in this brave new world â€” Vampire Hexmage, and its ability to strip away all counters from target permanent. I’ve been using it as a Planeswalker assassin, but I suspect there’s going to be quite a few other jobs for it to do. She’s going to be a very busy lady in the next year!
We all know that Wizards cleverly inserted some early peeks into Scars of Mirrodin with Steel Overseer and Triskelion in Magic 2011, and when I heard about the Infect mechanic, I thought there would be some really interesting tension between +1/+1 counters warring with -1/-1 counters. Yet so far, as of this writing, there have been no Modular dudes and no artifact dudes with +1/+1 counters to play with Steely and Trike. Are those creatures being slow-rolled, or has that aspect changed on Mirrodin. Artifacts can get charged up, creatures can get infected with -1/-1 counters, but maybe giving +1/+1 counters is a very rare thing. Do you have your Steel Overseers already? I know I sure do.
As I wrap this week’s column up, I’m getting ready to head back home â€” away from the peace and tranquility of beach and family, and back to the daily grind and business of everyday life. This weekend I have the kids, so that certainly helps the transition, and perhaps distract me from the anticipation, the nervous excitement I’m feeling about Scars of Mirrodin â€” wanting to open packs, acquire cards, and see what changes from here!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
My current EDH decks:
Phelddagrif (carrots and sticks)
Tsabo Tavoc (red and black nastiness)
Reki, the History of Kamigawa (more legends than you can shake a stick at)
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade (brain-eating zombies, Commander)