Its been an extremely long time since I played magic, and longer than that since I drafted. Thankfully, this seems poised to change here soon, with the onset of Khans of Tarkir, the newest MTG set to be release in just a few weeks. It seems to be that October is the best time for me to be able to sit down and think about drafting and MTG in general.
one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Magic is how the colors interact. From the very first set I picked up Blue and Red were enemies and White and Green were allies. It was an ingrained portion of the game, and I really don’t remember trying to force a pair of colors to work together if they were not allies. Fast forward to the first time I came back to Magic from hiatus with the invasion block, and this color-alliance was the focus of the game. Invasion and Planeshift worked within the standard confines and dealt in friendly pairs, but when Apocolypse dropped, it turned my world on its head. Cards like Suffocating Blast and Mystic Snake, Flowstone Charger and Consume strength encouraged building decks that I’d never conceived of before, and it stoked my love of enemy color pairs that has flourished since then. Getting back into the game for Return to Ravnica was icing on that cake, with enemy and ally pairs being put together to form the guilds I had missed the first time around.
What had also happened was that MTG design had gotten crisper and more focused. That which I had originally decried as a loss of storyline – the moving on from the Weatherlight Saga – had creates a greater canvas with which to create original and cool stories, like Ravnica. I had also missed the extremely insane Shards block, where the allied color “shards” were prominently featured: Shards being the allied colors of a central color, ie Black-Blue-Red is a shard centering on black. It had left open the design space, simply by existing, of “enemy shards” or wedges as they came to be known. Instead of the multicolor focus being on the allies of a given color, they would instead be on the enemy colors. This has given us Khans of Tarkir, a set that focuses on five tribes fighting against each other for the control of an entire world.
The Inevitable Azban
The Brilliant Jaskai
The Inevitable Sultai
The Relentless Mardu
The Powerful Temur
Each of these clans evokes an aspect of the long dead dragons, killed by the clans a thousand years ago, as seen on their symbols: Endurance (scale), cunning (eye), ruthlessness (claw), speed (wings) and savagery (claw).
What I find most interesting about these color sets is that the design decided not to center each of the clans thematically around the off color, but around whatever seemed right, the first color in the clans list. This seems to be to get them around having to really design some strange cards, but it throws me off at first.
In addition to the interaction of the colors through the wedges, the set also has six mechanics, which is a hefty amount. One, morph, is carried across all the clans and is meant to, in a manner, portray the aspect of the dragons. This interesting, returning mechanic allows some very cool attacking and blocking games that will be extremely fun to use on the table.
I originally really dug the Raid Mechanic, as it encourages an extremely aggressive play style to be well rewarded, and I am nothing if not aggressive. It also comes in my favorite three color wedge: Red-White-Black. It has the best removal, the swiftest of creatures and the sacrifice for power theme of Black, so whats not to love!
But Somewhere in Wizards deep, deep dungeons, someone knew that I was about to abandon my beloved Izzet(Blue-Red) so they made Prowess, and man, do I really like it. I’m not a typical drafter, because I enjoy playing spells and doing neat things instead of just turning creatures sideways and winning. Don’t get me wrong, its a fantastic way to win, but I enjoy casting spells way, way more. I’ll genenraly draft 10 spells and 14 creatures instead of the 18+ creatures many decks enjoy. Izzets Overload and the preponderance of Scry and Heroic in both blue and red in Theros really fueled that play style, and I feel that Prowess can do the same in Khans. Thankfully, it also opens me up to Temur and their giant, huge creatures, but they just aren’t the same feeling as casting crazy spells to pump my whole boat and send them flying at my enemy. I’d ideally like to pull something like Dragon Style Twins or Howl of the Horde out of red, Sage of the Inward Eye and Narset could just flat out enable bonkers size attacks. I just see a ton of cool ways to enable, boost and take a Jeskai deck to the top.
Hopefully, my brother and I will be able to play in the Two Headed Giant tournament out here and do decently well, unlike last time. while its always good fun to get to game with my brother its always going to be more fun if we crush the enemy beneath our boot heals. The Preview week is still carrying on over at DailyMTG, so there are plenty more cards to see yet before the Pre-release the weekend of the 19-21st.