Following on from my last Magic catch-up earlier in the week, it’s time to finish up my look at what I’ve missed from the last couple of years. I left things at Jumpstart, which was released last summer – which was followed by Double Masters, which looks like a phenomenal set for reprints, seeing a lot of expensive cards being reprinted almost like the intent was to simply increase supply. Classic Commanders like Kaalia, Sen Triplets and Riku, as well as more recent stuff like Atraxa and Breya. Jace the Mind Sculptor also reappears, alongside the Swords, and the Filter Lands from Shadowmoor/Eventide.
This was followed by Zendikar Rising, a Return to Return to Zendikar set. This is a set of adventure and exploration, apparently, and returns specifically to the feel of the original Zendikar block, without the Eldrazi. As far as story goes though, we’re in the post-BFZ era, where the plane has been ravaged by the titans. There’s a lot going on here, so let’s get into it!
Zendikar Rising is the first set to see Set Boosters, which are different to Draft Boosters in that they’re not designed, well, for Draft. Instead, you get a different distribution of card rarity, and we have the introduction of something called The List, 300 cards from the game’s past which are not Standard legal, but offer a chance to get reprints (though at random).
In terms of set mechanics, there is a new Party theme which grants boons based on the creature types you have in play. Modal Double-Face Cards are a new type of double faced card that players can decide which face to cast (they don’t transform). These cards eventually proved to be the theme among the sets of the Magic “year” (it seems they’re not calling them Blocks anymore).
I adore Zendikar, the art is some of the best in the game, and I went through a phase of buying as much of the lands from that block that I could, which I’m quite pleased about. I’m also a fan of the Party idea, as I like the idea of assembling a proper type of Fellowship for my games. I think this is definitely a set that I need to look into soon!
Commander Legends is a draftable Commander set, which I just don’t understand how that’s supposed to work. There are 165 new cards, and almost 200 reprints. Drafting a Commander deck just seems odd – you’re drafting a 60 card deck, picking two cards at a time. You still have the colour identity stuff, though it is no longer a single-card deck. Weird. I don’t quite get it – though it is always handy to have Commander cards in circulation.
Commander meets Draft. Weird.
The next set is Kaldheim, which brings us to February of 2021. We’re getting there, folks! Kaldheim is Magic’s take on Vikings, and it kinda works. Much like Theros and Amonkhet, we get some fairly decent God cards which is always nice. Kaya is front and centre of the packaging, which is perhaps a reflection on WotC’s attempts to compensate following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 (remember, they decided cards like Cleanse and Crusade were “culturally offensive” because they destroy black creatures and pump white creatures, respectively). Kaya is a fairly badass character in her own right though, and being a big fan of Black and White as a colour combination, I’ve appreciated her as the BW planeswalker since she first arrived in Conspiracy 2. Her role in the cinematic trailer makes it clear, in case there was any doubt, that she is amazing, anyway.
I’m getting too political here, let’s rein it in!
Kaldheim is somewhat tribal themed, with Giants and Dwarves, Angels (Valkyries) and Elves showing up. There is a huge development on Snow as a theme, moving on from 2006’s Coldsnap to have Snow on instants and sorceries as well as creatures (and of course, lands). I’m a big sucker for this, anyway – snow and fantasy games always reminds me of Runebound, one of my all-time favourite board games!
In addition to more modal double-face cards, and the second return of Sagas (again, something I like!) we have two new mechanics: Boast and Foretell. Foretell is a bit like Morph, which allows you to exile a card for 2 generic mana, and later play it for its Foretell cost. Boast is an ability that can only be used if the creature with said ability attacked that turn. All very interesting stuff, for sure.
I’ve really been sucked into the whole Kaldheim thing, and have actually been buying cards again – specifically for this set. I’ve been buying boosters and stuff, including Set boosters as well as Draft boosters, and have begun the process of creating a BW Angels deck. There’s a lot more to be said on this topic, so stay tuned for a blog coming on this, soon!
Something very strange has been happening with Magic though. They’ve announced that there will be sets released with themes from outside of Magic as we know it – called Universes Beyond – and they’ve released in paper Time Spiral Remastered, a single set that distills the essence of the original Time Spiral. Why? Who knows. Weird.
The first Universes Beyond set is coming sometime next month, and is set in the Forgotten Realms. I’m actually quite excited to see Drizzt on a Magic card…
The most recent set to release is Strixhaven: School of Mages, which came out in April and seems to be Magic’s take on Harry Potter. Well, not exactly, though it is described as “the magic school genre” – so that’s clearly a thing! The set is an enemy-coloured theme, spells matter theme delight – I think I’ve read somewhere that it’s the first set specifically devoted to enemy colour pairs since Apocalypse in 2001. Anyway, Strixhaven is a magical school that attracts only the best and the brightest. Among these are Will and Rowan Kenrith once more, who are really establishing themselves now in the lore of the multiverse.
Modal double-face cards are once again here, tying all of the sets of the “year” together, and we have a focus on instants and spells. Magecraft is a new ability word that triggers when casting instant and sorcery spells, and there is a new keyword that ties into the theme of the set, Learn. The keyword lets you either discard a card and draw a card, or to reveal a Lesson card from outside the game and add it to your hand. Lessons are a subtype of instants and sorceries that allow you to focus on a specific type of gameplay, their biggest thing being that you can “fetch” them with Learn cards. Seems a little one-shot-wonder to be of any real impact, but who knows? Maybe we’ll get more to support this type of thing in years to come.
Confession time: I’ve also been buying some Strixhaven cards. I’m a sucker for BW right now, and have been plotting another deck around the Silverquill college. There are five colleges in Strixhaven, each named after the Elder Dragon that founded it. Nothing to do with Harry Potter, whatsoever. Anyway – stay tuned for more on this deck, once I’ve figured out just what I’m trying to do with it!
Strixhaven brings us to the end of this two-part run-through the recent years of Magic sets! After the D&D set (in a similar move, Strixhaven is an upcoming sourcebook for the RPG, I believe), we’re going back to Innistrad once more, though I don’t know anything about that other than the set names appear to have been announced. I think I’ve got my work cut out for me in getting to grips with Valkyries and Ink-mages though, so I’m gonna leave it there for now!
Hopefully the challenges that parenthood has in store won’t interfere too much with me getting some more blogs written in the near future, so do check in soon when I hope to waffle on about my new favourite colour pairing of white and black in the most recent MTG sets!