Welcome to New Phyrexia

Hey everybody,
I’ve been thinking about doing something on the plane of New Phyrexia for a while now, as it’s one of the more fascinating aspects of Magic the Gathering lore to me. So sit back and enjoy the oil-slicked ride through metallic hell, as we take a look at what once was Mirrodin!

New Phyrexia

New Phyrexia was the 55th expansion for Magic the Gathering, released in May 2011 as the third set in the Scars of Mirrodin block. The storyline of the block is really what I want to focus on today, though I also have a deck that I’d like to share involving some of my all-time favourite cards from the set.

So, back in the day, the arch-villain of MtG lore Yawgmoth had been using the process of phyresis to cure ailments among the Thran people of Dominaria, a controversial process that earned Yawgmoth the worship of his creations, but he was declared a traitor among the Thran themselves. Yawgmoth took his knowledge to the plane of Phyrexia and refined his ideas, creating an entire kingdom of these half-dead, half-metallic things. Over time, the Phyrexians plotted to invade Dominaria and claim the plane for their own, but in this they were thwarted by the temporal bridge between Dominaria and Phyrexia being sealed.

New Phyrexia

During the Brothers’ War, Urza and Mishra inadvertently reopened this portal, allowing the Phyrexians access to Dominaria. The Phyrexians, under the leadership of the demon Gix, sided with Mishra, however their plans of invasion were once again thwarted. This pitted Urza against Phyrexia for a long conflict that eventually saw the artificial plane reduced to a smoldering ruin.

Centuries later, the golem Karn built a new plane of mechanical perfection, initially named Argentum, and left the construct Memnarch as ruler. Memnarch, however, was corrupted by a black oil from Phyrexia and transformed the plane into Mirrodin, in an attempt to become a Planeswalker like Karn. The oil was somehow sentient, and sought to rebuild Phyrexia on Mirrodin. However, rather than reproducing the original hive mind of Phyrexia, the rebuilding has influenced all five colours of mana, leading to five factions within the military conquest.

These factions are led by the Praetors, which are introduced into the game via their Legendary Creature cards: Elesh Norn, Jin-Gitaxias, Sheoldred, Urabrask and Vorinclex.

New Phyrexia

I think the Praetors are perhaps the most iconic part of the set, with pretty much all of the cards still seeing a lot of play in formats like Commander. Each of the five has a huge effect that impacts the board, often in quite an obnoxious manner:

Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite – buffs your creatures while causing all of those creatures controlled by your opponents -2/-2;
Jin-Gitaxis, Core Augur – you draw cards at the end of your turn, while reducing your opponents’ hand size by seven;
Sheoldred, Whispering One – returns a creature from your graveyard at the beginning of your turn, and forces your opponents to discard theirs;
Urabrask, the Hidden – gives your creatures haste, but causes your opponents’ creatures to enter the battlefield tapped;
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger – doubles the mana your lands produce, but causes your opponents’ lands not to tap on their next untap step.

These guys can be particularly oppressive, though obviously being creatures, they can be vulnerable.

New Phyrexia

The defining mechanic of Scars of Mirrodin block was Infect, of course – creatures with this mechanic deal damage in the form of -1/-1 counters to other creatures, and poison counters to players; if a player ever has 10 poison counters, he loses the game. While Infect had been featured on black and green creatures in Scars of Mirrodin, then white creatures in Mirrodin Besieged, it finally made it also into red and blue in New Phyrexia.

The set also included “Phyrexian mana”, coloured mana that could alternatively be paid for with 2 life. A very black effect, Phyrexian mana actually appears on 34 cards across all five colours. Additionally, we get some returning mechanics, including Proliferate, which adds another counter of a kind already present on a card or player. Which makes it the perfect partner for Infect, and brings me to my deck!

New Phyrexia

Creatures 
Butcher of Malakir
Captivating Vampire
Crimson Mage
Falkenrath Exterminator
Guul Draz Assassin (2)
Indulgent Tormentor
Malakir Bloodwitch
Massacre Wurm
Mephidross Vampire
Nirkana Cutthroat (2)
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
Onyx Mage
Quag Vampires (3)
Rakish Heir (2)
Sheoldred, Whispering One (2)
Stromkirk Captain (2)
Vampire Hexmage (2)

Instants
Grim Affliction (2)
Uncanny Speed
Vampiric Fury (2)
Volt Charge (2)

Enchantment
Lightning Talons (2)
Raid Bombardment (2)

Land
Akoum Refuge (2)
Blackcleave Cliffs
Blood Crypt (2)
Dragonskull Summit
Lavaclaw Reaches (2)
Molten Slagheap (2)
Sulfurous Springs (2)
Swamp (6)
Mountain (6)

This deck has been evolving from something much more Phyrexian, into a more general kind of black/red punishment style of deck. I was trying to evolve it into a Modern viable deck, looking at more lower-CMC cards, and I’ve purposefully started to invest in shock lands for this reason! Sheoldred is still in charge here, of course, and rather than going a bit half-assed with some Infect creatures, I’ve instead decided to use Proliferate cards to work in tandem with the Vampire mechanic of adding +1/+1 counters when they deal damage. Proliferate will also work with the storage lands, and the level-up cards, though I’ve since removed some of these.

There are still a couple of cards that I’m thinking about swapping out, but it’s been fun to pilot so far!

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and I thought I’d feature the recently-released Archenemy expansion set for Magic the Gathering, having picked it up a couple of weeks ago now. While multi-player games aren’t something that I always get the chance to play, I just couldn’t resist getting this box after watching the seventh episode of Game Knights over on the Command Zone!

In case you didn’t watch the video, I’ll talk a bit about the Archenemy format first. Though, you really should go watch the video – Game Knights is a fantastic series, and having Gavin Verhey (the lead designer for this set, no less!) come on and play was a real delight!

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

So, Archenemy is a multiplayer format for Magic the Gathering, where one player takes on the role of the Archenemy, with the other players trying to take the Archenemy down. There’s no actual set number of the opposing team, though three decks are included in the product, which perhaps gives a clue to the optimal number of players. The format was developed out of the idea of a set that would include just over-the-top powerful cards, and was purposefully designed to be cool and flavourful at the expense of anything else. There’s actually a really nice write up of the development of the original Archenemy product from 2010 over on the MTG wiki page.

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

The Archenemy player always goes first, and starts with 40 life. He also has a deck of 20 oversized scheme cards that sit in the Command Zone and provide some devastating effect in addition to his own 60-card deck. These schemes can do all sorts of stuff, from destroying creatures to adding additional mana to the Archenemy’s pool.

In contrast, the team of opponents each has 20 life, and takes a simultaneous turn, during which they can confer among themselves as to the best play to make. While mana and hands aren’t shared, you can block an attack for a teammate with your own creatures. The Archenemy player wins if he eliminates all of his opponents, and the team wins if they take down the Archenemy.

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

Other than the scheme deck, and the simultaneous turn, Archenemy plays very much like any other game of Magic, and the four 60-card preconstructed decks in Archenemy: Nicol Bolas are made up entirely of reprints of older cards, to reflect that. Each of the four decks is headed up by a Planeswalker card, with three members of the Gatewatch (but no Jace! Gasp!) opposing the classic Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Coming in the middle of the Amonkhet block, the product is very flavourful to that setting, and I get the impression with some of the decks that you could actually swap out the reprint cards for Amonkhet-block cards (the Nissa deck, for instance, is actually blue/green).

There are a couple of interesting cards included in the decks that are fairly expensive already, so it’s nice to get the reprints there. Grand Abolisher is always nice to have, and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker was getting somewhat difficult to find here in the UK. I think the balance in the decks in this respect is good, in that you’re likely going to be able to get a hold of this product for a while, and not have to snap it up now “just in case”.

Archenemy: Nicol Bolas

I love the fact that Wizards is producing stuff like this in addition to the main line of expansions for the game. While it’s true that some people will no doubt buy this and take apart the decks (indeed, I’m considering making a few exchanges already) it’s nice to get that board game experience for Magic. Rather than relying on people to have their own decks, and having to work out the format etc beforehand, you really can just take this box off the shelf and play. As I said earlier, I don’t get to play a lot of multiplayer games anymore, but I couldn’t resist picking this one up. Now that I have it, I’m definitely going to try and get a group assembled to see if I can try it out for myself!

Announcement Day! #amazing!

Hey everybody!
Well, it’s Announcement Day once more, and my good god, what an announcement day it is, as well!

Take a look at the news here!

We’re starting with the next block, Ixalan, which of course has already been talked about previously. Vraska is back, leading pirates against dinosaurs in the search for the fabled city of gold, Orazca. This sounds hilarious, and could well be amazing! The second set of the block, Rivals of Ixalan, sounds like you’ve made it to the city, and are now trying to control it in order to gain the power of the plane. Not sure how that will play out in the mechanics of the set, but before that, we’ve got a multiplayer boardgame-style game coming out: Explorers of Ixalan! Four 60-card decks, and 50 game tiles will allow you to battle for control of the city, which sounds like it should be a lot of fun!

Between Planechase, Archenemy, and now this, it seems that Wizards are real keen to push the multiplayer format. That’ll be interesting!

The next duel deck is to be Merfolk vs Goblins, which sounds cool. There’s another Un-set coming out, which I’m not a fan of personally. To celebrate Magic’s 25 year anniversary, a Masters set is coming out in March that features cards from across the entire history of the game.

And finally…

Dominaria

Magic Metamorphosis

Hey everybody!
Having a week off work means that I can take some time off and relax, especially since I’ve now finished my degree. It also means I can be around to see things like this come out much quicker than normal!

Mark Rosewater has got a new article up on the Wizards website, talking about upcoming changes to Magic the Gathering’s set structure and stuff – changes that will be happening from next spring, no less!

Back in 2015, we had the end of Tarkir block and Magic Origins, which together were the last three-set block and the last core set, respectively. Since then, Magic has been published in two-set blocks that have taken in Zendikar, Innistrad, Kaladesh and now, Amonkhet, with Ixalan coming later this year. Each of these five blocks is a large set followed by a small set, the idea being that two-set blocks wouldn’t allow for the kind of fatigue that three-set blocks had caused. However, it seems players are still upset with having small sets, no matter how big the block overall happens to be, so starting with the April 2018 set (currently named “Soup”, but which will be announced later this week, apparently!) Magic will be see three large sets published every year, which may or may not be linked by location. Intriguing…

The fourth set of the year is going to be a core set again, only with a difference. It still seems to be geared primarily towards newer players, but the idea is to include more reprints that will benefit all players without being straight-jacketed into the theme of a particular block. I always liked core sets, and was sorry to see them go (you can read all about my love of M12 here!) so I’m excited to see what this could bring!

The Gatewatch

The Gatewatch is going to be dialled back a little. This is kinda fine with me, as I like a good planeswalker but having so many Gideons running around right now is a little unnecessary. I think the idea of including different planeswalkers is good, though I do get why they wanted the Gatewatch in the first place, so it was never a huge deal for me either way. They’re also cutting back on the Masterpieces series, so that not every set will have them. I’m conflicted by this – I only ever opened one, Mana Confluence, and pretty much immediately sold it anyway. Paired with the return of core sets and the potential for reprints there, I’m not exactly distraught at the loss of Masterpieces. However, their presence in regular packs made people open more packs generally, and so card prices have been particularly good in sets where they’ve occurred. If fewer packs are going to be opened, then I’m a bit concerned that the cost of Standard will creep back up again, and I’ll be left with fewer cards for my money. Hm.

The article ends with the news that a new element of R&D is being formed to focus solely on the actual gameplay environments such as Standard and Draft, in the hope of not causing any bad seasons as seems to be happening right now.

It’s always good to see these sorts of articles, and I have nothing but gratitude and admiration for the guys at Wizards for being so communicative with their audience. It sounds like things are being shaken up mainly for Draft, but the two-year Standard (eight sets, total) is being retained after the feedback last year. I’m primarily interested in Magic for the theme and the worldbuilding, of course, so I’m much more interested in what this means for those aspects. It sounds like it will allow for greater flexibility to tell stories, as they can have one, two or three sets taking place on a particular plane, which can only be good for us, the players! The return of core sets could be great, so overall, I’m excited to see where we’re going next!

Breya 2.0

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and I’m sticking with Magic for the moment, as I’m riding the wave of where my interest lies for the time being. Today, I wanted to talk about my attempts to change up the Breya Commander deck that I picked up a short while ago!

Breya, Etherium Shaper

Breya is an artifact creature who makes thopter tokens on her entry into the battlefield, but her abilities are a bit of a blend of the colours she represents, which does leave her feeling like a bit of a hodge-podge of stuff. That said, having an artifact creature commander does lend itself to artifact tribal, so I’ve tried to go more in that side of things. Because she makes thopters on entry into the battlefield, I thought it might be nice to flicker her in and out, though of course in Commander now you can always have your general available in the Command Zone if need be, so it’s not a huge thing to have to flicker her. I’ve got a number of other creatures who also do things when they enter the battlefield, though, so that the flicker cards shouldn’t be wasted. Something that I do enjoy is the amount of cool Kaladesh cards that are relevant to this deck, namely the Master Trinketeer that gives thopters +1/+1, which should help, and also Padeem, who will give all my artifacts Hexproof. They’ll still die to boardwipes of course, so I probably need to look into making them Indestructible as well, but that’ll be for another day…

Something that has kinda happened to this deck as I evolved it was the addition of quite a number of expensive cards – expensive for me, that is! I’m definitely a budget-focused guy, and if I’m paying more than £5 for one card, it really needs to be a specific card that I’ve wanted. However, I started on the slippery slope by getting a copy of Ashnod’s Altar, which I mentioned back in the original blog post when I picked this deck up, and have kinda gone on from there, really! I’ve never played with Sensei’s Divining Top, but a lot of folks (particularly the Command Zone podcast, which is what got me started on this whole thing!) talk about it being a crucial card, so I eventually bit that bullet and picked up a copy for around £12. I’ve also been adding in a few cards that I’ve luckily had hanging about from various booster pulls and the like, including Ghostly Prison, Serum Visions, Phyrexian Arena… Something that I’d noted about the deck was how exciting it was to have these “classic” cards like Skullclamp, so it’s again keeping in with the theme of the deck there.

However, I’ve decided to make these additions to the deck based on a couple of strong limitations: all the cards must be printed in the “new”, post-M15 Modern card frame; and if anything produces or references colourless mana, it must show the actual colourless mana symbol. Aesthetics are very important to me, and for a format like Commander, which emphasizes self-expression, I think it’s important to let these sorts of things come through. Of course, it’s a limitation in some respects, but there are still a hell of a lot of cards available for the deck to use – for the card frame stipulation, in addition to four blocks (nine individual sets) and two core sets, there have been three Masters sets, three Commander sets, five Duel Decks, and the Duel Decks and Planechase Anthologies. Amonkhet is also now a thing, and I’m evaluating a couple of things (those Monuments, for sure!) to add in, as well. Of course, the colourless mana symbol is more of a sticking-point, as there are a couple of things I’d like to include but have stopped myself doing so, but overall I feel spoilt for choice here anyway, so I’m sure it’s all good!!

As a side note, I’ve also swapped out all of the lands, for land art that I actually prefer. Again, it’s all about the aesthetics. I’ve currently got all of the Ravnica bounce lands in the deck, which originally caused me problems as I didn’t have enough good lands to bounce; I’ve since put in the recent common dual lands to try and get more variety there. However, between these and the tri-lands, the deck can potentially be very slow, as there are lands coming into play tapped, some of which are then bounced back to my hand. I’ve been thinking about swapping out the dual lands for the Khans duals, as I’d at least gain life when they enter the battlefield, but so far haven’t gone in for all that.

There are still plenty of cards that I’m thinking of including, and I’m sure I’ll be adjusting the deck for a long time time come yet, but for now, here’s how my beautiful cyborg commander is looking – enjoy!

Breya, Etherium Shaper

Creatures
Silas Renn, Seeker Adept
Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
Sydri, Galvanic Genius
Padeem, Consul of Innovation
Sharuum the Hegemon
Baleful Strix
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Chief Engineer
Chief of the Foundry
Combustible Gearhulk
Contraband Kingpin
Enigma Sphinx
Etherium Sculptor
Filigree Angel
Foundry Inspector
Magus of the Wheel
Master of Etherium
Master Trinketeer
Noxious Gearhulk
Psychosis Crawler
Reclusive Artificer
Restoration Gearsmith
Sanctum Gargoyle
Shimmer Myr
Solemn Simulacrum
Soul of New Phyrexia
Sphinx Summoner
Thopter Engineer
Vedalken Engineer
War Priest of Thune
Workshop Assistant

Planeswalker
Kaya, Ghost Assassin
Tezzeret the Seeker

Artifacts
Armillary Sphere
Ashnod’s Altar
Blade of Selves
Commander’s Sphere
Conqueror’s Flail
Cranial Plating
Hero’s Blade
Inventor’s Goggles
Lightning Greaves
Orbs of Warding
Sensei’s Divining Top
Skullclamp
Sol Ring
Swiftfoot Boots
Whispersilk Cloak
Worn Powerstone

Instants & Sorceries
Artificer’s Epiphany
Ghostly Flicker
Trash for Treasure
Whipflare
Serum Visions

Enchantments
Ensoul Artifact
Phyrexian Arena
Ghostly Prison
Pia’s Revolution
Thopter Spy Network
Propaganda
Efficient Construction

Land
3x Plains
3x Mountains
3x Swamps
3x Islands
Arcane Sanctum
Ash Barrens
Azorius Chancery
Boros Garrison
Buried Ruin
Cinder Barrens
Command Tower
Crumbing Necropolis
Dimir Aqueduct
Evolving Wilds
Grand Coliseum
Highland Lake
Holdout Settlement
Inventors’ Fair
Izzet Boilerworks
Meandering River
Mishra’s Factory
Mystic Monastery
Nomad Outpost
Orzhov Basilica
Rakdos Carnarium
Shimmering Grotto
Stone Quarry
Submerged Boneyard
Temple of the False God
Terramorphic Expanse

So that’s how it stands right now! Will Hour of Devastation see any changes? How about the upcoming Archenemy decks? I guess we’ll have to see!!

Amonkhet!

Hey everybody!
It’s game day again here at spalanz.com, and today I’m taking a look through the new Amonkhet expansion for Magic the Gathering!

Amonkhet

This is the 74th expansion for Magic, which is kinda mind-boggling to think of. The set is heavily inspired by ancient Egypt, and takes place on a plane ruled by the elder dragon Nicol Bolas. While Bolas himself doesn’t appear in the set, plenty of the art evokes his iconic twin-horns, and the theme is heavily implied that the people of Amonkhet are awaiting his return, not aware that he is a planeswalker.

The story of the set follows on directly from that of Aether Revolt, where Tezzeret had caused the revolt on Kaladesh before being confronted by Liliana over his master Nicol Bolas’ current whereabouts. Tezzeret had revealed that the dragon was residing on Amonkhet, which is coincidentally the location of one of the four demons Liliana had sold her soul to, Razaketh. The Gatewatch resolved to confront Bolas, against the wishes of the newest member Ajani, who instead travelled to Dominaria to try and get more allies.

Amonkhet

So, Amonkhet!

There are a number of new mechanics and themes for this expansion, which combined make it feel like a totally new plane, to me. Aside from the fact that the artwork is unusually consistent for a Fertile Cresent theme, it just feels somehow exciting to me! So let’s take a look at some new mechanics.

Amonkhet

First of all, we have Cycling coming back. This is the mechanic that allows you to pay a cycling cost and discard the card with Cycling, then draw a card (there is also a version that allows you to search for a card type). It’s a pretty great mechanic that really just gives your cards extra utility, and makes it a little less shaky to include some cards that you may otherwise not want in your deck, as if you draw them late in the game they still have a use.

Amonkhet

-1/-1 counters are back, though this time without a name such as Wither or Poison. There is a lot of movement around these counters, where some creatures enter the battlefield with a number of counters on themselves, and you can move them around or take them off when they deal damage, or whatever. Of all the new features of the set, this is the one that feels a little too clunky, and seems to require a full build-around to make it work.

Amonkhet

Exert is a new keyword that is fairly straightforward. When a creature with Exert attacks, you can choose to exert it for an additional benefit, though that creature will then not untap during your next untap step. It’s a fairly decent effect mostly, and is probably the mechanic that I’m most excited to build a deck around right now. So stay tuned for that!

Amonkhet

Embalm is definitely among the more flavourful mechanics introduced in the set, and while the intricacies feel like they may be too much to keep a track of, it’s something I’m again thinking of building a deck around. A creature with embalm gives you the option to bring it back from the graveyard as an embalmed token copy of itself, except it’s a white zombie in addition to its other types. So a creature such as Aven Wind Guide above is out on the battlefield, giving your other creature tokens flying and vigilance, then it dies and goes to the graveyard. If you choose to pay its embalm cost of four generic, one white and one blue, you can exile the card from your graveyard and put a token on the battlefield in its place. The big drawback is touted as exile, meaning you could at most get one reactivation of the creature, but I might see how that sort of deck would look sometime soon.

Amonkhet

Finally, we have another graveyard mechanic with Aftermath, a split card mechanic that allows you to cast the top half of the card as a normal instant or sorcery, then the bottom half of the card only from your graveyard, paying that half’s mana cost. The card design is just insane, and I have to say that I’m not a fan of it personally (to the extent that I don’t currently foresee myself including any of these cards in a deck for aesthetic reasons). But they’re here, and I suspect that there will be more in the next set, so yeah…

Amonkhet

While they’re not mechanics as such, it’s also worth talking about the Gods of Amonkhet here. Each colour has its own god, such as Bontu the Glorified for black here, and each has its own Monument artifact card that allows you to cast creatures of the god’s colour for one generic mana less. Each of the gods is a creature, with a colour-specific keyword, and is indestructible, but cannot attack unless a specific state has been achieved, such as with Bontu needing to see a creature die under your control. Furthermore, each of the gods has an activated ability that will allow you to achieve that state, such as Bontu sacrificing a creature for one generic and one black.

There is also the theme of the Trials of the Five Gods going on in Amonkhet, and each of these trials has a colour-specific enchantment that does something when it enters the battlefield, such as the Trial of Ambition forcing an opponent to sacrifice a creature. The Trials are at uncommon, while there are also associated Cartouche aura cards at common that attach to a creature for a benefit, and bounce the Trial back to your hand, making sure you can repeat the effect of them. I find the Cartouches much more exciting than the Trials, but for theme’s sake alone, I think it’s necessary to include them in a deck!!

Amonkhet prerelease

So, I’ve been talking a lot about building decks so far in this blog – let’s take a look at my Prerelease deck from Amonkhet:

Creatures
Ahn-Crop Crasher
Bloodlust Inciter
Bontu the Glorified
Doomed Dissenter (2)
Emberhorn Minotaur
Gravedigger
Nimble-Blade Khenra
Plague Belcher
Trueheart Twins
Wasteland Scorpion (2)

Sorcery
Blazing Volley
Pursue Glory
Wander in Death

Instant
Brute Strength (2)
Fling

Enchantment
Cartouche of Ambition

Artifact
Edifice of Authority
Hazoret’s Monument

Land
Cascading Cataracts
Mountain (9)
Painted Bluffs
Swamp (7)

I didn’t make it to prerelease this year, being absorbed in my degree work and house-hunting, and basically forgetting about it, despite having signed up for it! So I thought it would be cool to work out a deck from my pool anyway, and came up with the above. I was so pleased to get Bontu in my pool, as I had been hoping to get a copy of her for Standard or whatever. My pool overall would have been pretty decent – much better than that of my last prerelease experience! And I would have gotten to play black/red, my favourite combo!

Well, let’s see what happens when Hour of Devastation is out!

Planechase

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com and, if you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that I recently bought myself the Planechase Anthology box that came out at the end of last year. (If you don’t follow me there, why not?!) While I don’t always like to have a glut of similar stuff on my blog in one go, I wanted to feature this on a game day blog despite Amonkhet being released officially at the end of this week, so prepare for cardboard goodness for a while!

Happy Easter to me! #MagicTheGathering

A post shared by Mark (@marrrkusss) on

Planechase is a variant format for Magic the Gathering that is similar to regular games in almost all respects, except for the addition of a Planar Deck of ten cards that each player uses alongside his or her regular constructed deck. These cards are usually Plane cards, featuring a location and artwork from one of the many iconic locations found across the Multiverse, though there are also Phenomenon cards that can crop up. Planar decks consist of ten cards, no two of which can have the same name.

Planechase was originally published in 2009, with four products that featured 60-card casual constructed decks, and four ten-card Planar decks. The constructed decks were almost entirely reprints from earlier Magic sets, but also included four preview cards for the upcoming Zendikar block. These decks were five-colour, red/white, red/green, and mono-black. In 2012, a new set of four products was released, with new Planar cards and the new Phenomenon cards, alongside four 60-card casual constructed decks. Unlike the 2009 set, Planechase 2012 introduced a slew of 21 new cards that were legal in eternal formats, several of which became popular enough to receive multiple reprints over the last few years.

Magic the Gathering Planechase

What is the Planechase format?

At the start of the game, the first player reveals the top card of his or her Planar deck, and that card’s effects take place across each player’s turn. Some cards, such as The Academy at Tolaria West, have an effect that takes place throughout the turn, whereas others, like Orzhova, only trigger when you Planeswalk away. To Planeswalk, you roll the special Planar die, and if you roll the Planeswalker symbol (that fork thing), the active plane is put on the bottom of its controller’s deck, and the player who rolled the symbol gets to reveal the top card of his or her own Planar deck. You can Planeswalk any time you can cast a Sorcery spell, and for each additional time you choose to Planeswalk on your turn, you must pay one additional generic mana to do so. There have been a total of 86 Planar cards printed for the game, all of which are included in the Planechase Anthology, and depending on how you’ve built your Planar deck, it could form a hefty part of your strategy to Planeswalk multiple times in the game to ensure you get to use those effects.

Four sides of the Planar die are blank, and have no effect in the game, but there is also the Chaos symbol (the weird colliding-planes thing), which triggers the Chaos ability of the active plane if it is rolled. I’d say that the Chaos abilities on the Plane cards can be the more beneficial reason to keep them in your deck, and sometimes, you might not want to Planeswalk away too soon. Chaos abilities use the stack, and so can be responded to if you need to.

Magic the Gathering Planechase

As well as including all of the Plane and Phenomenon cards ever printed for the game, Planechase Anthology includes four 60-card decks from the 2012 edition of the game. While the 2009 edition were all reprints, it would have been nice to have had both sets of the constructed decks, not least because those decks include hard-to-find things such as the Mirrodin Artifact Lands, Cabal Coffers, Phyrexian Arena and Master of Etherium (although Wizards has been reprinting many of these things in products like the Commander pre-cons).

At any rate, the four decks included are each led by a legendary creature, and I know that Maelstrom Wanderer at the very least is pretty much a Commander staple. The cards in these decks are really nice to have, and while I mentioned earlier that some of the newly printed cards have since seen reprints, there are still ten that have only ever been printed in Planechase 2012 or else here in Planechase Anthology (Elderwood Scion; Felidar UmbraFractured Powerstone, which is admittedly somewhat format-specific; Indrik Umbra; Krond the Dawn Clad; Preyseizer Dragon; Sai of the Shinobi; Sakashima’s Student; Silent-Blade Oni, and Thromok the Insatiable). In order to buy the four legendary creatures and the rest of these cards that have never since seen a reprint would cost just over £30 as of the writing of this blog – importantly, that’s the price to buy this printing of the singles, as well; some cards like Silent-Blade Oni and Maelstrom Wanderer have a significant premium attached to their actual 2012 printing. I feel really pleased, then, that I actually managed to pick up this box of cardboard goodness for £60 from my local game store in Wrexham, which is cheaper than every other place I’ve seen. They originally reduced it in January to £80, and I did consider getting it at the time, but I’m really glad that I waited!

While I’m sure that, in time, I’ll be pulling these decks apart and making all kinds of weird and wonderful things with the contents – or else adding in different things to change them up and whatnot – for now I quite like the idea of using it almost as a boardgame. Much like I have kept the duel decks that I’ve bought intact, I like the fact that I have a collection of decks that are designed to be played against each other, and require little more than pulling off the shelf and shuffling up before I’m playing.