Over the last few years, there has been a growing concern about where Magic the Gathering is headed in terms of its representation of women and also how the game is becoming more inclusive for women. The conversation isn’t just limited to the two two genders that we are familiar with, but it goes beyond that into the nuances of non-binary genders and sexual identity and so forth. And all of that is just scratching the surface. In recent months, we’ve seen the game take some big steps forward, whether that be in the story, on the cards, or even as part of the community, which has been rather fantastic to see as a new player. Not to say that there haven’t been any missteps, but on the whole, there is ample positive development.
This column today is all about the women of the upcoming set Shadows Over Innistrad, which little over a week ago and which features two of the game’s most iconic characters, the Archangel Avacyn of Innistrad, and Nahiri the Lithomancer of Zendikar. Unfortunately, they are both also the villains of the story for this block, but if we dig deeper, we find a lot of nuance and subtlety that isn’t on the surface. And these ladies aren’t alone in leading the charge either, because there are mortals and immortals alike who are prominent in the new set. This column will be part lore, part commentary, and I hope you enjoy it.
There’s been a lot of buzz in the Magic the Gathering community-at-large this month. About three weeks ago, we started to get the first wave of spoilers for the upcoming set, Shadows Over Innistrad, which will see players return to the world of Innistrad, where some sort of eldritch madness has gripped the angelic defenders of the plane and turned them against the mortals. Even the great Avacyn, the so-called Angel of Hope of Innistrad, has been affected, and she leads her sisters against any and everyone. Wizards of the Coast has done a damn fine job of marketing the new set, and as part of that, they have also released some great mythics which well and truly fit the flavour of the plane, and more besides.
Shadows Over Innistrad is a pretty interesting set because of two things: first, it has higher than the average number of mythics for a large set, and second, it has higher than the usual number of planeswalkers for a large set. With the reintroduction of the double-faced cards in the set, we are getting more mythics than we did in the last few large sets, eighteen in all, and at the same time we are also getting a whopping FOUR planeswalkers. Just absolutely crazy. Read on after the break to see what cool toys we are getting in two weeks’ time.
Last week I talked about a whole bunch of spoilers from the first week of the official spoiler season. There were lots of cards that were spoiled during that time, and they definitely set off a frenzy among the playerbase, since a lot of the rares seem to be really powerful, especially the Eldrazi cards. Ulamog’s brood is rather absent this time around while Kozilek’s brood is taking center-stage, but the Zendikari are also getting stuck right in, and it is definitely a great time to be playing with these sets.
Moving on from cards such as Linvala, the Preserver or the Oath cycle of legendary enchantments or the new manlands or goblins and what not, we have some more really exciting cards in the week 2 roundup. A lot of the best seemed to have been saved for the last, and I certainly don’t mind that. And now that we have the full round of spoilers from Oath of the Gatewatch out, it is also looking like the rares from this set are much more powerful than the rares from Battle For Zendikar, which is quite an interesting difference. So let’s get on with them!
It is finally that time of the year now. Despite all the controversy surrounding the massive amount of leaks for the upcoming set, Oath of the Gatewatch, in November and December of last year, we are finally in the official spoiler season mode, and things are looking pretty damn great. Sure, it is hard to match up to the mythics and the Expeditions that were leaked already, but there is still something about getting to see all the new rares and the mechanics and the commons and uncommons that will all go on to define both Constructed and Limited formats. And that’s where a lot of these cards really shine.
These spoilers are all from the first week of official spoilers, which was from 28th December to 1st January. In this period, we also got some confirmations of previous spoilers, many of which I talked about a while back, such as Sphinx of the Final Word, Sea Gate Wreckage, the new uncommon cycle of dual lands, and a small handful of others. However, there were also a ton of new cards, and many of them are really spicy, such as Jori En, Ruin Diver and Stoneforge Masterwork, Immolating Glare, Linvala the Preserver among others. Let’s get on to them!
Spoiler season is on us again, and that means that we are going to have a hell of a time. Of course, you might be wondering why I would mention spoiler season since the new set, Oath of the Gatewatch isn’t being released for about a little more a month still, and the official spoilers haven’t even started as yet. The reason for that is the huge amount of leaks that have happened in the last couple weeks or so. It is an unprecedented level of information coming out unofficially from Wizards of the Coast, and that is indeed most surprising.
For the winter sets, the spoilers usually start just around the new year, culminating in the prereleases in the middle of January, and then the official release a week later. And usually, we rarely get any leaked spoilers until the official spoilers start. This time though things are very different. The powers-that-be were waiting until the World Magic Cup to start handing out tidbits it seems, but some unscrupulous persons have already seen fit to, well, spoil that. We got several big set mechanics leaks in November, followed by a bunch of legendary creatures last week, and just last night, we had pretty much the entire run down of the Zendikar Expeditions and the new mythics from the set. Mind-boggling all of it. So let’s get down with them.
Magic the Gathering Prereleases for me are always an awesome and fun experience. I haven’t attended as many as I would like ever since I started playing, only 3 not counting this past weekend, and I have fond memories of all of them. Opening the first packs of a new set, the anticipation of pulling a cool new card, building your sealed deck, figuring out all the synergies you have at hand, and then battling it out against your opponents. More than Drafts, I really enjoy playing Sealed, and the Prereleases are the best time to be playing Sealed I feel.
This past weekend, I was really fortunate to attend two Prereleases after a really long time, not since Fate Reforged Prerelease actually, and I had a ton of fun. I attended the midnight session at the LGS closest to my home since the group meets in my building complex, and then the following day I went to the big LGS about 10 minutes drive-away, and both sessions were great. The anticipation of pulling Zendikar Expeditions, not to mention several of the cool rares and mythics, it was good this time, and it delivered as well, which was certainly great!
A couple days ago I talked about how I would update my existing Abzan Aggro to fit the new Standard format once Battle For Zendikar releases on October 2nd, just about 10 days or so away. I’ve been playing the archetype since I got into Magic last October, almost a year now, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. But, I also like to play other decks, and in the last several months I’ve experimented with archetypes like Sultai Midrange, UW/Jeskai Heroic and also GW ORB, the latter of which is a GW aggro deck utilizing the Outlast, Renown and Bolster mechanics from the Khans of Tarkir block and Magic Origins.
With the new post-rotation format however, I want to experiment with something a bit different, such as Naya Aggro. I’m a GW player at heart, so branching out to other colours such as red or blue isn’t so comfortable for me, but with the spoiling of certain cards from Battle For Zendikar, red is looking very appealing on several different levels. Gideon’s Reproach, Scythe Leopard, Outnumber, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and the new fetchable dual lands are a great reason to branch out I think and that Naya provides a really nice shell for these and other existing cards that fit into this archetype.
So that’s all of that. Spoiler season is now over and people are going to get pretty busy with brewing, whether it is new decks or updating existing decks to fit the new Battle For Zendikar Standard format. It is a very very exciting time for sure, and I myself have a couple brews ready, though I think that they need a lot of work still. Either way, that’s all the fun is, and to wrap up the season, it is time to get to the final two days of BFZ spoilers.
This is going to be a bit of an odd post in comparison to the previous ones that I did since for those I had a fairly limited number of cards to go over. But this week, Wizards dumped roughly half the set, mostly the commons and uncommons, online at the same time, and so that’s a lot of cards to cover. I’ll be going over only those that I find interesting enough to rate a mention here. So let’s get to it.
Last week was the first official week of spoilers for Battle For Zendikar, though we had already seen quite a few cards previously at the yearly PAX Prime event last month. Wizards of the Coast kicked things off in great order for the first week, revealing excellent cards like the new Planeswalker cards for Kiora and Ob Nixilis, or enemy manlands, some more Zendikar Expeditions promos, and an assortment of other cards of all types. There was a lot of good in those spoilers, and though there were a few duds for me, nevertheless it was a pretty exciting week, and now we get into the second week of the spoilers.
In all, we’ve seen a little over 40 cards so far this week, which does go some way towards alleviating my concerns about the slow-rolling of spoilers. We still have two more days to go, so this is definitely a much better rate than last week. So far, we’ve seen lots of new full-art basic lands, we’ve seen the uncommon cycle of mono-lands, some more cool mythics, and more allies and colorless spells and more. Things seem to be really kicking off now for Battle For Zendikar and with prereleases being just 9 days away, this is a very exciting time to be in. So let’s see what all we got this week.
About a week ago, I ran a post in my Adventures In Magic the Gathering series that talked about the various (or, most of) cards revealed for the upcoming block (and set) Battle For Zendikar, during the Magic the Gathering Worlds Championship during PAX Prime. There were some rather huge announcements during these previews, not the least of which was a reveal of the new cards for iconic characters like Gideon and Ulamog, but also tasty tidbits for collectors such as the Zendikar Expeditions promos and the new rare lands cycle for the set. And then in this last week, we’ve barely gotten any spoilers, likely due to the fact that Wizards of The Coast frontloaded so much during PAX, but now we are back in spoiler territory, so let’s kick off.
This is only week 1 of spoilers, as counted on the Wizards website, so we still have a long way to go, especially since so far we know only about a third of the entire set. But at the same time, many of these spoilers were really good, especially the new Kiora planeswalker and the new Wrath effect. Or all the cool new allies. Or even the new lands cycle to be found in the set (making it one of two, though only one is actually brand new), though the entire cycle is undoubtedly split between Battle For Zendikar, and its sequel set for next year, Oath of The Gatewatch. So let’s get to them!
So the ongoing PAX Prime 2015. That’s something that has been happening for a few days now. Now, my interest in PAX Prime is limited only to what news I can get about Wizards of the Coast and Magic the Gathering, so naturally, the ongoing Magic the Gathering World Championship and the much-hyped (with good reason!) Battle for Zendikar Preview Show are something I’ve been keeping an eye on. I’ve seen most of the day 1 competition so far, and its been exciting to a degree, but the BFZ Preview Show is where the real fun is at and that’s what I’m gonna talk about in this write-up.
Hosted by Wil Wheaton and Ashly Burch, the show kicked off last night and over the course of the roughly 40-min show, we got tons of information about the upcoming set (and block), which also included some fantastic new cards that are bringing back old mechanics while also giving new twists to them. Having just finished watching the entire Preview Show, with guests such as Doug Beyer of the Magic creative team, Mark Rosewater of the design and development team and Graham Stark of the Friday Nights fame, I can say with all honesty that it was an amazing experience. When the Battle For Zendikar set rolls out on October 2nd, it is going to be a hell of a lot of fun!