Core Set Flavor: Now, with M13!

Core Set Flavor: Now, with M13!

Mike Eaton, Play Unplugged

Magic 2013 previews are here, albeit in the sneaky form of previews for Duels of the Planeswalkers (a known and card-carrying video game!). The new core set has me thinking about the one aspect of core sets that I, lover of card flavor that I am, always find exciting: Top-down, intuitive designs. Let’s talk about some of the cooler, more easily accessible designs for cards — three from each set.

A word about the top-down design focus: It got me back into the game, after the abstract mechanics of Lorwyn almost killed it for me. There’s something about a card like Nameless Inversion that’s cool and useful, but robs some of the fanciful fun of Magic flavor from me. A top-down design means that a card functions like it looks.

Now, normally, in this space, I don’t like to talk about leaks. Wizards of the Coast believes strongly in a slow-release preview system, and I hate to break that by helping shady characters on the Internet to release information that isn’t supposed to be released. And yet . . .

MRRM . . . No! Only the official spoilers, as of this writing. I’m going to be good.

Magic 2010

make a wish

Djinn of Wishes: A foil Djinn of Wishes stood at the head of a preconstructed deck, at the time. It’s got a lot going for it: 4/4, Flying, and can play the top of your library for free! But the mana cost is prohibitive for competitive play (5), combined with the four mana you need to use its ability. But this isn’t the point. The point is, you summoned a genie — actually summoned it via the rules, which is key — and it will grant you wishes (unlike some freeloading genies I could name).

Wishes, everyone – too good.

Master of the Wild Hunt: This card confused me pretty badly, at first. That’s why it’s Mythic — its ability is so complex, they didn’t want us drafting too many of them. But, when you break it all down, what does it do? It’s a hunter, with a wolf pack that slowly gathers around. Then, the hunter can send those wolves out to strike. When this guy taps, you can almost hear the attack call go out, and watch the wolves march in for the kill.

Furthermore, the call of the master is unavoidable; all wolves must strike (aside from those with prior obligations), and all creatures struck must fight back. Feel the majesty. Hear the call.

Protean Hydra: My favorite thing on this list. It’s exactly what a hydra should be! Each counter acts as a head, and when it loses one head without dying, it grows two more. Side note: pairing this with Power Conduit is perhaps my favorite combo of all time.

Magic 2011

there can be only 4… is that right?

Elixir of Immortality: It’s exactly what it says: Reshuffles the cards I used up, adds to my life total, replaces itself to be used all over again. The bane of EDH, where an unchecked copy can prolong a player indefinitely. The flavor text has Baron Sengir on it, too — and if they never bring him back (I’m thinking planeswalker), they’re making a grave mistake.

Gaea’s Revenge: Green has a long list of forces of nature fighting for the right to be huge and stompy. Seems like every time we turn around, she’s got another avenger on the way. Gaea’s Revenge is awesome because it’s all-but immune to non-green sources, and it has haste. It’s all of Gaea’s pent-up energy running wild, only stoppable if Gaea (green) permits it. Gaea might finally have her marquis card for all time.

Primeval Titan: The most in-game impact we saw in a titan, and arguably the most flavorful. Primeval has domain over lands, and as we see in the art, pushes lands right out of your library every time he attacks. Beings from the dawn of creation should have ties to the very earth under their feet; it’s kind of a thing in fantasy, and Primeval Titan gets it right.

Magic 2012

send me an angel

Angelic Destiny: This enchantment transforms its target into a living, non-breathing servant of light. And when that creature dies, as is often a creature’s fate, a new slayer angel steps forth to take its place. At mythic rare, it also limits (in theory) how many creatures get this exotic privilege, to champion the sacred light — and the ones who do become celestial powerhouses. Not too shabby, M12.

Timely Reinforcements: Another card that is exactly what it purports to be. It’s more life when you need it, and more creatures when you need them. The only way it could pack more flavor in would be if it had a Miracle cost, and that just hadn’t been invented yet.

Vengeful Pharaoh: This creature represents the curse of lost ancients. When a creature attacks you and hits you, if the Pharaoh is in its tomb (your graveyard), its curse immediately slays the offender, and the mummy climbs out to stalk again. Once it hits the battlefield, it’s a 5/4 monster with deathtouch, and it takes a ton of black magic to summon properly. If Lord Carnarvon had survived to play Magic today, he might not survive the shock of opening a foil Vengeful Pharaoh.

Magic 2013

I’ll be back…

Firewing Phoenix: The several phoenix cards in Magic’s history have all filled different niches, but Firewing may be the most simple one, which makes the most flavorful sense. (Shivan Phoenix runs a close second, but it costs a ton of mana, and phoenixes usually have to wait a bit before bouncing back.) And why did some of those other phoenixes blow all that stuff up, anyway?

Worldfire: Unlike Destructive Force, this card is insane, and almost unusable. However, this is also exactly what a world ending catastrophe should be. Anything alive (players) left barely intact, everyone forced to rebuild, and one well-placed Gut Shot (on any side!) away from the end.

Xathrid Gorgon: Finally, a gorgon that does its mythological job! The closest we’ve seen up to now of a proper petrifier was Soul Sculptor, and we all know he wasn’t up to the challenge. This lady is all business — deathtouch, a huge toughness, and turning other creatures into untappable walls. Bring on that guy with the shield.

Thanks for coming with us on our trip through flavors past! Any favorites we missed? Any new previews got your tastes aflutter? Let’s chat about it! Unlike some of our core set friends, Facebook and Twitter aren’t going to bite.

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