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First impressions: Shards of Alara September 12, 2008

Posted by James in : all, reviews, previews , trackback

It’s a couple weeks before the Shards of Alara prerelease and we already have several cards previewed. MTGsalvation.com has been right on top of these “rumors” as usual. It is now clear that the new Magic: the Gathering set has a 3 color theme.

History of Multicolor

Before telling you what I think about this set, let me give you a brief history of multicolor. First there was Legends and multicolor creatures were introduced. They tended to be under-powered because for some reason Wizards thought that being multicolored was a “bonus” rather than a defect or drawback. They were probably a little over-excited that Crusade and Bad Moon could both pump up a white black creature.

It wasn’t until Invasion hit the scene that Wizards seemed to realize that multicolor was indeed a drawback. It can only be played in a deck of the right colors, and multicolor cards say, “Hey, I hope you draw the right colors of mana or you are screwed!” Spiritmonger is a good example of making sure a multicolored creature is powerful. Spiritmonger is bigger than it is supposed to be. It’s a two colored creature, so it seemed right for it to be a 6/6 for only five mana with other really cool abilities.

It wasn’t long after Invasion until we got Ravnica with tons of two-colored guilds along with more over-sized monsters. It wasn’t too long after Ravnica until we got Shadowmoor with multicolored hybrid creatures that seemed just about as powerful as Ravnica’s two colored creatures. Figure of Destiny, for example is one of the best one mana cost creatures ever made despite the fact that it can be either white or red…

The scoop on Shards of Alara

Now that we are faced with a three color set, I have two questions come to mind. One, will the multicolored creatures be powerful enough to be worth it? Two, will Wizards do anything to make sure we don’t get mana scewed all the time?

So far we have seen creatures, like the following:

shards of alara preview

And, as was inevitable, we have seen mana fixing. The mana fixing includes cards like the following:

Shards of Alara preview

The multicolor cards so far haven’t been as good as Doran, but that isn’t surprising considering that not all of the cards have been previewed yet. I would say that the multicolored cards are a bit underwhelming, but most cards are. In other words, this is more of the same.

What is disappointing is the mana fixing, which also includes the following card:

obelisk of jund

Shards of Alara was an important opportunity to show us the best mana fixing yet. Why? Because the game for many people (including myself) centers around limited tournaments (sealed deck and booster drafts). Shards of Alara is a multicolor set, requiring many of the most difficult to cast spells the game has ever seen. Multicolored cards are terrible in limited unless you have a way to get mana of the right colors.

Consider some of the mana fixing that we have seen in past sets. Mirrodin had Darksteel Ingot and Talismans. Ravnica had common dual lands and signets. Time Spiral had Terramorphic Expanse. Lorwyn had uncommon vivid lands.

Now consider the mana fixing shown from Shards of Alara. Those mana fixing cards are strictly worse than the mana fixing that existed in past sets. The common search lands are much worse than Terramorphic Expanse. The common two color lands of Ravnica are just as good if not better than the new uncommon triple lands. The Vivid Lands of Lorwyn are generally better than the triple lands because they can enable you to play a 5 color deck. The obelisks of Shards of Alara are worse than many other mana fixing cards, but probably the best to compare it to is Darksteel Ingot , which was also a common.

I have already discussed different ideas for mana fixing in a previous article. I would like more mana fixing that could be played as either mana or as something else. However, I would be more forgiving if the mana fixing was actually what I view to be mana fixing. I don’t like three mana cost mana fixing. Why? Because of all the games where I only draw two land. Playing more land tends to be safer than playing three mana cost mana fixing. I would only want to play the three mana cost mana fixing cards if they were something more like this:

mana fixing

What’s the big difference between Palantir and Obelisk of Jund? Obelisk of Jund says you lose the game due to not drawing enough lands (and perhaps drawing too many Obelisks instead!) Palantir says, “Don’t worry, you can play me just like I am a land.” Of course, then you would get a 3 color land, which might be too powerful. But if dual lands do 2 damage to you, then a triple land might as well do 3 damage to you.

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1. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » Shards of Alara Review Part 1 - September 24, 2008

[…] I already gave a critique of Shards of Alara’s mana fixing after seeing a partial spoiler. I still agree with my critique. Shards of Alara has a 3-color theme. That’s right, a lot of cards require the right three colors to play. Common sense will dictate that 3 colors is a drawback. Many people defend Shards of Alara’s three color theme by either saying (a) there will be plenty of mana fixing in the set or (b) There is plenty of mana fixing already in the game. It is true that there are about fifteen main sources of mana fixing: five triple lands, five fetch lands, and five artifacts. The artifacts and fetch lands are pretty horrible, but the triple lands are OK. Although there is plenty of mana fixing, most of it isn’t very good. I wouldn’t want more than one fetch land or mana fixing artifact in my deck. The triple lands are much better than the other forms of mana fixing, but I really hate the “comes into play tapped” drawback. I lose games because I need the mana right away all the time. […]

2. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » Shards of Alara Review Part 2 - September 26, 2008

[…] Shards of Alara First Impressions […]

3. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » Predicting Alara Reborn Part 5 - April 3, 2009

[…] Wildfield Borderpost answers the question, “How can an all gold set have lands?” Technically speaking, it probably doesn’t have lands, but artifacts could be used as lands with an ability like this one. This card idea is almost the same thing as my idea for what Obelisks should have been like to begin with, which was entitled “Palentir” in my first Shards of Alara article. […]