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Predicting Alara Reborn Part 3 March 17, 2009

Posted by James in : all, random, fake cards, theory, design, speculation , trackback

We know two things about Alara Reborn. One, it will probably take place after the shards unite and become a new world. (Hence the name “Alara Reborn.”) Two, it is supposed to be very unusual. I will take a look at how it might be unusual. We believe that it will be unusual because of hints given by the design team of Wizards of the Coast. Aaron Forsythe gave a hint about Alara Reborn being a bit different when he said:

After Conflux comes Alara Reborn—set three in the block—at the end of April. Alara Reborn, lead designed by yours truly and lead developed by Matt Place, has a real jaw-dropping hook that we’ve never done before that is sure to make the set one of the all-time memorable ones.

Then Mark Rosewater said the following:

[Conflux] design had to incorporate three sets. Conflux didn’t just have to follow Shards of Alara, it had to set up Alara Reborn. As I’ll explain when we get to Alara Reborn previews, a lot of what this block was up to had to do with getting to where we wanted to end up. This put Conflux in a very interesting spot. We knew where our block was starting and ending. Conflux had to move us from point A to point B. So what is Alara Reborn up to? Not a topic for today, but I will say it was one of the more ambitious designs we’ve ever done.

There has been a lot of speculation about what we might expect from Shards of Alara, such as the following:

Consider each of these in turn:

Sixth color - A sixth color deserves an entire block and not just a single small set. I will be horrified if this happens for Alara Reborn.

Basic land theme - This might be possible if we get several better ways to search for basic lands, but the fact is that Shards of Alara is a multicolor set and basic lands are (usually) terrible for multicolor decks.

Mono color theme - I thought it was well-established that Shards of Alara was a multicolored set, so this won’t happen. There are two other reasons that it won’t happen. First, the five shards will exist to some extent in each set in Shards of Alara. (OK, I guess there could be a side-theme for mono colored decks, but that’s hardly revolutionary.) Second, a mono-colored theme wouldn’t work well in draft, and draft is pretty much the whole point of the game. We can’t start a draft with a set that gets me to play a three color deck, then use a set that gets me to play five colors, then end with a set that punishes me for not playing a mono-colored deck. (Draft is what gets most players to buy packs every week.)

Colorless theme - A colorless theme is a problem for about the same reason that a mono-colored theme is a bad idea. It is too inconsistent with the other sets of Shards of Alara block.

All hybrid theme - Hybrid spells are multicolor spells that lets you choose what colors to spend to play the spells. An all hybrid theme could happen, but I would be shocked. Why? We just had Shadowmoor and Eventide that had tons of hybrid spells. To have an entire set of hybrid spells now would be “too soon.” I personally think hybrid spells should replace most multicolored spells in Magic, but it would be awkward for Shards of Alara block to have any hybrid spells just for the last set.

All multiclor theme -  An all multicolor theme would make sense because it would be consistent with where we have been going. We started with a set with lots of multicolor spells, then we have moved into Conflux, which encourages you to play more than one color even more. (Technically, Conflux also encourages us to play five colors.) Conflux is meant to lead us to Alara Reborn, which will also have a strong multicolor theme, and will probably also encourage us to play five colors.

Actually, it looks like this kind of speculation is too late. Wizards of the Coast has already (almost) confirmed that Alara Reborn is an all-multicolored theme here. A new card (almost) previewed has the first collector number of the set, but mono colored cards have always had lower numbers than the multicolored cards. Certainly there won’t be any mono colored cards. Here is the (almost) previewed card:

There are two worries associated with an all multicolored theme:

  1. It’s hard to play multicolor spells. You probably can’t expect to play a two color spell in limited until your third turn because you can’t always draw all the colors you need. This is especially true when you play a three color deck, which is common in Shards of Alara draft. This would cause us to get mana screwed quite often and it isn’t a great idea to start the game on the third turn.
  2. Multicolored spells can’t generally have one mana cost, and many people like to play spells with one mana cost. This is especially important for Bant/exalted decks.

There are some precautions that Wizards could take against these concerns. First, more spells could have cycling (especially landcycling). Second, one casting cost spells could have a hybrid mana cost, or could have some other weird ability. There has been a lot of speculation about what kind of one drops we might get. Here are two ideas people came up with for one drops:


Pterodactyl and cards like it preserve the all-gold theme of Alara Reborn, but they are more powerful than the traditional one drops. I expect some one drops of Alara Reborn to be closer to the traditional 1/1 creatures we are used to.

scryb soldier

Scryb Soldier and cards like it bend the rules a little to maintain the all-gold theme, and for this reason they don’t quite live up to the spirit of a true all-gold theme. We expect gold cards to cost two colors of mana to play. Scryb Ranger is a lot more like a hybrid card.

Scryb Soldier uses an image by Jason Rainville. Pterodactyl uses an image by Mark Witton and Darren Naish.

My next article will be posted on Friday 3-19-09.


1. michael - March 17, 2009

I see some problems with scryb soldier.

1) It should be white/blue. green is bad a flying. You could give it reach and keep it green/blue.
2) if you try to play it outside of those colors, you get a 0/0.
3)Trinisphere…what if you play green and blue for it?

2. James - March 17, 2009

Based on the current faerie decks, Scryb Soldier would be black/blue. However, faeries have been green in recent history, so I want it to be green/blue. I knew that there was a problem with Scryb Soldier because you could pay red mana to play it and so on. I didn’t think about the fact that trinisphere would ruin it. I have changed the rules text.

Since green doesn’t get good flying stuff, I think Pterodactyl’s colors should be different, so I changed them.

So far Scryb Soldier would be “fun” but it’s so wordy that it is either an uncommon or a rare. Pterodactyl is much more simple, so it could be a common or uncommon.

3. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » Predicting Alara Reborn Part 4 - March 20, 2009

[…] I have already discussed some ideas people have come up with for one drops here. There are many other ideas people have come up with, but I find many of them to be very unsatisfying. In order to make a satisfying gold one-drop, I would like to see the following: […]

4. michael - March 31, 2009

Hybrid is in the set.