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Predicting Zendikar (Codename Live) March 24, 2009

Posted by James in : all, random, speculation , trackback

We have been given some information about the block after Shards of Alara. Before you know it we will get Alara Reborn and 11th Edition. The next three sets after 11th Edition are codenamed “Live, Long, and Prosper.” Apparently “live” (Zendikar) set will not feature a new mechanic and will reintroduce a fan-favorite mechanic instead. This is what Mark Rosewater had to say:

The end result is that we’ve made a conscious decision to be more assertive about using these tools. This is why cycling returned in Shards and why the fan favorite CENSORED is returning this fall in the set codenamed “Live.” We’ve decided to stop reinventing the wheel when an old wheel can do the job. This doesn’t mean every set will have an old mechanic returning, but it does mean we are feeling more secure about reusing old mechanics when they seem appropriate.

What could this fan-favorite mechanic be? Here is a list of some ideas:

  1. Poison
  2. Hybrid
  3. Ninjitsu
  4. Flip cards
  5. Splice
  6. Scry
  7. Affinity

Poison - This is probably the most popular idea for what this set will be based on. If poison returns, it would probably not be the major theme of the whole set. My guess is that codename live will have a mechanic return as a major theme, just like Shadowmoor returned hybrid as a major theme. (I might be wrong that the new mechanic will be a major theme, but that is my assumption for now considering that Shadowmoor reintroduced an old mechanic as a major theme.)

It is possible for poison to return if it introduces some major innovations that makes it an interesting mechanic for every color. Maybe a black card will give the opponent a poison counter whenever he or she discards a card or something.

Hybrid - Shadowmoor already reintroduced hybrid as a major theme. This might happen again, but not this soon. In fact, Shadowmoor was the first set to reintroduce a mechanic as a major theme in the first place. It looks like every other block will probably be reintroducing mechanics rather than introducing new mechanics.

Ninjitsu - Most of Kamigawa was despised by magic players, but Ninjitsu was the shining star of Kamigawa. Everyone loves ninjas, but I can’t imagine this as the major theme. The likelihood of Ninjitsu being a major theme is less likely than poison being the major theme. I can’t even imagining innovating ninjitsu to be a interesting green mechanic.

Flip cards - Flip cards only had moderate success for two reasons. One, it was introduced in Kamigawa, an unpopular set. Two, flip cards tended to be underpowered. However, split cards are “wacky fun” and it is about time for flip cards to be remade to be a major element in the game.

Still, I must admit that it is a little difficult to imagine half a set devoted to flip cards.

Splice - Originally there was only “splice onto arcane.” Again, splice might have a bad reputation with some players because it is from Kamigawa. Even so, the ability is quite strange and interesting. However, I still can’t imagine splice to be a major mechanic in a set. Splice would require a set to be primarily about instants and sorceries, but every set so far has been greatly about creatures.

Scry - Scry is a fun ability, but it is too much like cantrips, which exist just to fulfill a small role in each set. Additionally, I can’t imagine what Scry could do as a major theme in a set.

Affinity - Affinity has a bad reputation because it was too powerful with artifact lands. This bad reputation might disqualify it from being a “fan favorite,” but the affinity deck has been popular with pro players. Also, affinity doesn’t have to be too powerful. Affinity for forests or green creatures is probably OK.

In conclusion, flip cards are both fun enough and broad enough to be a major theme in a set. I think flip cards are the most likely mechanic to offer a major theme, but I see no evidence that they are a “fan favorite.” Affinity could also qualify as a major theme, but it actually acquired a bad reputation. Poison might also be a possible major theme, but it would have to be greatly innovated to be a major theme in every color.


1. michael - March 24, 2009


some pictures are blocking part of the article. Cannot read it all.

2. James - March 24, 2009

What browser are you using? Firefox is working fine for me.

3. michael - March 24, 2009


Glacial Ray picture is slightly overlapping with Nezumi Graverobber and you cannot see the Arcane title.

4. James - March 24, 2009

OK. Did I fix it?

Do you agree that these are the most likely abilities?

5. michael - March 25, 2009

It is still busted. Hey, other readers…chime in on this. I know you are out there (there…there…there).


Arcane is a no go…splice could be expanded to be a subtheme. Scry may make a cameo, but it is not a major theme. flip cards are cameo material as well as split cards. Ninjitsu could also be a sub theme, but looking at the name of the set and the art, it looks unlikely.

Affinity has a negative connoation. They could try to fix it, but people will just hear “affinity” and run in terror.

Poison is something MaRo has wanted to get back in for a long time, but it still seems like subtheme material.

Coming off of Hybrid and Gold, I doubt hybrid will be back so soon.

I would look at Time Spiral block for ideas…maybe this is the Transfigure block (see Fleshwrither).

Did I mention Live = Zendikar?

Morph, Flashback, Madness…I could see those coming back. You could also look at ravnica guilds. Maybe some Transmute or Replicate or Haunt or Graft.

6. James - March 25, 2009

Thank you for the updates.

Morph, Flashback, and Madness are also subthemes. I doubt anything for a guild would be a major theme. Transfigure also seems like subtheme material. So far it sounds like you have rejected all the abilities as a major come back.

7. michael - March 26, 2009

The rumor moguls are predicting poison will make a triumphant return. A world of fearsome beasts with venomous thirst.

8. James - March 26, 2009

“A world of fearsome beasts with venomous thirst” sounds like a quote from wizards, but I don’t see it. The stuff from wizards mentioned dangers and treasure, which sounds like artifacts and maybe traps.

9. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » Predicting Zendikar Part 2 - March 27, 2009

[…] So far I have suggested that the new mechanic is most likely flip cards, affinity, or poison. Some people have also suggested splice, prowl, morph, and ninjitsu. Let’s discuss the merits of each possibility: […]