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Predicting Zendikar Part 2 March 27, 2009

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

We know that an old mechanic will make a return in Zendikar. What could it be? Let’s consider a hint given by Mark Rosewater:

I was originally going to write a section about the future of cycling design but the decided against it as part of the fun of bringing old mechanics back is seeing what new things we do with it. For example, this fall when we bring back [CENSORED]. I don’t think anyone would have expected [CENSORED] (really, if someone told you we’d have [CENSORED] without [CENSORED], would you have believed them?).

We have been given three new hints:

  1. The mechanic that is coming back has a change. (It will exist without something else that it is associated with.)
  2. The change is going to be drastic.
  3. The change has never been done before.

Now combine these hints with the hint I discussed a few days ago: The mechanic is a “fan favorite.”

Now combine these hints with my assumption: The mechanic returning is going to be involved with a major theme. It is not going to just be part of the background. Why? We see mechanics return all the time: Double strike, cycling, indestructible, etc. What we didn’t see happen much in the past is a mechanic return as a major theme, like hybrid in Shadowmoor.

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:

Splice - We can have [splice] without [arcane]. This in itself isn’t very unexpected. Almost everyone I know wanted to splice onto instants or sorceries.

I would find it even more shocking if Mark Rosewater meant that we can have “[splice] without [splicing onto instants].” It would be a drastic change to splice a spell onto creature, lands, or enchantments. This provides a better argument that splice could be the new major mechanic, but the change mentioned here would be so drastic that it couldn’t be called “splice” anymore.

Prowl - We can have [prowl] without [rogues]. Although prowl without rogues would be a surprise, this possibility seems too boring, and certainly couldn’t be anything more than a small subtheme.

Ninjitsu - Ninjitsu is certainly a fan favorite. We can have [ninjitsu] without [ninjas]. I agree that we wouldn’t expect “ninjitsu” without “ninjas!” This may sound absurd, but they could just change the name of “ninjitsu” to something else; or they could remove the keyword name from the cards. Ninjitsu is a possibility, but my current assumption is that the returning mechanic will be a major theme and this seems unlikely with ninjitsu.

Morph - We can have [morph] without [creatures]. Wait a minute. We already saw this in Future Sight! This is not a drastic change. This has been done before.

Flip Cards - We can have [flip cards] without [creatures]. This would be an innovation, but, it is difficult to imagine flip cards being a major theme in a set. Still, flip cards can be a major theme because every color can have flip cards, just like every color can have morphs, hybrids, and affinity.

An argument that flip cards won’t be a major theme is that flip cards without creatures can only be enchantments. So far we have no reason to suspect that Zendikar will have a major enchantment theme.
Affinity - We can have [affinity] without [artifacts]. Wait a minute. We already saw affinity for forests and mountains.

Perhaps we can have [affinity] without [permanents] (or [affinity] without [requiring permanents]). It would be a drastic change in affinity to have “affinity for blue cards in your graveyard.” Still, this sounds unlikely.

Poison - We can have [poison] without [poisonous]. Yes, it would be an unexpected and drastic change to have poison in the game without poisonous creatures. Part of me wants to say, “What would be the point? Most of the game involves creatures.” It is also difficult to imagine poison as a major theme in a set and drastic changes would have to be made. Some people have suggested that poison could be a drawback. However, I think a large part of the allure to poison is that it is an alternate win condition.


Poison appears to be the most likely mechanic. Flip cards and affinity are also a strong possibility. Splice could also be possible, but I doubt splice will be a major theme.

Images on Harus Pegasus and Arion’s Wings are by Misti Hope under a creative commons agreement.

My next article will be posted on Tuesday 3-31-2009.


1. Justin - March 28, 2009

You’ve left out so many possibilities. Personally, I think it will be a graveyard themed block and I think threshold has a decent shot of being the returning mechanic. It’s one of the few they didn’t cover in Time Spiral. Also, it could be a Timespiral mechanic, like madness or suspend, but suspend seems too soon and madness can become degenerate in large doses. I really am leaning towards threshold and the pieces that it would come without would be madness and flashback, though I could see flashback coming back in small doses. Of course, I could also see poison returning, but an environment with a lot of poison seems like a very skewed kind of magic. I don’t think it could be done in large enough numbers to support a whole set.

Also, I think morph still has a lot of design room, but there’s no other part that would go with it.

2. James - March 28, 2009


Thank you for the comment.

If threshold is returned then it will be “threshold without x.” What is x?

3. michael - March 30, 2009

You have it all wrong…Convoke without creatures…you tap lands instead! It is so brilliant that no one would ever see it coming.

4. keith - June 11, 2009

My first thought was Splice. Rosewater has said that, if he could do it over, he would have made the mechanic “splice onto instant (or sorcery)”. combine that with his love of evolving old mechanics and I think we have our most likely candidate.

5. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » Zendikar: The New Mechanic - September 1, 2009

[…] We now know what mechanic has returned in Zendikar and we know what makes Zendikar such a dangerous place. […]