Planechase 2012 Flavor Text Review

Written by Peter Johnson on . Posted in Magic Culture

Planechase 2012 Flavor Text Review

Peter Johnson

Peter is a professional OKCupid grinder who dabbles in magic on the side. He is the local Pokemon weight expert for Ohio, a notable punsmith, professional dancer, and never misses the opportunity for a double entendre. His favorite color is pink. Yes, that is a cat on his head.

Welcome to a quick and dirty Planechase 2012 Flavor Review! We only have a dozen cards to review this time, but I’ll make it worth your while, I promise! Once again, we’ll be using this scoring system:

5.0: Instant classic. Short, witty, and unforgettable. Think Null Rod, Root Greevil, or my favorite, Quenchable Fire. The kinds of flavor said out loud when the card is played.
4.5: Not quite an instant classic, but very good. Only a few cards from any set will obtain a 4.5 or 5.0.
4.0: Well done. These texts do a great job of telling the story, lay down a nice pun, or are otherwise well-written. This is the cut-off for flavor texts that an average player might find memorable.
3.0: These texts get the job done, but aren’t that memorable. They get a piece of storyline across, or contain some sort of average pithy phrase. With any luck, I should drop most flavor texts into this category.
2.0: These texts are somewhat poor. They are cliché or do a bad job of telling the story.
1.0: Exceptionally bad flavor text. Maybe it’s a paragraph of drivel on a vanilla 2/3, or something that gives the same amount of flavor as a eating a dirty sock.

If I feel a card falls somewhere between two of the whole numbers, I will give it a “point-five” rating. I’ll give the card its closest whole number score, then add or subtract 0.5 if something annoys or impresses me.

Note: I do not follow Magic’s storyline beyond the basics. I won’t be biased or knowledgeable about any story aspect of the flavor texts, so I am relying on the flavor texts to tell me about the cards.

Illusory Angel: 1.0

“Yes, she is made of pure belief – but I hardly see why that makes her unique.”
-Reith, Master Illusionist

Blue walks into a furnished room. Five others are sitting down.

Peter: Hello Blue, could you take a seat? I’ve gathered everyone here today to talk about some of your flavor text.

Blue: My flavor text is FINE! I’m leaving.

Peter: Blue, please. This isn’t easy on any of us. When I look around this room, I see a bunch of people that just love the heck out of you.

Red rolls his eyes.

Peter: Could you just entertain us for a little while?

Blue: Fine! But I can’t stay long. I have to go to a meeting with some Vedalken to mess up a very basic human concept.

Green: Let me be blunt here, you’re overdoing these abstract flavor texts. I mean, “Pure belief?” What does that even mean? I’ll show you a pure face-full of-

White: It’s true, blue. I know sometimes I hammer on the whole devotion and morality thing, but those are real concepts that can scale! You’re playing with time and existence and all sorts of cerebral nouns! But you can change, for the better!

Blue: This is ridiculous!

Red: I agree actually, I have no idea why I am here.

White: Be nice, red!

Red: Go die in a Flashfire.

Black: We all overdo things, Blue. I push the demonic power and insanity thing too far all the time- I can’t help myself- but yours come off as especially ridiculous because you’re playing with things you shouldn’t be playing with, and that’s saying a lot coming from me.

Blue: You have no idea what you’re talking about. Ours are no different than yours! They’re better, in fact!

Green: That’s the problem. You blues are so interested in sounding cool with your abstract concepts that you come off as the egomaniacs that you are. I mean really, how many things made of pure belief do you guys have going over there?

Blue: Plenty!

Green: Mmm-hmm. “Belief” my hairy a-

Peter: See, blue? We know this is a game of Magic, but you have plenty going for you without having to alter time and reality. Not all of your texts have to be some philosophical conundrum! A lot of players have a problem with you always being the best, you don’t have to go around acting like you’re smarter than everyone else. Maybe just kill your enemies with a tidal wave every once in a while instead of, y’know, trapping them in a time-travel paradox.

Blue: This is stupid. I’m out of here. Blue leaves.

Peter: Well, we tried.

Red: Was that just Blue? I hate that guy.

End Scene.

If I wanted to sell my Illusory Angel without sounding like the smuggest illusionist to have ever conjured up a mirage, I’d do it like this:

She might not be real, but her results are.

See? Easy 4.0.

Beetleback Chief: 2.5

Whether trained, ridden, or eaten, few goblin military innovations have rivaled the bug.

Was anyone else caught unaware of the goblin-bug symbiotic relationship? The only previous relationship that I can think of was Clickslither, but that bug was worse for goblins than the bird flu (heard they got it from an Airdrop Condor). Upon further research, there is Goblin Firebug as well. So maybe this has more merit than I thought. Still, I find it a bit hard to believe that these bugs are even in the realm of the greatest goblin military achievement. It’s competing with the Bomb(ardment), the Glider, the Cannon, the Dirigible, the Snowman, the Trenches, the War Buggy/Drums/Paint/Strike/Wagon, and two of the most important inventions, the Grenade and the Charbelcher. Heck, the Onslaught version of Shock would have us believe that goblins invented lightning and rock! Certainly a bunch of bugs would rank low in a list of the great innovations of the Goblin Tinkerers.

Handy Phrase: “I want my beetlebackbeetlebackbeetleback, I want my…”

Mass Mutiny: 3.5

“What say you, my most trusted advisors? . . . Advisors?”
—Edra, merfolk sovereign

First off, props to the writer for referencing Merfolk Sovereign.

I can always appreciate a “Hey! Where did everybody go?” scenario, and this one is a classic. I haven’t seen a merfolk this screwed since Seahunter.

Brindle Shoat: 3.5

Hunters lure the stripling boar into the open, hoping to trap greater prey.

“Shoat” and “stripling” are both awesome words to describe this young animal. The flavor is great: mess with baby boar, and you’ll have to deal with papa pig.

Dreampod Druid: 2.0

“Don’t mistake my creations for mere vegetation. They are my children, loyal and fierce.”

The fact that he calls these saprolings both his children and his creations seems strange to me. Here’s a far better flavor text that would never get printed:

Why, you’ve enchanted me! Here, a token of my appreciation!

Baleful Strix: 2.0

Its beak rends flesh and bone, exposing the tender marrow of dream.

Glad to see this after I just made up a story about the stupidity of overdoing abstract concepts. This is a one-toughness creature with deathtouch! Flavorfully, this bird pecks my creature, my creature smashes the Strix to bits, and then my creature dies of poison or disease. You’re telling me that this model airplane kills my creature by sucking out its dreams? Get real. That’s the sort of thing that should be attached to a card that removes abilities from a creature, if anything. Tell me why creature is dying, or tell me more about this artifact bird.

Its beak rends flesh and bone, injecting the same oil that previously kept it volar. 

There! I like the first part, it shows us that we have a bird and it uses some of the gore from black’s texts. My revision shows that it’s an artifact bird on a suicide mission and it poisons the creature! It explains everything, and I learned a new word (about the bird! Buh-buh-buh bird bird bird…)!

Dragonlair Spider: 3.5

Swarms thrive in its nest, feeding on leathery bits of discarded wing.

This is a solid text. I’m giving it the 0.5 Silly Word Bonus for the use of “leathery.” That’s a nice touch. The only thing that bothers me is the “nest,” something tells me that spiders should always have webs, but I am amenable to an exception.

I’m having difficulty coming up with a better text for this. Here are two attempts.

The dragons might rule the skies, but they are second best on the ground.

“Don’t worry. We’re not big enough to qualify even as a snack.” – Stupidname, Trapper of Someplace

What do you call a group of Dragonlair Spiders that get together to talk about the dragons they’ve recently eaten? A Dragonskull Summit.

Thank you.

Elderwood Scion: 3.0

The Sunbriar druids believe that every life begins in its heart and ends under its hooves.

Oh, those incorrigible Sunbriar druids and their crazy stories. This is actually a pretty cool Magic myth, although it seems a bit out of place on a white-green creature. It sounds more apt for a white-black or green-black creature. The last part gives it that “grim reaper” feel, which is definitely a black flavor. As crazy as the druids might be, I have trouble believing a green-white creature snuffs out all life. I do like that the “under its hooves” ties to the trample ability on the card.

Krond, the Dawn-Clad // Vela, the Night-Clad: 3.0

Krond, the personification of the dawn’s light, lives to exact justice on his nemesis Vela.

Vela snuffs out every trace of Krond’s reign, leaving pure nightfall in her wake.

Oh, my bad Krond, here I was thinking that Dawn Elemental was the personification of the dawn’s light. Silly me.

I don’t know how it could be implemented onto both cards’ texts, but writing these two legends into a myth would be sweet. These two are day and night incarnate, so why not use them to explain night and day? Maybe these two have been at war eternal, each chasing the other relentlessly around the world, forming what we know as night and day.

He smites the moon and dusk and gloom, making way for dawn and day.

She clears away the sun and day, bringing night to all our sight.

I’m no poet, but that sounds pretty cool to me. Slap some quotes around it and attribute it to some ancient text, or maybe it is a nursery rhyme for goblins. I can never remember.

Fractured Powerstone: 2.5

The Thran learned to capture mana, but power inevitably escapes its bonds.

Fractured Powerstone has actually been referenced before on the Duel Decks version of Worn Powerstone (Even a fragment of a powerstone contains within it not just energy, but space—vast dimensions trapped in fragile crystal). So, Worn Powerstone was a fragment of a powerstone, but now we have a fractured powerstone. These powerstones didn’t stay together too well, but at least we know why. I wonder what an intact powerstone does, probably adds like seventeen colorless mana or something. Yeesh. I wonder if a better flavor text could be derived from that concept.

You wouldn’t want a whole one.

The thing that annoys me about the actual text is the second part. If the “power” is mana, and it is supposed to escape, why does this powerstone do anything at all? The mana might have broken the powerstone, but it didn’t really “escape its bonds.” Maybe I’m looking too far into this. Maybe it’s just se-mana-tics.

Sai of the Shinobi: 3.0

The passing of the sai presages the end of the old clan and the ascent of the new.

I like this one. It gives frames a random story element (this is a box set, after all) in terms of the ability. The “passing” is a great word for equipment.

Wrap-up: Not bad for a box set! While none of the texts really stood out, only a few of them angered me! The winner for Planechase 2012 is Mass Mutiny, since it was a decent text, and the only one to try to employ humor.

Peter Johnson
@PeterofDays on Twitter

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