I just left my first War of the Spark Prerelease at my favorite gaming spot (whatup Supergames), and as I was walking out of the building I couldn’t help but think to myself that there was something very different about the games of Magic that were held just inside. I kind of assumed that something would be different going into it (Planeswalkers in every pack!), but I didn’t know for sure what exactly that would mean or what I was getting myself into. The early spoilers weren’t very convincing. I was seeing a lot of “enchantments with activated abilities”, but actual, interactive, fun Planeswalkers? (meh). At least they had my girl, Chandra, I thought. I saw a lot of simple Planeswalkers but I was worried that that simplicity would dilute what I loved so much about those multiverse traversing space aliens and that is options galore! Of course, that didn’t stop me from showing up. They had my girl, they had my boys (Karn, Teferi). And combined with one of the sweetest marketing videos I’ve ever seen (Linkin Park remix hitting all the adolescent feels)- they inevitably had my money. But even with all those things that WotC had done spectacularly for this set- they still didn’t have my confidence. I was seeing History of Benalia PW’s all spoiler season when really I was hoping for Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Welp, it’s about that time in this article where I admit I was wrong- horrendously, woefully, and unapologetic-ally wrong- simply put, this was the best Magic set that I have ever played. It all started with my packs. Teferi in the first pack. Ral in the second. Chandra in the third and I was well on my way to building the Superfriends deck that I could never have ever dreamed of. Good luck aside, it wasn’t just the cards that I ended up being gifted with that have me so enamored. After all, I had won a bunch of games with the OP Brisella at my first ever Prerelease and the quality of cards in this one didn’t feel much different compared to when we were all living under an Eldrazi Moon. Rather, it was the quality of play that had me reeling. To illustrate what I mean, I want to take you back. Table one, match three- Superfriends deck engaged. The stars had aligned- I had all three of my aforementioned PW friends on the battlefield early and things were about to get very interesting. To say that I was a babbling buffoon in those games would be an understatement.
This was me:
“Should have scryed with Ral first”.
“Oh, shoot, missed my Ral triggers, that sucks”
“Prolly shouldn’t have ultimated Chandra there either”
“Actually you know what, I’m glad I minused Teferi, but I totally sequenced that whole thing wrong”
As the game carried on so did my decision tree begin to proliferate. These were easily the most complicated board states that I had ever encountered. What I was frustrated about in spoiler season (dumb, simple Planeswalkers) ended up being the antithesis to my success. It didn’t matter that some of the Planeswalkers in mine and my opponents decks only came with a few activated abilities when those ‘walkers are all put side by side. These might have been half-of-Jace-the-Mind-Sculptors but 5 or 6 of them still adds up to 2 or 3 Jace’s, and let me tell you what- that sure is a lot of Jaces.
The uniqueness of this set extended beyond the PW’s, though. Look at a card like Burning Prophet and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
Cast a non-creature spell, give this creature +1,+0 and scry 1- every single time.
And then this one:
Deal 3 damage to ANY target then look at the top two cards of your library, put one into your hand and the other into your graveyard (at instant speed).
Can’t forget this one either:
When Massacre Girl enters the battlefield, each other creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn. Whenever a creature dies this turn, each creature other than Massacre Girl gets -1/-1 until end of turn.
Yep, these were some complex cards, and as the Frustrated Spike in me will have you know- these were the cards that I hope will change the face of Magic, forever. War of the Spark isn’t Magic on steroids (see: Emrakul, the Promised End). War of the Spark is Magic cards riding space dinosaurs in outer-space with good-boy Mowus teaming up with Jacestice League Superfriends to battle the embodiment of evil- the grim grinning dragon-boy Nicol Bolas.
Deveri making you decide which cards you value in your hand. Saheeli showing you how busted an effect that is triggered by all non-creature spells has the potential to be. And how static abilities on cards like Ashiok and Tamiyo can render normally functioning cards useless if the card (as unimportant and all) isn’t dealt with.
I really do wonder how incorrectly those first pre-release and draft games are for players in this format. It’s like the cards went from everything doing one thing to everything doing 5 things overnight. That’s a crazy amount of complexity creep but as someone who builds so much of their life around honing their Magic skills, the ability to win beyond just having a Liliana feels nice and rewarding.
It was fun, packed, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Wizards printed awesome answers at the correct rarities, they printed unique cards in every pack, and most importantly, they brought skill to a format that has long been maligned as bomb-heavy and horrendously unfair.
People weren’t playing once. They were playing once in the morning, then in the afternoon, and then waking up early to do it all over again. All I’m thinking about is how there are two more left tomorrow and I just can’t wait. Seriously, Wizards of the Coast (and/or some planet that’s definitely not here), if there’s anyone in your staff that is reading this, y’all NAILED it. I feel giddy. I feel light. And I feel like a little kid again. And anyone reading this, I urge you to put this article down, coddle together 20 die that you have (you’re gonna need ‘em), and head on over to your local game store to get in on all the prerelease and drafting fun.
Planeswalkers in every pack, you say?
Going to your first War Draft?
There are two early lines of thought it appears, when drafting in this format. Value engine decks that end with powerful beaters (Awakening of Vhitu-Ghazi, Rhonas, Liliana, Dreadhorde General) to push all the damage through, or value generating proliferate decks that accumulate mass as they accumulate board presence in spite of any real bomb in sight.
Prioritize your mana-base. It seems that in a format without gates, or literally any-dual lands this should go without saying but seeing as how we’ve just come venturing from the very colorful plane that was filled with shocklands and guildgates, a disclaimer should be in order. The most important cards in a draft outside of pick 1 or possibly two is your manabase. Multiple powerful ‘Walkers will likely encourage you to dip outside of an easily assembled color-scheme. That’s why cards like Gateway Plaza and Guild Globe should be early (too early) picks in any draft you find yourself in. Don’t screw yourself of that sweet-sweet, planeswalker-in-every-pack Superfriends dream.
Here are the 5 cards that I’m most excited about in the upcoming set:
I’m gonna be picking my fixers early and often on the off chance that it leads me to a path that allows me to put the Dragon-God in my deck. I’ve been ecstatic about Bolas ever since they printed half-a-Bolas that was pretty sweet on its 7-mana side and At 5-mana, this Bolas is the first PW to give Teferi, Hero of Dominaria a run for his money in the constructed world. But in limited? Well.
War is such a big screw you to good deck design. It takes your mana-rocked, Planeswalker-diversified, Dreadhorde Invasion’ed up deck and completely shuts it down. At 6-mana, the card is worth putting you a card behind your opponent, as when this bomb hits, you’ll find yourself 3 turns ahead.
In a format full of slow Planeswalker packages, a speedy, must-deal-with threat that scales every turn is a scary proposition. Rakdos amass has shown early potential with the printing of zombie-blossom, Grim Initiate, and The Warrior Butcher to top off a very aggressive lineup of cards.
Narset’s Reversal can have such a powerful effect if the spells you are copying are some of the ultra-powerful sorcery-speed spells in the format. Even without a powerful spell in sight, the tempo-advantage of Narset’s Reversal alone is enough to push any player ahead. In drawn out games where the expected line of winning has been formulated for several plays in a row, any low-mana ways of counteracting that plan can lead to very swingy matches.
The Elderspell will be a killer in most of the games you find yourself in, only needing to be sided out on rare occasions. There are Planeswalkers everywhere, you have Planeswalkers, and level-ing up quickly is a recipe for success when so many of the PW’s in this set have game-ending ultimates. Pick The Elderspell early and often and you’ll find yourself a happy drafter.
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