New Directions in the Design of Magic Origins

Ever since Magic Origins was announced, Wizards has been clear about the set not being the end, but the beginning. Its even in the name. There are some quite splashy things in the set that set it apart from other sets, but there’s also some little subtler things that show a small change of direction.

Spells Are Now Better

Kind of.

A long time complaint of a certain group of players has been that spells are not powerful enough. Many of these players remember the days of Necropotence and cheap counters and would like them back. Well, WotC is not going to go that way, because their player-base enjoys the current Timmy-centric approach much more. They are a business and they would much rather listen to the huge silent group than the small vocal group and they’ll definitely keep it this way.

However, they are making concessions.

Prowess is now an evergreen keyword, meaning they have access to it in each set. The thing is, this inherently makes all spells better. Of course, there’s a catch. You still need creatures. So, they aren’t going all out. Its a balancing act. It might be a small change, but its still a change. We know Prowess is strong. Monastery Mentor is getting play in Vintage, but there’s also Monastery Swiftspear and Seeker of the Way. Sure, both Mentor and Seeker have been pushed in other ways, but if you’ve played control mirrors, you know the Prowess on Pearl Lake Ancient came into play often when two of these beasts clashed.

Also, scry is now an evergreen, which means they can push spells ever-so-slightly. Take Titan’s Strenght, which is now in the Core Set. Red doesn’t really need the toughness boost and Brute Force isn’t really in red’s part of the color pie (it was from Planar Chaos). You don’t probably won’t to give +4 Power with that mana cost either. What’s the solution? Push the spell in some other way. Making it a cantrip is too much, so why not slap scy on it?

In the long run this will probably give us plenty of spells that would be unplayable if they didn’t have that one little word followed by a number (usually 1).

Blue and Red Now Have a Common Keyword

… again with the Prowess.

But yeah, MaRo has been talking about this for a while. Each color combination has something in common in creatures (well, almost, white-blue has flying, white-black has lifelink, white-red has first and double strike, white-green has vigilance, which has been pushed in green lately, blue-green has flash and hexproof, black-red had intimidate and now menace, black-green has deathtouch, red-green has trample, blue-black is still missing its ‘thing’). Now blue-red has finally found its own and I think its a good one.

After all, these two colors are the ones most interested in spells. They always have the smallest number of creatures (with blue having the lowest count and red the second lowest) in each set. However, since you still need to play creatures in limited, this is a good way to make them worthwhile.

Of course, there’s a chance this will make combat awful, so maybe they’ll just cut it soon. Not sure though. This fairly simple ability does lend itself well for 2-for-1s, but generally just make them have the trick. Otherwise they’ll just keep getting free damage through.

Reach in Red

This isn’t completely unprecedented. AEther Membrance and Needlepeak Spider had it, but those are from Planar Chaos, so they doesn’t really count. Also, Chaosphere gave it to creatures, but I can’t say it really counts either. However, in Origins, Skyraker Giant got it. They’ve been a bit more lenient with reach outside of green lately, but those have been fairly narrow cases. Hundred-Handed One got it when its monstrous and Dragon Hunter has it, but only when blocking dragons.

This isn’t a huge deal, but its a sign that they are shifting things around. The four mana 4/3 in red has been a stalwart of limited for a while, but this time it gets a little bit extra (and a bump up to uncommon as well). I guess its also flavorful that if green’s big creatures can reach high enough to block fliers, why not red’s giants?

All-in-All

The game has been around for so long that changes aren’t huge anymore. This does seem to be a relatively large change, although its done more subtly than many other changes. There’s no new card type or a change to a major rule (although, the addition of scry does facilitate the possible new mulligan rule). Still, I do like how they are still willing to experiment with these things. The game needs to evolve to stay alive.

(I used the word ‘change’ way too often in that paragraph, didn’t I?)

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