It's A Mistake (?)
One thing you
haven’t seen from me are comments about the new
Magic set, Apocalypse.
This is in part because of the Sullivan
interview, but also because I prefer to reserve
judgment on new sets until I’ve at least had a
chance to play a bit with them.
My first reaction to Apocalypse was to think
that it had a bunch of powerful cards, but how many
of them are going to be REALLY playable?
The new enemy pain lands notwithstanding,
most of the cards that had powerful effects are in
odd color combinations.
The other thing I thought about was wondering
how this set would affect draft and sealed deck
formats, which I don’t think you can really get a
feel for unless you sit down and play with the
We’ve already established in this column
that I’m not the world’s best limited player,
but lately I’ve gotten the hang of drafting
Invasion/Planeshift, managing to win three of the
last four drafts I played in, and really getting a
feel for picking the right colors, and being able to
switch into a five-color green deck when I see fit.
I questioned Apocalypse because of the fact
that it takes the allied color strategies of
drafting Invasion and Planeshift and throws those
theories right out the window.
In order to get the clearly most powerful
cards, you have to be playing off color
to play Vindicate?
Hope you drafted a U/B/W Dromar deck going
into the last pack.
How about that Spiritmonger guy?
Well, let’s hope you drafted the
Wanna play the Lighting Angel?
Ok you’re out of luck because that thing
costs RUW to cast.
Not that these colors aren’t playable
combinations, just that most people settle into two
colors, and might splash a third unless they’re
playing 5cG, then they’ll give just about anything
Well last night I had a chance to try and
feel out the new set in draft for the first time.
Thanks to my nefarious underworld
connections, I participated in an
Invasion/Apocalypse/Apocalypse draft last night.
My plan going in was to aim for a five color
deck, which seemed like a good plan as it would give
me maximum flexibility going into the randomness
that is Apocalypse.
Things went fairly well in this regard, my
deck apparently wasn’t nearly as good as I thought
I might have drafted.
I ended up primarily Green/Black/Blue, with
the surprising bomb Ebony Treefolk definitely being
my MVP. Other
cards I had included Life/Death and Death Mutation,
and I had Nomadic Elf, Elfhame Sanctuary, Gaea’s
Balance, and Fertile Ground to do some work for me
as mana smoothers.
I picked up an Illuminate in my first
Apocalypse pack, and a whopping four Savage Gorilla,
which I may have slightly overrated, or I simply
didn’t draw enough of them in the two matches I
So what’s the verdict?
Well, I’m not sure yet.
Drafting Invasion/Planeshift/Apocalypse will
be the true test of this set for limited, and in
light of that, part of me wonders if Apocalypse
might not fall into the category of well-intentioned
Invasion and Planeshift are both heavily
based on the idea of allied color strategies, and
Apocalypse goes completely against those strategies.
You want the best cards out of Apocalypse?
You’re going to have to draft enemy colors.
But if you try to line yourself up for
grabbing those good enemy colors in Apocalypse, then
you might have to pass on some really good cards in
Invasion and Planeshift.
For example, Red/Blue/White is a pretty
potent color combination in Apocalypse.
You get cards like Jilt, Goblin Legionnaire,
Quicksilver Dagger, and Razorfin Hunter in just the
common cards. Mix
in uncommons and rares like Illuminate, Minotaur
Illusionist, and Lighting Angel, and you have the
potential for some bomb cards.
However, if you make this your plan, then
when you get to Planeshift, how great are you going
to feel passing that opening pick Terminate?
Or if you see that Terminate, do you just
splash black, and be even happier when you see a
Vindicate in the Apocalypse pack?
Or do you simply start crying because
you’re trying to build a four color deck without a
single green mana smoother in it?
Ok so let’s say you stay traditional, and
in Invasion/Planeshift you are drafting a strong R/B
deck with your typical removal, looking for
Terminate in the Planeshift pack.
Then you get to Apocalypse.
Now what do you do?
Now there are some decent red and black cards
in Apocalypse, but the power level of them is
relatively low when put up against the cards
featuring enemy color combinations, and the
non-enemy colored cards will dry up fast because the
actually good ones are few and far between and will
likely be sucked up in the first few picks.
All this oddball theory has me wondering if
maybe Apocalypse is a mistake.
If you look back historically, the third set
in a block is usually the one that departs the
farthest from its previous to companions, making
little use of new mechanics started in the
stand-alone set, while introducing a great many new
example, Urza’s Destiny featured almost no echo
cards, only one of the untap-land cards, and very
little cycling, but threw several new cards and
ideas out there like Academy Rector, Opalesence, and
now, though, we haven’t seen a set that departs so
far from the previous two as Apocalypse does.
The focus on enemy color cards makes
Apocalypse such a serious departure from the
previous two sets that it impacts how effective the
set really is in draft and sealed events, and, in
all honesty, makes for a lot of weak cards for
constructed play, especially with the existence of
Rishadan Port in the Standard environment.
I wonder if maybe, while these ideas are
cool, we wouldn’t have been better served to have
seen these off-color ideas saved for the next
stand-alone expansion and its block, as opposed to
wrapping up the Invasion block.
At this point, I’m thinking that one will
tend to see people either having to pass on good
picks from the first two packs in a draft to align
themselves for the Apocalypse packs which may or may
not have the cards they need to make their deck
good, or you may see the Apocalypse pack practically
ignored by other drafters who stay in allied colors
for the first two picks and simply take what they
can fit in their colors in the Apocalypse pack.
One other possibility is a return to the
early days of Invasion drafting where you have
people repeatedly fighting over green mana smoothers
in order to build a five-color deck that can take
advantage of the Apocalypse pack regardless of what
I give Wizards a lot of credit for coming up with new and radical ideas for the new sets, and am the first to say that Invasion and Planeshift are fantastic sets together. I simply question the wisdom of throwing out this much chaos so quickly. However, time will tell, and I’m sure I’ll have a better feel for things after this weekend’s pre-release tournament. Hope everyone has fun at their prereleases!