For those that don't remember, last block I made a hypothesis about how R&D goes about doing their interblock design. I noticed that Timespiral, a "flavor designed" block as I called it, was sandwiched in between two "mechanics designed" blocks in Ravnica and Lorwyn, and that if you looked closely, some aspects of Lorwyn had "leaked back" a block. There seemed to be more creatures of the specific types that were in Lorwyn. The theory was that each block would switch between mechanics and flavor design and the mechanics designed blocks would bleed into the flavor design blocks, and that’s how you would have interblock design between two blocks. New block, new theme, does the theory hold true?
Shadowmoor seems to be about as mechanically designed as you can get. It has virtually no flavor to it. The block isn't designed with a "Legends and Spirits" theme or a "back in time" theme but rather a "color matters" theme. That’s the bad news, the good news is there is still plenty of evidence that Lorwyn's "creature type" matters theme has shown its face in Shadowmoor, if only in small bits and pieces. Look at the creature types that appear in Shadowmoor. Some old favorites show up again: Kithkin, Faerie, Rogue, Warrior, Merfolk, Elemental, Goblin, etc. The theme isn't as strong obviously as in Lorwyn, but they give us plenty of Goblins and Elves to put in our Goblin/Elf decks from Lorwyn block, (and for those that don't roll with Goblin/Elf decks, plug in your creature type of choice) and that’s the point of interblock design. And just to point out the difference interblock design makes, anyone remember the last time "Creature type matters" was a theme? Onslaught block. The block after Onslaught was Mirrodin. Not that many Goblins or Elves in Mirrodin, and not that many artifacts in Onslaught. So while my theory turned out to be wrong, interblock design is still strong here.
Mono-Color vs. Multi-Color
The theme of this block is "color matters". Multicolor matters? No. Monocolor matters? No. Interesting thing, the way the block is designed it doesn't seem to favor one over the other. While some abilities seem to favor multicolor, just as many seem to favor monocolor, and many seem to help both at the same time. For example, a card like Dire Undercurrents favors multicolor a little more than monocolor because with a card like Shadowmage Infiltrator you can trigger both abilities while with a mono color card you could only hope to trigger one (unless its a hybrid mono-color card I suppose). In the same way, Firespout is technically better playing both green and red because you can get both abilities rather than just one playing a mono-color deck. That being said, is firespout REALLY that bad if you are just using the red half in say an R/x control deck to deal with weenie decks that probably don't play that many fliers? So even if there is a perceived advantage with one style of play, you there is still plenty of use for this mechanic on both the monocolor and multicolor side.
The only time you will see this card
The only time you will see this card
Same with Hybrid. It seems to favor monocolor because it takes away the one disadvantage of gold cards, in that it forced you to play those two colors (or splash); now you don't have to. Think of cards like Dire Undercurrents that are all hybrid mana to cast. If it was costed as a non-hybrid gold card it would probably be something like 3UB. You couldn't hope to cast that in a mono-color deck unless you splashed blue or black. But since its 5 U/B hybrid mana to cast instead, that makes it playable in a deck that’s mostly blue or black when it wasn't before. At the same time... compared to a hypothetical 3UB cost, paying the hybrid cost would be much harder for a multicolored deck unless it was specifically blue and black (compared to U/x or B/x). Of course, if you want to take advantage of this advantage you might want to choose a better hybrid card.
The Best of the Rest
There are two mechanics that stick out to me in this set. The first is the "untap this permanent: do something" mechanic. Hardly new, but the untap mechanic hasn't been used in this fashion and in this volume... ever. Notice that all of the untap abilities have an extra mana cost attached. I'm sure this was done in order to prevent an instant death 2 card combo with Quicksilver Dagger or other enchantment creature or equipment cards with tap effects. Some of these effects only cost 1 or 2, so some fun with said cards can still be had, just not infinite.
Other than crazy combos, is there anything more to be said about untapping creatures? Here's a question. Which is more dangerous ability: Untap or Tap? Using the untap effect requires first tapping it in someway. Probably crazy merfolk shenanigans or some kind of spell, but most likely simply attacking. Untapping has the advantage in that you can use the ability and then use the creature you untapped to block as well. With tapping, you can either tap and use the ability or attack, but not both. But at the same time, you aren't required to first tap it in order to use the ability. The verdict? It depends on the creature we are talking about. If its a beefy creature, you want to be able to attack, block AND use the ability once a turn. If its a small creature, most likely you just want to use the ability and not attack into trouble.
The other mechanic that has caught my eye... or rather, the theme that has caught my eye, is the use of -1/-1 counters in the set. Never has having -1/-1 counters on a creature you control been considered good. But with cards like Leech Bonder, -1/-1 counters become weapons. They are used in different fashions as well, like on the new keyword abilities: Wither and Persist. You can use them as a cost to activate abilities like with Devoted Druid. Overall it just seems like a cool new mechanic that has its own neat tricks, and that makes the Johnny in me smile.
Considering this is the first set of the block, they leave a lot to the imagination. What will Magic be like for Eventide? What about for the future? Here are a couple of things to consider:
Future of "Untap" and "-1/-1 counter" mechanics?
Generally, when a mechanic makes its debut in a block, it is gone when the block is gone. Few mechanics have survived their respective block (Equip and Doublestrike come to mind). So what will happen to these two mechanics? Some seem to think they will leave when the block is over. There is one major thing going for these two mechanics though: they don't tie in directly with the theme of the block. Most of the major mechanics that don't make it past the block they debut in don't make it because they simply don't make sense in another block. But the "Untap" and the "-1/-1 counter" mechanics could be in any block and they would fit in just as much as they have fit in in this block.
Of course, the case against these two mechanics appearing again are strong. There have been plenty of mechanics that don't fit with their blocks that didn't appear in other blocks. The easiest example I can think of is the +1/+1 counter theme in Mirrodin block. To go back a block you have Cycling. Cycling could literally go in any block, but its restricted to only 2. But there is an even bigger reason: Sure they could appear in other blocks, but should they? Are these two mechanics something you want to see in every block? You'd think at some point it would get old. I can see the mechanics appearing on one or two cards in the future but it won't be a frequent thing.
Here's a crazy thought though. What if the Untap mechanic and/or the -1/-1 mechanic are a major part of the next block? It would make sense from an interblock design standpoint. What if the theme of the next block was something that -1/-1 counters or untapping creatures as a cost made sense? That would explain why two major mechanics in the block don't fit with the theme of the block.
I think most people are convinced that this is going to happen. It makes sense to do. You so far have allied colors only and hybrid enemy colors seem to be the next step. One thing I worry about is how they will go about doing this. Enemy colors are supposed to be opposites. So do you really want a card playable in mono-black to be playable in mono-white as well? How do you make a card that doesn't give a color something its not supposed to have? In Shadowmoor they made it work because there was an overlap with, say, Green and White. There are tons of things that both green and white can do. But what about Green and Black? There's some overlap, but not nearly as much. I'm convinced they can do it, but I'm interested in how it will turn out.
The hybrid mechanic first appeared in Ravnica Block, but now it seems to have taken over Shadowmoor. And this got me thinking: what abilities or mechanics that have appeared in small bits in the past would you want to design a block around? Feel free to give your own answer in the response thread, but I'll start off the discussion with three of my own.
Equip- I'm sure a lot of you will disagree with me because not only has this been a major part of Mirrodin block, but Equipment have appeared in many sets in between. I don't care. I want to see more equipment. I think there is more that can be done with equipment that hasn't been done yet, and since it’s been done before and wasn't a flop... we know that it works. For example, I want to see WoTC find a way to make equipment more color specific. Right now they are handicapped in that they have to make sure they aren't providing one of the colors some ability they shouldn't have. But why should they worry? Just add some kind of restriction that would make it hard for an equipment "intended" for one color to be used in another color, similar to what they did with equipment intended for creatures of a specific type in Lorwyn. Lets use that same idea for a potential cycle of equipment.
Red Sword of Death 3
Equipped creature gets +3/+0 and has first strike
When Red Sword of Death comes into play, you may attach it to target red creature you control.
There's potential for many cards here. You could have equipment that become stronger if they are equipped to a specific color. Or perhaps be more direct and make the equip cost a certain color or give it an ability that costs a certain color to activate. And the thing is, thats just one aspect of equipment you can use to design new cards. Another idea I had was to restrict equipping based on casting cost or power and toughness. The idea came to me when I thought what everyone thinks from time to time: how does a Birds of Paradise carry a Loxodon Warhammer? Then it came to me, you could design equipment that are "big" that only "big" creatures can handle because they are too heavy for the small creatures to carry. Likewise you might be able to do the opposite for "small" creatures, although flavor-wise I don't know how you would pull that off. Maybe its too small for the big creatures to use effectively.
Giant Axe 2
Can only be equipped to creatures with a CMC of 4 or greater
Equipped creature gets +3/+3 and trample
I'm using simple examples to explain the new design. An Equipment that gives a creature +3/+3 and trample isn't really that exciting. Same with giving a creature +3/+0 and First Strike. But the point is the new design.
Planeswalker- I think this would work out simply because we've only seen 5 Planeswalkers. You could do so much with Planeswalkers that haven’t been done yet. Just off the top of my head, give them static or triggered abilities. Give them crazy mana costs. Make some gold planeswalkers, or planeswalkers with X in the mana cost. Make some planeswalkers without an ability to add counters. How bout a planeswalker that can turn into a creature and attack? Here are some examples.
+1 Remove a +1/+1 counter from target creature
-1 Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature
1G: Lifegiver becomes an x/x elemental creature until end of turn, where X is the number of loyalty counters on Lifegiver.
The first four lines of text are normal for what we've seen from a Planeswalker so far, but then the last line of text says that this planeswalker has an activated ability. It might be a little weird to have a planeswalker be able to temporarily turn into a creature because you can assign damage to planeswalkers with unblocked creatures, but now you could assign regular damage because its a creature. I don't know if just saying something like "this is no longer a planeswalker" when you activate the ability works because that means it would be impossible to destroy in combat since you could just activate his ability when they would be able to damage him. Perhaps you could add "Can only use this during your turn" to the ability, but then you couldn't block. In any case, this is just an example.
-2 Destroy target creature
-1 Target player loses 2 life
This is an example of a planeswalker with a "crazy mana cost". The idea is the more you pay for this planeswalker, the more loyalty counters it gets. It doesn't have any abilities that give loyalty counters, but it has pretty good abilities when you remove them. Other than that, nothing special to say about this card other than you can pay any amount of mana for him.
Splice- Wizards eventually has to do Splice the right way. Don't splice a specific subset of cards. Let Splice hit spells and creatures of all types. Although at the same time you could have cards that only splice with creatures with less than 3 CMC, or only blue creatures. Or maybe a specific creature. Hmmm....
Bland Wizard 1U
Nothing to see here, but the point is the splice card.
Bland Wizard's Special Lazer Gun 3U
Return target permenant to its owners hand.
Splice onto Bland Wizard U
Alone both cards aren't anything special, but combined you have a new version of Man-O-War, with the advantage in that you can recast the Lazer Gun later in the game on its own. And the thing is, both cards wouldn't be that bad in limited either. Maybe Bland Wizard, but its still a reasonably costed creature in blue. The Gun would be used because while its expensive, returning target permenant isn't that bad. The thing to worry about is its supposed to be formatted so that the ability is used when the creature first comes into play. Is this the correct way to do this? Probably not, but I don't think there is a good way to format it so that works that way according to the rules. So if they were to make these cards they would probably have to change the rules to make it work.
And that’s all for me. Now its time for you to respond. What known mechanics would you like to see in a future block as a main ability? If you have some example cards, post those as well.