"Going, Going, Gone!" Hey, That's Alliteration!

Posted in Feature on October 12, 2005

By Matt Cavotta

Matt has worn many wizard hats in the 18 years he has worked on Magic—art-mage, logomancer, lightning bard, and (of course) Planeswalker.

Last night I saw an 18 inning baseball game in which one team was down by 5 runs until they hit a grand slam to make it a game, and a homer in the bottom of the ninth to send it to extra innings, and another one in the 18th to win it. Then it occurred to me, October means baseball, and Home Runs are a hoot. So, I've decided to follow the spirit of October with some Ravnica Home Runs (cards that have great names, flavor text, and art- and all three compliment the card mechanic.)

Ravnica has a bunch of potential Home Run hitters. We're not going to look at them all. After taking a jaunt through the set, I found an interesting link between a handful of the cards I thought were heavy hitters. They all have alliterative names- like Barry Bonds, but without the controversy.

Followed Footsteps
Telling Time
Flight of Fancy
Dimir Doppelganger

If one of these five cards ends up on a Watch or banned list, then our Bonds analogy will be complete. Some of these cards are good, but I don't think any of them are juicing. Four of the five cards have Blue in them. Does that have any meaning? Are they all on the same team? Do they all have the same 'roid hook-up? I'd like to think it's just a coincidence.

Enough pre-game banter... let's get those cards in the box!

Dimir Doppelganger

Dimir Doppelganger
So how does that name roll off the tongue? We already know it's sporting some snazzy alliteration. I think it's a pretty good one. Doppelganger is a word that I think befits its place in Magic. It's a long, mysterious and funky looking word that accompanies cards with often weird and open-ended mechanics. And, "Doppelganger" flows nicely in tandem with "Dimir." Altogether, it's a name that successfully conveys, "this is a potentially wacky black and blue card." I think it's good enough to chalk up as a winner.

"Fear not, your life will not go unlived."

I don't know about you, but I find this to be a really freakin' cool piece of flavor text. On its own, it seems like a really dull statement, "Don't worry, you will live." But, coming from a character that can assume someone else's identity, it's a devious and biting threat. It says, "You are going to go to parties and jump from airplanes and do all sorts of things you were too wimpy to do before you were dead and I was dancing to L.L. Cool J songs in your Adidas." All that wrapped up in a statement you might not even know was a threat- how very Dimir. No doubt, that flavor text is a winner. Solid double to the wall in left center.

I am a huuuuuge fan of Jim Murray's art. In fact, I would go as far as to say he's the top dog in Magic right now. He's got some real doozies out there. This one is not my favorite one of his illustrations, but it's still a really nice piece. From an art-nerdy perspective, it's got really good use of textures and patterns in the background, while still allowing the foreground to dominate the scene. The drawing and handling of perspective is solid. Then, from an illustration perspective, it's a little Doppelganger mystery story in itself. What did the doppelganger look like before this? Did it kill her, or just decide to assume the identity of someone else's victim? She's looking at me, am I next? Again, very Dimir of her not to let me know what she looks like so I won't be able to see her coming. Nice stuff. Is it nice enough to turn that double into a 3-bagger? As I waffle here between yes and no, I realize that, though it does not blow me away, there is nothing about this illustration that is not working for the card it is on. Man, (or is it a woman) on third, and rounding for home.

Do the name, flavor text and art work with the mechanic? An emphatic yes. We've already seen how the flavor text and the art fit the flavor of the card's guild. The name and the flavor text and the art all spawn from the card's "becomes a copy of that card" ability. Everything about this card says "sneaky blue/black thing that can copy another card." Ladies and gentlemen, the Dimir have just taken the lead, 1-0.

It looks like the Dimir are going to win out in our little Alliteration Home Run Derby, because none of the other cards are guild cards. Two of the cards do have Izzet flavor, but neither actually plays for the Blue and Red. Let's look at one of these cards now.

Flight of Fancy

Flight of Fancy
Flight of Fancy is a name that really tickles me. It's a little phrase that means a pipe dream or a trip into wild imagination. Here, it means exactly that, along with its word's literal meaning, "flying." Nifty. Round first base.

"The view from above is an inspiration to the newly winged."

Not a lot here, eh? What's the big deal, you get a nice view fro up in the sky. Look again, there it is! It's an Inspiration, to the newly winged! Ha! I guess that view from above is more enlightening than we thought- it nets you two cards. That little wink is worth a trip to second base.

A goblin wearin' wings and a smile seems fitting for a card called "Flight of Fancy." It has a light-hearted feel, as do the name and flavor text. I don't think it's Glen's finest piece of art, but it makes me smile when I see it. It does a good job of communicating the mood of the card, and setting the (real) goblin apart from the (fake) magical wings. Enough to slide into third base? Hmmm. I don't know. Let's take a look at the flavor/mechanic synergy and see if it's even close enough to warrant a decision.

I think this one's a no-brainer. The flavor text directly references another card that nicely frames up the effect of this card. The art helps with a visual that shows a creature "enchanted" with wings not his own. And the name, duh. "Flight – of Fancy." Does it get any more plain than this? I guess we have to reopen the discussion about the art on this one. The question of third base or no third base is still up in the air. And that's where I am going to leave it. The ball is hovering out over the warning track. I'd like to hear what you all have to say about this one on the message boards. We'll see if the ball clears the fence and I'll let everyone know next week.


Mindmoil. It sounds really cool, with the M and m thing going on, but what is it?
"Moil" is to toil or slave, or to churn about furiously. Hmmm, seems to me like either of those definitions works here. Is that guy toiling or slaving to make sense of the thoughts churning through his mind, or is he toiling or slaving to make sense of the thoughts churning through his mind? Either way – "clack," solid contact.

"My criticism of the Izzet is that their impulse for learning seems too much like impulse and too little like learning."
- Trigori, Azorius senator

There's a lot of flavor rolled up in that single statement. Though we're not officially delving into Izzet or Azorius stuff yet, it's all right there on a Ravnica card, so let's have at it. The Izzet, as characterized by the fellow in the art, seem to be a manic, out-of-control bunch wielding torrents of knowledge in their minds. For some reason this seems to irk the Azorius. What is it that irks them? I'll hold that info for later, but you're free to speculate on the boards. Whatever the specifics are, this flavor text introduces a culture clash between two guilds in one deft statement. A statement, by the way, that also nicely frames up the spinning-out-of-control sort of effect that this card has. For both reasons, Izzet man takes second base.

I love this art. I'd just put Izzet man on third if I didn't want to share the reasons why I love it. Conceptually it's OK – dude with mind in a tumultuous state. It's the execution I like so well. The swirling, or should I say "moiling," brushstrokes about the mage's head are organic and playful. The colors are sweet too, mostly orange with hints of aqua and green and red. In a red card frame, this lets our eyes settle on the red-suited guy in the center, while the real fun is happening all around it. A nice little balancing act by Alex. Oh, and look at the dude's face- he's doing all he can to hold it together. Sweeeet. Triple!

If this card hits the board, there will be chaos in your hand. It'll be hard to keep straight what it is you're holding. You might just end up looking like Izzet man there. What is it that makes it so hard? It's the "churning" through your library- stuff in hand to bottom, stuff on top to hand, and over and over again- until you end up burnt out and out of cards. I'd say there's plenty of moiling going on. "Touch 'em all" time for Mindmoil! The Izzet are probably wishing they had renewed Mindmoil's contract, but they were too busy campaigning to legalize Mizzium bats.

The last two are probably my favorites in the whole set. Let's start with Telling Time.

Telling Time

Telling Time
The name of this card is an interesting one. Its "catch" is in its expanded meaning from its mundane usage as saying what time it is. The "expanded meaning" I speak of is not absolutely apparent until one reads the flavor text, but it's in there, and it's cool. The interesting thing about names of this sort is that they have brand new meanings, but the words stick in the mind like you've known them for years. A swing and a drive!....

"Mastery is achieved when "telling time" becomes "telling time what to do."

How cool is that! "Telling Time" means something else entirely now. It means I am the master, I am in the driver's seat when I bust this card out. "Time, slow down so I can finish my homework before Lost comes on at 9:00." Coolness, and wrapped nicely in a tight little one sentence package. I can just hear some old wizard teaching his wide-eyed pupil with these very words. And then the pupil scurries off to study his thick tomes for hours on end. We're 'round second easily.

This is a beautiful piece of art. Check out the wallpaper to see the whole image. It's a wonderful mesh of abstracted shapes in the background and a well painted figure in the foreground. The coolest thing about this image is much less obvious. It's the three little clock hands between the wizard's hands. (This is where Telling Time turns the corner from third to trot in for the homer.) Each little hand represents either Past, Present, or Future- just like each of the top three cards of your library. Past- bottom of the library, Present- hand, Future – top of the library. I would have liked this concept a tad more if the past card went into the graveyard, but you can't have everything. Each of the flavor elements of this card stack on top of the other to form a little circle from name to flavor text to art to the mechanic and back again. Telling Time is a clean-up hitter in any lineup. This one is a no-doubter, clear into the visiting team's bull-pen. In true Vorthosian fashion, I would call this shot this way, "This ball is crushed, deep to right field, and waaay out of here. That thing was knocked straight into tomorrow!"

Followed Footsteps

Followed Footsteps
Followed Footsteps works in the same way Telling Time does. It takes a well-known phrase, "following in one's footsteps" and reframes it, while maintaining a note of familiarity with the player. It still makes me smile to think that Followed Footsteps and Telling Time are so strong in this way as well as in their alliterative quality and overall word coolness. What are the odds of that happening twice in one set- and on good cards to boot!

The reason I have left Footsteps as my knockout punch is because name, flavor text, art and mechanic all come together so well it's like Brady Dommermuth (card concept), Glen Angus (art), Doug Beyer (flavor text) and I (name) were all in a room together think tanking and drinking Jolt Colas. The truth is, the card concept spawned art and flavor text that never saw each other, and the name (seemingly the idea behind it all) was added last. I am not even going to round the bases on this one. This is one of those blasts that you know right off the bat. The kind where the hitter swings, crushes, and flings the bat down and stares defiantly at the pitcher he's just humiliated. Just look at the art! You can see it happening, the guy walking along and leaving magical footprints that begin building a new "him" "Aether can turn a footprint into a blueprint." How could this freakishly awesome flavor text be any better!? The footprints are blueprints for simulacrums. BLUE-prints. Look at 'em, they're actually blue! Doug did not know Glen was going to make them blue. I cannot stop raving about how tight this whole package is. "Followed Footsteps." How can it be so perfect, that the old saying gives us words that not only describe the act of one's progeny acting as their predecessor did, but that also specifically describe Glen's artwork? I would imagine that this card is going to represent the sort of Home Run that clears the last row of a stadium and breaks the windshield of a car in the parking lot, the sort that compels physicists and mathematicians to triangulate and calculate the exact distance of the blast, the kind that ends an 18 inning marathon playoff game to send the losing team home for the season and the winning team skipping like children around home plate waiting for Followed Footsteps come trotting in so they can swarm him with the sort of congratulations that only heroes deserve.

See you next week. Go team!

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