Flashback: Two Weeks Ago
I was more excited about the release of Time Spiral than I have been for any set since Alliances. Prereleases are always special for me. I have been to every one since Stronghold came out except for Champions of Kamigawa, which I missed due to a hurricane, and the Neopets card game (don’t worry, I won’t explain that right now). Some of the early ones I attended as a player; however, starting with Nemesis, I have attended as a judge.
An interesting note about a big event like a prerelease is that, from a judge’s perspective, you don’t really get to see many of the cards or get a feel for how the set plays. Sure, you answer some questions, but normally, by the end on the day, you realize that all the questions you had that day concerned just one or two different cards. For Time Spiral, these cards were Premature Burial versus flash creatures (“He played that creature during my end step last turn, can I use Premature Burial on it now?”) and Flickering Spirit (“Does it came back into play tapped or untapped?”). Aside from that, I didn’t get to see too much of the new set.
A huge difference with Time Spiral, of course, was the timeshifted cards. I hadn’t been following any of the Internet speculation about the set, so I didn’t have any idea what to expect from Time Spiral. In fact, the first I heard about the timeshifted cards was from my fellow judge for the event, Elliott, who told me a little about them, but he didn’t seem to have any useful facts available about them. The timeshifted cards gave me a sense of what was going on because I actually knew what some of the cards did.
Once the first flight of the day started playing, the impact of just how amazing Time Spiral was hit me. I was walking down the aisle of players and I saw something I thought was truly amazing. I saw someone attack with a Thallid and use Pendelhaven to pump it to a 2/3. This is something I hadn’t seen since 1996. My mind started racing, and I realized what I was feeling in that moment must be what many casual players I know feel like when playing Magic – players who own mostly new cards, but have a couple of older ones they have traded for. When these casual players build decks, they don’t stick to Standard deck construction rules, because they are just playing for fun -- some of them don’t even know what the deck construction rules are. Wizards somehow managed to get that same feeling into a sanctioned tournament—wow.
The World of Tomorrow
This weekend was the Time Spiral release events, a series of tournaments held at local card shops all around the world. I am far from a veteran of these events, but I have been to a few. Just like prereleases, these events offer special promo cards and even life counters to players. Usually much smaller than prereleases, these events offer a more laid back atmosphere, at least for me, where it is easier to get a sense of the set and how it plays. Often, for me, this can be the first real look at how a set plays and what it feels like.
I had taken every opportunity at the prerelease to try to find out what cards had been timeshifted into Time Spiral, yet I only knew a small portion. I learned many more this weekend. I know I could go on the Internet and find a comprehensive list of all of them, but for me it is just more fun to explore at a slow pace. Some cards I have seen come back baffle me, and others I never thought I would see back. Yet others I expected or hoped to see, but they didn’t seem to make it.
The card I was most excited to see in Time Spiral was Kobold Taskmaster. Not as flashy as Psionic Blast, the Taskmaster was a fun card I never had. I have played with Char; it isn’t too much different from the Blast, so it didn’t mean much to me. Kobold Taskmaster, however, is a card I could never get my hands on. I already have a bunch of kobolds, so now I have an interesting card to play along with them. Since I have been around for most of Magic’s history, I have had a chance to experience most of the cards ever printed. Because of the relative impossibility of acquiring much of the Legends set, however, I didn’t get to experience too much of the feel of Legends.
I was also excited to see Arena in the set. I already have a play set of Arenas from the books, but I never had an opportunity to play these as they have only been legal in Classic for most of their existence. Now, players can put this interesting twist in Magic’s history into any deck.
I think Wizards did a great job choosing the cards to timeshift, but there are some cards I felt are sadly missing from the set. Though the prospect of reprinting a card with phasing may seem like a crazy plan to those who played with this interesting ability, I wish we could have seen Breezekeeper come back. This was one of my favorite cards during Mirage. In fact, for the first ever Type 2 (yes, Type 2, not Standard—it was a long time ago) State Championship event, I played a deck that took advantage of the interaction of phasing and Jokullhaups. I really like phasing, even though I know it causes a lot of weird rule interactions. Also, I think there should have been some fading in here. Fading goes along with the time being messed up or running out theme of Time Spiral. Bringing Cloudskate back could have helped out aggro blue decks and would have fit in well.
More impactful omissions, in my mind, include Ophidian—yes, there are some Ophidian-like cards in the set, but this guy really set the tone for a period of Magic history. Winter Orb—nothing does anything like this anymore; Winter Orb was my favorite card for a long time and I really miss it. Jackal Pup—I hate cheap aggro creatures, not my style, but the Pup defined speed during Tempest. Grim Monolith—yes, it’s too good likely, but without all the other broken cards of Urza’s, maybe not too broken? Something that untapped lands when it came into play, or when played—there has to be one other than Rewind that isn’t broken. The Urza’s creature lands, any one of them, were great.
The greatest omission, however, is Magistrate’s Scepter, one of the coolest cards ever made! (What, you don’t agree?) I built a Standard deck right after Mercadian Masques came out that took advantage of all the cheap artifact mana around and Voltaic Key. All the deck did was make mana to put counters on Magistrate’s Scepter and Voltaic Key to untap them to do multiples per turn. Once enough mana was on the table, and enough Scepters and Keys were in play, I could take infinite turns. Sure this only worked once, in a game against my then girlfriend, Jodi, but I did provide her with enough time to bake a cake while I waited for the one Kyren Sniper in my deck to come up. That was the only damage source in the whole deck; fortunately, it was the only offense the deck needed. In retrospect, maybe this is exactly why the Scepter wasn’t reprinted.
I would love to hear similar stories from anyone out there who would care to share them with me. Feel free to send me an email at BunnyMAXX@hotmail.com about a favorite card you would like to see back around in the future. Let me know why you like the card so much and what kind of deck you played it in.
I didn’t get a chance to play at the release event, but I did sit and watch many games and finally had a chance to see many of the new and old cards in action. Often I had the feeling that nothing like this had happened before in Magic’s history, yet situations arose in play often mimicked situations I had seen in the past.
Time’s a Wastin’
I absolutely hate greatest hits albums that come out before a group has disbanded or a performer has stopped performing. I am solidly of the belief that a greatest hits album should encompass a performer’s entire career. Time Spiral has been compared by some to a “greatest hits,” yet Magic is far from being over. I, however, prefer to see it as a live album, where a lot of new material is played for the first time, but some old favorites are brought back because the crowd loves them so much.
Time Spiral has proven to be one of my favorite sets of all time. There are so many things in this set that remind me of playing decks and games from long ago that every game takes me back to somewhere different in Magic’s past. The next set of the block is supposed to be about Magic’s present. This is a perplexing concept to me; every set should be about the present, so how will this next set be more about it than a set normally would be?