What Magic cards do you love for their fantasy flavor?
Kelly Digges: As R&D has focused on the idea of resonant fantasy in recent years, I've found many cards to love for their fantasy flavor. Many of those are mechanically superior executions of very familiar tropes; Phylactery Lich, Hoarding Dragon, Stormtide Leviathan, and Protean Hydra all hit their particular note better (in my opinion) than any of the cards preceding them.
If I had to go with a class of Magic cards I love for their fantasy flavor, though, I'd pick planeswalkers, hands down. It's a Magic-specific fantasy flavor, to be sure, but I've been astonished from the beginning at how well planeswalker cards capture it. The first time somebody threw Garruk Wildspeaker down against me, I felt like I was supposed to call a judge. How come they get to play doubles, and I have to play all by myself? When you call up a planeswalker, it really feels like you've phoned a friend.
The loyalty metaphor is a little abstract, but so are hit points in D&D and other RPGs—the point is that there's a certain amount of punishment this buddy of yours will take before flitting off, whether due to physical wounds, psychic exhaustion, or a simple unwillingness to take any more hurt on your behalf.
My favorite example of this was with Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker in a "bring your own packs" draft. In one particular game, I was facing down Savor the Flavor columnist Doug Beyer, and things were looking grim. Doug had a flyer pecking away at me and a solid ground defense, and I had not much to speak of. At 1 life and only one real hope in my deck, I drew for the turn ... and saw Mr. Bolas.
It wasn't so much like phoning a friend as it was like having the boss show up while you're really screwing something up. "Honestly," I could almost hear him growl. "Must I do everything myself?"
Pow, the flyer's on my team now. Bam, that pesky Pacifism is off my creature. Kaboom, you are dead, sir, thank you for playing, sir, game over.
Doug lost, and I was the nominal winner ... but afterward I couldn't shake the feeling that at some future date I would find myself on a battlefield with a paltry handful of loyalty beads, soaking up Baloths and Bolts meant for Bolas, paying my dues to a "friend" who showed up in the nick of time.
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