Blink and You'll Mist It

Posted in Latest Developments on April 18, 2008

By Devin Low

Previewing not one but two cards that will defy your opponents' expectations.

Momentary Blink has performed all kinds of crazy acrobatics ever since it was printed in Time Spiral. Sometimes it seems like you run into a new Momentary Blink combo every week. Your key creature blinks away to dodge an Incinerate. Your Avalanche Riders blinks out instead of paying echo, then blinks back in to destroy more lands. Your three-mana morph blinks out, then blinks in as the eight-mana Akroma, Angel of Fury. Your Mulldrifter blinks out and comes back again to draw more cards. And soon your Murderous Redcap can blink back to shed his -1/-1 counter and deal 2 damage all over again. Momentary Blink is definitely an update of the Urza's Destiny rare sorcery Flicker that inspired it.

For all that Momentary Blink does, there are definitely some things it fails to do. It can't save your creatures from Wrath of God or Pyroclasm, since your creature always comes back immediately, just in time to die to the mass removal. You can't use Momentary Blink to tuck your creature away long enough to Jokulhaups the board and have your creature come back, since Blink just doesn't keep it away long enough. Liberate, from Invasion, is a similar card that addresses this, keeping your creature out of the game for the whole turn while Wrath of God or Damnation resolves, then returning the creature to play at end of turn.

But in Shadowmoor, Liberate liberates itself from all those pesky restrictions, like white mana, being uncommon, and only targeting your own creatures.

Turn to Mist

Turn to Mist is a Shadowmoor common that does something similar to Flicker, Liberate, or Momentary Blink, but with key differences, giving up a four-mana flashback for a looser colored costs and a variety of new tricks that Momentary Blink can't perform, revolving around the ability of Turn to Mist to hit opponents' creatures. Hitting opponents' creatures means you can remove their auras, which turns out to be crucial in a world of multiple, powerful, common auras like Shield of the Oversoul.

You can prevent all the damage that an enemy Dragon would deal to you by Turning it to Mist at the last moment, another place Momentary Blink can't help you. You can "flicker" out enemy blockers with Turn to Mist to get them out of the way for the turn while you attack, which is something else Momentary Blink can't do. Turn to Mist eliminates enemy token creatures forever, in a way that Momentary Blink can't.

Since Turn to Mist brings creatures back at end of turn instead of right away, it also saves your creatures from mass removal like Wrath of God in way that Liberate and Momentary Blink can't.

What kind of wizard casts Turn to Mist? From the flavor text, it seems to be "Olka, Mistmeadow Witch," mocking her cinder opponent for his clumsy attacks. With that kind of bravado, maybe someday that witch can have its own Magic card. Oh what the heck, nobody likes waiting, how about we make it into its own card right now? 

Mistmeadow Witch

Yikes. If Turn to Mist and Momentary Blink can do all that, just imagine what you can do with playing a free Turn to Mist or two every turn. All the tricks you do with Momentary Blink, you can do over and over again with Mistmeadow Witch. Let's look at the Blink tricks mentioned above. Using Mistmeadow Witch to turn your Avalanche Riders to Mist every single turn? Pretty sick. Flickering out your Mulldrifter every turn, including the time you evoke it? Pretty sick. Letting your whole team dodge Incinerates, and flipping over a morphed Akroma, Angel of Fury at will? Yeah.

Mistmeadow Witch can also perform the whole family of tricks that Turn to Mist unlocks and that Momentary Blink can't accomplish. Don't want to get damaged by Greater Gargadon? Just flicker it out every time it attacks you. Ready to pop your opponents' token creatures? Send them all to Mistmeadow retirement. Flicker your opponents' blockers out of the way and attack right past them. Or flicker your opponents' creatures just in time to make their Auras fall off.

And your Mistmeadow Witch is awfully hard for your opponents to kill. If an opponent plays Shriekmaw to kill Mistmeadow Witch, just Turn the Witch to Mist in response, and it will come back at the end of the turn, safe and sound.

From Whence the Witches?

Shadowmoor features a cycle of five Witches, one for each allied color pair. Each Witch is a hybrid creature that you can play for either color of mana in its color pair. But to maximize the card's power, you'll want to pay for its activated ability, which requires mana of both its colors.

Unlike most cycles in a set, Shadowmoor's witches were created not during design, but during development. And they didn't enter the set until the development was already well underway. So what made the Shadowmoor development team want to add a new cycle? There were two main reasons: Rewarding two-color-decks, and rewarding the new tribal color pairs. (What can I say? We just like giving out rewards.)

One-Color Decks vs. Two-Color Decks

One of my favorite parts about Shadowmoor is that it rewards monocolored decks in a big way. And that's true for both limited and constructed. In a normal set, a mono-red draft deck could choose from only one fifth of the cards in the draft. But in Shadowmoor, a mono-red draft deck can choose from all the mono-red cards, plus all the red-green hybrid cards, plus all the black-red hybrid cards. Since Shadowmoor is essentially half hybrid cards, this results in a hugely wider selection for mono-red draft decks than any other set. Mono-red Constructed decks can access the same wide selection.

Mono-red decks can also take advantage of the power built into cards with costs like (such as Ashenmoor Gouger) or even (such as Deus of Calamity) without batting a bloodshot eye, in both Limited and Constructed.

Shadowmoor also explicitly rewards mono-color decks with cards like Jaws of Stone, Beseech the Queen, and Midnight Banshee. The Shadowmoor design team set a goal of making monocolored decks a consistently good option in Shadowmoor Limited in a way that no set has ever done before.

Jaws of Stone, Beseech the Queen, and Midnight Banshee

Development added Jaws of Stone to the set to support that goal, to supplement the mono-color rewards seeded in by the set's designers. As development proceeded, the Shadowmoor development team confirmed that the set was indeed succeeding in the goal of making monocolored decks Limited-playable.

In fact, the goal was being met... a little too well.

Monocolored draft decks had become so popular in our many internal Shadowmoor drafts that they were starting to squeeze out two-color decks! Playing with and against these mono-colored draft decks creates a new, unique experience for Shadowmoor Limited that previous blocks have never featured before.

But it's very important to developers to provide tons of draft diversity. That way, when people draft a format two dozen times, they have two dozen unique decks and two dozen unique experiences, always finding something new. That depth and texture helps a draft environment stay fresh over time, so that you come back for draft #25. Some of the best strategies R&D uses to ensure lots of draft diversity are to seed a format with lots of different archetypes, bridges linking different archetypes together, families of mini-combos, synergy clusters cross different colors, different deckbuilding paths, and different places to go.

With so many monocolored draft decks abounding in Shadowmoor, the Shadowmoor developers decided that we could and should increase draft diversity by giving some additional, powerful rewards to actual two-color decks with actual two-color land bases to help them compete with the powerful mono-colored decks. That way Shadowmoor would have ten major color combinations (white, blue, black, red, green, white-blue, blue-black, black-red, red-green, and green-white), in addition to the combinations or -1/-1 counter synergies that can often pull you into even crazier combinations like blue-red or green-black-blue.

Of course, besides adding two-color rewards, another option was to remove some of the mono-color rewards. But all of the mono-color rewards in the set were playing great, and everybody was enjoying them. So instead of reducing rewards on one side of the monocolored vs. two-colored war, we decided just to give lots of rewards to both sides. It was like Christmas in July.

Card Color Matters vs. Mana Color Matters

Torrent of SoulsSince Shadowmoor is a "color matters" set, most of its rewards for two-color decks focus on the color of your cards, like the common Shield of the Oversoul. Since Shadowmoor is also a hybrid set, your "mono-green" decks whose only lands are forests can still play green-white hybrid creatures and get the most out of Shield of the Oversoul. Those combinations are a key part of the set.

But in giving more rewards to two-color decks, we needed to make sure that some of those rewards could be used only by two-colored decks with actual two-color land bases, and wouldn't be kidnapped by monocolored decks along the way.

So the question was: what to do to pull players into actual two-color manabases in a hybrid set? After all, hybrid fundamentally says, "You can play either color of mana, and you don't need to play both." One solution is instants and sorceries like Torrent of Souls. The Torrent is a hybrid card, and you can play it with a different effect with either black mana or red mana. But to maximize it, you definitely hope to have both Swamps and Mountains.

But we still needed more rewards for two-color manabases. After some discussion, the development team decided on adding five uncommon creatures with multicolored activation costs. As a member of the Shadowmoor design team and the Shadowmoor development team, I volunteered to put together a list of designs for what these uncommon creatures could be. And I'm happy to say that all five of the Witches in the final set are my designs, including Mistmeadow Witch.

Rewarding New Tribal Color Pairs

The other reason we added the Witch cycle is to reward people for playing into Shadowmoor's new tribal color pairs. Kithkin in Lorwyn / Morningtide are white with a touch of green, but since Shadowmoor is a mirror image to Lorwyn, Kithkin in Shadowmoor / Eventide are white with a touch of blue. Almost all of the blue Kithkin in Shadowmoor are white-blue hybrid creatures, which means you can play them in your existing mono-white or white-green Kithkin decks without any trouble.

Gaddock_Teeg Augury_Adept

But we also wanted to reward people for experimenting with a new path and a new color-pair for their tribal decks. So Shadowmoor has a sprinkling of cards that reward Kithkin decks for adding blue mana, reward Elf decks for adding white mana, reward Goblin decks for adding green mana, reward Merfolk for adding black mana, reward Elemental decks for adding black mana, or reward Giant decks for adding green mana.

All five Witches appear in the new color pairs for their tribes, and reward their casters for having mana of the each of the colors in the new color pair.

Combining Merfolk from Tenth Edition, Time Spiral block, Lorwyn, Morningtide, and Shadowmoor, you get to decide: Do you want to play mono-blue Merfolk, white-blue Merfolk, blue-black Merfolk, or even white-blue-black Merfolk? With Shadowmoor, the truly adventurous who want get seriously experimental can even abandon the base color entirely, and build something as bizarre as white-black Merfolk (with no blue), white-black Elves (with no green), or even the truly insane green-blue Kithkin with no white!

Beyond Mistmeadow

Each of the five Witches is one or two mana, with activated abilities costing as little as two mana per activation. Mistmeadow Witch lends itself to combinations, control styles, or aggression, while the other four Witches are each very aggressively minded. Each of those four uses mana to decrease the enemy life total in some way, and each can quickly end the game in your favor.

Magic R&D will be on-site at the Shadowmoor Prerelease in Seattle, running tomorrow and the next day. Some of us might even make a road trip down to the Portland, OR Prerelease to check out how they sling spells to the south. We hope to see you there, and be sure to tell us what you think of Shadowmoor!

Last Week's Poll

Will you walk ever into a trap?
Yes 8179 73.4%
No 2958 26.6%
Total 11137 100.0%

To those 70+% of you who said "Yes," I salute your foresight and realism. To those who voted "No," all I ask is that when you do walk into a trap, you remember the moment you voted No, and that you appreciate and savor the irony!

Can’t wait for Shadowmoor’s release on May 2? Don’t miss your first chance to play with Shadowmoor cards at the Prerelease on April 19 and 20!

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