Not Their Time

Posted in Latest Developments on October 6, 2006

By Aaron Forsythe

In my Feature Article this week, I went over the design and development of the 121 "timeshifted" cards. Yes, for as random of a subset as they were meant to appear, much thought and testing went into selecting exactly which cards could and should be reprinted.

Below are the sorry tales of fifteen beloved (or at the very least “famous”) Magic cards that ended up ultimately not invited to the great Magical reunion that is Time Spiral. I shed many tears for each of them.

15) Concordant Crossroads

For each new keyword or mechanic we were willing to bring back, we wanted to make sure that the keyword actually did something. Because the entire point of the “World” supertype is to enable one to destroy the other when it comes into play, introducing a single World Enchantment into an environment means those interactions would never come up.


14) Takklemaggot

Takklemaggot was a magnificent card, both for how it played and for its whimsical name and flavor. Unfortunately, its current rules text is too long to fit into a card's text box using our acceptable minimum font size. (When cards are translated into other languages, their text length often increases, so we need to have some leeway.) Other cards that fell to the text-length issue were Dance of Many, Coffin Queen, and False Orders. I did some begging and pleading with the card editors to allow one old card in the set that had too much text; after all, what's more nostalgic than a card with tons and tons of tiny text? The one that made it? Giant Oyster.


13) Crookshank Kobolds

When I initially made the card Cloudstone Curio for Ravnica, lead developer Brian Schneider pointed out that the easiest combo with the card in Standard was two Ornithopter and a Soul Warden, which resulted in infinite life. To solve that problem, I suggested adding the “nonartifact” clause, which not only headed off the Ornithopter combo, but also any double-Mox infinite mana shenanigans that might have happened in Vintage. “Okay,” Brian said, “we just can't print any Kobolds any time soon.”

“No problem,” I thought at the time, “We haven't made a Kobolds (0-mana nonartifact creature) in ten years, why would we start now?” That was obviously before timeshifted cards had been dreamed up. Kobolds, a nifty tribal subtheme from Legends, have remained popular among casual players for years and years, and we wanted to bring back some of the cards in the Timeshifted set. Kobold Overlord is on the Reserved List, which left Kobold Taskmaster as the best remaining lord. Additionally, we wanted some minions for him to lord over, so we tried a Kobolds proper. The Curio deck was immediately rebuilt, and Brian demanded we stick to the promise we made a year before and nixed the Kobolds. In its stead, Kher Keep was added to the main set, providing little buddies for the Taskmaster to power up.


12) Granger Guildmage

Granger Guildmage is the most powerful and famous of the Mirage guildmages, and we had every intention of reprinting him. However, there was too much similarity between the Granger and other green creature with white and red abilities in the set, Thornscape Battlemage, also the most popular member of a cycle. One of them had to go.

While attempting to puzzle out which one to cut, Matt Cavotta happened by the pit and said, “Wow, I only have one card (illustration) in the 'bonus' cards.”

“Which one?” I asked.

Thornscape Battlemage.” On that note, Granger Guildmage was shown the door.


11) Whipcorder

As I mentioned in this week's Feature Article, we had a five-card cycle of morph creatures in the Timeshifted set for a long time. Whipcorder was the best candidate for white.

Once upon a time, during Onslaught development, someone thought it would be cute to make Whipcorder a Rebel, even though the cards relevant to that particular creature type had rotated out of Standard a year prior. That little detail made Whipcorder relevant in Extended as Ramosian Sergeant's new pal, but it also ended up haunting us come time to put the timeshifted set together. With the Rebel mechanic returning in the form of Amrou Scout, Whipcorder 's Rebel status was mattering in Standard. Because we already had one really good two-mana Rebel to search for (Knight of the Holy Nimbus), we cut Whipcorder so as not to give any potential Rebel decks every good tool it might want on a platter.


10) Contagion

Contagion was in the Timeshifted set long before design for Coldsnap actually began. Like many other Ice Age-era-themed cards, it was cut from the set when similar cards (in this case, pitch spells such as Soul Spike) were added to Coldsnap.

And I had so looked forward to -2/-1 counters.


9) Anger

A lot of the cards we brought back should have a different relative power level to themselves at the time of their last appearance, which is why this experiment is so exciting. Shadowmage Infiltrator, for instance, should be better simply because Psychatog isn't around to steal the show. Similarly, Soltari Priest should be worse because the environment is missing Crusade and Empyrial Armor, and Desert shores up some of red and blue's vulnerability to him.

Anger, in our playtesting, was too much better than the last time he was printed (and, if you recall, he was no slouch then, either). A lot of the cards in Dissension (Rakdos' hand-emptying) and Time Spiral (madness enablers) made Anger an easy addition to a lot of decks, and it was kind of scary. Imagine Avatar of Discord attacking on turn three, followed by a Zombified Bogardan Hellkite joining it on offense on turn four. That's 20.


8) Armadillo Cloak

Here's another fan favorite that ended up packing a little more punch than we would have guessed. Invasion was a cool set, but its green-white cards as a whole pale before the ones in Soul of Ravnica. Watchwolf and Loxodon Hierarch put Llanowar Knight and Sabertooth Nishoba to shame. And both of the former can wreak a lot of havoc wearing Armadillo Cloak, much to the chagrin of anyone trying to play red.

Similarly, a Paladin en-Vec can make Armadillo Cloak almost as scary as Umezawa's Jitte in many matchups, giving power boosts and life points almost as freely as the legendary equipment.


7) Capsize

One thing we tried to avoid with our selection of reprints were cards that would play exactly the same as they did the first time around, especially if the decks they enabled were unlovable.

I had Capsize in the set for awhile mainly because it was a “famous” buyback spell, not because anyone here in R&D remembered actually enjoying the card. Quickly the first Seedborn Muse decks were built with abusing Capsize in mind, mimicking the Awakening-based decks of days gone by. Many of our decks even included Heidar, Rimewind Master as a poor substitute for Tradewind Rider. It didn't take many games of one player having no permanents in play on turn seven or eight for us to ask, “Did anyone enjoy this the first time around?” A couple of us sheepishly raised our hands, but even the griefers among us agreed it was better not to enable that same method of winning again with the exact same card.

6) Urza's Rage

It should be pretty obvious that Urza's Rage would be competing with Demonfire—and probably losing out in most decklists. On top of that, Sudden Shock is in the set, giving players access to even more uncounterable burn spells. I was sad to have to cut the Rage, but I would have been even sadder to bring this fan fave back only to have it be a dud.


5) Spiritmonger

Spiritmonger really reared its head in our testing of Time Spiral block constructed, where it outshone every new green creature we tried to print. While it is cool to have some Standard and block decks with handfuls of older cards in them—Wall of Roots, Call of the Herd, etc.—the gimmick starts to lose its appeal when none of the newer cards have a chance against the older ones that we reprinted.

On that note, some tough cuts had to be made, and Spiritmonger was one of them. Vhati il-Dal is eternally grateful.


4) Maze of Ith

Personally, I really love Maze of Ith—in the abstract. It holds such nostalgic power for me, reminding me of my earliest days as a player when I was often dumbstruck and awe-stricken by the cards my more established shopmates would play against me from week to week. I still clearly remember getting my paws on my own tattered copy of the fabled Maze of Ith , a land so powerful that it was restricted at one time… and it didn't even tap for mana!

I will admit, having been on the wrong end of many decks packing many copies of Maze of Ith in the FFL, that my nostalgia should stay where it was, safely in my head and out of most Magic games. Several of my coworkers expressed concern over my initial attempt to get the card reprinted, claiming they hated, hated, HATED the card like few others, blaming it for many a ruined experience as casual players. I can confidently say now that I had romanticized the card, and that it is an incredibly powerful and frustrating weapon, and that the nostalgia is better served as an homage on Ith, High Arcanist.


3) Serendib Efreet

Here's another bomb that I really hoped would have worked out. Of course, some creatures are merely powerful while others are patently absurd, and the 'Dib falls in the latter category.

That's right: Serendib Efreet had to go and Psionic Blast got to stay. That should speak volumes about the power level of everyone's favorite “green” blue card (that would probably actually be black in the modern color pie).


2) Crystalline Sliver

Like Capsize, Crystalline Sliver falls into the “been there, done that” camp. Its effect on constructed would essentially be the same as it was years ago: “Oh, all your Slivers are untargetable now. Clever. I guess I lose.”

The card simply offers too much for too little, and the one-sidedness of the game states it creates is undesirable. We made a ton of new Slivers, many of which do cool things that Slivers have never been able to do before. We'd much rather have those cards as centerpieces of decks as opposed to Crystalline Sliver.

And just think, Crystalline Sliver wasn't even the best WU card we had to cut.


1) Meddling Mage

I love Chris Pikula as a person, and I love his Invitational card as well. I feel bad that Meddling Mage was redone as a Judge promo with art that doesn't include Chris's ugly mug.

We brought back several Invitational cards in the Timeshifted set—Jon Finkel's Shadowmage Infiltrator, Darwin Kastle's Avalanche Riders, and Kai Budde's Voidmage Prodigy—so we're clearly comfortable reprinting those kinds of cards. So where in the world is Meddling Mage?

The Meddling Mage is not too powerful in the abstract, and in many environments I imagine he'd merely be a “good” card as opposed to a ridiculous one. Time Spiral, however, is not such an environment due to one very important set mechanic: suspend.

I've heard time and again how good Remand is against suspend cards (and it's true), and Meddling Mage is even better because you can't “fight back” with your own permission. In general, we like our new mechanics to be successful, and adding a second top-tier card to the environment that crushes suspend almost without trying would probably doom the mechanic from the get-go.

Previous Polls:

Do you plan on attending a Time Spiral prerelease event?
Yes 9361 70.3%
No 3950 29.7%
Total 13311 100.0%

Success! The Time Spiral round of prereleases was the biggest yet (at least in North America), breaking the record previously held by Guildpact. If you didn't go, you missed one heck of an event, but fear not… the store Release Events are this weekend!


Have you ever played with Thallids before?
Yes, they're cool. 6708 43.3%
No, I've never seen them played, but I knew what they were. 3588 23.2%
No, I've never heard of them before now. 3057 19.7%
No, but I've played against them. 1081 7.0%
Yes, but I don't like them. 1060 6.8%
Total 15494 100.0%

I loved them. They are so lovable, those fungi. And itchy.

Which is your favorite green fatty?
Silvos, Rogue Elemental 2866 22.4%
Verdant Force 1930 15.1%
Kodama of the North Tree 1787 14.0%
Force of Nature 1034 8.1%
Ravenous Baloth 1020 8.0%
Mystic Enforcer 983 7.7%
Call of the Herd 836 6.5%
Erhnam Djinn 680 5.3%
Krosan Tusker 550 4.3%
Spectral Force 438 3.4%
Fangren Firstborn 354 2.8%
Molder Slug 239 1.9%
Jade Leech 90 0.7%
Total 12807 100.0%

Come on. If Devin can claim in his article that Siege-Gang Commander is a red “fatty” because “it's 5/5,” then I expect to see my personal favorite Deranged Hermit in the poll! After all, it's 9/9!

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