In This Issue:
I have been going to San Diego Comic-Con since before Magic: The Gathering was even a glint in Richard Garfield's eye. But the last couple of years have been extra special, thanks to the increased presence of Magic at the biggest weekend in the year for fans of comic, games, and movies.
Once again, there was an alternate art Planeswalker collection exclusively available at the convention, which was one of the most sought after items on the convention floor. Last year the collection came with Garruk's Axe—which was "interesting" going through airport security. This year they came with a much more TSA-friendly item: a gorgeous art book that told the origin stories of each of the Planeswalkers from the newest set. (If you are reading this site you have almost certainly seen those stories already, as they were all told first in Uncharted Realms.)
SDCC Magic Panel Recap
In addition to the Comic-Con exclusive, there was also the now-annual Magic panel moderated by Mark Rosewater, with Aaron Forsythe, Jenna Helland, Liz Lamb-Ferro, and Jeremy Jarvis talking about the new story-driven approach to making Magic sets. With Magic Origins being the last core set and Magic moving to a two-block-per-year release schedule, the need for continuity of characters and a single ongoing story has never been greater. Hence the "Origins Five" (as Helland referred to them during the panel)—Jace, Gideon, Lilliana, Chandra, and Nissa—and the unfurling of their origins in the freshly released set.
We got to see a glimpse of what Gideon and Nissa will look like as Planeswalkers in the upcoming set, Battle for Zendikar, and we learned that the combinations of Planeswalkers appearing on cards will be a key piece in advancing the story as it shifts to Zendikar. No artwork for Liliana was shown, and it was explained that she is still preoccupied with the ramifications of The Chain Veil, but we did see card art featuring other Magic team-ups.
Probably the most intriguing piece that was revealed was a meeting of the minds—and we were told by the panel that this was quite literal—between Jace and Ugin. But the spirit dragon was not the only non-Origins Five Planeswalker to make an appearance on art during the panel. Kiora was shown, holding what appears to be the Bident of Thassa, with other Planeswalkers at the Seagate. We were also shown some artwork that would appear to relate to the Seagate when Jenna Helland said ". . . three words—probably not in the right order—Gate, Slaughter, Sea." I am going to guess "Seagate slaughter" based on the additional information revealed that there is a Seagate. We were also told "there will be allies" in the new set.
There was a question-and-answer session with the audience, and much swag was given away in the process—including a brand new iPhone 6 perfect for playing Magic: Duels, a Comic-Con exclusive, and other goodies. Upon leaving, everyone was given a postcard set of the Origins Five and a teaser for From the Vault: Angels, which included two new looks for two different incarnations of Akroma.
Earlier that day, I skipped out on Comic-Con to hit up a Magic Origins Prerelease at San Diego Games and Comics. I had originally planned on attending the event held at Villainous Lair, but the group of people I made arrangements to Prerelease with had made other plans regarding venue. Both stores are excellent—we taped an episode of Friday Night Countdown at Villainous Lair a couple years back—and you can't go wrong picking either location if you are in the vicinity of San Diego when Battle for Zendikar Prerelease weekend rolls around.
A few months back I had the chance to be a guest on The Command Zone, a podcast about all things Commander, to discuss my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant deck. It was my first interaction with Jimmy Wong and Josh Lee Kwai, and I had a great time talking about Magic with them. We have stayed in touch through social media since then, so I finally had a chance to meet them in person to get our collective Prerelease on. It was also my first opportunity to meet Alex Kessler, who co-hosts the Masters of Modern podcast, which is also on the Rocket Jump site. We were joined for our short road trip to the store by none other than R&D's own Gavin Verhey—who was at Comic-Con as a fan—who also wanted to do a little field research and see the new cards in action.
Would you Prerelease with these guys?
I picked blue for my Prerelease experience and ended up with a Thopter Spy Network as my promo card. My deck was torn between two directions, with just enough artifact-related cards in blue to keep one foot in that strategy, and plenty of Auras to play with an enchantment theme from the white end of my card pool. Sadly, the deck got lost in the shuffle between the venue, the convention, and coming home, but that may be for the best as it was not my finest showing at a Prerelease. I was paired against Jimmy Wong in round one, and although I got the better of him, things went downhill from there. Despite the poor results, I had a great time and was very excited for a chance to draft with some of the new cards later that night, as several of the players in our group had won packs. Alex Kessler was the big winner for our draft, with a pretty savage little red deck that did not drop a single game throughout the tournament.
The Prize Wall
Tim Shields of Cascade Games was running Magic side events all weekend long at SDCC. He has been doing this for the past several years, and this year moved one hotel farther away from the convention center to the Hyatt. Being at the Hyatt meant that the events were open to anyone, not just attendees with a Comic-Con badge. There was a full schedule of events for beginners and experts alike. New players could learn how to play the game and participate in an Intro Deck league, and there were Standard, Draft, Sealed Deck, and Mini-Masters events for those more familiar with the cards and tournaments in general. Prizes were awarded in the form of tickets that could be redeemed at the prize wall. Prizes ranged from booster packs to incredibly hard-to-get items like Comic-Con exclusives from previous years and uncut premium foil sheets.
One of the first big-ticket items to go was a sheet of foil mythic rares from Modern Masters, but the item I had my eye on—and will be looking for in future Cascade Games prize walls—was an uncut premium foil sheet of Magic Origins planeswalkers. Yes there would be some logistical issues with properly displaying a double-sided premium foil sheet, but it would be totally worth the hassle. Not only did it feature all the Origins Five, it featured them in all the languages in Magic's Tower of Babel. I am not normally wowed by uncut sheets, but this one was something special and it is still out there waiting to be won—perhaps during PAX?
I did not get to play as many events as I would have liked, but I did manage to walk away with some Funko figures, one of last year's black-on-black planeswalkers as a gift for a friend, and plenty of packs.
Signing Off From Tarkir
With Magic Origins front and center, I drafted what may well be my last ever Dragons of Tarkir deck for the foreseeable future. I wanted to have fun, so I started with one of my favorite cards in the set: Mirror Mockery—not something you would want to do in an RTQ Top 8, but for a fun goodbye to the format it seemed perfect. I got passed another of my favorite cards in Assault Formation. You will find pictured below the best turn-three board position I have ever had in a game of Limited.
Not Your Standard Standard Deck
Much like my aforementioned early pick of Mirror Mockery, there is also an opportunity—with low stakes and a fun vibe—to try something off the beaten path in Standard tournaments. One of the many great folks I met over the weekend was Kyle Falbo, who walked away with a fat stack of prize tickets earlier in the weekend playing a very rogue-like blue-red deck built around Descent of the Dragons and the cost reduction ability on Battlefield Thaumaturge.
Imagine playing a Swiftspear, a Dragon Fodder, and a Hordeling Outburst on the first three turns of the game. You now have six creatures when you untap on turn four, and you summon a Battlefield Thaumaturge for two mana. Now with two red mana you can target all your creatures with Descent of the Dragons and make seven 4/4 flying Dragon tokens. Kyle was good enough to share his decklist with me, and I could not resist the urge to play this all week on Magic Online.
I hope you all had a great time on Prerelease weekend. This weekend is when the set gets released into the wild, and then things start to heat up the following weekend. Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth will be Dragons of Tarkir Sealed and will feature a dogfight between Alexander Hayne and Pascal Maynard for the coveted Grand Prix Player of the Year berth at the World Championship. The week after that is the last Pro Tour of the season, and it will determine not only what the rest of the World Championship field will look like, but also what you can expect from Magic Origins-powered Standard for the next few months.