Much of any Limited format is exploration. It's what gives sets depth and allows players to enjoy them over and over. Most of the time that exploration comes in the form of new cards and mechanics, but sometimes it's old favorites (or not-so-favorites) that provide that opportunity for discovery.
Take, for instance, Magic Origins. Like all Magic sets, it contains some reprints. For the more than 1,500 players at Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth, those reprints act as a bit of a shortcut, allowing those who have played with the cards in the past to gauge their power level and usefulness in a Sealed Deck.
But Magic wouldn't be what it is if it didn't flip those expectations on its head now and then, and at that Origins excels.
“There are things I thought would be good that aren't, and others you think that are just okay that have been really good,” sixth-ranked Paul Rietzl explained. “You have to play the cards to really be able to tell.”
Plenty of cards in Magic's newest set live up to this billing. Celestial Flare has been looked at as a premium removal spell in the past, but with so many Thopters hovering around in Dallas the two-mana instant doesn't hit nearly as hard. Similarly, Fleshbag Marauder is a lot worse when your opponent has extra Thopters to sacrifice.
Some changes are more drastic. Thanks to the enchantment theme running through the white-black deck, cards that were mediocre in their former printings like Murder Investigation and Weight of the Underworld have become more reasonable to include, and that goes for those build-around cards like Blightcaster and Auramancer.
No. 12 Ranked Player Josh Utter-Leyton points to Yeva's Forcemage as the card most different this time around. The three-mana elf first appeared in Magic 2013, where it was a playable-but-unexciting card. This time around, Utter-Leyton says he's happy to see it in his pool.
“2/2s are relevant for longer than ever before in this format, thanks to all the guys that make Thopters but are smaller themselves,” he said. “Now it's a good card that you want to have in your deck.”
It's not just creatures that can change. Matt Nass points to Chandra's Fury, a card that rarely saw play three years ago but is suddenly very relevant in a fast format that also happens to have a bunch of one-toughness creatures running around.
It's not just individual cards that can exceed or undershoot expectations. Sometimes it's entire mechanics that are difficult to evaluate from just the Card Image Gallery. For the many pros in Texas using the Grand Prix as practice for next week's Pro Tour Magic Origins, it's especially important to adjust expectations accordingly.
For Rietzl, who is hunting a spot in the World Championship and heading into Round 8 was still alive to pick up Pro Points in Texas, the renowned mechanic has been the biggest surprise.
“I thought a lot of the cards would be better than they are, especially in Sealed,” he said. “For instance, Rhox Maulers is a lot harder to hit with than you think it would be, and a lot of the lower-cost creatures just get outclassed too quickly in Sealed. But there's been some stuff surprise me the other way. I knew Somberwald Alpha would be good, but it's been really good today.”
Whether you've been playing Magic for decades or just a few months, Limited formats are designed to always keep you guessing. And as we near the end of Day One in Dallas and look toward Day Two and the Magic Origins draft format, there's no doubt the surprises will keep on coming.