By: Eric Sommers
Welcome back to Little E’s Commander Archive, home to all things related to Commander. As we move forward here on the Questionable Endeavor Network, we will branch out from time to other areas of Magic: the Gathering, from casual to competitive formats and events that impact the game as a whole. This brings us to our topic this, which has been all the buzz since it was announced.
Recently, Wizards announced the Masterpiece Series to much fanfare. Going forward there will be a collection of cards included in booster packs that will highlight a thematic element of the block by reprinting a variety of cards from throughout Magic’s history. This series technically started in the original Zendikar block in the form of Priceless Treasures. In order to highlight the adventure and treasure hunting theme of the popular set, Wizards randomly placed Power Nine cards, dual lands, and an assortment of reserved list cards. These weren’t reprints so much as old cards mixed in with the new. In order to capture this flavor and excitement, WIzards included the Expeditions in the Battle for Zendikar block.
This proved to be a huge success. In order to collect these full art lands that Magic players bought up boxes of booster packs in order to grab these fancy fetchlands, shock lands, and other famous cycles. It was a clever way to get players excited about the set. It was a chance for newer players to get their hands on hard to get or expensive cards. It gave collectors some cards to chase after.
All in all, the community was hyped about these Expeditions, and it led to an increase of sales. It also begged the question, why doesn’t Wizards do this more often? Flash forward a year to the soon to be release Kaladesh and the inclusion of the Inventions and the announced Masterpiece series.
The Masterpiece Series looks to put those older cards in newer players’ hands while keeping them out of standard. The cards selected for the series will be tied thematically to the block. So with Battle for Zendikar we got lands, Kaladesh gives us artifacts, and we anxiously await what the series holds for us.
So far, the cards selected for the series have been big successes. As said earlier, shock land, fetchlands, as well as filter lands from Oath of the Gatewatch were popular choices. Looking at Kaladesh, we will get Mana Crypt, Crucible of Worlds, as well as many famous artifacts. Both blocks seem to be delivering on their hype. It almost seems like each set has a built in From the Vault. So what do we have to look forward to with these awesome gifts from Wizards?
In order to figure out what to expect of the Masterpiece Series, we need to look at past blocks and see what options there could be for their own Expeditions. Each block has its own identity, so it should be easy to assign some Masterpiece level cards to them. Lands and artifacts seem like such obvious choices to start this series. Both are major facets of the game and make up some of the most valuable cards in the history of the game. The cards types also highlighted a major theme of the block. When look at other blocks in history, we can start to see what the Masterpiece Series has in store.
Looking back into the not so distant past, we will find the Tarkir block. Now, the block kicked off with Khans of Tarkir, which introduced us to the wedge tribes, so it would be hard to shine the spotlight here. But Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir were heavy with Dragons. It seems like a Masterpiece collection of dragons would be perfect for this block. Dragon is one of if not the most popular creature type and there are plenty of choice dragons that could be highlighted.
However, can Dragons hold their own against the value of cards featured as Expeditions? I didn’t believe so at first, but was proven wrong when I checked out this article. It seems the right choice of dragons with the correct art could see some value as high as the Expeditions. With dragons being such a popular creature type, it is only a matter of time before we get them in the form of masterpieces.
Theros block was twofold in its theme. First, it was a Greek inspired block, and secondly it was an attempt at an enchantment block. It might be hard to do a Masterpiece series on Greek inspired cards, but enchantments is something that everyone can get behind. The card type has always been popular and the history of Magic gives us many fine selections to choose from. A search of expensive enchantment proves that there is plenty of value in this card type. We will likely get a return to Theros as some point, and Masterpiece enchantment series is inevitable.
Our next block is Return to Ravnica, and this is where things start to get a little murky with our selections. Ravnica is defined by its guilds and is highlighted by multi colored cards. I suppose the theme of the Masterpieces could be organizations in Magic’s history, but the more obvious choice here is gold cards. Although there is quite the selection of cards that can be highlighted for the series, the value of these cards pale in comparison to those previously listed. Wizards would really have to find some hidden gems and spruce them up with some new artwork to get players excited for this series as they would be about Inventions.
All in all, I am excited about the Masterpiece Series. It will create a great deal of speculation for each new set. It was a great addition in order to get reprints into the hands of new players without disrupting competitive formats, gets collectors excited about buying new sets, and will spice up some limited games (since the cards are legal if opened during booster drafts and sealed events). Sure, not all series will be considered equal, but I am confident that Wizards will use the Masterpiece Series to make as many players happy as possible with their selections in the years to come.
Let me know what cards you would like to see as Inventions in Aether Revolt or what kind of themes you would want to see on other planes or in past sets. Thanks for joining us on the Questionable Endeavor Network for Little E’s Commander Archive. Keep coming back each week for more Magic: the Gathering content. Happy Commandering!
By: Eric Sommers
Welcome to Little E’s Commander Archive, the “semi”-weekly article where we discuss our favorite Magic: the Gathering format. This week’s topic extends beyond the realm of Commander and looks at a tradition of Magic that goes back to the very first printing: cycles.
A cycle is a group of cards that are related in flavor or abilities. It can be a vertical cycle; one that appears at common, uncommon, and rare or mythic. More commonly we see horizontal cycles that appear across all five of the colors.
Cycles are used quite often by designers to highlight themes and to generate buzz about certain cards. Many players get excited about these cycles, and they tend to be popular cards. Some cards don’t start as cycles, but because of popularity, R&D will create the cards needed to make a full cycle in later sets. Sometimes we have to wait quite some time for these cycles to be completed, or in the case of our focus today, still waiting…
Commander players love cycles. Quite often we will make room for complete cycles to be in our decks if our color identity allows it. But what happens when we get to those incomplete cycles? It is not much fun to see other colors get fun cards that are a part of a cycle that doesn’t represent the one we are playing.
Often times in earlier designs, certain color combinations weren’t represented in cycles. When this happens, we Commander players are left waiting for day the cycle is completed so we can quickly add them to our decks
So which cycles are Commander players the most anxious to see completed? Here are my picks for the cards we are impatiently waiting for.
The Morphing Cycle
Morphling sure didn’t start as a cycle. Printed in 1998, the art was originally commissioned for a reprint of Clone. It was only later in development that R&D felt that Clone was too confusing for players. They opted to instead create the card that would be known as Superman. Morphling can do it all and for sometime was considered the most powerful creature in Magic.
In 2007, Magic released the set Planar Chaos, which warped the color wheel. There were several cards in the set that were meant to be variations of popular cards in different colors. Most players enjoyed the call back to the original blue shapeshifter.
It wasn’t until 2009 when Conflux brought us Thornling that the cycle conversation began. My original thought was that we would see the white or black variation every other year. Well, we have yet to see a Grave-ling or an Angel-ling (I like one of those more than the other). We did get something close back in Dissension, but that even predated our red counterpart. Players have been waiting for the other variations of this shapeshifter for last seven years. It is only a matter of time before this cycle is completed.
The Missing Leyline
Back during the Ravnica block, we got a cycle of nearly free enchantments. Although they ended up fairly popular, Leyline of the Void proved particularly valuable on the tournament scene. It was used widely in the Modern format since it was a powerful sideboard card against Dredge and other top decks at the time.
In order to make the card more accessible to players entering the format, Wizards decided to reprint the card in M11. Instead of reprinting the whole cycle, however, we were given a whole new batch of leylines for the other colors. So now while red players can enjoy two leylines, there’s a void for the black players who missed out on the second wave. It would be unlikely that we will see another leyline printed though outside a supplemental.
I spoke briefly about Clone earlier. After R&D figured out the rules baggage, it was a constant reprint thereafter, along with a large number of variants. It took quite some time (from 1993 to 2011), but those variants started crossing into multi-colored territory. These gold clones have been quite popular amongst the Commander crowd.
Though I don’t think this was originally meant to be a cycle, the fact that we have three of the five allied color pairs has a lot of players buzzing for the other two. Blue-white seems to be the one getting the most demand, but I feel like a red-white clone will be a great addition to the cycle.
This is a series of cards that is likely to be completed, but it will take quite some time. Once we have these two clones, the crowd will change it’s tune and start looking for the enemy colored clones. Sit back, we will get them in time.
The Missing X Guild Spell
Return to Ravnica was a block that put a lot of pressure on Wizards to produce. The original trip to the plane was one of, if not the most, popular blocks in the game’s history. The sequel brought a lot of new legends and reinforced some of the most popular commanders and deck builds. Cycles were used to help flesh out each of the guilds with each getting guild leaders and charms.
Overall, the block was a success. One shortfall though was the missing X spell for the Selesnya guild. Each of the other nine guilds were given a X spell except our token making brethren. When the community questioned the decision to leave green and white out in this cycle, Mark Rosewater claimed that it was not done intentionally. The fact that each of the other guilds had an X spell was merely coincidental.
Of all the cycles I list in this article, this is the one I believe to most likely be completed. It will likely be in a supplemental set in order to preserve the flavor of Ravnica.
Magus of the Spells
The Time Spiral block was pure nostalgia overload. Each set focused on either the past, alternate reality, or future of some of Magic’s favorite characters and cards. It was in this block that we were given the super-cycle of cards known as the Magus Cycle. Each set had its own cycle of creatures who had the abilities of a famous card that was previously a different card type; Time Spiral had artifacts, Planar Chaos lands, and Future Sight enchantments. It seemed like the perfect cycle was complete.
However, Commander 2015 gave us the new Magus of the Wheel and changed everything. We now had a Magus that represented a famous spell from Magic’s history. It made a great deal of sense and was exciting to see. Most players got excited about the other four cards that would fill the cycle. It was an obvious conclusion since there were five decks in the series and there would be room for one in each. However, we were left scratching our heads and given just the one new Magus. This is another cycle I feel will be completed over time, perhaps one in each of the yearly Commander sets. Still, it would have been nice to just give them all to us at once.
As you can see, unfinished cycles are as big of a part of Magic’s history as any other element of the game. Players look for these cycles to be completed rather sooner than later. Which cycle did I miss? Which cycle would you like to see completed for you Commander decks? Come back and check out our future articles about the Commander format here on the Questionable Endeavour network. Happy Commandering.
By: Eric Sommers
Welcome to the first ever installment of the newest addition to the Questionable Endeavor, Little E’s Commander Archive. I am Little E, and I will be your host every week as we look at various deck ideas, share some stories and experiences, and do our best to keep up with current events, mostly within the realm of the Commander format for Magic the Gathering.
It is an exciting time for Commander players. This Summer’s releases and the recent announcements from Wizards about upcoming products has given the Commander community a lot to look forward to. Upon the release of each of these products, I will review them within the context of my favorite format. So without further ado, I give you…
Back in 2014, Wizards released Conspiracy, the first ever Magic: the Gathering set designed for multiplayer drafting. No one knew what to expect from such a design, but the set was an overwhelming success. The set was full of gems for multiplayer formats making it incredibly popular among Commander players. Two years later we now have the second installment in the Conspiracy line. With it we have some new legendary creatures to choose as Commanders, some fun new planeswalkers, and an assortment of new mechanics to spice up our games.
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