That is a neat piece of equipment. Also, a pretty evocative legendary sword – it perma-vaporizes one creature per fight, punching a hole in the universe so that no more of them can be summoned.
I like it. Like the name, like the effect.
Chandra art by Jason Chan
“Which do you think is a better deterrent: a moat of water or one of fire?” – Circle of Flame
“‘Utterly’ is my favorite way to destroy something.” – Craterize
“You’re in luck. I brought enough to share.” – Flames of the Firebrand
“Spontaneous combustion is a myth. If you burst into flame, someone wanted you to.” – Incinerate
“Who’d want to ignite things one at a time?” – Pyroclasm
“Lighting a fire needs kindling and heat. You be the kindling. I’ll bring the heat.” – Magma Rift
“Those who wish to invade our monastery, please take it up with my servant.” – Inferno Elemental
“I like it here. You always get a little more for your mana.” – Rumbling Aftershocks
“The land here seems go out of its way to kill you.” – Seismic Shudder
“I asked if they wanted to do things the easy way. I meant easy for me.” – Chandra’s Fury
“I’ve lit most everything on fire—trees, rocks, even the water. Now it’s time to burn the clouds.” – Chandra’s Spitfire
After the fourth time Chandra left a place engulfed in flames, she decided to just go ahead and make it her thing. – Seal of Fire
Chandra never believed in using her “inside voice.” – Chandra’s Outrage
“So many have died in search of that map. And now it appears in the hands of the arrogant child Chandra Nalaar.” – Anowon, the Ruin Sage
“The finest minions know what I need without me ever saying a thing.” – Liliana’s Specter
“For every living person there are generations of dead. Which realm would you rather rule?” – Rise of the Dark Realms
“I’ve seen corpses prettier than you, beastmage.” – Triumph of Cruelty
“As with any malevolent being, the trick is knowing how long you can afford to keep it in your service.” – Baleful Force
“When you find yourself teetering on the edge of oblivion, mine will be the hands taking pleasure in giving you the final push.” – Brink of Disaster
“Stop complaining. You can rest when you’re dead. Oh—sorry.” – Disentomb
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to deprive you of all your secrets. Just your most precious one.” – Duress
“Better to starve to death than be bored to death.” – Famine
“Innistrad’s ghoulcallers are talented enough, but let me show you what someone with real power can create.” – Gravecrawler
“I love what they’ve done with the place.” – Grim Backwoods
“I come looking for demons and I find a plane full of angels. I hate angels.” – Killing Wave
“What a pity. You should have written it down.” – Mind Rot
“It’s only torture if you’re strong enough to survive. Otherwise, it’s a simple, gruesome death. I’m happy with either outcome.” – Mutilate
“For my enemies, one death. For my allies, many.” – Rise from the Grave
“Is it true the evil that people do follows them into death? Let’s find out.” – Undying Evil
“The bigger they are, the faster they rot.” – Snuff Out
“This might hurt less if you don’t fight so hard. But I doubt it.” – Liliana’s Caress
I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of Knight of the Reliquary in the last couple months. Mechanically, it’s a great card, serving as both an engine and a significant beater for the deck. I’m also fond of it in terms of art, and the Bant flavor in general. I like that my Knights are wearing plausible-enough armor, and are in a heroic yet not overblown pose. Kudos to Michael Komarck on that one (other nice art from Komarck includes Finest Hour, Horizon Canopy, Oriss, and Rafiq).
Knights in my deck must have an interesting mix of the familiar and bizarre to deal with.
“Oh, hey, a Hierarch.”
“And…what are those freaky little goblin-looking things?”
“Good lord, it’s Cthulhu!”
And so forth.
In pondering their flavor today, I realized that the flavor text really sets up what’s actually, mechanically, going on with the land sacrifice / search ability. The Knight is using her knowledge of the land – any land, really – to lead a guerilla-style fight through many venues, opening up new connections for the planeswalker as she ducks and dodges through her most familiar territory, Forests and Plains. My Knights seem to be okay with a touch of the insane, as the first pass for most of them is from a Forest through a Terramorphic Expanse into another Forest or Plains. I can just imagine the Knight coaching herself ahead of this move.
“Okay, remember, no matter what I see, just keep moving. The real world will be there on the other side.”
I like that following enough of this guerilla hit-and-run fighting (that is, lots of land searching), the Knights become truly scary opponents, despite just being humans in armor. I’ve had Knights up to 8/8 in tournament play, meaning that they can take down (e.g.) Akroma in a head-to-head fight. We have to imagine the Knight is leaping out of a devastating ambush position and beheading Akroma in one dramatic stroke there.
Or, in other words, Knight of the Reliquary is all about Die Hard in Bant. No wonder they’re so successful, channeling the archetypal action movie.
In his most recent column at SCG, Bennie Smith lamented the state of Standard, specifically the fact that Windbrisk Heights has had such a significant presence across all our top eights of late. While he holds out hope that Swans Combo will even this out, the conversation in the forums turned, in part, to the idea that the mana is just too good right now. With Vivids, filters, and Pools, it’s trivial to play all manner of apparently discordant mana costs together, with the only real fear being taking an Anathemancer to the face more than once in the same game. Some commenters are looking forward to the days when the mana gets worse, and we won’t have Cryptic Command and Cloudthresher living in the same deck, alongside Volcanic Fallout and Esper Charm.
That’s their problem with contemporary five-color control. It’s not my problem with it, though. Mine is fundamentally one of aesthetics.
I like four- or five-color decks. I played Sunburst Gifts variants in the most recent Extended season, and I like watching Domain Zoo decks bleed their way into the correct mana base.
I prefer both of these experiences to contemporary five-color control. Why is that?
When you play a modern five-color control deck, you take a one-turn action penalty (all those Vivids) and then play out a radiant mush of lands bejeweled with dice or coins, sitting next to filter lands, sitting next to Reflecting Pools. In contrast, if you examine one of my Extended Gifts decks, the experience is much more organic to the theming of the game. I need black and green mana, so I cracked a fetchland and search my library for a Swamp-Forest that can give me those colors. The next time I crack for a land, or search one up when I sacrifice my Tribe-Elder, I can end up with an actual basic land – maybe an Island this time around.
There are a lot of features that go toward having flavorful versus mushy lands in these two examples. Consider the Overgrown Tomb I alluded to above.
1) It’s a Swamp-Forest. This lets the land interact in a game-mechanically intuitive fashion with the rest of Magic, but it also just imprints the idea that this is providing a crossover service between some set of colors that don’t normally come from the same place.
2) It makes two colors. This also gives it a distinct identity, even in the absence of the typing described above. A Llanowar Wastes feels very different from a Yavimaya Coast, even though they are mechanically quite similar and both lack the typing of their shockland brethren.
3) It has a distinct name. I think this makes a huge difference, as you will look at your five-color mana base and see a host of very distinct names, emphasizing the idea that you’re pulling together a diverse set of resources in your deck.
So, what’s our flavorless counterpoint here?
1) Vivids are not typed at all. A Vivid Crag is not even a Mountain. It looks like a Mountain, but it isn’t one, and that makes us sad.
2) Vivids make any color. We know that if you’ve built and played your five-color control deck properly, you will rarely deplete the counters from your Vivids. They’re just little repositories for “any color” and they will be for most of the game. Contrast with Tendo Ice Bridge, which very much provides a tension of “use this or no?” for a multiland, which in turn is its own form of mechanical feel. I’ve heard that R&D is retrospectively not happy with choosing to have two rather than one counter per Vivid, and perhaps this is an error that is reflected in flavor here.
3) Vivid X. Each Vivid land is a Vivid land. This emphasizes their relative fungibility. Any one Vivid is as good as any other Vivid most of the time, and they’re all called basically the same thing.
Given that lack of typing, variation in ability, and variation in name, it’s no surprise that contemporary five-color control decks are so aesthetically uninspiring despite the interesting cards and game play elements they contain. Combine this with the lack of a need to search for them, instead replacing that with a one-turn tempo penalty, and our current five-color control manabase style is just bland.
As I loath a complaint given without a suggestion, here’s my aesthetic ideal for the five-color control experience:
1) Lands are distinct, in terms of names, typing, and functionality.
2) Each land only covers part of my mana needs
3) I search some of the lands I need out of my library
4) I’ll have Basic Lands in play during a normal game
That’s my aesthetic ideal. I hope the M10 and Zendikar lands will push things in that direction.
The Angel of Despair from Ravnica block represents a “home run” game component — that is, an all-around success. See the extended for an explanation of game design “home runs” and discussion about how this card fits the bill.
In games, I appreciate a confluence of mechanics and flavor. It’s not enough that a game have interesting mechanical actions; it better engage me thematically as well. This is why I tend toward more characteristically “American” games like Axis & Allies, and away from purer abstracts (although I appreciate games that are fairly abstract with lighter themes, like Carcassonne).
Magic is confluence city. More in the extended.