This week’s In Development – What 2 life gets you and does to the game

Regular readers of In Development have probably noticed that I’m not one for set reviews. Part of this is that I tend to zone out a little if I try to comment on each and every card in a new set. The rest is that we already have Luis doing the best set reviews around, so there’s no need to waste my time writing a review that will cover less ground than Luis does.
However, when there are new mechanics, I like to talk about those.
In this week’s In Development, I tackle Phyrexian mana – those funky little colored phi symbols that let you pay life rather than mana, should you be so inclined. Phyrexian mana lives in the land of alt costs, and I’m a big fan of those…as well as addressing each new idea that’s queued up to “ruin Magic forever.”
So click here to read the article, then comment, find me on twitter, or email me to let me know what you think.

New Phyrexia and the developed villain

I’ve never been that fond of the flavor of Mirrodin.
I meant to write about that as its own topic, but I think I’m fundamentally not especially motivated to write commentary that can be summarized as “meh.” The brief version goes like so:
Mirrodin has always struck me as feeling a lot like “story” pitches I’ve heard from artists who haven’t studied story and don’t read a lot. “He’s like Frankenstein, but with a gun in his head!” It’s more of a concept than a story – which is great if you’re doing concept art, but doesn’t lend itself to coherency. The whole “metal world made from nowhere” idea really always felt like that as well.
Or to put it another way, it doesn’t scan.
Aaron Forsythe and Mark Rosewater, among others, have talked about how the story of a set should be conveyed in the feel of the mechanics. I think the original Mirrodin block succeeded in this, which is why so much of it is uninteresting or gimmicky (see Leveler).
So when I first saw that we were returning to Mirrodin, I was concerned…and Scars of Mirrodin honestly didn’t help with that feeling. The cards didn’t particularly inspire me, and the Limited PTQ season wasn’t all that engaging.
But I did like the Phyrexians. There we had an ecological infestation I could get behind.
Learning that that was the actual point of the block, as we saw with the release of Besieged, was great. Mirrodin Besieged introduced the Phyrexians in their new form, along with the extraordinarily flavorful addition of Living Weapon.
And although I didn’t mention it above, Infect and especially Proliferate beautifully conveyed the flavor of the spreading Phyrexian corruption.
I was suitably pleased, then, to see that the third set is New Phyrexia. I think I’m going to like the discussion of the Phyrexian factions if they’re going to follow in the steps of this week’s Savor the Flavor. It’s fascinating to track how the Phyrexians have changed (adapted, perhaps) from this:
…to this:
…and finally this:
Doug Beyer’s discussion of the The Machine Orthodoxy sparked feelings of what fascinated me about Warhammer 40,000 way (way!) back in junior high when I first picked up my copy of Rogue Trader.
This new take on Phyrexia has really redeemed a block that I was dubious about at the beginning, and like the Eldrazi before them, they’re a worthy entry (or perhaps re-entry in this case) into the pantheon of Magic villains.