Shadowmoor mechanical previews

More Shadowmoor previews have popped up this week, both on the official site and in various magazines. If you’re not keeping up with every possible preview, they’re all eventually collected here. This week’s previews demonstrate some of the interesting mechanics showing up in Shadowmoor. Here they are:
Persist is basically a “hard to kill” mechanic, intermediate between normal creatures and, say, the annoying unkillability of everyone’s favorite artifact cockroach, Epochrasite. We’ll have to see if there are any really large, difficult, or annoying creatures in Shadowmoor with Persist. Any comes into play ability would be particularly synergistic with Persist, making it extra painful to try and rid the world of the creature (or, at the very least, enhancing the value of RFG effects).
-1/-1 counters are all over this set. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a cool idea, or if it will crush tempo all over the place as armies of creatures are attritioned into nothingness each turn. Certainly, it reduces the value of all your X/1 utility creatures (although as SSO has pointed out, a lot of utility creatures are X/2s).
The untap symbol appears to be the “Q” that Mark Rosewater was hinting at earlier. I’ll watch this with interest, as having an untap symbol on anything feels like an ingredient for combo — which, of course, is why all the untap abilities probably include costs, such as the single blue mana for Leech Bonder’s ability.
Godhead of Awe doesn’t highlight any new mechanics, but it’s another part of the cycle featuring the Demigod of Revenge. In addition to having creepy art, the Godhead plays well with the -1/-1 counter theme of the set, as it instantly makes every other creature on the board an easy target for counter-based assassination. Godhead into Pyroclasm seems reasonable, though — assuming W/R decks become popular again.
Those are the highlights for now. I recommend checking in with Rei Nakazawa’s latest feature article on the story behind Shadowmoor, including an update on how the Aurora twists all the races of Shadowmoor (except, notably, the Faeries…).

Disruption in Onslaught extended

Although the new Extended rotation policy means that Onslaught gets to stick around for one more year, the extensive drop-off as October, 2008 rolls around means that two key players in the Extended disruption suite will be departing.
These key disruption spells offered a chance to put someone off their game plan on turn one, and, in the case of Therapy, to completely obliterate their game plan either via Flashback or via Duress into Therapy. Ugly.
Although Shards may well bring some good disruption options, it’s fun to think about what’s already available to us in the world of Onslaught Extended.
Full thoughts in the extended.

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Kamigawa cube: first draft

Earlier this year, I talked about putting together a one with everything Kamigawa draft cube. With just over 600 cards, this is bigger than a typical cube by a good 150-200 cards. As I discussed earlier, it’s also tilted up the rarity scale, with about 25% rares, 25% uncommons, and 50% commons.
And, of course, there’s just one of each card, so Mirror Gallery is especially worthless — but it’s in there, and we had it in today’s draft!
M, SSO, and JH showed up for a half-draft — which is what we usually manage these days (the thought of getting eight people together…well, that seems extreme). As everyone checked out their first pack, there was a simultaneous pause, followed by everyone laughing at the card selection (or, as SSO said, ” Bomb, bomb, bomb…”).
My very first pack was also full of good cards, but the best choice seemed to be Jushi Apprentice. The next big card I saw was, I think, Myojin of Night’s reach. From there, subsequent packs graced me with Kokusho, Keiga, Gifts Ungiven (how appropriate), and a Neverending Torment…along with more card draw and, fortunately, some black removal. I ended up with a quite solid blue-black, controllish deck.
We played two rounds, and I think had a fun time watching how things worked out. I really enjoyed how the one-with-everything approach emphasized the feel of the set, with big legends facing off. I also learned that, in draft, Kira is an enormous, enormous beating, especially when you copy it (him? her?) with Sakashima.
And I actually managed a Neverending Torment win. Awesome.

He had hammers, too. Why hammers?

Over in this thread on RPGnet, Sabermane suggests Hyborian adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom, spawning an excellent, excellent thread:
It crept back into my head again. Super Mario Brothers done at 11 through the “epic” lens. A world where humans are a short race. A world where you’re sucked into a place that’s Wonderland through the eyes of Conan. A place where a warhammer is the common melee weapon. A place where a gorilla, a plumber, and a mushroom-man sorceror is a common party, fighting off ten foot tall lizard men in large bulky armor, or sky gods, or terrible things living in secret caverns deep in the earth. a game where a standard weapon is something that covers you in flame and allows you to shoot napalm from your hands (screw that “spitball”), and that if you’re lucky, you can kill ANYTHING for ten seconds.
Some fantastic story seeds in the extended and many more in the thread (and pictures!).

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Welcome to Lorwyn 2.0, recently renamed

The Shadowmoor minisite has gone up. As they did with Lorwyn, Wizards will be using the site to tease you about Shadowmoor with stories and a list of all the cards that have been officially previewed (you can follow “unofficial previews” over at the MTG Salvation spoiler archive).
Most notable today is the story explanation of what Shadowmoor actually is, called Shadow of the Aurora. Turns out, Shadowmoor is Lorwyn overwritten:
Darkness fell. The Great Aurora swept across the plane, transforming it into an eerie world of permanent gloom, and wiping away almost all traces of its former nature. The denizens of the plane have transformed along with it, memories and all, and now only a precious few still remember the name Lorwyn.
The sun has abandoned the world. In the wake of the Aurora, the plane’s formerly lighthearted races have taken on new identities, their allegiances twisted by the shadow. The Aurora also awakened new threats, beings that slumbered, hidden, during sunnier times. Moaning spirits, impish oddities, scuttling scarecrows, and enormous monsters of lore have emerged to roam the land. And Shadowmoor is now the province of demigods, manifestations of dark forces that have slept since the last Great Aurora.
Mind you, there are only two cards bearing the word “Demigod” in the set (but more on that later).
Interesting. On a 100% related note, I happened to walk by a game shop when I was in Italy last week, and the Italian name for Lorwyn was “Lorwyn,” but the Italian name for Morningtide was “Aurora.”
This is an interesting piece of flavor, and it allows for a lot of those obvious mirrorings like Goldmeadow and Mistmeadow. It almost — almost, I say — makes me want to read the fiction. Almost.

The two Future Sight cards appearing in Shadowmoor

As a lead-in to the pending weeks of Shadowmoor previews, Wizards once again put up the Orb of Insight. The Orb is basically a tool that lets you search for words (with “word” here meaning any character string without internal spaces) within the full text of all the cards in the Shadowmoor set. The Orb then returns the number of instances of that word within all searchable text in the set.
For example, a search for the word Kithkin returns a value of 21 — there are 21 instances of the word Kithkin in the set. Interestingly, there are 0 instances of the word Changeling.
To prevent savvier Magic fans from simply text bombing the Orb with every possible string and then trying to reconstruct the set, the Orb employs a captcha that means you have to search the terms by hand — as Magic fans are, no doubt, feverishly doing all the time these days.
One of the most obvious things to check, as far as I was concerned, was which Future Sight “future shifted” cards actually appear in this set. We’ve already seen Future Sight’s Boldwyr Intimidator turn up in Morningtide, where he ensures that Changelings can’t block each other. So, after a little bit of typing, which Future Sight cards can we expect to see? Just two:
Given the Hybrid nature of Shadowmoor, as discussed by Mark Rosewater in one of his Shadowmoor preview articles here, this makes perfect sense. Extensive plumbing of the Orb by other dedicated folks has turned up putative names for red-green, white-blue, white-green, and blue-black Cairn-style lands. I’m going to guess the Cairns will be rethemed, as there are no Sengir vampires (or other family members) running around in Shadowmoor.
Apparently, Mistmeadow is the Shadowmoor analog of Goldmeadow, with Skulks rather than Stalwarts. There’s one other mention of Mistmeadow in the set as well. This also goes toward explaining the freaky, buglike eyes of the Skulk, which was quite visually different from even other Future Sight Kithkin. It’s nocturnal, or at least crepuscular.
Mark Rosewater has more random tidbits in another article here. They’re neat teasers, but I think my “tease into excitement” threshold is higher. I need more information before any of those tidbits really interests me strongly.
Still, Shadowmoor is looking good — but then, that’s just been true of Magic sets for the last several years.

For the Greater Good

With the arrival of the first Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game, Dark Heresy, is abuzz with ideas for gaming in the setting (and in case you missed it, future 40K RPG products will come from Fantasy Flight Games rather than Black Library). Although Dark Heresy is about playing the retinue of an Inquisitor, one player’s question about the Tau convinced me that, were I to run Warhammer 40K roleplay, I might well run a Tau campaign.
Warhammer 40,000 is one of those settings that you basically don’t want to live in. Our human heroes are ruled over by a particularly frightening, fascistic take on a dark-ages Catholic church if the Church worshipped a decrepit, people-devouring, largely inanimate God-king who mainly serves as a locator beacon for interstellar travel. The other civilizations aren’t much better.
That said, the Tau are kind of on the upswing, moodwise. Sure, they have a rigid, caste-based system and an overriding devotion to a central cause (it’s 40K — who doesn’t?), but they’re portrayed as a young, optimistic race out to conquer the universe and not quite yet aware that the universe is full of horrid things in balance with each other.
I think it would be great fun to have the players represent a Tau exploration team, boldly going (for the Greater Good) where no Tau has gone before, and encountering dying races, the devouring Tyranid hordes, death planets, rampaging Orks, and the unending legions of the weird, backwards-yet-universe-dominating humans. The different castes and their roles provide a range of niches for the players. In a way, you could run it as a hybrid of Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, with the hopefulness level set somewhere in between the two. Send your Water Caste crew down to explore the surface with a Fire Team in support, then figure out what to do when the weird, undead robot things occupy your landing craft! Explore a derelict alien spacecraft and attempt to operate its unique interstellar transportation gateways! Solve problems in five minutes following a forty minute setup!
And so forth. I think it would be a lot of fun, especially if everyone got into the “working for the team” mentality of the Tau.
Likely systems: True20 or an adapted Shadowrun

Pro Tour Hollywood 2008 information – side events and more

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Wizards has posted the full information page for Pro Tour Hollywood 2008, including information for participants, the LCQs, side events, artists, special hotel rates, and more. Given that this one is actually in my state, I’m seriously considering road-tripping down there to participate. Anyone else want to go?
PT Hollywood runs from May 23 to May 25 (with the LCQ on May 22).
Here are some highlights from the posted info:
Think you’ve qualified somehow? Check it here.
Still looking to qualify? The last-chance qualifier (LCQ) is the day before the event (May 22) starting at 4pm. Yes, 4pm. LCQs typically end shockingly late at night, letting a somewhat incoherent winner make a try at the PT the following morning. Even so, I’m thinking of trying for the LCQ. One…last…try! And so forth.
You can read the side events schedule here. Side events are open for all, and include:
8-player, single-elimination pickup events (Draft, Sealed, Standard, Extended) throughout the event.
10am – Shadowmoor sealed event with Apple products (Apple TVs, iPod Shuffles) as the top four prizes
12pm – PTQ for Berlin – Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block constructed
2pm – “Old Box” sealed deck – Shadowmoor sealed with Exodus and Urza’s Legacy boxes as the top two prizes
4pm – Digital camera constructed – Standard event with a digital camera as the top prize
6pm – Super FNM – Shadowmoor sealed with FNM promos as top prizes
10am – PTQ for Berlin – Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block constructed
12pm – Shadowmoor foil sealed – Shadowmoor sealed with a foil and a regular Shadowmoor set as the top prizes
2pm – “Old Box” constructed – Extended event, with prizes as for the other old box tourney
4pm – Apple iPod 2HG – Shadowmoor block sealed 2HG with ipods for top two finishing teams
5pm – Generic GP Trial – Standard event with the first prize being a flexible 3-round trial for any GP before mid-2009
6pm – Multiplayer free-for-all – Standard constructed event where 8-man multiplayer tables winnow down to one final winner, with prizes being a Legends box, a foil Mirrodin set, and regular Mirrodin sets
10am – iPod constructed – Standard event with iPods for the top four finishers
12pm – “Old Box” sealed – Shadowmoor sealed, prizes as above
2pm – Revised duals – Legacy constructed, with top prizes of 30 and 10 revised duals (that’s a substantial payout)
4pm – Magic prints sealed – Urza’s block sealed with Magic art prints as the top nine prizes
I’m definitely excited about the possibility of showing up with some Standard and Extended decks and playing on all the days, or at least until I’m burned out. Of course, if I go for the LCQ, I may burn out early…

One more time — Extraction Rock

Lisa: Look, there’s only one way to settle this. Rock-paper-scissors.
Lisa’s brain: Poor predictable Bart. Always takes ‘rock’.
Bart’s brain: Good ol’ ‘rock’. Nuthin’ beats that!
Bart: Rock!
Lisa: Paper.
Bart: D’oh!
(Thanks to The Simpsons Archive for this text.)
Gerard Fabiano recently took the top prize at GP Philadelphia 2008 with his modification of Barra Rock (named after Giulio Barra who top foured PT Valencia 2007 with a very solid, very midrange WBG Rock build). In a recent conversation with Brian David-Marshall on the podcast, Gerard said that he picked Rock because it was just how he likes to play — and recommended just going with the style of play you enjoy.
I’ve found that, by and large, I really enjoy the “Rock” style of play — midrange, with on-board control and disruption. I’m not as fond of draw-go play, trying to figure out which things to counter and which not to. Similarly, although it can be fun to just lay down the beats, I do prefer a more controlling approach. Really, what I like is the ability to disrupt and knock holes in the opponent’s game plan. It’s a very interactive style of play. This can leave more room for mistakes, but it also just makes the game more fun.
With that in mind, and during a few of the more boring gaps in the conference I attended last week, I was considering what kind of build I might use for another PTQ this season, or if I were going to try the Last-Chance Qualifier at Pro Tour Hollywood 2008. It’s no more pure Kokusho for me — the lack of good, fast disruption means that combo and draw-go control tend to walk all over you. With that in mind, check out the extended for my most recent take on the venerable Rock archetype.

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