I hadn’t anticipated that (Leyline popularity)

My favorite regular features on the mothership are Latest Developments, Savor the Flavor, and Top Decks, with a side helping of The Week That Was.
In this week’s Latest Developments, Tom LaPille does a final roundup of development stories from M11. What really caught my eye were the results from last week’s survey:
I didn’t have a specific expectation for which Leyline would win, but I don’t think I would have put my imaginary money on Anticipation. This is fascinating to me, in that it feels as if the results here speak to the broad base of Magic’s customer demographics. For folks like me who spend most of our time writing about and hanging around with “competitive” players, we would naturally expect to see the tournament-playable options at the top of the list. Like so, perhaps:
Leyline of Sanctity
Leyline of the Void
Leyline of Punishment
…other stuff
I think Void beats out Punishment, even though only Sanctity and Punishment see a lot of play of any kind in Standard at the moment, as Void is probably the best Leyline of all time (cue Kanye West here).
Leyline of Anticipation, however, may well be the coolest Leyline if we can divorce ourselves from the strictures of competitive play. Think about the plain language description of what each Leyline does:
Anticipation – No I don’t have to decide whether to main phase that Sorcery or hold back for countermagic!
Lifeforce – My creatures can’t be countered. Okay.
Lightning – I deal a bit of extra damage. Hm.
Punishment – Now I can win with burn!
Sanctity – Now burn won’t kill me!
Singularity – You can’t swarm me!
Meek – Tokens are bigger? Okay.
Void – Kill your graveyard! Hah!
Vitality – Creatures are a little bigger.
I think, in plain language, the idea that you are relieved of the burden of deciding whether to hold our mana open or not is a big deal. In addition, there are all the Johnny options, and the idea that every creature you have is now a potential combat trick. Although it tends to fall short of the mark in practice in competitive play, the idea of everything you can do with the card is super-exciting.
The percentage for Anticipation roughly matches the next two entries, combined. I think this is pretty telling, and a solid reminder that the folks going to tournaments are far from the only folks playing the game.
For the record, I voted for Void.

This week’s In Development – Sampling your stories as the MEP rolls on

It’s In Development time again, on my new day, Thursday! This means, of course, that the article is up at the usual midnight Eastern time, so you can go read it now.
In my ongoing effort to become the Studs Terkel of Magic, I’m giving everyone a taste of the answers I’ve received to the Magic Effectiveness Project survey.
There may also be mockups of famous primate researchers as Fauna Shaman variations. That may be in there, too.
Head on over to see the many faces of “Magic strengths” as relayed in the words of your peers, and then enjoy the convenience of the new, web-based version of the survey. If you haven’t shared your stories with everyone, now is the time to do so.
Click here to read the article, and then find me on twitter to let me know what you think.
And, by all means, take the survey.

Promo cards and things like that

Magic players do like their bling, especially in the form of new card art for old cards – this is pretty much the point of all those FNM promos, right?
Curiously enough, I often find that the “special” art strikes me as being markedly worse, for one reason or another, than the original art. This was true of the recent FNM Anathemancer. Here’s the original:
…and the FNM promo from last month:
The original Richard Whitters art is elegant and mood-setting – that is, indeed, a Zombie Wizard, back from the dead to do horrid things to mages who had the temerity to run non-basics. In contrast, the Mark Hyzer variation looks like a level boss from Doom. Sort of.
This must be some variant-art phenom, because Mark Hyzer’s other work is much better, and that generally holds true for other displeasing promos (e.g. Bloodbraid Elf).
Moving away from quality of the piece, we have the new special art Swords to Plowshares:
The art here is lovely. It’s just that the piece doesn’t so much say “Swords to Plowshares” as it does “Swords to other Swords, and oh yeah I’m about to kick your ass.”
Compare that with the original art:
Although this art doesn’t actually show the transition from combat to pasture, it certainly does convey the end result – the gentleman is clearly plowsharing and not swordsing at all.
For me, the perfect note for Swords was struck by Kaja Foglio in her art for the Ice Age edition of the card:
Everything about this is just so right on the mark. Done in the style of iconic imagery (in the religious sense of “iconic”), it captures that moment where the soldier makes the transition from war to peace.
So I’ll stick with Kaja’s version as the archetype of Swords to Plowshares, against which all future special variants must necessarily be measured.

Posted in Art

This week’s In Development – Jane Goodall brings the Vengevines! Also, some theory about matchups

So, after a few hiccups following the site relaunch, this week’s In Development is up.
After being struck – almost literally, to the tune for 24 damage in one turn – by my helplessness against a Valakut Ramp deck at last week’s Superstars 1K, I turned my attention toward picking apart how decks generally interact with each others’ game plans. It’s actually a nice, if unintentional, companion piece to Luis’s Pillars of Standard article. Both try to address the same essential questions:
Why is this matchup good or bad? How can I make it better?
As always, you can click here to read the column, and then find me on twitter and let me know what you think.

Turn zero!

So how was your Magic game day?
I went 3-3 and am in dire need of a new Naya game plan against ramp decks, as two of my non-mana-problem-based losses were to ramp decks.
But enough about me. The crowning moment of awesome today went to Michael Sohn (who you may have last read about in PV’s GP Columbus report).
The match paired Michael’s Naya Shaman deck against his opponent’s Pyromancer Ascension deck. Michael took down game one, and then lost game two to an unfortunate back-to-back-to-back Time Warp draw from the Ascension player. I turned away from the match for a moment, only to hear Michael yell, “Turn zero!”
Say what, now?
So, here’s the event, reconstructed.
Seeing that he appeared to just be facing down creatures, the Ascension player boarded out all his copies of Into the Roil. What he didn’t know – since it hadn’t come up in game two – was that Michael’s sideboard included this:
So when Michael dropped Leyline before the first turn of game three…that was that.
Turn zero kill!
So what awesomeness turned up at your game day?

This week’s In Development – X, Y, Z, Profit!

I have to admit that “X, Y…Profit!” is my favorite linguistic construct to describe a plan where the connection between the initial setup and the desired result is unclear. Of course, I’m throwing that all askew in this week’s In Development as I discuss Fauna Shaman decks, where the plan – Shaman, Vengevine, Bloodbraid, Profit! – really does work.
This week’s article describes, essentially, the process by which I arrived at my current Fauna Shaman deck. In getting there, we take a look at what other people are doing with Fauna Shaman, what the current Standard environment looks like, and how we might want to readdress our deck’s mana base and curve.
Click here to read the article, and then hit me up on twitter and let me know what you think.

This week’s In Development – exploring the progress and process of Constructed seasons

It’s In Development time again after our brief hiatus, and this week’s edition is all about the “rules” of Constructed seasons. Do they exist? Are they format dependent? What are they?
Click here to read my in-depth evaluation of six seasons (two Block, two Standard, and two Extended), and the conclusions I draw from them about the lore we’ve picked up from the community at large about how Constructed seasons work.
After you’ve read the article, find me on twitter and let me know what you think.