The common pitfalls for spoiler season
Another spoiler season come and gone, and people are already gearing up for the next one.
Spoiler season, in Magic the gathering terms, refers to the week(s) in which Wizards publishes, often card-by-card, their list for the new set. Speculation abounds on what will be printed, whether the printed cards are going to be good and a million million other things.
Often, we walk away excited. But sometimes, the content spoiled and/or the lack of specific cards can leave the viewer disenchanted- either immediately, or down the line. Today, I’m going to talk about three points to help you leave spoiler season without leaving your excitement behind.
- Be careful with comparisons
We got this twice in 2016, on opposite sides of the line.
So all the above cards are fantastic, and all the above are eternally playable. But twice in 2016 we were struck by hyperbole, and people got burned.
Speaking of burn Chandra, torch of defiance is a four CMC four ability walker. It was hailed as the red “Jace the Mind Sculptor”, due to similar casting cost and layout, and was set to dominate all formats.
That didn’t happen. While it is quickly growing to become the most playable red planeswalker ever printed, it fails to have the raw staying power of the Mind Sculptor.
Simultaneously, the new Emrakul was met with pretty mixed reviews, more than partially because she was “worse” than the original (likely the most powerful creature ever printed). What was overlooked was the fact that on balance she is going to cost about ½ as much as her earlier form, making her castable in slower, grinder standard decks. As such, it came as a surprise to some when she immediately began winning tournaments.
In either case, evaluating the card in a vacuum would likely have been better than immediately comparing it to the card it “resembled”. And while card comparison is a very powerful tool, take the time to understand not just a card’s text, but what it does before judging the card by another metric.
- Reliable reprints?
So let’s talk about this card.
A vocal part of our community has made the not unreasonable claim that Damnation could really use a reprint. They are also disappointed every time it doesn’t get one.
Generally speaking, any card that players want wizards to reprint is going to be format warping. Snapcaster mage, Liliana of the Veil, fetch lands, tarmogoyf...all these cards have some serious damage potential, and particularly for standard legal sets Wizards has to be careful how they reprint them.
Tarmogoyf is the one that I most often hear would be fine, but please consider: Goyf instead of grim flayer in that b-g delirium deck that has been around in standard for a few months. I feel like that would be strong. Before that you have collected company decks, then Jace Vryn’s Prodigy, then decks running Satyr Wayfinder for value and Abzan midrange.
Master’s level sets are a bit different. Sets like Modern and Eternal masters are meant to be sets to increase the playable supply of high powered cards, and concern that there are insufficient chase cards in these packs is very reasonable. That said, even in these sets the sheer volume of potentially printable cards makes speculating on specific cards, a recipe for disaster.
This is all to say that demanding specific reprints actually demands disappointment. A wizard reprints exactly what they mean to, and as disappointing as it is I find it’s better to expect little and be happy (yeah, Berzerk was reprinted) than expect the world and be let down (boo, damnation was not).
- Consider in context
So let’s talk about this card.
Seems good right? So why is it not used in play?
This card got allot of hype. For example LSV rated it one of the most playable constructed cards in Oath of the Gatewatch, edging out Nissa and solidly defeating Reflector mage.
Now, I am not trying to throw shade at LSV. He is 100 times the player I will ever be and a wonderful content creator. But his set reviews are both well viewed and well respected, and in this case, indicative of the general consensus regarding the card. So he gets the flack today.
The first thing I said when I saw the card was this: It can’t beat a Siege rhino. Abzan was the deck to beat going into Oath of the Gatewatch, and Chandra is inefficient against the threat.
Moving down the line, rally then became the decks in standard for an extended period. And while Chandra could come down and wipe the board against cheap creature decks, threats like Sylvan advocate and Archangel Avacyn, or even an end of turn collected company, could take her off the board- if the early pressure didn’t leave her stranded in your hand at no life.
More recently, Smuggler’s copter nicely avoids all modes while base-green decks went back to the plan running 4-5 CMC creatures that she couldn’t kill. Even Gideon, in most play patterns, can render her obsolete.
And that is, really, the problem. Chandra is a six CMC planeswalker for double red who can be beaten by cards that cost four or five mana. And, sorry to gloat, but I called that almost as soon as she was spoiled.
(Full disclaimer- I then ran this card in R-G ramp.)
All this is to say, when you see a card that seems sweet, take a moment to evaluate what it would actually do on a random board state in the format. If the answer is “not much,” maybe temper your expectations.
Everyone hates the voice of reason- the one saying “order a salad instead of fries” or “do you really need a playset of Russian foil abrupt decays?” But sometimes, being reasonable can be reasonably good for your mental health, and help you come into a new standard season ready to play.
'Til next time!
Author: Robert Trueblood