Yo! MTG Taps! Exclusive Interview with Ken Nagle

Yo! MTG Taps! MC2 Coverage Part 1 – The Ken Nagle Experience is now available for download!


Check it out over on MTGCast!

The first installment of our coverage of the Magic Cruise: An EXCLUSIVE interview with lead designer of Worldwake, Ken Nagle!

Also includes bonus audio coverage of Ken’s Worldwake Design Seminar from the Magic Cruise!

Contact info:
Email: yomtgtaps [at] gmail [dot] com
Voice Mail Line: 1-331-MTG-TAPS
Twitter: twitter.com/yomtgtaps
Joey Pasco’s Twitter: twitter.com/affinityforblue
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/yomtgtaps
Facebook: Become a fan of “Yo! MTG Taps!”
Bigheadjoe’s Blog: http://otherworldlyjourney.blogspot.com
Joey Pasco’s Blog: http://www.affinityforislands.com

Thanks for listening!

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It Gets By With A Little Help From Its Friends

A pre-Worldwake look back at post-Zendikar blue.

Blue was never bad. Just not as good as we’re accustomed to.
A 450-lb man who loses 150 lbs—a full 33% of his body weight—would certainly not be considered “skinny” by any means.

This, I feel, sums up the current state of blue in Standard. While blue may have been worse between October and January than it ever has been, in hindsight I think it was a mistake to say it was “bad.” Counterspells were narrow and card-drawing was much less effective, true, but the color still had its strengths.

To wit: There was a time when many considered Morphling to be the best creature ever printed. With a wealth of abilities previously unheard of, Morphling could pump itself to 5/1, stack damage, and then become a 1/5; it could gain Flying; it could gain Shroud. It could untap itself, doing a passable impression of Vigilance.

Now compare Morphling to Sphinx of Jwar Isle:

     

For 1 additional mana, the Sphinx enters the battlefield with Flying. It enters the battlefield with Shroud. It enters the battlefield as a 5/5, and for all of these Morphling-esque characteristics it requires no more mana than the inital investment. It trades faux-Vigilance for an ability that—in a format with fetchlands, cascades, and soon Treasure Hunts—may be even more relevant. (Not to mention “Knowledge is Power” is the unofficial mantra of the blue mage, right?)

Could the Sphinx actually be better than Morphling?! Well, yes and no. It’s all about context, and when Morphling ruled the skies, blue spells were at their best. (And as much as I would’ve loved to see it, if Morphling were to have been reprinted it would likely occupy the slot in your trade binder right next to Meddling Mage.)

Still, the Sphinx exemplifies the quintessential blue finisher quite nicely: difficult to block, and easy to protect.

No, blue was not bad. Rather, it simply could not stand on its own. Yet, with another color or two along for support, blue found a way to stay strong. With a bit of persistence, blue-based control strategies started showing up as early as six weeks into the post-Zendikar format! At Worlds (late November), a Standard RWU Control deck was in the Team Finals, and Gerry Thompson unveiled his “Spread ‘Em” deck. As Conley Woods put it:

Typically, control decks are only able to emerge as “good” decks once a metagame as been firmly established. This is because the deck needs to know exactly what problems exist in order to determine which answers it must run. (Blue Uprising)

The difference between pre-Zendikar blue decks and those we’ve seen of late, as Conley goes on to point out, is that usually the counterspells are more versatile. This allows them to appear a bit earlier, as their answers don’t have to be so specifically tailored for the metagame. It is this loss of versatility, coupled with the loss of Instant-speed library manipulation, that fueled the perception of blue’s demise.

So, now we have Worldwake. Now we have the Mind Sculptor himself to help sculpt our hands into the ideal mix of answers and threats. We can dig for Treasure in the Halimar Depths, and accelerate our mana by drinking from the motherlovin’ cup. BLUE IS BACK!!!1!!

     

Not so fast. Let’s take a step back.

Blue mages—like starving children in a frenzy over a hunk of stale bread—have managed to drive the price of Jace, the Mind Sculptor to near-Baneslayer levels. I’m not exactly saying the price is unwarranted, because the card is certainly a piece of beauty, and I hope it’s every bit as good as people are expecting. But it has yet to prove itself. Had JtMS been released while Lorwyn was Standard-legal, I’d have been surprised to see it reach a pre-sale price half as high as it’s seeing now.

But, but…we’re SO HUNGRY!!

Worldwake is certainly giving blue a nice shot in the arm, don’t get me wrong. But I think we’re putting the cart before the horse, here. Blue mages are feeling so under-nourished from Zendikar that what may turn out to be a Happy Meal is looking like Thanksgiving Dinner.

So yes, go test your blue-based control decks. Play your Jaces, and your Treasure Hunts (I know I will be). But don’t set your expectations so highly that anything less than “bah-ro-ken” is a disappointment. I don’t think Mono Blue Control will be a reality, but pair it with a pal and I think blue control decks will be just fine.

BONUS:

A Yo! MTG Taps! Video Supplement – Coverage of the Worldwake Prerelease!

Recorded at Dream Wizards Games in Rockville, MD.

Apologies for low audio. We recorded with an iPhone, and I did my best to try to clean it up, but it’s still a bit iffy.

No footage of actual games, but hosts BigHeadJoe and Joey talk a bit about their experiences at the Magic: The Gathering – Worldwake prerelease.

Off-topic: iPhone Wallpapers

Happy Holidays everyone!

I just wanted to make a quick post for anyone out there who has an iPhone or iPod Touch (or apparently a BlackBerry from what I’ve heard). I really wanted some MTG iPhone wallpaper that wasn’t obscured by the clock/”Slide to unlock” screen (which is really the only place you ever see the wallpaper), but since I couldn’t find any, I decided to make some myself. I think most of them turned out pretty good. I liked the idea of the art bleeding slightly outside the box, so I used that technique in most cases.

Here are some examples:

Vedalken Shackles     Jace, the Mind Sculptor

You can find the rest of them here. I’ll be adding more to the album regularly, so keep checking back! Let me know what you think! Also, if you have any suggestions or requests, hit me up on Twitter @affinityforblue, or post in the comments.

What? You want a screenshot?

Considering the Mind Sculptor

Forgive me for posting this after about 15 seconds of actual thought, but I just wanted to throw the ideas out there for all you innovators.

Firstly, I guess I should mention this guy:

This is what we have so far from The Planeswalker Chase, the newest buzz-generating scheme cooked up by WotC marketing. Obviously I’m pretty excited, not only because it’s blue (IT’S BLUE!) but this is also the first planeswalker with four abilities instead of the usual three. I don’t know about anyone else, but I never even considered more than three a possibility. Nevertheless, here it is.

Currently, based on what we have, the speculation for the abilities is the following:

+2: Look at the top card of target player’s library. You may put that card on the bottom of that player’s library.
+/- ?: Draw three cards, then put two cards from your hand on top of your library in any order.
+/- ?: Return target creature to its owner’s hand.
+/- ?: Exile all cards in target player’s library. Then he or she shuffles all cards from his or her hand into his or her library.

Yes, that second ability is Brainstorm. From what we can see, it also appears to be a “minus” ability rather than a “plus” ability (the shield does not appear to have an upward slope); however, there is speculation that perhaps the second ability is neither a minus nor a plus, and is simply “0.” This would be another new feature on a planeswalker, and I wouldn’t put it past Wizards to do something like this.

In any case, we’ll know the full card in a matter of hours—the final two pieces are in Canada and California, and should be spoiled later today.

UPDATE!: Here’s the full card!

Back when Alara Reborn hit the internets, Lorescale Coatl was spoiled, and one of the cards that immediately started popping up in discussion was Brainstorm. Unfortunately, while we don’t actually get Brainstorm itself, a Coatl in play alongside Mr. Mind Sculptor here will tend to get really big, really QUICK. +4/+4 per turn quick. Might we see the return of a Miracle Grow style deck? We’ve already got Scute Mob, who fits the theme quite nicely.

     

Earlier, I was going through some of the images I had saved back when Zendikar was being spoiled (images that I’d planned on using in posts to discuss the new cards), when I noticed Archmage Ascension. The new Jace’s Brainstorm ability could help get the Ascension online—perhaps in an Esper deck with Courier’s Capsules and Esper Charms to add counters to the Ascension during your opponent’s turns. As I said, I haven’t given it much thought, but I’m throwing it out there as something to consider.