Shadowmoor – First Look

It’s no big secret that I’m a big damn Magic dork. I’ve been playing since Ice Age was in print, and have thousands upon thousands of cards rotting away in my collection. While I only have a handful of decks built and playable, I have several dozen more in various stages of playability. The game has stuck with me through tough times (Legions, anything post-Tempest block involving the Weatherlight and crew), and I keep finding myself coming back to it. After re-starting after a lengthy down period with Mirrodin, I really got into the Ravnica block, and liked the Time Spiral block enough to play it frequently.

It’s also no big secret that I, like most players, hate tribal. This has severely affected my relationship with Magic, since Lorwyn was tribal to the core. I loved the storybook aspects of the art and flavor text, and made a fairly decent Boggart deck using the pre-con, a fat pack, and some Boggart Mob trades. But I just didn’t get the same “umph!” that I did with Ravnica, nor the one I could fake with Time Spiral. (I don’t hate the Time block. It was a decent, solid block. However, it was not Ravnica, came right after Ravnica, and I loved Ravnica enough that I briefly considered reading the novels, until I thought better of it.) A lot of the focus was toward enchantment- and creature-centered combos, which I’m not a huge fan of, since it cuts down the number of instants/sorceries and therefore reminds me a lot of Legions. Still, given the power boost in Lorwyn, and the slick card design, I figured I’d give it a chance and have some fun playing in tourneys.

At the same time, every other Magic player got a case of the shakes once Lorwyn released. Most players head for the hills as soon as the word “tribal” slips out (especially when the word “Homarid” followed it), this time carrying with them a few outliers who were simply terrified that Lorwyn would be too powerful (Wren’s Run Packmaster to be specific). So, gone were the days of tourneys every other week. Gone were the days of casual play, since the only players left were either unreachable or utterly useless retards. Without players, sales of boosters went down, to the point where the Lorwyn booster box was sold elsewheres to pay bills. Following this, Morningtide didn’t even hit the radar to the point where I’ve never seen an actual Morningtide card (and only a few online scans).

Which brings us to Shadowmoor. Kevin’s been rambling about how awesome Shadowmoor is for a couple of weeks, so I decided to pick up a tourney deck to see what it’s like. I was sold on my first card—Barkshell Blessing. Flipping through, the other end was just as pleasing, finding a Plumeveil, Mistveil Plains, and a Mystic Gate. Woah! Hybrid cards? Good variety of non-basic lands? A multicolor-based deck with tribal undertones? Set in a darkening version of the storybook land of Lorwyn? Sold! The deck is filled with interesting throwbacks to previous sets, such as the Blessing and Plumeveil for touching up Ravnica guild decks, some shinies for Time block decks, and plenty of Spirits to flesh out Kamigawa builds (particularly the spirit avatars).

Plus, there’s the continuation of tribal class and race cards, so the set integrates well with the Lorwyn mini-block. It’s like they designed it to fit in neatly with the past four blocks.

It’s like they formed a perfect combo. The cards have the same multicolor-combo feel as Ravnica, with the added bonus of the Lorwyn storybook feel, only a bit darker (being the Autumn set to Lorwyn’s Spring and Morningtide’s Summer). Plus, the Time Spiral keywords make an appearance as well. At first glance, I’m sold on the set. I might be a Ravnica fanboy, but at least I’ve got taste, and I like what I’ve bitten into here. The design is slick, the focus well-balanced between the race/class tribal and the multicolor focus. The creature-based combos and tribal nature of Lorwyn didn’t sell many players, but I’m hoping that Shadowmoor will draw enough players back to the fold. It’s a solid return to form, bringing back the even distribution between creatures and spells, while also reinventing the wheel with some new features and focus. There’s a lot of tribal action going on here, dealing a lot with +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters, and enhancements that kick in if you have other creatures of the same color or tribe. Untapping abilities are also pretty slick, giving creatures a boost or ability if you pay to untap it.

Honestly, it’s good to be back in Magic. After opening the tourney deck, and pulling out my three boosters’ worth of cards, I had to resist the temptation to a.) drive back to Meijers and pick up all they had, or b.) hit every gaming store I could find to see if someone was running a Shadowmoor tourney. I have the distinct feeling that this set is a winner, and look forward to seeing some Shadowmoor tournaments in the near future.

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