Hello and welcome back to the final installment of my three-part completely unoriginal set review. If you're wondering why this is so completely unoriginal, you'll just have to check back on my completely unoriginal Ravnica set review to find out.
The premise of the completely unoriginal set review is to take quotes from a television series or movie and use them to describe and rate certain aspects of the new set. Of course, if you're looking for actual card evaluations, you've come to the wrong place. I'll rate a few specific cards, but I like to focus on the new themes and mechanics more than the cards. I'm also a terrible judge of play value, preferring instead to focus more on the flavor.
The whole Ravnica block will be set to one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Futurama, so that's where all these quotes are from. Now that I’ve blasted you with my standard completely unoriginal set review introduction, let’s get on to the good stuff!
“You’re just jealous. Nobody loves you because you're tiny and made of meat!”
As always, let’s get the worst cards out of the way first. As usual, the worst of the worst cards are usually found at the common slot. Much like Guildpact, Dissension is pretty lacking in all those terrible commons I got used to seeing throughout Kamigawa block. Nevertheless, this rating isn’t about finding a truly awful card. It is merely about finding the worst card compared to its common brethren. After much deliberation, I finally decided on Minister of Impediments. Although he landed the perfect blue/white cross-color ability, his severe lack of toughness for three mana means he’ll probably never get to use it. Master Decoy and Puppeteer are both significantly better than this little guy.
“And that's why the third graders at PS139 are Morbo's Vermin Of The Week.”
Next, we move onto the crappiest uncommons. Once again, the depth of crappiness in this set leaves much to be desired, but when I’m pressed for a result, I’ll always deliver. This race came down to two cards: Fertile Imagination and Palliation Accord. One is a four-mana green sorcery that will most often net you two 1/1 saproling tokens. The other is a five-mana enchantment that will shield you from armies of 1/1 creatures. Do you see what’s going on here? These cards are made to hose opposing guilds. In the case of Fertile Imagination, it allows you to create little armies against the forecasting Azorius player. With Palliation Accord, you can hold off saprolings from the Selesnya. Meanwhile, Rakdos will be stomping both of those players with their 5/3 flyers, 9/9 tramplers and 7/6 flying trampler while having no cards in hand. So, in conclusion, it’s a tie!
“Look at all this filth!”
“It's not filth. It's a glorious monument to the achievements of the 20th century. Look! A real beanie baby! A Mr. Spock collector’s plate! Some Bart Simpson dolls!”
Finally, let’s take a look at the overvalued junk of the Magic universe – the crap rares. This gets a little bit easier than the commons and uncommons, since rares are easy to overpower and subsequently overprice. My first choice was Spouting Phytohydra. For five mana, you can get a 0/2 creature that doesn’t fly and is really hard to kill, assuming your opponent doesn’t have Putrefy, Mortify, Wrecking Ball, Last Gasp, Brainspoil, Seal of Doom or any other non-damaging creature destruction spell in Ravnica. My second choice was Wit’s End. Assuming that your opponent still has a ton of cards in his hand that aren’t counterspells by the time you reach the seven mana you need to cast it, Wit’s End will totally wreck his game. But, finally, I decided to go with my third choice: Biomantic Mastery. Sure, it can draw you a ton of cards, but how many cards do you really need? Especially after your opponent hits you with a Wit’s End on his next turn. In green, Biomantic Mastery is a more expensive Collective Unconscious and essentially gives you the same effect. In blue, it just plain sucks. But let me be the first to say that Biomantic Mastery is easily the second best seven-mana card-drawing sorcery of all time.
“Wait, if you killed your grandfather, why do you still exist?”
“I don't know. Maybe God loves me.”
This quote is for the best and worst art in Dissension. It fits because I used my best art quotes last time and couldn’t find any other ones to fill in. So how can I continue to judge the art in a set without an appropriate quote to set it up first? Because I want to, that’s how!
Anyway, art in this set ranges from amazingly cool to really freaking stupid. I’ll hit the stupid stuff first. I was considering going with the Simic Signet, which, by now, everyone has realized is just a bar of soap, but that’s too easy. Instead, I’m going to say the worst art in Dissension is found on Walking Archive. I know, the creature is supposed to be a bunch of scrolls, so I can’t hold it against Heather Hudson for painting just that, but man, what a stupid-looking creature! How did someone on the flavor team not stop this idea from going through?
On the flip side, there is some really amazingly cool art in Dissension. I love some of the lands, especially Rakdos Carnarium and Hallowed Fountain. But, my favorite art from the set goes to Macabre Waltz. Ever since I saw the art from this on the spoiler, I couldn’t get it out of my head that it would be the best in the set. It’s awesome! It’s bloody! It’s dark! It’s the sort of artwork I’d love to have hanging in my living room.
“Bachelor chow - Now with flavor!”
Mmmm… flavor. This quote is for the card with the best flavor text. There was a lot of good flavor text in this set, but nothing overwhelmingly spectacular. Some of my favorites include Overrule, Simic Initiate and Tidespout Tyrant. But if I could only pick one, I’d have to go with that on the “fixed” Strip Mine - Ghost Quarter: “Where wasted life cries out to be reborn.” I have a soft spot for short, concise flavor that delivers an easy message and ties well into the mechanic on the card. Ghost Quarter’s flavor text does just that.
“That's the saltiest thing I ever tasted, and I once ate a big heaping bowl of salt.”
Of course, for all the good flavor text that enhances our game, we must also endure the awful flavor text that somehow manages to find its way onto our cards. Here, I’ll have to send out my condolences to Terry Soh, who created an awesome card in Rakdos Augermage, only to have it splattered with extremely stupid quote, “Great minds bleed alike.” That’s not even a good pun nor is it an intentionally bad pun. Is it even a pun? One way or the other, it’s not good.
“The only reason you get all the guys is because you dress like a tramp!”
“They're just responding to my personality.”
That quote’s even funnier if you realize it’s an exchange between two males. Well, actually, it’s a male and a “male” robot. Anyway, I picked this quote because after much deliberation, I decided that I will no longer be judging females featured in Magic card art by their appearance. Instead, I will merely respond to their “personality.” There’s a lot of nice personality in this set. Palliation Accord might suck as a card, but the chick in the art seems to have a great personality. Silkwing Scout and the Azorius Guildmage have great personalities, too, especially for blue chicks. Cytoplast Manipulator seems to be very personable, especially with all the creatures she’s controlling. The woman in Simple (as in half of Pure/Simple) seems to be brimming with personality, but it doesn’t come through well on such tiny art. And, of course, all those Eidolon girls seem to have great personalities on average. But, in my opinion, the best personality belongs to Freewind Equenaut. Nothing shows off a personality more than an armored bikini top.
“Nothing makes you feel more like a man than a Thundercougarfalconbird.”
Now we move on to the card names. A good card name will wrap a card up nicely, putting the mechanic, art, and flavor into one nice tight little bundle. A great card name will go one step further and add its own flair to the card. And my pick here is Macabre Waltz. (I suppose there’s nothing about this card I don’t like.) There’s something about two-word card names, where the two words don’t fit, but somehow do, that really appeals to me. In this case, when I think of Waltz, I think of old people dancing. When I think of Macabre, I think of Goth kids. For some reason, it just sounds right.
“Futurama is brought to you by: Arachnospores! The fatal spore, with the funny name.”
Unfortunately, there are no poorly-named cards that represent fatal spores. But don’t worry, because there’s still some funny names out there. Helium Squirter is pretty ridiculous and unoriginal, but the worst name in the set easily goes to Bronze Bombshell. Ugh. Can we please stop the puns already? Please. Someone needs to start a petition. What kind of a world do we live in where we’re willing to quit playing Magic because the guy that provides our spoilers gets sued, but we continue to endure these awful card names without so much as a peep. It must end.
"Everyone's always in favor of saving Hitler's brain. But when you put it in the body of a great white shark… Oh! Suddenly you've gone too far!”
This quote is for the guild that goes too far – the Simic. I love the way the Simic’s creatures ended up. They’ve combined the beef of green creatures with the evasive skills of blue creatures to create a super-powered army of flyers. Assault Zeppelid, Trygon Predator and Simic Sky Swallower are the type of creatures that define the junction between blue and green. I suppose that’s just the sort of results you get when you’re willing to improve on nature.
“The problem with both parties is that they always want to give your tax dollars to the less fortunate.”
“The less fortunate get all the breaks!”
Tired of the less fortunate getting all the breaks? Well, so is the Azorius Senate. As if blue/white control decks weren’t powerful enough already, the Azorius provide a host of additional possibilities to frustrate your opponent long enough to lock up all their resources and win the game. Take that, the less fortunate!
“One day a man has everything, the next day he blows up a $400 billion space station and the next day he has nothing. It makes you think.”
Sometimes less is more and with the hellbent mechanic, the Rakdos guild takes that idiom to the extreme. Cards in hand? That’s for losers focused on the future. Hellbent is all about killing things now and letting the consequences be damned. There’s no time to think until everyone’s dead.
“I still don't understand why you wouldn't let me graft a laser cannon onto your chest. To crush those who disobey you. But I guess we're just two different people.”
Crushing those who disobey you is a vital strategy in Magic, and the best way to do that is by utilizing the graft mechanic. Perhaps you can’t throw laser cannons onto your creatures, but you can toss around plenty of slimy bluish-greenish balls of goop. Believe it or not, these blobs will make your creatures huge and more powerful.
“TV audiences don't want anything original. They wanna see the same thing they've seen a thousand times before.”
This quote is for the return of two of the Nemesis seals: Seal of Fire and Seal of Doom. They make up two of the three reprinted cards in Dissension (Thrive being the third) and I don’t think anyone’s upset about seeing them again. Of course, it’s not like we’ve seen the seals printed a thousand times before, a la Stone Rain, but anyone who played with them the first time knows how good they can be, if only to psyche out your opponent.
“Alright, bird. You thought you could beat me in a game of wits. But you just met your equal!”
Two of my favorite cards in Dissension are Delirium Skeins and Vision Skeins. I’m a huge fan of mirrored cards and the entire set up of these two cards is brilliant. They tell a story about two mages – one blue and one black – having a battle of minds, using the methods a blue and black mage use. The blue mage seeks knowledge, even if it means imparting knowledge on his opponent while the black mage seeks to harm his opponent, even if it means harming himself in the process. The names, mechanics, art and flavor text all complement each other wonderfully.
“It's up to you to make your own decisions in life. That's what separates people and robots from animals and animal robots.”
It’s time to make some more decisions, the likes of which we haven’t had to make since Invasion block. That’s right, split cards are back! And this time they’re gold! Since the split cards are a bit more confined in usage this time, their effects have gotten a lot cooler. I especially love the uncommon cycle and am extremely excited to play with cards like Hit and Run and Pure and Simple.
“Nothing is impossible. Not if you can imagine it. That's what being is a scientist is all about. “
“No, that's what being a magical elf is all about.”
Man, I’ve just been sitting around waiting for an Elf Wizard to come out so I can use this quote. Now, Dissension comes out and not only is there an Elf Wizard, but he’s also a scientist! Mise! The Simic’s leader, Momir Vig, has the power to create anything that you can imagine, as long as it’s in your deck, of course. And by create, I mean put into your hand, not put into play. Well, I never said he was a good Elf Wizard Scientist.
“I hate the Planet of the Moochers. They take you out for a drink, but when the check comes, their wallet's always in their other pants - which they borrowed from me!”
Do you like mooching off your friends? Then you’ll love the newest creature-stealer in Cytoplast Manipulator. Considering how easy it is to get +1/+1 counters on creatures, it should be loads of fun pumping up your opponent’s stuff and then grabbing it away.
“Being a captain is about intuition and heart. A good captain can't have either one.”
Looking for the perfect leader for your guild? Look no further than Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. If red is the color of emotion, then old Augustin will ensure that we have none of that. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but if you want to slow down your opponent and lead your deck to an efficient victory, then he’s your man.
“The dog's good, but our real competition is the Hypno-Toad.”
A giant toad that can control other creatures? Sounds like Omnibian to me. Yes, I know there’s a difference between a frog and a toad (toads have warts; frogs have boils), but in Magic, all the amphibious frog-like creatures get lumped in one category.
“You find me fascinating, even when I'm not pretending to be a jewel thief or a lion tamer.”
“Lions? You have sea lions on the land?”
“Yep. We call them ‘land-sea lions.’ I tame them.”
Land lions, sea lions, land-sea lions… none of them quite compare to sky lions. For the first time in the history of Magic (or anything else for that matter), we have lions that can fly with Pride of the Clouds. For some reason, this flying pride of lions creates birds instead of flying cats if you use the forecast mechanic, but who cares when you can cast an enormous flying cat later in the game using only one card in your deck?
“I wish they'd just wipe out humanity and get it over with. It's the waiting I can't stand.”
Sick of waiting for humanity to get wiped out? Speed up the process with Kindle the Carnage. Depending on what’s in your hand, you can deal up to 109 damage on your third turn. Not that it will ever happen, but it’s still a possibility.
And that wraps up my third and final installment of my completely unoriginal set reviews. I hope you enjoyed this offbeat look at the new sets of Ravnica block, and maybe even got a few laughs out of it, especially the Futurama fans out there. I really wanted to extend this theme to future sets and blocks, but after spending way too much time working on this one, I’ve decided that I’ll probably stop doing the media quote thing in the future.
Note to my regular reader(s): My wife and I are buying a house and moving this weekend, so I probably won’t have time to submit a new article for next week. Expect to see another combo contest submission, though.