September 8, 2006

Magic The Gathering: Time Spiral

TimeSpiralBooster.9.8.06.jpgThe four day week means it's TCG It's Friday again, and guess what! Wizards of the Coast has opened the lid on the latest Magic the Gathering block: Time Spiral.

For those new to Magic - WotC has a tradition of introducing new card blocks in the fall months. The first release sets the theme and contains about 200-300 cards. A smaller expansion then plays off the same theme in the Winter with about 100-200 cards. A final expansion caps it all of in the Spring, just as the crappy weather subsides and the outdoors become welcoming again. Yes, even the Wizards marketing team, of all people, hint that Magic Players should get some sun and fresh air in the summer weather.

Last year Wizards of the Coast shook up the design team a bit, and scored a hit with the block design of Ravnica: City of Guilds. Head Designer Mark Rosewater is also leading the way through the Time Spiral block, but this time he's not constructing an entirely new world from the ground up. Instead, he's revisiting the original Magic The Gathering world of Dominaria. We won't completely dork out on Magic The Gathering source materials, lore, etc, but for those of you who want to catchup on the story so far checkout the article "Time (Spiral) Is On My Side". It will fill you in on just about everything.

So what's new in Dominaria? Well, due to a few explosions at the tin foil mill, and an instant coffeee accident at a microwave factory, a fissure has emerged in the fabric of space time. The past has caught up with the present, the present has folded over the past, and it's raining bionic toads from the future. Total bummer, we know -- those things dent cars. So is there anything good to fall out of this Magic chronological stew?

TimeSpiral.9.8.06.jpgTime Spiral is taking a bold step backwards as it will play host to an all-star group of the game's special abilities and themes from across all blocks. The designers wanted to take a fresh look at multiople aspects of a card game that's been kicking around for ten years. They hope to reinvent some of the the systems that went wrong, and revisit new content for the systems that nailed it perfectly.

For those of you who are shouting "Creative Foul!", we were with you at first. We marked the designers as lazy. But after some reading we realized that the designers have spent a lot of time distilling the entire catalog of Magic to bring you a concentrated look at the very best of the franchise. Think of all of the blocks that have been released since Alpha, and all of the various mechanics tailored for each block. Now take a step back and try to play-balance the very best of them in a mixed hodge podged of mayhem. That's a lot of design work.

The complete official lineup of abilities and creature types still sits behind closed doors, but their slightly translucent doors. As a teaser WotcC has setup another "Magic Orb of Insight" *funky hands* where curious fans can dump their favorite keywords into a search box. The Orb then replies with a number, which represents how many times that keyword appears in the Time Spiral set (the link to the Orb is in the lower right of this page.)

We've noticed that Slivers (a collection of group-buffing snake like bastages) will make their biggest showing since their introduction in the Rath cycle. And from the article "Overseer, Overboard" we know that the Shadow ability makes a comeback, which will hopefully be a bit more balanced this time around. We've also found a few hits in the orb by plugging some of our own favorite keywords from yesteryear: "Mercenary", "Flanking", TimeSpiral.9.8.06a.jpg"Buyback" , "Flashback" , "Madnesss", "Phantom", "Echo", and "Morph" will all play some part in Time Spiral

We're happy to report that the abilities "snow-covered" (and "snow covered"), "phasing", and "banding" generate absolutely no results from the Orb. Zilch. None. Thank you designers!

To sum up the intended direction of Time Spiral, head designer Mark Rosewater has written a great article, "Blast from the Past" which runs through the process that the designers have used to recycle older themes into the Time Spiral block. Mark has always written great overarching design stuff which let's us peek into the laboratories of Magic design team, and it sounds like they have some very thoughtful things coming down the pipe for us this fall.

Time Spiral is set to debut on September 23rd during a world wide prerelease event. Only then will we know for sure if all of these mechanics actually work together and are fun to play. We'll keep you posted on any more juicy details as we get closer to the full fledged release.

Read More in: Collectable Card Games | Gaming News

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at September 8, 2006 3:02 PM

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