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January 5, 2011

8

Worldwake: Mysterious Realms Review (Part 1 of 2)

by Dredd77

We open our set review today with the story of Ken, because in some ways, the story of Worldwake is the story of Ken. Ken was a system software engineer from Hunstsville, Alabama, and Ken loved Magic. A self-described casual player, he was particularly enamoured of enormous Green beaters, and about once a month even managed to have an article published on Star City Games. Then, in 2006, Ken’s life was changed in a way so few of us have had the good fortune to experience. Ken (almost) landed his Dream Job.

The Great Designer Search launched by Wizards of the Coast was like the lighting of a signal beacon. Those who had toiled in obscurity, designing their own card sets or just playing the game in their free time, now had the chance to stand and be recognised by the company producing the game they loved. Ken wrote of it this way:

It’s absolutely crazy – there’s a non-zero chance I could be designing real Magic cards this coming January 2007. My vision blurs every time I think about it… If I survive, I do this against next week, and the next week, and every week… until I’m cut. I do all this and more because one man holds in his hands a priceless gift… and he tells me it could be mine. Maybe The Great Designer Search means nothing to you. It means almost everything to me.

Ken endured the grueling gauntlet that was the Great Designer Search, making the cut to the finalists, then making it all the way to the Top Three. His dream was nearly in his hands. The cream of the crop were flown out to Renton, Washington, to be guests of Wizards of the Coast. There they were subjected to a series of interviews by Wizards staff called “The Gauntlet,” then put through one final design challenge. Then they were sent back to their hotels, to give Wizards some time to discuss and declare a winner. At last they did, and you know what?

It wasn’t Ken.

To have come so close- beating out over a thousand rivals- only to fall short was undoubtedly of little consolation to Ken. But if this was where the story ended, why, you wouldn’t be reading it here. You see, something interesting happened on the way to making the announcement- Wizards realised what an opportunity they had on their hands. Why bring one talented mind on board when you could bring three? Alexis Janson scored the coveted design internship, sure, but there were other opportunities to be had. Graeme Hopkins (the other finalist) was offered a place in digital design, and Ken given a more generalist’s ‘trading card game designer internship.’ This mainly landed him in the realm of Duel Masters, but there’s a funny thing about working in such close proximity to Magic. Sooner or later, if you’re patient and do well… you get your chance to step up and be a part of it.

Ken’s call from the minors (no offense to Duel Masters fans, which I am sure is a fine game) came when Mark Rosewater asked him to be a part of the design team for the set which became 2008’s Morningtide, and Ken obviously made an impression. Two sets later (Eventide), he was back at it again, this time acting both as designer and developer. And it took off from there. He helped design Shards of Alara, Conflux, and Zendikar, assisted with development of Magic 2011, and finally arrived when he was asked to lead the design for a new set.

You guessed it- Worldwake. Quite a journey from hammering code in Hunstville, and that journey brings us to where we are today, reviewing the preconstructed fruits of Ken’s labours.

The Longer the Journey…

Mysterious Realms is a Blue/Green deck that looks to take advantage ofthe block’s Landfall mechanic, and finds some clever ways to do so. It is in some ways a continuation of Unstable Terrain, which was Zendikar’s Blue/Green landfall deck. Indeed, Realms almost reads like a ‘sequel’ of sorts, and so it is worth taking a moment to revisit the original. Here’s what we had to say then:

Unstable Terrain may not be the flashiest preconstructed deck of the set, nor the most powerful (those designations go to The Adventurers and Rise of the Vampires both), but you might consider it a ‘solid role player.’ That role, of course, is to showcase Landfall, and it does so superbly.

That’s not to say it didn’t have its flaws. The expensive back-end of the deck and lack of any consistent way to get there outside of Land drops meant that at times I was holding useless cards in hand. In addition, some of the spell support was lacking, in particular the removal. Any deck that does the bulk of its work in the red zone such as this one needs to have a reliable way to remove obstacles that get in its way. Paralyzing Grasps were decently received, and the versatility of Unsummon can mitigate the fact that it’s not true removal, but overall it came up somewhat short. Overall, though, the creatures are well-selected for showing off Landfall, with only a couple minor duds (mainly the Coral Merfolk), and the deck is a lot of fun to play.

Hits: Excellent Landfall theme heavily supported by Creatures; decent balance of evasive and nonevasive beaters; deck follows a steady mana curve

Misses: Top of curve a little heavy without consistent ramp support; spell selection a little threadbare; tepid removal suite; singleton Harrow a missed opportunity

So what has changed, and what has remained the same?

…the More One Learns

Realms is perhaps just a touch less aggressive than its predecessor, but still has plenty of bite. It’s kept the Coral Merfolk as your early drop, as well as the Merfolk Wayfinder (for occasional land grabs), as well as landfall-empowered beaters Territorial Baloth, Living Tsunami, and Baloth Woodcrasher. Again it’s worth noting that the Tsunami’s supposed drawback is of huge benefit here. Although it stalls your land development, it’s a guaranteed landfall trigger every round. Plus, Worldwake has given access to a nifty trick that Unstable Terrain would have loved: a pair of Halimar Depths. Having the Tsunami bouncing the Depths can be a tremendous shot in the arm. Lastly, the Frontier Guide is a virtual auto-include in this sort of deck.

The remaining faces are all new. The twin Calcite Snappers offer early defense along with very opportunistic offensive bursts- look for them to often have a chilling effect on aggressive play by your opponent. A Walking Atlas allows for some instant-speed landfall trickery, as well as a way around the board-stall that land-bouncing can often cause you (Living Tsunami, Vapor Snare).

Finally, there’s a defensive utility critter in the Tideforce Elemental, and two more beaters in the (somewhat overcosted) Hedron Rover and the deck’s alpha closer, the Goliath Sphinx. This Sphinx is quite a bit more expensive than Unstable Terrain’s finisher, Sphinx of Jwar Isle, and while bigger is far more vulnerable. Seven mana means that even if you did have countermagic in hand (which you won’t here), you could hardly cast the Goliath model with counter protection against removal. It’s not that the Goliath is a terrible card- it’s not, and will often win games against removal-light precons- it’s just that the Jwar Isle version is far better (and even has seen Constructed play).

The Wind Smells of Misfortune

Mysterious Realms is a touch less creature-heavy than Unstable Terrain, which packed in 15 creatures. Realms boasts only 12, but this rises to 14 when you count the Wind Zendikons. Still, it’s much more tightly focused- and useful.

We’ll get the one worthless inclusion out of the way first: Telepathy. Never the best of options, it still could claim some utility when your deck included countermagic. In a deck without it, it’s as close as a dead draw as you’ll find.

The rest can be divided into two categories, both of them most welcome: card drawing and removal.

For extra cards, you have a pair of Treasure Hunts to rely on, which are perfect here. At worst a two-mana cycle, they can often net you more than one card and in a landfall deck, extra land is always useful! There’s also a Mysteries of the Deep, and the deck’s other rare: Seer’s Sundial. The Sundial can be quite conditional- draw it too early and it sits in your hand, too late and you hardly get much mileage out of it- but in that midgame sweet spot it can be a beautiful engine.

The deck’s removal is about the same as its earlier incarnation. Rather than an Unsummon, two Paralyzing Grasps and a Mind Control, you have an Aether Tradewinds, two Paralyzing Grasps and a Vapor Snare. Tradewinds is much more useful here, as it is not restricted to creatures, carries double duty (bouncing two permanents), and is another way to get land back to be replayed, although to be fair it’s also three times as expensive.

By way of conclusion, here are the mana curves for the deck:

Overall, Mysterious Realms seems to be the rare sequel looks to improve upon its predecessor. That’s not to say it’s an all-around upgrade, particularly with the bomb closers and the retained back-heavy curve, but more like one that nips here and tucks there. It will remain to be seen how it conducts itself on the battlefield, though, and we’ll be taking it into action in the next part of the review. See you then!

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Read more from Worldwake, Zendikar Block
8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Stric9 (aka Steve)
    Jan 5 2011

    Eh… I own this deck and it never seems to win. I’ve even tweaked it and the mechanics are still weak. I think it will rate and perform the way it did in the battle royale from a week ago.

    Reply
  2. web8970
    Jan 5 2011

    Landfall is an ability that would have definitely deserved more exploring by precons. Alas, this mechanic fell right into that miserable 40-card-precon period. Therefore what was left is just a mere hint of what Landfall would be capable of. While the Sphinx is a nice beater that wins games once it survives a turn, it’s addition to this deck seems uncharitable as it contributes absolutely nothing in terms of flavor or synergy …

    So, the only mysterious thing about those realms is the reason for additions of that Coral Merfolk …

    Reply
    • Jan 7 2011

      Zen block overall just let us down. I’d have loved a Quest-based deck, or one with a higher amount of Traps. As far as being a showcase for mechanics, Zendikar did a very poor job indeed.

      Reply
  3. Icehawk
    Jan 6 2011

    Landfall is a fun ability. Ob Nixilis is so fun to play in my demon deck. Always serves the cause well.

    Reply

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