This is it- our final game for Project Mirage Block. At last, our top-to-bottom analysis of the MTGO-based Theme Decks of Mirage, Visions, and Weatherlight can conclude after two months, and it has been some adventure! From exploring the history of MTGO and the decision to release previously out-of-print sets in electronic format, to building a world in a “dark continent” setting, we’ve really enjoyed seeing where the journey has taken us. We hope you have as well.
To see things off, we’ve got the final matchup ready to go, and Sam has the honour of serving as the spoiler to the party. Wielding the mono-Red Fiery Fury, she’s ready to stop the beat of the jungle with my Red/Green stompy deck Gatecrasher.
What better place to end our trip through the Theme Decks of Mirage block than in the jungle? It’s been a long trek through the sultry, buzzing, chattering jungles of Jamuraa these past couple of months, and at last we’re about to come out the other side. These decks occupy a unique place in the landscape of Magic: the Gathering. It’s not that we haven’t seen exclusive, Magic: the Gathering Online-only decks before- indeed as recently as last year Wizards held a contest to design an MTGO-only release of Phyrexians vs Mirrans, and they have also released a pair of “Legacy Theme Decks.” But this was the first- and notably last- time you saw preconstructed decks released for a set that didn’t initially launch with them in paper form.
Sam takes a turn at the table to see if she can take down Dead and Alive, the graveyard-based Theme Deck from the graveyard-based Weatherlight. Before her lies Air Forces, a Blue/White skies deck with a difference- lots of tricksy utility and surprise creatures. Will it be enough to send my mono-Black deck to a more permanent rest?
As we continue our coverage of Project Mirage Block and the theme decks of Weatherlight, it’s worth noting that we’re sandwiched right in the very heart of Innistrad block, a set which can look at a deck like Dead and Alive and recognise a sort of descent from lineage. Although the block veers off in a different direction with the onset of Avacyn Restored, which sees the triumph of goodness and light over the darker and more sinister entities of the benighted plane, both Innistrad proper as well as Dark Ascension played heavily in the graveyard as source of mechanical identity.
Fiery Fury has one of the most potent and unrestrained removal suites of any deck we’ve ever reviewed. Coupled with a lot of hasty creatures, it makes for a tremendously aggressive cocktail in a mono-Red framework. Of course, even the best-laid plans never survive first contact with the enemy, so to get a true idea of the deck’s capabilities we’d need to pit it against another. Jimi volunteered to be in the hot seat (ha!), and she chose the mono-Black graveyard deck Dead and Alive.
In January of 2009, Mark Rosewater of Wizards R&D devoted his weekly column on the mothership to a feature called “Nuts & Bolts.” Ordinarily, Making Magic tends to discuss how different aspects of the game come about: how certain cards come into being, how themes and mechanics found their way into certain sets, colour pie considerations, and so on. But this time, Rosewater decided to delve a little deeper into the design process, and do a column on the actual methodology R&D uses to create Magic sets. It was a bit of a risk- the feature was about “card numbering” in the internal playtesting card mockups. Narrow and specialised, yes, but like most any other aspect of the game of Magic there is a segment of the player base that takes great interest in the actual process of development.
It’s our opening match for Weatherlight as we’ve rounded the bend on Project Mirage Block. Joining me at the table today is Jimi, who is braving back spasms to make sure the decks get tested and shipped on-time. Assisting her endeavour is Gatecrasher, Weatherlight’s Green/Red beats deck, and here’s how the afternoon unfolded.
In our last installment of Project Mirage Block, we looked at the story of Jamuraa that was spun around the framework of cards provided by the Menagerie set. It was a story of intrigue and betrayal in the wake of the mysterious disappearance of the planeswalker, Teferi, that set the continent at war. Kaervek is in his ascendancy, having swayed Jolrael to his cause and trapped Mangara in an Amber Prison. He is well on the path of achieving his ultimate ambition- mastery over all of Jamuraa.
It’s our last foray in Visions as we prepare to move on to the next set, and so far it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Will Savage Stompdown emulate the excellence of Unnatural Forces, or will be staring at another misfit deck along the lines of Wild-Eyed Frenzy? To find out, Jimi grabbed Unnatural Forces and we set about to battle.
It’s our final visit to Visions, which means that we’ll soon be taking our leave of the world of Menagerie. As we’ve covered before, both Mirage and Visions were initially concepted as a single set of cards from a faction of Magic’s original playtesting groups. As it was refined with an eye towards development and release, it then was broken down into two sets. It was at this time that Wizards established the “block structure” of one large set followed by two smaller ones, and we would soon find Weatherlight grafted on to complete the Mirage block.