Our fourth and final deck for Time Spiral is one that was guaranteed to be a hit from the moment it was hatched, and has consistently maintained some of the highest value amongst collectors. This was certainly not a coincidence- what better way to get tongues wagging about a new set than to reintroduce a fan favourite? Given the amount of ground that has been covered on the topic of the Sliver tribe, however, we’ll be doing very little backgrounding here today. For those wanting an exhaustive history of Slivers, you’ll find that in our review here. For others who might be curious as to the ‘collector value’ alluded to above, you may want to check out the Precon Buyer’s Guide series at Quiet Speculation. No, today we’ll be focusing on the deck itself, and what it tells us about throttling.
In our last piece, we discussed the care and feeding of Thallids- in addition to a review of their extensive pedigree. We found that the Thallids are like seeds- somewhat insignificant early, but when left unmolested to grow they can become quite sizable indeed! Today we’ll be reviewing the field notes we took while taking them into battle. Playing the part of the opposition is Jimi, who selected a similarly exponential deck- Sliver Evolution. Rather than time, Slivers grow with the addition of their fellows. With two decks having a tight connection to the theme of growth, we were looking forward to seeing the outcome. Here are our notes.
Certainly blessed with one of the sillier names in the precon environment, Fun with Fungus is something rather akin to a Kentucky Derby horse- ridiculous name, but established pedigree, one that hearkens back all the way to 1994’s Fallen Empires. It is there that we shall begin our tale of Thelon of Havenwood and the downfall of the elves.
At the end of the ill-fated Brothers’ War between Mishra and Urza (documented mainly in 1994’s Antiquities expansion), Urza triggered a globally cataclysmic event to wipe out Mishra and the Phyrexians that had corrupted (compleated?) him by triggering the Golgothian Sylex. This precipitated a shift in the global climate, not unlike a nuclear Winter, which would culminate in the onset of an ice age (unsurprisingly, documented in the Ice Age expansion). Although this would have far-reaching consequences- not least in the creation of time rifts which themselves were to become the subject of the Time Spiral expansion- for Fallen Empires, the story was centered on a single, small continent in the Southern Hemisphere (most known places in Magic up to that point, such as Shiv and Benalia, were in the Nothern) known as Sarpadia.
Sarpadia was home to an established and flourishing cluster of civilisations. Humans, Elves, and Merfolk enjoyed structured societies and, yes, there were Goblins too. As the climate change rapidly onset, the crops of the Elves began to fail. One failed crop often means anger and frustration, but not ruin. A succession of them, however, brings on hunger, panic, and desperation, a fertile bed in which even the craziest of ideas can, over time, begin to sound sane. The Elves initially supplemented their diet with fungus found in the region- a sensible enough idea- but it wasn’t adequate to meet their nutritional needs. Something more had to be done, lest the Elvish civilisation collapse under the emptiness of its own stomach.
Enter Thelon of Havenwood.
Time to playtest, and I feel a most excellent gaming experience is in my future. Reality Fracture had all the look of one of the decks I most enjoy when we broke it down and analysed it. It appears to be intricately built around a well-developed theme, and one that isn’t based solely on creature combat.
Of course, the table wouldn’t be set without the introduction of our villain, and playing the role of spoiler is Jimi. She’s selected Fun with Fungus as her deck of choice, a creature deck with a very novel twist- you grow your own army! We sat down for the usual three, and here are our notes.
There’s a scene you might remember from 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure as the film approaches its climax. Having spent the greater part of the movie rounding up the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon, the boys are ready to do their ‘history report’ but run into a little problem- all the historical figures have been arrested and locked up in the San Dimas jail. The clock is ticking, and if they can’t break them out so they can participate in the history report, they’re going to fail with the direst of consequences to follow (military school, etc).
(Outside)Bill: How’d it go?
Ted: Bad. Our historical figures are all locked up and my dad won’t let them out.
Bill: Can we get your dad’s keys?
Ted: Could steal them but he lost them two days ago.
Bill: If only we could go back in time to when he had them and steal them then.
Ted: Well, why can’t we?
Bill: Cause we don’t got time.
Ted: We could do it after the report.
Bill: Ted, good thinking dude. After the report we’ll time travel back to two days ago, steal your dad’s keys, and leave them here.
Bill: I don’t know. How about behind that sign? That way when we get here now, they’ll be waiting for us. (bends down and picks up the keys) See?
Ted: Whoa! Yeah! So after the report we can’t forget to do this, or else it won’t happen. But it did happen! Hey, it was me who stole my dad’s keys!
Bill: Exactly, Ted. Come on. (goes over to the car) Mom?
Bill: Can you please bring the car around back?
Bill: (stands up) Come on, Ted. We’ve got some historical figures to rescue. (source)
If that exchange makes any sense to you, then it’s time to slip on the chronomancer’s shoes and fracture reality. Because while your dad’s keys might not be the same thing as a 6/6 unblockable Kraken, as we’ll see the principles underlying the both of them are not so very different.
Decks aren’t always what they seem. To be certain, you can gain a very good understanding of a deck by breaking it apart and examining the 60 cards that comprise it, but that doesn’t necessarily give you the full understanding of how everything fits together. Candidly, Hope’s Crusaders was the deck I was least enthused about, seeming like a White Weenie deck with a hodgepodge of- surprise- White Weenies. Jimi and I sat down to play last night- she’d selected Reality Fracture to oppose the deck with- and played our ‘friendly.’
The friendly is the first game we play when we begin our reviews. We roll our spindowns to see who has first option for play or draw, then play a match whose results we don’t record. This gives us time to see the deck once, note some of its themes and interactions, and to get a sense of what we’re up against. The friendly has no real affect on our review, aside from both giving us further insight and observation to bring into our writeup, and to determine who chooses play/draw for the start of our first recorded match.
Although we had to break for the night after our friendly (fussy baby), we finished the matches today. Despite my early misgivings, the deck took me entirely by surprise in the friendly, an impression which would only be further reinforced in the matches. Here are the notes from the playtest.
It’s that time again- a new set and a new comment contest! We’ll be handing out a brand-new copy of Reality Fracture, one of the more intriguing of the set’s decks:
Late Summer, 1993.
After spending a little extra time in Burlington, one of my best mates- Pat- returns home on college break, and he’s got something new to show us. We’ve all been part of the same Dungeons and Dragons gaming group for years, and this new fantasy-themed collectible card game, “Magic: the Gathering,” is an instant hit. We sit on the floor for hours upon hours, casting Craw Wurms and Drudge Skeletons, hurling Fireballs and healing up with Streams of Life. Black Vises come down, and creatures get boosted with Blessing. As it happens, the mall’s gaming shop has a box of booster packs for sale, and soon we’re oohing-and-ahhing over exotic and dangerous additions like the Royal Assassin and Mana Short. Someone gets hit with a brutal Mind Twist, and we crowd around the card reading it over. True to form, we keep our new cards secret from each other, reveling in the look on our hapless opponent’s face as we play our nastiest surprises. There’s no collected list of every card- no Player’s Guide, no Gatherer- so the only limit to what’s in those booster packs is our imagination.
I quickly develop a taste for a hundred-card fortress-style Blue/White deck, which hides behind Circles of Protection and cards like Veteran Bodyguard and Karma, sending over a Phantom Monster or Air Elemental for damage. I’m absolutely hooked, and we spend countless hours playing and discussing the game. Arabian Nights, Antiquities, the impossible-to-find Legends… Those were wonderful days. After Legends I’d move away and abandon the game, but the memories would stay with me forever.
Indeed, the game had made such an impression that I would return before long with 1997’s Visions, retiring again in ’99 at the end of Urza Block. A decade later, looking for a new hobby that wasn’t so isolating as World of Warcraft, I dropped into my local gaming store and on a whim bought some Zendikar. The rest, as they say, is history.