Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Theros to Dragons of Tarkir

Note: This is part 2 of a 5 part series.

Introduction

I’ve already explained the rationale behind this series of articles in the previous article, found here. Picking up that thread, Return to Ravnica got me back into the game and Scars of Mirrodin and ultimately Innistrad cemented my interest in the game. Theros and Tarkir made me fall in love with the game. Both of my recent prereleases were attended for these sets. Chris and I fed each other’s addictions. It’s always during those times that our interest in the game is the strongest and this was no different.

Theros Block

Core Set 2014 – 2011 was Titans. 2012 was Mages. 2014, well 2014 holds a special place in my heart. Sure, a big, dumb 6/6 that let’s you rez your little dummies is fun (Sun Titan) and a tiny dummy that can summon you an army of even tinier dummies (Jade Mage) are both fun, but what if all of your dummies could work together? 2014 introduced me to slivers and what has become a life long quest to make slivers work in a deck.

I never got it to work consistently, but I did bother Chris one game with this guy and a few of the plus one guys. And, we all know that bothering Chris is my favorite MtG mini game.

Theros: This is awesome. A couple of blocks ago, I got gothic horror for my MtG experience. This time, I’m getting ancient Greek and Roman lore. I studied math and philosophy in college. My wife studied classic as part of her education degree. We went to Greece for a vacation to celebrate her graduation. This set speaks to me on a primal level. As an added bonus, this is about the time that I actually started to think about Magic as a strategy game. With mechanics like heroic and monstrosity, I could no longer ignore the siren’s call of synergy.

Born of the Gods: Just like the previous two blocks, the middle set was the smallest of the three. Also, like my previous looks back in those blocks, I was smart and I saved some to talk about for the smallest set that might not have that much to discuss. In reality, I just forgot about them in the previous section, so I’ll talk about them here. First, I forgot to mention “Bestow”, a mechanic that allows you to cast a creature as an Aura, which then detaches and becomes a creature again when the creature it attached to dies. Makes perfect sense, right? Nope, I explained it poorly. See Nyxborn Eidolon for some cool art and an example. Finally, what is a Greek themed set without gods?

Mogis is probably my favorite from this set. Still trying to make a deck work around him.

Journey into Nyx: Cripes, I forgot another mechanic in the last set as I was trying to make up for missing the earlier two mechanics. Inspire triggers whenever the creature untaps. Satyr Nyx-Smith is a neat example and it leads me right into the mechanic of this set. Strive lets you cast multiple copies of a spell and choose different targets for each copy. Ajani’s Presence always teased me as a possibility for a heroic deck, but the Strive cost is a bit too steep for an aggro deck. Probably by design, I imagine. We are still a set off from creating game breaking cards. Spoiler Alert. This set also contains my favorite card from the block and scry engine for my empires deck that I talked about in the last article, Sigiled Starfish.

Tarkir Block

Core Set 2015: Through it all, trying to remember everything, and I still forgot Chris’s favorite mechanic from the set, Constellation. Well, I was trying to be true to my with the game and constellation never spoke to me. So, what cool stuff is in 2015? Not much, which is why I took up space mentioning constellation. I mean, it does have probably the best named card ever, Hot Soup, and Waste Not, which was designed by the MtG community. And sure, Sliver Hivelord is pretty cool, too. Other than that, it was a pretty standard set and right about when I started to tire of Core sets.

It seems like I wasn’t the only one who was tired of them, either, because Wizards announced that Origins would be the last core set and later reversed that decision. But that’s in the next part.

Khans of Tarkir: My other prerelease came during this set. I brought the boys along for this one because I always want to include them in the things that I enjoy. That proved to be a bit of a mistake because they were a bit too young for what ended up being a much longer day than expected. I also chose poorly for my prerelase kit and went against my nature with Mardu. Both the clan and the cards were telling me to go aggro and I tried control. It met with failure. I lost the first two games and then Aiden wanted to leave, so we dropped. It was so miserable that we haven’t been back. That’s not entirely true. The last part is true, but it’s not necessarily because of this experience. It’s just that life gets busy.

Fate Reforged: I don’t remember exactly what was happening during this set. It was right around the time that I had one of my breaks from the game. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in the set. I actually loved the story that was being told about time travel and bringing the Dragons back to the plane. I’m not usually a fan of time travel, but when dragons are involved, I will temper my skepticism with some healthy, “Awesome!”

And it paved the way for them to print one of my favorite cards ever.

Dragons of Tarkir: I was back in the game by the time this one rolled around. Maybe it was just the business of the new semester that kept me away for Fate Reforged? I know for a fact that I was back in for Dragons. I remember that I wrote an article about attending the prerelease with my kids and decided against it. The set, though, was so much fun.  When you put dragons in the name of a set, you had better come with the dragons. It is not a stretch to say, “Here there be dragons” in Tarkir anymore.

The Verdict

Theros was an undeniable flavor win. The ancient Greek lore spoke to the math, philosophy, and classics nerd in me. Besides that, we had fun playing the block. While looking through the set to write this article, I texted Chris, “Theros was just a solid block.” He agreed and we talked about how much fun it was. I then, as I often do, speculated how much fun it would have been to draft the set. Granted, I did a prerelease, but drafts are a completely different strategy. Who knows? Maybe one of these days I will put together a Theros block cube with all of my spare cards.

I had a different reaction to Tarkir. It focused on multicolor like Return to Ravnica. Unlike Ravnica, the clans were three color instead of two color. Having never played during Alara, the concept of three color decks intrigued me. I also learned a great bit about the MtG color wheel. The three colors of Alara were three allied colors while the three colors of Tarkir were two allied colors and one enemy color. That all changed when the dragons came back, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Up next is the end of core sets. Is it really, though? We also take a trip back to some recent planes before going to 3 new and exciting ones. The final part will talk about the set that took us all the way back to the beginning and set the stage for the Return to the Return to Ravnica. Be sure to keep reading and I hope these articles are bringing back as many great memories for you as they have for me.

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