As we launch ourselves into the second week of official
previews for Magic Origins, it’s a
good time to actually reflect on what this set is about. Obviously, the biggest
selling point is that this set looks at the origin stories for five of Magic’s planeswalkers: Gideon, Jace,
Liliana, Chandra, and Nissa. But it’s not just about where they got started,
but also about how they grew up into the movers-and-shakers we know them to be.
Chandra started out barely able to control her pyromancy.
She would later unleash a blast of ghostfire so powerful it helped unleash the
Eldrazi. Jace accidentally crushed a classmate’s mind, but now he sits as the
Living Guildpact. Magic Origins is
just as much about growth as it is about beginnings.
Unlike past core sets, Magic Origins introduces two brand-new mechanics that play into
this idea of personal growth. Today I’ll be taking a look at each of them and
talking about how and why they’re great for this set.
Look What I Did,
Renown is the first of these new mechanics and the one
that appears on creatures. Renown appears as Renown N. Whenever a creature with
renown deals combat damage to an opponent, it gets N +1/+1 counters and becomes
Becoming renowned is like becoming monstrous in that the
quality doesn’t change if the creature later loses its +1/+1 counters. Also,
getting other +1/+1 counters doesn’t make a creature renowned. Finally, a creature
card that leaves the battlefield but returns later will lose its renowned
status; the game sees it as a brand-new creature.
So what’s going on here with renown’s flavor? Remember
that Magic Origins is about
discovering your true power and growing in your ability as a warrior. Creatures
with renown are going through this experience too. Your Rhox Maulers are mighty
warriors, but once they’ve proven themselves in battle they become true heroes.
They are no longer just any run-of-the-mill Rhox Maulers. They have been
tempered in the heat of battle and emerged greater than ever.
Some creatures even have abilities that trigger when they
become renowned or gain new abilities so long as they are renowned. There are
even spells that will give extra benefits to creatures that are renowned.
Maturation isn’t without rewards. Prove yourself in service of your summoner
and it will open the doors of future opportunity.
So what does renown do for the game mechanically (with Magic Origins limited in mind)?
Abilities that trigger off of attacking or dealing damage are great for the
tempo of the game. These kinds of abilities incentivize turning your guys
sideways, keeping the game moving to its conclusion. It also (sneakily) helps
balance the early- and late-game power of decks. While your renowned creature
is generally small in the early turns, it’s not a totally dead draw later in
the game either. Get a late-game renowned creature to connect with your
opponent and they’re suddenly faced with a much larger threat to deal with.
I, for one, am very excited about the potential of
renown. It combos great with evasion abilities like flying, trample, and
menace. This opens up deck building strategies that presents new players with a
little minigame: how do I get my renowned creature to connect with my opponent’s
face? The veteran players who already know the ins-and-outs of combat will be
able to delve into the synergy and mind games that this mechanic can support. A
win for everyone!
Master of Your
Well, a win for the people who like creatures. More of an
instant-and-sorcery fan? Magic Origins
has a mechanic for you too! Spell mastery is an ability word that appears on
instants and sorceries across all five colors. Like all ability words, there
isn’t a concrete mechanical effect on the spell it resides on. Some spells get
additional effects. Some spells get augmented effects. What ties them all
together is that they get better when you already have two or more instant
and/or sorcery cards in your graveyard.
Flavorfully, the theme here is “practice makes perfect.”
You’re a planeswalker mage, and learning to cast spells with your newfound
powers is difficult. But the more you try, the better you get. A young fire
mage might only be able to get 2 damage out of a Fiery Impulse, but an
experienced pyromancer can push it up to 3 damage. Cast enough spells and soon
your enemies will have no choice but to recognize you as a master.
Like renown, spell mastery plays an important role in
limited. They pull in opposite directions; renown wants you to play lots of
creatures, but spell mastery wants you to play lots of instants and sorceries.
This tension provides some basic foundations for archetypes like aggro,
control, and tempo. If you’re drafting an aggro deck, you may pass on a spell
mastery card. That card can end up wheeling to the person drafting the control
Like renown encouraging you to attack, spell mastery
encourages you to cast the cards in your hand and play proactively. It’s a mechanic
that rewards you for playing exciting, interactive games of Magic. More specifically, spell mastery
works similarly to renown in that it provides two power level states for the
cards. They’re good cards when you play them alone, but drawing them later in
the game adds to their value instead of rendering them “dead” draws (really
more like weaker draws here).
My feelings on spell mastery are pretty similar to my
feelings on renown, sans learning experience. I think newer players will tend
to hold onto their spell mastery cards until they can reap the benefit (a
common trend with threshold effects). More experienced players will better know
when to get the value out of your spell. This isn’t so much a learning
experience for newer players so much as it’s a vault of secret knowledge that
veterans have access to.
They Grow Up So
I’m a big fan of both renown and spell mastery. I’m sure
that I’ll be an even bigger fan when I get to play with them. Both mechanics
tie into Magic Origins’s theme of
growth and maturation. They also each incentivize playing your spells and
attacking with your creatures in order to finish the game.
Until we get to play with these cards ourselves,
planeswalkers, may each step you take today lead you down the path of a greater