Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Three-Color Amonkhet and Dominaria Return

Deep Analysis by Jesper Ejsing

Disclaimer: this is a speculation/prediction blog post on yet-to-be-released Magic: The Gathering products (as of the time of this writing). This was published before the Spring 2017 Announcement Day (March 31st, 2017). I have not obtained access to any sort of leaked information regarding Amonkhet or products releasing after Amonkhet. If something like this doesn't interest you, I wouldn't recommend reading further.

Too Long, Didn't Read

For those who want to get right into the good stuff, here's the list of predictions I'm making:
  • Amonkhet will have three-color arc (shard) Gods
  • Multicolor Traps and Curses will debut in Amonkhet
  • Amonkhet will have Magic's first Naya-colored planeswalker
  • Amonkhet will have a Simic-colored Nissa
  • Garruk will return in Hour of Devastation
  • Amonkhet block's Masterpiece Series will feature gold cards
  • Duel Decks: Ajani vs. Tezzeret will release in the Fall
  • Commander 2017 will be five decks of two-color ally combinations
  • The Fall block will take place somewhere in Dominaria
  • The third Un-set will either release in August 2017 or sometime in 2018 or 2019
    • NOTE: If the third Un-set product will be releasing sometime between Spring 2017 and Spring 2018, then the announcement of the third Un-set may be on either March 31st, 2017 or April 1st, 2017
No predictions attempted for:
  • From the Vault series
  • Masters series (Modern Masters, Eternal Masters, Vintage Masters)
Read further for details on how I arrived at the predictions:

Three-Color Arc (Shard) Gods

Amonkhet marketing material mentions five trials of the five gods. Five means color factions. Gods means return of God creature type. We need something new for Gods. We need three-color Gods.

We just had four-color cards in Commander 2016. And monocolored and two-color Gods have already been done. This leaves three colors. Khans of Tarkir was more recent than Shards of Alara. Best to do Shards of Alara's arc colors.

I also arrived at this conclusion from three other vantage points: studying the art of the Gods, the marketing material regarding the trials of the five gods, and the booster packaging for Amonkhet.

For the packaging, a large set normally has five different types of art on booster packs. Amonkhet is no different. Usually, three of the five booster packs feature planeswalkers that will be in the set (An exception to this was featuring Elspeth and two gods for Theros packs).

But the hard(er) exception to the three-planeswalkers-out-of-five-booster-pack-wrappings is when there are five factions featured for the set. Return to Ravnica and Khans of Tarkir were five-faction sets that contained five different booster wrappings. When it comes to this case, non-planeswalkers are chosen for the booster pack depictions, one for each faction. When we look at Amonkhet's booster pack wrappings, this seems to be the case, supporting the claim for five factions for Amonkhet (in this case, five three-color arc factions).

Then there's the art of the five gods that have been released gives some clues. Studying the art for each of these gods reveals the kind of colors associated with these gods. Usually, art for a card tends to use colors or depictions within the art that tie themselves toward the color(s) of the card itself. Usually.

Let's take a look at them:

The Bird God is the one floating highest in the sky. Flying is attributed toward white and blue most of all. But black has flying at third. The colors of the background show whiteness to the clouds, and blue hues overall. But also some heavy shadows, to indicate some black mana.

As for Birds, most of them are marked for white, blue, then black.

This is an Esper-colored God.

The Cat God has the most troublesome art. There's not much greenery going on in any of the God art. There's a bit for the Snake God. And the art in this shows some black going on. And there's mummies. White-aligned zombies? Anyway, other vantage points clue me in to the decision to mark this as a Naya-colored God. For example, Cats are most prominent in red, green, and white. Another push toward Naya. Lastly, the top three colors for Archers (there's a bow wielded by this Cat God) is white, green, and red (red narrowly defeats blue and black).

Finally, there have been art that uses colors or depictions that you wouldn't think tie themselves toward the color(s) of the card the art is for. An example is Athreos, God of Passage. There isn't much that leads me to believe Athreos is a white god in terms of colors used (the blindfold it has gives the sense of white).  There's so much green color. You might also think it's a mono-black God, if not a Golgari-colored God.

The Crocodile God depicts zombies, yo. Some dark ones. And there's a huge overcast. There's some black mana going on here. There's a red dusk color. Red.

Crocodiles are mostly in green. Combine all these factors together, and you get a Jund-colored God.

The Hound God. Or, the "Jackal", most famous for being a God of Death. Appropriately, this is the darkest-colored piece of art. Lots of shadow intensity. There's also a red dusk color prominent in the art. Yet, some blue is coloring the sky to make some purple look as well. With black being the center for death, this makes sense as the Grixis God.

Interestingly, the creature type association here doesn't hold up for Hounds. There's only one blue Hound, and that was a bend to make it a part of a cycle of Hounds.

Laslty, the Snake God. This one is the brightest-hued of them all, leading me to believe that there is no black color in this. There's a waterfall. Blue. But Snakes are mostly green. Its organized command over the smaller guys has a sense of order and structure that white likes. This God is Bant-colored.

Lastly, there's the marketing material for the Trials of the Five Gods. The five trials are: Solidarity, Knowledge, Ambition, Strength, and Zeal.
Here's the breakdown I have:
  • Snake God of Solidarity: Green, White, Blue
  • Bird God of Knowledge: White, Blue, Black
  • Hound God of Ambition: Blue, Black, Red
  • Crocodile God of Strength: Black, Red, Green
  • Cat God of Zeal: Red, Green, White
For Solidarity, I tied it to the Snake God because the card Solidarity is centered in white. But also that it seems to be standing together with its followers.

Zeal is most found in red and white. You get passionate about doing what's right, whether it's breaking free of the rigidity of law or enforcing order to prevent reckless negative infliction toward society. When you pair red and white, you can get green to meet in the middle. And when you have white, red, and green, you can have Cats. Or Archers. Tied to the Cat God then.

One way to attain strength is to collect in high numbers. That's what the Crocodile God is doing. And black values attaining strength, red using strength to solve problems, and green's natural "survival of the fittest". Strength belongs to Jund. It belongs to the Crocodile God.

The pursuit of knowledge can often be a solitary endeavor, especially as you attain higher and higher amounts of knowledge - you get less peers. The Bird God is far and away from its followers, seemingly in a state of philosophizing. Besides, blue is THE color for knowledge, which is the central color for the Esper-colored Bird God.

Lastly, we get Ambition. Black has ambition. The Hound God is most tied toward black. But, also, incidentally, for Theros - there was a similar marketing campaign, for the monocolored Gods of that world. And the black color's association? Ambition. Seeing as the Grixis Hound God has its central color in black, this one's a shoo-in.

Multi-Color Traps and Curses

Traps! Those debuted in the original Zendikar block.
Curses! Those debuted in the original Innistrad block.

So, why wheren't those brought back in the retun to the worlds of Zendikar and Innistrad? Well, besides only focusing on what was best and most memorable of the original blocks and cutting the rest (which is an important thing to do, especially when you wanna include new stuff and twists), not including Curses and Traps means you can save them for another appropriate time.

Pop culture Egyptian mythology includes traps that guard the tombs of dead kings. But also curses that can befall upon peoples. Amonkhet would be great for those to return to Magic. After all, there are TRIALS that the denizens of this plane train their whole lives for. It could be that the challenges involve traps and curses.

But what fresh twist can we do to make Traps and Curses exciting? Ah. Every Curse and Tap has been monocolored so far. Gold Traps and Curses it is!

The First Naya-Colored Planeswalker

Whenever we move to a plane focused on multicolor, it's an opportunity to have an abundance of multicolor planeswalkers. Shards of Alara block had its first Grixis planeswalker and a then a couple multicolor ones. Return to Ravnica block had Vraska, Domri Rade, and Ral Zarek. Khans of Tarkir is a little weird in that it wasn't designed to be a multicolor block. Even then, we got a Temur-colored Sarkhan Vol. As a surprise, Tamiyo became Bant-colored, which fills in yet more of the missing three-color combos for planeswalkers. And then there's this block.

When doing a three-color-focused set, we have a strong opportunity for this. Hour of Devastation will already have Nicol Bolas. And I feel having one three-color planeswalker per set of Amonkhet block would be best. So, Amonkhet - but why Naya?

I think the colors most far and away from Grixis would be good, to balance out colors across planeswalkers in the block. But also a focus on what HASN'T been done before. We're not doing wedge colors. Tamiyo did Bant. And Esper and Jund are both too close to Bolas' Grixis colors. That leaves Naya.

NOTE: When I say Naya-colored planeswalker, I just mean red, green white. Not from Naya. Though, it definitely is possible to have a planeswalker from Naya (see: Tamiyo)

Simic-Colored Nissa

When viewing the planeswalkers in any one particular block, the colors tend to try to be evenly divided across the colors. Gideon being white and Liliana being black, along with Nicol bolas being black, red, and blue. And when you take into account the Naya planeswalker mentioned above, you get the following for the number of colors represented:

White: 2
Blue: 2
Black: 2
Red: 2
Green: 1

There's some room for green for the remaining two planeswalkers. Now, let's look at something else:

If you look at each two-color combination and associate it with the most recent planeswalker card of that two-color combination,  you get this:

GREEN WHITE: Ajani (Aether Revolt, 1 set ago)
WHITE BLUE: Dovin (Kaladesh, 2 sets ago)
BLUE BLACK: Tezzeret (Aether Revolt, 1 set ago)
BLACK RED: Daretti (Conspiracy 2, 3 sets ago)
RED GREEN: Arlinn (Shadows over Innistrad, 5 sets ago)
GREEN BLUE: Kiora (Battle for Zendikar, 5 sets ago)
WHITE BLACK: Kaya (Conspiracy 2, 3 sets ago)
BLUE RED: Saheeli (Kaladesh, 2 sets ago)
BLACK GREEN: Garruk (Magic 2015, FOREVER AGO)
RED WHITE: Nahiri (Shadows Over Innistrad, 5 sets ago)

Now, you notice that a Golgari-colored planeswalker is the one that most needs a new planeswalker card. As it so happens, I'm predicting Garruk will come back, so more on that in the next section. That leaves Simic-colored planeswalker being due for a new card. And, in this case, Kiora is the only planeswalker to be Simic-colored. At least Vraska keeps Garruk company.

We need another planeswalker character to join the ranks of Simic. Could be a new character or an existing character getting a touch of blue, at least perhaps temporarily (see: Bant Tamiyo).

With Bant colors already done with Tamiyo recently, it's clear that a new Simic-colored walker is the way to go, which would still slot into Bant-colored decks just fine.

So, my guess is that Nissa will return but in Simic colors.

Garruk Returns in Hour of Devastation

Garruk the Slayer by Brad Rigney

Garruk's been away in the story a while. He's not dead. But he hunts planeswalkers. The most powerful ones. And who is more powerful than Nicol Bolas? Also, black-green needs a new planeswalker card. Lastly - who else is on Amonkhet besides the most powerful planeswalker? Liliana.

Recently, there's been a trend of four planeswalkers in the large set and two planeswalkers in the small set. The two in the small set tend to be related toward the main plotline. The large set has the most room for planeswalkers involved in a side plot. Since the new Simic walker I think would likely not be the most involved in the main characters, I'd put it in Amonkhet and Garruk in Hour of Devastation, to separate out the green walkers. And, besides - it could be that Garruk either redeems his monstrous form or harnesses it and the power of all the planeswalkers he's killed to become a very powerful force to face Nicol Bolas.

After all, both he and Bolas share the distinction of being the only two to be made a main villain focus in Core Sets (Magic 2013 for Bolas and Magic 2015 for Garruk).

Amonkhet Masterpiece Series Features Gold Cards

As of Kaladesh, Wizards announced that it would have a Masterpiece series for every block going forward, that has a theme fitting to the setting. Zendikar Expeditions was about land. Kaladesh Inventions was about artifacts. With both those colorless card types out of the way, what's the next most exciting thing that fits this gold-carded block? Oh! How about awesome gold cards?

This one's a more risky guess. It could be that desert oasis type of cards are featured. But... that doesn't seem as exciting as having awesome dual lands or utilizing those powerful artifacts. Gold cards are more exciting. We like gold. It's shiny.

Duel Decks: Ajani vs. Tezzeret

Duel Decks with planeswalkres duking it out feature the block that came before, usually. We had Nissa and Ob Nixilis fight each other in last year's Fall Duel Decks. This year's Fall Duel Decks would strongly be placed in Kaladesh.

Looking at Mind vs. Might, we already have Jhoira popping up. Saheeli would be yet another Izzet walker. And then there's red in both the Mind deck and Might deck. Best to leave out Chandra this time - to avoid yet another red-focused Duel Deck. And Nissa already had her turn recently.

With Mind vs. Might, we don't have white, green, or black represented for the year of 2017 so far. Ajani takes care of white and green while Tezzeret opposing him with blue and black would make for a nice rounding off of the colors so that any player looking at recent products might find something that appeals to them.

Sorry, Chandra. I know it's been a while since you've been in a Duel Deck. But you, Ajani, and Tezzeret have all been in Duel Decks once before. And Chandra is most likely to return yet again in a future block and might have another chance at getting included in a second Duel Deck.

Commander 2017 will Have Two-Color Ally Decks

Meren of Clan Nel Toth by Mark Wenters

This one's a really easy guess. The Commander series of products have featured each three-color combination, two-color enemy pairs, and four-color commanders. It's time to finish the pattern and put the last puzzle piece in and make Commander decks focused on two-color ally legendary creatures.

It's interesting that four-color jumped to last year instead of being the last in the cycle. There could have been multiple reasons. But it could be that it would be better to balance out the year of 2017 with three-color legendary creatures for the Commander players in Amonkhet followed by two-color legendary creatures later in the Fall (along with whatever the Dominaria-located block will have).

Speaking of Dominaria...

The Fall Block will Take Place Somewhere in Dominaria

This claim is being made for several reasons:
  • Mind vs. Might Duel Decks features characters from Dominaria
  • After two back-to-back blocks of new worlds, it might be time to revisit an old one
  • Ravnica, Innisrad, Zendikar, Mirrodin have all been done. What's left for popular planes? Dominaria!
  • Dominaria is long-overdue for a return; besides, where should a new Jace card appear in? (Last one was in Shadows over Innistrad whereas all the other Gatewatch members will have had new cards by the time the Fall set comes out.)

No Predictions for From the Vault or Masters Series

I haven't found a pattern to be able to puzzle out and confidently say what will come next for From the Fault. Some stuff like "Demons" seems obvious to do, but who knows when the correct timing for that will be.

As for the Masters series, the next year seems like a toss-up: will Eternal Masters 2018 happen or not? Did it get received well? Will there just be a focus on Vintage Masters for Magic Online? I'd rather not make a prediction.

However, the bumping up of Modern Masters to Spring is curious, which leads me to...

Third Un-Set in August 2017 OR Sometime 2018 or 2019

I know, a more broad prediction. This one's the wild card. As it should be.

Conspiracy 2 was last year. And we can't have a repeated Conspiracy 3 this year - at least not an equivalent. Will From the Vault try to fill in those shoes in August with something cool? Or will there be something else for the Conspiracy-loving crowd?

The players that love Conspiracy has some overlap with the players who love Unglued and Unhinged. And Modern Masters got pumped up to Spring this year. And Conspiracy was last year. What to do? Release Un-set 3. Also, Annoucnement Day is taking place March 31st, 2017 - in the evening. Which is awfully close to April 1st, 2017. April 1st has been a time when Unhinged was announced. Perhaps the same will be utilized here.

Keep in mind that, since Un-sets are unconventional, so may be the announcements. The announcement may be delayed until April 1st. But also may just happen during March 31st, to prep you for the site's update on April 1st, whatever that will look like (Daily MTG has had a joke makeover before for April Fool's Day). The announcement could also be quite hidden.

What makes me doubt whether the third Un-set will release in August 2017 is the full-art lands in Amonkhet. Un-sets are notorious for the full-art lands. Since Battle for Zendikar block and then Amonkhet block featuring full-art lands: it seems like we should wait at least a year for the third Un-set just because of the full-art land.

And if we wait for 2018, that's when Conspiracy 3 might take place. So then the off-year of 2019 would be great for it.

Lastly, 2018 would be Unglued's 20th year anniversary. It might be a good time to bring a third Un-set into Magic for that year.

But, yeah, if a third Un-set is coming this year, August 2017 is the time to do it.

Appropriately Long, Did Read

Some predictions I have more confidence in than others. But I figured I'd do a little bit of reaching anyway for some of the ones I'm not so confident in. Just in case it'd be a fantastic guess. Thanks for reading the lengthy part of this post. =)

Amonkhet Promotional Art, Artist Unknown