Hello! Now that we have the full spoiler and have had some time to sit with the cards, I have to be honest with you.
Throne of Eldraine feels very much like an Un- set to me. It's has a big number of cards that feel like they'd be much better suited for silver bordered un-sets like Unhinged or the silver bordered promos around holidays and such.
It's weird to me just how silver bordered this set feels. Without any silver bordered things around it at all.
When the set was pitched to us, and we saw some of the first images, we had this Camelot meets Brothers Grimm feel to the world.
While everyone had ways of interpreting the first images and cards, the way it was pitched was intentional. I saw it as a Homelands meets Lorwyn.
Homelands has a lot of classic fantasy with a dark overtone. It's more classic high fantasy thanInnistradwhich is more modern horror gone amok.
Here, let me show you:
The key battle in the set is Serra and her followers vs. Baron Sengir.
See these two in motion with their cards? Here are a few more than matter. Let's just look at another color - we'll do Green.
And there you are. No matter how you may feel about the set mechanically (and it was a big ol' miss there), it was probably the most flavorful set of its time, bar none until years and years later when that came to matter. It was a set about Faeries and Vampires and Minotaurs that also cared about the characters. Ihsan's Shade and Autumn Willow and Baron Sengir really resonated with players of the game as characters that stood out. They had fun backstories. The Fallen Follower of Serra? Castle Sengir? This set drips with flavor.
It was all tribal goodness with a Celtic feel to the world.
Crib Swap shows a changeling baby being given to you, which was in many of their tales. You have Boggarts instead of Goblins, Merrow instead of Merfolk, and more. It tethered the ties of Magical card types to the various cards and lore. It was a strong feeling set.
I was hoping actually that the Brawl deck in Throne that was Fairies would combine the Blue/Black of their tribe in Lorwyn block and the Green of earlier sets. But alas, that was not to be. It went White.
But instead, the cards are so Brothers Grimm that instead of tapping into a folk-lore concept of, say, a changeling that steal your babies and leave behind one of theirs to raise as a card, they have moments from nursery rhymes or other cards that feel very, very different.
And that's probably where the silver-bordered feel of the set comes from to me. I love the Camelot parts of the set. (And there are Camelot cards). But I don't see cards and concepts from those that I would have expected. Like an Excalibur style legendary sword or something. (I doubt Embercleave counts, it doesn't feel Excalibur-ish) Quests for holy artifacts? Rescuing a princess from a dragon? We could have had lots more Castles and designs, and more classic fantasy stuff too. I don't see a Mordred or a Morgana style inspired set of cards, or others.)
And instead of generic tropes, like you saw in something like Innistrad, like a card named Woodman's Axe, (there are many woodsmen in these stories) these are very, very, specific call-outs to a story event that feel off to me.
Today, let's look at a few concepts that feel off to me. Most of the cards from Throne of EldraineI am about to show you could be printed as is in silver-bordered set without blinking an eye.
For much of this article, I'll be considering if a silver-bordered idea takes itself seriously mechanically. What I mean by that statement is this - could those mechanics be printed in a black-bordered set. Where is the joke? If it's just the art, or just a flavor text, then you get my idea. But if the joke is the mechanic, then it doesn't take itself seriously.
Here is card that takes itself seriously, as a good example.
Organ Harvest could be printed in a black-bordered set at any point in time, just change your flavor text. A Black sorcery that lets you sacrifice dorks for two Black mana each isn't anything unusual, (especially at the time, although it'd likely be Red now) especially since we have team cards now in black-bordered sets like Battlebond.
Here's a more recent example. 6/4 tramplersfor sixmana already exist. Nothing here from the creature type to the mechanics isn't printable. The only silver-bordered part is the pun-name and the art/flavor text that play into it.
Ready for my comparisons? Here we go!
Puns in Names
While lots of sets have cards with puns in names, it used to be bigger in the early days. But there was a long time when people that are distracted by these names (such as name) have a difficult time taking them seriously.
No matter what you might say, I don't think I can ever take Belle of the Brawl seriously and use her outside of limited or something. I know that a lot of players will take her seriously and love her. But not here. I don't see her any differently than Beast in Show. Card works! But the name and such don't, and it feels more silver than black.
Turning a foe into a small animal is a trope that has existed in many stories. Frogs, sure, but others like rats or mice, pigs in the case of Circe, as well. Fowl Play was the first that removed your abilities and you are now a fun 1/1 dork. The only part of Fowl Play that's funny are the name, flavor text, and the type you are using, although it actually makes sense. It this case I doubt think that Frogify is a flavor fowl (intended), because it's on theme, and something we've seen before and will see since. But I'd consider its pun-ish name to be on the same level. As Turn to Frog shows, there are straighter ways to use this concept you could have done.
References to the Game, or it's Subculture
Charming Prince is both a pun-name and a reference to the Charm cycle of cards in the game. It hits both out of the park in its groan-inducing nature. All it does is reverse the name of Prince Charming. Now our comedy writer turned MTG Creative guy, Mark Rosewater, discussed the card and its name in a recent article. And I appreciate that he knew how deep and groaning it was. It's just way too silver-bordered feeling to me. Like Crow Storm that makes Storm Crows with storm. Both take themselves seriously mechanically. But are just feel way too silly elsewhere for black-border (from here).
Making Silly Things Seem Serious
Another silver-bordered trope is making something very, very silly seem serious and playable. You see that a lot in Throne. Here, let me show you a few.
Here's one example. In the silver-bordered world, you can have creatures made out of food. In this case, fruitcake. It's funny and the card works as designed. You have a three-mana 7/7 that's hard to handle, but you'll take 7 damage if you control at the end of your turn, and then you can give it away.
None of its mechanics are jokes. The card works as designed. And when you play it in a multiplayer game, it's a fun. You give it to someone, and then they can untap, smash, and then send it on. You'll love its power with haste. It's great in a Group Hug deck as it gives a 7/7 smashery to everyone on their turn as long as you pass it down. Johnnies like me can always find fun ways to investigate combos for the Fruitcake Elemental.
And now we literally have a Golem made from food. A Gingerbread man. What's the difference? Why is one silver border and the other black? Both of them are made of holiday-themed sweet food. Both of them take their card seriously for its mechanics and such, but each has a bizarre craziness to them.
The less is said about a house made of food, the better....
Consider Bake into a Pie. It's a food-themed removal spell. How silly is that? I think it's a pretty obvious entry for a silver-bordered set. If you had printed this in Unhinged people would have loved it. Now, prior to the creation of Food as a mechanic, it could have been a one-of and still a silver bordered card all day long. (And it would have been funnier)
Now we do have two silver bordered cards out there that play into the same space.
The first is Just Desserts, which is a bunch of food being used as removal. Now the joke of course is the pi damage you deal. Unlike many of the other silver bordered cards I've shown, it does not take it's mechanics seriously. Finders, Keepers plays into the same space, and it does take itself seriously mechanically. Destroy, and assemble a contraption (which is already referred to in a black-bordered card).
Consider some of these nursery rhyme tropes that seem to try and make something silly serious. Almost like how the '90s tried to make every comic XTRME!!!
Compare it to cards like the Un-sets like Suspicious Nanny. This Nanny is a Spy!!! While no part of the card's mechanics are jokes as it will take your foes' Contraptions and plays with that, just like a black-bordered card did, it still plays into this darker and edgier take on normal stuff. And Goldilocks with traps, a bloodied sword, and the heads of Bears on the wall? She's definitely trying to be XTRME!!!
Overemphasizing Flavor Too Much
Meh. Not a fan.
A lot of Un- cards would take a concept and turn it into a joke card.
Rocket-Powered Turbo Slug is a good example. Note that the card works mechanically. You get the card for free now, and then you must pay next turn, or you'll lose the game. It's exactly like the Pact cycle from Future Sight. But the concept was taken too far, and the card's flavor clearly took over.
In this case, I feel that they took a specific story note too seriously. It's not a simple trope that was done well, such as Forever Young, but instead a specific beat from a specific story that feels off (or outdated) to me.
What I want to do here is look at cards that I feel are way too specific for a generic Fairy Tale card. They are clearly coming from a single storyline. In addition to Un-sets, these also seem more similar to Portal: Three Kingdoms or Arabian Nights where those who haven't read the source material may not really know or care about stuff.
Even when the cards evoke special story moments from those stories, it's weird.
These specific story moments that are cool, are also intently related to the story in question, and that's weird on a Magic card. Cough cough.
Discussing Social Constructs
One of the things that silver-bordered cards do it play into social constructs and games. I'll give you a quick example.
Both of these play into the same trope. You need to ask nicely in order to do things in life. You learn it as a child. Common Courtesy will punish someone if they cast a spell without asking permission, although you have to sacrifice it to do so. And Didn't Say Please is clearly an Un-spell with the same theme.
It also creates a weird game state. What if I did say please? The good news is that if this were a proper silver bordered card, you add in a clause that says, "You can only cast this if the controller of the targeted spell didn't say, "Please."
Sorry is in the same space, by the by.
I also consider Didn't Say Please a flavor foul too. Here's a good example. Both of these are Faerie themed counters. Faerie Trickery works. Yeah, sure, there are fun images in there like something being turned into flower petals by a fun Faerie, but it works. Name. Resonance. All good. Now Didn't Say Please isn't on the same spectrum.
All right, I'll leave you at that. I hope you enjoyed my article! Did you like it? Anything in here you disagree with? Just let me know, and thanks for your time!
P.S. - Now to be fair to Throne, I also thought we had a few cards out there in Kaladesh that were similarly in poor flavor and taste:
Like Start Your Engines. But not anywhere near the numbers of Throne of Eldraine.