It’s time for another round of flavor gems, Magic Origins edition. As I am sure you are well aware by now, this set is packed with flavor. Like an overstuffed burrito, this set is leaking out all kinds of flavor goodness all over your palate. For this go around, I thought I would try to tie in my five faces of Vorthos and present you some gems from the set that would appeal to those different identities. For those who may not know the five faces of V, check out the link I provided above. As a quick refresher, we'll be covering the following:
- Flavorful design gems that create exquisite Vorthos-inspired gameplay
- Incredible art that deserves a second look
- Some choice names and flavor texts chock full of flavor
- Potential cosplays just waiting to be worn at the next Magic event
- Amazing story hooks showcasing Wizards of the Coast’s new dedication to the Magic narrative
Original Art of “Vorthos” by Sam Keiser
I think two cards for each face seems fair—let's dive right in! First up is the gamer.
Call of the Full Moon represents the powerful effect Innistrad’s moon has on its denizens. When you cast this card targeting one of your creatures, it is easy to imagine that you are causing your minion to become a werewolf. Increasing your creature’s size, strength, and overall damage potential are some great upsides to be had for such a low cost, but there is a flavorful catch. Your creature can only remain in werewolf form as long as it remains nighttime, a full moon drifting overhead. That second mechanic actually ties back to the original Werewolf mechanic of Innistrad block.
The idea was that no spells being cast signified inactivity among the creatures in the area, and that served as a game-state symbol for nighttime. This would allow your Human Werewolves to transform into their more formidable selves. Casting two or more spells in a turn had the opposite effect, signifying the bustling activity synonymous with daytime and returning your Werewolves to their former Human states. The second half of Call of the Full Moon is a direct reference to this extremely flavorful mechanic. You can turn your creature into a werewolf, but only for as long as it remains as dark as night.
I love the story implied by this card's mechanics. As we witnessed in James Wyatt’s Liliana Origin Story, signing four contracts with four separate demons can be rough. The idea of using library-search as a way to illustrate a demonic entity teaching you something goes all the way back to the game’s beginnings in Limited Edition Alpha. What I really love about this card is that it paints an interesting story through gameplay. The first couple times you cast this spell, you are “overpaying” for an effect. I like to think that, at this stage of the game, you are new to the whole bargaining-with-demons thing, and you are just not very good at driving a fair price. By the time spell mastery kicks in, you may have already cast this once or twice. That experience working with other demons allows you to negotiate a rebate, netting you a powerful effect at a much cheaper cost. This is not only an extremely flavorful way to illustrate your character's growth as he or she continues to negotiate with demons, but it also allows you to gain access to the effect at the same busted price as the original Alpha card.
I cannot express my love of this image enough. Mike gave some really interesting behind-the-scenes insight into the image on our podcast Snack Time with Mike and Ant. There is so much cool flavor going on here: the wispy, tentacle-like nature of his cape’s interior, the interesting view of Vryn in the background lacking any mage-rings, and the force-field boxing mitts that are most likely the source of his “bounce” magic—and the hair. But my absolute favorite part of this entire piece is the look on his face.
It’s a look that makes you, his opponent, think, “I just did something dumb, and I am about to get punched.”
Seb McKinnon has seriously been on fire lately. Every new piece of his quickly becomes my favorite Magic art, and Rabid Bloodsucker is no exception. This is an absolutely fantastic example of a card with mind-blowing artwork and not-so-mind-blowing stats and mechanics. In order to really appreciate this piece, you have to see it big:
Can we just stop and talk about that tree branch for two seconds? That has to be the single coolest and creepiest-looking branch I have ever seen. It is so bent and twisted, and it just looks like it is growing in all the wrong directions. If I were walking through the woods and saw the tree that this branch belonged to, I would immediately rethink all of the decisions that led to me being there in the first place. At first glance, you look at the creature and its beautifully detailed wings that really create a feeling that they are leathery and full of veins. Your eye moves downward, and you start to appreciate Seb’s use of red as a way to create highlights on his dark and twisted tree. Then, you return your gaze to the vampire, recognizing the same red tone dripping from its mouth and protruding fangs. That’s when it hits you: That branch is covered in blood. The creepiest part? Seb uses the large wing to obstruct our view of the creature’s prey, allowing our imaginations to run wild. We start to wonder what unfortunate victim is being feasted on by his ravenous vampire—and if we will be the next course.
Did you know Vorthos can have two-for-ones, too? Spike isn’t the only one who appreciates value. Back in the original Ravnica block, one trick used by the flavor text team lead by Matt Cavotta was to have quotes spoken by members of one guild talking about members of another guild. When you have a Golgari card that has a quote from a Golgari guild member on it talking about Golgari things, you only gain insight into the way the Golgari function and think: a one-for-one.
When you have a Golgari card that has a quote from a member of the Azorius talking about Golgari things, you are offered insight both into something about the Golgari and into what the Azorius thinks about the B/G guild. That’s known as a flavor-text two-for-one. #Valuetown population: Vorthos. I was really happy to see that idea continued on this Ravnica-themed card in Magic Origins.
This. This is why I love flavor text. I talk a lot about how often the job of flavor text is to enhance the tones and ideas that are already being expressed through the card’s art and mechanics. This is a perfect example of that. Just having Chandra say, “They started it,” with no context does not offer us much insight into her character beyond the idea that she might be somewhat childish. After all, that is a common retort used by children when reprimanded for fighting. When you put that line into context with its associated art, you get this insane narrative in which Chandra isn’t painted as a whining child, but as a complete and utter badass. Her posture in the art, the walking-away-from-an-explosion-movie-scene quality of the depiction, the monochromatic palette that just radiates overwhelming heat, the confidence in her stride—it all boils down to those three simple words, allowing the line to take on a whole other meaning: Do. Not. Mess. With. Chandra.
Cosplayers of the community: The new Gideon gives us a perfect, well-lit view of his other profile. Even I considered crafting his armor and cosplaying everyone’s favorite hieromancer. That is, until I realized that he is basically a paladin, and paladins are just not my speed. I need cloaks and shadows and daggers. I have high hopes that with this new image of ol’ Jura we will start seeing some new cosplay versions of the indestructible soldier.
Someone on Etsy needs to make these. Who wouldn’t want a custom pair of Jaya Ballard’s goggles? Maybe to make each pair unique, there could be a quote from one of Jaya’s famous lines of flavor inside each one. I kind of want to recreate this entire scene somewhere in my apartment, with the goggles displayed on a cushion of crushed red velvet. When people come over for dinner parties, the item would serve as a conversation piece, allowing me to explain how the Tessitore household pays homage to a Planeswalker who, like Chandra, should not be messed with (unless you enjoy the scent of your own burning hair).
There are five vertical spell mastery cycles (one for each Planeswalker) that depicts the Planeswalker before his or her spark ignited (common), afterward (uncommon), and at or near his or her most recent power levels. These fifteen cards tell the stories of each character and serve as windows into their lives as they have developed over the set. You can actually see the progression take place from card to card, with each Planeswalker honing his or her abilities as he or she becomes stronger. These cards are just one example of Magic’s dedication to story, and they have me excited to see what the creative team has in store for us in the sets to come.
Another note of interest for fans of the storyline is that there are numerous cards throughout Magic Origins that, like Clash of Wills pictured above, have lines of flavor text that are direct quotes from the Uncharted Realms articles being put up on DailyMTG each Wednesday. This is huge for the Dreamer Vorthos, as it marks a peanut-butter-meets-chocolate moment of good flavors merging into one tasty treat. While I think this is an overall great idea, as it will allow for a more seamless connection between the lore on the cards and the lore on the web, the flavor text writer in me is a little nervous. Each card that has actual story text is one fewer card that will require “regular” flavor text.
All in all, I think this is a net gain for Magic, and as long as this type of text is put on cards that would not otherwise benefit from having some form of informative flavor, these storylines will serve to add yet another level of immersion to the game.
Gems are a Vorthos’s Best Friend
I hope you enjoyed this Magic Origins edition of Flavor Gems. Are there other cards you feel were gems of the set? Let me know in the comments, and we can discuss! Until next time, may your cards always taste awesome. Mmmmmm. Cardboard.