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M12 = Diablo II


Today’s column is devoted to why M12 is Diablo II, with bits of flavor to taste.

Looks like a wall of fire to me. Chandra looks down upon your non-flame-retardant clothing.

First of all, housekeeping. My clone in Germany keeps getting fired up that Linneman vs. Linnemann is messing up his search-engine optimization. I’ll do what I can, but in America, we go big. If you’re sending me a message and struggle with the four n’s or the pronunciation, remember that three n’s are Yiddish and four are German. My name also rhymes with cinnamon, because I’m all about the flavor.

The Core Set Is Another Game’s Core, Kinda

Magic 2012, the core set, is not an exact clone of the Blizzard-made game. If so, they would likely release it in the fall, of next year, and you’d have three to four sets released at the same time. Imagine drafting six different sets. Talk about an expensive draft. Thank you, Wizards, for being on time, all the time. We like that you respect your deadlines. It’s uncommon in business to listen to your consumers that much, and we don’t know how good we have it.

We have it so good that the franchise we love is branching out into other brands, using up their creativity, and plopping it into Magic. It’s like Ditto from Pokemon, except relevant.

The cards I’ve selected run the gamut, and since space is always a concern, I’ve omitted a lot of them. They’ll come out on the GatheringMagic forums in the next few weeks in the Fantasy Cards & Art section.

Outfit your best Magic Find gear and let’s dive into the fray!

Buried Ruin

I get how some similarities are just similar. Any buried place, whether it be crypt, ruin, dwarven city, or sewer system, will appear similar in one sense: lighting. I get that. It’s one of the major gripes of Diablo III: too much color. Was Lorwyn so different? The color popped, and then we had Shadowmoor and Eventide to get the sulky teenagers back into check. Kinda like Torment.

Free pass, collect US$200 American dollars, and win a flavor text. It’s very simple and quip-worthy without being kitsch.

Crown, Scepter, and Throne of Empires

These little build-a-thing cards are simply great for Limited. A few friends of mine asked me about them. I told them, they’re nice, no? I like the purple (appropriate) coloring, as only royalty was allowed to wear the color of kings. Minnesota Vikings, not so much. Purple velvet is on the cheerleader uniforms, so moot.

These “sets” happen every few years, and they finally aligned the flavor texts! For such flavorful interactions, only the Kaldra totally missed flavor, but read the book—making the champion is in there. He’s stronger than a 4/4 in the book, but the book is always better, no?

Diablo II has its unique sets aligned to character classes, despite the inability to carry a throne around (swing chair at person, +2 splinter damage. Go infinite with the twin).

For a refresher, check these out:

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Scion, not the car.


He who shall be named Speakable.

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Reach through Mists:

Know one part of the name, obsession begins. Know two parts, paranoia sets in. Know three parts, madness descends. Know all, and only the kami know what will become of you.

— Lady Azami

Thanks, Rei. The man wrote a lot of flavor and really tried to put effort into the cycle. He was on the right track, but was not given parts two and three to complete it, forcing him to write everything on one card. I nod my hat to precedents like him.

Doubling Chant’s Art Direction*: Let’s Allow Wayne to Go Nuts

Went nuts, Wayne did. It’s a great little image.

He had to listen to his instincts on not just creating the same image twice, but creating a little diversity with each “double.” I like that. It shows the artist’s confidence.

Despite Wayne’s best efforts, green mages are still such lagomancers:

Druidic Satchel

I love this concept as an homage to the Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII. Though this design is less flexible, I see what they did there. It’s very flavorful and will save your draft if you open it third pack, many times.

I just don’t get why Diablo II didn’t include it in Aldur’s Watchtower build for Diablo II; M12 certainly included it.

Frost Breath

Is the Frost Breath simply an Ice Bolt from Diablo II?

Is Jeremy Cranford, the former art director of Magic, who now works at Blizzard, creeping his aesthetic into the core sets?

Am I taking crazy pills?

*Ahem* Frost Titan *ahem*

Seriously though, I’m ill, not sick. I’m okay, but my card’s sick.

He’s not in Magic’s more recent normal visual style, but I get what Mike Sass is doing and am very thankful that Jeremy threw a commission his way. He hasn’t illustrated a card since 2001! Please, creative team, can we have some more?

Glad to have him back.


Imma just leave this here.

Diablo II players, you still with me?

If you’re still reading this, I would assume yes.

Do you remember when killing bats would net giant swords?

Open your next M12 booster and make it rain. Sometimes, giant swords will fly onto the table.

True story.

(.GIF omitted for ridiculousness, also for a terrified dachshund hiding under the bed.)

Kite Shield

Yes, I know it’s been covered that this is a “worse” Accorder's Shield. A citation for everyone from Angry Graybeard:

I wasn’t aware Accorder's Shield was so broken as a common, they had to push it to uncommon a few months later and make it lose vigilance.

Funny how influential the Bayeux tapestry really has become in everyday usage.

The kite shield goes back to the eleventh century CE on the tapestry despite Diablo II’s best guess of how it looks:

. . . Magic got it right. The second time. Yeah, the second time.

Personal Sanctuary

This was largely already covered in “Savor the Flavor” by the creative director himself, Brady Dommermuth. What many people don’t know is that most Wizards employees are either 6’8” or 5’2”. Brady is the former, Rosewater would be more toward the latter. Seriously giant people. Maybe it’s a social experiment. If so, it’s working great. I hope they get the $10 for the study or the two participant points that psychology students across this nation all seemingly need to fulfill to graduate.

Nice meditation spell.

It’s a nicer D&D Sanctuary spell. Spell components? None needed in the old-school version or in Diablo II. It seems, though, focusing in MtG prevents attacks, but why not all the time? Flavor reference?

Not sure.

Future Magic hipster:

I’d cast this spell, but I prefer the original. The original isn’t even a Magic card, it’s from a game you probably haven’t ever heard of.

Swiftfoot Boots


Yes, Commanders everywhere are excited that Greaves 2.0 will be helping them. Looks like they got a copycat, though, in Natalya’s Soul. The boots are decent in both respects, and it’s a pretty name. The issue is that I live in the Midwest and Natalya will become Natty, which will be Nattie Ice in a minute. Not good.

Moving on.

Garruk’s Horde

How large is this thing?

Let’s examine an oft unmentioned flavor technique in relation to the normal and alternate art of Garruk's Horde and pull out a discussion on relative sizes. Diablo II relates here that you can summon hordes of things, but it’s not variable. Two skeletons from one corpse will always net two skeletons. If only the larger the creature the more you would receive. That would be flavorful!

Grizzly Bears or any variation will always be 2/2. Why? Because it makes sense that a bear is double a normal soldier: 1/1.

A stronger man/warrior/berserker/guardian of good battling evil can be 2/2, 3/3, or even larger.

Demands how much bashin’ creative needs for the set.




What this brings us to is that there are some rules of sorts to follow. We’re in a league game here, Smokey.

My favorites of old, Killer Bees and Durkwood Boars, will help illustrate as precedents.

Flavorfully, the bees make sense in that the more mana you pump into them, the more bees you’ll get, and they’ll swarm. So . . . one bee with a tiny rapier can’t hurt me, but with his friends and family, he can.

The boars also play to the point that a single boar isn’t 4/4, but a group of them will run violently. If you read the real passage, it’s rather flavorful, as it could tie to MtG canon, but that’s beside the point.

Look at the numbers and double-check my math. Count the hordes yourself; I’ll wait.

How does 8 = 7 with Garruk, yet when you remove Garruk, the math is 4 = 7?

It’s minor, sure, and each time it’s cast, it could be different depending on the beasts the planeswalker is accustomed to and what’s available. But why is Garruk there? I need MJ to yell more about this for me. Check the hashtag #whyisgarrukthere today. I’ll be there all day . . . yelling.


Fantasy is escapism, and no matter how we cut it, the games will have similarities. To that point, I say, I’ve worked with you, Wizards; it’s okay for you or your artists to borrow a card or two occasionally, but if we have the approachable spells of Diablo II, why isn’t Firebolt in this set? It’s easy to understand, takes a blue mana potion to cast and feels flavorfully emotional . . .

Oh, yeah.

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Oh, biscuits!

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