With the Modern Pro Tour taking place next weekend and the banning/unbanning announcement still fresh in our minds, it was nice to take a week off from the intensity of the upcoming tournament in Valencia and focus on the casual/collecting side of the game. This week, Wizards announced the 2014 From the Vault boxed set and also provided more details on Conspiracy, the multiplayer set that was first spoiled through special promos that were sparsely available in some pre-release boxes a few weeks back. Let’s dive in and find out what we learned this week about both releases.

Announcing From the Vault: Annihilation


Wizards announced the 2014 From the Vault boxed set this week and it will blow you away. Literally. Not so much figuratively. In case you’ve never heard of this product before, From the Vault is an annually released boxed set which contains fifteen cards which are treated with a unique foiling process that is only given to this boxed set. Here’s a quick run-down of the history of this product:

  • 2008 – Dragons
  • 2009 – Exiled
  • 2010 – Relics
  • 2011 – Legends
  • 2012 – Realms
  • 2013 – Twenty

Traditionally it’s a mix of exciting tournament-legal staples, flashy casual cards, and some that have never been foiled before. This covers the ‘Three C’s’ of Wizards consumer-base: collectors, casuals, and competitors. This year though it seems like Annihilation may have left out one of these groups. Collectors will be excited for this because it will be an exclusive boxed set and could include premium versions of cards that were never reprinted after foils were introduced to the game. Casuals will also be excited for this because the box is likely to be filled with Cube and Commander cards.

But what about competitive players? How do they feel about FTV: Annihilation? They make up the most vocal segment of the fan and consumer-base by a wide margin, but also make up an almost equally small percentage of overall consumers. Most competitive players simply buy the cards they need for tournaments, never picking up boxed sets like this. So why was Wizards so keen to print cards for competitive players in the past? In short, they weren’t. The fact that tournament cards like Aether Vial, Ancient Tomb, Dark Ritual, Gifts Ungiven and so on end up in these boxed sets is because they also appeal to casual and competitive players as iconic cards from the game’s history.

Annihilation likely won’t have much for the competitive crowd. Board sweepers tend to not be very splashy in competitive play. A few, like Engineered Explosives and Ratchet Bomb have been recently reprinted anyways. Perhaps the most iconic competitive mass-removal card that will end up in this box, Pernicious Deed, is well past its prime as a format staple and is now just another casual card. The only card that could end up here that would provide a splashy financial return would be a standard-frame foil edition of Damnation.

Regardless of what ends up in the box, Wizards will sell out of them rapidly. This is a limited-print boxed set with high appeal to casual players and collectors. At the standard $34.99 MSRP it will fly off of shelves as usual. In the past though, some gaming stores have viewed this as an opportunity to raise the price significantly and add some more income courtesy of the Magic secondary market. This year it seems that cushion may be slightly less, as the value of this box will likely not be as high as in the past. Short supply will keep the price above MSRP, but likely not at the triple-digit price some of the old boxes fetch.

The Conspiracy Deepens



The bigger announcement of the week was the official announcement of MTG ConspiracySimilar to the sneak peek from the Born of the Gods pre-release, this announcement used a cipher to send us a secret message. It took the fine folks at the MagicTCG Reddit community about thirty minutes to break the cipher and decode the message. The next day, Wizards was kind enough to decipher everything for the rest of us.

There’s a whole lot to take in here, even though we don’t have any newly spoiled cards beyond those we already knew about. The most pertinent information is that the set will be sold in booster packs and it is meant to be drafted by six-to-eight players. Once it’s drafted, the players split up into two multi-player free-for-all games. Some of the new cards will have new multi-player effects and some will actually affect the way you draft the set.

The excitement levels should be getting pretty high already. Drafting Magic cards is a ton of fun. It’s why games like SolForge and Hearthstone are striving to create a similar experience in their own worlds. Multi-player free-for-all is also a ton of fun. The list of multi-player variants for Magic goes on and on but free-for-all melees are one of the purest ways to get together with your friends and duel.

Some of the specifics are also worth noting. For starters, the set will have 210 cards, and 65 of them will be brand-new. That means we’re getting 145 reprints. The speculation has already begun to run rampant and the words “fetch” and “land” are being put together a little too often. This is not Modern Masters 2 nor is it Vintage Masters and it especially isn’t a set that Wizards wants the Spike demographic to ruin for everyone else. Let’s face it, that’s exactly what would happen. Every casual draft at your local store would be full of spikes, sharks, and speculators trying to get their grubby hands on those shiny new money-rares. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

The last piece of exciting information: 52 of the new cards will be playable in Legacy and Vintage. The other 13 will not. What could they possibly be printing on those 13 cards that makes them unplayable in those formats? The two mechanics that currently get cards banned from Legacy are ante and anything requiring manual dexterity. Shaharazad is banned because it makes games last forever. I would be shocked if any of these effects was returning, especially in a set that can be drafted at stores. Personally, I have no idea what those 13 cards could have on them but I can’t wait to find out.

Pro Tour Update

Grand Prix Paris

Spanish tournament grinder Javier Dominguez took home the top prize in Legacy this weekend at GP Paris

Spanish tournament grinder Javier Dominguez took home the top prize in Legacy this weekend at GP Paris

Legacy is one of the most exciting formats to watch and it’s a shame that we only get it twice a year in the Grand Prix format. Sure, Star City Games holds a large event almost every weekend, but it isn’t the same as when the top players in the world take on the ancient format. What’s really exciting about Legacy is how it continually evolves around the newest cards. The top five cards that shaped the Paris tournament were Thespian’s Stage, True-Name Nemesis, Sensei’s Divining Top, Deathrite Shaman, and Delver of Secrets. That’s four cards printed in the past few years and one that was printed around a decade ago.

Almost 1,600 players came to sling dual lands and Wastelands and in the end the top eight was comprised of two Counter-Top decks, a Jace/Stoneforge deck I don’t know the proper name for, two BUG Delver decks, Reanimator, Painted Stone, RWU Control. The finals saw Counter-Top go head-to-head with BUG Delver, showcasing two of the biggest decks in the format. Only two ranked pros made it to Paris this weekend, but (25) Christian Calcano fell just short of earning any pro points with his 74th place finish and (5) Jeremy Dezani finished 190th, missing the cut for day two. A few household unranked names appeared in the top tables though with Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa finishing 8th and Marijn Lybaert finishing 57th.

Grand Prix Mexico City

The spoils of war in Mexico City

The spoils of war in Mexico City

Just over 700 players went down to Mexico City to battle in the first ever limited Grand Prix featuring Born of the Gods. Four players managed to go undefeated in the sealed deck portion of the competition, also known as ‘day one.’ They included a U/R with an impressive amount of removal, a U/W heroic deck, a U/B deck that had decent synergy around the inspired mechanic and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and finally a B/W bestow deck loaded with Triad of Fates, Thoughtseize, and Hero’s Downfall.

The lack of video coverage for this event was very disappointing. I know it’s only 700 players and everyone is off in Europe getting ready for the Pro Tour in Spain next weekend, but is it truly so difficult to get a coverage crew to Mexico City? Hopefully Wizards gets this taken care of by next year.

Going into the fourteenth and final round, Mario Flores, possessor of an 8-0 day one record with the aforementioned U/W heroic deck, was sitting at the top of the standings with 35 points, an undefeated 11-0-2 record. Flores would draw in to an 11-0-3 record for the top seed in the top 8. Unfortunately his impressive streak would end there as he ran into Marcelino Freeman in the quarterfinals who had gone 6-1-1 in day one with a Hammer of Purphoros deck.

Freeman was paired with the 41-year old Grand Prix champion from GP Buenos Aires in 2000 Hugo Araiza Castro in the semifinals while the other side of the bracket featured Marc Lalague and Ignacio Ibarra del Rio who is the chef for his local governor, an impressive title. But could he add the title of Grand Prix champion to that resume? Standing in his way was Lalague, another former Grand Prix champion (Anaheim 2012). Lalague, one of two Americans in the top eight, proved to be a formidable opponent for the professional chef and booked himself a finals match with Marcelino Freeman.

Freeman beat one GP champ but could he beat another? Unfortunately he could not and Marc Lalague won the final match 2-0 to become the champion of Grand Prix Mexico!


The Quick Hits

  • Mark Rosewater dives into the inspiration behind each of the past 10 Magic blocks from Theros back to the original Ravnica [Making Magic]
  • The Battle of the Blocks concludes with Time Spiral facing off against Lorwyn/Shadowmoor, thus making 2006-2008 the best time to have been playing EDH [Star City Games]
  • Mike Flores unveils a new Monday contest column which you should add to your RSS Feed since it doesn’t really help to read about it a week later over here [TCGPlayer]
  • Brian Demars talks about the importance of good sportsmanship and tackles how to deal with two of the Magic communities deadly plagues: variance and tilt [Star City Games]
  • Heather Lafferty plays Commander for the first time ever and I guess it’s enjoyable if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s been a long time since I had my first anything in Magic [Gathering Magic]
  • According to Hasbro’s earning reports, Magic the Gathering grew by 20% in 2013 and Wizards of the Coast grew by 23%. So I guess the cost of playing Magic isn’t actually preventing more people from playing Magic [Gathering Magic]
  • MJ Scott interviews Titus Chalk, author of the book Do You Have a Cape: The Unofficial Story of Magic: the Gathering [Gathering Magic]
  • Mike Linnemann presents the 13 dark-skinned legendary creatures from the history of Magic. According to Gatherer there are over 500 legendary creatures from Magic’s past, so not so great percentage-wise. Happy Black History month folks [Gathering Magic]
  • Tony Willier shares his experiences teaching the next generation how to play Magic. I wonder if casting Emrakul against your children will one day be a form of punishment. Do the dishes or I’ll play the Emrakul deck [Gathering Magic]
  • Mashi Scanlan and Luis Scott-Vargas run through the top eight “Number One Creatues” of all-time. If you’re confused, it’s because the title is confusion. Basically they tell you their favorite creatures which used to be the best in the game (like Flametongue Kavu) [Magic TV]
  • Funko announced a licensing agreement to make Magic action figures and vinyl figures releasing in August and April respectively. Pretty exciting news as Wizards continues to branch out and expand the breadth of Magic’s product branding [Press Release]

Wallpaper of the Week


I was really hoping we’d be skipping Xenagos at the end of the Born of the Gods gods-cycle of desktop wallpapers. You see, before the first of these wallpapers, Ephara, we had a wallpaper that also featured Xenagos, just in a different depiction. I enjoyed that piece but had enough of Xenagos to be honest, and was looking forward to moving onto the rest of Born of the Gods artwork, or even one of the spoiled pieces from Conspiracy or Annihilation.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps next week will be more exciting.

Grade: C-

The Week Ahead

The wait is finally over. The Modern Pro Tour in Valencia, Spain is here. Pro Tour Born of the Gods kicks off later this week and will answer the most important question of the day. Is Bitterblossom really worth all that money? In the meantime checkout the official preview from the mother-ship, and also this great round-table discussion hosted by Brian David-Marshall with the coverage crew heading to Valencia. Next week we’ll have a full recap of the Pro Tour. Don’t miss it!

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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