Last week, three potential Oath of the Gatewatch cards were unofficially spoiled. Being unofficial, you should take these spoilers with a more than liberal helping of salt. However, they’ve been confirmed by an apparently reliable source, and look real enough. So, setting aside any arguments about authenticity, let’s consider these new designs (which take devoid to a new level).

WastesWastes are both the biggest change and the least unfamiliar.  We’ve seen them before, both in Barry’s Land and Jonathon Loucks’ GDS2 world, Penumbria. Barry’s Land dates back to Invasion, where it (would have) served one very simple purpose: increasing the maximum Domain (before it was keyworded) from 5 to 6. Jonathan Loucks created colorless-only mana, which mandated the existence of something like Barry’s Land/Wastes (so players wouldn’t need a critical mass of colorless-producing nonbasics just to play their spells) and set a precedent for the wonky mana symbols on [casthaven]Kozilek, the Great Distortion[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Mirrorpool[/casthaven].


So, what effect will Wastes have on Magic by themselves? They’re the second addition to Magic’s list of basic lands, after Ice Age’s snow-covered lands. On their own, they’ll have slightly more effect on Magic than snow lands (which pretty much only interact with snow-matters cards and name-matters cards like [casthaven]Gifts Ungiven[/casthaven]). First, they increase Domain (as said previously) (author’s note: Wastes do not increase domain. They’re basic lands, but they don’t have a basic land type) and second, they’re a basic land for colorless Commanders in EDH. Neither is a particularly dramatic effect (particularly for competitive Magic), unless a fetchable Wastes-Mountain is printed (which I wouldn’t bet much money on). Without such a land, [casthaven]Tribal Flames[/casthaven] decks probably aren’t getting a boost. So, not much effect.

Granted, we wouldn’t expect a new basic land to change how Magic works by itself. Lands exist to cast spells and are judged based on the spells they enable. Wastes enable a whole host of new spells, only one of which we’ve seen, and it’s a mythic rare. Wastes also elegantly solve a design problem: they allow an entirely new color to exist without baking a new color pie or reshuffling existing color philosophies. Colorless was under our noses the whole time as the secret sixth color! Wastes are also more elegant-looking than than a sixth-color producing land would be: they look more ‘backwards-compatible,’ since colorless mana has been in the game from the beginning (and produced by lands since [casthaven]Library of Alexandria[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Mishra’s Factory[/casthaven] hit the scene in ’94).

So, in short, if Wastes are real, they provide a bunch of new design space in a sixth color without undermining the existing color pie. I wouldn’t expect them to become evergreen, but much of that has to do with my having no idea what they’re for. Which brings us to our second card, [casthaven]Mirrorpool[/casthaven].

MirrorPool[casthaven]Mirrorpool[/casthaven] is a difficult card to evaluate. It definitely hits the flavor of mirrors, though it does look like it fits more in Mirrodin or New Phyrexia than it does Zendikar. Its abilities have nice symmetry: you get to reflect a spell or creature. Both abilities have proven to be relatively weak in Constructed, and for four and six mana (remember, you tap and sacrifice Mirrorpool), they should be balanced (or at least not bah-roken).

The real question is whether Mirrorpool counts as an ETB-tapped colorless utility land (which is a huge downside) or an ETB-tapped colored utility land (which can be quite strong—just imagine if it tapped for and required blue mana instead). We’ll only know the answer once we know how many cards require Eldrazi mana.
Kozilek the Great Distortion

[casthaven]Kozilek, the Great Distortion[/casthaven] is our only Eldrazi mana spell and doesn’t give us a ton to go on. How many cards in Oath of the Gatewatch will require two Eldrazi mana to cast? How many will require any at all? How many will have activated abilities which need it? Only time will tell.

Looking at the card as a whole, a 10 mana 12/12 is par for the course. Not only are those perfect Eldrazi stats, but they’re Kozilek’s same stats as last time. Kozilek’s first ability is great: it both harkens back to its previous incarnation and is a busted on-cast trigger. The other two abilities I’m substantially less enamored of.

Menace on a legendary Eldrazi feels wrong. Sure, it’s a horrifying monster likely to test the courage of any would-be defender, but it feels like too weak a form of evasion. I know it can’t fly (only Emrakul does) and perhaps trample is too strong, but Kozilek being stopped by two squirrels somehow feels like more of a flavor fail to me than it being stopped by a lone squirrel (which is weird and might just be me). The latter is an odd consequence of Magic’s combat system, whereas the former calls attention to it.

Kozilek’s third ability, however, is the most bizarre. Blue is the only color that’s supposed to be able to hard-counter spells: [casthaven]Not of This World[/casthaven], [casthaven]Jester’s Scepter[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Null Broch[/casthaven] are the only colorless counterspells and all had stricter limitations than [casthaven]Hisoka, Minamo Sensei[/casthaven]’s. I don’t know how much of a color bend that is, particularly on a ten drop Eldrazi which is supposed to feel weird, but it’s unusual. Secondly, it’s exceptionally odd to have a control ability on a card that’s supposed to end the game by itself. It does give Kozilek a means of protecting itself (something it lacked last time), but it’s weird. Granted, the Eldrazi are supposed to feel weird, so I’m not sure if it’s good design because it feels wrong or bad design because it feels wrong.

Kozilek Butcher of Truth

That’s it for this week. We’ve got some cool spoilers that may hint at things to come early next year. Or they may be some interesting fakes. Only time (and Wizards) will tell. That said, I’ve got a couple final thoughts:

  • Anyone else think it’d be premature to see Kozilek in Oath of the Gatewatch? Ulamog hasn’t exactly been defeated yet (it gets freed by Ob Nixilis). Magic could easily have the Eldrazi be a years-long chase storyline, rather than address two of the three titans in a single block. This leads me to believe this Kozilek could be a fake (though that gorgeous looking Wastes artwork tilts me in the other direction).
  • Kozilek doesn’t exile cards. Perhaps there are no processors in OotG? Or perhaps exiling and processing is unique to Ulamog and its brood?

Regardless of the answer, I’m looking forward to learning more about Oath of the Gatewatch and all of its new designs in the weeks to come. Until then, we’ll all have speculation and Battle for Zendikar to keep us company.

And, as ever, thanks for reading!

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner, improviser, and game designer (currently going for an MFA in Game Design at NYU). He has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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