A look back at the Future (Sight) Part 1
Today is the 10th Anniversary of one of my favorite sets, Future Sight!
Not only was Future Sight one of my favorite sets, its part of what is certainly my favorite block ever, the Time Spiral block, so to celebrate this great event, I decided I wanted to do something kinda big.
But first, here’s a quick rundown about the block and the set, and why I love them so much, to catch everyone up who wasn’t playing back then.
I loved the block because it was chock full of mechanics, history and references to the previous 13-14 years of the game’s history. Unfortunately that meant it was very difficult to engage with for players who hadn’t been playing that whole time, as I had, so I understand that it’s something that won’t be repeated, but I still love it for what it was.
The major theme of the block was time, and it was during the 3 sets per block period of the game, so they split it quite cleanly into Past, Present, and Future themed sets. Wizard’s created something they called the “Timeshifted Sheet” to help push these themes, and each set used its timeshifted sheet differently to play up it’s specific theme.
Time Spiral‘s Timeshifted sheet contained 121 cards that had never been printed in the new (at the time) frame. They were printed in their original frame, and each booster included 1 card from this sheet, so they all had a purple expansion symbol.
Planar Chaos‘s Timeshifted sheet contained 45 cards that were from an alternate present, or an alternate reality. Each of these cards were exact reprints of previous cards, just shifted into another color, a couple of them had very minor ability changes to make them match the spirit of the original, rather than the exact text. For example White Knight became Blood Knight, and the protection from black, became protection from white instead. The coloration on the frame was a little different, to show these were from an alternate present.
Finally, Future Sight‘s Timeshifted sheet contained 81 cards Pre-prints. Or rather, cards from potential futures, or, really, cards they might print sometime in the future. The whole ‘potential’ futures was a way for them to not be stuck having to print these cards, if they couldn’t find a place for some, or if they decided they just didn’t want some of them to come back. These sported an entirely new frame. The most significant changes are moving the mana cost to the left of the art, and stacking it vertically, rather than lining it horizontally, and adding a symbol in the upper left corner to mark the type that each card is. You can see the creature symbol below on Street Wraith.
These sets, particularly the idea of the cards from different and alternate time periods, a big part of what I loved about this block. Not only did it give me more magic cards, like any set, and not only did it give me a huge dose of nostalgia, it was also like a giant puzzle, every card was a glimpse of something from the past, a different present if things had gone differently, or a potential future.
So, getting back to what I am doing in celebration, I decided I to look at all 81 cards from the Future-shifted sheet, and see if they had actually showed up in the subsequent 10 years or not. This turned into a much bigger project than I was expecting it to be, but it seems like that happens to a lot of things that are worth doing. I really enjoyed doing the work behind this, and I hope you enjoy the ride.
I will warn you, this is going to be a multi-article epic.
One more note before I dive in, I have a lot of references and sources, and I’ll link those as I go along. The only one I want to call out on it’s own is the Storm Scale.
This is something that Mark Rosewater (the head designer of magic) came up with on his blog. It’s a 10 point scale that describes how likely a given mechanic is to come back in a standard legal set.
There’s a couple noteworthy things here. First, it’s named after the mechanic storm, which is one of the most broken mechanics magic has ever done. Storm is a 10 on the scale, and was the first measuring stick he put down to measure mechanics against. Also, this is only talking about standard legal sets, Masters sets, Commander decks, and any other supplementary product is not covered by this scale. Finally, no point on this scale says a mechanic can’t come back. Mark is careful to word this all around likelihood, not certainty, in either direction. He also will spell out the factors that give the mechanic a certain grade. Even mechanics with a high grade can come back, for instance Madness came back in Shadows over Innistrad, even the it has an 8 on the scale (Described as a “It’s unlikely to return, but possible if the stars align”).
Now, the future-shifted sheet, in alphabetic order:
Arcanum Wings has not yet been reprinted. It looks like it’s unlikely to be reprinted as well. Mark Rosewater, the head Designer of Magic, said on his blog that the mechanic, and thus card as well, were not considered for Theros because “R&D is down on mechanics that tutor as it greatly increases repetition of play (games play out more similarly)”
Now, this card doesn’t actually tutor, but I think Mark’s point of games playing out the same is a good one. One card with Aura Swap isn’t going to be too bad, but if you had a number, which is what will happen if the mechanic comes back, then you could end up with games of using the cheap aura swap cards to inexpensively attach the same one or two very powerful auras, like Eldrazi Conscription, while also making it very difficult to interact with, as this is an activated ability, so even conventional counterspells can’t stop this.
That line of play sounds like a lot of fun, especially in a format like Commander, and it’s not happening every game, but having that take place regularly in something like Standard would probably get old fast.
Aven Mindcensor was printed just a week ago, in Amonkhet. This was a card that I didn’t think would ever be reprinted into a standard legal set, right up until the previews for Amonkhet started while I was working on this project, and this card was in there. That’s not to say I have anything against the card, I really like it actually. It has a nice pretty unique ability that I just assumed would make it tough to include in standard, but obviously Wizards feels differently about that than I do.
Leonin Arbiter and Stranglehold are both cards that were printed after Aven Mindcensor and play in a simailar space, though they are both more in the pedigree of Shadow of Doubt, which actually came out one block before Aven Mindcensor.
I personally like Aven Mindcensor the most out of the group, because I like the design of this ability on a creature with flash, so it can be used to ambush a tutor, and I like the design of it not forbidding the ability, rather just allowing it in a very narrow sense. That seems like the white take on this, if you look at the rest of the cards I mentioned the other white version, Leonin Arbiter doesn’t ban searching either, it just taxes it. It’s the red, and blue/black versions that outright prevent people from searching.
I love this whole cycle. I just want to start there, I think it’s super sweet. Oh, and none of these have been reprinted. Korlash, Heir to Blackblade does have a second version, but it’s a pre-release promo for Future Sight, so that doesn’t count. According to Mark Rosewater, there is a chance they’ll come back to Grandeur mechanic, and it has a 4 on the Stormscale, which is described as “Will most likely do again, but they have issues that make them less of a guarantee”, so I’m actually hopeful that we’ll see this mechanic come back.
The likelihood for these specific cards though, I would say is less than that. All 5 of these are Legends who reference a Canon character from earlier in the game. Now, to the best of my knowledge at least, none of these 5 have had any stories told about them, so it’s possible we’ll see them reprinted if we go back to Dominira, and that set also contains Grandeur. There is also the possibility of these being reprinted in some supplemental product that doesn’t have to adhere as close to the story.
Beyond just the cool references back to story characters, I also just love this mechanic, mostly because it helps to mitigate the inherent downside of the Legend mechanic, which is another mechanic I love. Even before I played Commander, where having a creature be legendary is actually a good thing, I still loved collecting Legends.
Baru, Fist of Krosa is probably my favorite in this cycle, because he’s got a landfall type trigger, and land-centric decks are one of my favorite thing to play in magic. This guy was in my Karametra, God of Harvests deck, which was really the first commander deck I built. He’s also fun in a Titania, Protector of Argoth deck. He’s a little limited, as his trigger only helps green creatures, but I’ve still really enjoyed playing with him. He is a reference to Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. In the story he was a barbarian (and started as Kamahl, Pit Fighter), then went through a redemption arc in Krosa forest, turned green and became Kamahl, Fist of Krosa.
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade, like Baru, Fist of Krosa can be super powerful in a mono color deck, or at least one that is mostly their color. I’ve always liked Korlash in an abstract sense, but now that I am looking at it, he might be a fun, and new take on, a voltron Commander deck, in other words a deck where the whole plan is to use equipment and/or Auras to beef up one creature to win. Korlash, Heir to Blackblade can become huge on his own, and has a pretty solid way to protect himself, assuming you have the 2 mana to regenerate him. He is a reference to the Legends card Dakkon Blackblade which I have a soft spot for because it’s one of the first cards my Dad and I saw that just blew us away because both the ability and the art looked awesome. Also, as I’ve said, I have a soft spot for land-centric abilities.
Linessa, Zephyr Mage is a reference to Alexi, Zephyr Mage. I don’t really have much else to say about Linessa though. I don’t think she’s a bad card, but I’m not sure she’s very good, at least in the context of commander. Actually, rather than Linessa, I’m intrigued by the idea of an Alexi deck, especially with some of the new Amonkhet cards that give you a benefit for discarding things.
Tarox Bladewing is a reference to Rorix Bladewing, and both are kinda just big dumb dragons. There are times and places for them, but the game is full of big dumb dragons. I do like that Tarox is the only in this cycle to actually get flavor text though, that’s sweet. But seriously, Rorix ended up becoming Bladewing the Risen who I think is much more Commander relevant than either of the other cards.
Oriss, Samite Guardian due to a similar name, and matching both mana cost and power/toughness, I’m pretty sure is a reference to Orim, Samite Healer (herself a reference back to the Alpha card Samite Healer). There is actually another legend in this pedigree as well, Atalya, Samite Master. The only place I’ve used Oriss, Samite Guardian before was in my Mono-white, all Legend commander deck, but I don’t think I actually cast her in any of those games. She seems super powerful, even if that power is focused into a pretty narrow spot.
Bitter Ordeal has not been reprinted, and it seems very unlikely that it will be. Mark Rosewater said “It’s based on the most broken Magic mechanic of all time. It has a scale named after it and everything.” Referencing the Storm Scale.
I think it’s a really interesting card, I’ve heard of some people floating combo decks with it in Modern to exile a good portion of your opponent’s library, if not the whole thing, but I don’t know how viable that really is.
In Commander, short of some ridiculous combo deck, this card doesn’t really have a good home. And even those combo decks seem unlikely, as there are way easier ways to go about comboing for a win.
That seems like a good spot to stop for now. So that’s 8 cards down, only 73 more to talk about!
@alexandernewm on twitter
Moltenronrick on Tappedout.net
I started playing Magic when I was 8, and Revised had just been released, and have been playing on and off since then.
I like to write, and I like magic, so writing about magic was a natural step.
I live in Minnesota, USA where it's pretty cold, then fairly hot, and then pretty cold again.But at least we don't get Earthquakes, hurricanes or *that many Tornadoes.