In this game, it's not just a moment that lets you enjoy the flavor. It can also lead to some powerful combos.
In Return To Ravnica, the Azorius were given an entire runic alphabet, as seen in many of their cards. It's quite an interesting embellishment, until you realise that "rune" comes from the Indo-European root "reu", which is also the root for Ouranos and Varuna. Both are sky deities; which colour pair focuses on flying and the sky again?
Examine the art work for Dimir Charm. It's not a stone or medallion like the others, but actually an arrangement of windows that will only look like a Dimir symbol from a certain angle. Perfect imagery for a guild of secrets that few know the existence of.
Do you know why the Innistrad pack was delayed into 2011/2012? Think about it; wouldn't a world where all hope is being lost fit well into an year were everyone is paranoid about the end of the world? And now with Avacyn Restored, the up-beat ending after so many downer endings sounds like reassuring that good will triumph in the end.
Even better, add up the number of cards in the Innistrad block and you get a grand total of 666. Makes perfect sense that there are 666 cards to collect in a set based around demons, vampires, werewolves, zombies, and Sealed Evil in a Can.
Many cards contain subtle shout-outs to other cards that fall under this trope. For example, it's easy to notice that Fortune Thief is a throwback to the Arabian Nights card Ali from Cairo, but if you look closely at the art, you can see that the Fortune Thief has the same ability because she stole Ali's magical amulet. There are numerous other examples, most of which are pointed out on the official website's "Magic Arcana" feature here.
In the Scars of Mirrodin set for Magic: The Gathering, the Phyrexians' logo is a circle with a line through it. To put it in other words, it's the lower case greek letter Phi. As in Phi-rexians. I facepalmed when I realized the connection.
Also note that phi is the symbol for the golden ratio... an antiquity mathematical value often attributed to perfection.
For many people, the realization that trading one life for one card is actually an absurdly good deal marks a huge step in their understanding of the game.
Hell, even Greed was awesome back in Fourth Edition, and that was 1 black mana and 2 life for every card drawn. With the right deck, even this was a bargain, allowing you to rapidly outpace your opponent while mitigating life loss.
Also note that the new White Phyrexians have as their defining feature the fact that their skin was flayed and replaced by white, porcelain covering. The end result is that many of them look somewhat skeletical, specially when combined with their exposed muscle tissue. This is likely a call back to Kamigawa, in which several villains were White since that is the colour of death in traditional japanese culture, and indeed some Red and Black spirits of the same setting were also naturally coloured that way (specially Yuki-Onna and Kemuri-Onna).
My basic thought upon seeing the various "seals" of Ravnica (which were basically instants like Terror and Shock redone as enchantments that would have the effect when sacrificed) was "hmm, vaguely interesting, but it does mean the opponent knows what's coming". Then I remembered one of the guilds of Ravnica thrives on having no cards in your hand, meaning that having a spell sitting out in the open in enchantment form waiting to be used is actually a tactical advantage. - Count Dorku
Oddly, they didn't print the entire Seal cycle — only the black Seal of Doom, and the red Seal of Fire. Hmmm, what colours was the guild that cared about having an empty hand again?
Necrogen Scudder was the only Phyrexian card in Scars of Mirrodin that didn't feature infect, proliferate, -1/-1 counters, or other Phyrexian mechanics and was not legendary like Geth. But it does require you to pay 3 life. The Mirrans got all the life gain, and a card which prevents life loss altogether, while Phyrexians got most of the life payment. But then you realize that Phyrexians don't care about life (since they win by poison counters) and are happy to pay it, as shown by Phyrexian mana cards.
The Phyrexian factions were shown out of place in the Planeswalker's Guide; instead of the usual WUBRG, it was WBUGR. While it was arguably to make the Red Phyrexians' goodness an epic reveal, it can also be indicative of which colours are more naturally Phyrexian, starting with the highly dogmatic and organised White and ending with the freedom-loving Red.
Bronze Bombshell seems to be a fairly obvious pun on "blonde bombshell" that happens to actually be a bombshell. But why is it an artifact creature? It's an objectified woman. Chimaera
No, it's even better: it's a blow-up doll! — Troacctid
The Helvault is like Pandora's Box. It contains all the evil in the world. Once opened, all the evil comes out along with hope. Which in this case means Avacyn. PMiller1
The Dark Ascension set brought in the red/green "Immerwolf," a Wolf creature which gives a boost to all Wolves and Werewolves, and, while it is in play, non-Human Werewolves cannot transform. So any Werewolf that has transformed into its stronger monster state stays that way. Why is this brilliant? It's all in the name. "Immer" is the German word for "always." So "Immerwolf" means "Always Wolf," as in, "Your Werewolves will stay Wolves."
The Dimir-colored 20-sided die is blue and black, which are very difficult to read from across the table unless the light is just right. How fitting for the guild of secrets and sneaking...
With the ascension of Xenagos to the Therosian pantheon, they number 15: 5 mono-color major gods, and 10 multicolor minor gods. But there wasn't an RG god before Xenagos ascended. Why not? Look at what Xenagos does immediately upon apotheosis: he takes an ordinary "Hey we won a war!" festival, cranks it up to 11, and sends it rollicking across the plane like a cross between a hurricane and a bacchanalian orgy. This has probably happened before, possibly with an ancient god of revels born of Nyx, and he was killed too.
More on Xenagos, he's actually a perfect villain for a block inspired by Greek mythology. One of Xenagos' key character traits is that he is ridiculously arrogant even before he ascends (one of the novels has him mocking the gods with twisted versions of their titles), and he ends up ascending to godhood solely because he feels he deserves to be a god and make things the way they 'should' be. Essentially, he feels he is better than the gods. In other words, Xenagos' sin is hubris, very appropriate for a narrative so steeped in Greek mythology tropes.
Keranos' second ability makes perfect sense. It basically amounts to frequent Lightning Bolts. Fitting for the God of Storms.
Both of Keranos' abilities are fantastic flavor. Both red and blue, he's not the god of lightning, but the god of 'storms', as in brainstorms. Being struck by inspiration is often likened to being struck by lightning (think of a pre-19th century lightbulb-over-the-head). So Keranos can both hurl actual lightning and bestow surges of intelligence, i.e. draw an extra card.
Elspeth's spear is revealed to be named Godsend, which can be pronounced in two different ways: God-send or Gods-end. The brilliance comes in the fact that both of these are very Meaningful Names: The weapon is a gift from Heliod to his champion (God-send), but it's also one of the very few weapons strong enough to slay a God, and in fact is used to do exactly that (Gods-end).
Heliod comes across as a complete asshole — jealous, arrogant, ambitious, and cruel — and he barely seems suited to be king of the gods. Who else had all of those traits? Zeus. Heliod's jerkassery is just in keeping with the mythology he draws from.
Adding to this, Elspeth's death and Daxos' fate makes Godsend a Downer Ending. But very few of the heroes in Greek mythology got a happy ending. What, you expected a happy ending in a narrative this steeped in Classical Mythology tropes?
Despite the end of the Theros Storyline, Elspeth has no obligation to stay in the Underworld, unless Erebos bribes her with a hermitage or something. Mastix cannot reach across the Blind Eternities, nor can Khrusor pierce the metaphysical walls that bound the universe of Theros. The planeswalker's soul contains their spark, and has so since the beginning (we've seen this with Xenagos, who by Word of God retains his spark even after his apotheosis). She will not be split into body and eidolon as a Returned is, as the ritual requires that they physically leave. She'll need a new face, as that is the price of entry to the Underworld, but both Lorwyn and Ravnica have magic plastic surgery, as does every plane with a suitably-advanced city. All she needs to do is walk away from the gods that have cheated, abused, and killed her.
Sadly, per Word of God, one does not simply planeswalk out of the Underworld.
Why did we have the "Gainsay Cycle" in Theros? Because the story concludes with Heliod, a White aligned character, murdering Elspeth, another White aligned character. In hindsight, Glare of Heresy makes perfect sense.
Why were Orcs only introduced in Khans of Tarkir despite being arguably a staple of fantasy settings? Tarkir is inspired by Asian cultures, and the Mardu, the clan with the most Orcs, is based on the Mongols. Tolkien said this of the Orcs in Lord of the Rings in one of his letters: "... they are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types." Orcs were finally included in Tarkir because to a degree, the actual Mongols were an inspiration for the Trope Codifier, and so they fit into Tarkir perfectly.
While Orcs have existed in the game since long before Tarkir, they've become much more prominent in this block Explanation not counting reprints, there are 34 Orc creatures in the game. Of these, 14 are from the Tarkir block. so it still fits.
There are a few cards in Khans of Tarkir that support colorless cards. That doesn't make sense (in a set with only 1 artifact creature), unless you remember that it also implicitly supports Morph creatures. Adding another layer: many of the colorless support cards reference Ugin, who a) supposedly taught the non-dragons how to morph, and b) was the one that managed to pump enough colorless mana into the Eldrazi that they became colorless (instead of totally incomprehensible).
Most of them also slot nicely into both the artifact subtheme in Origins and the return of the Eldrazi in Battle for Zendikar. R&D: always thinking ahead!
It makes sense that all the clans of Tarkir are at war with each other. Each clan uses either black or red mana, generally considered the most amoral and violent colors respectively. That could also explain why the Mardu Horde is particularly bloodthirsty, they use both.
In "Drop For Drop", Kiora swipes Thassa's Bident. Combat damage -> draw cards is traditionally a blue, green, or blue/green ability, and what colours was Kiora again?
Gideon's Belligerent Sexual Tension with Chandra makes a lot more sense when you consider a couple of facts from his origin story. First, we now know that he's from the city of Akros, which is heavily associated with both white and red mana, so red's ethos would have been a part of his most fundamental ideals. Second, before he became a paladin and heiromancer, he was a street thief and vigilante. There's a strong strain of chaos in him, even if he keeps it mostly repressed these days.
Also, Gideon and Chandra each represent what the other most needs for Character Development. Gideon needs someone to get him to enjoy life and embrace his passions, while Chandra needs someone to get her to slow down and consider the consequences of her actions. Gideon needs passion, Chandra needs order.
Call The Gatewatch is a white card. Gideon, the person who first proposed the idea of the Gatewatch and persuaded his fellow Planeswalkers to create it with him, is a mono-white character.
Eldrazi Spawn tokens. Eldrazi Spawn. As in, children. You sacrifice them to add mana, most likely to summon the big Eldrazi.
The Eldrazi get even scarier when you examine them. Not only are they meant to be reminiscent of Cthulhu, but they become even more terrifying when you realize that while they're colorless, they're also not artifacts. They have somehow managed to transcend "mere" things like the five colors that so much of the Magic Multiverse revolves around. Not even Nicol Bolas, the most powerful "old" planeswalker left alive, managed that trick.
Since the Eldrazi essentially devour every Plane they come across, another, less Fridge Horrific explanation is that they're either from a Plane with completely different rules (and that nobody can go to because it's already been eaten), or from somewhere outside the Multiverse entirely.
It has been stated that the Eldrazi come from the Aether, not any given plane that may or may not have existed. The Aether is the channels between planes, as in, the thing Planeswalkers use to travel between planes. They didn't have any affiliation (not even colourless...They were something transcendent of everything) but gained their colourless status when they were imprisoned on Zendikar, as the only way for the Planeswalkers of old to achieve this was to have Sorin pump them full of colourless magic, and the other two trap them. - Brownie.
Actually Sorin lead them to Zendikar, where Ugin would blunt their attacks with his "ghostfire" and used his knowledge of colorless magic to bind them to the world. The lithomancer created the prison.
In Battle For Zendikar, the Eldrazi get even more screwy with the Devoid cards. Now you've got something that's neither exactly colorless (because you have to have certain colors to cast them) nor colored (because they explicitly have no color).
The Dredge keyword. At first, it seems simple enough — you mill yourself to get something lost. Then, you remember that, in Magic, your Deck means your memory. Basically, in-flavor, to use Dredge, you need to sacrifice your sanity
Actually, in Magic, your deck is called a 'library', which is basically your spellbook. Therefore, it's more like erasing stuff from your spellbook that you can re-write later.
Whilst it's called a library, fluffwise it's your memory (library = all the spells you know, hand = the handful (geddit?) of spells you're thinking about at any given moment). Library is just a fantasy word that vaguely has to do with what the deck is. It could also do with the evolution of the game's fluff: in the early days the deck might have represented your spellbook, but it means memory at this point.
Also consider cards like Jace, Memory Adept; Jace, the Mind-Sculptor; Traumatize; Mindcrank... This list could go on forever. Quite a lot of the cards that have to do with milling are about memory, mind, and/or sanity.
Interestingly, this presents an explanation for both your maximum hand size and the "unable to draw" loss condition. Maximum hand size is the number of spells you can remember clearly at a given time; too much information to remember for long causes you to focus on a few and disregard the rest (discarding). But when you can remember nothing else at all that hasn't already been cast or slipped your mind, you go insane. Of course there are exceptions; someone like Laboratory Maniac would prefer that to happen.
Oddly, it's pointed out to you, but you just don't think about it. Mostly it's "Sacrifice a creature:...", which seems like it's as in "sometimes we need to make sacrifices", before you remember the players represent wizards and sorcerers. Eldrazi Spawn tokens take this to a whole new level: You can sacrifice them to generate one colorless mana each, which you'll most likely use to summon the huge, Timmy-favored, Troperrific (Master Race, Eldritch Abomination, Non-Elemental, etc. etc.) Eldrazi. Yes, the Eldrazi eat their children.
A friend came up with an idea that makes it a bit less horrific: The spawn are simply mana made flesh, they have no real conscience. The reason they can be sacrificed is it lets the mana flow into the world. The Eldrazi eat mana. You don't so much summon Emrakul, as the spawn go to wake him up. Like an alarm clock. When there's 15 of them poking his head, he rolls over to get up and squashes them, devouring the mana they once held.
It has subsequently been confirmed that every Eldrazi creature is in fact part of a greater entity, with Spawn/Scions being particularly insignificant bits, rather than actual independent creatures. Whether that makes it less scary or more scary is really down to the individual.
Not so bad if you understand the premise of the game. The players represent planeswalkers, powerful wizards who have developed the ability to shift from one plane of reality to another, each plane manifesting as some sort of world. The battle between players is to decide who controls the plane that they are on at the time, and all of the cards represent the memories of the planeswalkers. The lands represent all the places they've been to, and recalling them allows the planeswalkers to call forth the mana that flowed through that land. All of the creatures are sort of Platonic forms: Idealised representations of some remembered creature, made manifest by the planeswalker converting the mana into a physical form with a purpose. Sacrificing a creature merely means dissolving the integrity of the magical construct in such a way that the energy can be directed to some other purpose.
With the introduction of the word "dies" into the official jargon, it could literally mean you're not summoning an idealisation of the creature, but the creature itself, which can then die a horrible, horrible death.
Magical copies can "die" or cease to exist as well. The term was mostly introduced because everyone was using it to describe a creature hitting the graveyard, and it's a lot shorter than "creature goes to the graveyard from play."
By contrast, because goblins are Too Dumb to Live, sacrificing a goblin is funny. Or Mogg Fanatic (sacrifice to do 1 damage to anything), bloodfire cards (sacrifice to do damage equal to its power to everything), and Goblin Grenade (sacrifice a goblin to do 5 damage to anything).
Token creatures in general fit this trope, as they were mostly created by some sort of (usually asexual) reproduction. They were born to fight.
Certain tokens, such as Tuktuk the Returned and the Marit Lage tokens are meant to represent the great deity the base cards summon, after a certain condition are met.
Titania's Song (makes artifacts into creatures with power and toughness equal to their mana cost) on zero-cost artifacts. Now, for the record, when toughness => damage a creature's taken since the last end-of-turn step, it goes straight to the discard pile, a.k.a. the graveyard. And a creature with 0 toughness just straight-up dies, even if it's indestructible. Yes, it's possible to animate artifacts only to kill them. Since any competitive Vintage deck will include a Black Lotus, a Lotus Petal, and all the appropriate Moxen for its colors, any competitive Vintage deck not including those will include Titania's Song or its aura (affects only one) cousin, Animate Artifact. Also, if Titania's Song is destroyed, though only two colors can really destroy it, And I Must Scream is invoked.
Lord of the Undead (a card which, among other things, can return zombies from the graveyard to your hand) + Lord of the Pit (a card which requires a sacrifice every turn or it does more damage to you). What sadist would play this? A sadist who wants to win, that's who.
The Stuffy Doll/Guilty Conscience combo is particularly terrifying. Essentially, you kill your opponent by making a voodoo doll of him feel guilt, which damages the voodoo doll, which damages your opponent, which makes the voodoo doll feel guiltier, which damages the opponent more. You give a doll a conscience only so that it can kill your opponent with its own shame. Over killing your opponent.
A storyline-related one: New Phyrexia. The good news is, Phyrexians can't planeswalk, so unless they get something like the Weatherlight, other planes are safe. The bad news is, every plane Karn has ever visited before Venser purified him has Phyrexian oil on it! And so long as a drop of Phyrexian oil is on any plane, the Great Work can continue. And if the Mirrans with their affinity and Skullclamps and all the rest of their tricks couldn't beat the Phyrexians, what chance do (for instance) the Mercadians have?
Luckily, Karn's dealt with the issue by simply negating the oil's crazytime effects. Besides which, the Mirrans had the disadvantage of already being partly metal and therefore more vulnerable to phyresis.
Let's hope the Phyrexians never land on Alara, then. The residents of Esper all have enough metal in them to be considered artifacts!
The Innistrad block ends with Griselbrand dying and most of the demons being hunted down and killed. However, it was stated in "The Saint, the Geist, and the Angel" that Demons do not die permanently. Withengar, for example, returned after being defeated by st. Traft's guardian. What's to say that Griselbrand won't return? Also, there's no helvault to trap them in and it is never stated that angels can return from the dead. Eventually, the angels will slowly die off and the demons will just come back.
Given that the reason the demons can return is that they are in essence constructs of pure black mana, I'm pretty sure that angels (constructs of pure white mana) can also reincarnate.
On the other hand, it's sometimes stated that the Chain Veil could somehow kill Griselbrand permanently, so we may have seen the last of him.
The card Defy Death's flavor implies that angels can come back as well.
Even if Griselbrand does come back and somehow defeat Avacyn, it would just drag Sorin (the guy who created Avacyn) back to Innistrad. And Sorin is NOT somebody you want mad at you.
Speaking of demons, Wordof God says that Ravenous Demon's design was based on the idea that to demons, humans are like potato chips.
Several nore things about the Eldrazi, at least before Battle For Zendikar set.
Naturalize from Rise of the Eldrazi depicts a mage destroying a hedron, with a matching flavor text that shows someone being annoyed at the hedron being intact long enough for the Eldrazi to start using them, like in Hedron Matrix. Seeing that these same hedrons still manage to lock the Eldrazi in Zendikar, one can only shudder that this unknowing mage is actually actively bringing Zendikar even closer to certain doom.
Gameplay-wise, one of the very few ways to permanently deal with the Eldrazi is to exile them. Thing is, exile effects carry several meanings: Either completely destroying something until nothing remains (such as Dust to Dust), assigning them elsewhere (Swords to Plowshares), or sending them to another place (Journey to Nowhere). If you somehow use one of the last two options (if it is at all possible), imagine where you might actually send them to.
Some exile cards, like Unmake, make it clear that And I Must Scream may be involved (in this case, having your soul trapped in a mirror).
Though Dromoka and her clan seem idillic when compared to the rest of Tarkir, a lot of it seems more horrifying the more you think about it. For starters, it's a meritocracy... because Dromoka's a social darwinist. Parents are not allowed to raise their children as their own, and yet they're encouraged to have children. Even her initial obsession, to stomp out "necromancy", is reasoned like the worst sort of religious fanatic.
In-Universe, Ugin points out to Jace that the Zendikari are fighting Ulamog, and only Ulamog. Where are the other two? Have they escaped the trap, once again roaming Dominia and devouring planes?
Kozilek has made a grand reappearance in Oath of the Gatewatch. That unfortunately doesn't answer where Emrakul has left to.
This story, told from the perspective of a Zendikari who is in the midst of battling the Eldrazi, shows some effects of Kozilek's mind rape (and that fellow is lucky she 'only' gets mind-raped), including one part where Kozilek shows a Bad Future where the Gatewatch are destroyed and Zendikar ruined. Problem is, we, audience, know full well that this story takes place in the Tarkir timeline where Ugin lives. In short, what if that Bad Future vision is not a mere Bad Future, but an actual event that happens in the other timeline where Ugin died (even Sorin believes his death will mean the Eldrazi cannot be resealed)? And long story short, does this mean that as part of their incomprehensibility, the Eldrazi are somehow also capable of reaching out (or reading) to different timelines? And worst of all, will this have anything to do with Emrakul's moniker, the Aeons Torn?
The reasoning for the exclusion of Angels, White's iconic creature, from the Greek-themed Theros block because they supposedly don't fit the setting. Despite the fact that the Greeks invented Angels, and are responsible for their modern winged human appearance.
But most people don't know that, and thus it would look out of place. Kamigawa taught Creative that accuracy to the basis of a world usually needs to take a backseat to what players generally expect and know about the basis.
It was a bit of a disappointment to some snake tribal deck players that the Naga that appear in Tarkir do not have the creature type: snake. As disappointing as it is, the new creature type 'naga' make sense in-universe. The Nagas claimed to have descended from the lineage of the great dragons of the past, of course they wouldn't want to be associated with the snakes. Why be related to the snakes when your entire race are descendants of dragons?