Magic: The Gathering’s newest set, Oath of the Gatewatch, is out, and that means it is time for another rendition of this thing where I tell you what the most interesting cards in the set are. They’re not the best cards, and they’re not the ones that are going to make you rich through speculation. I mean, I know that the average Magic player is buying up cards to pay for their combo retirement/Soylent subscription in the grimdark future, but we’re going to imagine that that isn’t the case while we check out The Most Interesting Cards in Oath of the Gatewatch (Ranked Objectively).
Kozilek is one of the Big Bads of Oath of the Gatewatch, and his whole deal is that he warps reality around himself. That’s bad for things like sentient beings who enjoy some kind of consistency of experience, but that’s no trouble for the Matter Reshaper. Matter Reshaper is content to hang out and literally transform into anyone else as long as they’re not too big. So what if some allies shoot him in his big red tum tum? He’ll just turn into a grizzly bear or a fun wizard.
This card is an approximation of what it would be like if a swampy forest came to life and started wailing on you. Frankly, the very idea of that is traumatic to me. It reminds me of that episode of Are You Afraid Of The Dark? where that The Exorcist-looking dude haunted the forest and ate all of those kids. Mechanically, this card also has deathtouch, so literally the act of being around it means that you are 100% dead no matter what you do. 10/10 for recurring childhood trauma.
This is a card that depicts a little elf getting so much help from the elements of the plane of Zendikar that it becomes a spider with an ass-kicking staff. If The Lord of the Rings approximated even 10% of this I might not think that it is the most boring fictional world ever devised by human hands. I don’t know why the elf on this card is not the hero of Oath of the Gatewatch. I mean, my God, how is this real life?
While I don’t much care to play with this card, the storytelling that it manages to do is really great. Basically this vampire shaman (!) says “hold on, buddy, can you help me out a second?” before raising some kind of zombie hellmonster from the great beyond. It’s really a story about how teamwork makes the dream work and can get us through anything. It’s the vampire slash zombie slash buddy cop flick version of Milo and Otis.
Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch are both Magic sets that take place on the plane of Zendikar, a wacky world where the literal land itself can sometimes stand up and start kicking ass all over the place. This card is depicting just that: this is some weird volcano business that has stood up, and worse, it’s making other lands stand up. It’s basically that guy that tries to start the wave at a high school basketball game. Except that guy is your dad and you find him very embarrassing, and this is a card from a collectible game that depicts a mountain-being bent on destruction.
This card is all telling all of your bros to attack a bad guy. Nissa, a Planeswalker and native of Zendikar, has just had it with the villains of this set, and so she not only does a shout or something to make her dudes bigger, but then she has those dudes punch Kozilek and Ulamog right in the legs and shins with full force (they are like fifty stories tall so you have to take that into account). It really drives home Oath’s mechanic of Support, and it’s a great little part of the endgame of the plotline of this set.
You look out over the ocean, and there’s a giant tsunami coming your way. Even worse, it has a face, and that face looks like it eats people. You get your magical allies together, you shoot some spells at it, and you finally defeat that wall of water. Then the literal ground beneath your feet comes to life and starts attacking you. That’s what is happening with Cyclone Sire. It’s a cool card.
The scary enemies Ulamog and Kozilek, the Big Bads mentioned previously, have spent quite a long time on Zendikar doing bad things. Some of those bad things are shooting weird headcrabs on top of their enemies in order to possess them and turn them into drones. It’s bad news all around, but Press Into Service shows you the other side. This industrious goblin has jumped onto the back of a drone vampire and turns them into a weird little makeshift chariot kind of like Master Blaster from the best Mad Max film.
This card is straight-up goofy. I mean, read the flavor text at the bottom of the card. You can just see this Ryza person rolling back into camp with this bug suit on and cheering his own ingenuity. Keep in mind that the people who live on the plane of Zendikar have been systematically slaughtered and hounded across the world by the Eldrazi enemies, and this guy is like “listen y’all, what if the answer is bug suit?” No one takes him seriously. Everyone avoids him. He lives to an old age, cloaked in shame and bug guts.
There’s nothing about this card that I don’t love. It can teleport its allies around in order to keep them safe. It can teleport its enemies to keep them locked down and out of a fight. It is a beefy little guy that can take a punch as well as give one. It even has a cheerful face if you take a serious look into its soul. There’s nothing that Eldrazi Displacer can’t do. It’s an international treasure.
Cameron Kunzelman tweets at @ckunzelman and writes about games at thiscageisworms.com. His latest game, Epanalepsis, was released on May 21. It’s available on Steam.