giovedì 23 febbraio 2017

Amonkhet Predictions

So, I just saw this video from the Tolarian Community College making predictions about Amonkhet. The five predictions from the video are the following:

1- Bolas wins and the Gatewatch loses, but no Gatewatch member dies.
2- AKH is only loosely Egyptian based, with just an Egyptian fantasy flavor rather than being a realistic take on Egyptian mythology.
3- Return of "Enchantment Creature — God" cards, with AKH as maybe an enchantments-matter block.
4- The block right after AKH is a return to Dominaria, not a return to New Phyrexia and also not Atlazan.
5- Damnation is reprinted somewhere in the AKH block, either as a regular card, a Masterpiece, or both.

The video was posted one week ago, February 16th 2017, but I just saw it now (February 23rd 2017). I was inspired to write down my own predictions, and that's what I'm doing here. The reason I'm doing this is that I actually have a pretty good record on these (for example calling Tarkir to be the wedge set way before we officially knew it among other things), but the first and only time so far that I went and posted a prediction publicly on the internet (MTGS speculation forum) instead of keeping it to myself, it was wrong. I said the famous "mechanic E" from Mirrodin design was going to be in Kaladesh and it was going to be Vehicles. It turned out it was indeed in the Kaladesh set, and that was the easy part, but it actually was energy, and Vehicles were a separate and completely unrelated thing. So this is me trying again to see if I have better luck this time.

My stand on each of the predictions from the video and my own predictions are as follows.

1- Bolas wins and the Gatewatch loses, but no Gatewatch member dies.

This has been pretty much a given since at least the final AER story ("Renewal"), and I think everybody sees this coming. I totally agree with this prediction, including the "no Gatewatch deaths" part. This was easy.

2- AKH is only loosely Egyptian based, with just an Egyptian fantasy flavor rather than being a realistic take on Egyptian mythology.

Realistic planes have died with Kamigawa. Nowadays, planes are based on the public perception of the source material and not their fidelity to it. The typical example is that there is a Kraken on Theros even though none are found in real ancient Greek mythology. I think this is also an easy one. So easy that I personally don't even feel this is a prediction, this is just something obvious being stated, nothing more.

3- Return of "Enchantment Creature — God" cards, with AKH as maybe an enchantments-matter block.

I obviously agree with gods being there on Amonkhet, we've been told they are there right in the set announcement and they've also shown us their art between last week (when the video was posted) and today. I completely disagree with them being enchantment creatures and also with an enchantment-matters theme being there in the set. Both things would just make Amonkhet too much like Theros. I expect the enchantment-matters theme being there in the inevitable return to Theros, not here in AKH. At the contrary, I think we actually need to find all the possible ways to separate Amonkhet from Theros, and one of those ways is to have the gods not be enchantments. From the look of their art, I actually think they might be artifact creatures, with the creature type not being always on being the only thing they have in common with the Theros gods, in addition to being legendary of course. I expect the condition to be creatures not to be devotion, and even more, I don't expect devotion to show at all in AKH block. I'm also 100% convinced they showed the AKH gods to us in WUBRG order (the cat is white, the ibis is blue, the crocodile is black, the dog is red, the snake is green) and that they won't be straight-up copies of Egyptian ancient gods but rather mix-and-matches of different ones, like they did with Theros and the gods from ancient Greek mythology.

4- The block right after AKH is a return to Dominaria, not a return to New Phyrexia and also not Atlazan.

I disagree with this, but just because of the sequencing of blocks. My reasoning is the following. The AKH official packaging has the two arts from the famous survey picture, which means that the survey picture is real, as I've honestly always thought. The official tweet following the leak immediately smelled of "panic in Seattle" to me, like if they didn't expect the world to see that picture and they needed to put a quick patch on it somehow, complete with grammar mistakes just to make sure to show how quickly it was put together. Also, the tweet never denied that the picture was true, it just said the survey was to test packaging design. That didn't mean the picture wasn't true, and in fact now we have proof that it was true indeed. That has a lot of consequences:
- We won't actually see Nicol Bolas's card until Hour of Devastation (so no Bolas card in the AKH set).
- The names "Atlazan" and "Conquest of Power" are real, or at least they were at the time of the survey. Sam Stoddard told us in one of the latest Latest Developments articles (pun may or may not be intended) that Development is about to close this year's fall set, so those names might have changed in the meantime. I'll still use them anyway until they're proven wrong.
- Atlazan block has a Mesoamerican flavor.
- Vraska is in the Atlazan set. This also means that Atlazan is the "nowhere" that Ral Zarek saw Vraska planeswalk to, and that has potentially interesting story implications, like Atlazan being a hidden plane or something like that.
- Ajani is in the Conquest of Power set (relevant to my reasoning).

I agree we had a lot of signals that we're going back to Dominaria soon, and the 25th anniversary of the game being in a year is a pretty nice coincidence. It's too nice actually. Let's just remember the anniversary is in August 2018 (Alpha came out August 5th 1993), so it makes sense to actually celebrate it with the spring/summer 2018 block rather than the fall 2017/winter 2018 one. Also, we know that in the ongoing Gatewatch story Ajani isn't going to Amonkhet and told the others to meet again on Dominaria (see the Kaladesh art book), even if Dominaria isn't mentioned at all in "Renewal". What do I see if I put all of this together? This:

Spring 2017: Amonkhet — AKH block has all the Gatewatch except Ajani. The first set (Amonkhet) deals with Razaketh, the third Liliana demon, which we know is on Amonkhet (from "Puppets"). I think Razaketh will be defeated by Liliana with the (unwilling?) help of the other Gatewatch members available (the founders: Gideon, Jace, Chandra, Nissa) that she will manipulate into confronting Razaketh. The Chain Veil might or might not also be involved. Liliana has defeated Kothophed and Griselbrand thanks to the Veil, but now she's trying not to use it anymore, and we know that her joining the Gatewatch was actually her trying to find an alternate way to deal with her affairs without relying on the Chain Veil. The defeat of Razaketh is the turning point from Amonkhet to Hour of Devastation (kind of like Anguished Unmaking was between SOI and EMN). In HOU, the five planeswalkers fight Bolas and spectacularly lose, even if no Gatewatch members die.

Fall 2017: Atlazan — What has Ajani been up to while the rest of the Gatewatch was on Amonkhet (unbeknownst to him by the way, again see "Renewal")? Where did he go to find allies? He went to Atlazan. The story also involves Vraska in some way, with Vraska's card being in the first set and Ajani's one in the second set (see survey picture). The Atlazan story happens simultaneously to the Amonkhet one.

Spring 2018: Return to Dominaria (lining up with the 25th anniversary) — All six current Gatewatch members gather on Dominaria as planned. Ajani learns that while he was looking for allies on Atlazan to fight Bolas, the other five have already tried to do that and failed. I expect Ajani to get quite angry at the others, even though not at the point of leaving the Gatewatch. I also expect the following few blocks to be them somehow recovering and actually finding allies to try again to fight Bolas in a few years (real world time, not in-story time).

5- Damnation is reprinted somewhere in the AKH block, either as a regular card, a Masterpiece, or both.

Just two words: wishful thinking. I see no realistic way Damnation is reprinted in Standard, both because of the "no Wraths under five mana" Development approach (which we may not agree with, and I for one certainly do not agree with that, but it's still their current stance) and because of the "can't be regenerated" text. I can still see it as a Masterpiece though, as anything goes for those, but not as a regular card in either set of the block.

Other predictions not included above

- We saw that on the planeswalker deck version of Liliana there are -1/-1 counters. That means AKH block is the -1/-1 counter block we already knew was in the seven-year-plan. I predict one mechanic involving -1/-1 counters will be returning, and I expect that to be either persist or wither but not both. If I had to choose between the two, I'd probably say persist is more likely because I see it as a slightly better fit for the world of Amonkhet, mainly because of mummies and such.

- No additional planeswalkers will join the Gatewatch in this block. This means no Oath cards in AKH block.

- (I know that the revealed Nissa image might contradict this, but) I think that we will be introduced to a new monogreen or partly-green planeswalker that is native to Amonkhet. This comes from the color balance of planeswalkers in AKH block. Gideon, Liliana, and this new planeswalker will be the ones in the Amonkhet set. Bolas and one other (see next point) will be in Hour of Devastation, even though the two new planeswalkers might be swapped. Anyway, there will be three planeswalkers in AKH (including Gideon and Liliana) and two in HOU (including Bolas). The block as a whole goes back to the default of five planeswalkers after two blocks with six.

- I really think there will be a Sphinx planeswalker, as heavily hinted relatively recently on Blogatog, and there is no need for someone new as we already have one in the Magic story: Crucius. He will obviously be at least partly-blue or even monoblue. I don't know how he could be involved in the story though.

And this is it. I hope this goes better than last time.