Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Magic

In which Tim explores the world of Magic: The Gathering one
card at a time, courtesy of Gatherer's "Random Card" button.

Autochthon Wurm (Ravnica: City of Guilds, 2005)

Now that's a big-ass creature.

For those of you who may never have touched a Magic card in your life, allow me to explain. I've mentioned previously that the numbers in the bottom right corner of creature are the creature's power and toughness. This means that our friend Autochthon Wurm can do nine damage and can take up to thirteen damage before dying. (Damage disappears at the end of the turn, when the creature "heals," unless you have another effect or ability that causes damage to stick around such as Wither or Infect.) That's huge. The biggest creature in the game (barring the ever-adorable B.F.M.) is the Marit Lage token that Dark Depths creates. The biggest non-token creature (prior to Return to Ravnica, for reasons that will become clear in a moment) is, I believe, our old buddy Emrakul. (My personal policy is that I scoop the moment Emrakul hits the table. I've been able to survive against other Eldrazi, but never Emrakul.) So, even if he's not the biggest monster in the multiverse, he's still pretty awesome. The Trample makes him especially appealing (Trample is an ability that allows the remainder of any damage directed to your opponent's creatures to be carried over to your opponent, instead of only killing the creature in question.)

At first I was confused as to why this creature was multicolored. We haven't seen a multicolored (Gold) card so far in this series, so I'll take a minute to explain: Gold cards are cards that require more than one type of mana to cast - in this instance, two White and three Green. Flavorwise (which means, essentially, conceptually), Gold cards have to draw equally from both (or more) of the colors that comprise their casting cost. (Gold isn't the only type of multicolor card, there are also Hybrid cards, which are - to my mind - a little bit more complicated in terms of design, in that I don't always understand the difference between Gold and multicolored, even though Magic R&D asserts that there is a difference.) White doesn't usually produce giant monsters - White is the color most commonly associated with smaller creature types like Soldiers and Warriors who can gang up en masse, with the most notable exception being Angels, their most prominent and iconic "big" creatures. Green is all about giant monsters - that's more or less Green's defining characteristic, and the Wurm is one of the color's defining creature types. So how does our friend here rate as both a Green and a White creature?

There have been two blocks devoted to exploring the plane of Ravnica: Ravnica: City of Guilds from 2005, and then (naturally) Return to Ravnica in 2012. The gimmick behind Ravnica is that the plane is a giant cityscape dominated by ten guilds - each guild representing a different two-color color combination. The challenge for designing these sets has been the difficulty of creating abilities that satisfy the needs of both colors involved in the guild. Convoke, which we see on Autochthon Wurm, manages to present itself as both a Green and a White mechanic by focusing on the number of creatures you have in play. Both White and Green tend to build strategies around playing many creatures, so the idea of a mechanic that rewards you for doing just that by making it easier to cast otherwise prohibitively expensive spells is a natural in terms of flavor crossover. As I mentioned above, Return to Ravnica printed another 15/15 creature to keep Emrakul company, the impressive - if slightly less psychotic - Worldspine Wurm, undoubtedly a callback to this earlier card. Let me just say, I bet it really sucks to live in a city that's constantly under threat of giant wurm rampages.

The word "autochthon" means that something or someone has emerged, parentless, from the earth itself - "chthon," from the earth, and "auto," self, or itself. The Spartoi of Thebes were supposedly autochthonic because they emerged from the ground after the fields had been sown with dragon's teeth by Cadmus. Similarly, Athens boasted of being an autochthonic nation because they believed that the city and its denizens had never moved or immigrated - hence, a warning to all potential conquerors or rivals that the city and its citizens were firmly rooted and could not be easily defeated. In this instance, however, the Wurm in question is a giant monster who apparently emerges from the depths of the city to fuck shit up. If you can't make it out from the tiny picture, the Wurm is demolishing buildings and completely outclassing the little winged people floating around its head. This is one wurm with whom you do not want to fuck.

1 comment :

Charles R said...

I think the problem with the difference between hybrid and gold color cards is that R&D cheats when they make hybrids. The concept of hybrid is that ideally, you'd be able to see a strictly mono color version of either color of a hybrid card and accept that it was not bending the color pie. It's a pretty cool idea, but in practice, it's not the easiest design to pull off, and there aren't really that many playable cards you could create if you limit yourself to this idea. So what ends up happening is that many hybrid cards come across as more Gold than anything. (Something like Debtor's Knell immediately springs to mind. There's no way White alone can steal a creature from an opponent's graveyard)