It’s Time To Battle! – What The New Card Type Battle Will Likely Be
With the release of Phyrexia: All Will Be One, we were treated to a deluge of powerful cards and compelling designs, but one of those cards has been taking the internet by storm multiple times since it’s inception – Atraxa, Grand Unifier.
More recently, Atraxa has been generating a lot of buzz because it turned out to be a huge sleeper in Phyrexia and is being hoisted as the new Griselbrand, but that’s not what we’re talking about today. No, we’re going to talk about the innocuous little word in the mountain of reminder text that Atraxa has. As you likely know, when Atraxa comes in, it lets you look at the top 10 cards of your library and take a card of each card type, but in that text, it references the card type Battle.
As of right now, Battle doesn’t exist, but it looks like it will soon.
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An Extremely Brief History Of Magic Spoiler Cards
This isn’t the first time we’ve gotten a card that refers to something that nobody knows about yet. For example, when Eye of Ugin was printed, Eldrazi didn’t exist yet! Imagine how crazy it was to see that this card seemed really powerful, but nobody knew what it meant yet!
Even more recently, we had Karn, Living Legacy, and while it does explain what Powerstone tokens are on the card, it was foreshadowing to how important they were going to be in the next set.
See, told you it was brief!
So that leaves us here, what could Battle possibly be? Adding a new card type is nothing to sneeze at and the last time a Supertype was introduced was Planeswalkers over ten years ago! While Sagas are also a new type that have had large implications on the game, they’re still Enchantments at the end of the day making them a subtype, not a super type. So let’s break down what they can possibly be!
What Could Battle Be?
The easiest way to determine what Battle could be, in my opinion, is to first figure out what it couldn’t be. So we know it’s not going to be a new spin on creatures, instants, or sorceries, I think those are quite immutable at this point. Furthermore, it can’t be something like an artifact or an enchantment (as they’re already functionally mechanically identical) as that would just further add to that pile.
One theory is that they’re going to be a similar card type to Planeswalkers and/or sagas, a permanent that cares about the number of counters on it and does something in relation to those counters. That’s reasonable, however, it would likely function too similarly to Sagas or Enchantments in general likely eliminating that from contention.
Another theory is that Battle may function similarly to Monarch, Initiative, or Venture where an in game indicator is used. This I find more plausible and much more on the right track, but it can’t function the same way as those cards since those are self contained in other card types naturally.
So, in my opinion, this is going to be something completely new to a Standard legal set, but what could it possibly be? Well, I have a theory that we actually already know what it’s going to be, or at least close. For my theory, we have to travel back a few years to 2019 and War of the Spark!
Every time a set releases, Magic’s lead designer Mark Rosewater writes extensively on the development of that set, and for War of the Spark, it was no different. While they tend to be split up into multiple articles, the one I want to focus on is article three in particular.
In the article, Maro says that a big challenge for War of the Spark was creating a mechanic that felt like two armies battling against each other. One could only assume that doing that is extremely difficult as that’s literally what Magic is already about. What is a game of Magic but two competing forces trying to kill each other? In the end, Wizards ended up with Amass which was a way to get an evergrowing token to simulate the growing of armies, but that wasn’t the first idea they’ve had. The idea that almost made it to print, but wasn’t finished at that point, was Skirmish.
Skirmish was never fully fleshed out in any article, but from what I gathered, it worked similarly to Contraptions from the Un-sets. You deploy a Contraption that creates a sort of sub-game that can impact the main game that would represent a tiny battlefield. What would happen in the Skirmish is that if you completed one of the stated conditions on the Skirmish card (this may have potentially worked if you cast another card with Skirmish as well), you get to “advance” through the Skirmish. If you advanced through enough times, you would “win” the Skirmish and it would spit out some sort of benefit for doing so.
MaRo noted that combat damage was going to be the prime advancement condition as that made the most sense from a flavor perspective, but again, casting cards with Skirmish could get the job done as well. However, at the end of the day, Skirmish was canned as it didn’t capture what they wanted for War of the Spark and they were having some play design issues with it as well.
That said, it is a known fact that Wizards often banks good ideas until they find a better use for them, and with fourish years or so to work on the mechanic until it’s in a spot that they’re happy with, I think that’s enough time to fix a mechanic.
What Battle Will Likely Be
So we finally reach here – what Battle is most likely to be. Well, I think we have our answer! Skirmish seemed relatively fleshed out already, but was too focused on combat and they struggled to find victory conditions that were balanced within each of the colors. So, with a little tweaking, I think they’re going to end up closer to Zendikar’s quests that both players can interact with.
Quests in Zendikar were Enchantments that gained counters when you performed actions, and when you accrued enough counters, a big effect would happen. This seems very mechanically similar to the idea of Battle, but will likely be less rigid in its victory condition, and again, will allow both sides to likely participate. It’s hard to say what those victory conditions can be as different colors will have different strengths in how they would want to ideally win the skirmish, but maybe you can have multiple win conditions on Skirmish active at once so each deck would be allowed to do what they want to do in the first place and still have a shot at winning said skirmish.
Lastly, it’ll be interesting to see if you get a benefit with each step as you would with Venture or a Saga, or it’s just a big payoff like Quests, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer were both.
Overall, I think Battle has the highest likelihood to be a slightly rebranded skirmish and I would be very surprised if it’s something completely out of left field. Wizards very rarely doesn’t use their good ideas, and if they already have a mechanic they were even 80% happy with, it wouldn’t make sense not to retool it when we’re back to the biggest “war” set since War of the Spark.
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