Friday, 31 July 2020 08:02

Magic History: Taking a look back at 'Prophecy'

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Magic History: Taking a look back at 'Prophecy' WOTC/MAGIC UNTAPPED

Sometimes it's nice to look back and see just how far things have come since the early days of Magic: The Gathering.  To that end, we're bringing you a series of short videos that highlight Magic: The Gathering expansions throughout the years.

Previously, we looked at Nemesis, the middle entry in the underpowered Masques block.  This time around, we take a few minutes to look back at Prophecy, the block's final set and (arguably) the weakest overall of the three.

You can check it all out in our retrospective video (below).

Video transcript:

Releasing in June of 2000, Prophecy is the third and final set in the Masques block and the 20th overall expansion in Magic: The Gathering.

The set is the second in the game’s history to share a name with an existing Magic card and, just like with the first set to do so, Visions, with the Legends card of the same name, the Homelands card Prophecy was not included in the set.

Prophecy the set takes place on the plane of Dominaria – the third plane in three sets for the block – and sees the barbarian nation of Keld declaring war on Jamuraa.  In response, the Jamuraan city-states join forces and enlist the aid of the planeswalker Teferi in order to repulse the invaders.

The entire story can be experienced by reading the Vance Moore novel Prophecy.  For those who don’t have time for that, here’s a quick summary:

A faction of the super strong and vicious barbarians, the Kelds, invade the northwest part of Jamuraa.  The band, led by Latulla, feel that the end times are near and see this part of Jamuraa as their ancestral home.  This, of course, rouses the city-states of Jamuraa to defend their collective realm.  Included in this is Teferi, the royal mage of the nation of Zhalfir (though he tries to avoid involvement at first), along with friends and allies Barrin and Rayne from the Tolarian Academy.

As it turns out, Latulla has a vampiric horror working for her named Greel.  It’s also discovered that, unlike most of her Kelds, she herself does not believe in the end times that the Twilight Prophesies foretold.  Instead, she looks to resurrect the long-dead warlords that rest within the Keldon Necropolis through methods that are, in all honestly, very Phyrexian like.  Thankfully, the necropolis’ guards turn her back and she returns to her claimed Jamuraan territory empty handed.

As her failure causes support amongst her clan to falter, a final battle against the Jamuraans ensues.  Greel manages to slay Academy Chancellor Rayne, but soon after both he and the Keldon leader Latulla are killed by Master Wizard Barrin.  Teferi witnesses the destructive battle and disdain for Urza, who has kept the bulk of his forces in reserve and out of the Keldon conflict in preparation for the anticipated Phyrexian invasion, grows to the point that the time mage vows to no longer work within Urza’s plans any longer.

Now, while all of this was going on something else was happening in the background.  As it turns out, animals have been becoming increasingly sick and the land itself seems increasingly diseased.  While both sides of the war see it as a scorched earth tactic by the opposition, a Jamuraan healer discovers that the plague-like contagion isn’t exactly natural.  Rather, it’s part biological and part machine.  And it all traces back to Greel, the nasty creature behind Latulla’s Keldon invasion of Jamuraa, who (presumably) is Phyrexian in origin.

And, well, for the large part that’s the bulk of the story.  Well, the major plot points worth mentioning.  Honestly, despite Moore’s best efforts, the novel simply isn’t very good.  Which, as it so happens, matches the set almost perfectly.

Despite being affiliated with Mercadian Masques and Nemesis, many found that Prophecy felt disjointed from the rest of the block due to the set’s mechanics aren’t exactly a natural progression from first two.  And, historically speaking, Prophecy is often considered to be amongst the worst-designed sets in Magic: The Gathering history.

<<Sound bite: MaRo DTW: 7:50 – 8:08>>

Similar to Mercadian Masques, Prophecy introduced to Magic no new keyword abilities or mechanics.  The set did, however, introduce a few new themes.

Whereas rebels and mercenaries were a big deal in Mercadian Masques and Nemesis, Prophecy introduced anti-rebel cards such as Brutal Suppression and Rebel Informer, as well as anti-mercenary spells like Mercenary Informer and Root Cage.

The set also played upon resource management through “Rhystic” magic, which were discounted spells (plus one land) that worked properly unless an paid mana to essentially turn the card’s effect off and a land theme that features a number of permanents having abilities that involve the sacrificing of lands, such as Aura Fracture and Excavation, and several others, like Fen Stalker and Well of Life, that gain bonuses when all of their controllers’ lands were tapped.

Both Rhystic and the lands management themes proved to be rather unpopular, save for the enchantment Rhystic Study.

But things weren’t all bad with Prophecy as the set did have three rare cycles that were rather well received.

First up are the avatars, which are rather large creatures that (if the correct conditions are met) can be cast at a drastic discount.  Avatar of Woe is largely considered the best of the bunch.

Second, there are the winds.  Winds are sorceries that, while quite expensive to cast at a whopping nine mana a piece, can be quite the game changer.  Blessed Wind and Plague Wind are often considered to be the best ones.

And, finally, Prophecy has a cycle of rare spellshapers.  Each one’s ability mirrors that of a powerful Magic card such as Greel, Mind Raker casting Mind Twist or Jolrael, Empress of Beasts casting Animate Land on all of target player’s lands.  Mageta the Lion, which casts a Wrath of God that only he can survive, is largely to be considered the best of this cycle.

Prophecy also has an assortment of alternate casting cost spells.  The most famous of these is the counterspell Foil, partially because of the novelty of cracking a foil Foil in one’s booster pack and partially because free counterspells tend to be fairly powerful.  In fact, Foil proved to be one of the very few cards from Prophecy to have any sort of legitimate tournament impact, along with Spiketail Hatchling, Chimeric Idol, and the aforementioned Mageta the Lion and Avatar of Woe.

So, while Prophecy didn’t exactly wow anybody, it did set the stage for the Invasion that is soon to come.

Is Prophecy for some reason one of your favorite Magic: The Gathering sets?  If so, consult a psychiatrist, then let us know why in the comment section below.

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