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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Apr 22 2018 10:23pm
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

> summary <

 Just like I said while reviewing Eternal Masters last year, Iconic Masters is just a set of reprints, so it's not going to impact the game itself, just the way players are given access to some of its most crucial components. But how crucial these cards are, where creatures and their tribes are concerned? Also, how iconic, if we have to believe the name of the set? Let's find out!

 But first, let's start by saying that a few very iconic tribes are entirely missing, in a way that doesn't feel right nor warranted. Elf, for one, Merfolk for two, and they are very blatant cases, considering how much impact these two creature types have had on Magic history. But even Eldrazi, which has become one of the most defining tribes in MTG since its inception in 2009. Also notably absent: Druid, Golem, Artificer, Faerie, Shapeshifter, AvatarTreefolk, Dwarf, Kor, Vedalken, all major tribes spanning many sets that certainly deserved a shout-out. Sliver and Ally, too, but I get that in their cases, they would have required a Limited archetype centered on them to work properly, taking too much space in the set as a result.

 As always, the focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are listed alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 249
  • New cards: 0
  • New creatures: 0
  • Reprinted cards: 249
  • Reprinted creatures: 133
  • Creature types affected: 55
  • Tribes with more than 5 appearances: Human (26), Dragon (16), Spirit (11), Angel (9), Wizard (8), Shaman (7), Soldier (7), Demon (6), Monk (6)

Angel: 9

   

  

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 Related Tribes: Illusion

 Iconicity: Medium to High

 Comments: This is a pretty good start. Archangel of Thune, Restoration Angel and the original Avacyn are all very iconic Angels, although the latter is not really played much. Emeria Angel is also a very recognizable member of the tribe, while Serra Angel is of course THE most recognizable, as much as she's totally obsolete these days. Firemane Angel and Illusory Angel are more of outlier cases, but still fully respectable. Short of some other legendary Angels (there's way too many that could have easily made the cut), what's really missing here is Baneslayer Angel, of course. But all in all, it's not a bad selection.


Assassin: 2

 

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 Related Tribes: Human, Orc

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: Now, what the heck is this? Two Assassins that don't even kill anything? I mean, they do in a roundabout way, but so do most Scorpions then. Thrill-Kill Assassin is at least useful enough in the IMA Limited environment, but these choices leave a lot to be desired. Nekrataal is an uncommon, you know.


Basilisk: 1

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 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: I don't know why a minuscule tribe like Basilisk needed to be represented, and they do seem to have specifically wanted it in the set, but at least Greater Basilisk is a relatively strong member. People probably still have Thicket Basilisk more firmly in mind, but this one's actually strictly better, go figure. Not sure how a creature that was basically never played is "iconic", though.


Beast: 5

  

 

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 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Iconicity: Medium to High

 Comments: Another good selection. Thragtusk is missing but Obstinate Baloth is its direct progenitor, and even more iconic, still seeing plenty of play. Rampaging Baloths represents the tribe's more outrageous curve-toppers (Craterhoof Behemoth would have been perfect there, but it would have required a mythic slot), while Spiritmonger is a powerful one with high historical value. Kiln Fiend has decks built around it, and Durkwood Baloth is a nice suspend card, and they both feed specific archetypes. I would have liked at least one of the faster stomping Beasts, like Kalonian Tusker or Garruk's Companion, but it's cool that both black and red Beasts are represented.


Bird: 1

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 Related Tribes: Soldier

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: This is a very disappointing single nod to one of the largest tribes in the game (the 13th largest to be precise). Even more so because it feels incidental. Or maybe that makes it better: had they actively sought a Bird presence, it stands to reason that it wouldn't have been through this guy.


Cat: 4

   

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 Related Tribes: Elemental, Illusion, Soldier, Spirit

 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: First thing that catches the eye here is: wait, blue Cats? Half of the entire Cat presence in Iconic Masters is monoblue critters? But then, it appears obvious that's incidental: the two blue Cats are mainly around as an Elemental and an Illusion (not that they're any more iconic in those tribes, but that's beside the current point). And the other half of the feline allowance fits the tribe a bit better, anyway: Ajani's Pridemate is a minor staple of lifegain decks, and Phantom Tiger is a sort-of-forgotten, sort-of-still-solid old Cat that gets beautiful new art. Still, iconic, all these are not. What about, say, Savannah Lions, Steppe Lynx, Wild Nacatl, Longtusk Cub, Qasali Pridemage, Whitemane Lion? And please note that none of those I just mentioned are rare; in fact, they're mostly commons. I wasn't asking for Brimaz or Leonin Arbiter.


Centaur: 1

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 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: There's a "+1/+1 counters matter" archetype in IMA Limited, so this Centaur helps there. Of course there were better-known Centaurs to include, even without involving tribal superstar Courser of Kruphix. Centaur Healer comes to mind as a "fits all sets" kind of common guy. Phantom Centaur is more iconic than Phantom Tiger and could have been paired with it. And you know what, I wouldn't have minded seeing new art for Jolrael's Centaur. Now that's a true classic that would still do its job today.


Cephalid: 1

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 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: So there's this rarely played, barely playable Cephalid looter in there. Is there even an archetype that cares about self-dredging in the IMA Limited environment? I don't think there is. Anyway, Cephalids are known exclusively for Cephalid Illusionist, so that's the extent of their iconicity in the game, and they weren't going to include Breakfast Combo in IMA, were they? So I wanna chalk this up as incidental, but then I don't understand why this specific midrange looter was deemed a good addition to the set.


Cleric: 2

 

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 Related Tribes: Human

 Iconicity: High

 Comments: Cleric is large and important enough a tribe that just two cards are going to feel like poor representation no matter what the choices; this said, Auriok Champion was really in need of a reprint, as one of the most powerful defensive 2-drops in white aggro decks. I'm not sold on the new art, but I understand it was time for the infamous bikini lady to go put some clothes on. The other reprint, Abzan Battle Priest, is merely in service of the "+1/+1 counters matter" archetype, whose strategy is a demanding one to build for a set's Limited environment, because you won't casually find the suitable cards around, you have to actively search for and add them to the set's pool. Which is exactly what happened here.


Construct: 2

 

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 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: No, c'mon. I get that Iconic Masters is not much of an artifact-friendly set, but these two are really a galaxy away from being two of the more representative Constructs. Was it too much to ask for, I don't know, Cathodion and Mindless Automaton at least, since once again the rare slots were otherwise occupied? Oh well, at least Constructs have been actually represented; their Golem cousins got it worse. And Manakin's new art, while certainly not an improvement on Scott Kirschner's surrealist take, at least more clearly plays on the "mannequin" pun. Man, I just realized they missed a perfect chance to give Metalworker a new artwork that's not painful to look at, or only for promo.


Demon: 6

  

  

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 Related Tribes: Dragon

 Iconicity: Medium to High

 Comments: Of course the most iconic Demon, which would also make for a sought-after reprint, is Griselbrand. But failing that, I guess this is not a bad bunch. Rune-Scarred Demon has one of the most powerful ETB effects in the game, and sees some play as such in reanimator builds. Abyssal Persecutor is unique and very playable, while Indulgent Tormentor is an acceptable stand-in for Bloodgift Demon, both being very good midrange members of their tribe. The original Ob Nixilis is still cool and recognizable enough, and of course Lord of the Pit is undeniably iconic, although his presence is a bit of a waste of a rare slot, because let's face it, he's been unplayable since ages. Malfegor's slot could also be used for something better that wasn't reprinted to death. Desecration Demon feels like it could have been a good candidate. Or Demonic Hordes, if they wanted to go with iconic old-timers. So all in all, we've ended up getting a good-not-great demonic selection.


Devil: 1

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 Iconicity: Medium to High

 Comments: One Devil feels pretty much the right amount of Devils in a set like this. And it was a toss out between Hellrider (probably everyone's number one choice), Vexing Devil and Charmbreaker Devils. They chose the latter, I'm fine with that.


Djinn: 2

 

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 Related Tribes: Monk

 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: Well, Djinn in MTG pretty much only evokes images of Mahamoti Djinn to most players. So that one was due, despite not being such a great finisher anymore. Then Riverwheel Aerialists was pretty much the Mahamoti of Tarkir block, which makes for a nice side-by-side comparison. What's changed, mostly, is that this kind of creature was once a rare and it's now more correctly a common.


Dragon: 16

  

  

  

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 Related Tribes: Demon, Spirit, Zombie

 Iconicity: Medium to High

 Comments: According to Iconic Masters, Dragon is Magic's most iconic tribe. And while it might be true (although that's also true of several other games and properties, isn't it?), the set went a bit over the top with the idea, making Dragon the most represented creature type after Human.

 So, let's see, we've got new and excellent art for the Kamigawa Spirit Dragons cycle, complete with the follow-up Scion of Ugin; but no other cycles are there, which spared us from some bad yet "iconic" stuff like the Elder Dragons from Legends (I'm pretty sure at least including Nicol Bolas was considered at some point). Then we've got Thundermaw Hellkite, but no Stormbreath Dragon, which is understandable, as including both the two best Dragons ever printed was probably too greedy. There's no much from Tarkir, interestingly, but these Dragons still do a very good job of representing various things Dragons are, do, or care for: their stages of life are there, from Dragon Egg to Furnace Whelp, to represent the younglings; their occasional artifact love is embodied by Hoarding Dragon (which I personally always liked more than most); the black and/or Zombie dragons have their slots; the blue Dragons, aside from Keiga, have a second good showing in the form of Hypersonic Dragon; big and (literally) flashy Dragons that impact the battlefield right away have the very iconic Bogardan Hellkite as their bannerman (bannerdragon?), and even Scourge of Valkas makes sense as a lord of sort. Of course the tribe had many more famous members to pay tribute to, but I think we can't complain too much about this selection; it's filled with dragon love.


Drake: 1

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 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: Incidental filler, isn't that what Drakes have always been? So, I'd say, this lonely, irrelevant inclusion is actually perfect. Except, Drakes usually come in blue. So they're disappointing even when being disappointing is the whole point.


Elemental: 5

  

 

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 Related Tribes: Beast, Cat

 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: Elemental is the 7th tribe in the game, the 4th "race" after Human, Spirit and Zombie. That is to say, it's kind of a big deal, pretty much in every set. So, is 5 the current amount to represent them in an anthology set purported to describe Magic's entire 25-year history? Well, maybe it is, it could be done with just 5 cards. But these 5 cards? Ouch.

 Elementals in Magic typically do one of two things: either they are the manifestation of the traditional four elemental forces (fire and earth in red; air and water in blue), or they personify some aspect of nature or other (and in this case, they're mostly green). Of the original "four elements elementals" from Alpha, we get Earth Elemental here. Which, why? They are all more or less obsolete, but if one could still have a reason to be reprinted, you'd think Air Elemental would be the guy. Instead blue gets the pretty obscure Frost Lynx, an M15 common that's not even that bad (it's a strictly worse Man-o'-War, but hey, still better than your regular filler), but it's not even remotely something that anybody ever would define "iconic". This feels like not even trying. Because, like, you want to add a blue Elemental, but for some balancing alchemy, you need for it to be a 3-mana common? All right, what about Fog Elemental, which might be something people actually remember? Without mentioning the fact that Mulldrifter is an Elemental, you know. Which one do you think was going to feel more "iconic" between Frost Lynx and Mulldrifter?

 Now, Kiln Fiend, as said for its other tribe, is a fine creature AND a recognizable one. Vent Sentinel is an oddity, but I can even accept it to show there's some mad diversity in the Elemental realm. But was Ivy Elemental really the best option for a green Elemental? Again, it's not even terrible, it does what advertised (i.e. being the ultimate modular vanilla beater), it's far from being Wood Elemental. But you know what, actually Wood Elemental is more iconic. It's The Room of Magic green cards. People know about Wood Elemental. Since the impact on the secondary market is null in both cases, and the playability of Limited environment is not particularly affected by one generic vanilla dude that doesn't play into any archetype specifically, then I said go with Wood Elemental, and at least everyone will have a laugh. Ivy Elemental is just a mediocre, unimaginative choice. Or if you'd rather have a recognizable green Elemental that's also any good other than common (speaking of which: why did all Elementals need to be common? Wasn't the 7th tribe in the game worthy of one single uncommon slot, let alone a rare?), then, let's consider Modern Masters had Walker of the Grove, while Conspiracy had Silverglade Elemental, Bramble Elemental and Fertilid. Chances are these were better-known than a random rare from Odyssey. Because there's also this: Ivy Elemental is common in IMA, but it was originally a rare back in its time. And if we're playing the downgrade game, then I could list a lot of good rares that could easily be reprinted as commons.


Fungus: 1

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 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: Fungus is more commonly associated with Saproling generators, and while there didn't need to be a theme for that to work, as even a single generator is still useful, if the decision was to go with a single Fungus that had nothing to do with Saprolings, then I'd say Corpsejack Menace is a pretty good option. Incidentally (or not really incidentally), it works with "+1/+1 counters matter" builds.


Gargoyle: 1

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 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: This one is far from an iconic Gargoyle, but then I couldn't even name a Gargoyle that felt really iconic (it's kind of a throwaway tribe), so I see they chose to go with "Dragon helper", and so be it. It's kind of a silly card, anyway: in order to get a 4/4 trampling flyer for 4, you need to already have what will probably amount to something better. Oh well, it does work with Dragon Egg, I suppose.


Giant: 2

 

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 Related Tribes: Shaman

 Iconicity: High

 Comments: All right, a reprint of Primeval Titan sort of shut everyone up. Kind of odd they didn't also reprint the other Titans, though. Maybe the didn't want to devote too many slots to Giants. The only other one is good enough, anyway, if financially irrelevant. Rosheen is even getting those fancy new colorless mana symbol in her text for the occasion.


Goblin: 4

   

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 Related Tribes: Shaman

 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: There's not a Goblin theme per se in the set, so the little suckers are represented by all members without any "Goblins matter" rule. And they all happen to be Shamans, which I'm pretty sure was entirely accidental. Kiki-Jiki is the Big Kahuna here, and as iconic as they get. Guttersnipe is a good one for RDW decks. Dragonlord's Servant is there to support the Dragon theme. And Battle-Rattle Shaman is just odd. For some of these choices, it feels like they played a game of Momir Basic and went with whatever came up.


Homunculus: 1

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 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: I'm not sure Homunculus needed to be represented in Iconic Masters (actually, I'm sure it didn't), but if we operate under the assumption that it did, then Stitcher's Apprentice would have been such a better choice than Doorkeeper. Is there even a defender theme in the set? Well, there's 11 creatures with defender across four colors. So, uhm, maybe? There's certainly a mill archetype, though, thanks to the inclusions of Thought Scour, Glimpse the Unthinkable, Mindcrank, Trepanation Blade, Grisly Spectacle, Balustrade Spy, and Shriekgeist.


Horror: 1

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 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: One Horror is probably too few Horrors, considering the tribe has 187 members, but at least Phyrexian Rager is a very strong common that represents Phyrexians. Ah, what a huge mistake it's been to never introduce a Phyrexian creature type. But I guess they still could, if they really wanted.


Hound: 1

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 Related Tribes: Soldier

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: This is really not what I think of when I think of a Hound, in MTG or otherwise.


Human: 26

  

 

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 Related Tribes: Assassin, Cleric, Knight, Monk, Rogue, Scout, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Iconicity: High

 Comments: Well, there's incidental tribe's presence, and then there's Human still being all over the map as usual. Those five rares up there are the money cards, especially Auriok Champion, whose price used to be north of 10 tix earlier this year (of 20 tix last year).


Hydra: 3

  

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 Related Tribes: Plant

 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: These are definitely NOT the three most iconic Hydras you can think of. That would probably be Kalonian Hydra, Polukranos and Progenitus (which, admittedly, is not easy to work into any set without providing some ways to help playing it in Limited). They're not even the second tier, which would be Primordial Hydra, Mistcutter Hydra and Apocalypse Hydra. This said, these three are not bad Hydras. Genesis Hydra is essentially the tribe's Bloodbraid Elf, and its built-in card advantage earned it some play. Savageborn Hydra is a modular Hydra that hits very hard, and can grow over time. Heroes' Bane is a slightly worse Chameleon Colossus (yes, its counters persist, but it costs 1 mana more and lacks the non-irrelevant protection from black, not to mention the ability to be affected by any tribal mechanic), but still playable enough. It's just that, well, it wasn't that easy to come up with a trio that felt more like what this whole set should be about: reminding you of some of the great cards that made the history of Magic. These three aren't anything of the sort.


Illusion: 4

   

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 Related Tribes: Angel, Cat

 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: Phantom Monster, with the same reworked art already seen in Eternal Masters, feels certainly like part of Magic history. But it's also something that gets a functional reprint in any other set. Jace's Phantasm plays into the mill Limited archetype. The other two are pretty obscure instances of lllusion being mixed with another tribe (I'll never understand this: how does something that's literally defined as "not the real thing" still count as the real thing?). I'm pretty disappointed not a single creature with the Illusion-defining ability of being killed when targeted was included. You know, Phantasmal Bear, Phantom Beast and Illusionary Servant are common, Phantasmal Dragon is uncommon. At least one of them would fit perfectly under any possible point of view. Although, of course, the most iconic Illusions are Phantasmal Image, Palinchron and Narcomoeba.


Insect: 2

 

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 Related Tribes: Shaman

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: I don't even know what to say about these. Nantuko Shaman is even a good creature, and I guess represents the Nantukos. Rotfeaster Maggot feels like the result of the random card search feature on Gatherer. Or maybe they thought their Limited environment really needed something that can prevent reanimation in the midrange, at sorcery speed? We're once again relegated to common slots here (which means these haven't been included because they needed a reprint or anything), but, hell, Insect is a big tribe, even if not really shiny. What about Marker Beetles, which was never reprinted, and Nantuko Husk, which is extremely iconic? What about Invasive Species and Heartstabber Mosquito? What about a green flyer like Emerald Dragonfly (so we could finally have it on MTGO) or Venomous Dragonfly? (Or Giant Dustwasp for your suspend theme). What about Bond Beetle and Blister Beetle, that even look like a mirrored pair, despite having been printed 4 years apart?


Kithkin: 1

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 Related Tribes: Wizard

 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: Well, if you aren't going to include more than one Kithkin, I guess Burrenton Forge-Tender is not a bad one, it's a well-known sideboard card against burn strategies. Knight of Meadowgrain would also be good, for the same rarity. Of course the really iconic Figure of Destiny and Gaddock Teeg would eat into more precious rarity slots.


Knight: 1

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 Related Tribes: Human

 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: All right, single Knight, Knight of the Reliquary, I'm good with this choice. She really is iconic.


Leviathan: 1

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 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: This is a pretty good Leviathan, and still one of the greatest reanimation/cheating into play targets. It feels a little strange to have your singleton Leviathan of the set being part green, but it's still a blue creature, nonetheless.


Monk: 6

  

  

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 Related Tribes: Djinn, Human

 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: Contrary to most other tribes, Monk appears over-represented, especially compared to Cleric and Warrior (for comparison, there's 350 Clerics and 602 Warriors in the game, but only 83 Monks). It seems some of these Monks are there to serve the prowess archetype or the "life matters" archetype, or both in the case of Student of Ojutai. Oh well, at least Monastery Swiftspear and Serra Ascendant are properly iconic, so those are both strong inclusions, and the Ascendant's new art is sweet enough.


Myr: 1

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 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: Among the most iconic Myrs are those who produce mana. Of course they couldn't just include a random one from the color cycle, so the colorless-producing Palladium Myr from Scars of Mirrodin seems like a perfect compromise. An alternative route might have been to go with their most well-known finisher, Myr Battlesphere.


Naga: 1

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 Related Tribes: Shaman

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: Random Naga is random. I imagine this was entirely incidental, although it's a very obscure and not very playable uncommon as a Shaman, too.


Orc: 1

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 Related Tribes: Assassin

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: Another incidental inclusion. Orc in Magic has always been the Cinderella of established fantasy tribes, so that's sort of referenced in a roundabout way here, with a card that's guaranteed not to be what you think of when you think of an Orc. It's not a bad card for the "+1/+1 counters matter" archetype, though.


Plant: 4

   

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 Related Tribes: Hydra, Wall

 Iconicity: Medium to High

 Comments: That's an interesting selection. Wall of Roots is certainly the most iconic Plant in the game. Wall of Blossoms should be the second, but Jungle Barrier is a worthy replacement, not as much from a competitive point of view as for bringing back old familiar cards from across Magic's history, which is what Iconic Masters should be about (I hope Masters 25 will do a better job of that). Then we get a flashy aggressive attacker in Genesis Hydra (Vulturous Zombie could have done as well), and another defender that drops early and messes with aggro. I'm almost satisfied.


Praetor: 5

  

 

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 Iconicity: High

 Comments: Well, the Praetor cycle from New Phyrexia gets reprinted in its entirety here, and they're iconic creatures and (minor) money cards, so no complaints here, albeit I wouldn't have reserved 5 mythics to one single tribe/cycle. More so with the fact that the Praetor tribe as a whole is only slightly larger than this selection (it also includes Ebon Praetor and Sanguine Praetor), so essentially they're all here, which is also a bit strange. Hey, did you ever notice that the five Phyrexian Praetors' alphabetical order coincides with their mana wheel order? What does that mean? Unclear.


Rhino: 1

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 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: Well, this Rhino has been chosen for its link to the "+1/+1 counters matter" strategy (the cards that form that archetype are the most noticeable), but at least it's a midrange Rhino with trample, which is representative enough. Of course this spot belonged to Rhox War Monk or Siege Rhino, or at least Rhox Faithmender, all of which would have played perfectly into the "life matters" archetype. Wasted opportunity to be both iconic and functional to the set.


Rogue: 3

  

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 Related Tribes: Human, Vampire

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: Uhm, does Rogue really look like this in Magic? I mean, Balustrade Spy has some reputation as a mill engine, and Jhessian Thief is not a bad Ophidian surrogate. And I agree it's a cute and flavorful card and all, but who has ever played with Tavern Swindler, like, ever? Not entirely wrong choices, anyway.


Salamander: 1

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 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: All right, the presence of Salamander is absolutely incidental. For some reason, they wanted to feature the Bogbrew Witch/Festering Newt/Bubbling Cauldron combo set. You can say it's representative of the kind of casual stuff the game occasionally accommodates for kicks and flavor.


Scorpion: 1

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 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: I would have expected a deathtouch Scorpion, but Bala Ged Scorpion is kinda playable, isn't it? I keep having the impression that all the common slots in the set went to creatures, though, while the rare slots stayed away from them.


Scout: 1

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 Related Tribes: Human

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: Yet another tribe that just goes to implementing the "+1/+1 counters matter" strategy. I mean, Scout? The whole point of the tribe, both flavorfully AND mechanically, is to find land, and the one "iconic" Scout in the set is just a more versatile Grizzly Bears?


Shaman: 7

   

  

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 Related Tribes: Giant, Goblin, Insect, Naga

 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: Shaman is a very eclectic, very large tribe, and some of these might be here by mere chance. Still, along with obscure members like Sultai Flayer and specific theme-serving inclusions like Dragonlord's Servant, we get some true iconic guys like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, so it could be worse. Although, much more could have been done with 7 Shaman slots. My Magnificent Seven Shamans? Elvish Visionary (common), Gorilla Shaman (common), Sakura-Tribe Elder (common), Cunning Sparkmage (uncommon), Eternal Witness (uncommon), Vampire Hexmage (uncommon), Deathrite Shaman (rare).


Snake: 1

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 Iconicity: High

 Comments: Okay, I won't complain here. One single Snake, Lotus Cobra? Sounds about right. Too bad not all tribes got (or could have gotten) this same treatment.


Soldier: 7

   

  

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 Related Tribes: Bird, Cat, Hound, Human

 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: Wow, this is a lot of junk. Soldiers are often called to filler duty, but this is a whole set of minor mechanic demonstrations/French vanilla WW throwaway dudes. The only ones that stand out are Doomed Traveler, because it's always a strong 1-drop regardless, and Ajani's Pridemate, which is even archetype-specific, but at least it's a centerpiece in that archetype.


Specter: 1

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 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: If you aren't going to reprint Hypnotic Specter, I guess one of the other Specters that more or less do the same thing, but slower, is satisfying enough. But see, I don't get why there couldn't be Hypnotic Specter, instead. It fulfills the same role, and would enrich the set's iconicity. I don't think they need a certain number of multicolored cards, unless it's for a mechanic, which doesn't seem to be the case here.


Sphinx: 3

  

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 Iconicity: High

 Comments: Consecrated Sphinx sort of shuts any protest up here: the Phyrexian card-drawing monstrosity really is the best and most iconic Sphinx ever printed. And it's a mythic slot for the tribe, and whatnot. Sphinx of Uthuun is definitely less renowned, but not bad at all, as a Fact or Fiction on paws. As for Sandstone Oracle... I don't think I even remembered it existed, and I'm pretty sure I'll forget about it as soon as this article is done. But hey, they can't all be winners.


Spider: 1

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 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: Oh no, c'mon! This meaningless thing stole Giant Spider's spot?! I don't care that it's actually close to a strictly better Giant Spider, because it safely blocks Serra Angel for 3 mana. This was Giant Spider's spot!


Spirit: 11

  

 

> summary <

 Related Tribes: Cat, Dragon, Spirit

 Iconicity: Medium

 Comments: Even if Spirit is a very large tribe (in fact, it's the 5th tribe in the game after Human, Wizard, Warrior, and Soldier), 11 slots devoted to it alone feels too many, especially considering it's almost more than what was given to Wizard and Warrior combined. It's only an effect of the Spirit Dragon cycle being included in its entirety, though, so once we took those (and Scion of Ugin) out, only five Spirits remain. Among these, Bloodghast is the only big player, a true classic in the field of sacrificial fodder, and a strong and beloved card even beyond that. Phantom Tiger, while not a terrible creature by any standard, already puts us in head-scratching territory, although at least it and Shriekgeist are graced with some gorgeous new art. And then we get two defenders. Because what's better to represent Spirit than the defender keyword? It appears 13 times on them, after all. You know, out of 428 Spirits. This is so ludicrous, these aren't even the most representative Spirits with defenders, because, Wall of Reverence, anyone? I personally have a liking for Carven Caryatid, because it's a weaponized Wall of Blossoms, but I'm not sure there will be many players who share this sympathy. And Benevolent Ancestor, man, that's just digging into the most obscure corners of Magic archaeology to emerge with some entirely forgotten (and forgettable) Ravnica common. Oh well, its ability feels out of an Alpha card, so there's that for historical feel.


Troll: 1

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 Iconicity: Low

 Comments: Oh yeah, Undercity Troll is a strictly better Grizzly Bears. It's also a pretty bad Troll when compared to the likes of Troll Ascetic, Lotleth Troll, or even just Albino Troll. Or, you know what, granddaddy Sedge Troll, as well. I won't even go and ask for Thrun. I understand you don't allocate a mythic slot for a Troll (maybe they could have done it for a Shaman, though). I also understand they wanted renown because of the "+1/+1 counters matter" thing. Is it me, or that archetype turned into an obsession while assembling this set?


Vampire: 4

   

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 Related Tribes: Rogue, Spirit

 Iconicity: High

 Comments: So, Vampire got the premium treatment, it seems. Of course the options here were many, since it's a pretty iconic tribe with major legendary characters in it (Drana, Olivia, Baron Sengir, the Markov family). But nobody can deny Blood Baron of Vizkopa is one of the most recognizable Vampires of the Modern era, and Bloodghast is even more iconic. And as far as filler commons go, Child of Night isn't bad, it's the kind of card you remember playing in some Limited event. All in all, the Vamps got served well.


Wall: 5

  

 

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 Related Tribes: Plant

 Iconicity: Medium to High

 Comments: Walls got what's possibly my favorite selection of the entire set. Wall of Roots is THE Wall, as well as one of the most powerful green cards ever printed. And Overgrown Battlement is the linchpin of any Wall-based ramp strategy. After these two, the next step would be Wall of Blossoms or Wall of Omens, but Jungle Barrier is a nice, quirkier stand-in. Then we get two blue Walls doing the very two things blue Walls are expected to do: efficiently stop attackers (including flyers), and giving you one of your spells back. Control deck 101. Very cool choices. And the basis for the UG defender archetype in IMA Limited (I guess the idea is to ramp into something like Simic Sky Swallower? I like that).


Warrior: 4

   

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 Related Tribes: Human

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: Only poor, unknown creatures to represent the noble Warrior tribe (okay, Seeker of the Way is not that bad, I admit). And oh, look, unleash is there to fuel the "+1/+1 counters matter" archetype. Thank God, for a minute I feared it wasn't supported enough.


Wizard: 8

   

   

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 Related Tribes: Centaur, Human, Kithkin

 Iconicity: High

 Comments: Wizards in the game do a little bit of everything, and this is reflected nicely in this selection. We've got a tapper and a color-fixed version of Prodigal Sorcerer as a pinger; we've got one of the Guildmages and one of the Magi (which doubles as a decent money card, though it's not like reprinting the actual Blood Moon in Modern Masters); we've got Teferi, who's a solid and cherished legend; and we've got Bogbrew Witch... as a sheer oddity, I suppose.


Wurm: 1

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 Iconicity: Null.

 Comments: Oh no. Oh no, no, WotC. This isn't the Wurm you're looking for. All right, I get it, a common Wurm was needed because some Limited archetypes required a sure-fire fattie pick to finalize their ramp. And strictly better Rootbreaker Wurm is pretty much the best common heavy-hitting Wurm for the job. Still, it pains me to see the tribe that includes Worldspine Wurm, Wurmcoil Engine and Massacre Wurm reduced to this. Couldn't Pelakka Wurm be reprinted as common?


Zombie: 4

   

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 Related Tribes: Dragon

 Iconicity: Null

 Comments: We fittingly end in weirdness. I can't fail to imagine that Zombie couldn't feature any of its more tribal-oriented members, otherwise it'd turn into an archetype of its own. But these? Bladewing the Risen is yet another Dragon, and it does Dragon things to boot (so for them it's okay to go tribal?). And it also gets its lieutenant! Which is another Dragon-based card, anyway. Then there's a guy with unleash (guess why?), and the John Carpenter homage Wight of Precinct Six, which is just a bizarre choice, as it doesn't appear to be here for any discernible reason. So none of these Zombies actually does what Zombies do, i.e. returning from the dead. You don't even understand why these creatures are Zombies to begin with, except for the fact that Bladewing gets occasionally raised by its Thrall, hence its name. This is hands down the most befuddling tribal batch in Iconic Masters.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


THE SPIRIT DRAGONS

  

  

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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS

 

3 Comments

Iconic has a specific usage by Cheater Hater at Tue, 01/09/2018 - 23:48
Cheater Hater's picture

Iconic has a specific usage in Magic when it comes to tribes though: it refers to the "big" tribe for each color (Angels, Sphinxes, Demons, Dragons, and Hydras). Granted, I don't think they succeeded at that either (except for Dragons).

Well, those are "iconic by Kumagoro42 at Thu, 01/11/2018 - 15:28
Kumagoro42's picture

Well, those are "iconic tribes" (but so are Merfolk, Zombie, Goblin and Elves – white never had one clearly established representative there), but that's not a technical use of the term. There's iconic lands, iconic creatures, iconic everything. It's just an adjective in the English meaning of the word. Besides, the set wasn't certainly focused on tribal themes and mechanics, so the name of the set still refers to everything.

Technically Merfolk, Zombies, by Cheater Hater at Thu, 01/11/2018 - 16:41
Cheater Hater's picture

Technically Merfolk, Zombies, Vampires, Goblins, Elves, and whatever the white one is (Human I think?) are characteristic tribes as the smaller ones--I agree that the usage is confusing, but it is consistent (and should have been more focused on tribes, though you can't give all the tribes the same attention they gave Dragons here). I still feel like this was thrown together at the last minute--here's a theme that's generic, let's throw in Mana Drain so people open it, shove it out for HASCON.