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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Jul 17 2019 12:00pm
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The Flashback formats have been boring for a while, but it’s time for something interesting with this year’s edition of Battle of the Planes. It’s similar to previous years’ versions, but each sealed pool has seven packs this year, and some of the pools have been shaken up to account for some new sets. A lot of this will be similar to the runs in 2017 and 2018, so refer to those articles for more specific details on the format. I’ll also link my old Flashback Favorites and other Limited Reviews articles where applicable. Let’s get started with the biggest change in this run: the return of Dominaria.

 

Dominaria: Dominaria, Time Spiral (Mechanics, Colors), Planar Chaos, Future Sight, Urza’s Saga, Urza’s Legacy, Urza’s Destiny

Dominaria returning makes sense with the success of Dominaria the set, but the other big change is swapping Onslaught block out for Urza’s block. I don’t have the time to go through Urza’s block in detail, but in brief it’s an enchantment block that also includes a lot of artifact stuff, and black has some very powerful cards (Pestilence at common is the obvious example). This actually works well with Dominaria, as the artifacts trigger historic stuff, and the Sagas work with the enchantment theme. The bigger question is how well Time Spiral block interacts with these themes. On the historic side, all the Legends are rare (or on the Timeshifted sheet), and the artifacts aren’t great other than the pair of color fixers Chromatic Star and Prismatic Lens. Enchantments are slightly better, though most of the good ones are removal and/or focused in Future Sight (including the pair of Lucent Liminid and Lumithread Field). Time Spiral’s themes are even less supported in these sets as well, so this still doesn’t seem like a great choice synergy-wise. However, the Urza block has by far the most powerful commons in this group of sets outside of maybe original Mirrodin block, and even those limited synergies might be enough to push Dominaria over the top.

 

Zendikar: 2x Zendikar (Basics, In-Depth), Worldwake, Rise of the Eldrazi, 2x Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch

This is almost exactly the same as last year, except that you get an extra Battle for Zendikar pack. It’s another slight nerf to the land plane (since it didn’t get as much added as the other pools), but it’s still mostly the same strategy: be aggressive and don’t be green, and that’s an extremely limited strategy in a format dominated by synergy in the other pools.

 

Innistrad: 2x Innistrad (Basics, In-Depth), Dark Ascension, 2x Avacyn Restored, Shadows over Innistrad, Eldritch Moon

Another “nerf by omission” as it’s the same as last year except that an Avacyn Restored pack was added, which has the least synergy with everything else and the least power level overall. In particular the removal seems really bad here, and the Shadows over Innistrad themes seem difficult to support. Then again, you still have five packs of synergy, and you can use some of your generically good cards from Avacyn Restored to help fill out the packs.

 

Mirrodin: Mirrodin, Darksteel, Fifth Dawn, 2x Scars of Mirrodin, Mirrodin Besieged, New Phyrexia

While this is the third plane in a row to only have a single pack added with no other changes, but adding a Scars of Mirrodin pack adds a surprising amount of support for Infect strategies, and it’s not like Scars of Mirrodin is bad like Battle for Zendikar or Avacyn Restored. We didn’t get a stats recap of 2018 like with did with 2017, but Mirrodin still seems like a great choice, as original Mirrodin block is still very powerful and the block is extremely synergistic.

 

Ravnica: Ravnica, Guildpact, Dissension, Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance

As I speculated last year, the addition of two new guild-focused Ravnica sets revamped the plane’s Battle of the Planes pool, though I didn’t think they’d increase the pool size to help deal with it. Dragon’s Maze is gone, so each pack focuses on a specific set of guilds. You have three packs of each guild (though the Ravnica quartet has a slightly lower proportion of cards), and a larger pool of cards means you’re more likely to get a decent deck in two colors with maybe a splash. Ravnica has always been a disappointment in Battle of the Planes, but it keeps getting more consistent, and if you can make a playable deck out of these cards the natural power of the gold cards will pay you off. At least Wizards was smart enough to not add War of the Spark and imbalance it in the other direction.

 

Conclusion:

Each year of Battle of the Planes has been inching closer to a balanced pool, but the re-emergence of Dominaria threatens to throw a wrench into those plans. However, each pool has carved out a specific niche depending on your playstyle:

Dominaria: Control, high card quality

Zendikar: Aggro

Innistrad: Graveyard, lots of synergy

Mirrodin: Artifacts, safe due to high numbers of colorless cards

Ravnica: Powerful, high variance in deck quality

If I were to play I’d stick with Mirrodin since it has the lowest variance and I wouldn’t want to play a format once or twice and lose the variance jackpot, but my initial impression is that the five pools are close in power level with the possible exception of Dominaria. That’s all for me—I know the article is short, but since Wizards only released the pool layouts a day before the update, I’m doing this on an extremely short turnaround and it needs to be short if I want to finish it before the format wraps up. In addition, I’ve already covered a lot of the basics of the format in the previous two articles, and not much has changed. As I said last time, I’m not sure when you’ll see me next, though I’m hoping the Flashback vote ends up in something interesting, though I haven’t heard about it since the schedule article. No matter what, I’ll see you by Archery (and next time you see me, I won’t have to keep calling it by its codename).

 

Vincent

@VincentSIFTD on Twitter