War of the Spark: Flavor & Function

Justin Bagnall Design, Magic Story

I’ve always been intrigued by cards whose function matches their flavor. When I was a new player, I remember casting Ambush Viper during my main phase, and a friend showed me how much more powerful the effect would be if I cast it after she declared attackers.

“Imagine my creatures charging across the battlefield. Then, out of nowhere, this little cutie comes out of the bushes and bites one of their ankles!” she said.

It made total sense. In fact, creatures like Snapcaster Mage that are cast at instant speed with the intent to trade (or sometimes just chump) are referred to as “Ambush Vipers” because the flavor and function of the original is just that memorable.

There are many other classics, like Doomed Traveler: destined to die and return as a spirit to haunt the trail.

Or one of my absolute favorites, Goblin Diplomats, hurls insults at my opponent’s creatures to goad them all into attacking. (“I blow my nose at you, so-called EDH Commander! You and all your silly 2/2 k-nig-hts!”)

War of the Spark brings us several of these types of cards, and I’ll be showing off a handful of them here. First up: Massacre Girl!

Massacre Girl

“Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you! However, leave the limbs you lost. They belong to me!”

When Massacre Girl enters the battlefield, her trigger can set off multiple -1/-1 triggers to clear other creatures off the board. I imagine this unfolding like the scene in Kill Bill Vol. I where The Bride enters The House of Blue Leaves and encounters the Crazy 88. One by one, the fighters fall, leaving only Massacre Girl standing among the carnage.

Parhelion II

Geist of Saint Aircraft

Aside from being an amazing design, the mechanics of this colossal flying warship are incredibly flavorful. The original Parhelion sadly crashed into New Prahv some time ago – well before vehicles were introduced to Magic. But the sequel attacks with an airforce of Serra Angel tokens to vanquish your opponent in short order.

The Elderspell

“36 Flavors of Delicious Planeswalker Spark”

The Elderspell is what Nicol Bolas casts to strip planeswalkers of their sparks. I can imagine casting this spell at prerelease and seeing all the delicious planeswalker sparks floating toward a planeswalker I control. Hopefully, it will be…

Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God

“All ur sparks r belong to me”

Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God’s static ability will certainly lead to some interesting board states and strategies. What I love most about this ability is its parallel to Spark Harvest, whose flavor text hints that the God-Pharoah is consuming the sparks of the other planeswalkers.

Single Combat

“In the battle of Teferi vs. Teferi, which Terferi will win?”

Sorin Markov and Nahiri the Lithomancer have been feuding since he locked her in the Helvault. (Nahiri returned the favor by trapping Sorin in what I assume was a Cinder Wall.) The feud continues on Ravnica, with both planeswalkers fighting in Single Combat – instead of, y’know, working together to bring down Nicol Bolas. It’s not very likely that you’ll wind up with a Sorin vs. Nahiri outcome if you cast Single Combat this weekend, but this card still oozes flavor.

Prison Realm

“Time out for misbehaving Dreadhordes & Dreadmalkins”

I love the idea of sending one of my opponent’s creatures or planeswalkers to the Prison Realm to think about their choices. When I saw this card, I immediately thought of Oblivion Ring, but its reference to the Prison Realm makes for some interesting flavor interactions. Bonus points if you cast this targeting Nicol Bolas!

Those are a handful of my favorite cards whose flavor matches their function. Have a few other cards in mind? Tweet your ideas to me (@justiferous), and have a fantastic time at War of the Spark Prerelease!