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Passing the West Wind, by Tony Bologna

2005.10.11


Passing the West Wind

Tony BolognaTony Bologna
Fun, Seriously
Tuesday, October 11, 2005


This image is brought to you by the letter W.hen this article is published, Ravnica: City of Guilds will be in stores, ready for the grabby hands of the public to purchase (alongside a copy of my young adult fantasy novel MELISSA SMAUG AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE GREAT FURNACE, co-written with my brilliant wife, Mary-Jo.) Over the past few weeks, I've previewed the gorilla rattlesnake Plague Boiler, the baboon parakeet Twisted Justice and the dolphin asp weasel Carven Caryatid. While those cards were fine for the preview crowd, I wasn't allowed to write about the one card I think will really shake up the format.

The format is, of course, casual constructed. This column is Fun, Seriously!

For this one Ravnica card above all others, which I am truly excited about, I will discuss its uses for your next favorite deck and some play variants I've come up with that reflect the brilliance of its design. Sit down before you read the next paragraph, because this card may be a bit of a shock for some of you.

Run for the Zephyr Hills!

Seven cards in Ravnica have a printed power of zero. Three of these (Benevolent Ancestor, Drift of Phantasms, and Junktroller) have defender, making them what I like to call tortoise armadillos at best. The returning people's champion, Birds of Paradise, taps for mana. Dimir Doppelganger and Golgari Grave-Troll (not to be confused with a cave troll) don't stay at zero power for long if at all - chameleon puffer fish in my card classification system. The last such card, and one of my personal favorites in Ravnica, is Zephyr Spirit.Zephyr Spirit

I'm sure many of you think I'm crazy at this point. Zephyr Spirit, while deceptively appearing to be a trout sloth, is by far the strongest card in Zephyr Spirit Limited (where the only non-basic-land card you can play is Zephyr Spirit) and, more importantly, is an elephant shark when you consider card interactions between the Ravnica and Kamigawa blocks.

Zephyr Spirit and its older brother Oni of Wild Places (a wildebeest raccoon) are the only six mana spirits that return themselves to your hand to be played over and over again, racking up major spiritcraft points. Furthermore, with six toughness, Zephyr Spirit is practically impossible to kill with direct damage; from Shock to Fiery Conclusion, nothing can touch it. With a Cloudhoof Kirin in play, you can easily mill multiple Battle-of-Wits-wielding opponents out of the game just by blocking any threat that dares to come your way with Zephyr Spirit.

If you instead choose to wield his horsiness, Skyfire Kirin, you'll be able to steal opposing Legendary dragons Kokusho and Yosei in the blink of a Zephyr eye. Speaking of dragons, with the ease Zephyr Spirit will allow you to defeat all comers, you'll have plenty of time to read my young adult fantasy novel MELISSA SMAUG AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS GREAT FURNACE, co-written with my darling wife, Mary-Jo.

Zephyr Abomination to Zephyr Zubera

Now, how can we expand the fun (seriously) from just Zephyr Spirit to an entire casual play format? The first idea that springs up is giving Zephyr Spirit's triggered ability to all creatures. Let's call this Bouncing Block Constructed One. In BBC1, every creature in play gains "When this creature blocks, return it to its owner's hand." Now every critter is an elastic elephant shark!

The Part Tournament Enthusiasts Want to Read

Just kidding! Even the two or three "tournament enthusiasts" who bother to read my column after the preview weeks ends won't find much use for this card.

Instead, I'll remind you handful of devoted readers to pick up a copy of my recent young adult fantasy novel MELISSA SMAUG AND THE PRISONER OF ALIBAN GREAT FURNACE, co-written with my fabulous wife, MaryJo. How will a teenage girl handle both the rigors of growing up and the rigors of growing up as a weredragon? Read my book and find out!

The first big winners in BBC1 are cards with comes-into-play abilities, like Flametongue Kavu and Wormfang Manta. Play a creature with a devastating effect and now you have a rattlesnake, hissing at your opponent who dares not attack, lest you devastate again. Similarly, cards that trigger on other creatures coming into play grow more powerful with everyone getting in on the Zephyr action.

Another direction to consider when building a BBC1 deck is vigilance. If you're attacking with your creature, you'll need to remain vigilant in order to have a hope of returning it to your hand before your next turn. To handle your opponent's border collie rattlesnakes, be sure to have a way to remove blockers, whether by tapping (with Master Decoy) or simply making them unable to block (Incite Hysteria).

So Zephyr, Yet So Near

A possible variant on BBC1 - let's call it BBC2 - would instead use the following effect:

All creatures with power greater than or equal to their toughness have "When this creature blocks, return it to its owner's hand."
All creatures with toughness greater than or equal to their power have "When this creature is blocked, return it to its owner's hand."

This slight change makes BBC2 a much more aggressive and possibly more interactive format than BBC1. Now if you want to bounce your Flametongue Kavu, you'll have to attack and hope your opponent blocks. Your opponent may block with his or her Revered Unicorn and both of you will be able to play your creatures again, or he or she may choose to let it pass and deny you that opportunity. With far more creatures entering the fray in a large game, the choices available to both players are limitless.

One Last One (With Nothing)

Before I leave you, my dear readers, to continue reading my young adult fantasy novel MELISSA SMAUG AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE GREAT FURNACE, co-written with my enthralling wife MaryJo, I offer one more format based on Ravnica's greatest hero. In this intriguing format, all creatures are one with nothing. Like Zephyr Spirit itself, each creature in play, creature spell, and creature card outside of play is considered to have a printed power of zero. This format would likely bring cards that already have zero power to the fore. Perhaps cards that rely on +1/+1 counters, like Mirrodin block's Arcbound creatures (the pinnacle of firefly eel cards), prove to be too strong with this play variant. Should you find that to be the case, you are, as always, encouraged to bring your own additional rules into play.

Have fun! Seriously.


Tony has been playing multiple Magic formats for several years, and has been writing for much longer than that (like several years plus a few). His young adult fantasy novel MELISSA SMAUG AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX GREAT FURNACE, co-written with wife MaryJo Davis and published by Barely Books, is available now. Buy it, seriously. I have seven kids to feed and a wife to pamper. We live or die based on your decision to purchase this novel. If you truly care, please buy MaryJo's other novels as well.