This is That: Oath of the Gatewatch
by Jake Stiles // Jan 26, 2016
Welcome to the second installment of This is That! Inside this article I look at every single one of the 183 cards in Oath of the Gatewatch and classify each according to how original it is. What new design veins did Wizards tap into? Which cards look just like cards from Magic's past? Read along below and find out!
Rather than show you 350 card images of each card and its companion(s), you'll have options to expand each group of cards.
The yearly Core Set is no more, and that means reprints are becoming more popular in normal expansions. Reprints, while not original by any metric, can still be interesting since one card may fill two very different roles in two different sets. For example, Bone Saw is tempting as a (subpar) Surge enabler, and Unknown Shores is more desirable because of its colorless ability than its mana filtering ability. Neither of these cards had these interactions when they were printed before.
There are 7 reprints in the set:
Functional Reprints and Subtype/Color Shifts
Sometimes there exist cards which are not reprints but might as well be. There are spells with exactly the same text, and creatures who change nothing but their creature subtypes or colors. These types of cards are about as close to reprints as you can come by without being the same card.
There are 3 subtype shifts, 1 color shift, and 5 functional reprints in the set:
I got in a bit of trouble for using the phrase "strictly better" in the previous This is That, so I've switched over to the more inclusive word "generally." There will always be corner cases when a substandard card might be preferred, but the cards in this category are usually better outside of these rare corner cases.
There are 14 cards in the Generally Better category:
Wizard's tries not to pin us with worse versions of cards we already have at our disposal, but sometimes we get them anyways. These cards are typically the result of balancing Limited and Standard power levels.
There are 4 cards in the Generally Worse category:
Cards in this section cost more than their counterparts and grant a bigger effect (along the same axis) than the original card. Sometimes the added cost is not mana. For example, Akoum Flameseeker grants larger Power / Toughness than Rummaging Goblin, but the tap effect requires tapping two creatures instead of just itself.
There are 11 cards in the Generally Bigger category:
Cards in this section cost less than their counterparts and grant a smaller effect (along the same axis) than the original card.
There are 8 cards in the Generally Smaller category:
The cards in this section are quite similar to one or more existing cards. Maybe they are two spells with the same effect, such as Bathe in Dragonfire and Boulder Salvo. Or maybe they are two three-mana artifacts both granting +2/+2 and evasion, such as Angelic Armaments and Chitinous Cloak. It should take little effort to see the comparison for cards in this category.
There are 45 cards in the Barely Tweaked category:
The cards in this section are similar enough to existing cards to not make it into the "Original" section below, while not being similar enough to make it into "Barely Tweaked". I'll openly admit the borders between these three categories are somewhat subjective, but I do try to be as consistent as possible. While not quite original, the cards in this section can still be quite interesting. For example, Inverter of Truth is just Paradigm Shift on a creature, but changes the function of the card from a fringe card you only want in rare situations to a way to close out the game before killing yourself. There are 34 cards in the Somewhat Changed category:
The cards in this section are unique enough to be given the esteemed title of "Original." These cards provide a brand new effect for the game in one way or another. If you see an Oath of the Gatewatch card compared to another card in this section and think, "But those aren't similar at all!” then you're absolutely correct. You've identified why the card made it into the Original section. I love looking through the cards in these sections and witnessing the untapped design space of which Wizards somehow manages to find in each new set.
When a card can make it into multiple categories, a judgment call is needed to decide where it belongs. For example, Goblin Dark-Dwellers is generally better than Shatterskull Recruit, but the Goblin feels like a new and exciting card more than it feels like an upgrade of a Standard-unplayable Battle for Zendikar Common.
There are 51 cards in the Original category:
Conclusion and Final Tally
|Functional Reprints and Shifts||9|
Oath of the Gatewatch boasts a higher Original percentage and lower Reprint percentage than Battle for Zendikar. Maybe this reason is why I'm looking forward to Oath more, and maybe this has something to do with how excited people get when reviewing new cards. Old cards we've seen time and time again like Allied Reinforcements or Lead by Example, but show us an Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim or a Mina and Denn, Wildborn and we are bound to start brewing new decks.
If you have any comments or want to suggest a card comparison I missed, reach out to me in the comments below or on Twitter @JakeStilesMTG.