Magic: the Gathering’s latest block, Innistrad, continued last weekend with its second installment—Dark Ascension. Picking up where the previous set left off, Dark Ascension sees the humans in even more trouble as the monstrous hordes around them grow stronger and stronger. Ominously, a few cards come with abilities requiring the user to sacrifice Humans to use, or which are better if Humans are sacrificed while using.
Dark Ascension adds two new mechanics to the game: “undying” and “fateful hour.” Undying is reminiscent of Shadowmoor’s persist ability, which brought a creature back from the graveyard with a -1/-1 counter on it as long as it had none in the first place, only with +1/+1 counters instead. Needless to say, this ability is very powerful, allowing creatures to live twice. Fateful hour is a neat little ability word which gives spells that have it an extra kick if the caster is at five or less life. Gather the Townsfolk, for example, is a two-mana sorcery that puts two 1/1 Human tokens onto the battlefield. With fateful hour, however, you get five tokens instead.
The transform, morbid, and flashback mechanics from the previous set return for Dark Ascension as well. A cycle of sorceries, all with the word “increasing” in their names, have an effect when initially cast, and then do twice that effect when flashed back. Transform cards have a new twist: instead of just creatures turning into creatures, Dark Ascension introduces a creature that transforms into an enchantment, an artifact that transforms into an artifact, and an artifact that transforms into a creature, all of which are pretty cool.
As for the archetypes established in Innistrad, they only get stronger with the new set. Vampires, Spirits, Zombies, and Werewolves all got lords—creatures that boost their power and toughness as well as providing another helpful ability—and huge creatures of the finish-the-game variety. A few new interesting flashback support cards were printed as well, including an artifact that adds mana to your mana pool that can only be spent on spells cast from the graveyard and an enchantment that lets you draw a card whenever you cast a spell from the graveyard. Also interesting are Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, who makes all noncreature spells cost one more mana to cast, and Garfdigger’s Cage, which prevents creatures from entering the battlefield from graveyards or libraries and cards from being cast from graveyards or libraries.
The new Sorin was printed in Dark Ascension as well as Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. A white/black Planeswalker, Sorin puts lifelinking Vampire tokens into play, makes emblems that give your creatures +1/+0, and destroys other Planeswalkers and creatures and then puts them onto the battlefield under your control. This has perhaps introduced a new archetype—black/white tokens. Several cards in both sets can go along with this theme quite easily, and as Sorin is in ridiculously high demand, I’m interested to see how this pans out.
Of course, my favorite card in Dark Ascension is, by far, Jar of Eyeballs. When your creatures die, you get to put “eyeball counters” on it, and then remove them to make selective draws. Nothing amazing, but it’s really cool and really flavorful. I love it.