Posted by Raine Hutchens on Feb 22, 2012

Review – Magic: The Gathering Dark Ascension [TCG]

On February 3rd, the newest set in the trading card game, Magic: The Gathering, was unleashed. Within it lie many untold horrors, spooks, death dealers, and much more. The MTG community was swarming over what would become of this new set, called Dark Ascension, and since its release it has taken players by a blackened storm.

Dark Ascension adds new mechanics into the game, along with new characters, locations, and fearsome creatures. This set is second in the Innistrad block, meaning one more set will release, completing it. Dark Ascension’s tagline has been noted as “Command the Night,” and following this idea the set really does deliver. I’ve grown fond of quite a few cards in the new set, and it’s already being put to use in many of the top championship decks running the circuit. I’ve had plenty of time with the new stuff, and now it’s time we took a look at the mechanics that have been added to the game at large that make their appearance in Dark Ascension.

Like with each other set and block within Magic: The Gathering, each set comes with its own storyline. With Innistrad, the humans of the world are living in a tenuous balance with darker forces dealing from the shadows. Feral creatures like werewolves, vampires, devils, demons, and zombies are roaming about the plane, causing much destruction and dismay. This proves through to the cards as well. In Dark Ascension you will see power coming from many a creature, each of the previous types mentioned. You can call them “clans” if you will, and they all pan out together, when used in conjunction with one another. When Dark Ascension hit the fray, the world has yet been torn even more so asunder, as humans are sacrificing their own to save their skins. This also plays into the game, which I will mention in a bit. Now let’s look at specific mechanics.

Undying is one of the newest mechanics to the game, and perhaps the most profitable. When a creature with Undying dies and is sent to the graveyard, if it had no +1/+1 counters on it, its owner returns the creature to the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on the card. In essence, these creatures die and return with swift vengeance. Though they return with summoning sickness, it’s still a wicked tactic when used correctly. Some cards in the new set use the Fight mechanic, making two selected creatures battle it out for dominance. Couple a card like that with an undying creature and you’ll clear defenders all while returning stronger than before. Most vampires, wolves, and zombies have this ability, but it can also be seen by other creature types.

The second and final new mechanic coming in the Dark Ascension set is called Fateful Hour. This mechanic works when a player is in dire need, and brings with it rewards. When a player is at or below 5 health, a card with Fateful Hour will activate with a special ability. Using these cards can really turn the tide of the game when you’re at your worst. Some of these card abilities range from making creatures indestructible to completely tapping down all opposing creatures and giving you an extra turn. If you use cards with the Fateful Hour mechanic you can allow yourself to be weathered and still come out on top. Whether you’re having a rough game, or you’re sacrificing to gain power, this mechanic will always offer a helping hand.

Cards with mechanics such as Curse, Morbid, and Flashback also return in Dark Ascension, as do many of the Flip cards that we’ve seen. These can all work in your favor, if used correctly. Currently I am running a red/green deck comprised of wolf creatures with the Undying and Morbid mechanics. Using these in conjunction I can send my Undying creatures to the graveyard, and reap the rewards by playing a card with Morbid in the same turn. It soon becomes overwhelming and my opponent’s life reaches zero before they can blink.

Now, getting back to the clans, some cards in the set have the ability to pump up other creature types and make them stronger. This is what I was speaking of earlier up above. The clans run together as spirits, vampires, werewolves, humans, and zombies. The zombies, vampires, and wolves each have a sort of “captain” (with wolves being the exception due to the card actually just being a normal creature card) that will pump up their respective creature types and give them an ability. Like you see above, the Diregraf Captain gives a bonus to all zombie creatures, and forces your opponent to lose life whenever any of your zombies perish in battle. Using these cards with their correct colors and creature types, you can really create a deck that will crush any that stand in your way.

Artifacts also play a certain role in Dark Ascension, only though by way of equipment or treasure that has a cost effect. There is a bow and quiver that deals extra damage to werewolves, and there’s also a dagger that transforms itself into a demon when the creature it is equipped to deals damage to your opponent. There isn’t really a big dependence on these types of cards, but since the Mirrodin block has come and gone twice, it’s understandable.


Overall, Dark Ascension is a really great set. Whether you’re just jumping back into Magic: The Gathering, or if you’re looking for some great Gothic horror fun, it’s got something for everyone. It’s always nice to bust out a deck filled with zombies, vampires, and other creatures that go “bump” in the night, and you can really wreak some terror on any opponent who sets near you. The set boasts a new, powerful version of the Planeswalker Sorin, and if you get your hands on him you’ve got unmitigated strength in your wake. I definitely think players should grab some of the set and give it a go. I can’t really say I disliked anything I saw in Dark Ascension, and I doubt many other players will. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve some werewolves that need to feed.

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