Happy Monday, everyone.  Hope the M13 Release Events over the weekend treated you well.
For those of you who weren’t keyed into Twitter feeds and message boards over the weekend, the EDH community got quite a shot in the arm from Wizards of the Coast.  Hosted by Mark Rosewater, Aaron Forsythe, and a host of other members of the Magic team, the Magic The Gathering panel at Comic-Con 2012 dropped information on the upcoming Return To Ravnica block, From The Vault: Realms, and some info on the future of Commander-specific product.
It’s a lot to take in.
The shortened version of things is that EDH players can expect to have a really solid, content-filled second half of the year.  But is it all good?  Let’s take a closer look at things.
(Note: The sources for this stuff are all over the place, so this is your reference section:
-Mark Rosewater’s Twitter feed – @maro254
From The Vaults: Realms
Six cards were officially spoiled from the upcoming FTV release:
Orchard, Grove, and Arbor all get new art and the Chasm art is the piece that has been spoiled from quite some time now.
Several things jump immediately to mind:
1. If you haven’t tossed me an entry for the FTV: Realms Contest here at GDC yet, you’re starting down six cards at this point. 
2. Considering the cards spoiled this weekend, that might not be much of a handicap.  I think some of these caught everyone off-guard.
3. It’s going to be interesting to see the rest of this set.  Barring Urborg, this doesn’t feel particularly aimed at the EDH crowd at this point (Actually, considering how hated Urborg tends to get, maybe Wizards is actually trying to punish EDH players here…), so I’m not sure what to expect for the rest of the set.  
My Thoughts –  
Unimpressed so far.  I’m kind of hard-pressed to find a home for any of these lands in any of my decks at this point.  Not that these sets are specifically about EDH specifically over other formats, but I just don’t see much appeal as of yet.
I feel like Forbidden Orchard was a wasted opportunity to plant a solid five-color land in the set.  Obviously, people were calling for Reflecting Pool, and I would have even liked to see City of Brass It also makes me wonder about whether or not Command Tower becomes less-viable as an include; I suppose that there’s a functional difference between “mana of any color” and “mana of any color of your general’s identity”, but it feels like similar design-space. 
And maybe people play Oath Of Druids in EDH and I just don’t see it, but this land gets zero play around here.  Bosk, Burnwillows…the same goes for them.  Do they see play for anyone else?
More importantly, there’s a bit of a trend for Wizards to hit the ground running with a splashy initial spoiler.  That makes me really fear that Urborg is intended to be the ‘chase rare’ of the set, rather than some of the other potential includes people are predicting (such as Wasteland or Dark Depths.) 
Let’s face it – FTV: Legends wasn’t so hot, after all.
I know there’s still room to move here, and the number-crunchers out there have noted that there’s still room based on the card numbering for some surprises.  (Urborg is card 13 of 15, which means there are two cards that fall alphabetically after it in the set.)  I’m just not about to hold my breath at this point.
Oh well. This is still exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the set brings.
Return To Ravnica
Mark Rosewater offered up some details on the upcoming RTR block, due to start hitting this fall. 
The important EDH-centric notes:
-Return To Ravnica is the first set in the block.  It’s a big set, and it focuses on five of the original Ravnica guilds – Azorius, Rakdos, Selesnya, Izzet, and Golgari. 
-Gatecrash is the second set in the block.  It is also a big set.  It has a silly name.
-Gatecrash features the other five Ravnica guilds – Dimir, Gruul, Orzhov, Boros, and Simic.
-Each guild has a two-color legendary creature as a leader: 
*Isperia is back for Azorius
*Rakdos is back for…er…Rakdos
*Trostani, Dryad Triumvirate is in for Selesnya
*Jarad (an elf zombie) is the Golgari offering
*Niv-Mizzet returns for Izzet. 
*Dimir gets Lazav (a shapeshifter)
*Gruul gets Borborygmos back
*Obzedat is the Orzhov persona (and has some ties to Ghost Council)
*Boros gets Aurelia (a new angel)
*Finally, Zegana (a merfolk) is the Simic leader. 
-The old legendary creatures in the above list get new versions. 
-There’s also a Jace planeswalker in RTR, and a Gideon in Gatecrash.
My Thoughts-
MaRo didn’t say much about the third set.  I’m sincerely hoping that there are some guild combinations in there, because I desperately want to see some new tri-color general options.  (There are some large gaps in some of the wedges – such as RWU – that I’d like to see filled.  Zedruu lovers, feel free to hate.) 
I could care less personally about the planeswalkers; I typically don’t play them, and never manage to open them in packs (meaning I may as well just write them off now anyway.)    
Ten (at minimum) dual-color legend options is pretty exciting, though.  I love me some new design space, and I’ve really come around to the joys of building for two colors instead of three.  (It’s so much easier to fix mana and stay on target as far as theme and strategy.)  So far, I’m excited to see how these shape up, since none really sound bad.
Well, maybe the merfolk does.  I’m all set there already…I don’t particularly care what it does.  (Merfolk lovers, feel free to hate.)
Commander’s Arsenal
EDH is a big hit.  That’s no secret.
Apparently, the Premium Deck Series wasn’t a particularly big hit in comparison.  That gets the axe going forward.
In its place, there’s going to be a “Commander-specific” product every summer.  Details are hazy here, but there are specific references to the fact that the product will include new cards, similar to the Commander pre-cons from last summer.  
This summer, however, there wasn’t appropriate time to design new toys for us, so we’re getting “Commander’s Arsenal”.  What this is going to be is some sort of a collection of EDH staples; the idea appears to be that it will help existing players cover some bases and assist new players in easing into the format.
Like I said…details are a bit hazy at this time.
My Thoughts:
I’m nervous as hell here.  There are some wild speculations out on the forums right now, and while I don’t think they’re particularly grounded in reality (I swear I read a post on MTGSalvation where someone suggested that Mana Drain and Mana Crypt would both be in the set…), I would like to think that Wizards thinks along a similar vein to the PDS series that this release seems to be replacing.  We’ve seen some decent cards in those sets, such as Entomb in PDS: Graveborn.  It seems possible that we could get somewhat of a “chase card” plant, such as (for example) Pernicious Deed, filled in with some smaller role-players.
The danger, as I see it, is two-fold-
As Scavenging Ooze and Flusterstorm taught us last year, there’s a very real potential for cards with an Eternal-format appeal to show up here and drive either pricing or demand through the roof.  This goes for both new designs and old reprints.  If the wrong card makes the list, EDH players could end up facing the problem of trying to source a From The Vault-type release twice a summer. 
(Of course, if these end up looking similar to From The Vault: Legends, that may not be much of a problem after all…)
The second issue is more of a format concern.  Releases like these tend to also go a long way toward homogenizing the format in a way that stifles creativity and makes things look all-too similar.  One of my fellow StarCity writers, Glenn Jones, wrote an article last week about “Commander staples” that included lists of cards that are format-defining across all colors.  One of the white staples he identified was Oblation.
Until the release of the Commander pre-cons last summer, I had seen Oblation approximately zero times since starting to play EDH.
I know this is a nit-pick, and as Mr. P would put it, it falls into the category of “complaining about being given nice things.”  Still, the concern is there.  Variety is the spice of life and of EDH, and I’m fearing a time when the format is dulled to the point that interest wanes in the face of this sort of thing.  100-Card Singleton fans can tell you first-hand what happens when too much structure is handed down to a casual format.
Anyway, this was an exciting weekend for EDH players, no matter how you view the news.
Speaking Of Conventions…
I’m looking for a little input from all of you. 
Thirty-one days from today, I’ll be waking up at the crack of 2AM to consume a giant pot of coffee and hopefully find my way to BradleyInternationalAirport to board my flight to Indianapolis for GenCon 2012.  I spent a bunch of money I didn’t have on an iPad, and I fully intend on documenting the hell out of this trip.  The travel experience, the food, the people, the games, the events, the city, the drunken trespassing in the rooftop pool at three in the morning…I want to bring it all to you.
The plan at this point is to leverage the site here, as well as Facebook and Twitter, to keep “live” updates coming all weekend.  What I want to know is simple:
What do you want to see?
I’m going to let you steer my experience a bit.  I know some of you know a bit about what the GenCon experience is like, and some of you are out in the cold on this one.  Here are the highlights:
-All of downtown Indianapolis is transformed into basically a 24-hour gaming-centric mecca.
-There are things happening around the clock; you can draft M13 at two in the morning, play boardgames over breakfast, sit in on a mid-day anime film convention, catch gamer-themed bands, wander the enormous vendor floor, play roleplaying games over dinner, experience TrueDungeon…really, there’s nothing you can’t do. 
-On a more Magic-related note, the Vintage and Legacy World Championships happen.  There are usually various Pro-Tour or GP qualifiers, and casual drafts and sealed events are always firing.  (Want to draft Innistrad block?  Cool.  Want to play a mega-sealed pool consisting of the last three blocks and the last two Core sets?  No problem!  How about a 256-person Pack Wars?)
-And of course, there are EDH events.
So I’m leaving it a bit up to you, my dedicated readers.  I’m open to any/all suggestions.  I want ideas on how to manage my Twitter feed.  I want ideas on chats.  I want you to tell me what events I should try to play in.  Hell, if you piece together a scavenger hunt for me, I’ll hook it up.  I’m up for anything you want to come up with.  
Basically, I want to show you guys whatever you want to see.
Hit me up here, or discuss in the comments.  (Feel free to gang up on me.)  I want this to be a really cool thing.!

àDJ