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A Complete Review of Odyssey
I'll rate cards on their fun factor only, although I'll comment on their tournament strength as well. The ratings go from 1 (horrible) to 5 (excellent).
ConclusionOdyssey looks like a good set on the whole. It doesn't have too many horrible cards and most of the usual vanilla cards are made interesting with flashback or threshold.
Although flashback looks very similar to buyback, it's different enough in execution to be new and fun. A buyback card, once countered, remains countered, but flashback cards remain active from the graveyard. This makes milling strategies dangerous to use on an opponent, but beneficial on yourself. Cards like Gamekeeper, Oath of Druids and Hermit Druid, as well as blue "draw X cards, discard Y cards" cards could work very well with flashback cards.
Threshold at first looked to be a boring concept, but I've really warmed up to it. Because threshold doesn't use variable preconditions for each card, the fight to get to seven cards in your graveyard first will be on. I assume the number seven will have been decided on after ample playtesting, but I hope it won't turn out to be too easy or too hard to reach in practice.
Almost everything in Odyssey, including the two new mechanics, seems to be intended to make the games last longer. Some of the insanely high flashback costs are a good indication that the design team trusts that this will happen. Personally, I like long games, so I'm really looking forward to trying out Odyssey.
There are a few negative things about Odyssey I feel I should mention as well. Although they aren't reprinting staples like Disenchant and Powersink anymore in each of the standalone expansions (which is great), they should probably not reprint any cards that have been in recent expansions either, like Gravedigger and the Elven Lyrist copy. That's not a lot of wasted card slots, but it's still annoying. Those slots could have been filled with new cards.
Another annoyance is the "let's give each color their own version of this card" tendency. I think that started with Exodus (the Oaths and the Keepers). It's sloppy card design, because there could have been original cards in those slots. For some cards it can be excused, like the Planeshift Familiars, because it was designed as an ability for each color, but did every color really need a Lhurgoyf, a Shrine, an enchant land, a Gravedigger and a Kindle-lookalike? Ok, most of the gravediggers are reprints and the new Kindles are pretty good and fit Odyssey's graveyard theme and the enchant lands are generally pretty neat, but the Lhurgoyfs and Shrines are lackluster at best. That's not to mention the five Atogs.
Some of the rarities are pretty badly chosen as well. Hosers should never be rare, whether they're color or strategy hosers. Rares should be in our decks, not in your sideboards. We certainly pay enough for them. Rares should also be usable by themselves. You shouldn't need to buy four of a card just to make it possible to put it in a deck. Usually, Wizards is pretty good about making cards like Howling Wolf and Kindle common, but a card like Battle of Wits, although it's strange enough to be a rare, shouldn't be one, because you need at least three or four to have a chance of finding one early in a 200+ cards deck. The same goes for rare lands that only give mana. Sure, you can put only one in a deck, but it doesn't have a noticeable effect until you have four. They're really utility cards and shouldn't be rare.
Another thing that drew my attention was the poor flavor texts. I've kept the best ones in my review, but as you can see, they were few and far between. There's too much posturing and X is an elvish expression for Y and other bland stuff. Most flavor texts just seem like filler, which is a great shame. Where are the old flavor texts that managed to bring us a bit of the world's flavor? Literary quotes worked pretty well, but also ones that weren't all about stereotypes (goblins dumb, soldiers brave, dragons dangerous) or bad puns.
But all this doesn't mean Odyssey is a bad set. It could have been better, but it's pretty good. Of the colors, green has the most interesting cards, followed by blue and black. White has a few good ones as well, but red is boring as usual. Red rarely has much beyond burn and combat creatures and Odyssey is no different, sadly.