That's the short form. People may talk about draft but nobody really knows how draft is until they start doing it and now that Wizards is outlining what your draft pairs should be and your archetypes, I think they're giving up a lot of the thrill of discovery. One of the joys that people described about Innistrad's draft format was discovering new possibilities; that's been taken away and I think it's to the detriment of the set.
For multiple reasons, I am having difficulty getting excited about this set. I really, really liked M15 too, so while the bar was set high, I felt like they could meet it. For multiple reasons, I don't think they met it.
First, this set was originally going to be about Magic's villains, which sounds awesome! But because this set became the last core set, they decided to shift the focus to five Planeswalker origin stories. I get that, because those stories can be self-contained but I am sad to see this opportunity missed.
And origin stories are, frequently, dull. The shine was taken off of this set early for me, as a result.
The five Planeswalkers they chose to focus on continue to take that shine away. While I still don't like double-faced cards, I do appreciate the way these illustrate the change in the character. It's a solid use of the mechanic and this iteration does away with the 'flip-reflip' shenannigans of the werewolves of Innistrad.
What I don't like is that I'm seeing the sixth incarnation of Jace, fifth of Chandra, and fourth of Liliana. Gideon and Nissa are making their third appearance so I'm giving them a pass.
Let Jace go, Wizards. Chandra and Liliana, too. They have dominated cards-and their respective colors- for far, far too long (eight years!) and it's time to retire their number for awhile.
Moving on to the other mechanics:
Renown, like Monstrous, is a mechanic that I wish was worded differently. Putting +1 counters on creatures is a fine mechanic; just word the damn thing like Persist or Undying. "If ~this~ deals combat damage to a player and does not have a +1 counter on it, put one on it. If ~this~ has a +1 counter on it, then it is Renown and gets ~ability~." Or even "when ~this~ has a +1 counter put on it then ~ability~"
There. Now it's a lot more useful-and in some cases breakable but not easily. As it is, if someone just puts a +1 counter on a creature with Renown, there's no way to identify if that creature has Renown or not! That is a terrible execution of the mechanic.
With that out of the way: Renown has allowed for some very aggressive creatures to be printed, especially in White. It's not a terrible mechanic but it should've been executed cleaner.
Spell Mastery is pretty solid and I suspect will surprise some people. As the number of graveyard-reliant mechanics increase I wonder if we won't see more and more decks that attempt to mill themselves into victory.
Prowess and Scry are coming back too soon. While they are both good and Prowess gives Blue a mechanic it really needed and plays nice with what Blue wants to do anyway, they just return too soon.. These mechanics didn't have to go evergreen in this set: Theros hasn't rotated out and we are still hip deep in Khans block. Considering the 20 year history of Magic, I feel like they should've brought back some other mechanics for this set and given us a break from them.
The "cycle of multiples" (Timberpack Wolf, Infectious Bloodlust, Undead Servant, Faerie Miscreant, and Cleric of the Forward Order) aren't bad. They effect is decent enough for a common cycle though clearly Faerie Miscreant is a step above the others with card draw and flying and Undead Servant is probably the most difficult to pull off.
The tribal theme: meh. Tribal themes are often boring, especially when the focus on the "main" tribes because the power level always needs to be nerfed, due to the long history of the game. Hopefully, Zendikar's tribal theme (because if Origins isn't a big tell for Zendikar I'll be amazed) will provide more oomph.
The big reprint: Goblin Piledriver is a big deal to see again. That's pretty cool.
The enchantment theme: Theros was cool, remember guys? Remember??? No? (Too little, too late, I think. Also, Theros wasn't cool).
The artifact subtheme: Hey everyone blue is going to be cool again! But this time, with red! This would be remotely exciting if blue had ever truly fallen out of favor.
So that's it, that's my general impression. Everything else will have to wait until I can get cracking on the cards.