Everything That’s Pretty Okay with Battle for Zendikar

Ugin's InsightEditor’s Note: I’ve been sitting on my PAX report for a while after some delays (my brother getting married, life and work). I’ll visit it later; it hasn’t come out the way I want to.

Earlier this week, Pro Player (and notably better Magic player than I) Paulo Vitor Damo de Rosa put out an article on ChannelFireball.com called “Everything That’s Wrong with Battle for Zendikar.” In it, he explains why he doesn’t like the philosophical direction that BFZ has gone and believes it’s a bad set. He came from the angle as a competitive player completely acknowledges that angle; that’s what I want when I read something from him. While I don’t fully agree with his position I want to take a look at this groundswell I’ve seen online about the hatred for BFZ.

There has been a little bit of an issue with Channel Fireball moving his article around trying to hide it so it doesn’t effect sales of the new set in their store. I’m not looking to comment on this as I’ve had my own issues with a large online retail site/store before with their content. I’m all for an author writing what they believe without being tied to sponsors; that’s the major reason why I don’t have advertisements on this blog. If I write something like Paulo had and a sponsor didn’t like the content and this article might hurt sells, I might be pressured into writing something different or censoring myself. Paulo wants to start a conversation while giving his thoughts on the topic, and I fully applaud that even if I don’t agree with him. Continue reading

After MaRo – State of Design Response 2015

Profound JourneyAnother year, another State of Design response.

While I’ve tried to keep up every year that Maro has written one, I think it’s important to voice your opinion about what you have thought about the past year. I know Maro gets so much player response, especially on Tumblr where it’s short bursts of info, it’s also good to write something a little longer. If you’re giving feedback, there’s something you need to communicate that can be very hard to do:

Explain why.

If you liked something, explain the reason. Same for not liking something. There is nothing as useless as “this sucks,” but don’t explain why. “I didn’t like that there were too many aggro decks,” is a valid reason, “I don’t like dragons,” is a valid reason, “Because why can’t we have Counterspell back?” is not a totally valid reason but if that’s the way you feel, please respond that way. Be kind, be courteous. I’m not trying to “tone police”, but even if you disagree with what has happened you can still be respectful. If you want your voice to be heard, write something; WotC will read it.

I know that last year I kinda went into a “Theros wasn’t an enchantment block so it missed its mark” midset and in hindsight, I still believe that. It’s okay to disagree with how things turned out. Did I think Khans block turned out better? Let’s find out. Continue reading

Magic Cinema – Eldrazibusters

Ghostbusters Poster

I’ve got two major passions in my life: movies and Magic. Sometimes they combine. This is one of those times. I apologize to any Vorthos that may see any canon that is off here. But as far as I know, this is a completely true story that I know totally happened like this.


There have been unconfirmed sightings of the mythical beings known as Eldrazi seen all over the plane of Zendikar destroying the landscape. Cultures on Zendikar worshiped them as Gods for thousands of years until their release a few years ago. Now, four Planeswalkers are on Zendikar to stop these giant beings. Ob Nixilis, a former demon Planeswalker, is trying to prevent this group from completing their mission. The dragon Planeswalker Ugin, who has just awoken from his slumber, is in his old cave, the Eye of Ugin, trying to save the plane from the mysterious destruction that is taking place.


The great dragon Planeswalker UGIN is talking to a collection of his best minds in front of a map of Zendikar.

I’ve got a plane blowing up and you guys are not giving me any answers.

We’re checking Akoum The Roil, Tazeem…

A GOBLIN enters the room and cuts him off.

The Planeswalkers are here, Mr. Ugin.

The Planeswalkers, okay, the Planeswalkers.

Continue reading

Branding with Magic Origins

Chandra as a KidEditor’s Note: I wanted to get this in before the Magic panel at SDCC, where hopefully they will talk about some of this stuff.

My three-year-old daughter doesn’t know who Chandra is.

She knows Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Iceman, Spider-Man, Firestar, Captain America, and Hulk are. She knows R2-D2 (whom she affectionately calls “Buddy”) and anyone in the Star Wars universe with a hood is called “Doom” (Yes, after Dr. Doom). There’s Red Doom (Darth Maul) and White Doom (Darth Sidious).

Nicol Bolas and Ajani are a mystery to her.

She rummages through my extra Dice Masters cards because she knows the characters. “Who’s this?” She asks, holding up Hawkman. I mention his name and she just shrugs. “Ok,” she uncaringly remarks while shoving the card into her pumpkin basket that she carries with her along with the Batman, Wonder Woman and Hulk cards.

She doesn’t play Magic, so she can’t just appreciate the game or the characters just yet. There’s been very little exposure to the game aside from the Pop Funko figures above my computer while we play LEGO Star Wars. Is it my fault?

Or is it WotC’s? Continue reading

Data Dump – Categories of Banned Cards in Modern

Dig Through TimeThe new Banned and Restricted list was announced today. I don’t have much to say about that since I don’t play the formats regularly. But with the three cards banned today from Modern, I thought it might be good to take a look at why these cards got the axe. This is by no means an extensive list nor the only reason why these cards are banned, but they give you an idea of what kind of cards continue to be problem cards.

You should care about this because when you’re looking at mechanics you should analyze them from a Spike’s point of view. The Spike player wants to maximize any and all value our of every card they have and usually a card gets banned because it has become too oppressive. You need to get some perspective from people who play the game competitively to see if your cards are balanced (besides playtesting to see how they operate of course).

Good designers are not always good developers, and vice versa.

When I saw Treasure Cruise for the first time, I didn’t think it would make it out of Standard as the cost of exiling seven cards in a format where you might want your graveyard (Modern/Legacy) was a bit too much. Obviously I was wrong.

You obviously need playtesting to see how your created cards pan out, but don’t just subscribe to what someone on the internet about cost. In recent years, I’ve tried to stay away from that more and more since you need to know too many things to get the cost just right (Like the environment the card is being printed in, for example). All I can do is give you a best guess based on previous cards that do roughly the same thing. A vanilla 2/2 for 1G is going to be a safe bet; a vanilla 2/2 for U is a much harder sell.

This is just an observational list to see if your cards fall into any of these categories. This doesn’t mean that don’t design any cards that fit into any of these (some of my favorite cards can fit into these categories), but just pay attention of what the cards do. Please pay attention that the more ban worthy cards fit into more than one category like drawing cards cheaply. Some cards I leave off this list because they weren’t broken unless they were combined with another card (Dark Depths, the Artifact Lands) or they were just too good without really breaking any of these rules (Deathrite Shaman).

Cards that reduce their own casting cost:

  • Ancestral Vision
  • Blazing Shoal
  • Dig Through Time
  • Dread Return
  • Hypergenesis
  • Mental Misstep
  • Treasure Cruise

Cards that cheat a cost:

  • Ancestral Vision
  • Birthing Pod
  • Blazing Shoal
  • Bloodbraid Elf
  • Hypergenesis
  • Stoneforge Mystic

Cards that provide more than 1 mana:

  • Cloudpost
  • Rite of Flame
  • Seething Song

Cards that have repeatable effects:

  • Birthing Pod
  • Green Sun’s Zenith
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor
  • Punishing Fire
  • Skullclamp
  • Sword of the Meek
  • Umezawa’s Jitte

Cards that draw extra cards cheaply:

  • Ancestral Vision (3 cards for free)
  • Dig Through Time (2 cards out of next 7 for UU)
  • Glimpse of Nature (X cards for G)
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor (1 card out of next 3 for free)
  • Ponder (1 card out of next 3 for U)
  • Preordain (1 card out of next 2 or 3 for U)
  • Sensei’s Divining Top (1 card for free)
  • Skullclamp (2 cards for 1)
  • Treasure Cruise (3 cards for U)

Cards that extend game time that for tournaments:

  • Birthing Pod (Repeatable Shuffling/Decision Making)
  • Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Repeatable Decision Making for 2 Modes)
  • Second Sunrise (Repeatable Loop)
  • Sensei’s Divining Top (Repeatable Decision Making)

This is not a commentary on any of these cards, just an observation.