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.

My 2015 Magic Resolutions

66 - Worldwake - Quest for Renewal - Tomasz Jedruszek

A new year means a new beginning, right?

I’ve decided to share my Magic Resolutions for 2015 with you.

Write About Magic with More Consistently 

This one should be obvious. I haven’t written enough lately and I really should rectify that. I was hoping that the November challenge for myself would be able to help stir it up for me, but it didn’t (more on this later).

My large overall resolution this year is to work on my time management. With my increased responsibility at work and chasing down my two daughters has taken time away from everything else for me. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to spend less time with them of course, I’ll just be rearranging my life to do the things that I want to do.

There are plenty of things I want to accomplish, but it’s becoming obvious that I can’t do them all. I’ve walked away from other things I enjoy to take care of my family, because that’s first in my life. Long time readers know that, and I appreciate all the support I’ve received for it. But Magic is important in my life as well; it’s been a true passion of my life for years. I have much to give back to the Magic community and I want to continue what I used to do.

Now, I know that I’ll be here and hopefully, but there might be a chance I will show up elsewhere. I’ll let you know if and when that happens. I’m not trying to get ahead of myself here.

Complete My Commander Decks

On Halloween, I posted this tweet:

That’s twenty different Commander decks. With Fate Reforged, that may or may not grow. The goal is to make each deck play differently from each other; why do I want to play two decks that have the same style? Even though I’m a Johnny and I love to tinker around with ideas, I want to keep a staple of around that many. If I can get some more mono-colored Commanders in there, I’d love to.

I’ll be working on those decks over on, keep the Commander separate from everything else here. I’ll post on the progress of each and I think I’ll try and really relax things over there (relax meaning maybe not so formatted, I don’t know yet. it sounds better).

Work on the Star Wars Custom Cube

Hey, there’s this in here.

I can honestly say that this was an utter disaster. I thought I could do it but it just didn’t work out. There’s no excuse here. This, among other projects, is a huge reason why I’m working on my time management skills this year. I could be distracted by something else, but this is important to me. Plus, the friend that I was making this for is now expecting his second child this year. Maybe, just maybe, get it done in time for its birth (sometime in June).

This will be worked around here and there and I won’t try to make it as a big of a deal like I was trying to do before with the subreddit, and daily updates. Obviously that was the goal but when it didn’t work out like that it just snowballed down from there. I’ll work something out where you can follow its progress.

Rework My Regular Cube

I’ve been meaning to talk about this Cube for well over a year. This will be one of my posts I’ll be focusing on first. I created some rules on how to create my first non-Pauper Cube and I think it was a wonderful thought exercise but not the best experience. More on this soon.

Make it to a Prerelease

This shouldn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but it is. From Mirrodin to New Phyrexia, I only missed maybe two or three prereleases and those were for good reason (I got married, you know, events like that). Since the large prerelases were disbanded I’ve been to a handful; of course my personal situation has changed as having kids can do that to you. But the last one I participated in was Dragon’s Maze.

I’ve got a shot with Fate Reforged, but that’s not a certainty just yet. I know that this seems like it’s a small resolution and silly to plenty of Magic players out there but it’s still something I want to check off my list.

Play more Wacky Formats

Or, just play more. I’ve got the complete set of Vanguard, and Planechase, and the three “Horde” decks from the Theros block, and my Zombie Hoard deck. Plus I’m working on Conspiracy for drafting. Let’s all mix that up with Commander. Grinding with Standard decks to play in a PTQ isn’t my idea of wanting to spend my Magic time. I found my Timmy side: I want to have fun when I play Magic. Never played Vanguard Planechase Commander?

You should; it’s so choice.

Get my collection up on

I have no affiliation with other than I like how it’s keeping my cards organized when I put them up there. The real part of this is to go through my collection in the first place and cataloging everything. This is also for insurance reasons in case something bad happens to my collection I have a list of what I own.

Create Other Content

I wish I had the ability to create something different everyday. Unfortunately my job is not to work on Magic all day so my time goes elsewhere; I’m just a guy with a blog who cares passionately about his hobby. I’ve got a nice DSLR that I want to shoot a video with; I’ve got video editing skills to put together said video. Maybe it’s time to work on abandoned projects from the past. Maybe it’s to create new ones and just forge forward.

Or I just might be getting ahead of myself and expecting too much without coming through. I don’t want to do that; but this is just something I want to get out there as well. I’m trying to be realistic but just saying that if you see some weird project by me this year, it was me branching out.


– I’d love to be on another podcast again. The last one was Erin Campbell’s Deck Tease and I had a great time on it. Of course, I have to provide a reason to join in rather than being me; I haven’t done anything of note lately, in my opinion.

– I’m planning to go to PAX Prime this year (My Daughter’s surgery the day before prevented this past year’s). This is all predicated on my brother deciding not to get married that weekend.

– The one other area of focus I would like to do is bring back Magic blogging. When I first started there were a bunch of us who wrote, got brought it to some major sites, or started their own, and at the moment there aren’t too many who write independently. I’m not really talking about Tumblr here as I feel that’s a much different experience.

Writers need to come from somewhere. If the major sites keep getting people who win events, then that’s the content you’re going to get from them. Not to be cold, but they aren’t writers, just some person who won and has to write something. I started this blog so many years ago because no one was creating the content that I wanted to read. You have the opportunity to make your own mark in Magic history.

Both 99CMDRProblems and this blog have over a million hits each for a total of 2.6 million page views. I have over 4,500 followers on Twitter, including members of WotC, for one of the largest twitter followings of a non-Pro/R&D member. It might seem like I’m bragging but I’m telling you what you can do: I’m just a normal guy who loves Magic and writes. This is so cliche, but this is something that you can do.

Believe me when I say what WotC reads what people put out there. I think recently there’s been too much of a emphasis on Reddit and Tumblr and not enough long form writing. Start a blog here on or and write. Maybe you go the Vorthos route and write about fiction. Write about MTGO (write, don’t complain). You can focus on anything you want (Mike Linnemann’s recent piece on Gathering Magic is something that a person could and should devote a whole blog on (and I’m not just saying this because I know Mike and he name-checked me over there, I’ve written about it as well – over five years ago). Tell me if you start something, I want to encourage as many as people as possible to write. Create content, don’t just consume it.

I’ve felt like I’ve let people down recently and I can’t do that. Writing about Magic makes me happy and a part of something bigger. I want to encourage you to do the same. If you follow me on Twitter say hi, ask a question, show me something you did. Not being as engaged with the Community as I’ve been in the past is a sin of mine.

This is a new year and with that comes a new beginning.

What are your resolutions for Magic this year?