Editor’s Note: Other possible titles of this post include: After MaRo – The 2008 State of Design Response 2: Electric Boogaloo or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love WotC, Take 2, and Stop Me If You’ve Heard this Before. If you don’t get this reference to the actual title, see here.
Just like in MaRo’s Type 1, Take 2 article (the Take 2 Link in the above aside) I want another shot at this article. What happened the first time was that I read MaRo’s State of Design and wanted to throw some stuff that I had been thinking about or things that were bothering me, mostly about the number of cards being printed at a time. Sure, I love creating different decks, but I made my point last time and I’m not going to do it this time again. I felt I was a little too political with how things should be handled (though being political got me to put Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin’s picture on this site because we need to beautify it here) and I didn’t really focus on the design of the past year (Note: I’m not supporting any ticket, only that Palin is the most attractive VP in the past 20 years (With apologies to Dan Quayle)).
Keep in mind that with my suggestion (and with the hard working people at Organized Play, alright, mostly their work), States/Champs are coming back. I am excited and now if Wizards would continue to include things that I talk about, maybe then I’ll get an overinflated ego that I think I’m making a difference.
Now, to the bulk of this post (again,a long post, but I’ll make it up to you).
Magic R&D: You guys are doing an awesome job. I like the cards that are seeing print, and except for a few of them, couldn’t be happier. Bringing us back to a tribal block and making it feel different was a great success. Thoug it isn’t being run by Goblins is a great feeling, but only to have them be run by Faeries is meh. When I was gunslinging at PAX last weekend, I played against Aaron Forsythe. He just sat down and played against me: his being a Greater Gargadon while mine was a Zur the Enchanter that just didn’t get going (Yes Aaron, that’s what I was playing). As I sat and looked at his suspended Gargadon while playing a Sower of Temptation to steal one of his tokens, I joked that I wish it had flash in hopes of taking said Gargadon. Aaron looked at me and said, “Well, in testing it did.” Maybe because I was being beaten horribly or just because I was a smart ass, I replied, “Oh, good thing it didn’t, because you didn’t want to make Faeries too good, did you?”
While it might have come off as snide and, it did instill a little confidence in me: that R&D and the FFL want to make decks playable. Could you have imagined if it did have Flash (since almost all other Faeries do)? It made me think (dangerous I know, but it lead to the creation of this article) and Wizards does care about play balance and try to not let anything slip through the cracks. If there seems to be a trouble card(s) in the format, there’s something to answer them, most of the time in earlier sets. There are a ton of ways to get rid of Bitterblossom, to get rid of Faries, to stop Kithkin, you just have to diversify (Which is why 5 color control is so popular right now). There might be a problem card in the environment for a set, but if it’s not answered by the next set, then we have a problem. The answer to Faeries have been there (Cloudthresher/Whispmare), it’s just harder to play around them.
MaRo complained about the keyword mechanics not being liked. Really? I had a fun time with them. Well, most of them. I will only focus on the keyword mechanic as there are too many to go over in a post unless you guys/girls really want me to. With Wizards not afraid to repeat mechanics, I’ll judge them if I want to see it again, the highest praise of keywords.
Plansewalkers – I already gushed about these guys/girls.
Clash – While some people didn’t like this mechanic, I loved it. Why? I like random elements from time to time in my games (Which explains my 150 Highlander Deck (more on that in a future post/blog(?)). The effects weren’t too random while most of them rewarded playing with evoke creatures. As you can see from Broken Ambitions/Lash Out, sometimes clash cards get played to a useful effect. It made limited fun and is still great when you’re just playing causal with friends. I would love to see it again, as long as the effects aren’t too swingy (Titan’s Revenge is as swingy as I want to see it).
Evoke – I already love the mechanic as well as most of the cards played with it. Though I wished this had been a three set block to have seen where with would have gone in the third set, I’m happy with the cards that did see print. It sees alot of play (including cards that don’t use the evoke mechanic) and thumbs up to the design. If and when this mechanic sees repeat business, I want the natural progression of the mechanic: off-color/non-mana evoke costs.
Champion – This mechanic has one face, and that’s what the trouble is. Mistblind Clique is too powerful because it doesn’t cost enough, and it is too big of a body and it ruins the whole mechanic. Sure, it’s supposed to be like a Mana Short but for 1 mana more you see attached to a 4/4 flying body? The mechanic as a whole is interesting as you’re trading one creature/permanent for a larger one, but there was suppose to be the disadvantage: if you lose your creature you’re championing, you lose the bigger creature. Faries, in Blue the color of instants, don’t have that problem while Elves, in green the color of creatures, did? It’s interesting, but I’m not too anxious to see Champion back. I’ll be glad when it leaves standard.
Changeling – While it throws all the trivia buffs for another loop, I like this idea. I’ve seen more Nameless Inversion, and Crib Swap cards in different decks because they can go get fetched for removal then I can count. It’s fun to see Chameleon Colossus in a Merfolk deck, and it opens deck ideas. I was playing a Reaper King deck with changelings as my Scarecrows. Why? Because I can. If this gets brought back again, have it be for the next tribal block as it did make everything more interesting (maybe as a Green/Blue mechanic only).
Tribal as a card type – While I don’t totally get all the rules behind this, I do like this idea. Like it? No, I love it. Infact, I want to see Tribal show up more often, and not as some Arcane throwaway. What am I talking about? Well, it defines flavor. You have a spell that an elf would do (GG, Instant, Add G to your mana pool for each untapped elf you control), wouldn’t it seem like it should count as an elf card (GG, Tribal Instant – Elf, Add G to your mana pool for each untapped elf you control)? Even though the tribal block has ended, this card type (or super type) needs to continue. Every time that it requires it. If you make a new card type, it needs to continue besides just a block. Otherwise, it’s a waste; just ask Culling the Weak (two Culling the Weak jokes in one week? I’m mean).
Hideaway – I understand the idea behind the card, and they do speak to my inner Timmy, but I’m not a real fan. It can be spruced up, you don’t get the huge effect of it, but I guess I wasn’t too happy about pulling 7 Shelldock Isles from packs; especially in the midnight release where I opened a foil one, then a regular one (Yes, that’s a good Hideaway land in limited, tell that to the blue cards I got passed). If I don’t see it again, I won’t cry, but I don’t hate the mechanic.
Prowl – While it was nice to throw a bone to Rouge creatures, I think this really wanted to be Ninjutsu. But, since that was used already on the plane of Kamigawa and the name doesn’t fit on this plane, Prowl was it. It feels like too much work for too little effort. While there were powerful effects, and I tried to mess around with it when it first came out, I lost interest and decided that if I was trying to make my creatures unblockable, why don’t I just make them bigger and go in for the win? I’ll pass for this to be reprinted.
Reinforce – A very interesting idea that I’m still playing around with from time to time. Still interested why it was thrown on the Kithkin land as I felt it should have been on it’s own seperate land as I like a land that toss itself to the yard for a benefit. I’m glad it’s instant speed and an interesting tradeoff of how you want to play the card. In another environment where +1/+1 counters rule, I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.
Kinship – Creature type matters, and this is a mechanic that proves that concept. A major problem is that your deck had to be those creature types; no if, ands or buts. While that’s fine and dandy, it makes decks too linear. That works for some types of players and that’s perfectly fine. I know that not everyone’s crazy for Clash, and this is mine where I messed around with it, but found it to be not effective enough times to be worth it (You might be asking yourself, how is that different than Clash? With Clash, you could throw the card on the bottom of your library and smooth out what your did or didn’t want. With Kinship, you couldn’t). If it comes back, I won’t be too excited, but I know that some people would be.
Before I walk about the mechanics (Hybrid is amazing, but it’s not a keyword mechanic), I want to get something that’s been bugging me about this “block”: there’s too many cycles. Some of the are fine and fun (the “lords,” “demigod,” hybrid lands, the color-matters enchantments), but there were far too many in the block. I hated the Hatchling cycle in Morningtide (I understand the purpose, but I kept pulling them out of packs), and felt that a majority of the set was nothing but cycles which made it feel boring. I’m all for having some of them and understand their importance but it didn’t allow for any fun in the commons/uncommons. It’s been where none of the color combinations feel too different from the lesser rares once you get drafting/building constructed decks.
Wither – Home run. No one has hated this keyword with anyone that I’ve talked to, and if it wasn’t for keeping -1/-1 counters to a minimum, I would vote this to evergreen status. It helps kill bigger creatures over time, it’s dripping with flavor, grokkable, and there’s so much you can do with it. The whole -1/-1 counter theme in the block was great and I know you can only do it every once in a while and I support that. If you wanted to make -1/-1 counters part of the game again, I wouldn’t complain (only ask you provide the counters in the fat pack like I suggested). Wither is the best keyword this Magic year.
Conspire – It was an interesting idea and wish it was expanded upon in the other sets of the block. While it made way for the next mechanic (not keyworded), I think the problem was that it wasn’t big enough. Destroying two artifacts or dealing 6 damage at sorcery speed wasn’t big enough. Giantbaiting is fun, but that was it. The spells need to be bigger, bolder, more of an impact. I want to see it back in other hybrid cards when it’s appropriate.
The Untap Symbol – Just because you haven’t done something doesn’t mean it should be done. When you’re in a flipped world, doing something you normally do can seem intriguing, but it felt very wrong. Untapping for an effect doesn’t feel like Magic, just something really weird. I know that you want to promote attacking (and Conspire), but you’ve drilled into our heads that to tap something is to activate it. Maybe that’s the point, to do something really weird, but I don’t want to see this back. Ever. Sorry. I just don’t like this idea. If you want to print cards that have an effect when you untap them, just write it on the card.
Persist – The Ying to Wither’s Yang. I love the concept and I love the execution. Some of it is too breakable (Murderous Redcap), but otherwise, I enjoy it. It solves Wrath problems, and creates tension when attacking/blocking, which is always fun. While it could have been developed without the -1/-1 counter, it feels as if it’s a half-Zombie, coming back into play and was a much better decision with the -1/-1 counter. Thumbs up on this one.
Retrace – One of the better mechanics of limited is also petty fun in other formats as well. I love mechanics that let me repeat effects over and over. The cards are fun (though I still don’t understand why R/U gets graveyard recursion, ever) and powerful. What’s amazing is that it’s not completely broken without some help (you need extra cards in your hand, which works out later in the game). It’s a fun mechanic that I’m using in different decks all the time. This would be fun to reprint again.
Chroma – I don’t think that this needed to be keyworded. It can be a cycle of cards that do some of the same stuff, but don’t have a keyword associated with it. This loose cycle had cards that cared about mana symbols in different zones and had different effects when you played them. It’s a nice idea, but it was way too scattered for a keyword. I know that Market Research says that players love keywords, but players love keywords that also make sense. This makes none.
Well, that’s my look at keywords for the past block. If I feel so inclined I may do part three, but maybe not. Those who are wondering who will win the first Selecting 11th Edition card showoff may have to wait until Sunday or Monday instead. Then, we get a look at MaRo’s first card (though not the first card reviewed on the site). Later next week, hopefully a look at my Core Set. Whew, that’s a lot of stuff. Stay tuned.