Design Class – Designing for a Post-Reserved List World

So deep undergound, you can't find it anywhere

So that happened…

Listen, no matter how you feel about the Reserved List, it’s clear what the position that Wizards has taken is to reprint a few cards, then lock up the Reserved List forever. That’s fine, it’s a business decision as there have been several WotC employees who have come out against the Reserved List. I’m not here to get into what it happened, or what it’s been doing to the game (for those of you following me on Twitter, that’s been my secret project for a while, a huge, huge Reserved List article that goes over the whole situation and possible solution. It will appear soon).

What we have to do is move on. Of course, there’s the issue that most people are worried about: Eternal formats. While it does close off such re-printings of certain cards, there was almost no chance of WotC reprinting the Power 9, or any of those high cost cards. The worry comes from a format not getting an new players, so the growth gets stunted and therefore, eventually “dies off.” I know what it’s like when no one around you doesn’t play the same format as you. And since that has happened to Vintage, people (like me), are worried the same thing might happen to Legacy, right as it’s starting to grow and get more and more popular.

I believe that niche cards can be expensive because they fit in niche decks. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale only sees play in one deck, 43 land. While it’s disgusting to see a land see prices of $300+, the deck only runs one and it’s only one deck. Lion’s Eye Diamond is approaching $50, needs a playset, and is seen in one or two decks. Force of Will is practically $50 as well, but sees play in a variety of decks, and was uncommon. But I believe that it’s all okay for all of that to happen (maybe not Force, but that’s another article) for Legacy to survive if not for one thing.

Dual Lands.

They’re on the Reserved List too.

Dual Lands are the backbone to most of the Legacy decks; if it wasn’t for them, the game would be much much different. They are the best lands ever printed and in order for a healthy metagame format to survive, there has to be an opportunity to build a good mana base. What if Shards didn’t have tri-colored lands, or if Shadowmoor didn’t have the hybrid lands? It would suck to try and build a stable mana base, right? Well, if you’re trying to build competitively for Legacy or Vintage, you want the best available and the original Dual Lands way outclass the Ravnica ones.

Whoa, hold on here. Since when did this blog become all about competitive playing and such? I’m fine playing with my Ravnica Duals and my Painlands etc. Why should I care?

This blog has not changed it’s tone and is not moving towards competitive play (you’ll see no decklist on this post). You should care because A) it’s about the health of a format and B) if you ever wanted to try it for yourself, there will be a much higher barrier to entry for you to play. It also effects other formats, such as Cube, EDH and anything else people might want to invent in the future. The availability and price of Duals will greatly limit the different decks you can build. I understand people wanting to have every card for every Standard deck, or maybe even Extended. But, unless you’ve been collecting for a while, it’s unlikely to believe that you can build every Legacy deck and have copies for it without switching between decks. To the people who are currently doing that, this is part of the problem of availability and why prices are so high to begin with (again, another time).

Getting back on topic, a majority of the creatures seeing play in Legacy have been printed in the past 8 years but spells and artifacts and lands come from throughout all of Magic (Gee, I wonder why). The backbones of the decks for mana availability consist of this: Fetchlands, Dual Lands, mixing the old (Duals) and the newer (Fetches). Because those are the best lands in all of Magic, people will want to play with those, causing demand and price to skyrocket.

By why do people want them in their decks? Fetchlands allow you to go get any land of the corresponding land type and put it into play. Example: Misty Rainforest allows you to go get any land with the type Forest and put it on the battlefield. It can go get a Basic Forest, Dryad Arbor, Murmuring Bosk, Sapseep Forest, Snow-Covered Forest, or any of the Forest Dual Lands from Ravnica or the original ones. Because it allows you to go in other other colors besides just Green if you fetch the Duals, the Fetchlands see heavy play in multi-color decks. The other reason that Duals see heavy play is that some cards (such as Zoo decks and Daze) actually rely on the basic land type as well.

And why do people play the original Duals instead of going with the Ravnica ones: because the drawback of coming onto the battlefield tapped or losing 2 more life is a big enough drawback not to see serious play in a format where something is better (that’s like saying that you would rather play Cancel than Counterspell, one is just superior to another, if you have it). Paying three life to keep a mana open for Swords to Plowshares multiple turns can bring your life total down fast.

So, what can Wizards do (you know, besides breaking their promise and reprinting the original duals)?

Why, they design new ones, of course.

Mark Rosewater says “Restriction breads creativity.” And, since we know that they have at least met once before about future land cycles (MaRo talks about it at the River of Tears section), they could’ve talked about this very thing. And if they haven’t, I would like some help. I hereby allow Wizards of the Coast to use any and all of the following ideas in future printing. I won’t sue, get mad, throw a hissy fit, or anything of the sort; I would be honored. Think of it as way of giving back to the game I love.

In order for these “New Duals” to see play in Vintage/Legacy, and have the possibility of playing along side them or, in the best cases, replacing them for being optimal in certain decks, there has to be a couple of rules:

  1. The land type has to have a basic land type. Therefore, it’s able to get Fetched out and be used by cards that care about land types.
  2. They have to be worse (or slightly less) than the original duals but better than the Ravnica ones.
  3. The cards cannot be exactly like the Original Duals. Due to the rules of the Reserved List, Wizards cannot reprint cards as a functional reprint (Essence Scatter is a functional reprint of Remove Soul). Snow-covered Duals are a little shaky on this point, so we’ll leave them out of it for now (if not, Wizards, print Snow-Covered Duals).
  4. Keep in mind that Ravnica will rotate out of Extended in 2012. If you’re printing new Dual Lands, that block might be a good choice to have some new ones. And, it seems like a good time to start designing that set.
  5. It needs to be elegant (don’t worry, it’s not the elegant article). The lands need to be smart, intuitive, and simple.

So, while it might be nice to see this card:

it’s not going to happen. While I only talk about one or fewer of the colors, it will apply to all of the color combinations as well.


Invasion Real Duals – Inspired by Invasion Duals.

Let me just get this one out of the way. If you propose a mixture of the Invasion tap lands and Duals, you’re wrong. Entering the battlefield tapped is a huge drawback in a format such as Legacy and wouldn’t even get a second glance. Otherwise people would play with the Ravnica ones now since you don’t have to pay to 2 life. In an alternate universe where we didn’t have the original Duals, this might be an option, but it won’t fly here.

Possible Ideas Inspired by Other Lands –

Urborg Lands – Inspired by Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.

I’m actually liking this cycle the more and more I see it. First, there has to be only five of them (one for each basic land type), and while it does invalidate 1 card (since the Tomb can’t be Fetched), it makes for some interesting choices. While it can make Fetchlands better (by allowing you to tap for mana), it does have built in destruction by the Legend Rule with the opposing player able to fetch one as well. It might even make High Tide interesting again. This can either be a one-of or a four-of making deck construction very very interesting.

Maze Lands – Inspired by Nimbus Maze.

In this case, again, you only can Fetch one color at a time. But, unlike Murmuring Bosk, it can actually increase Basic Land types if you have others in play. If you happen to have a Plateau as well, suddenly, you have a tri-colored Duel. While an aggressive Zoo might not play this card (if they do, it’d be like a one-of), the control player might enjoy it. The other alternative to this is the opposite: It is a Mountain if you have a Plains in play, and vice versa.

Dual Pain Lands – Inspired by Pain Lands.

Also inspired by City of Brass. Now, this one is a little more obvious, but could conceivability see play, but not the best option. By having the land enter the battlefield untapped, you can space out the pain instead of taking three a turn (Fetch plus 2 for it entering the battlefield untapped). It’s a solid option, and would be great for budget players. People have been playing with Pain Lands for years so this wouldn’t be a new experience.

Grove Lands – Inspired by Grove of the Burnwillows.

The polar opposite of the Dual Pains. Again, aggressive decks might not play these, but those putting out 10/10 protection from everything creatures might not mind if a opponent might gain a couple of life. Some people might not even see it to be all that bad of a drawback and would be happy to see these see print. There are a couple of cards that might see more play, or even open up some more design space.

Gemstone Lands – Inspired by Gemstone Mine

Allowing a limited use of these lands might be interesting. It would most likely have to be more than the current three seen on Gemstone Mine to make it more usable and see more play. Having cards like Crucible of Worlds or bouncing lands to your hand would be a good bonus to include with these decks. Players are not shy about playing with counters on cards as they were years ago; it’s common practice in all formats.

Reveal Lands – Inspired by Lorwyn Tribal lands

Now, this is a little different than the current Ravnica Duals. The draw back this time is revealing a card from your hand instead of losing two life. Losing three life (again Fetch + Ravnica Dual) on the first turn to Brainstom can be a pretty heavy price, but only losing one, while revealing the Brainstorm you were going to play, you really lose no information. While information is sacred, if someone wants to be playing with this type of card has to know the implications.

Other Ideas –

Besides just revealing a card of the corresponding colors, there are tons of ways that the Dual lands can have a drawback when entering entering the Battlefield:

  • Opponents gains X life
  • You lose X life
  • Opponents draws X cards
  • You discard X cards
  • Each opponent gets a X/X creature under their control
  • Mill X cards from your library
  • Opponent gets to scry X
  • Opponent gets to fateseal X

Or there can be upkeep events:

At the beginning of your upkeep:

  • Opponents gain 1 life
  • You lose 1 life
  • Each of your opponents draws a card.
  • You discard a card.
  • Each opponent gets a X/X creature under their control
  • Mill a card from your library
  • Opponent gets to scry 1
  • Opponent gets to fateseal 1
  • Remove a card from your graveyard or bury ~this~ (though this might be a little harsh with all the graveyard removal around these days).

Alright, I admit, that was a little repetitive, but to show that there other ways of handling this situation besides just enter the battlefield effects. Most likely, you’d want a ability that can span though all 10 Duals, not just a different combination for each color (not simple, not intuitive).

Other Drawbacks include:

  • Play with the top card of your library revealed.
  • Play with your hand revealed.

Looking at all these options, it’s easy to see so many different options to include on lands to make them still make them playable. If you do at least one of these options, it’s still not a functional reprint, which is one of the issues with the Reserved List. Each one of these cards are “worse” than the Original Duals, but, with playtesting these cards can compete and be used for newer players wanting to enter that arena.

Of course, these cards can never replace the original duels, which will still be the gold standard when it comes to these types of lands. If (and there is no promise) that Wizards ever changes the Revised List, the Dual Lands would be the best cards to take off the list and reprint (and it doesn’t have to be in Standard, but in any type of packaging that they want to do).

My recommendation would be to do something soon, in the next few years. Otherwise, Eternal formats may die away.

Editor’s Note: If you are going to comment (like I know that the majority of readers aren’t going to do), please do not talk about the Reserved List. No matter your opinion, this is not the area for it. If you play older formats (or even causal ones like EDH), I would love to have your opinion on the proposed cards. Sadly, I would ask you to refrain from suggesting your own cards. While I can vouch for myself allowing Wizards to borrow my ideas, I don’t think a blog comment can have that same effect.

14 thoughts on “Design Class – Designing for a Post-Reserved List World”

  1. I really really like the reveal dual land. It’s obviously worse than original duals but it may be better or worse than ravnica dual depending on the deck and the situation.

    A variation on the m10 duals also seems possible.

    (Editor’s Note: Edited out card due to last paragraph. It was interesting, but get rid of the basic land clause, otherwise no one would play it.)

  2. Thanks for the article, you actually managed to make me feel less angry about the reserved list changes. You’ve got some great ideas on new types of Dual Land…I think I’d play any of them quite happily. I definitely agree with the crux of your land discussion…new dual lands can take many forms, but it would be very beneficial for them to have the basic land types in some way. Hopefully someone from Wizards is reading, and taking notes!

  3. I agree with Adam. If Wizards put basic land types on the M10 lands, then there would me a much lower fear in the new list. Sure, the first fetch or card would come in tapped, but every other one would come in untapped if you fulfill the requirement proposed by the card (Needing 1 of the land types already in play.) I would play them in EDH for sure, because that first turn isn’t always that important for me.

  4. There’s been a very interesting idea running around that I’ve read about that answers some of the issues with the Reserved List. It’s a really simple solution:

    Make everything on the reserved list restricted. If the card can’t be reprinted, well then you only get to play ONE. Will it piss off a lot of people? Probably, but it would make a drastic difference in Legacy.

    For the players that want both worlds, it’s too bad but it could be a fascinating result.

    As for your ideas, I like the theories (though a 5-counter gemstone is too good possibly). But if suddenly all the original duals were restricted, players would NEED other sources for lands.

    1. That would be an interesting idea, the problem is that Vintage is the only format where cards are restricted (sans highlander formats). It makes the game more luck than skill. It would completely change Legacy and make decks not work.

      For the people who do have a playset of Underground Seas, what would stop them from building 4 decks instead of just one?

      1. Well, Extended went through a massive change when Duals rotated out and people claimed THOSE were essential to the format.

        The metagame would adapt, it always does.

        It would make Vintage slower, but not any less stable since Wizards keeps making lands.

        Yes, it would fundamentally alter Legacy but that may be what needs to happen to keep the format alive.

  5. Found this article off MTGSalvation. I also think adding Basic Land types to M10 would be an acceptable solution. I remember reading a Wizards article that their market research indicated that most players didn’t like losing life just to get mana. Thus, I think your pain dual land ideas are not going to return for a while.

  6. Hey, i really like your suggestions and i can totally see some of those concepts in cardboard, but i have to say the way you are facing the problem isnt the proper.

    What players need is a way to have more dual lands fetchables that are slightly worse, but situationally just as good or even better given the right deck.

    I think the answer would be the m10 duals, with dual land types. I know it is taking standard to a whole new level and i dont really expect this to happen in m11, but this is just an elegant solution. Let me explain.

    No player would run a fetchable painland over alpha dual lands, because one is clearly superior. And the other options you were thinking of are pretty much the same, they are just strictly worse in almost every scenario, luckily as good in few specific plays.

    With fetchable m10 duals, you would have something about as good as normal duals, but that wouldn’t replace them entirely or too restricted to make them budget options.

    If a manabase is currently running, e.g. 8 dual lands, they could EASILY change the manabase without hurting performance by adding 2 or maybe even 3 of these new lands.

    It could help keep the format healthy, by introducing duals that can help cover the supply of the original ones while dont hurting the value of the old ones as they are necessary in competitive builds, these new fetchable m10 duals would just be squeezed as a 2 or 3 of, in lower level they could almost replace the originals and therefore keep the format from being condemned to become an ‘all rich/old kids’ and ensuring casual players have almost as good performance as old school guys that have all dual lands.

    Players who had already bought their duals wouldnt be hurt by this, as the new lands would make standard players give a try to the format.

    On the other hand, as some has pointed out at salvation, if we get flooded by new dual alike lands then all others spells would go NUTS expensive.

    I think wizards should had kept the loophole and slowly release most staples, to later on make allied dual fetchs at m12, enemy duals at m13 to keep both demand and supply to normal levels and ensure high sells on their core sets without having to use broken mythics to do so.

    Just my two cents.

  7. Ooops, forgot to say it, one could easily add some keyword legendary alike but only for one’s side of the board.

    That way you make 100% sure they are going to be played as singletons or 2-of, ultimately ensuring not taking much more than 3 or so places on manabases.


  8. The last 4 lands are strictly worse than the duals, and so would only see play in the best legacy decks as lands 5-8 of their respective color combination.

    Maze Forest would be more interesting if having a plains turned it into a mountain and vice versa. The way you have it will never allow Maze Forest to produce a color of mana you do not currently have, and would likely cause its owner mana screw.

    I think the best solution would be to make lands that are better for vintage in some ways, and slightly worse in ways that are less relevant to vintage. For example, the Fire half of Fire//Ice is not strictly better than Lightning Bolt, but still saw quite a bit of play over lightning bolt because it could do something that Lightning Bolt couldn’t that was very relevant in Vintage, namely take out 2 X/1’s with 1 card.

    Editor’s Note: removed the proposed cards from this post. Sorry.

  9. I dont see why would you remove the proposed cards from the post, its not like anyone is going to sue wizards by taking a concept out of a blog and refining it to make the game better overall, MaRo even admits he visits mtgsalvation and until now i haven heard of anyone from there asking money out of their suggestion, this is just a fan blog were people discuss what they think could be a solution and as a chance out of 1 million get someone from wizards R&D to read it and just use the concept.

    I mean, this isn’t even on wizard’s official page and has only a handful of comments, why would you care of filtering cards in the first place and even if they took the concept what’s the deal with it?

    1. MaRo said himself that he can’t even look at card suggestions. So while they take the time to peer at other various forums to see what rumors have come up or different topics, it’s something of a legal issue with them looking at mockups or suggestions of cards. Don’t ask me why, it just is.

      Because I gave my permission on my post (something that holds whatever legal grounds there is), I asked that people please don’t do the same in the comments. I have nothing against what you were suggesting for cards, I just preferred that this wouldn’t be the place for it. Plus, I’m sure that WotC might have already come with these ideas or similar ones in the past, and this could just be a moot point. It is possible for people to come with the same idea independent of each other (ala Bestial Menace).

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