Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Hey, a timely post.
First, if you came over from the Beacon of Creation Podcast where I was a guest, welcome. If you’re just hearing about this Beacon of Creation podcast, take a listen. Adam and Bradley host a podcast about Magic design and the lead up to the Great Designer Search 3 (more info when that kicks off). I’m on Episode 5, which you can find right here.
We talked a bit about some of the Rivals of Ixalan cards that had been previewed that day (we recorded on the first day of Rivals previews). There was one new mechanic in the set that we briefly touched upon that I would like to go further indepth.
Ascend(If you control ten or more permanents, you get the city’s blessing for the rest of the game.)
Ascend is a Threshhold mechanic meaning it needs a criteria to be met for it to turn on (ala, Threshhold from Odyssey block). What’s the most interesting part of this mechanic is that it can’t be turned off. Once you have Ascend, you can’t lose it, even if you have no permanents left on the board.
All that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.
– Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 2
I’ve been to PAX West eight out of the past nine years, venturing specifically for Magic: The Gathering (the only one I’ve missed when my daughter had surgery). I feel like I have some expertise when I say this: This year was by far the worst effort put forth by Wizards of the Coast to do anything Magic related at PAX West. The only major event they produced was one panel about the worldbuilding of Ixalan for an hour. And that was it. How you found it was a blurb in the main schedule, not even a mention on DailyMTG.com.
It was embarrassing.
Let me amend that:
I was embarrassed for Wizards of the Coast.
When I’ve written these After PAX pieces, I was trying to give you a little bit of the atmosphere of Magic-related PAX. They aren’t really reviews as it’s not something that one can experience again. I tried to examine what was WotC doing to promote their latest set and their actions at the convention itself.
For years the draw was the Magic Party where they would debut cards with music, food, drinks and a bunch of people including WotC employees. Over the past few years the party was toned down but the increased presence of Magic was there. Two years ago there was a huge Eldrazi arm crushing a police car on the street. Last year, they took over a whole theater for Kaladesh and the huge street wide banner hanging on the skybridge displaying Saheeli Rai for all of the PAX attendees to see.
This year, an hour long panel with two preview cards.
And as much as it would be easy to blame WotC for this, it’s not their fault.
There’s one clear reason for this complete drop off, but I have a feeling that there were to other factors that contributed to this choice that made it a bit easier. The elephant in the room:
What follows is a list of the top 5 sets of 2016. Anything that was more than just a single product to buy qualified as a set (Like, a From the Vault or Anthology collection could not be considered a set). It could be a set with all new cards, all reprints, or something in between. Now, how I’m ranking these sets is going to be different than you’re used to. Sure, there’s going to be a design aspect bent to it, but I’m not going to favor a set on its limited environment, Standard viability, Modern impact or if it had the best Commanders. Ok, there might be a little Commander bias, but not much. Not one set is going to be ranked higher because of a single card’s presence; it’s got to be the whole package. Got it? Good.
#5 – Shadows Over Innistrad
Can you go home again? I don’t know but Wizards sure tried. In the follow up to the original visit to the Gothic Horror plane from 2011 and 2012, we went back to see what has happened since Avacyn, um, Restored it. Everything went back to the way it was and the angel that was assigned to protect the people were now being slaughtered by her? Great job, Sorin. You’re batting 1.000 with the women in your life. Continue reading “The Top 5 Sets of 2016”
As the Philosopher Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want.”
It’s a little odd to have a Commander post on the design blog, but whatever let’s roll with it.
Four-color Commanders was one of those areas that I just didn’t care to see Legends printed for. To me, the whole exercise was nothing more than checking boxes. Players kept asking for four-color Commanders so eventually WotC was going to produce them. Believe me, WotC would go back and errata the Nephilim to be legendary so fast it would make Barry Allen look slow (Insert your own timeline joke here). Alas, they don’t do functional errata so that’s a no-go there. I didn’t want four-color Commanders, I didn’t need four-color Commanders. And now?
I’m glad the boxes are checked.
This Commander product wasn’t directed at me. There are those people that want four-color Commanders to play those types of decks. The designs of them feel alright but most don’t really work with my playstyle (though Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis tickles my fancy). And that’s fine, not every product is going to be directed at me and this was something that players have been asking about for years.
If I had to pick between design and development, I’m pretty easily sitting on the design side. Sure, I can hunt and peck and guesstimate development, but it’s not something that’s my strong side. I know that and I can live with the limitation. So why did I take on one of the most develop-y things I could do: building a cube?
Because it’s fun.
Plus, what else am I going to do with cards that aren’t in my Commander decks?
When I decide to get expensive/foil cards, Commander is still my preferred format. But I’ve wanted to get into some more drafting so I decided to build a cube. If you don’t know what a cube is, watch this helpful video from Tolarian Community College:
So I built a pauper cube and it was fun for a while. I followed around Adam Stybroksi’s pauper cube and it fun but I wanted more power, more umph. But I didn’t want to strip my Commander decks full of cards to get a cube going. So I set up some rules for myself:
Modern legal only
This was an easy one. Sure I might have missed some great cards if I dipped into Eternal formats but this way I only get a few broken cards instead of full colors. This allowed me to keep the Reserved List out of the cube and keep costs lower than what it could be.
No foils or exotic cards
Cube is the other format where players like to foil out their decks or get the Russian foil whatever to make their cubes stand out. Those type of cards are for my Commander decks. Plus, I feel as if I keep everything non-foil, I won’t hesitate to take it out for a better card. I’ve discovered I’ve had this problem in my Commander decks from time to time. Of course I feel that’s ok in Commander since I’m not a cutthroat kind of guy in that format (except when I play my Sygg, River Cutthroat deck).
Something else was missing. Being a Johnny, I wanted to make the cube unique. Building a Modern-legal cube seemed fun, but I had fears it wasn’t going to be too different than the rest of the cubes I’ve seen. So I started to think about what could make this cube different.
But, what if it was all one set?
I’ve seen people build set/block cubes, like with Ravnica and Innistrad. That seemed kind of fun. It wasn’t really what I was going after.
What if it was a set, like Modern Masters?
Well a cube is kinda like Modern Masters…
What if rarity mattered?
What if each color, color combination, and colorless had so many mythic, rare, uncommon and common spots?