A Boil on the Butt of 7th Edition

Great googly-mooglies, how much do we have to dumb down the starter sets so that people learn how to play the game?

A quick disclaimer — I happen to like 7th edition. A lot. I think there’s a great many solid, playable cards along with an unusual amount of environment defining cards for a basic set (at least RECENT basic sets). I think the Chicken Littles that always pipe up during format rotations need to shut their reactive traps and give the set a chance. But I read an article recently that set my teeth on edge regarding some of the card choices for 7th edition and felt the need to bring some attention to it.

Take the next-to-last issue of Sideboard Magazine (the hardcopy, not the one online): It’s the one with Zvi’s mug grinning after leveling Tokyo. Turn to page 32, the article by Mike Donais:”Making the Set, A Developer’s View.” You’ve probably read it; it’s not a bad article and is quite enlightening. However, what is particularly insidious and revealing is the paragraph with the following tidbit:

“… The last change we made was to swap out a handful of cards very late in development. During this time, we were working on a comic book-style play guide to teach Magic to new players. It had to include a lot of really simple cards so that new players could learn the basics quickly and easily. Not all the needed cards could be found in Seventh Edition so the developers of the teaching tool incorporated some cards from earlier starter-level games like Portal and Starter…(including) Volcanic Hammer, Giant Octopus, Eager Cadet, Breath of Life, Monstrous Growth, Vizzerdrix and Vengeance.”

Alright, now hold on a sec. They’re saying that they couldn’t find really simple, basic cards in 7th edition to use in a comic book — so they pulled cards from the original (presumably carefully chosen) lineup to make room for Portal and Starter stuff? Does this sound rather… haphazard or downright dumb to anyone else? And isn’t it a little presumptuous on the part of Wizards to assume that new players are gonna have such a hard time learning concepts like — gasp! — instants? Or creatures with special abilities? Jeez, some of us learned Magic the old fashioned way and had to come to wrap our brains around the concept of interrupts! Were we that much smarter than the new players of today? I don’t think so.

Alright, I know Hasbro runs the show now, and I realize that market decisions drive mass-market products to appeal to the lowest common denominator. So in the interest of bringing dumb players and their discretionary income into the game, I’ll offer my services in helping to find regular ol’ 7th edition cards to fill the needs of the Comic Book Player’s Guide. Free of charge (not to mention”after the fact” and”way too late to do anything about it”).

PROBLEM: We need some kind of creature boost spell.

Portal/Starter Solution:

Monstrous Growth

1G Sorcery

Target creature gets +4/+4 until end of turn.

Bennie Solution, already in 7th edition:

Giant Growth

G Instant

Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.

I’m sorry, but Giant Growth is really not that hard to grasp immediately; it’s a simple and elegant card. You cast it, a creature gets bigger until the end of the turn. Even though it’s an instant, most beginners will cast it like a sorcery — and for learning purposes, that’s fine. What’s even better, though, is once they understand how it works to boost their creature, you can introduce them to the finer strategies of waiting until combat begins to cast it, or casting it to save a creature from red removal, or even cast it on a defender as a nasty surprise for an attacker. Giant Growth is easy to learn, but it’s got several layers of strategy that newer players can discover later using the same card. Monstrous Growth will be used in one way only; it’s narrow, boring and redundant in a set that includes both Giant Growth and Might of Oaks… And I won’t even mention the Giant Growth variants that pop up in every expansion set.

Problem: We need some red direct damage.

Portal/Starter Solution:

Volcanic Hammer

1R Sorcery

Volcanic Hammer deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

Bennie Solution, already in 7th edition:


R Instant

Shock deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

Come on, does it get any more basic than Shock? Many of the same arguments for Giant Growth apply to Shock; most beginners will play it as a sorcery anyway, and many of them will send the two damage straight to their opponent’s dome. Hey, it’s fun seeing your opponent’s life totals getting burned away! But again, there are finer levels of strategy to this card that you can introduce to the newbie as he gets better. I have never seen a new player be confused about Shock.

Problem: We need a big dumb blue creature.

Portal/Starter Solution:


6U Creature – Beast 6/6

Bennie Solution, already in 7th edition:

Mahamoti Djinn

4UU Creature – Djinn 5/6


Donais’ presumed Newbie:”I’m confused. What does”Flying” mean?”

Newbie’s Mentor:”Attacking creatures with flying cannot be blocked by non-flying creatures.”

Newbie:”What does ‘non-flying’ mean?”

Mentor:”It doesn’t have the flying ability.”

Newbie:”That’s too confusing!!”

C’mon. Mahamoti is not a difficult card to understand. The Flying ability is not hard to understand. If Flying is decided to be just too complex, then use Sea Serpent instead (and don’t tell me that creature’s drawback is hard to understand!). Why add a big, dumb and RARE card like Vizzerdrix to the set that will never see play, ever? There’s no reason for it.

Problem: We need a dumb white removal spell.

Portal/Starter Solution:


3W Sorcery

Destroy target tapped creature.

Bennie Solution, already in 7th edition:


1W Instant

Destroy target creature with power 4 or greater. It can’t be regenerated.

Donais’ presumed Newbie:”I don’t understand this card!”

Newbie’s Mentor:”See that first number in front of the slash? That’s the creature’s power. If it’s 4 or greater, you can put that creature in the graveyard.”

Newbie:”What does ‘regeneration’ mean?”

Mentor:”Don’t worry about it. Just put the creature in the graveyard”

Newbie:”I’m confused!”

Mentor: <SLAP!!!>

Reprisal. Not that difficult a card. Next…

Problem: We need a dumb white vanilla creature.

Portal/Starter Solution:

Eager Cadet

W Creature – Soldier 1/1

Bennie Solution, already in 7th edition:

Knight Errant

1W Creature – Knight 2/2

I’m sorry, but there is absolutely NO excuse for putting Eager Cadet in the same set as Honor Guard. They cost exactly the same, have the exact same stats, but the Cadet has no abilities, while the Honor Guard has the ability to increase his toughness for one white mana per plus. A blatant example of a card being strictly superior to another, for no apparent reason. It’s like adding a card like this:

Llanowar Lame-o

G Creature – Elf 1/1

When you’ve got Llanowar Elves in the set. No sense at all! Knight Errant is a dumb vanilla white creature that should be capable of illustrating whatever comic-book point the Cadet did.

Now, I don’t have a problem with Portal/Starter cards graduating to the base set if they’re decent; Sleight of Hand, Pride of Lions, and Breath of Life are all playable cards. But the reasoning Jeff Donais gives for some of the additions is just mindboggling. I mean, what rare blue card got bumped to squeeze in Vizzerdrix? What about the other cards banished to limbo? If the cards that were removed to make room for these cards were horrible, I guess it would be some consolation, but still…

What do you think? Write the Ferrett and let us know!