It’s not nice when people lie to you, is it?
Every time I’m provoked to put pen to paper, it’s usually by someone doing something I disagree with. I’m a very negative person in general – the articles where I try to be enthusiastic and positive about stuff generally don’t come across nearly so well.
There are a number of things you can’t do more than once. Generally speaking, unless you’re amazingly good at it, you can’t do an article on bitching more than once. You can’t write about having nothing to write about more than once. And you also can’t start fights about a major issue regularly for fear of becoming pedestrian and tired. See what happens when Jack Thompson protests a game.
In the context of Magic, you can’t just sit around and constantly complain about the same old thing. The rate of change in this game is such that any change that’s enacted now won’t see the light of day for two years, apparently. Invasion Block was a travesty for balanced design, one that heralded the end of Blue’s reign of terror, and its immediate follow-up was Odyssey Block.
No, if you want to make sure you’re saying something worth hearing, you have to be willing to wait for a change. Give it time – see how what Wizards said then matches up to what Wizards is saying now. Then… you can discuss the changes. You have to be patient, otherwise you’re just spitting fire needlessly.
So, with that in mind, it’s been nine months since Sharing Is For Sissies. We have all of Ravnica Block, Kamigawa has rotated out, and now we’re being shown Wizards’ intention for the future of Magic.
Guys… what the hell do you think you’re doing?
This article was spurred by some people on the boards wondering how Sporesower Thallid got to be such a fat 2GG 4/4 at Green uncommon with a significant advantage and no drawbacks.
Devin Low spoke, in response to forum dwellers, and brought us a nice little article about how they were going to Fix Green. He outlined how Green is being Limited’s Golden Child, and now, Green’s fatties are totally going to be able to compete in Constructed.
Seems now that Wizards is willing to print 4/4 for four with Special Abilities. This is actually pretty big news, all things being equal; Ravenous Baloth really just says “Gain 4 when your opponent Wraths,” making it a glorified death trigger.
Yeah, for some reason, my 4/4s feel totally safe.
The best creatures in a format are often best defined as how they relate to reanimation spells. For pure fatties, your options are Akroma, Angel of Despair, and Akroma. They want to talk about fatties, and Green getting good cards, and they go and reprint Akroma! Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Devin’s article reads like a who’s who of problems in Green. A number of problems I agree with; he even explains a number of them, and things Wizards are trying to do to fix things. It’s a very nice article, provided you’re willing to ignore anything but the article as far as his point goes.
The article opens with a description of Beef. Talking about how Green is non-existent when the time comes to play Constructed tournament-winning fatties. But by the end of the article, we’re hearing how amazingly good Mystic Snake and Nantuko Shaman are. Do we think perhaps Devin lost his way somewhere along the line?
Removal Isn’t As Good As It Used To Be
On the pure face of it, this one’s very true, but removal used to be insane. Any creature had to have a toughness of four or a mana cost of two, otherwise it was just going to be negated by two colors for one mana. We don’t have Incinerate any more*, nor do we have Terror. Terror rotated out last year, remember?
Removal options are not as likely to say “it can’t be regenerated” any more. Which is neat, I suppose – it might make Regeneration a way to protect your creatures rather than flavour text. Of playable anti-Green cards, Deathmark and Mortify give you the option of regenerating.
Putrefy, Cruel Edict, and Hit don’t care; neither does Seal of Doom, nor Sudden Death and Sudden Shock. Even if we presume that someone is going to be playing just these “soft” removal options, Devin neglects to mention the state of regenerating creatures. Green’s list of regenerators who are Standard legal is a depressing little who’s-who of Why Bother?
And that’s it. Right there. Now, of these regenerators, how many of them have a toughness high enough to survive the extant hassle that is the other Black removal One? And it’s the unevasive, six-mana monkey who runs up and into every last speed bump available?
It’s understandable that Green doesn’t have the best regenerators in the format; regeneration is (apparently) owned primarily by Black (the color with all the removal). Here’s a quick check at Standard-legal regenerators.
This isn’t something that should be a problem, but it is a problem when Devin mentions that regeneration is supposed to matter more. People are not going to be playing Ancient Silverback just to dodge Dark Withering, man!
So if the regenerators suck, what about the “bad” removal they’ve been opting to print to make them better, which includes, let us not forget, Sudden Death, Sudden Shock, and Sudden Spoiling, all of which are consummate anti-regeneration spells.
This is a classic teaching situation, and a foible that many teachers are prone to following by accident. It starts by bringing people’s attention to something, then making them draw conclusions from it, basically leading the line of inquiry by building to your point.
It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s a device that makes it very easy for the person to restate the case later, the kind of learning that’s good for intelligent individuals to use as a springboard for higher discussion. The problem is, the system has no fail-safes in place for dealing with false information – and Devin, by mistake I am sure – seems to think that Regeneration is going to matter much.
Standard removal is still good. Standard removal is fantastic. Mass removal and pinpoint removal are both running around just as good as they ever were, and better in many cases than they have been for years. The last good regenerating creature was Skeletal Vampire, and then, before him, Ink-Eyes, and they are both Black.
Loxodon Hierarch can sometimes save your team, but unfortunately, because he’s the first thing to die anyway it doesn’t really matter, and more and more often, he’s not even being played alongside “a team” any more. As they stepped up regeneration in its importance, so Wizards opted to ratchet back regenerators, because otherwise, they might wind up doing something useful. By the time Tenth Edition comes out, we’ll have Incinerate rubbing shoulders with Troll Ascetic, further cementing the regeneration issue.
Green’s Fatties Suck Because They’re Not Dragons, Angels, Demons, Or Legends
This is a much harder bone of contention for me because it feels like a brush-off answer. The point of it seems to translate to Wizards excusing broken creatures on the basis of “cool” factor. The problem appears to be that Green isn’t allowed to do anything cool. The justification for Meloku and Keiga was that they were both legendary, and one was a Dragon.
I’m sure that Jugan, Sekki, Ayumi, Bounteous Kirin, Iname Life, the South and Central Tree Kodama, Masumaro, and the Patron of the Orochi are all sitting around, completely comforted by the fact that a Vintage Quality creature snuck through the net like this, and how it’s all okay because, “he’s a legend.”
(Yes, he, Sean.)
Every color but Green has been given creatures above the curve because They’re Special, and apparently, not once have Wizards considered a Green creature and said, “Hey, we could pump this guy up because, sure, he’s no angel, but if he was any better, he’d be really cool, and a fan favourite!”
Apparently being a wannabe Goth inspirer, a fantasy art icon, or, of course, a buxom girl wearing nowhere near enough clothes, those are what are going to earn you power! This strikes me as a fundamentally dangerous road to tread… because there is no Angel Quota. You don’t have to have a certain number of Angels per set, just as you don’t have to have at least Four Demons in every set.
I’ll also note that Green, the color only slightly worse than Red at flying, gets Jugan. Jugan was the first flier Green got since – ignoring Birds of Paradise because they do not swing barring for assistance from Blue, artifacts, or Black cards – Xantid Swarm. So that’s three sets since the last flier, and if we want to dredge back into Green’s history to find a creature with a point of power, well, we have to reach back to Mercadian Masques, which gave us Giant Caterpillar (who made a flying token), Caustic Wasps, and Venomous Dragonfly. These creatures were novel. They certainly didn’t feel out of color, but hell if they don’t just plain out suck, and quite seriously deserve reprinting with better abilities. And before that? Hawkeater Moth in Urza’s Saga!
So we’re six years back in Magic’s history, and we have five fliers! So, when the time came to make Jugan, the first Green beefy flier, the first Green Dragon since Canopy Dragon in Mirage… Wizards dropped the ball. Hell, they tossed it back into their own goals and lined up for nut-punches from the opposing team.
You don’t think that six years of no fliers that maybe they could let one good one through the net? Like the small slice of “good” cards they let through the net in Blue?
They could have given us a creature that would inspire a degree of fear in an opponent. They could have given us Yosei’s brother. They could have given us a creature who could stand proud, shoulder to shoulder, with the other four Dragons, who to a man represented amazing things in their color.
“Go ahead,” Jugan would have said. “You know you have no better option than to kill me if you can, and even then… I’m still going to make you suffer for it.”
And that… we didn’t get. No, instead, we got Yosei’s retarded cousin.
Would Protean Hulk’s ability have been too much to ask for? Maybe the Penumbra Spider’s? Would an ability that meant it was capable of living through things been ridiculous? Maybe let him be a Weatherseed Treefolk?
No. Apparently, we hadn’t gotten the message. Apparently, five years since our last one-plus power flier was not enough, and people might get the wrong idea if Green got its hands on a flier. Green might suddenly leap into the people’s minds as a color to go to for a flier, ruining all this hard work done on establishing the color’s identity! That would just be unthinkable!
Then the jaded, angry eye of the cynic swivels around and glares at Meloku, Yosei, Kokusho, and Keiga, all of which pay nothing for their sheer size. All of which are format-defining beaters, who are to a man in colors that are supposed to be not as good at big creatures as Green is.
I’ve been patient and I’ve been reserved, and I have been doing my damnedest to make an informed statement here, but Devin really looks to be spouting hypocritical nonsense. He speaks of Situation A while we’re in Situation B. He speaks of how Angels, Demons, Dragons and Legends are going to be just as good as ever, and Green’s not getting any of them for some reason.
This is no reason. This is an excuse. It’s the magician waving his hand, the flash of powder. There is no Angel Mandate. The game rules do not require a certain number of Angels per set. And certainly, given that Green is the only color to not have an Angel yet, what every other color having had at least one, the answer doesn’t hold. Dragons? Same deal. I don’t think that two Dragons in ten years is setting a trend. I think you might be able to slip a Dragon or two under the radar and not have the color pie scream.
Of course, the only time the rules have to be enforced is when we’re talking about Green, to hear tell.
Green Has A Bunch Of Good Fatties. No, Really.
Devin then goes on, for the latter half of his article, to claim that these problems have now been fixed, and that Green is finally the color of good, beefy creatures. This is pretty funny, given that the same column was a few months ago talking about how powerful Skeletal Vampire is, and how he’s the inheritor to the throne of Meloku. But even if we presume that Devin’s list has the right parameters, you’re going to notice a trend if you run through it.
Simic Sky Swallower only flies because he’s blue. Mystic Enforcer only flies and has Protection from black because he’s White, because we don’t want to give Green good abilities. Loxodon Hierarch is White. Grave-Shell Scarab is Black.
Winnowing out these examples, which can’t be accurately gauged given that they’re not pure Green, we get Kodama of the North Tree. Hey, a Green creature! A lone, single Green creature who existed on his own for the better part of a year now, and most often needing Blue to make him any good. When he was at his best, it was with the assistance of a White enchantment. Don’t get me wrong, Kodama of the North Tree is good, and claiming otherwise would be whining. But he’s a lonely fellow in a long list of bum raps.
Call of the Herd. A good card in a format lacking for good bounce options. Remember how Maro said that bounce isn’t prevalent in Time Spiral, to support suspend? Like Wipe Away, Snapback, Repeal, Riftwing Cloudskate, Mark Of Eviction? Good thing there’s no bounce in the format to keep this guy from being cheaply annulled, or to hurt Suspend. I’m grateful to have Call, and maybe it will be the start of a new era for Green. But I am not holding my breath.
Troll Ascetic. Another Green creature whose only real tournament success came when he was swinging a big metal stick. I wasn’t impressed with Troll the first time around because all he did was wear Equipment well. We had some pretty busty equipment back then – let’s see what happens from here. But once we get to Troll Ascetic, Devin seems to start talking nonsense.
Verdant Embrace . It says ‘Enchant Creature’.
Sporesower Thallid. This would be good, if he didn’t require three turns to do much of anything. He’s good with Thallid, Thallid Shell-Dweller, and Thallid Germinator. So he wants you to overextend and gives you 1/1 dorks when you do. How thoroughly boffo. If he sticks for a turn, and you have other Thallids out, then yes, he is, indeed, marginally better than Order of the Sacred Bell.
Penumbra Spider. Why would I want to pay four mana for a 2/4 with all these supposedly good 4/4s running around? Oh, right, because this one might actually be good at being run over by Akroma! Weren’t we talking about Constructed Magic? The last time this creature was run in a Constructed deck it was Mirage Block Constructed, wasn’t it?
Verdeloth the Ancient. He claims Verdeloth gives a “huge” benefit even if he gets Putrefied. Now, Devin, I don’t know what game of Magic you’ve been playing, but seven mana to get a single Saproling is not a Huge Benefit. Now, in Casual Magic, or Prismatic, where you get to spoot this fellow into play with a kicker of 9 or 10… yeah, he’s pretty cool; but don’t go about fooling yourself into thinking he’s anything but another big, dumb fatty.
Then, Devin goes on to talk about how Time Spiral brings some good, “unsolvable” creatures to the table. This would be good as well, if he didn’t blithely miss the practicalities of the situation, rather than talk about how neat-looking the cards are.
Yavimaya Dryad. Yay, a 2/1 threat for three mana! I can see how this solves the problem with Green being bad with fat creatures.
Nantuko Shaman. Look, if I didn’t make my case earlier, if you ever expect to see someone casting Nantuko Shaman in Constructed Magic, like ever, you’re high or playing Tribal. This is a Limited card, and its application in Constructed is… just plain minimal. It also dies to all of that “bad” removal, and unless you spend four mana and wait a turn, you don’t get anything for your trouble.
Spike Tiller. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this guy is a five mana 3/3, right? Who needs six mana to do anything aside being a snidd? So if you want the effect of dropping the Spike, making 3/3 lands, and swinging in, you need a mere 14 mana! Otherwise, he’s just yet another of a long line of bad cards that need an untap step before they can be anything other than a generic body. Just another Snidd. He might be a lot better than he looks, but he’s both not fat, and requires at minimum seven mana to drop himself and at least leave you with an opportunity for an out.
Thelon of Havenwood. Requires Thallids to be good, does nothing to himself, and is a 2/2. He’s not unsolveable – he dies to a Sudden Shock, or Shock, or Seal of Fire just fine. He might be able to get rid of a fungus card in the mean time to Anthem up your fungi, but he doesn’t feel up to snuff to me. Constructed Magic players have to deal with all that “bad” removal right now.
Thelonite Hermit. Ignoring that he’s vulnerable to all that size-based removal right now, this guy looks really neat. This is the kind of thing that feels on the mark. Sure, he’s very, very expensive, and he’ll never been an Exalted Angel or a Blistering Firecat or a Bane of the Living, but… he might just be an example of a good Green Morph creature.
Wurmcalling. Okay. This one might be good. Provided you have nine mana to tap out with on your own turn, you can make a 5/5 token every turn. Of course, if you have nine mana, you could have branched out into White and hard-cast Akroma and a Martyr of Sands by now.
Weatherseed Totem. Wow, this guy looks pretty good, provided nobody destroys him when he’s not a creature. Good job all these artifacts are so safe and hard to kill right now. And that whole three toughness isn’t a liability with the format of Lightning Helix and Last Gasp, or of two Chars. So it’s what, eight mana all told to get your creature offed by every other color for three mana.
Hunting Moa. I wasn’t happy with this guy before, why would I be happy now? He’s just a 3/2. Just a 3/2.
Thornscape Battlemage. Is White and Red. His Green body is practically incidental.
Mystic Snake. Nobody wants this card for its Green-ness. Nobody cares about a flash-Bear aspect of the card. This card is good because it’s a hard counterspell, and delusion alone claims otherwise. Please check all the set reviews for people happy about Ashcoat Bear. That Mystic Snake is a creature merely allows it to be used with bounce spells, or other Blue effects. This is not a Green creature, it’s a Blue spell with kicker.
Good thing Green has this new regime of good creatures, huh. So, provided you don’t want to play just Green, Green gives you great fatties. Or rather, it sticks bodies onto actually good abilities. I suppose that lets you bounce them readily. So the good cards are weenies, and the fatties… suck or aren’t Green.
The problem with Green is well known. We’ve been bitching about it for some time. It’s nice to finally have someone on the official site mention these concerns, and it’s even more heartening to hear them discussing causes and possible solutions.
But how about we actually talk about things that might solve the problems? Maybe talk about cards that are good, rather than cards that are cute? Perhaps, we could discuss the merits of giving Green actual unsolvability? And how about you stop trotting cards out as if we’ve got good fatties when every single last one of them has to be compared to Akroma?
Don’t lie to us, Wizards. Time Spiral is just yet another in a long line of disappointments. Give Blue burn, give Black fog, sure, whatever. That’s really cute, giving the colors that aren’t Green effects they shouldn’t have. And when you’re done having fun with your stupid notions, would it be out of the question for you to give Green the stuff it should have?
Just a thought.
Talen at dodo dot com dot au
* Or do we? Oh ho ho ho. Good one, Devin!