There have been a plethora of changes in the Magic world over the past week – Wizards of the Coast released a new banned and restricted list, MagictheGathering.com began previewing Champions of Kamigawa cards, and the entire Legends rule was changed.
Last things first, shall we?
The Legends Rule Revisited
A few weeks back, I suggested a change to the legends rule. This change would have made it so each player could control one of each unique legend at a time. This would have been a change from the previous legends rule, which made it so that there could only be one of each unique legend in play, and further copies of that legend which reached play were immediately placed in the graveyard.
Mark Rosewater Monday column on MagicTheGathering.com announced a change to the legends rule – but it was not the change I had proposed. Instead, this change makes it so that there still can only be one of each unique legend in play, but if further copies of that legend are put into play, all copies of that legend are immediately placed in the graveyard.
When I read Mark’s column on Monday, I was at first angry. This new rule seemed to be completely out of flavor for legendary cards – why should my Rorix Bladewing die because my opponent also played a Rorix Bladewing? This change also had other far-reaching ramifications which I’ll get to in a minute.
The old legends rule needed to change. It made it impossible to push high-powered legendary cards, because games came down to a race to see who could play theirs first. Witness the days of Tolarian Academy – players had to run janky cards like Lingering Mirage in Urza’s Block Constructed because there were few other ways for blue to deal with an opposing Tolarian Academy. Lin Sivvi made the Rebels mirror match heavily dependant on who got their legend into play first, and was thusly banned in Masques Block Constructed.
The new Wizards version of the rule is definitely a step up from the old legends rule. If you read between the lines, this change must have been a long time coming – it was probably developed alongside the set itself, when it became apparent that the R&D team wanted to push the legendary theme. In this regards, bravo! It’s good to see a positive change. I’m a lot less heated now than on the day of the announcement – it’s easy to have a kneejerk reaction to such things and go off kilter – but I still think that their solution was worse than mine.
Consider the prisoner’s dilemma. In this theoretical exercise, two men have been accused of a crime. If both confess to the crime, they will each get four years in prison. If one person rats the other out and the other one keeps silent, the silent one will get five years in prison while the stool pigeon will go free. If neither person confesses, they will each get two years in prison. Since this is not a zero-sum problem, you can choose to either screw over your fellow accused, or you can try to plead innocent – but this second strategy will only work if he also pleads innocent. It’s an exercise in mutual destruction. I view the new legends rule as a version of the prisoner’s dilemma. Under the new rule, both legends are always pleading guilty – as once one person plays the second legend, they both die. Under my rule, both legends are always pleading innocent – and therefore each player gets to keep one in play. The old legends rule was somewhere in between, where one prisoner got off scott free, and the other prisoner was massively screwed.
It’s sharing versus selfishness – my rule let both players share the legend. Their rule lets neither player use the legend if they can’t agree to play nice. I just feel that, given the choice between the two, I’d rather let each player get a legend than have neither player get a legend.
There’s the argument from a standpoint of flavor. Let’s get this out of the way now: you can easily rationalize any of the legends rules from a standpoint of flavor! All you need is an active imagination, and a good sense of the rules of the game. I thought up a few justifications for each of the various legends rules for this article. Feel free to post other ideas in the forums!
The Old Legends Rule (First Legend Stays, Later Copies Die)
UNIQUENESS: Each Legend is a unique entity. When I summon Rorix Bladewing to fight for me, it is the one true Rorix Bladewing. If you try to summon Rorix Bladewing, your summoning will fail as I have already summoned Rorix Bladewing.
ONE TRUE SPIRIT: On the battlefield, I summon Rorix Bladewing. All the armies revel in the sight of the massive Legendary Dragon. My opponent then summons Rorix Bladewing, but now the people disbelieve – they have already seen my Rorix Bladewing, the opponent’s Rorix must be an illusion. Without belief, the other dragon fades into the Aether.
The New Wizards Legends Rule (First Legend Stays, Later Copies Kill it)
ONE TRUE SPIRIT: On the battlefield, I summon Rorix Bladewing. All the armies revel in the sight of the massive Legendary Dragon. My opponent then summons Rorix Bladewing, but now the people disbelieve – they have already seen my Rorix Bladewing, and since Rorix is unique, they must both be illusions. Without belief, both dragons fade into the Aether.
TEMPORAL PARADOX: I am the first to summon Rorix Bladewing in my duel against an opposing wizard. The mighty dragon roars across the battlefield, inflicting first blood.”Not so fast!”, the wizard cries. He intones the words to summon Rorix Bladewing, causing the Legendary Dragon to be torn asunder. The energies that each of us has harnessed to control him have caused the Legendary Dragon to die.
My Proposed New Legends Rule (Each Player Gets a Copy)
TEMPORAL PARADOX: I am the first to summon Rorix Bladewing in my duel against an opposing wizard. The mighty dragon roars across the battlefield, inflicting first blood.”Not so fast!”, the wizard cries. He intones the words to summon Rorix Bladewing, plucked from an alternate universe. The dragon roars back, and the game is on. We both know that all our energies must be concentrated on maintaining control of this awesome beast, and that attempting to grab another iteration of Rorix from the timestream have massive consequences.
NO TRUE SPIRIT: On the battlefield, I summon Rorix Bladewing. All the armies revel in the sight of the formerly living Legendary Dragon. He has long since been dead, but the power of his memories live on. My opponent then summons Rorix Bladewing, inspiring his army with the memories of a feared opponent.
Each of the above stories has a compelling argument, and each can also be shot through with holes if you are so inclined to do so. You can still summon Rorix Bladewing and Bladewing the Risen at the same time. Legendary creatures from different eras of Magic history can be summoned side by side, making a strong case for either the”No True Sprit” or the”Temporal Paradox” argument. The point of this argument is to show that no matter how you try to rationalize flavor, someone will always be able to rightfully disagree with your assessment, just as you can rightfully disagree with theirs.
In the end, Wizards made a change to the legends rule which will benefit the game in a positive fashion. Do I think it was better than my change? Honestly, no. I’ve had a week to think about it, and I like it better when both players get to use their toys. However, their change will add a few strategic elements to the game that did not exist before. The change was good, and we’ll look at some of the ramifications.
Legend should not exist as a creature type
Because Legendary is now a supertype, there should be no such thing as a creature – legend. Any old card that was templated as Summon Legend or Creature – Legend should now be Legendary Creature – ???. This will cause massive need for errata on pre-existing creature types. There are many previous Creature – Legend cards which now should have no creature type. It’ll be interesting to see what Sol’Kanar the Swamp King becomes now that this change is in effect.
Clone is now a silver bullet against Legendary creatures. This will greatly increase its’ value in casual games. This goes the same for any other copy cards. Lin Sivvi can safely come off the banned list now that opponents can kill her by rebelling up their own copy of Lin Sivvi. Any legends which have a go to the graveyard effect (such as the new dragon cycle from Champions of Kamigawa) will be able to send themselves to the graveyard in pairs.
Unnatural Selection is the biggest loser, since it cannot change supertypes. This means that if your opponent has two Wild Mongrels in play, you cannot use Unnatural Selection to turn them both into legends. You can also not have two copies of the same legend in play any longer by changing one of their creature types away from legend – again, the supertype of Legendary is what matters now. Lastly, Lin Sivvi just got a lot worse in the mirror match.
Champions Of Kamigawa Previews
Pugg Fuggly has been doing a great job of covering the Champions of Kamigawa previews for the site, so I don’t have a whole lot to say here. The set looks very innovative thus far, and looks to have much more board interaction than Mirrodin block for Limited play purposes. I will note that the cycle of dragons which have an effect when they go to the graveyard may be instant-adds to Tooth and Nail decks.
Yosei, the Morning Star
Legendary Creature – Dragon Spirit
When Yosei, the Morning Star is put into a graveyard from play, target player skips his or her next untap step. Tap up to five target permanents that player controls.
An unintended consequence (or intended perhaps?) of this new legends rule is that Tooth and Nail can instantly kill both of their copies of any given Legendary Creature via the Tooth and Nail itself. The White one’s effect amounts to a Time Stretch, as your opponent would have ten tapped permanents, and would have to skip their next two untap phases.
*Bonus* Tooth & Nail Tech For Your Ptq’s!
I had a guy come up to the shop the other day to sell us some cards. While he was there, he talked about his two favorite decks, both of which he was going to keep. One of these decks was a Tooth and Nail deck, and he had some really interesting tech. Now, I am not saying that this tech is good, or that you should run it – but it seems like it could be a good surprise off the sideboard, as it’s completely janky. Here’s the tech:
He ran 4 Door to Nothingness and 2 Composite Golem.
He claimed that he could regularly drop a third to fourth turn Door and then resolve Tooth and Nail the next turn for the win. Make of this what you will, but it seems like it would work. Would it work well? I have no clue. It did seem interesting enough to warrant a mention here, though.
The September 1st Banned and Restricted List
Extended: Skullclamp and Metalworker got the axe. This was not unexpected, especially in the case of Skullclamp. Skullclamp had been acknowledged as a major problem in the Extended rooms of Magic Online. Randy Buehler, last week, said that Wizards had decided to split the online Extended and print Extended banned list, but that he did not see it necessary to make a special provision to ban cards online for this update. Again, reading between the lines, one could surmise that this meant Skullclamp was not long for the world in real life Extended.
Some might say that Wizards should have waited to see how Skullclamp performed before banning it in Extended. Nonsense. Skullclamp would have been absolutely degenerate in the format, and would have ruined both a Pro Tour and a PTQ season. Remember last year? Pro Tour: New Orleans was completely dominated by Tinker decks, and the PTQ season which ensued could not be saved by December 1st bannings. Attendances for the pre-banning PTQ’s were very low, and the format never really had time to reach a stride. Skullclamp would have completely overshadowed anything that Champions of Kamigawa had to offer at the Pro Tour, and the purpose of the Pro Tour is as a promotional tool – the Extended Pro Tour in particular is a time when Wizards can first show off the goods that the new set has to offer. It’s best to be rid of the two biggest problem cards in the format before they ruined another season.
Vintage: Wizards wants to have as few cards as possible on the Vintage restricted list. To this effect, four cards were given a reprieve this update: Fork, Braingeyser, Earthcraft, and Doomsday. Casual players will love being able to play with four Fork and four Braingeyser. Competitive players will attempt to break Doomsday, but I think will fail due to the prevalence of free countermagic in the environment – leaving yourself with only five cards in your deck is potentially disastrous when facing a Force of Will, Daze, and Misdirection. Earthcraft, on the other hand, might have been a mistake. Many claimed that it was restricted in Vintage so that it would be banned in Type 1.5, but it’s a very strong engine card that can be abused in multiples of four. Of these four cards, Earthcraft seems like the one to watch.
Type 1.5: For years, Type 1.5 players have been begging Wizards of the Coast to separate the 1.5 and Vintage restricted/banned lists. As a simple rule, all cards restricted or banned in Vintage were outright banned in Type 1.5. As of the September 1st update, the two lists have finally been separated, but a lot of new cards were added to the Type 1.5 banned list. These cards include Bazaar of Baghdad, Goblin Recruiter, Hermit Druid, Illusionary Mask, Land Tax, Mana Drain, Metalworker, Mishra’s Workshop, Oath of Druids, Replenish, Skullclamp, and Worldgorger Dragon. Formerly banned cards which are now unbanned include Braingeyser, Burning Wish, Chrome Mox, Crop Rotation, Doomsday, Enlightened Tutor, Fact or Fiction, Fork, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Mox Diamond, Mystical Tutor, Regrowth, Stroke of Genius, and Voltaic Key. What does this all mean?
The new banned list encompasses two formats: Vintage and Extended. Many of the banned cards reflect the changes in Extended over the past year (Hermit Druid, Oath of Druids, Metalworker, Goblin Recruiter, and Skullclamp). Wizards is looking into the future for 2005. In 2005, Extended will rotate. This will make Extended run from Invasion forward, leaving a gap of sets from Alpha to Prophecy in its wake. Type 1.5 is being remade into a format which bridges that huge gulf between new and old, and will serve much of the same purpose that Extended did when Extended was originally created. Many present Type 1.5 players are outraged by these changes. They claim it has ruined their format. This may very well be true, except that it appears that Wizards is razing their format in order to plant the seeds of a newer, more tournament friendly environment. We’ll see how this develops over the next year, but I for one think it shows great promise and good foresight on Wizard’s part.
I would pay very careful attention to if I were a Vintage player to the banned cards in Type 1.5. In particular, Bazaar of Baghdad, Illusionary Mask, Mana Drain, Mishra’s Workshop, and Worldgorger Dragon seem to be particularly noteworthy. On one hand, several of these cards are combo engine cards which are analogous to the Extended bannings of last year. Illusionary Mask/Phyrexian Dreadnought would be the equivalent of Goblin Recruiter/Food Chain in Extended, as would Worldgorger Dragon. The other cards on this list, Bazaar, Drain and Workshop, are more troublesome. I’d interpret it in one of two ways – either these cards are too powerful for a new Extended, or that the new 1.5 banned list should be read as a”watch list” for restriction in Vintage.
That’s all for today. I’ll leave you with this one thought – if you read only one other Blog Fanatic column this year, make it Monday’s. You will not believe what I have planned for September 6th, 2004!
Ben can be reached at [email protected].