This time last year the Magic web sites were full to overflowing with articles about Invasion Block Constructed (IBC), the PTQ format of the day. Article after article discussing the last four creatures to add into your Red/Green beats deck. Decks with Dragons, decks with Angels and even a few decks based around Domain.
After a few months of constant speculation I was sick of it. Sick to the very back of my teeth. So much so, I even wrote an article about it. What was so odd for me was that the year before everything had been the same: Pages and pages discussing Rebels, small blue fliers, and Blastoderms. That year I’d been fine. I built up some decks, did some research, wrote, played and even entered a PTQ or two. Why was IBC so different?
When Mercadian Masques was released it was largely decried as a real pile – but with the benefit of hindsight, most people now agree that any reasonably balanced set would look bad compared to Urza’s Saga, Legacy and Destiny and that Masques had some very good cards indeed. By the end of the block, Masques Block Constructed (MBC) had a wide range of decks to play, a varied group of strategies that you could choose from but, more than anything, games took time.
Invasion speeded things up a little and with the addition of the Apocalypse painlands people could play pretty much any colours they liked, playing any of the spells they really wanted – raising the power level of decks once more. Not to the broken levels of Academy or Bargain, but certainly higher.
I don’t think the increase in power turned me off the block, but something did. Maybe it was the complexity of the metagame; maybe I just didn’t like using eight painlands to make something work. Maybe, just maybe, I hated being forced into a many-coloured strategy!
I hated the way all the best decks – and they were obviously the best – used more and more colours. I know that was the point of the block, the whole "Domain" idea, but I really hated being forced to do it. I wanted a choice. I wanted to be able to choose to play many colours – but for it to be difficult and a big downside. In Invasion you could build a mana base to support pretty much anything and it became obvious that if you wanted to win you really had to.
OBC is different. Try making three and four colour decks with a balance of spells. Try building a deck with anything like the variety of colours that Kai’s GP: London-winning Domain deck played. You might get lucky, but you probably won’t win too much. Odyssey block has bought sanity to the hallowed colour wheel again. You want to build two-colour aligned decks? Go right ahead; here’s a filter land to help you out. You want to build three colour decks? Expect a little difficulty, but make sure you can stall or devote part of your deck to getting the colours you so desperately need while simple, focussed decks beat you to death.
OBC has restored the balance. If you want powerful, many-coloured decks you can have them – but not for free. It’ll cost. You want to build mono coloured decks and to coloured decks then they’ll have the consistency you want – but they won’t have the power of the three and four colour combo decks people are building.
OBC is just like MBC for me. I like the way it feels. I like the creatures and, if figures at local tourneys are any guide, so do a host of other folk. In the last year, we’ve seen more new players at Bath than the two years previously added up! PTQs are receiving bigger and bigger attendances. The various UK based nationals got more players than ever before. Prereleases are full to the brim of players wanting the newest and brightest cards.
Why then did I feel the need to tell everyone something they obviously know?
I’ll tell you: Michael Clauss’ article.
Michael seems to have it in for Wizards of the Coast. He seems to think they’re doing a bad job, giving us bad reasons for the cards they’ve designed and decisions they’ve made in the past.
Take life gain.
Randy Buehler quite doesn’t think life gain cards work well enough to win a Pro Tour. Hey, I think Randy is right. Unless Wizards prints a really broken life gain card, it just won’t be good enough because life gain doesn’t help you win… It stops you from losing.
I don’t have a problem with people having opinions. As the old line goes: I don’t like what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. However, one of my pet peeves is an opinion with no good basis – an opinion that’s been hastily formed on bad judgements, compounded with incorrect assumptions.
Michael says that he won’t let Wizards R&D off easily. What for? Producing one of the most popular sets in the history of Magic? Hell – I don’t think I’m going to forgive them for that either.
Hey, maybe he’s pissed off at the way more and more people are playing? I know I am – it gets a little more difficult to win each week…*grin*.
Maybe he doesn’t like seeing that, at the end of the day, Wizards R&D are human beings who make mistakes. As well as coming up with brand new ideas they have to test out the new Standard, Extended, Sealed Deck and Limited – and that must be so easy, hey? Just how many decks have you seen in the last few months that you didn’t think of? Hell, I think of Magic all the time and I didn’t see Psychatog coming. It looked like a good card but you need to have lots of cards in hand all the time to make it really work – or so I thought at the time.
Me, I think I’ll let R&D get on with their job. I didn’t like IBC, but I loved Invasion, Planeshift and Apocalypse. I like Odyssey, Torment, and Judgement too. I even loved Masques block.
Think about the cards you’ve played with over the last couple of years. Think about all 2000 or so of them and think how much effort it takes for you to build a deck, let alone try to work out all of them.
Think, just for a second, how many opportunities there are for mistakes and then consider that Wild Mongrel and Psychatog are considered mistakes after the fact.
Compared to Bargain, Yawgmoth’s Will, and Replenish, I’ll take mistakes like those any day of the week.
Keep up the good work in R&D, guys, and thank you for making gaming so much fun.
Cheers, Jim Grimmett.
Level 2 DCI Judge.