"I personally am an Internet Magic junkie. I spend an hour every morning
reading all the different sites. As does much of R&D. So remember when you’re posting on-line, please be aware R&D is paying attention."
– Mark Rosewater, Magic Card Designer, in an interview at magicsingles.com
"Finally, I’d like to point out that R&D is also being very conscious
of creating a significant amount cards fun for multi-player play. Prophecy was a nod in this direction. "
– Mark Rosewater, again
Hey, Mark! Good to see you stopped by. If you really are a junkie, I know that you’ll get here eventually – or somebody will tell you that there’s an article waiting for you at StarCity.
I want to talk to you about multiplayer.
Now, obviously there’s a big concern here that R&D is slanting cards towards creating multiplayer formats. Without pointing fingers, you know that you R&D guys have made some mistakes before – making Urza waaaay too fast, for one thing.
That’s okay. I don’t expect perfection. I’ve even defended R&D in the
past, saying that the pool of Magic cards is just too big for you NOT to make mistakes occasionally. (Go to here, if you never read it.)
But you’ve already accidentally created some near-broken multiplayer cards(Congregate, cough, Congregate) and I’m worried that in slanting it towards us, you might create something REALLY broken. And unlike other formats where you can fix mistakes by banning cards, you can’t really touch the casual market – which means that anything you screw up will stay screwed up forever.
That’s a very big responsibility.
So I thought you might like some advice from one of the biggest multiplayer advocates. Each of the five colors loses or gains something moving into a multiplayer environment, and each of them needs a little extra card or two to really balance things out. So here are the five colors, ranked by strength and what they need.
WHITE – The #1 Color in Magic
What White Needs:
Nothing. White is too damn strong in multiplayer. And we definitely appreciate you guys giving the suckiest winds (Blessed) and avatar (Hope) to white in the latest set, a trend we hope will continue in the future. The big question is….
What Other Colors Need Against White:
Here’s the deal, Mark; lifegain is just too effective in multiplayer. It’s a trivial matter to build a deck that catapults you into the three hundred or so life range, and between that and white’s eternal protection effects, well… it kind of drags a game down.* If you’ve really got a mad-on for Mister Ice-Cream Truck Driver over there in the corner, you might be willing to slog through four hours of tedious battle – but generally you just concede, because it’s just not worth the time it would take. And with lifegain, white can sometimes take on entire tables and win by default. EVERY table with a white mage has, at one point or another, been smashing into their whitey for fifty points of damage a round, only to STILL have it take eighteen turns or so to finally wear the guy down.
This is No Fun, Mark. And it has to stop.
What we want is some form of axing lifegain effects, a card that would be utter chaff in Draft, laughable in Limited, yet almost universally-played in Multiplayer. R&D made a go of it once with Forsaken Wastes… but Forsaken Wastes was an enchantment. White eats enchantments for breakfast. Bad move.
What we need is a CREATURE. A traditional weakness of white’s is creature removal. One of those will stay, particularly if it has a continual effect.
So please, Mark – because I guarantee you I’ll never win a tourney – make something like this:
Ferrets of Doom
Ferrets of Doom cannot be the target of white spells or effects.
While Ferrets of Doom is in play, target player may not gain life.
That would do it. And even if you made it a rare, I guarantee you every casual black mage would kill his mother to get one. But then again, considering they’re black mages, they’ve probably already done that.
BLACK – The #2 Best Color in Magic
What Black Needs:
Black is wonderful at plundering its own graveyard for resources – but when it comes to getting rid of the necrocompetition, it’s hopeless. All black can do when a recursion engine starts up and goes to town is bare its snaggly teeth and go, "Bah! Bah, I tell you!"
Black needs to be able to empty a graveyard, fast.
Planar Void was a start, but as an enchantment it’s too fragile… and it affects everybody equally, so your graveyard is hosed when you don’t want it to be. Carrion Beetles and Rapid Decay only get rid of three cards for a lot of black mana, which is no fun either.
What we need is a massively-powered, graveyard-clearing deck for lotsa mana that can also be countered by another black mage:
All cards in target player’s graveyard are removed from the game.
Graveyard Weasels may be countered if target player successfully names and casts a black spell; if the named spell resolves when cast, it has no effect and is put in the graveyard.
Black mages should fear other black mages, keeping in the long tradition of ridiculous black-on-black mirror matches.
GREEN – The #3 Best Color in Magic
What Green Needs:
Green does what it does very well – smash. You’ve been amping green’s power over the past couple of sets, and all to good effect. I’m proud of ya. And Spidersilk Armor helped Green deal with flyers, a traditional weakness. So I only have one minor complaint.
As the only other color that can effectively dispel enchantments, why can’t green have an instant?
I don’t have a problem with getting rid of EVERYBODY’S enchantments – after all, the runner-up color should never be efficient as the primary color at what it does. Fine, everybody goes, see ya. But a sorcery? Heck, the surprise value is almost completely dead with Green as it is, because the only trick you’re gonna see outside of Green’s main phase is a Giant Growth-effect.
In short, Green’s got a bad case of the dulls, Markie.
So spice them up. Give Green a couple of instant enchantment-removal spells, like an instant Tranquility for a little extra mana. Let us Wakefields do some cool tricks on other people’s turns. Sometimes nature moves pretty darn quickly when you’re not looking.
Howzabout something like (or, given the Lhurgoyf, maybe Lhike):
After the Weasels Have Gone
All enchantments in play are destroyed.
RED – The #4 Best Color in Magic
What Red Needs:
Two of Red’s three strengths – burn and land destruction – are weakened in multiplayer. A swarm of pumpably-fast creatures is still something to be reckoned with, but land destruction is a joke in MP.
And burn? Well, there’s only so many targets you can hit. You can either burn a player’s face or burn his creatures, but burn is almost invariably a one-for-one trade… and in case you haven’t been reading my columns, Mark, one-for-one sucks in multiplayer.**
(There’s also a subtle problem with red’s multiplayer burn, which we’ll get to in a second. Hold on.)
What red needs is something to accentuate the burn, some method of really hurting other players that still remains in-flavor – and what sorts of cards invariably get thrown around in multiplayer?
Thanks to the slower nature of the environment, some sort of Legendary thing almost always gets played, and they’re all hell to deal with. And since Red’s all about destruction, pillage, vandalization, and barbarians, why shouldn’t it also have a severe mad-on for taking down Legends?
Triumph of the Weasels
All Legends and Legendary lands in play are destroyed.
But razing Legends is simply not enough. The other problem with Red is that it’s not number-efficient. Sure, two damage is a lot in a duel – but in multiplayer? When that number two, as a percentage of the total life you need burn away, shrinks with every additional player? When tons of REALLY LARGE creatures tend to come out – all the lovely baddies like Multani, Serra Avatar, Beasts of Burden and the ever-popular Lhurgoyf? (Guys who, given the right situation, can be 40/40?)
Red needs some way of dealing with guys like this. Red burn needs to be able to deal with humongous stalking beasts easily, and Fissure just doesn’t cut it. If black is the star of creature destruction, red should at least place. Why not a simple instant like:
Instant (or Sorcery, sure, go nuts)
Weasel Attack! deals X damage to target creature, where X is the toughness of that creature at the time Weasel Attack! is played.
Takes down large creatures, but with a condition that can be easily gotten around. At the very least, it takes a Lhurgoyf to within Shock range, which at least lets red HOPE to deal with something gigantic.
BLUE – The #5 Best Color in Magic
What Blue Needs:
Blue hurts in MP. Like red, two of its main strengths evaporate in multiplayer – countering spells and bouncing – because frankly, widespread countering is not only political suicide but it’s also inefficient. If things slip by you with a ONE player Draw-Go deck, they’re sure to come pouring past you in multiplayer.
What’s left? Card-drawing and big flyers. Your big flyers get whomped by Black, and what good is card-drawing unless you can draw into some defense or offense?
What can we give blue? Frankly, I’m stumped. Come on, Mark, you’re the darn designer – give Blue something to do, here. Mass-counter would be too strong in a duel, but surely there must be SOME kind of reusable counterspell for multiplayer. I beg of you. Bring control to a table, somewhere.
Do I have any other advice? Just two:
1) As stated, a one-for-one tradeoff sucks. It really does. You want kick-butt multiplayer cards, Plague Wind is a good model of a balanced multiplayer card.
2) Remember that multiplayer is, by and large, a Type One environment. While that may not be strictly true, the only real restriction on format is, "Which cards do you own?" So take a VERY close eye on any cards you think might be multiplayer-friendly to see how they combo with older cards. I know it’s tough. But the kids just starting out have a hard enough time against Ernham Djinn and Cursed Scrolls without having to deal with some ridiculous megacombo.
NEXT WEEK: No, Really! Creature Feature.
Visit The Ferrett Domain if you’re not easily offended. Matter of fact, stay away if you’re offended at all. Probably it’s best if you leave now, really….
* – In case you haven’t played enough multiplayer, a combination of slow development and spread-out threats means that lifegain has time to properly fire the way Richard originally wanted it to.
** – Pyroclasm, Earthquake, and even Crater Hellion are all many-for-one burn spells and staples in MP games, but they affect everybody and tend to draw the ire of the table. Plus they’re all sorceries. Heck, I’d take an Instant earthquake that costs 3R, gladly.