After reading his article”Let Them Eat Cake – The Trouble With You Make The Card,” Jordan Kronick left me with more than a few distraught feelings about the current crop of artifact choices – and moreover, the possible mentality of the Magic community as a whole.
The casual card pool is the Type 1 card pool – and as such, its metagame is limited only by the power and extent of the collections of the people involved. There’s also the little matter of the concepts of peer pressure and politics, which can also provide restraint when it comes to deckbuilding. In theory, using TnT or Keeper against some kid’s Elf deck, even in a multiplayer game, produces a bit of a sneer in me. More than any other format, Casual is the format where experimentation is encouraged and cherished.
What’s the point of all that? Magic is a game of strategy and tactics; we build the best deck we can, making do with what we have. The balance, of course, is doing what we want while trying to keep others from doing what they want.
Magic’s depth is in the fact that there are ways to do everything, while (in theory) allowing us to defend ourselves from the exterior forces that would seek to harm our precious, precious spells.*
This is where my rant begins.
I’ve expressed my disdain for the weakening of blue overall. I agree very much with the sentiment (which, apparently, is in the minority) that the other colors should be brought up to Blue’s former power levels. But instead, the masses bitched and whined. I don’t know if it was a result of public outcry, or an internal decision by Wizards, or (most likely) a combination of the two, but the people got what they wanted.
The question is, who are these people?**
I’ve already said that Counterspells aren’t something to be feared. They aren’t all-powerful, and they can be played around. It’s one of the great steps in the learning curve of Magic. Judging by the public outcry, the first You Make the Card, and most of all, the current You Make the Card, it’s my overall impression that the general public doesn’t want to take that step.
Generally speaking, I’m very mellow about Magic issues. The problem, however, is when public outcry affects the game in a very concrete way. It’s improved the state of things by bringing Green to the fore again (U/G madness, R/G beats, among others) and as the game continues, White is gaining some power as well thanks to Exalted Angel, Eternal Dragon, and Astral Slide*** – which is a good thing, but it’s also had the effect of dumbing down the game. I’ve seen the degeneracy of Tempest and Urza Block, and I have no desire to see the game sink back to that insane speed… But the game is being slowed down. Immensely. Spells are costing more for doing less in general, and more emphasis is being placed on the attack phase. What happened to decking as a viable way of winning? Poison is never coming back, and there isn’t going to be a legitimate alternate win condition card, I’m pretty sure of that. Welcome, everyone, to the era of”Magic: the Graah, Tap to Attack.” It’s gotten so bad that I am beginning to agree with the small group out there who thinks Magic is turning into Yu-Gi-Oh!
But let’s take a look at the mechanics that didn’t win. By and large, on a side note, I didn’t like any of the mechanics that much.
Mechanic B: If a card would come into play with one or more counters on it, it comes into play with one additional counter instead:
4.00%, a.k.a.”Timmy Coat of Arms”
Fading, Upkeep, pump counters, Phantom Counters, Wind Counters, delaying All Hallow’s Eve, Ertai’s Meddling (maybe), Volvers, Rock Hydra (and its cousins). Many, many possibilities. Most people were probably only considering +1/+1 counters, though… And in that sense, they thought it was probably too limited. But you know what? They’re right.
Mechanic C – If a spell or ability would return a permanent to its owner’s hand, that permanent stays in play instead:
4.54%, a.k.a.”Gee! Blue Is Still Too Good!”
Jordan was right about this card – first, if this is an answer to Upheaval, it would come too late. Second, I too am tired of seeing answers to problem cards too late. Just a couple of thoughts, though – Mask of Intolerance at least came in the same block, but Tsabo’s Web came an entire block after.
Secondly, geez, first we can’t stomach counterspells, and now we can’t stomach bounce? This is a step away from reading”Make sure Blue cards are completely useless.” Thirdly, it would be an interesting mix with certain cards – I’m sure they meant,”If a spell or ability would cause a permanent to return…” Otherwise, it gets messy with cards that require the return of permanents Gush, Jackalope Herd, Arctic Merfolk, Waterspout Djinn, Daze, Thwart, and Cauldron Dance.
Though I don’t think that’s the reason why it was done. Call me biased, but I’m pretty sure people realized that neutering bounce would be too much. Call it faith in humanity, call it naiveté, but that’s just my opinion…
Mechanic G: Tap, Sacrifice CARDNAME: Each player secretly chooses a number. Then those numbers are revealed. For each number chosen by exactly one player, destroy all artifacts and creatures with that converted mana cost:
5.15% a.k.a.”The Budget Powder Keg”
Despite the somewhat random effects this card can have, I like it most of all, mainly because it does something the other cards generally don’t: It forces interaction. It forces you to think about what your opponent is thinking, it forces you to plan out what’s on the board, and it forces you to not overextend and diversify.
Sadly, what this also does is skew the color wheel. Like Powder Keg and Nevinyrral’s Disk before it, this gives Blue a way to destroy creatures, though not quite as easily. The cynic in me also says that this is probably why it ranked so low.
Mechanic H: There is an additional upkeep step each turn, before the draw step:
7.43% a.k.a.”Johnny Bait”
First thought: A definite win-more-but-with-more-style card in Donate–Illusions of Grandeur. Other uses include Chlorophant, hosing people with cards that have an upkeep (such as Dragon Tyrant), and effects such as Phyrexian Arena. Sadly, if I understand the rules changes in 8th Edition correctly, the draw step no longer exists, so this could get messy.
This one has a lot of style, but unfortunately could cause a lot of rulings problems and abuse – particularly with cards that come back, such as Squee, Goblin Nabob and Nether Spirit. I like it – but it’s not flashy enough for Timmy and Yugi, I guess. It’s a crying shame.
Mechanic J: Tap: Choose a player. Add 1 to that player’s mana pool: 7.73% a.k.a.”There’s No Way In Hell This Is Going To Have A Reasonable Casting Cost If Wizards Has Its Way”
See Sisay’s Ring, the Diamonds, Star Compass. Moreover, it’s a source of life loss. Mana Acceleration is a powerful thing, and Wizards knows it. If this had a casting cost of two, then it would be wonderful. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to be the case, after painful life lessons from the Moxen, Black Lotus, Sol Ring, and other mana artifacts.
On a side note, it would have made an interesting tool in Type 1 Academy, if it had been reasonably costed. But alas, it didn’t make the cut.
Mechanic D: At the beginning of your draw step, draw a card. Spells you play cost 1 more to play
12.06%, a.k.a.”Just How Desperate Are You For An Extra Card?”
If you only cast one spell a turn, you would have a better Unified Theory. But you want to be casting more than one spell a turn, especially if you are drawing more cards. The more spells you cast, the more of a disadvantage you’ll be in. And unlike other mana decelerators like the aforementioned Sphere of Resistance, Glowrider, Feroz’s Ban, and others, this one hurts only you, and affects all your spells. Card parity is not enough to make this card worthwhile… And quite a few of us recognized that.
And now, we get to the bottom of the barrel. Is this what we’ve come to?
Mechanic E: Players play with their hands revealed. During each player’s turn, that player may play cards in other players’ hands as though they were cards in his or her hand. During each player’s turn, other players can’t play spells
14.14% a.k.a.”Wahhh! Mommy! Counterspells are too strong! He’s cheating!”
Mechanic I: Discard a card from your hand: Remove target spell you control from the stack and return it to its owner’s hand. (The spell has no effect.):
14.63% a.k.a.”MOMEEEEEE!!!! HE’S STILL CHEATING WITH COUNTERSPELLS!!!!”
Mechanic F: M: You may pay target creature’s mana cost. If you do, you gain control of that creature. (This effect doesn’t end at end of turn. Mana cost includes color.)
15.11% a.k.a.”My Super-Duper 5-color, 90 Card, 15 Land Deck Is Unbeatable!”
I’m fairly cemented in the idea that this artifact was designed to make mirror matches interesting. From a multiplayer standpoint, this deck only goes in the 5-color deck. This was a boring, unimaginative mechanic. You’d think people would learn from cards like Bribery and Treachery. Creature stealing is interesting, but only to a point.
Mechanic A: You may play land cards in your graveyard as though they were in your hand
15.20% a.k.a.”Land Destruction, You’re Next On The Neutering Block!”
Ahhhh, speak of the devil. This one seems to come from Wizards more than the populace, but it means that yet another play style is going the way of the dinosaur. It’s a crying shame – I love land destruction decks. They’re one of the most skill-intensive decks to play in multiplayer. And even when you play them well, it doesn’t mean you’ll win, because of the time it takes to set up.
There are only so many graveyard recursion cards, and that’s the case for good reason. Creatures are easily disposed of, so reanimation tends to be the exception to that… But general recursion cards like this are few and far between. This is going to be either a gimmick card or a plain lousy sideboard card, because there are no land destruction decks out there, much less in multiplayer.
But if you’re curious, I voted for the Budget Keg. I’m not going to vote for this round – but if I could, what would I vote for? Any vote I cast leads to a mindless”Hoser of the Month” card that will never be any good. But the thought of endlessly Strip Mining someone with a few Explorations out is too much fun… I’d have to go with Mechanic A just to teach a few whiners a lesson or two.
I may not like the trend that the game is going through, but I still love the game. These cards are just going to change the way certain strategies play out. This is a new opportunity to see how the community works as a whole. So, whatever the result may be, more power to us!
“Yeah, I’m trying to sell my cards… No one plays nearby anymore, and Magic was getting expensive…”
“Really? You do know they play over at my store, just a few blocks away, right?”
–The true story of a former addict relapsing
** – I want to apologize if I come off as elitist. But, this is something I feel strongly about.