The final part of this little dance has been… a tricky one to write. I mentioned yesterday that eternal formats show weaknesses in the color pie. The color pie has shifted over the five or six years of MTGO’s history; back when it started out, Invasion and Odyssey were the new kids on the block, and in that time, Blue was powerful. Blue had Fact or Fiction, twelve high-profile, playable counterspells ranging in multiple color combinations, and of course, all its raw power in the midsection. Green, on the other hand… not so much so.
Green as a deck basis can be a powerful starting point – indeed, almost every budget Prismatic deck has to lean heavily on Green purely to get its colors working. Thanks to the same saturation problem that inhibited White design originally, Green has something in the district of six to nine playable mana fixers that lurk on the mana curve between points one and three. Of these, some – Harrow, Fertile Ground, and Kodama’s Reach – are very playable. This means that going “pure Green” is… well, it begs the question why.
You can’t kill many permanents. You get Krosan Grip, but so does everyone else. You can’t deal with the real problems beyond that, because for the better part, colors playing problem permanents, like, say, Mirari’s Wake, also pack responses, recursion, and counters.
Green really doesn’t have a good enough motivation to go mono-colored. If you do, you have to lean on the same artifacts as Black, but whereas it could disrupt the opponent, you can just grab your ankles and hope enough of your 2/2 and 3/3 guys get through. You have to pray you never see an Exalted Angel, Decree of Justice, Mirari’s Wake, Mystic Snake, or Visara the Dreadful. Indeed – if you can go without the color fixing (and decks that are heavy on the fetchlands and duals can), Green steadily becomes less and less relevant, often merely being a fifth color for Etched Oracles, Tribal Flames, and the occasional oddball fellow like Sliver Queen.
There is no lure, in this eternal format, for going pure Green! You can make a case for Unyaro Bees, but it’s just a bad Nantuko Shade, and Black smirkingly dumps on everything Green does with ease. Better threats, better acceleration, better tutoring, and far, far better disruption. Blue, well, less said the better now, and White and Red have their own lures.
Green, in a pure sense, is also the color that internally tells you to play other colors. Green’s best cards are gold! Green’s best commons and uncommons help you play the other colors! Green’s only card advantage engines are for land, or achingly slow in this format. Trust me when I say Hystrodon does not cut the mustard in a format such as this. The problems that plagued Call of the Herd in its first incarnation have only become exacerbated by the subsequent developments in Magic.
Now… cutting Green, that’s actually pretty easy. See, between Wayfarer’s Bauble, Spectral Searchlight, Darksteel Ingot, Talismans, and the manifold other artifact sources of colored mana, you don’t need Green for anything. Green’s split cards and hybrid cards offer some useful utility, but little the other colors don’t. White brings all the Disenchant variants you want; artifacts give you acceleration. Blue brings draw (and more!), and Red can provide the best raw body in all of Prismatic.
Cutting Green for the budget player can be done swiftly and easily; it has the most colorless cyclers of any color. Barkhide Mauler, Claws of Wirewood, Break Asunder, and Hundroog. Then, you can pick your choice of Giant Solifuge, Gleancrawler, Selesnya Guildmage, Biomantic Mastery, or the appropriate split card. Assault / Battery offers a fine choice for Red, Hit / Run for Green-Red. Research / Development can do the job, as can Wax / Wane.
This leaves you with the ability to dispense with Green and move into “good” colors. But if you’re sacrificing Green, you’re sacrificing the Sakura-Tribe Speedbump, Wake, Loxodon Hierarch, Sylvan Scrying, Reap and Sow, Chord of Calling, and Panglacial Wurm. I really am trying to name the best Green cards in the format here – and the Scrying and Reap are only good because they go and fetch you decent lands!
This is not a matter of complaint on design; Prismatic is an Eternal Format, and no amount of modern evolution in design and development is going to adjust Green’s problems from the past. It would take a veritable rain of totally above-the-board Green cards to address this problem in Prismatic, and the effect such a torrent would have on non-eternal formats would be… nauseating.
Ultimately, I am an observer; a traveller in a strange land, having little means to compete in Prismatic at the highest level. This means that my observations are likely flawed. However, there isn’t a lot of theory being talked about Prismatic; there aren’t many people talking about the format’s problems, and there aren’t many people who can truly compete in it doing much of anything about it.
Is Prismatic’s eternal status a good thing, or a bad thing? Could the Standard format support the density of the Prismatic format? Could Extended? Would losing Mirage and Visions, and the promotional cards, actually be a major blow to the format’s uniqueness? I feel yes – I like the few Mirage and Visions cards I own, and I would like to continue playing with them somewhere, to make them non-dead cards in my collection.
Is the cost for entry in the format too high? If so, what could be done against it? Prismatic’s barrier for entry is going to be at least as high as the next-highest format available online, and generally higher.
Is the color bias a problem, and how could that be helped?
Should the format adopt a fractional system to determine how much of your deck should be a color, like Tribal Standard and Tribal Classic’s new rules? Or is the 20/20/20/20/20 rule acceptable?
Finally, should the format’s bannings be reviewed? Right now, the banned cards in Prismatic are expensive; should perhaps cost be taken into account for these cards? Rude Awakening seems to be the most random addition to that list, but it apparently was nixed because it ended the game immediately after it was cast for an investment of about nine mana.
So, a thought experiment: If you could nix one card forever from Prismatic, what would it be?
For my money… Etched Oracle. I like the card, I like it a lot. But his ubiquity is frustrating, and the shenanigans you have to go through to get rid of him, only to lose out even if you do, makes him a cheap, available, and very difficult unsolvable permanent for five mana.
Arc-Slogger also could merit a look-at; he requires less mana overall compared to Rude Awakening, and he comes down more cheaply.
Supply / Demand probably will get banned, so no point mentioning it now.
But the point here is to get discussion going. What cards just close the game unfairly? What cards are you sick of losing to in Prismatic? Let’s hear it.
As a final note, I must apologise publicly to the audience for any flaws or gaping holes this series has. I’m unfortunately languishing under a debilitating bout of some kind of unpleasant, mucus-related lung issue. I do apologise most thoroughly.
It seems that “touch of the flu” turned into a full blown Lung Groping.
Until next time,