Hello everybody and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re going to look at the big showdown: Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Standard versus Survival of the Fittest in Legacy. One crushes the format…and the other is taking over Legacy. We’ll also take a look at the now-deceased Magic Player Rewards. Let’s go!
Jace vs. Survival
So these past few weeks have been really interesting. Now one of the big gripes launched at me is that I’m saying Jace, the Mind Sculptor is fine in Standard but Survival of the Fittest is set to be banned in Legacy. And I stand by this.
Ready for the reasoning? Let’s go.
First, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the best card in Standard. He was engineered to be amazing…and they succeeded in spades. We are all very well aware. But here’s the rub: next fall? He’s out of Standard. Period. We won’t have to worry about a Jace-driven metagame anymore, we won’t have to complain about the lack of Oblivion Rings, Maelstrom Pulses and so on, even though I assure you many of these types of cards will show up in the next year or so, and Jace will slowly become less of a dominating force. All it takes is printing another Bloodbraid Elf and Maelstrom Pulse, and who didn’t love that metagame?
But Legacy? NOTHING rotates out of Legacy, ever. You either get banned, or you’re left to your own devices. Or you take over the format and propel yourself to fifty bucks a pop. Like Survival did.
Now the naysaysers will tell you that Jace is far more prevalent in Standard than Survival of the Fittest is in Legacy, and I will happily concede this point. I mean, one has ten times as many cards, yet the problem card in that format is showing up in half or more of the Top 8s in tournaments for that format.
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But this a misnomer. Banning Vengevine is the worst thing Wizards could do, and never would do. Why? Let’s look at history. Once upon a time, Necropotence was dominating formats along with the Donate / Illusions of Grandeur combo. So what did Wizards of the Coast ban? Mana Vault and Dark Ritual.
Yeah, that makes sense, right? The explanation is that these decks were busted because of their fast mana, not their incredible power cards. Needless to say, U/R Illusions/Donate went on to crush the metagame soon after with a slower Necropotence right behind it. Vengevine is just the cog in the engine to make it better than everything else. It was the “Nos” from the Fast and the Furious to allow Paul Walker’s character to infiltrate the underground hijack gang fronted by Vin Diesel…
Oh my God. I’m actually using The Fast and the freakin Furious to make a point. This…this is a new low. Oh man.
But back to my point: Survival of the Fittest has always been an unfair card. It finally got the card it always wanted to abuse, but that doesn’t mean the “next” Vengevine won’t break it all over again.
I currently believe Wizards of the Coast will ban this card. If not on December 1st, it won’t make it past March. Yes, this means that Counterbalance and Merfolk will probably rule the Legacy roost again. But if Mystical Tutor was banned due to making Reanimator too powerful, then Survival of the Fittest is too powerful in its interactions with Basking Rootwallas and Vengevines to remain a part of the metagame.
But why? Because right now we have Survival vs Everything Else. The best card in Legacy is the best strategy in Legacy, which is why it’s such an easy call. Saying that Wizards should have banned Mystical Tutor was a bit odd–weren’t the problem cards with Reanimator Entomb and Ad Nauseam Tendrils…well, most of the deck? Was Mystical Tutor the best “strategy” or the best “enabler”? I believe it was the latter, so did WotC, and they knew a card like that would slowly creep into anything that relied on instants and sorceries to win.
The problem? Survival of the Fittest is both the best strategy and the best enabler! Yes, you can have your Survival chocolate with your Vengevine peanut butter all you like, and until Wizards does something about this you’re packing four Survival of the Fittest AND Fauna Shaman AND the sick new technology of going old school with Quirion Ranger to make Fauna Shaman as much like Survival as possible.
Look: Survival of the Fittest relies on powerful creature interactions, and haven’t WotC been making a very concerted effort over the past few years to make creatures better? Well, for Legacy I believe we just reached critical mass. Vengevine + Basking Rootwalla is just the first of many. Creatures will continue to be nuts, because they are the most fun cards in the game, and so Survival of the Fittest, once a cute and neat toolbox card that could abuse stuff like Genesis and Eternal Witness in slow, grinding decks, now just pays a few mana and kills you with huge hasty monsters.
Can the metagame shift? Well, I believe in a way it already has: It’s Survival vs. The World, and versus the entire Magic cardpool, yet very few decks have shown they can beat both Survival and The Rest. Sure they can beat one, but can you beat Ooze Survival? How about G/W? How about Bant Survival? Then of course there’s the big archetypes like Counterbalance, Merfolk, Goblins, and Tendrils of Agony combo.
Survival is a card that will not stop being good. It will not stop being the best strategy. It will be hated against, but Legacy is an ocean of cards. In Standard you can try to hate Jace, and some succeed. But in Legacy, you have to hate against ten times as many archetypes while trying to defeat a strategy that has consistently beaten those ten thousand-plus cards again and again.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor just put 28 copes of himself in the Top 8 of the Kentucky Open. It’s not like he isn’t the best card in Standard. But he isn’t the best strategy. He’s a winning team member, but your opponent can Memoricide Jace and sometimes make your deck better because now you get to your threats quicker. Having Jace is pure gravy and without him you still have tools to win. But with him he wins on his own, or he makes your Fetchlands and Preordains incredible by Brainstorming at just the right time.
But you have to think about this from WotC’s perspective: Sure something is nuts now, but something has to be the best. If it weren’t Jace, the Mind Sculptor it would be something else. Last year it was Bloodbraid Elf, who reached seven bucks a pop or so for awhile at top demand. Now it’s a chase Mythic, that could reach a hundred bucks, and will live infamy for as long as Magic is around.
You know what would really piss off all of those people who worked long and hard, traded endlessly, and opened a stream of Worldwake packs to get their awesome Planeswalker? Banning him. An in-print Mythic banned? Son, you are out of your mind. Not happening, ever. Jace can have 32 copies in the Top 8 of every event and it won’t be banned. Now like I said, I expect some serious Oblivion Ring and Pithing Needle-esque answers to arrive in Mirrodin Besieged. But for now, just appreciate how sick Jace is and realize that this is his time to shine. This is a format you’ll be talking about a few years from now, when Jace was the business and everything else paled.
So I say sit back and enjoy the Mind Sculpting. But Mr. Survival? It’s time for you to go. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay in Legacy.
Well, the Magic Player Rewards are gone. Wizards of the Coast announced this week that the Magic Player Rewards program was ending, they’d be shipping out extra cards to get them out of the system, so long and thanks for all the fish.
Now many players are rightly upset by this. That said, there were rumors of widespread abuse of the system and people taking advantage of these promos. Did it happen? I don’t doubt it. But at the same time, why does MPR exist for Wizards? Let’s go back in time for a second.
Magic Player Rewards were begun in 2001 starting with the now-fifty bucks Wasteland promo. They started off slow, and at some point realized that shipping off tokens wasn’t getting it done. They began giving textless cards away in 2005 with sought-after cards like Oxidize–remember this was during the height of Affinity. Eventually they started including textless foils in 2007 with Wrath of God. This has continued with Damnation, Cryptic Command, Lightning Bolt, and this year’s Day of Judgment.
Well, guess what: While all of this is really cool and neat, the truth is the game doesn’t really need this anymore. Sure it’s nice to ship out sick foils and textless versions of your favorite cards. But textless versions can create all sorts of confusion–just ask those who tried to remember all four modes of Cryptic Command correctly–and the cost is probably enormous. Can you imagine just the shipping expenses for thousands of packages going out all over the world?
I think Wizards cut this program to put the money in other more worthwhile programs. I also think they have something sweet to replace Magic Player’s Rewards–but it just wasn’t finished in time for this announcement. Why do I think this? Because they announced it on Monday, the worst day to announce bad news. This gives people something to complain about all week. You may notice that most people are fired on Friday, most bad news busts on Friday, etc.
What could this money go toward? I personally would like to see more paper and Magic Online integration. Wizards is scared as hell to do this, because you can’t put that toothpaste back in the tube. But someone at WotC needs to take the reins and bring us into the digital revolution–iPhone apps to read MagicTheGathering.com content. iPad versions of Duels of the Planeswalkers. How about instead of cards in the mail you got digital coupons and vouchers for Magic Online in your email?
Somebody at Wizards is dragging their feet and leaving an absolute metric ton of money on the table. Let’s hope the money they just saved from cutting Magic Player Rewards is put to good use. Better yet, when they do announce whatever was or is supposed to replace Magic Player Rewards, I hope they point it out. We’ll see.
So that’s another week in the world of Magic, folks. Until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards…so you don’t have to!
– Evan “misterorange” Erwin