Ken Nagle was the lead designer for Worldwake, so when I saw the abbreviation for Worldwake – WWK – it was a natural to make the mental connection to WWJD (What Would Jay Do), only Worldwake would be WWK(D): What Would Ken Nagle Do? Since we’re in the speculation stage of Worldwake, knowing for a fact only a small handful of cards, I think that question is certainly appropriate as we eagerly try and figure out what changes are in store for Magic in the very near future.
Wizards was kind enough to send me some Worldwake preview cards, some of which I believe are called “pooled” cards that are shared with other writers. So I’m not sure what if any are “exclusive” but hey – you’ll be getting my exclusive take on some of them, right?
Beware, HERE BE SPOILERS.
Dread Statuary recalls other colorless manlands of the past. It certainly hits harder than the original Mishra’s Factory and its tribal update Mutavault, but it is also much more expensive to activate. It also pales in comparison to another manland that’s been spoiled in the set, Celestial Colonnade:
Celestial Colonnade enters the battlefield tapped.
Tap: Add W or U to your mana pool.
3WU: Until end of turn, Celestial Colonnade becomes a 4/4 white and blue Elemental creature with flying and vigilance. It’s still a land.
So, for one mana extra, you get a vastly superior creature. Presumably, there’s a cycle of these cards for each allied color pair, and I suspect that they’ll all be similarly good. So, why would you ever play Dread Statuary in your constructed deck?
First, you might just want to double up on the manlands. Recall not too long ago that Green/X decks would run 4 Treetop Village and 4 Mutavaults. Being able to cram more threats into your deck without using up creature slots is quite handy.
Another thought springs to mind… wouldn’t Vampire decks be more than willing to trade this card with Great Sable Stag, even one with a +1/+1 counter on it from Oran-Rief? Yes, I think they would! Is it worth the trade-off with the “Swamp matter” cards? Having not played much with the Vampires I can’t really say, but I’m sure Vampires players are feeling good about having the option.
So we’ve got a cycle of rare dual-mana manlands, a colorless manland, and then this one, spoiled on the Wizards site:
Enchantment – Aura
Enchanted land is a 6/4 green Elemental creature. It’s still a land.
When enchanted land is put into a graveyard, return that card to its owner’s hand.
Brilliant design! A way to enchant a land without subjecting it the dreaded “two-for-one” situation that is the bane of so many Auras, if something happens to it you get the land back. I like the corner case use of animating a fetchland, attacking with it, sacrificing it to fetch a basic land and then getting back the fetchland. I’m not sure if it’s pushed enough to be a Constructed staple, but it’s certainly going to be a fun Limited card. I really like how animating lands into creatures really embodies “a world awake,” and look forward to seeing what other land animation shenanigans Wizards has made for us!
Here’s another one of this cycle that Wizards sent to me:
Enchantment – Aura
Enchanted land is a 2/2 blue Elemental creature with flying. It’s still a land.
When enchanted land is put into a graveyard, return that card to its owner’s hand.
I can’t help but think this card is much, much better than the Green one above. Costing only one mana, it’s super-easy to protect your animated land from shenanigans with counterspells if you want. Of course, a 2/2 is vulnerable to the ubiquitous Lightning Bolt, whereas a 6/4 is not. On the other hand five mana can get you a much better creature than a 6/4, especially if you’re dabbling in Green anyway. Yeah, I’m definitely on the side that this Blue one is superior.
Check out this scary one!
Quest for the Nihil Stone
Whenever an opponent discards a card, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Nihil Stone.
At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has no cards in hand and Quest for the Nihil Stone has two or more quest counters on it, you may have that player lose 5 life.
This definitely feels pushed for Constructed, and reminds me of the classic card The Rack. The problem with discard cards is that, once your opponent gets hit with one or two of them, he’ll just play out his hand and go into top-deck mode, which ends up blanking any subsequently drawn discard spells. Once you complete this Quest, you put your opponent in a tough spot, because 5 life is huge. Yet if your opponent tries to hold back cards then it keeps your discard spells relevant. Blightning is one of the defining cards of the format, and there are other quality discard options between Sedraxis Specter, Duress, and Scepter of Fugue.
Here’s another interesting Aura:
Enchantment – Aura
Enchanted creature can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.
Enchanted creature can’t be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control.
Trollshroud is a very nice ability, and the “Elven Riders evasion” isn’t too bad either (but not all that great where Baneslayer Angels fill the sky). I imagine it will be a decent pick in Limited, and might be a sideboard option in Standard where two Green-based decks square off and are looking for a way to punch through a bunch of groundpounders cluttering the Red Zone. One possibility is pairing this up with other Auras in a deck featuring Sovereigns of Lost Alara.
Of the other spoiled cards so far this week, I found two of them interesting:
Mysteries of the Deep
Draw two cards.
Landfall – If you had a land enter the battlefield under your control this turn, draw three cards instead.
The raw card-draw Standard right now is Divination, a three-mana sorcery that lets you draw two cards. For two extra mana, you get to cast it at instant speed, and we all know how much better any card is when you can cast it as an instant. Plus, its landfall ability lets you draw an extra card, which would normally clash with the instant speed benefit if we didn’t have those fetchlands from Zendikar to “store” a landfall trigger. Measured against the Divination yardstick, this strikes me as very much playable in any deck where you want to keep your mana – and options – open during your opponent’s turn. While I don’t see this satisfying the whiners who want Thirst for Knowledge back, the LSV’s of the world will find a good use for Mysteries of the Deep.
Personally, I haven’t seen creatures with the flavorful “vampires blood frenzy” ability really matter much in Constructed or Limited, but I suspect Ruthless Cullblade might change that. A 2/1 for two mana is a perfectly acceptable beatdown creature in a color that is very good at clearing away blockers. Having a playable blood frenzy creature also increases the utility of Sorin Markov’s ability to set an opponent’s life total at 10. Imagine you’ve got two Ruthless Cullblades in play, your opponent has just hit you with Baneslayer Angel and is sitting at a perfectly comfortable 28 life total. You play a land, triggers your dead Bloodghast to come back into play, play Sorin, set your opponent’s life total to 10, then attack with the hasty ghast and two 4/2 Cullblades for… 10 points of damage. As if Sorin wasn’t already tough to trade for!
(Speaking of Sorin, don’t miss his misadventures in the highly amusing comic strip Lotus Cobra Is Evil.)
Wizards Announces… Archenemy! (What Would Ken Nagle Do, Part II)
“Have you ever wanted to just throw down the gauntlet against all your friends at once? Have you ever wanted to take on the whole world and show them who’s boss? Well, now you can! Archenemy is the first “One vs. Many” multiplayer product. With a deck of twenty oversized cards to beef up your favorite deck, you’ll be ready to face off against as many of your friends as your kitchen table can hold. Two? Three? Twenty? Bring ’em on! Here you rule!”
I have to admit to being really stoked about this announcement because it takes me back to my early Magic origins. I came to Magic with a group of gaming friends, and a lot of our games involved gathering around a table, drinking beer and talking lots of smack. Whether we were playing Axis & Allies, Gammarauders, or Illuminati, there was always lots of trash talking and swagger that made victories – and defeats – all the more fun and entertaining. When we took up Magic, we carried a lot of that over, and for many years our multiplayer games were loud, boisterous affairs.
Nowadays, multiplayer Magic (such as EDH) is more about politics, and swagger gets you quickly dead by an annoyed table united against you. The last thing you want to do is threaten doom and destruction on your wimpy opponents and boldly proclaim you will crush everybody. It’s impolitic to behave that way… so I find it thrilling that Wizards has created a multiplayer format that lets one player lay down the trash-talk and gives him the power to walk the walk.
Ironically, the lead designer for Archenemy added in something that gave me slight pause in my excitement.
“I was the lead designer of Archenemy. Finally, Magic has a DEDICATED griefer format!”
Ken Nagle on Twitter
Now hang on a second. I don’t consider “griefer” to be a positive descriptive term. I know that some players enjoy “griefing,” and that those players have a friend or two within the Halls of Renton, but I’m fairly certain those sorts of players are a small minority of the Magic community. Perhaps Ken’s definition of griefer doesn’t line up with my impression of the term? My definition comes straight from Tom Lapille, who described griefers this way:
…the experience that the griefers want is the experience of their opponents squirming in misery. They are at their very happiest when their opponents are miserable. Griefers cackle with glee when they hit your best card with a Millstone, and they feel deeply cheated when an opponent who has no permanents concedes even though the griefer has no plans to actually win anytime soon. His goal is to make you sad, and he gets a kick out of your sadness.
Now, by this definition, I am most certainly not a griefer; in fact, I feel terrible if my opponent walks away from our game feeling sad or miserable. By the same token, I despise playing against griefers; I play Magic to have fun, win or lose, and do not enjoy playing against someone who only has fun if his opponent is not having fun.
So Ken’s tweet has me concerned. I’m all for a One vs. Many format which gives one guy the power to fight against multiple opponents and still have a good shot at winning, but I’d want the Archenemy cards to give you power in a positive way, the ability to easily play big, swingy “haymaker” spells or to weather coordinated attacks against your resources. Ken’s griefer comment (he didn’t just say griefer but “DEDICATED griefer”) has me worried Archenemy instead is going to be cards that give you negative power, shutting down your opponents from playing the game, making them “squirm in misery.” I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound at all appealing. I sure hope that’s not the case.
Interestingly, the contrast between positive (non-griefer) or negative (griefer) game-play ties in nicely to another thing I wanted to talk about today. Tom Lapille wrote a very interesting column last week, with the main point being that blue mages need to get over sulking about blue being in a rut and realize that blue is still very playable. Nestled within though was another interesting notion that I don’t think Tom spent much time thinking about, but which I found quite telling:
We’ve done a lot of research, both in focus testing and in the field, and we have learned that people really hate it when their spells get countered. They take it as a personal affront: my opponent kept me from doing what I want to do. That’s a terrible feeling. Mysteriously, those people do not feel nearly as bad when they cast a creature that immediately dies to a Lightning Bolt or a Doom Blade. They feel like their card actually did something, even though it really did just as little as the creature that got hit with an Essence Scatter. This may not make logical sense, but it is consistent with all of our observations.
This was an important realization, but there was a second realization as well. Magic developers, who by nature are top-level players who have played hundreds of matches at high-level events, are just as susceptible to this illogical, emotional response as our players. We hate it when our spells get countered too, and we are also much happier when our Craw Wurms get Doom Bladed than we are when they get Essence Scattered. This was an uncomfortable realization, because it makes no sense and we recognize it, but we are human too.
What Tom was conveying here were the results of some research that I think most players would file under “duh.” What would you rather have happen– your creature get countered or your creature get destroyed? Of course you’d rather it get destroyed! What’s most interesting about this are the words Tom uses to convey the findings: mysterious, illogical, emotional, nonsensical. Those two paragraphs are just loaded up with irritation for the research results that have led Wizards to curtail generically powerful counterspells. What’s unfortunate here is the subtext of Tom’s words, which comes across as “well, Magic players are irrational (shrug), but what can you do?”
What can you do? What can you do? Wouldn’t it be useful perhaps to try and dig into why Magic players prefer to have a creature played and then immediately killed rather than having that creature counterspelled? There have got to be good reasons for this that actually do make sense. I’m surprised and, frankly, a little disappointed that Wizards didn’t dig into the “why” of their results a little deeper, check with someone who’s studied the psychology of gaming and gamers. I suspect Dr. Garfield might even have some insight there, and if not he probably knows someone who does!
As a reasonably intelligent lifelong gamer, I have my theories. Countering someone’s spell takes place in the nebulous, intangible area of The Stack, and it feels like you’re being prevented from playing the game. Having your creature destroyed takes place on The Battlefield, which is on the table, the board where the game plays out. You successful cast your creature, you made your move, then your opponent makes his move and destroys it. You weren’t prevented from doing something, rather your opponent negated your action with an action of his own. Being prevented from doing something is a negative force, while being able to do something is a positive force, even if it is subsequently knocked back by another action. It’s like the difference between taking two steps forward and then being pushed back two steps, as opposed to being prevented from moving altogether – which would you rather happen to you?
Back into Magic terms, once a creature reaches The Battlefield, all sorts of things can come into play – protection from the removal spell’s color, trollshroud, Vines of the Vastwood. There’s potential there for interaction, either by planning ahead of time with your card choices (running maindeck Malakir Bloodwitch when white is heavily played), or by playing your creature and having spells or abilities ready to protect it.
If you’re the opponent, playing counterspells over removal can also be restrictive. While you may hold mana open to be able to hit a creature with a removal spell on your opponent’s turn, you don’t have to. You can play something else now, take your lumps, and then try and use your removal later. That means you’re doing something, your opponent is doing something, you’re both experiencing positive movement, positive force.
However, if you’re relying on counterspells, you have to keep your mana up to use that spell on your opponent’s turn, because if that creature or spell resolves you might be unable to do anything about it later. What if you don’t counter anything on your opponent’s turn, and you don’t have any instant speed card-draw available? You’ve just wasted all that mana that you could have used to do something, instead you and your opponent did nothing. Negative movement, negative force.
The game of Magic obviously needs countermagic so that Wizards can make powerful splashy spells that sell sets without causing the game to degenerate. At the same time though I think Wizards is doing a heckuva good job making good counterspells that aren’t generically good against everything, that require forethought in choosing them, and don’t lock down gameplay with too much negative force.
Which brings us back around to Archenemy… I certainly hope Ken Nagle’s DEDICATED griefer mechanics strike a good balance between positive and negative force in the game. If your deck is designed to lock down all your opponents under some sort of Stasis, or where their spells can’t resolve or none of their creatures ever stick, I imagine your supply of opponents will quickly dry up. It’s like in EDH, if you kill everyone with a horde of massive dragons it is vastly more enjoyable for your opponents than if you take infinite Time Walks and slowly plink away at them. I hope Archenemy allows for powerful and fun haymaker plays that brings enjoyment to all the players no matter which side you stand on.
That’s it for this week. I hope all of you EDH fans got a chance to listen to Summon Elder Dragon Podcast #1 over at MTGcast, we’ll be recording episode #2 next weekend and we’ve already got some fun stuff to talk about. Local players, hope to see you down at Richmond Comix tonight for some Standard FNM and perhaps a couple EDH games to top off the evening!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
My current EDH decks:
Tibor and Lumia (copy copy copy copy)
Doran the Siege-Tower (toughness matters!)
Baron Sengir (Evil Vampires!)
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary (huge creatures, big mana spells)
Sharuum, the Hegemon (Kaldra Lives!)
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (DRAGONS, RAHRRR!!)