Verweise

Zweieinhalb Monate ist es nun her, dass ich meine englischsprachige Blog-Aktivität zum Thema Magic – und das bedeutet, deren überwiegenden Großteil – auf mein neues/altes Blog ZEROMAGIC zurückverlagert habe. (Falls Ihr das irgendwie verpasst haben solltet: Gleich Link klicken, bookmarken und regelmäßig aufsuchen!) Wie hat sich das auf MagicBlogs ausgewirkt? Fehle ich einfach nur, oder habe ich stattdessen mehr Raum für deutschsprachige Blogger geschaffen? Ich poste da mal einen Screenshot:

Armut

Ormus‘ jüngster privater Eintrag, der bereits fast ein halbes Jahr her ist, ist nur zur besseren zeitlichen Einordnung noch mit im Bild. Der oberste Eintrag von florbot gehört natürlich zum „offiziellen“ News-Blog dieser Seite. Was dann noch übrig bleibt, und mit welcher Frequenz diese Blogs aktiv sind, erscheint mir äußerst bescheiden.

Aber andererseits… Mit PlanetMTG ist ja nun nur noch eine einzige deutsche Magic-Seite mit regelmäßigem redaktionellen Content aktiv, und da habe ich ebenfalls einen Screenshot für Euch:

Leere

Dies sind die Threads zu den veröffentlichten Artikeln. Beachtenswert ist, dass neuer Content durchaus noch mit einer guten Häufigkeit erscheint, und die Autoren sind (logischerweise abgesehen von der Regelkolumne) durchaus namhafte und kompetente Spieler! An der Qualität von Inhalt und redaktioneller Betreuung kann man natürlich so einiges zu mäkeln finden, und auch die Auswahl der Inhalte sehe ganz besonders ich kritisch, aber trotzdem muss man konstatieren: Namhafte, kompetente Autoren veröffentlichen häufig und regelmäßig Content, für den es Publikum gibt.

…und nun schaut Euch das Feedback an, welches diese Autoren für ihre Mühe erhalten! Gut, der zuoberst verlinkte Artikel war bei der Erstellung dieses Screenshots erst knapp sechs Stunden online (unterdessen sind es sieben, und es hat sich nichts geändert). Ich finde eigentlich, dass dies ein mehr als ausreichendes Zeitfenster zum Lesen und Kommentieren ist, und der Artikel ist ja auch nicht gerade mitten in der Nacht online gegangen, aber ignorieren wir ihn und schauen uns die übrigen Threads an. Und da sehen wir, dass gerade einmal drei von neunzehn Artikeln überhaupt einen Kommentar erhalten haben – und das sind exakt die „Toffeldrafts“! (Es hat ja auch seinen Grund, dass ich von der „Generation Toffel“ geschrieben habe, und nicht von der „Generation Bohny“ oder so.) Selbst, als bei einer von Bohny’s Veröffentlichungen ein Video nicht funktioniert hat, hat keine Sau darauf hingewiesen (und natürlich hat die Redaktion es nicht von alleine bemerkt).

Wie viel Desinteresse geht noch? Und kommt mir nicht schon wieder mit der Szene, die heutzutage „woanders“ wäre – wenn die Szene nicht da ist, wo regelmäßig Content von Top-Spielern (bzw. was immer im deutschen Sprachraum mit einigem guten Willen unterdessen dafür durchgehen muss) veröffentlicht wird, dann gibt es diese Szene nicht mehr. Und wenn Toffel dann halt das macht, worauf er (im Gegensatz zu anderem Content) überhaupt noch Resonanz erhält, dann ist das zwar auch nicht unbedingt hilfreich, aber wie ich auch bereits schrieb, durchaus verständlich.

Es liegt nahe zu vermuten, dass diese Feedback-Faulheit auch auf MagicBlogs eine relevante Mitursache dafür ist, dass hier so wenig passiert. Und wenn Ormus irgendwann einmal die Lust an diesem Projekt verlieren sollte, und somit ein weiterer Pfeiler der ehemaligen deutschen Magic-Gemeinde im Sumpf von deren Apathie versinkt, dann dürft Ihr Euch alle an Eure eigenen Nasen fassen.

Zu den Stichworten „Pfeiler“ und „ehemalig“: Der eigentliche Anlass, hier mal wieder etwas zu veröffentlichen, war dass ich Euch ein Link zu einem Text präsentieren wollte, von dem ich befürchtete, er sei mit der unangekündigten Schließung und Löschung von Magic Universe verloren gegangen. Er stammt von Phips (Philipp Summereder) und ist mir als derjenige Artikel im Gedächtnis geblieben, dessen Verschwinden ich am meisten bedauerte (abgesehen natürlich von meinen eigenen, die sich allerdings alle zumindest noch in einer Rohfassung auf meiner Festplatte befinden). Ich habe ihn auf Phips‘ Blog gefunden (was im Wesentlichen bedeutet, ich habe Phips‘ altes Blog wiederentdeckt) und bin mir nicht ganz sicher, inwieweit er sich von der als Artikel veröffentlichten Fassung möglicherweise unterscheidet – in meiner Erinnerung las jene sich etwas flüssiger und pointierter, aber das ist vielleicht auch nur auf nostalgische Verklärung zurückzuführen. Wie auch immer, er ist weiterhin zeitlos aktuell und unterhaltsam!

Leitfaden zum Verärgern einer Mehrspielerrunde

Zum Abschluss will ich noch einmal auf mein anderes deutschsprachiges Blog hinweisen, welches sich nicht mit Magic befasst (Schock!!!), und dem ich mich so nach und nach wieder verstärkt zuzuwenden gedenke. Aktuell beschäftige ich mich gedanklich besonders mit Fußball, aber das ist lediglich saisonbedingt und wird sich spätestens nach Beendigung der Europameisterschaft auch wieder ändern. Schaut es Euch an – es gibt da viel zu entdecken!

Ein Platz für Andi

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Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad aus deutscher Sicht

Ich hatte ja gesagt, wenn mir etwas einfällt, worüber auf Deutsch zu bloggen mir sinnvoll erscheint, dann werde ich das hier auch tun, also tue ich es hiermit! Okay, eigentlich hatte ich nicht wirklich einen Blogeintrag zu diesem Thema geplant, aber nachdem ich mir den größten Teil der Arbeit aus Neugierde eh bereits gemacht hatte, kann ich auch gleich einen Post daraus fabrizieren.

Zugegeben, der Niedergang des deutschen Magic interessiert außer mir kaum noch jemanden, und angesichts der jüngsten Verlautbarung zum Thema „professionelles Magic“ dürfte sich das Problem eh in absehbarer Zeit von selbst erledigen, aber ich habe das Abschneiden der deutschen Spieler bei der Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad in tabellarischer Form festgehalten und ausgewertet und teile die Ergebnisse nun mit euch. Dabei verlasse ich mich bei der Zuordnung der Nationalitäten auf die Informationen aus der Coverage – bei Pro Touren ist diese im Gegensatz zu Grand Prixs eigentlich recht zuverlässig. Für die exakte Schreibweise der Namen dürfte das nicht gelten, aber der Einfachheit halber habe ich auch hier die in der Coverage verwendeten Schreibungen übernommen.

Die Pro Tour hatte 378 Teilnehmer, darunter 14 Deutsche. Gespielt wurden jeweils 3 Runden Draft gefolgt von 5 Runden Standard an Tag eins und zwei; am dritten Tag spielten die Top 8 im K.O.-System den Sieger aus. Für einen Matchsieg erhielt ein Spieler an Tag eins oder zwei 3 Punkte, für ein Unentschieden (kam bei den deutschen Teilnehmern nicht vor) 1 Punkt, für eine Niederlage 0 Punkte. Am Ende des ersten Tages schieden alle Spieler mit weniger als 12 Punkten aus. Teilnehmer, die keine Möglichkeit mehr sahen, ein erstrebenswertes Ziel zu erreichen, schieden häufig freilwillig aus („droppten“).

Meine erste Grafik zeigt das Abschneiden der einzelnen deutschen Spieler im Turnier:

Stats1

Sieben von vierzehn Deutschen (50%) erreichten also Tag zwei. Insgesamt gelang dies 236 der 378 Teilnehmer (62,43%). Wir haben hier demnach weit unterdurchschnittlich abgeschnitten – schon ziemlich peinlich für eine einst große Magic-Nation!

Meine zweite Grafik zeigt das Abschneiden der deutschen Teilnehmer insgesamt, aufgeschlüsselt nach den vier einzelnen Abschnitten der Pro Tour (okay, eigentlich waren es ja fünf, aber in den Top 8 war ja kein deutscher Spieler vertreten), und in Blöcken nach Format bzw. Tag zusammengefasst:

Stats2JPG

Dabei sind die interessanten Werte jeweils diejenigen, welche „Punkte pro Runde“ angeben. Lässt man Unentschieden außen vor, so befindet sich deren turnierweiter Durchschnitt offensichtlich bei 1,5. Auch hier zeigt sich, wie weit unterdurchschnittlich die deutschen Teilnehmer liegen. Dabei erscheinen die Unterschiede zwischen Tag eins und Tag zwei nicht allzu signifikant – wohl aber diejenigen zwischen Draft und Standard! Während Deutschland im Constructed-Format nur knapp den Durchschnittswert unterschreitet, offenbart es im Draft massive Defizite. Die Ergebnisse von vierzehn Spielern bei einem Turnier sind natürlich nur bedingt repräsentativ, aber der Ausschlag nach unten ist doch schon ziemlich deutlich, und irgendwie passt er auch zur „Generation Toffel“, die dem strategischen Gehalt von Limited-Content völlig unkritisch gegenübersteht, weil es ihr nur darauf ankommt, von Clownerien unterhalten zu werden. Decklisten zu kopieren und spielen zu üben, das reicht für durchschnittliche Ergebnisse auf Pro-Tour-Niveau aus, aber das Verständnis für die Dynamiken eines Draft-Environments erlangt man nicht durch Daddeln allein.

Insgesamt positiv hervorzuheben ist allerdings zumindest der kontinuierliche Erfolg von Patrick Dickmann, der uns zuletzt die erste Pro Tour Top 8 mit deutscher Beteiligung seit gefühlten Ewigkeiten beschert hatte, und der mit seinem guten Abschneiden hier in Madrid als erster (und sehr wahrscheinlich einziger) deutscher Spieler die Schwelle zum Gold-Pro nächstes Jahr überschritten hat! Zu schade, dass dieser ganze Aufwand die Mühe nun wohl nicht mehr wert gewesen sein wird…

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Zeromagic is active again

Zeromagic

 

My first entry after almost three years on Zeromagic has just gone online, comments are reenabled, and everything should be working again the way it’s supposed to! This means I will no longer blog in English on 00zero – time will tell if I find reasons to blog about Magic in German again, which I would still do here. (I explained my motivation for this change in my last entry, in its second part, written in German.) If you’re interested in my English Magic content, please follow me to my new old blog!

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Sideboarding in MTGO Sealed Leagues, and a Return to Zeromagic

(This entry has two parts; the latter being written in German. If you happen to be an international reader, it should not be of much interest to you.)

A few weeks ago, sealed leagues finally returned to Magic Online after many years, and instantly became a smash hit. Now, sealed deck is actually a rather poor format compared to draft, but the convenient structure of league play is such a big allure, and I was drawn in by it just as almost everybody else.

While sealed leagues still have a few kinks to work out, like the pairing algorithm, or the relatively top-heavy payout, they are overall clearly the most comfortable experience among Magic Online play, and one feature which contributes heavily to this is the option to prebuild and save several versions of your sealed deck, so that you can easily switch between those versions during sideboarding. That is an extremely powerful tool, and you will be able to use it to gain a large advantage over opponents who are ignorant of it or too lazy to use it. (You will obviously still want to modify your prebuilds by switching individual cards out and in.)

I will illustrate this principle by showing you screenshots of the decks I used in my first league, where I made especially extensive use of it. I opened a clearly underaverage pool there, but got lucky both with pairings and the shuffler during games, managing an astonishing 4-1 score. However, my ability to adapt to my opponents‘ strategies, while surprising them with radical strategical changes of my own played also an important role in achieving that success.

This was my default build for this league:

Basis

That is a lategame-oriented deck unfortunately suffering from a total lack of actual removal. It does a good job stabilizing and winning attrition wars against decks without bombs, but unfortunately, sealed deck tends to be a lot about bombs… Still, it won me a couple of games while allowing me to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.

Greedy

When I got the impression that my opponent’s deck was not likely to overrun me too fast, and was trying to out-attrition me, I would sideboard into this version with quite a greedy mana base, but clearly higher overall card quality, and most importantly, some real removal supplied by White. Note that this approach comes with a certain amount of risk, since my opponents could be switching between radically different decks themselves – but most players fortunately don’t.

There were several instances when I believed it was a better idea to become faster instead of slower, though. Possibly, my opponent’s deck would still be stronger than mine in the lategame, and I thus had to hope to beat them before they could drop their bombs. On the other side of the spectrum, I could be facing a deck so fast that I needed to focus even more on surviving the earlygame than with my default build. Lastly, especially in a third game (and I had a lot of third games that league!), I had to factor in the possibility that my opponent would be able to successfully adapt to my lategame-based strategy, and that I needed to throw them a curveball.

I built no less than three distinct aggro versions:

Big Aggro

The most clumsy and most powerful version is this here. It was my choice against the combination of cheap removal, medium-sized creatures and too powerful bombs (especially planeswalkers). It walks a tightrope line between applying early pressure and punching through defenses with sheer power. It is clearly less powerful than my former two builds, due to low overall card quality and being a bit light on early drops for an aggresive deck, but there are some matchups where stomping your opponent with big creatures is the best approach.

Fast Aggro

When I believed pure speed was paramount, I switched to this version. There are still a couple lategame cards, though – it’s sealed deck, after all. With the highest number of 2-drops, this was my best bet against both other very fast decks (the pump spells would become Containment Membrane in that case), and against very powerful, but very slow decks – namely, what I expected some of my opponents to sideboard into after they had encountered my greedy lategame version. Note that it does terribly against the kind of decks with efficient removal and medium-sized creatures I wanted my big aggro version for! Also, it just isn’t a good deck, with low card quality, too few creatures, and too high a curve, but I had to work with what I opened.

Evasive Aggro

This is probably the generally strongest of my aggro builds, although its card quality is still pitiable by sealed deck standards, and it has too few creatures again. It features the most consistent mana base, though, as well as the most evasive creatures, and it gives me access to my white removal. I chose it when I assessed my opponent’s deck to be slow and powerful, but not quite as slow that I could rely on ground-based beatdown, and with a dearth of efficient removal and blockers for flying creatures. While this is a rather large number of restrictions to be met, it actually describes a good amount of sealed decks one will face. I still had to rely on good draws with this build, but lucklily I did get those.

In the end, each one of my builds won at least one game and contributed to a score I would not have believed to be possible when I saw that crappy card pool. The lesson here (besides „better lucky than good“, of course!) is that in a sealed league, your deckbuilding is not done once you find the strongest deck hiding in your pool, because favorable matchup dynamics will make up for sizeable deck deficiencies. Being well-prepared and sideboarding attentively and creatively thus will noticeably improve your chances!

What follows now is the second part of this entry, wherein I explain to my German-speaking readers my decision to shift the majority of my blogging activities back from 00zero to my old blog Zeromagic.

 

 

Meine Rückkehr zu Zeromagic

Dies ist mein letzter englischsprachiger Blogeintrag auf 00zero, und damit möglicherweise mein letzter Eintrag hier überhaupt oder zumindest für lange Zeit (okay, ich werde sicherlich noch eine Ankündigung verfassen, wenn mein Umzug zurück zu Zeromagic vollzogen ist und dort mein erster neuer Artikel erscheint). Der hauptsächliche Grund dafür ist, dass sich meine Erwartungen nach dem Wechsel zu diesem von MagicBlogs gehosteten Blog nicht erfüllt haben.

Bevor ich darauf näher eingehe, muss ich wohl klarstellen, dass ich streng genommen nicht wirklich von Zeromagic hierher umgezogen war, sondern dass ich ursprünglich beabsichtigt hatte, das Bloggen über Magic generell einzustellen, und Zeromagic deswegen schloss; dass ich jedoch schon bald feststellte, dass ich nicht einfach komplett mit dem Schreiben über mein zweitliebstes Hobby aufhören konnte, und dann einen Neuanfang hier bei 00Zero machte. (Dieser wurde dann ebenfalls recht bald durch meine Tätigkeit als Redakteur für das nun nicht mehr existierende Magic Universe für längere Zeit unterbrochen, aber das ist noch einmal ein anderes, trauriges Thema.)

Im Wesentlichen ist mein Abschied von Zeromagic aus heutiger Sicht eine Fehlentscheidung gewesen, die darauf beruhte, dass ich mein Mitteilungsbedürfnis in Sachen Magic unterschätzte. Dass ich dann etwas später stattdessen hier auf 00zero neu begann, mag ein wenig mit dem Unwillen zu tun gehabt haben, mir diesen Fehler einzugestehen, aber letztlich erscheinen mir meine Gründe dafür auch in der Rückschau noch sinnvoll: Ich wollte hauptsächlich den Druck von mir nehmen, häufig und regelmäßig veröffentlichen zu müssen, um mein Publikum zu behalten. Weiterhin wollte ich meinen Teil dazu beitragen, MagicBlogs zu unterstützen, denn diese Seite war im Endeffekt die letzte Bastion der deutschsprachigen Magic-Community im Internet mit integrativer Funktion (noch einmal: der Community, nicht einer Community inmitten einer fragmentierten Szene). Schließlich erhoffte ich mir natürlich auch, mir hier eine neue Leserschaft erschließen zu können.

Der erste dieser Punkte war mir dabei der wichtigste gewesen. Ich kam mit der expliziten Intention hierher, nur ein Blogger unter vielen zu sein, und eben nicht mehr ein Alleinunterhalter. Wenn ich einmal ein paar Wochen lang mit Veröffentlichungen pausieren würde ging ich davon aus, dass trotzdem in dieser Zeit ausreichend Content veröffentlicht werden würde, und dass die Seite MagicBlogs kontinuierlich Besucher anzog, ob ich nun gerade aktiv war oder nicht.

In diesem Licht muss auch meine damalige Entscheidung verstanden werden, weiterhin (hauptsächlich) auf Englisch zu schreiben, wie ich es bereits längere Zeit auf Zeromagic praktiziert hatte, obgleich MagicBlogs sich primär der Förderung deutschprachigen Contents verschrieben hatte. (Und selbstverständlich hatte ich Ormus im Vorhinein gefragt, ob dass für ihn in Ordnung ginge!) Ich erwartete, dass ich damit eine Ausnahme unter den MagicBlogs-Schreibern darstellen würde; dass ich einen Beitrag zur Vielfalt des Angebots der Seite lieferte.

Nun, die Dinge sind leider völlig anders gekommen. Unterdessen erscheinen hier seit Monaten neben meinen Einträgen nur noch News-Artikel. Ich bin nicht etwa ein Blogger auf MagicBlogs, ich bin der Blogger. Das ist absolut das Gegenteil von dem, was ich mir gewünscht hatte! Auch das kürzlich erfolgte Update der Seite stellte offensichtlich keine Initialzündung dar, wie ich es mir erhofft hatte. (Oder zumindest hatte ich versucht, mir diese Hoffnung einzureden…)

Dementsprechend lastet auf mir unterdessen längst wieder der gleiche Druck zur regelmäßigen Veröffentlichung wie einst auf Zeromagic. Der Unterschied ist lediglich, dass mein aktuelles Blog eigentlich gar nicht wirklich mein Blog ist, auch wenn Ormus sich natürlich große Mühe gibt, ein zuvorkommender und hilfreicher Gastgeber zu sein.

Als Konsequenz ist damit auch der Content auf MagicBlogs jetzt zu ca. 50% englisch (und vor der Preview-Saison war dieser Anteil noch einmal deutlich größer). Das war niemals der Sinn der Sache! Nun kann man argumentieren, englischsprachiger Content sei besser als gar kein Content, aber ich denke nicht, dass diese Argumentation noch gültig ist, wenn sich der Charakter der Seite grundlegend ändert. Der Untertitel von MagicBlogs lautet immer noch „Deutsche Magic Blogs“ – aber der einzige, allgegenwärtige Blogger verfasst seine Einträge auf englisch? Das passt nicht mehr. (Und nein, ich werde nicht wieder auf deutsch bloggen – das würde auch die anderen, größeren Probleme nicht lösen.)

Meine Hoffnung auf ein neues, größeres Publikum hat sich ebenfalls nicht erfüllt. Von Anfang an waren meine Klickzahlen auf 00zero schlechter, als sie es bei Zeromagic gewesen waren, und unterdessen sind sie selbst bei meinen beliebtesten Artikeln bestenfalls untermittelprächtig. Tatsächlich lässt sich abschätzen, dass die Anzahl meiner Leser (eine weit kleinere Zahl als die Klickzahlen) sich tief im zweistelligen Bereich befindet, wahrscheinlich sogar im tiefen zweistelligen Bereich. Wer immer der Ansicht ist, dass sein Besuch auf meiner Seite mir Anreiz genug sein müsse, damit ich weiter veröffentliche, und dass Feedback in Kommentaren daher nicht notwendig sei, dem sei gesagt, dass die bloßen Statistiken eine unüberhörbare Aufforderung darstellen, mit dieser Zeitverschwendung endlich aufzuhören!

Besonders frustrierend ist übrigens, wie gründlich die Anzahl der Klicks auf 00zero zurückgeht, wenn mein jüngster Eintrag dort mehr als ein paar Tage alt ist. Dieser tägliche Grundstrom an Besuchern ist weniger als doppelt so hoch wie der auf Zeromagic – und das ist seit knapp drei Jahren geschlossen! Nun war es zwar niemals mein Ziel gewesen, 00zero einfach als Ersatz für Zeromagic zu etablieren, aber nachdem es sich ja nun ergeben hat, dass ich effektiv meine Aktivitäten lediglich verlagert habe anstatt sie qualitativ zu ändern, muss ich konstatieren, dass dies auch unter dem Gesichtspunkt der Besucherzahlen ein kompletter Flop ist.

All dies führe ich letztlich aber nur an um zu erläutern, weswegen es keinen Vorteil mehr für mich bietet, 00zero an Stelle von Zeromagic weiterzuführen. Der einzige wirklich relevante Grund für meine Entscheidung jedoch ist, dass ich auf MagicBlogs kein Teil einer Blog-Community bin, wie ich es gehofft hatte, und dass ich hier nicht den Alleinunterhalter spielen möchte – das kann und will ich – wenn überhaupt – stattdessen auf meinem eigenen Blog tun. Wie aktiv ich dort wieder sein werde, hängt dabei wie immer von meiner aktuellen Motivation ab (die ebenfalls wie immer stark von Eurem Feedback beeinflusst werden wird).

Ach ja, einen Punkt gibt es noch anzusprechen, nämlich meinen Beweggrund MagicBlogs und damit Ormus zu unterstützen. Das habe bzw. hätte ich sehr gerne getan, denn dieses Projekt ist äußerst lobenswert und mit viel Fleiß und Liebe betreut, aber unterdessen bin ich mir tatsächlich nicht sicher, wie viel ich als Blogger wirklich dazu beigetragen habe. Wie gesagt, die Klickzahlen meiner Einträge sind vergleichsweise unspektakulär, und die effektive Verenglischung der Seite ist vermutlich eher kontraproduktiv. Ich hoffe, dass Ormus nicht trotzdem allzu schlimm enttäuscht ist, und ich möchte ihm an dieser Stelle ausdrücklich dafür danken, wie er sich um 00zero und mich bislang gekümmert hat!

Was allerdings die Gesamt-Community angeht – nun, da muss ich vermeiden, mich allzu sehr zu wiederholen, denn zu diesem Thema habe ich mich bereits mehrfach ausführlich geäußert: Dieses Pferd ist tot, und dies bereits deutlich länger, als ich es wahrhaben wollte. Der Rückgang nicht-Pischnerscher Blogaktivität bei MagicBlogs auf den absoluten Nullpunkt macht es jedoch erneut unübersehbar. Hier gibt es einfach nichts mehr zu unterstützen.

Ich werde 00zero allerdings nicht schließen, so wie ich es mit Zeromagic getan habe. Tatsächlich werde ich dieses Blog weiterhin für deutschsprachige Einträge zu Magic-Themen nutzen, falls – FALLS! – ich solche in Zukunft verfassen sollte. Hier liegt natürlich der Hase im Pfeffer: Der einzige Grund, den ich sehe, über Magic auf deutsch zu bloggen, wäre wenn ich ein Thema behandeln würde, welches speziell die deutsch(sprachig)e Community betrifft. ABER DIE GIBT ES BLÖDERWEISE JA NICHT MEHR! Diesen Umstand selbst habe ich häufig genug thematisiert – also was gäbe es noch zu sagen? Nun, wenn mir da doch noch etwas einfällt, dann steht 00zero als Bühne dafür weiterhin bereit. Alle, die sich für meine Gedanken zu Magic-Strategie, Kartendesign und selbstentworfenen Limited-Umgebungen interessieren, werden mir aber hoffentlich in der Zwischenzeit zurück zu Zeromagic folgen!

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Fixing Old Cards: Arabian Nights Red

(This is a link to the previous installment of this series. Chain clicks to find them all.)

Due to the positive feedback for this series (yes, that really makes all the difference!), I will keep it up at least a little longer. However, I am considering a more fundamental change to my blogging activities which would affect fixing cards as well, but that is still in the earliest phase of consideration.

Ali from Cairo

Ali from Cairo Original

So, what we have here is an especially terrible card name, even if you accept that it references a literal figure from an earth-based story. It just means „an Ali from the story who is not Ali Baba, and about whom we do not know enough to differentiate him other than by mentioning that he stems from Cairo, which Ali Baba doesn’t, as you should realize now if you weren’t aware of it before“.

The card is supposed to play up the fact that this Ali had been rather fortunate in his life, although skimming over the story I did not find a situation where he had a near escape from death, just that he was a very successful merchant who started out with nothing (but pretended to be rich), borrowing some money and making enough profit with that to pay back his loans easily soon, while building up his business.

Thus, this card’s ability fails on all fronts: It does not really describe the character it portrays; it actually does not even protect Ali himself, but the player; and it has no business being in Red at all (it’s clearly white, as you can see on Worship). Oh, and then I’m not a fan of that kind of ability in general…

When I redid Ali’s design, I had in mind that he was a merchant, and that he also was a bit of a trickster, able to turn a bad situation he was in into a favorable one for him. I found a fitting quote in the story, and it all came together.

My design:

Ali from Cairo

Desert Nomads

Desert Nomads Original

When I had first thought about that card, I had just assumed I would give it protection from lands or something similar, since referencing a single card is just too narrow a design (and no modern expansion would feature any utility land at a rarity more frequent than common anymore). But then I created my version of Desert – and protection does not even help against that! Well, I had put myself into a bind there, and needed to find a different way to counter that land’s effect on these nomads. As it turned out, the simplest solution worked well enough. Note that I consciously forewent any kind of landwalk, which is a problematic ability in limited (that’s not to say it’s great in constructed).

My design:

Desert Nomads

Ydwen Efreet

Ydwen Efreet Original

This card is named after a friend of Richard Garfield, Wendy, who married another friend of him, Jamie – so now you also know where the name Mijae Djinn comes from!

I do not like the following things about this design: First of all, the coin flip, which I not only despise in general but is also especially problematic here because of timing issues. Then, the ability is kinda irrelevant, since red decks will gladly just attack with their 3/6 creature for three mana. I’m also not a fan of triple-mana costs unless there is a good reason for them, which I do not spot here.

I decided to stay away from a design aimed at constructed, and instead create a card which would play interestingly in limited. My version of the Efreet actually even entices you to leave it back on blocking duty – of course, it might get bounced, but if that doesn’t happen (and chances are good that it won’t), your opponent just attacked into a 3/6 blocker. Still, the ability is a real disadvantage, especially when playing against evasion creatures, but then again, the stats of my version are still a bit over the curve in limited, so he should be worth the risk.

My design:

Ydwen Efreet

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Kamigawa Remastered

10e_chk_island_pilcerova3_lg

 

This is a followup to my article All that was wrong with Kamigawa. Therein, I claimed that this setting was not so much doomed to be a failure from its very conception, but instead just misdesigned and, most of all, terribly developed. To underscore this, I put in the effort to design a remastered version of Kamigawa block, following the precedent Wizards did set with Tempest Remastered. While obviously I could not address all the issues Kamigawa had this way, I feel it’s surprising how much more fun this environment looks if you just reduce its contents to the better designs (and shuffle a few rarities around). Honestly, I believe that my Kamigawa Remastered would even play better than the lukewarm received Tempest Remastered, because the structural issues of that ancient, venerable environment were actually greater, even though its contributing sets were far more liked!

When crunching numbers for my Kamigawa Remastered set, I adhered somewhat closely to existing formulas, only fudging a little with the rares and mythic rares, because there was no real reason not to – Tempest Remasterd never got printed, only published on Magic Online, so its numbers did not need to add up in a way conforming to printsheets. I’m not even sure that is generally still a concern nowadays, but I am aware that with the usual 53-15 distribution of rares and mythic rares in big sets, you get to print two copies of each rare and one of each mythic rare on that good old 11*11 printsheet which used to dictate set sizes and rarity distributions in Magic’s early era.

If that would ever become a real issue, I certainly could cut nine cards from among the rares and mythic rares in my Kamigawa Remastered set, but since it will almost assuredly never be, I allowed myself to deviate a little from that formula for symmetry reasons, while of course still observing the rule that the frequency with which a specific mythic rare shows up should be (very closely to) half of that with which a specific rare shows up, assuming that still every eighth rare will be replaced by a mythic rare in booster packs. This is how I got to my 60-17 distribution that fulfills this condition just as well as 53-15 does.

Umezawa's JitteSo, my set has 101 commons, 80 uncommons, 60 rares and 17 mythic rares. With the commons and uncommons, I still had to cut quite a bit of decent stuff in some colors (especially Green), while already running rather thin on others (namely Blue), and this numbers happened not only to be the usual ones, but also the best solution overall for this set. A general note about my choices: The large majority of cards is in there to enhance limited play (the designated main purpose of my set, just like with Tempest Remeastered) and to focus on recognizable aspects of the original environment (which were worth being brought back), but a few rares and mythic rares I put in there as „value“ cards – that is, cards people would be happy to open and which could drive interest into the set in addition to its appeal for drafting. (I had to do a little research here, since I’m not too familar with MTGO singles prices, especially from older sets, and there were a few cards which surprised me.) One card a thought I just had to include, even though it would have ruined nearly every limited game when it was cast, was Umezawa’s Jitte, but when I looked it up I realized with much relief that it is actually not that valuable, and could be left off my list.

Not all themes or good single designs made it, although I managed to include most of them, especially at lower rarities – the percentage of utter trash in the original expansions was so large that I had been able to cut down the number of candidates to an already reasonably-looking number after the first pass. Possibly the most glaring ommission are the common zuberas, and (relatedly) Devouring Greed. The set just had enough power-1-creatures without them, and the very linear strategy making the best use of them wouldn’t have made for good gameplay. In Modern Masters 2015, the overall density of spirits had been lower, while at the same time the overall power level of decks was much higher, so Devouring Greed was acceptable there, but it would not have been in Kamigawa Remastered. Waxmane Baku fell to the wayside for the same reason, although I wasn’t too keen on that cycle in general, since I wanted to cut down on the number of counters used in games.

Dampen ThoughtsThe other big omission was Dampen Thought. If you weren’t around at that time: This instant was to triple Champions of Kamigawa draft what Spider Spawning was to triple Innistrad draft – a build-around uncommon leading to a very unique deck which was really hard to interact with. Many people call that „fun“, while I call it „shitty gameplay“. I did not only cull that card to avoid those non-interactive games, though: Just like Waxmane Baku it had already been strong when you had to struggle to get enough playable cards synergizing with it, but in a set with plenty of such playables it would have been repressively overpowered.

Another theme that had to be adjusted for similar reasons is soulshift, whose creatures mostly moved from common to uncommon. Spiritcraft is now a bit less unevenly spread over the colors, which required a few unexpected cuts (for example, Elder Pine of Jukai lost out in the crunch), and splice onto arcane should play an important part in the environment. Samurai and snake tribal are now on much more equal footing with other themes, and ogre/demon synergies should work more reliable as well. I also moved a few more legendary creatures down to uncommon, to finally make that theme relevant. Ninjas will show up quite frequently (but not too frequently). Soratami, Hondens, Genjus and spirit dragons are all still there at rarities which make sense, the more playable of those weird equipments have made it, and each color got at least one cool flip card.

One thing I did was to adjust the set’s removal – it’s important that there’s plenty of it, so I upped its frequency, but the original rarities didn’t always check out. Even more important was to give each color a solid creature base, which proved a bit tougher – the overall quality mostly works out, I believe, but I could not prevent a noticeable weakness of Red in the lategame, and a similar weakness of Blue in the earlygame. However, in 2-color-decks one should be able to find balanced decks with those colors as well.

Kodama's ReachThat reminds me of a third big omission: Green manafixing, specifically via Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama’s Reach. Now, if you follow my thoughts on cube-building, you know that I do not like Green being the color enabling you to play other colors, but I did not design Kamigawa Remastered in the way I design one of my Next Level Cubes. The thing is just – these cards are too good in an environment which features practically no other fixing (yes, those lands are just unplayable), forcing non-green drafters to restrict themselves to two colors, and even heavily encouraging them to priorize one of those. I had them at uncommon for that reason, so that they enabled at least a buildaround multicolor archetype, but I realized they still would have made it too easy to play the best-of splice deck while ramping you towards big legendary creatures and incidentally allowing you to use all Hondens. Also, Green was the one color which was absolutely crammed with solid designs (compared to the other colors), and something had to go. In the end, it wasn’t a tough choice.

You might want to compare my design decisions with the remarks I made towards specific mechanics in my previous article. Obviously, I couldn’t get rid of everything I considered a mistake – Kamigawa Remastered is still roughly 50/50 about spirits and non-spirits, and I embraced slice onto arcane instead of cutting it – but the most glaring issues should be solved. I was a bit concerned that without the handsize matters theme Saviors of Kamigawa might not contribute much, but while it certainly suffered somewhat, there are still many cards from that expansion in my set.

A file with the complete list of my set is at the end of this entry.

Commons, Teil 1:

Commons Teil 1

Commons, Teil 2:

Commons Teil 2

Commons, Teil 3:

Commons Teil 3

Uncommons, Teil 1:

Uncommons Teil 1

Uncommons, Teil 2:

Uncommons Teil 2

Rares, Teil 1:

Rares Teil 1

Rares, Teil 2:

Rares Teil 2

Mythic Rares:

Mythic Rares

 

Die XLS-Datei:

Kamigawa Remastered

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Fixing Old Cards: Arabian Nights Blue

(This is a link to the previous installment of this series. Chain clicks to find them all.)

I held this entry back for a few days, because Ormus (the site’s admin) asked me to, so that his worldwide exclusive preview content for Shadows over Innistrad would not get, well, overshadowed, I guess…

 

Flying Men

Flying Men Original

To be honest, I like even filler cards in limited to be just a tad more powerful than this, but the 1/1 flyer for 1 mana with no strings attached can be perfectly serviceable in the right environment, so I didn’t feel compelled to do a redesign here. It would be nice, though, if this human sported a class-based creature type, too – wizard, warrior or even rogue would do.

 

Merchant Ship

Merchant Ship Original

Incredibly weak, featuring the terrible islandhome ability (not spelled out yet on the card, though, and not in its Oracle wording since that ability has been discontinued), and violating the color pie by giving Blue lifegain: I definitely had to go back to the drawboard for this card. Luckily, the concept of trading can be described in game terms in a very blue way.

My design:

Merchant Ship

 

Old Man of the Sea

Old Man of the Sea Original

That card is just perfect – one of my favorite designs from Arabian Nights! Just like with Juzam Djinn, it’s only the price tag which keeps this creature out of my Limited Card Pool.

 

Serendib Djinn

Serendib Djinn Original

Yes, I get it, djinns are dangerous; and I actually miss that kind of design in the modern age of undercosted all-upside creatures; but somehow this card doesn’t click with me. Why does it want me to play with non-islands? Additionally, I feel that such a big disadvantage should be possible to be cheated: On the basic level, you get a creature which might kill your opponent fast, but if it fails, it will lose you the game – so far, so good. I miss a second level, though, where you can use another card to negate its downside – something like Spirit Link, for instance. Also, the card plays just more interestingly if its controller has a choice each turn – do they value that land higher than preserving their life total? With the original card, you just play it and then watch it win the game either for you or your opponent. My design feels more like you are still playing the game yourself, even if you have to navigate some very tough decisions.

One final consideration was if this kind of creature belongs in Blue at all. Normally, Black and Red are designated for such a creature concept. But if an expansion has a specific theme, it is okay if the colors bend a little to acommodate it; and dangerous, powerful djinns were very much the main theme of Arabian Nights. Because of this, creatures damaging their controller are fine here in every color except White in my book (and white creatures could get a comparable, different disadvantage instead).

My design:

Serendib Djinn

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All that was wrong with Kamigawa

I’ll try out a few random one-shot articles where I talk about various design topics, to see if they meet interest, and to break the routine of my fixing cards series (slowing it down, obviously, but also making it more likely that I’ll keep going). These are supposed to be on the short end of the blog entry spectrum, but you know me…

 

That which was taken

 

Kamigawa is infamous for being the least liked Magic block since Wizards do systematic research on that topic. According to them, both the mechanics and the setting scored extremely low on the popularity scale.

I believe that not everything about Kamigawa was bad, and that in fact the negative hype led to a downward spiral which took all elements of its design with it. Well-designed mechanics will be despised if development fails to develop cool cards on a good power level with them. (Note how much better devotion was received than chroma.) Cool setting elements will be associated with failed mechanics, especially if they are alien to the average customer. (However, alien elements can become beloved if they are seen on well-designed cards – take myr as an example.)

While Kamigawa did a lot of things wrong – mostly on the mechanical side in my opinion – it also featured many interesting concepts that will probably never be revisited, which makes me sad. In this entry, I will talk about those bad things which dragged the good stuff down with them.

 

1. The 50/50 split between spirits/arcane and the mundane world

Clash of RealitiesThe most fundamental problem comes first. The war between mortals and spirits is the basic story behind the setting, and it is a cool idea, but it was a mistake to represent it by splitting the block in half. Weird-looking spirits doing weird things are cool, but giving them 50% of the block overrepresents them. The issues with this are manifold:

a) Too much weirdness strains the public’s willingness to absorb it and takes away from its uniqueness. That issue can be overcome, as the eldrazi showed us, but this needs extra effort – and actually, there was already some backlash aginst the eldrazi theme, especially with Battle for Zendikar.

b) A lot of weirdness means also a need for a lot of weird mechanics, and that is both difficult and not too much design space (well, at least for somehow reasonable design).

c) While the spirit world is cool, filling half the the block with it took away too much space from tropes which are even cooler, and at the same time easier to relate to. Yes, I’m talking about samurais, and especially ninjas!

d) Putting too much of a theme into a set means that things which care about that theme have to be toned down so that they do not totally dominate limited. This, on the other hand, means that these synergies will be too weak for constructed, which is exactly what happened.

I know the all-out two-sided war over a world is a time-honored fantasy trope, and we seem to get it every second year or so in the Magic storyline (I’m really sick of this, by the way!), but here less would have been more. Konda’s war against the heavens should just have been one conflict among many – there are certainly enough interesting factions on Kamigawa who could be at odds with each other (nezumi, oni and soratami come to mind as possible villains).

2. Making legendary matters a theme

Honor-Worn ShakuIt was Rosewater himself who coined the phrase „if your theme isn’t at common, it isn’t your theme“, and yet Kamigawa happened. No, making every single rare creature legendary was not nearly sufficient for legends to show up often enough in limited, and putting a few at uncommon didn’t make things much better. To the contrary, upping the legend count as massively as Wizards did just took away from the uniqueness of that supertype – not only because of the quantity itself, but also because there necessarily had to be a high number of medicore legendary creatures that way. The whole concept of „legendary tribal“ was silly and doomed from the beginning, and while it wasn’t the biggest mistake the designers made, it was probably the worst, since it should have been glaringly obvious!

3. Factoring the subtype arcane into cards‘ mana costs

Terashi's CryThis is a straight up consequence of giving the spirit world too much space in the block: Since so many cards cared about the quality arcane, it had to be factored in when costing spells, producing many cards which looked unattractive from the very beginning, and will forever be unattractive out of their original context. The general perception that arcane was just something which made sorceries and instants worse was obviously instrumental in making people hate both the mechanic and the theme it was attached to.

 

 

4. General low power level of the cards

Deathcurse OgreEven when accounting for specific reasons I already mentioned, the overall power level of Kamigawa was very low. That was partly because Mirrodin block had been so absurdly powerful, and showcases the danger of power creep excellently: Not only might Wizards have overreacted when cutting back on cards‘ strength in Kamigawa; the public perception of them was even worse than they deserved, since Mirrodin was the standard by which everyone now measured power level.

But there is more: Paying for the mistakes of the previous block does not explain why there were so many abysmal cards at common in those sets. Kamigawa flashback drafts just reminded me how terrible that block was for drafting – a typical Champions of Kamigawa booster seems like it is made up of 50% unplayables! While I can understand the reasons to weaken some types of cards (spirits & arcane), I have no idea why additionally gems like Vigilance, Deathcurse Ogre or Akki Rockspeaker had to be omnipresent, and why 28 out of 63 common creatures had a power of 1 or less! Constituting a terrible limited environment was yet another reason that people hated Kamigawa.

5. Double-mana costs

Wicked AkubaThere seems to be a larger than usual amount of spells which cost two or more of one color of mana, especially at lower costs. That was another factor which made Kamigawa limited awkward, and it also contributed to the low impact that block had on constructed. I suppose that was yet another backlash caused by the previous block, Mirrodin, with its plethora of powerful colorless cards.

 

 

 

 

6. The handsize matters theme in Saviors of Kamigawa

Akki UnderlingThe worst way to finish an already miserably designed/developed block was certainly to introduce yet another silly, terribly playing mechanic in its third set! Incentives to keep cards in your hand instead of playing them feel bad, and doing so actually is bad most of the time, which in turn means that cards which require you to have a large handsize are bad. Of course, there was the occasional swingy blowout from cards with sweep, but that was neither great gameplay either, nor did it feel especially good to return a large swath of your lands to your hand.

The last impression is arguably more important than the first impression, and Saviors had all the lows of Champions, without the one really cool thing Betrayers had introduced (ninjas!), plus an additional big stinker as its figurehead.

7. Splice onto arcane

Hundred-Talon StrikeWhile that mechanic certainly has its fans, it just did not work well enough in limited (and no, enabling one „fun“ non-interactive archetype in triple Champions draft does not mean it worked well!) to justify its complexity, its parasitism, the design constraints it put on all arcane spells, and its lack of usefulness in constructed (yeah, I know that some modern storm decks like to splice one Desperate Ritual on another, but that’s about it). Wizards spent a lot more complexity points on splice than it was worth.

 

 

 

8. Samurais sucked

Numai OutcastBig time – but why? Although I hold that the fundamental problem of Kamigawa stems from its basic design idea (see above), I believe that it was mostly development who dropped the ball there, again and again. Even in limited, the majority of samurais was mediocre or outright terrible, and constructed level potential was few and far between at best. Adding insult to injury to casual players was that Samurai of the Pale Curtain, the designated bread-and-butter creature of samurai decks, even shut down the samurai equipment Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho! After well over a decade, this still tilts me…

Samurais should have been one of the two easy homerun tropes in that setting, and Wizards managed to blow both of them:

9. Way too few ninjas

Ninja of the Deep HoursThe good news is that the ninja mechanic, ninjutsu, was actually really cool, and so were several ninja cards which featured it. The bad news is that Kamigawa block had a total of only eight ninjas (all in Betrayers). I can see that too much ninjutsu might have been an issue, but there was no good reason to not give ninjas more than one associated ability – they are really versatile, after all!

 

 

 

 

10. Flip cards

Kitsune MysticThe mechanic itself isn’t bad at all, but its visual representation just didn’t work out. That many of the desings were complicated, weird and/or overpowered didn’t help the matter much, although there are a few successful exceptions. However, with a complexity investment like this, the percentage of hits wasn’t high enough.

 

 

 

 

 

11. Unplayable dual lands

Cloudcrest LakeWe already knew from Tempest, where that cycle had been printed for the first time (not counting the even more terrible Ice Age cycle which preceded it), that these lands sucked big time, even in limited. Yet, Wizards saw fit to reprint a cycle of lands which everyone already knew was trash. Noone wants manafixing that is even too bad for limited. If you put a cycle like that in the uncommon slot of a set, you shouldn’t be surprised if that heavily contributes to giving this set a bad reputation.

 

 

 

12. Too many different counters

Sensei Golden-TailSo, you put ki counters on these creatures, and divinity counters on those, and a training counter here and a devotion counter there, and this one has a +1/+1 counter from Otherworldly JourneyWhat the…? Once again, a terrible use of complexity points, and I have no idea how all those counter-using creatures got through any playtest sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

Those were the major offenders, but while I’m at it, I’ll list a few more specific negative things which aren’t completely covered by the above:

13. Deceivers

Cruel DeceiverThat is one of those weird mechanics designed for spirits. It plays fiddly and offers too little reward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Zuberas

Silent-Chant ZuberaThose weren’t a terrible idea to start with, but also didn’t work out great. For one thing, this isn’t a concept which lends itself to serious constructed decks, so it’s mostly depending on pulling its weight in limited. However, zuberas essentially only worked in triple Champions draft, and they were kind of a fringe strategy even there. Without a dedicated draft approach, they were mediocre at best and utterly unplayable (the white one, as with so many cycles where White gets the lifegain effect) at worst. That this draft approach was mostly an all-in strategy using Devouring Greed was an additional issue. Lastly, in an environment filled to the brim with spirit tribal, adding zubera tribal as kind of a subset didn’t feel very elegant. This was another weird mechanic necessitated by the large number of spirits in this block, and while it isn’t the worst, I think it’s still clearly below what design should aim for.

15. Myojin

Myojin of Life's WebAgain, the concept isn’t necessarily bad, but those were just uncastable, and cheating them onto the battlefield somehow was pointless. A complete cycle of very expensive creatures should not be a disappointment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

16. Star Wars cards

Pious KitsuneOkay, I need to explain this one: Among the first wave of trading card games following in the wake of Magic’s success was Star Wars. I don’t remember too much of its gameplay, but one bad thing about it stood out: There were several commons which were only useful when you combined them with a card representing one of the movie’s main characters – for example, Luke Skywalker. Obviously, Luke’s card was rare, though… That felt terrible and just like the clumsy moneygrab attempt it was.

Admittedly, it’s not nearly that bad with Kamigawa, and essentially only pertains to Pious Kitsune and Sift through Sands, but it always left a bad taste in my mouth whenever I saw a copy of that unplayable fox cleric, and I still cringe today when I stumble upon it.

17. Random land sacrifice theme

Akki Blizzard-HerderA couple of red cards allowed you to sacrifice lands, caused both players to sacrifice a land, or received a bonus when you lost a land. No one knows why – the theme seems completely isolated and utterly underdeveloped, and half of those cards are nearly 100% unplayable everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

18. Umezawa’s Jitte

Umezawa's JitteYes, it’s one single card, but whenever a card needs to be banned in modern it probably means that it made block constructed and standard little fun to play. (Also, as a colorless rare from a small set, it even showed up way too often in limited decks.) There are exceptions (like Preordain or Treasure Cruise), but Umezawa’s Jitte most certainly wasn’t one of those.

 

 

 

 

19. One with Nothing

One with NothingOne with Nothing is again a single card, and it even got played in very narrow exceptional circumstances, but there was a lesson for Wizards to learn: If you feel – for whatever reason – the desire to make an obviously incredibly horrible card, do not put it in a block which is already on an extremely low power level, or players will remember it not as a puzzling curiosity, but merely the low point of an overall terrible block.

(Better yet, do not make such cards in the first place! It’s like spitting in the face of the customer who opens a booster containing this as the rare. While Wizards are in general not really hiding their contempt for us customers as the addicts we are, this was a little too obvious.)

 

To summarize the most important points: If we should ever return to Kamigawa (which unfortunately seems really unlikely, because the hole Wizards dug themselves into when they used that setting the first time is so deep), a good power level for constructed and good limited play are essential. The legendary theme needs to be largely dropped, and handsize matters should not return at all. Arcane spells should not be overcosted because of their „tribal“ synergies, and splice should not get reprinted. The focus on samurais and ninjas has to be a lot stronger.

Let me end this article with a few things which are worth being brought back (in addition to the great setting), as well as some which I don’t think need to return, but at least weren’t mistakes in the first place:

Should return:

Forked-Branch GaramiSpiritcraft – (triggering off spirits and arcane spells) it was fun and played well, at least with those cards which weren’t just too weak.
Soulshift – cool, interesting, unique and potentially powerful.
Ninjas – in higher numbers, obviously! Also, ninjutsu specifically.
Samurais – not necessarily in higher numbers, but with better gameplay. Bushido is a great start.
Snake tribal – I still don’t know what they were thinking when they introduced „naga“ in Khans of Tarkir… Snakes are cool! Also, keeping things tapped for a turn plays okay as a signature mechanic.
Soratami – not all those designs were great, but I don’t think there’s a fundamental problem with this mechanic. Would go well with a companion mechanic like, you know, landfall for example…
Oni – the ogre/demon connection was a cool idea. It’s just that most designs using it sucked.
Rats – More rats tribal! What’s not to like?
Channel – the mechanic itself is a bit broad, but that also means that it has a ton of design space, and restricting it to spirits would make sense. (Also, works well with soulshift, obviously.)
Hondens – were great!

Could return:

Genju of the FallsGenjus – I’m not their biggest fan, but they were well-received and could be brought back, maybe with a twist.
Eternal mana – the kind which stays in your pool. I don’t like it personally, but it has fans and shouldn’t be too problematic.
Glasskites – Kira, Great Glass-Spinner might be too strong for a reprint, but semi-shroud in itself has potential. (But please don’t make it semi-hexproof instead!)
Bounce creatures – like Eiganjo Free-Riders. I’m not sure how this mechanic is connected flavorwise to Kamigawa, but it is fine and tends to have a lot of synergy with other mechanics.

 

 

Should not return:

Blazing ShoalShoals – They were kinda popular, but free spells are always problematic.
Epic spells – some people liked them, but they don’t play that great and have little good design space.
Exiling spells – Scour etc. They weren’t bad, but they were already a rehash from Urza’s Destiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give Kamigawa a second chance!

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Fixing Old Cards: Arabian Nights Green

(This is a link to the previous installment of this series. Chain clicks to find them all.)

I’ll very probably keep going until I have finished Arabian Nights, but I’m yet undecided if I should proceed to Antiquities afterwards.

 

Drop of Honey

Drop of Honey Original

While I do not especially like this card concept, it works under its current Oracle wording. The issue, however, is that this is not a green effect. It has been reprinted in White as Porphyry Nodes, but since Planar Chaos was explicitly about colorshifting cards from their core color identity to a fringe color identity, it is possible that Wizards do not consider this effect truly white either – if so, my best guess would be that it’s black.

Anyway, my task was to find a similar card concept which works both in Green and with the card name (which is referring to a story from One Thousand and One Nights, where a drop of honey attracts a couple of flies, who then attract a bird eating them, who attracts a cat catching it, and so on, until the whole region is at war). Well, we know Green allows you to destroy creatures if your own creatures are somehow involved, so this wasn’t too hard.

My design:

Drop of Honey

 

Ifh-Biff Efreet

Ifh-Biff Efreet Original

This card showcases very well how different (and less precisely defined) the color pie – which didn’t have that name then – was in Magic’s early days. Direct damage in Green is an absolute no-go today, and Green isn’t supposed to get flying creatures with any regularity either (although I strongly disagree with this philosophy). Also, the Efreet is way too powerful if you’re ahead, and even if not, way too suppressive towards opposing flying creatures. If an opponent actually has access to green mana, however, there are situations where it is flat out unplayable or outright killing you in short order if already on the battlefield, which is just too much risk for a good design. Lastly, I really do not like permanents whose abilities can be activated by all players.

Identifying its core aspects, this card is meant to be an efficient aggressive creature doing double duty as a weapon against flyers, whose deployment poses a significant risk to its controller (a prevalent theme in Arabian Nights). I just had to measure out these aspects correctly for a well-balanced limited creature.

My design:

Ifh-Biff Efreet

 

Singing Tree

Singing Tree Original

Really, isn’t this one of the most terrible artworks ever? It might do for a basic Forest – but where is a singing tree in here?

That issue aside, this card is just unattractive even in limited. Also, there are already more than enough cards in Arabian Nights which impede flyers, and the flavor here doesn’t explain this mechanic. Thus, I decided to create a powerful rare with a more generally useful ability instead – in fact, so powerful that I had to make this tree legendary to preclude having two of them on the battlefield!

My design:

Singing Tree

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Some winning OOB draft decks

No, this doesn’t mean that my „fixing cards“ series has already ended. I just wanted to uphold the tradition of posting decks which won me drafts, and since the format isn’t exactly brand new anymore, it’s time now.

I haven’t drafted nearly as much as I wanted during the last months due to real life reasons, but I did watch a boatload of videos and streams to confirm my outlook on the environment. To make this short: It is slow, certainly slower than triple Battle for Zendikar draft, and possibly the slowest since the infamous and unparalleled Magic 2014. Note, though, that „slow“ does not mean that you can ignore the existence of aggressive decks and completetly eschew early defense – it just means that defensive decks are generally favored over aggressive ones, and that you need to address the lategame and boardstall situations more extensively than in fast formats, which are mainly about not falling back early and winning races.

I usually, although not always, choose to draw in this format. Making your land drops is very important, since your higher mana slots will be well-filled, and mulligans hurt – the new mulligan rule notwithstanding – since you need both your lands and your spells. Also, most decks stretch their mana bases quite a bit (which makes sense, because you prefer power over consistency a little more in slower formats), and the „sixth color“ Grey compounds this. Being on the draw allows you to keep more 7-card-hands (or rather, makes bad but necessary keeps a little less bad – I’m not actually sure how often I would mulligan a hand on the play which I would keep on the draw).

If you look closely at my winning decks, you will probably notice a trend. (Okay, you don’t need to look THAT closely.) I assure you that most of the six other decks I drafted looked differently – but then again, those went all only 2-1 each, so there’s that…

 

Bunt

Note that I drew Mana Confluence only once and then didn’t play it, because my mana worked out perfectly fine without it. Skyrider Elf disappointed me by never showing up in a deck where he would have been really excellent.

 

Auchziemlichbunt

If you thought Deathless Behemoth was good in the previous format, try it in this! Having the biggest creature on both offense and defense is… well, big.

 

Warcalleroutonce

In the finals, I sided the Warcaller out – not because he was too slow against an aggressive deck, but because he didn’t have enough impact in an extremely grindy attrition matchup.

 

Greenagain

Fall was great, although I never needed to cast it with X>2. I never cast Serpentine Spike, though, although that was the card which finally cemented me in GR instead of UG/r. While I firstpicked those rares, I unbelievably got Outnumber very late, and Press even tabled. People are deeply stupid!

That’s it for now, but I promise to return to Arabian Nights soon!

 

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