Archiv für den Monat: September 2015

Battle for Zendikar update to my Limited Card Pool

If you do not know what this is about, click here!

Lands

Ally Encampment
Blighted Cataract
Blighted Fen
Blighted Gorge

I already talked about those lands here. I decided to remove Tolaria West now that I have the Cataract, since I never really liked the tutoring, but keep Soldevi Excavations.

Colorless (non-devoid)

Kozilek’s Channeler
Bane of Bala Ged
Eldrazi Devastator
Hedron Archive
Gruesome Slaughter

The Channeler will replace Stone Golem, the Bane Triskelavus and the Devastator Sundering Titan: One interesting and reasonable upgrade, and two replacements of cards which were always second-rate solutions. I didn’t like the Archive at first, with both modes being overcosted, but every deck that wants Thran Dynamo will also not be too unhappy with the Archive, and its two uses make it playable. The Slaughter is a nice artifact synergy card to me, even though colorless cards and artifact cards are of course not the same, but the overlap is large enough that this makes sense. I chose a couple more colorless synergy cards for the same reasons.

Artifact synergy

Skitterskin
Nettle Drone
Molten Nursery
Forerunner of Slaughter
Herald of Kozilek

I was happy to get another artifact synergy card in Black with Skitterskin, and the Drone and the Nursery replaced the lackluster Rustmouth Ogre and the awkward Forge Armor I also decided to extend artifact synergies to two-colored cards, adding not only Forerunner and Herald, but also Ethersworn Shieldmage and Reclusive Artificer, and hoping that Oath of the Gatewatch will have a few more.

Allies

Expedition Envoy
Kor Bladewhirl
Lantern Scout
Makindi Patrol
Hero of Goma Fada
Kor Entanglers
Kalastria Healer
Zulaport Cutthroat
Hagra Sharpshooter
Tajuru Warcaller
Tajuru Beastmaster
Coralhelm Guide
Firemantle Mage
Chasm Guide
Ondu Champion

I don’t like that the new allies work differently from the old ones, but I will make the best of it. I removed all allies with abilities which affected only allies (unless they were putting +1/+1 counters on allies) and replaced them with rally variants, but kept those which counted allies for an effect. I also now include a few cards specifically because they are allies – even without an ally-related ability – in addition to Stonework Puma. All of those – the Envoy (taking over from Elite Vanguard), the Cutthroat, the Sharpshooter and the Guide – make also sense in cubes without ally synergies, but would probably not have made the crunch without that creature type. I also used the opportunity to get rid of Bojuka Brigand and Nimana Sell-Sword, which are strictly inferior versions of green allies.

Landfall

Ondu Greathorn
Retreat to Emeria
Retreat to Hagra
Scythe Leopard
Snapping Gnarlid
Retreat to Kazandu
Wave-Wing Elemental
Retreat to Coralhelm
Valakut Predator
Retreat to Valakut

Landfall isn’t a theme which needs too much density, so I could be rather picky here – at least in Red and Green. I decided to use all five Retreats to make sure I have enough landfall on non-creatures, to support the colors with fewer attractive options, and because their abilities are not all focussed on attacking. However, that meant that Grazing Gladehart and Zendikar’s Roil had to go for being too similar with some Retreats. I also took out Zektar Shrine Expedition, which I never liked too much because I wanted my landfall-enchantments to do non-creature stuff. As for the creatures, I preferred very simple abilities not requiring additional mana. Hedron Rover got the boot for being too similar (and vastly inferior) to the Predator.

Miscellaneous

Quarantine Field
Roil’s Retribution
Seek the Wilds
Vestige of Emrakul
Turn Against

There is room in my pool for the Field because I use Journey to Nowhere instead of Oblivion Ring or Banishing Light, and the scalable version should play interestingly. The Retribution is fairly unique (at least in White, where this effect belongs), and the Seek weakly supports a land theme and might serve as a kind of green Impulse in general. The Vestige replaces the vanilla Highland Giant which is just too far below the curve nowadays, and Turn Against shoves out Ray of Command which Blue neither needs nor deserves (but the effect was too cool to go unused).

As usual, I will not explain why I NOT chose cards unless specifically asked – so, if you are curious why some cards didn’t make the cut, just ask me in the comments!

You can download my complete updated Limited Card Pool below as a spreadsheet in XLS format. The columns show card name, converted mana cost, a card type code I use for easier sorting, an abbreviation for card rarity, and some tags I use to facilitate cube-building. My type code uses „Klar“ for colorless cards and those affiliated with all five colors, and otherwise the German names for single-colored cards and the established names for color pairs and triples. The color function of cards in a cube trumps technically correct color definition here. „L“ denotes lands, „K“ creatures, „J“ other permanent types, and „I“ instants and sorceries. The asterisks are only there for sorting purposes. The rarities are (ordered from high to low frequency) „S“ for staple, „C“ for commons, „U“ for uncommon, „R“ for rare and „M“ for mythic. That there are five rarity categories does not mean that every cube I build will use them all. Note that I changed the concept for the rarity I give in that spreadsheet: It is no longer defined as the projected most likely rarity of a card in a cube (although it will often happen to be), but the lowest rarity which I believe could make sense in a cube I build. The exception here are mythics, which can always be downgraded to rare. I will always use at least three rarities, maybe not for single card frequencies, but for collation purposes.

My Limited Card Pool in XLS format

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Lands in Next Level Cubes – Battle for Zendikar addendum

Links to card pictures from that set should work finally, so here is the Battle for Zendikar addendum to my series.

(part 1part 2part 3 part 4)

As usual, an asterisk (*) denotes lands I want for my Limited Card Pool.

The lands with too many names

Canopy Vista
Cinder Glade
Prairie Stream
Smoldering Marsh
Sunken Hollow

(I will not join the discussion what the nickname of that cycle should be, at least not here and now.)

They are not a full cycle yet, but it seems very likely that the missing cross members will appear in Oath of the Gatewatch. Their power level is fine, but I’d prefer the Clifftop Retreat cycle due to its ties to specific colors even if the basic land types weren’t a taboo for me.

The blighted cycle

Blighted Cataract *
Blighted Fen *
Blighted Gorge *
Blighted Steppe
Blighted Woodland

I hate it when WotC introduce a promising cycle and then ruin it with unusable members. Cataract, Fen, and Gorge are perfectly fine, but Steppe is terrible, and Woodland actually does something I actively do not want (green manafixing), and also only makes sense in very specific environments. Only using parts of a cycle is something I do sometimes, but here it is really sad that the cycle isn’t complete. The Cataract will probably replace Tolaria West in my pool, since that is just a second-rate solution to the issue of Blue not having enough affiliated lands.

The spell land cycle

Fertile Thicket
Looming Spires
Mortuary Mire
Sandstone Bridge
Skyline Cascade

This is the third incarnation of such a cycle after Zendikar and Worldwake (I have a hunch there might be a fourth one in Oath of the Gatewatch), and if I wanted to construct my own cycle, I would now finally have enough material, with the Mire being actually good in contrast to its predecessors, and the Cascade providing an alternative for the blue member which has a more unique effect. However, the issue that those will be played off-color too often is obviously still there.

The manlands

Lumbering Falls
Shambling Vent

Here, it has officially been announced that this cycle will be completed with the next set, so one issue I had with it will disappear then. The members of this cycle being quite different from each other still bugs me, though – their main role in a cube would still be to provide manafixing, and I want this to be as uniform as possible. I might still use them, if it weren’t for their power level which is just too high – not so high that I COULD not use them, but so high that I do not WANT to. I have been second-guessing that decision a lot, because their design is very appealing, and I really love complete cycles of duallands, but in the end I know better – they are just too strong to play well.

The rest

Ally Encampment *
Sanctum of Ugin
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Spawning Bed

Allies are one of two circle tribes which my pool supports (the other, obviously, being slivers), and the Encampment does a fine job here. The Sanctum does nothing useful for me: I consciously include very few spells with comverted mana cost of more than 6 in my pool, because any draft environment where more than one (out of four) players could conceivably base his deck around ramping up that far is terrible. (I’m not going into detail here, but the baseline is that you either have no fast decks at all, or that the fast and the slow decks in that environment don’t interact much. And yes, that means that I anticipate I will not like Battle for Zendikar draft, just like I hated Rise of the Eldrazi draft.) Shrine is out for essentially the same reason – while I love that it always taps for mana unlike Temple of the False God, it is important that the ramp effect happens much earlier. The Bed is a variant of Foundry of the Consuls which once again only really makes sense if you want to ramp up super high, and also I will not use cards which produce scion tokens in general, because of that very reason.

An aside: Hangarback Walker

You know, I am very disappointed with Battle for Zendikar so far, just like a lot of people, but unlike most of those the reason is not that I consider that set to be too weak. For one thing, I do not really care for the constructed viability of cards a lot. Another reason, though, is that I just do not believe that it is possible for anyone who isn’t both really competent in Magic strategy (ruling out over 99% of all players) AND took the time to actually think about the potential of a card (ruling out at least 50% of the rest) to assess a card’s potential for constructed formats reliably, unless that card is really obviously overpowered, or obviously underpowered AND boring (underpowered, but strange cards have a habit of showing up unexpectedly in very specific roles in very unusual decks sometimes).

To illustrate my point, here are some highlights from snap evaluations of Hangarback Walker:

From MTGSalvation:

„Definitely not constructed playable“

„It’s too behind the curve. Obviously broken at X but it’s bad at XX.“

„it needs a lot of support to be good[…]Then again, a card that requires this much support for no real payoff is not where you want to be „

„What a bad card.“

Fireball is outstanding in Limited because efficiency is less important there, but Constructed it’s bad because it’s bad value for any given value of X. This is kind of the same thing, except it’s XX so it’s even worse.“

„it’s one of those cards where a single X would be way too good, and double X makes it trash.“

From MythicSpoiler:

„This card seems like it would be fine in limited.“

„Without Overseer, this is far too expensive.“

„If this shows up on any top 8 lists i’ll eat my hat.“

„It requires an onboard ravager to be any good.“

„I just can recognize a bad card.“

„This is the shizz“

You might want to keep that in mind!

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Das Ende von Magic Universe, endgültig

Während ich diesen Text hier tippe, ist der vollständige offizielle Spoiler von Battle for Zendikar online gegangen, aber es hat wohl erst dann Sinn, meine Reihe Lands in Next Level Cubes zu beenden, wenn die automatische Kartenbildverlinkung für das neue Set funktioniert. Daher verschiebe ich das noch um ein paar Tage.

In der Zwischenzeit will ich mich aus aktuellem Anlass (und auf Deutsch) vermutlich das allerletzte Mal einem traurigen Thema zuwenden: Dem Ende von Magic Universe. Diese Seite ist im letzten Jahr stückweise immer mehr gestorben – zuerst das redaktionelle, von unterschiedlichen Autoren getragene Artikelprogramm; dann auch der von mir allein verfasste Content; und jetzt schließlich auch der Shop selbst, einschließlich aller bisher online zugängiger Seiten.

Ich habe mit der geschäftlichen Seite von Magic Universe nie irgendetwas zu tun gehabt, auch wenn ich mich gelegentlich mit dem Seitenbesitzer darüber unterhalten habe, und deswegen habe ich vom Ende des Shops vermutlich auf die selbe Art erfahren, wie die meisten anderen Leute: Ich klickte ihn eines Tages mal wieder an und stellte fest, dass er fort war – stattdessen wurde ich zu einem anderen Shop, Bazaar of Wonders, umgeleitet. Nun ja, dies zumindest überraschte mich weniger als offenbar Viele von Euch, denn mir war schon seit langem bekannt, dass diese beiden Shops den selben Besitzer hatten – ein Umstand, der nicht an die große Glocke gehängt wurde (was ich im Interesse des Seitenbetreibers ebenfalls nicht tat), der aber auch keineswegs ein Geheimnis war: Jeder konnte im jeweiligen Impressum nachlesen, dass beide Shops der selben Firma gehörten, und dass die selben Personen für ihre Inhalte verantwortlich waren. Manche Links zu Universe-Seiten führten zu einer Bazaar-Adresse, und die Kontakt-Email für Verkäufer war auch die selbe, ebenso wie die AGB. Auf dem Bazaar gab und gibt es sogar eine ausdrückliche Erwähnung und Verlinkung der „Partnerseite“ Universe! (Dieses Link wird jetzt natürlich auch zurück umgeleitet.)

Ich verstehe nicht genug von Betriebswirtschaft, fürchte ich, um wirklich nachvollziehen zu können, warum das Betreiben zweier Shops in der selben Branche, mit dem selben Arttikelangebot (ja, mit dem selben, nicht nur dem gleichen – es gab immer nur einen Warenbestand!) und sogar den selben Preisen (schließlich boten beide Shops die selbe Preisgarantie an – ein weiterer deutlicher Hinweis auf ihre Verflechtung) Sinn ergibt. Offenbar fühlten sich manche Kunden eher vom Image der einen als dem der anderen Seite angezogen, und ganz offensichtlich ist kaum jemand jemals dahintergestiegen, dass man hier im Wesentlichen durch zwei unterschiedliche Eingänge den selben Laden betrat.

Der Besitzer hatte mir jedenfalls versichert, dass dieses Konzept wirtschaftlich Sinn ergab, und insbesondere, dass es auch bei rückläufigen Umsätzen nicht notwendig wäre, diese Shops zusammenzulegen bzw. einen aufzugeben, weil die Unterhaltskosten für Magic Universe – abgesehen natürlich vom kostspieligen Artikelprogramm – minimal waren: Der selbe Warenbestand, das selbe Personal, die selben logistischen Abläufe… Im Wesentlichen bestand Universe nur aus einem separaten Login-System und einem separaten Kundenverzeichnis, wenn ich das richtig verstanden habe. (Tatsächlich war dessen Kundenstamm auch der eigentliche Grund, warum der Bazaar-Besitzer vor vielen Jahren Universe als Zweitshop erworben und weitergeführt hatte.) Mit diesem Kenntnisstand ging ich daher davon aus, dass das Ende von Magic Universe immer nur bedeuten konnte, dass es dort keinen Content mehr gäbe – nicht jedoch, dass der Shop selbst in Gefahr wäre!

Nun, offensichtlich lag ich damit falsch. Wie gering die Umsätze zuletzt tasächlich gewesen sein mussten, dass sich selbst dieses über Jahre bewährte Modell eines Shops nahezu ohne Betriebskosten nicht mehr rentierte, könnte ich nur spekulieren (was ich lasse). Um so bemerkenswerter erscheint es im Nachhinein, dass ich vor knapp zwei Jahren den Betreiber noch einmal hatte beschwatzen können, mich mit einem in der Rückschau opulenten (auch wenn es mir im Vergleich zur Vergangenheit natürlich äußerst mager erscheinen musste) Budget auszustatten und dem Artikelprogramm, dessen Einstellung damals eigentlich bereits beschlossene Sache war, noch eine letzte Chance zu geben!

Dass diese Mission nicht erfolgreich sein konnte, damit habe ich mich längst abgefunden, und dafür kann ich auch niemandem wirklich einen Vorwurf machen. Dass jetzt allerdings der gesamte Magic Universe Content aus dem Netz verschwunden ist, trifft mich noch einmal hart – wenn ich noch emotionale Kraft dafür übrig hätte, wäre ich sogar richtiggehend wütend, aber nach der unglaublichen Arbeit, die ich in diesen hoffnungslosen Kampf gesteckt habe, bin ich dafür einfach zu leer – was bleibt, sind Frustration, Traurigkeit und Hoffnungslosigkeit.

Ich könnte mich über all die Arbeit aufregen, die ich mir nicht nur in jüngster Zeit, sondern über ungefähr ein Jahrzehnt hinweg für diese Seite gemacht habe. Ja, ich bin dafür auch entlohnt worden, aber Euch ist ja gewiss klar, dass es in der deutschen Magic-Szene für Schreiber und Redakteure selbst in den günstigsten Fällen keine der investierten Mühe angemessene Entlohnung gab, sondern eher eine Aufwandsentschädigung – letztlich tat man etwas für sein Hobby bzw. übte es damit aus. Allerdings gibt es da noch viel mehr Leute, die sich aufregen könnten oder sollten – andere Redakteure, welche diese Seite über weit längere Zeiträume hinweg betreut haben; andere Autoren, deren Werke jetzt nicht mehr erreichbar sind. Ich ärgere mich auch über den Verlust zahlloser Verlinkungen von anderer Stelle zu Magic Universe Artikeln.

Tatsächlich habe ich die meisten meiner Texte auf meinem Computer archiviert und könnte sie deswegen – zum Beispiel auf diesem Blog hier – neu einstellen, aber das wäre einfach nicht das Gleiche (und natürlich eine Menge doppelte Arbeit, selbst wenn ich editorielle Arbeit daran auf ein Minimum beschränken würde). Ob von anderen Autoren noch Kopien ihrer Texte irgendwo existieren, weiß ich nicht, und ich habe auch nicht einmal mehr Zugriff auf einen Index von Texten, den ich durchschauen könnte. Ich erinnere mich besonders an einen Artikel von Philipp Summereder von ironischer Brillianz und zeitloser Aktualität, den ich immer wieder gerne verlinkt habe. Doch auch aus nostalgischen Gründen konnte man sich durchaus durch das Archiv der Seite (welches ich mit viel Mühe und Liebe erst vor ca. einem Jahr so weit wie möglich auf Vordermann gebracht hatte) wühlen, und ich weiß, dass Leute dies auch gelegentlich getan haben, denn die Zugriffszahlen auch bei sehr alten Veröffentlichungen hörten nie ganz auf anzusteigen.

Ich habe, wie gesagt, niemals damit gerechnet, dass all dieser Content in nächster Zeit plötzlich aus dem Internet verschwinden könne, da ich ja allen Grund zu der Annahme hatte, dass Magic Universe zumindest als Shop noch fortexistieren würde – und selbst wenn nicht, hätte ich eine vorherige Ankündigung erwartet! Nun, ich bin in keiner Weise informiert worden, und da ich natürlich eine Kundennummer bei diesem Shop besaß, muss ich davon ausgehen, dass auch an die Kundschaft keine Rundmail verschickt worden ist. Die Weiterleitung zum Bazaar erfolgt völlig kommentarlos, und auch dort findet sich absolut kein Hinweis – keine Nachricht bei den Neuigkeiten, nichts beim Login, nirgends. Das Link zur „Partnerseite“ Magic Universe ist offensichtlich völlig veraltet („täglich neue Artikel“ – wie viele Jahre ist DAS denn bitteschön her?) und wird, wie gesagt, gleich zum Bazaar zurückgeleitet… naja, das Link zum Forum MagicInvasion.de führt ja auch nur zu einer zur Verkauf stehenden Domain… (Da war ich doch auch mal Mitglied – ich kann mich aber auch hier nicht erinnern, dass ich vor der Auflösung angeschrieben wurde.) Die „Bazaar-Liga“, was immer das gewesen sein mag, wird immerhin als nicht mehr existent beschrieben, wenngleich ich auch nicht feststellen kann, wie alt diese Mitteilung eigentlich ist.

Tja, hier wurde also alles, was nicht unmittelbar dem Verkauf diente, nicht nur eingestellt, sondern mit Stumpf und Stiel ausgerottet. Dabei ist Speicherplatz im Netz heutzutage doch nun wirklich nicht mehr teuer, oder? Wie viel hätte es denn wirklich gekostet, den Inhalt von Magic Universe oder auch des alten Forums zu archivieren? Und wie viel bringt der Verkauf dieser Domains (falls sich überhaupt jemals ein Käufer findet) wirklich? Egal, die Entscheidung ist wohl bereits endgültig gefallen. Dass niemand wenigstens vorher benachrichtigt wurde, so dass man vielleicht zumindest den Content irgendwie hätte retten können, kotzt mich allerdings mächtig an.

Andererseits scheint aber außer mir auch kaum jemand sich daran zu stören, bzw. die allermeisten Leute haben es wohl nicht einmal registriert – jedenfalls ist es in denjenigen Regionen des Internets, in denen ich mich umtue, kein Thema, mit Ausnahme eines einzigen fragenden Kommentars hier bei 00zero. Nun ja, dann interessiert es wohl wieder einmal außer mir eigentlich keine Sau…

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Lands in Next Level Cubes – Part 4

All too often, when I start to write about a topic, I vastly underestimate how long it will take me to finish it. This is another one of those cases, and I really have to force myself to trudge on. Maybe I wasn’t aware how many cards I dismiss at first glance when going over a list – now that I need to write at least something about them I realize how many bad and uninteresting designs are actually out there! Well, I’ll try to be briefer this time.

If you don’t know what this is about, here are the links to part one, two and three of this series.

Let me remind you once again that on principle I do not use lands which do not provide mana at least indirectly. That said, let’s start with lands which are supposed to provide more than one mana under the right circumstances:

Posts & Tron lands

Cloudpost
Glimmerpost
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower

There are several reasons these lands are useless to me: They don’t do interesting things in limited even under the best circumstances; I only use one copy of each card; and (in the case of the Urza lands) I do not want cards which refer to other cards by name because this is too much to process for newer players for too little gain.

Other mana-ramping lands

Ancient Tomb
City of Shadows
City of Traitors
Crystal Vein *
Eldrazi Temple
Eye of Ugin
Mage-Ring Network
Mishra’s Workshop
Scorched Ruins
Temple of the False God *
Terrain Generator
Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper

City of Shadows, the Network and the Generator (which is a very generous inclusion in this group) are just too awkward in limited, or in general. City of Traitors plays a bit better, but not great, and is certainly not worth acquiring such an expensive card. I do not use eldrazi tribal, so that Temple and the Eye are out, and the same goes for legendary, so no Untaidake. The Workshop is both way too powerful and too expensive, while the Ruins are too all-in (note that I always run some maindeckable land destruction in my cubes so that special lands do not get out of hand). The Tomb is usable, but a bit too strong and too all-in at the same time (and also not exactly cheap), so I removed it. That leaves Crystal Vein and Temple of the False God as reasonable options for the decks which want them. These cards do not necessarily go into the same deck, though – one is a one-time speed bump, the other a permanent lategame mana advantage (in my opinion, the clean version of the Ravnica bouncelands).

Manlands in the broader sense

Blinkmoth Nexus
Dread Statuary
Foundry of the Consuls *
Gargoyle Castle *
Gods‘ Eye, Gate to the Reikai
Inkmoth Nexus
Mishra’s Factory
Mutavault *
Springjack Pasture
Stalking Stones *
Urza’s Factory *
Zoetic Cavern

This kind of card is so useful in cubes that I put almost every one in my pool, unless I have a specific reason to leave one out. Such reasons are obscure tribal synergies (blinkmoths, goats and assembly-workers), infect, morph, producing 0/1 tokens, and being legendary. Otherwise, only Dread Statuary is left out, being a bit weak and not fitting in between Mutavault and Stalking Stones.

Mana disruption

Dust Bowl
Encroaching Wastes
Ghost Quarter
Rishadan Port
Strip Mine
Tectonic Edge *
Wasteland
Wintermoon Mesa

These lands range from way too good or annoying to too weak or obscure in limited. I really need at least one land capable of answering non-basic lands, and would prefer having two, but all options present problems: being to oppressive by affecting basic lands (Mine, Port) or through repeated use (Bowl); being too weak, at least in limited (Wastes, Quarter, Mesa); being too expensive – and admittedly also a bit too powerful – (Wasteland); and finally a bit awkward for my taste, but workable and thus my choice (Edge).

Positive interactions with lands

Deserted Temple
Petrified Field *

The Field is great, but the Temple will just never have enough to do to warrant its inclusion in a cube.

Snow interaction

Mouth of Ronom
Scrying Sheets

Well, I am not using snow.

Tribal interaction

Elephant Graveyard
Griffin Canyon *
Seraph Sanctuary
Swarmyard

The tribal synergies must not be too obscure, and the land itself interesting enough (this is where the Sanctuary fails), so the Canyon is the only good choice here.

Interaction with atifacts

Blinkmoth Well
Buried Ruin *
Darksteel Citadel *
Phyrexia’s Core
Tomb of the Spirit Dragon *
Tower of the Magistrate

Well and Core do too little, and the Tower too much (the death knell for it is the ability to drop equipment from opponents‘ creatures). The Tomb is, of course, neither interacting with all artifacts, nor exclusively with artifacts (although I do not use morph), but still useful to support this theme.

Lifegain

High Market
Miren, the Moaning Well
Radiant Fountain *
Sheltered Valley

The least complicated option is the best (and the only interesting one).

Card draw

Blasted Landscape
Haunted Fengraf
Library of Alexandria
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

The Landscape is fine, but I do not need another cycling land in addition to the monocolored ones. The Fengraf is on a good power level, but I despise abilities requring random decisions. Mikokoro makes no sense in limited, and I certainly do not need to address the Library, right?

Creature disruption

Arcane Lighthouse
Desert
Maze of Shadows
Mystifying Maze
Quicksand *
Rath’s Edge

I do not use hexproof (and the Lighthouse is too obscure anyway). Maze of Shadows is too narrow (and too frustrating if it works), and Desert too annoying for that cheap cost, as opposed to the other Maze and the Edge, which are too costly.

Miscellaneous

Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Cathedral of War *
Contested War Zone
Ghost Town
Hall of the Bandit Lord
Homeward Path
Reliquary Tower
Rogue’s Passage *
Winding Canyons

Boseiju, Town, Hall, Path and Tower do essentially nothing useful in limited, while the Canyons add too much cost, and the Zone is too symmetrical. Cathedral and Passage are in a good place, though.

 

Since this series took me so long to finish, Battle for Zendikar will be completely spoiled soon, and it makes sense if I talk about the the new lands from that set as an addendum. Until then!

Lands in Next Level Cubes – Part 3

(Well, I let you wait for this entry a lot longer than I intended. But, you know, there were reasons, and one good thing about blogging is that I am not beholden to any tight schedule unless I impose it on myself. So let’s just pretend this series went on without any noticeable interruption, shall we?)

After discussing lands affiliated with three or more colors, and then with two colors, in this entry I will get to „monocolored“ lands. Technically, this includes Plains, Swamp, Forest, Island and Mountain, but obviously we will only have to talk about the remaining five basic lands.

I didn’t spell it out clearly before, so I’ll do it now: There are a couple of lands I’m not using on principle. First, there are non-basics with basic land types, because of unwanted interactions (also, the existing designs tend to be either too strong or too weak anyway). Let’s get those out of the way right away.

Nonbasics with basic land types

Mistveil Plains
Leechridden Swamp
Dryad Arbor
Sapseep Forest
Moonring Island
Madblind Mountain

Realizing how dangerous this kind of land is, Wizards made the Shadowmoor cycle supremely unattractive. Dryad Arbor actually plays reasonably in limited, but it is certainly not an important element, and even less grounds for an exception to the rule to leave such lands out.

Another kind of land I do not use is the legendary ones. Now, admittedly this is more of a pet quirk of mine than any important principle. However, I found that I did not want most legendary lands on their own anyway; Wizards have consciously been printing a lot less of them lately; and I also noted that most players simply are not aware that lands habe a type line just like other cards.

Now, regarding that last concern, I know it is close to insignificant right now for me, because of no basic land types on nonbasics, and because I do not use any cards specifically referring to legendary permanents (another pet quirk of mine – it comes down to culling unneccessary complexity of card evaluation for little interaction). As far as I am aware, the only card in my pool which specifically interacts with legendary lands is Vesuva. It’s also not impossible that I revise my stance if a couple really well designed legendary lands are printed (with Battle of Zendikar on the horizon, this might happen rather soon…), but so far there are just not enough really attractive candidates that I feel I should.

Let’s take a look at the candidates in this category:

The lands from Legends

Hammerheim
Karakas
Pendelhaven
Tolaria
Urborg

All these cards do rather unique (or, let’s say, strange) things on largely different power levels. While I wouldn’t use the abilities of Karakas and Pendelhaven on principle for rules complexity reasons, the common denominator here is that all five cards are essentially clearly superior to basic lands, and while the very structure of drafts provides a counterbalance here, I believe this is still something to be avoided. Note, though, that I wouldn’t want to use a single of these lands even if that wasn’t a concern (the weaker three have irrelevant abilities in my cubes).

The lands from Champions of Kamigawa

Eiganjo Castle
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

I already mentioned that I do not use legendary-referring cards – the synergies don’t play well enough to justify an additional level of complexity. Even if did want a „legendary tribal“ theme, this cycle isn’t well balanced in itself, and the power level overall would be too high for lands. I might have thought differently a decade or so ago, but nowadays I wish the „legendary“ rider didn’t exist at all in game terms. It’s a crude tool producing strange interactions, and an additional card aspect the game doesn’t need.

The lands from Urza’s Saga

Gaea’s Cradle
Phyrexian Tower
Serra’s Sanctum
Shivan Gorge
Tolarian Academy

Three of these were designed to produce absurd amounts of mana under the right conditions, which isn’t something any limited environment should want. (I’m actually not sure about constructed, either…) The Tower is usable, but unexciting, and tied to Black with an ability which should have been „clear“. The Gorge is actually fine and one of the few legendary lands I might actually use, but I don’t really miss it either, espcially since I have Keldon Megaliths, which play a lot more interestingly.

The „megamegacycle“

Kor Haven
Keldon Necropolis
Teferi’s Isle
Volrath’s Stronghold
Yavimaya Hollow

Yes – these lands were actually meant to be part of a cycle which spanned five blocks! Obviously, they’re unusable as a cycle in a cube, with vastly varying power levels and the Isle using phasing. Also, two of them (Isle and Necropolis) are too weak to be attractive, while the others are way too strong. (Did you notice that you can still block and kill the creature affected by Kor Haven?)

The remaining legendary lands

Academy Ruins
Flagstones of Trokair
Kher Keep
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Tomb of Urami
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

The lands in this group are either too strange for limited play (Flagstones, Oboro, Urborg), or too strong (Ruins), or do something I do not want in my cubes (the Keep). The latter causes no issues powerlevelwise, but I decided against using cards which produce 0/1 tokens in general – yet another pet quirk of mine. Once again, the important thing to keep in mind is that a cube should contain cards you WANT to be in there; not cards which just COULD be in there.

 

„Splashable“ lands are yet another kind of lands I avoid – I already touched upon this when talking about Phyrexian Tower: These are lands which are, by design, color-affiliated, but might get played for their special abilities in decks not using that color. I like lands to either be completely clear (without an additional bonus for certain colors, like producing their mana) or „colored“.

There are a couple of strict cycles which may fall into this group, but right here I will address only the following cards:

Splashable lands

Kabira Crossroads
New Benalia
Sejiri Steppe
Bojuka Bog
Dakmor Salvage
Piranha Marsh
Khalni Garden
Llanowar Reborn
Turntimber Grove
Halimar Depths
Soaring Seacliff
Smoldering Spires
Teetering Peaks

These are mostly the two cycles from Zendikar and Worldwake, with three Future Sight lands added. Theoretically, there might be a power level zone where entering the battlefield tapped is too much of a disadvantage to splash these lands, but not big enough to exclude them from decks which can use the colored mana, but if that zone really exists, it is way too narrow to be useful, and these lands are either too weak or too easily splashed.

Strict cycles

The Snow-Covered Forest cycle
The Abandoned Outpost cycle
The Ancient Den cycle
The Barren Moor cycle *
The Bottomless Vault cycle
The Coral Atoll cycle
The Drifting Meadow cycle
The Dwarven Ruins cycle
The Fountain of Cho cycle
The Hickory Woodlot cycle
The Vivid Crag cycle *

(Once again, I use the term „cycle“ in this context to denote cycles where seeing one card makes it clear what exactly its other cards do.)

I already talked about snow: That theme would be underdeveloped even disregarding the difficulty of introducing snow basics into a draft environment. Doubling the number of basic lands in the game was one of the most stupid and shortsighted mistakes in Magic’s early era.

The Abandon Outpost cycle is obviously just a lot weaker than the Vivid Crag cycle, which is on the right power level to support small splashes in an environment encouraging mostly monocolored decks. Of course, it helps you get cards into your graveyard for purposes like threshold, but there are many more attrractive alternatives for this.

The Ancient Den cycle is another case of color-affiliated lands which would get played off-color, in this case for their card type. Running one Darksteel Citadel in your cube should be enough to offer this function to drafters.

The Barren Moor and Drifting Meadow cycle are obviously similar, but the first one is more efficient while requiring you to be solidly in a certain color, while the other is less efficient, but encourages you to use its members off-color or for optional splashes. I strongly prefer the first.

The Bottomless Vault cycle is inferior to the Fountain of Cho cycle, which is still very unattractive in limited environments (and once again very likely to be used off-color, if at all).

I like the Coral Atoll cycle more than the Ravnica block bouncelands (like Azorius Chancery) because they are not splashable, but they are still too clumsy.

The Dwarven Ruins cycle plays a lot better in limited than the Hickory Woodlot cycle, but there is once again the off-color issue, and Crystal Vein already does this job in a cleaner version.

The manlands

Forbidding Watchtower *
Spawning Pool *
Treetop Village *
Faerie Conclave *
Ghitu Encampment *

The members of this cycle are powerlevelwise a bit further apart than I’d like, but they are still an excellent option to provide drafters with lands which do more than just make mana, and a solid basis for any land-centric theme in a cube.

The hideaway lands

Windbrisk Heights
Howltooth Hollow
Mosswort Bridge
Shelldock Isle
Spinerock Knoll

Some of these are more appropriate for limited environments than others, but their mechanic is in general too swingy and too much buildaround in lands for my taste.

The threshold cycle

Nomad Stadium
Cabal Pit *
Centaur Garden
Cephalid Coliseum
Barbarian Ring

Except for the terrible white one, all of these lands are usable in cubes. However, I found that I cared less for having a cycle of them and more for supporting the threshold theme. Here, Green certainly didn’t need help. In Limited, Cabal Pit is mostly a more interesting variant of Barbarian Ring, and Cephalid Coliseum is both too close to Cephalid Sage, and taboo because it can mill an opponent (something I strictly forbid because it is an alternate win condition).

The sacrifice cycle

Kjeldoran Outpost *
Lake of the Dead
Heart of Yavimaya *
Soldevi Excavations *
Balduvian Trading Post

Again, I am not interested in a whole cycle of these lands, just in their utility. The Lake is too specialized for limited, while the Trading Post just didn’t make my crunch – I already have a couple red-affiliated lands in my pool, and the Trading Post’s ability is neiher feeling Red nor needed in that color. The others are fine, albeit a bit disparate in power level – the Heart makes a good common a green player can pick up late, while the Outpost is almost a bit too oppressive for a land.

The tribal lands

Daru Encampment *
Rustic Clachan
Unholy Grotto
Wirewood Lodge
Riptide Laboratory
Flamekin Village
Goblin Burrows *

The issue with the Clachan and the Village is that they are not really tribal cards – you might get a bonus from their synergy, but will probably gladly play them „off-tribal“ for their real ability. That is very bad design. The Grotto and the Laboratory are too powerful and annoying for lands in limited, while the Lodge on the other hand just doesn’t do enough to be worth a slot in a cube.

The miscellaneous rest

Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Cabal Coffers
Crypt of Agadeem
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Magosi, the Waterveil
Tolaria West *
Hellion Crucible *
Keldon Megaliths *
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Coffers, Crypt and Magosi do not do things too relevant in limited. Emeria and Valakut are too swingy, while Oran-Rief is just way too powerful for a land. Tolaria West helps a land theme, while Megaliths and Crucible are just interesting options for red players in general.

 

Let’s see when I will get to finish this series, shall we?

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