Fixing Old Cards: Beta Artifacts

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

It seems I finally discovered a topic in the intersection of my own interests and that of my potential readers, so I’ll keep the ball rolling for a while. I will proceed chronologically now, addressing all cards from the original Magic set (referring to Beta instead of Alpha, though, because I consider the latter to be essentially an early misprint) which have not been reprinted in a regular set yet first. This time, I will look at the rest of the artifacts.

 

Chaos Orb

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I actually do not really want to „fix“ this card, since there is no possible design I really like which would be even remotely similar in function. Let’s break it down:

1. It is extremely efficient colorless removal, which shouldn’t exist. Of course I can easily make it less efficient, but the very point of this card is its efficiency tempered by making the player jump through an especially weird hoop.

2. It is somehow „chaotic“ in nature, meaning that you cannot really be sure what will happen when you use it, although you have a certain degree of influence. While such chaos can be reproduced in several ways, I am just not a fan of that kind of effect. In my opinion, randomized libraries supply all the randomness which this game needs.

3. Most importantly, it breaks expectations what Magic gameplay is about. Specifically, it introduces manual dexterity. That kind of design space is nowadays reserved for Un-sets. The basic question is if there is a point in trying to fix a card when such a fix necessarily removes its fundamental nature.

My answer to that question would be no if this wasn’t mainly a creative exercise. I decided to provide a redesign just to meet the challenge, but if I were ever put in the position to decide if a slot in any card set will be filled with a Chaos Orb redesign or a new, conceptually completely different card, I would always choose the latter. In my book, Chaos Orb is not just bad design, it is in bad design space. Still, I will do what I am here for, keeping the „colorless removal“ and „chaotic“ aspects, but removing the efficiency and the Un-sets flair.

My design:

Chaos Orb

 

Copper Tablet

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It is kinda strange that Wizards have never revisited this simple, elegant design. They have almost obsoleted it with Scalding Tongs, and of course, Red got stuff like Sulfuric Vortex and Curse of the Pierced Heart, but the basic idea of an artifact which pings each player has never been reprinted. I believe that is a shame, since all it takes is a slight upgrade to generate an interesting card.

My design:

Copper Tablet

 

Cyclopean Tomb

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This is an extremely unwieldy and complicated card which doesn’t really do anything with any degree of efficiency – and if it were efficient at what it does, that would even be bad! Cyclopean Tomb’s initial design was about enabling swampwalk (which isn’t in use anymore), colorscrewing opponents (not something Magic design strives for nowadays), and giving yourself more swamps as manafixing or a way to grow your Nightmare or whatever (no, really). Today, it can additionally neutralize utility lands (which didn’t even exist back then).

Once again, this is a card which would be better off lost in the mists of time than redesigned, but I did my best. It didn’t help that name and artwork do not seem to have any connection whatsoever to the card’s mechanic, though… I also strongly suspect that the artist illustrated the wrong meaning of „cyclopean“, which was probably intended to denote „gigantic“. Thinking about all this mess, I decided to go with the flavor of a slow corrupting influence somehow tied to swamps which could be undone by removing the Tomb.

My design:

Cyclopean Tomb

 

Forcefield

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Forcefield is one of those rares sitting in the awkward space of being not good enough for constructed, but potentially oppressive in limited. Actually, it is not even that good in limited either, because there are many situations where it does little or nothing, but it’s quite unfun to play against when it works. My goal thus was to make it less dominating in those situations, but more useful generally.

My design:

Forcefield

 

Gauntlet of Might

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I actually like that card as is. I do not mean there isn’t room for improvement – there certainly is – but the point of this series isn’t attempting to find the perfect versions of designs, but to fix those I consider inadequate. Gauntlet of Might, with its current Oracle wording, would be a nice rare in a contemporary set, so I’ll leave it be.

 

Illusionary Mask

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Here we go again: I like nothing about this card. No, I do not even like morph, and even less this incredibly complicated alternative way to put creatures onto the battlefield face down. The potential to abuse it with stuff like Phyrexian Dreadnought is just the icing on the cake.

However, fixing cards is also not about eliminating every concept I do not like. Face down creatures have become a staple in Magic and proven to work well enough, so it would be wrong to completely redesign this card to avoid using them. Instead, I concentrated on eliminating complexity and abuse potential.

My design:

Illusionary Mask

 

Time Vault

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The original Magic: The Gathering set explored uncharted waters, so the high number of designs I consider fundamentally flawed should not surprise anyone. This is yet another. Any possibility to repeatedly take extra turns, even at the cost of skipping turns first, seems just ripe for abuse, and its game play value is highly dubious. And yes, this card was obviously intended not to become untapped in any other way than via skipping a turn, no matter what the current Oracle wording says – it reads clearly „to untap it, you must skip a turn“, and it definitely means it, since even in Magic’s earliest days noone could miss the brokenness of combining this with any untap effect. (There might not have been a way to untap artifacts directly yet, but Animate Artifact and Instill Energy did exist!)

I decided to create a version of this card which does leave open a few contrived ways of „cheating“ to get extra turns, but not too easy ones, and not unbounded. Even more than with Illusionary Mask, it should prove my willingness to design cards which are „not for me“, at least in the context of this exercise.

My design:

Time Vault

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12 Gedanken zu „Fixing Old Cards: Beta Artifacts

    • Zeromant sagt:

      While that is a very interesting link, please do not post links naked. It looks like spam, and spam filters will often weed out such posts for good reason.

  1. PittiPlatsch sagt:

    IMHO you should not adress magic cards that no one even remotely cares about.

    While I see interest for the Promo Cards and the Power Nine, I think it’s not worth to discuss cards like Copper Tablet, Cyclopean Tomb and Forcefield.

    The other cards are OK, because you might have heard of them somehow. Perhaps it’s better for the series to „fix“ cards, that proved too powerful in the past. No one cares about tweaking cards that were too weak.

    As a side note: Did you think to republish the Magic University somewhere (this blog?!), now that magicuniverse.de is down?

    • Zeromant sagt:

      „cards that no one even remotely cares about“ – yeah, right…

      While there is a place for exaggerations in conveying how strongly one feels about a point, this isn’t it. Obviously, at least one person cared strongly enough about those old cards to spend quite a lot of time mulling over them (me). It is also pretty arbitrary to assume that for some reason there is interest in the old promos, but not in cards from the original Magic set, and that hypothesis seems especially bold seeing the prices these cards command on the secondary market.

      Why did you feel the need to write „no one cares about those cards“ when you could just have written „I don’t care about them“? Does the idea that someone else may care about them offend you so much that you had to resort to pre-emptively bullying such people into not admitting it?

      „The other cards are OK, because you might have heard of them somehow.“ So YOU didn’t hear about them. Others have. And if some haven’t, right here is a good place to hear about them! People not being aware of them is actually a great reason to present those cards. Your disinterest in Magic’s past isn’t a universal standard.

      „No one cares about tweaking cards that were too weak.“ The comments in my first entry prove authoritatively that at least some people (in addition to me) do care. Again, this is a completely arbitrary assumption. „No one cares about watering down powerful cards.“ See, I can play that game, too!

      These blog entries are about nostalgia, the history of Magic, and card design. Your comment proves that you do not care about the second and third of these aspects (which is fine by itself), but also that you declare your subjective outlook to be a universal relevance criterion for the first (which isn’t fine).

      Don’t get me wrong – I AM glad to get feedback in the vein of „I do not care for the XXX part of what you’re doing, but would like to see more YYY instead“, even though I do not feel quite as obliged to react to it on my private blog as I would as the publisher of editorial content. I just hate it when people argue their personal preferences in a way which implies that everyone disagreeing with them must be a freak who’d better not speak up.

      This series is about creating versions of old cards which could work in a modern limited environment. While I also strive to make sure that my designs are not broken in constructed formats, this is just an additional constraint, not my main goal. If you do not find that interesting, that is fine, but I do it because _I_ find it interesting. If too few people overall show interest, this is likely to demotivate me to the point where I stop blogging about it, but I will not shift my focus away from where my own interests lie.

      As to the Magic University: Yes, I have been thinking about exactly this. However, that would be quite a lot of work, since my backup text files are completely unedited, and much of the content would need to be updated, too. I’m afraid that NO ONE WOULD EVEN REMOTELY CARE ABOUT IT (okay, of course I mean that too few people would care enough about it that it was worth the effort…) I hate that something I’ve put so much work in isn’t available on the internet anymore, but I’m not sure I want to put in a lot of work again when it seems unlikely that there is much demand for it.

      • PittiPlatsch sagt:

        Na holla die Waldfee! Da schreibt man einen im Internet nicht ganz unüblichen mit ein paar Hyberbeln durchsetzten Kommentar und kurzum hat man sich zum Darth Vader des WWW gemausert.

        Beim nächsten Mal gibts den obligatorischen Political Correctness Disclaimer inkl. Hinweis, dass ich außerhalb meiner Muttersprache wohl den nicht ganz so intendierten Ton treffen könnte.

        Die Intention meines Kommentars hast Du ja dennoch ziemlich richtig erfasst. Bis auf die Tatsache, dass die Promokarten aufgrund iher Einzigartigkeit nicht in regulären Sets erhältlich gewesen zu sein mehr zum allgemeinen Interesse beitragen könnten, genauso wie brokene Karten eher im Gedächnis bleiben und deren Erwähnung in Beiträgen auf mehr Anklang stoßen könnte.

        (Die hier im Kommentar dargestellte Meinung spiegelt die aller Menschen der Welt wieder und nicht zwingend die des Autors.)

        • Zeromant sagt:

          Wir wollen doch beide nicht, dass Dinge die „im Internet nicht ganz unüblich“ sind als Richtlinien für Postverhalten herangezogen werden, oder?

      • Tolotos sagt:

        I’d also really like to read the MagicUniversity Articles again. I understand, however, that you don’t want to go through the work you mention. Have you considered to put them in the internet unedited? Perhaps there are some people who would still like such a raw version (like myself). Or would you feel uncomfortable from a perfectionist point of view (i.e. not want that something as „unpolished“ would be associated with you)? (which I could also understand).

        To not miss the topic entirely, I’d also like to remark that I like those „Fixing old cards“ articles regardless whether weak or strong cards are discussed since you can learn not only about power levels but also about design.

        • Zeromant sagt:

          Sorry, but I really do not want to publish them unedited. While I do have a perfectionist streak, the unedited versions are not only less than perfect – they are partly out of date, and can be confusing or even nonsensical without graphics and interrelating links. The very reason to post them would be because I am proud of them, and posting them in a form which I cannot be proud of defeats that point.

  2. NTL sagt:

    Das die modifzierte Time Vault sich nach einmaliger Verwendung ins Exil schickt anstatt wiederholbares Abusen zu erlauben, ist natürlich die richtige Anpassung an den Effekt. Allerdings finde ich, dass der „Skip a turn“-ETB-Effekt sie zu sehr in Richtung unspielbar rückt (Außer vielleicht einem Stifle-Deck vielleicht). Hier würde ich einen Hybrid aus deiner Version und der orginalen bevorzugen: Kommt getappt ins Spiel, zum untappen muss ein Zug übersprungen werden, und deine beiden Tap-Effekte stehen zur Verfügung.

    • Zeromant sagt:

      Das ist eine Alternative, aber Deine Variante ist in gewisser Hinsicht sogar riskanter, denn wenn der Gegner auf die Aktivierung der Enttapp-Fähigkeit antwortet, indem er den Vault entfernt, ist der investierte Zug einfach weg. Dies könnte man zwar umgehen, indem man das Aussetzen hinter den Doppelpunkt packt, doch da geht viel Eleganz und „grokkability“ verloren, ebenso wie bei zum Beispiel „whenever Time Vault becomes untapped, skip your next turn“.

      Ich finde, zum Flair dieser Karte gehört, dass man in ihre Nutzung investieren muss – mit Zeit kann man nicht einfach so herumspielen… Die obligate Vorleistung eines Zuges fühlt sich für mich hier einfach richtig an. Dabei bietet meine Version immerhin noch die Absicherung, dass man zumindest seinen Zug garantiert (jaja, nicht gegen Krosan Grip etc.) zurückbekommen kann, wenn dem Vault etwas passiert. Ich denke, sie besitzt eine Existenzberechtigung, weil zumindest einige Spieler sie in Draftdecks ausprobieren würden, und weil man im Casual damit immer noch so einiges anstellen kann. Ich gebe aber gerne zu, dass dieses Kartenkonzept sich in einem Design Space befindet, in dem ich mich nicht besonders wohl fühle.

  3. Simon sagt:

    Dann schreibe ich eben auch mal in deutsch:

    Ich mag deine Cyclopean Tomb Variante sehr. Auch wenn ich ständig hin und her überlege, ob der „Nightmare“ Effekt nicht bei Weiß bleiben sollte. Aber ich glaube beide Farben haben Zugriff auf diese Mechanik und mir gefällt bei dieser das Opfern von Sümpfen besonders. Gerade weil schwarz ja in vielen Sets ein ziemlich starkes „Sumpf“ Thema hat (Corrupt usw.) so dass die Karte einfach rund wirkt.
    Die zweite Frage die ich mir gestellt hatte: Soll die Karte wirklich permanents oder nonland permanents removen? Aber für 6 Mana + Länder opfern…denke ich sollte das in Ordnung gehen. Der Drawback ist natürlich ziemlich hoch, sollte sie zerstört werden. Im limted muss man damit nur ein paar Runden überleben, dann sollte man gewonnen haben.

    • Zeromant sagt:

      Englische Kommentare besitzen den Vorteil, dass die (ganz) wenigen internationalen Leser meines Blogs auch diesen Teil der Diskussion mitverfolgen können, deswegen sind sie mir etwas lieber, aber ich antworte hier und auf Twitter immer in der selben Sprache, die der Kommentator benutzt hat. (Okay, sofern es sich dabei um Deutsch oder Englisch handelt, offensichtlich.)

      Über die Frage, ob das Tomb Länder treffen sollte, hatte ich auch ausführlich nachgedacht und mich aus folgenden Gründen dafür entschieden:

      1. Die Originalkarte interagierte ausschließlich mit Ländern. Ich wollte mich nicht ohne Not komplett von diesem Konzept verabschieden.

      2. Für sechs Mana ein Land pro Runde zu entfernen – noch dazu mit einer Runde Verzögerung – ist langsam genug, um akzeptabel zu sein. Ich will kein Armageddon oder auch nur Jokulhaups auf Magic loslassen, um keine einseitig unspaßigen Szenarien zu erschaffen, aber irgendwo gibt es eine Grenze, ab der man von jedem Deck erwarten kann, so langsam mal seinen Arsch hochzukriegen und das Spiel zu entscheiden oder sich besiegen zu lassen, und diese Grenze ist hier erreicht. Vergleiche übrigens Nettlevine Blight für einen ähnliche Effekt.

      3. Es sind zusätzlich auch noch zwei Kindersicherungen eingebaut: Einmal kostet dieser Effekt den Gegner ja ebenfalls immer ein Land (um ganau zu sein einen Swamp, was besonders im Limited eine relevante zusätzliche Hürde darstellt). Zum anderen kriegt man seine Länder ja wieder, sobald man das Tomb entfernt, was mit vergleichsweise wenig Mana in fast allen Farben (eigentlich alle außer Schwarz, was fair klingt) noch machbar ist. Wenn ein Deck nicht damit klar kommt, dass da ein Artefakt für sechs Mana liegt, welches ab der Folgerunde beide Spieler jeweils ein Land kostet, dann verdient es dieses Deck halt auch, das Spiel zu verlieren! Kreaturen für sechs Mana besitzen üblicherweise einen weitaus größeren Einfluss auf das Board, und über Planeswalker wollen wir hier gar nicht erst reden…

      4. Mein Design basiert darauf, dass man langsam und für zusätzliche Kosten mit jedem problematischen Permanent des Gegners fertig wird. Da wäre es inkonsequent gewesen, Utility Lands auszunehmen (auch wegen Punkt 1), besonders da Landzerstörung sich ja eindeutig im schwarzen Teil des Color Pies befindet. Ein Wording, welches ausschließlich Basic Lands verschont, hatte ich erwogen, aber verworfen, da es mir erstens nicht nötig erschien, zweitens dem Flair der Karte schadete, und drittens furchtbar unelegant gewesen wäre.

      5. Wenn man ein Artefakt für sechs Mana spielt, darf man eigentlich erwarten, dass dieses auch gegen sehr defensive Kontrollstrategien, die nicht auf nonland permanents beruhen, Druck erzeugen kann, anstatt von diesen einfach ignoriert zu werden, während sie in Ruhe weiter Karten ziehen und andere Threats beantworten. Mein Tomb-Design erfüllt diese Bedingung zumindest in manchen Situationen, da solche Kontrolldecks tendenziell besonders manahungrig sind, anstatt in solchen Matchups fast immer eine tote Karte zu sein.

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