Archiv für den Monat: Februar 2016

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!

 

markiert , , , ,

Fixing Old Cards: Arabian Nights Black

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

Okay, I’ll keep going, at least for for the moment.

 

Guardian Beast

Guardian Beast Original

This ability is needlessly complicated. It’s also not black, but white (see Fountain Watch, Leonin Abunas and Indomitable Archangel.) I took a page from Disciple of the Vault for a black artifact-related ability.

My design:

Guardian Beast

 

Juzam Djinn

Juzam Djinn Original

I absolutely love that card as is! (And no, it doesn’t cost only 2 mana. Look closely!) This is probably at the top of my list of cards which I want to have in my Limited Card Pool but can’t (or at least are too sensible to) afford.

 

Khabal Ghoul

Khabal Ghoul Original

Here, the one thing I’d like to change (the creature type has already been errata’d to Zombie) is the mana cost – I feel this card should require double-black mana. I do not feel strongly enough about this, tough, that I think it merits a redesign, so I’ll leave it be.

 

Oubliette

Oubliette Original

Another card which is worded incredibly weird – in fact, so weird that at one time it had been errata’d to phase the creature out! And all that just so that it would keep its auras and counters if it came back. Well, there is a much easier way to do this. It’s in the domain of White, though, but if we add just the right amount of black-flavored cruelty, we can make it work. Oh yes, the resulting card is overall (but not strictly) stronger – you’d better free that creature from its prison soon, or you do not need to bother anymore.

My design:

Oubliette

 

Stone-Throwing Devils

Stone-Throwing Devils Original

Here my only issue is power level. While 1-mana 1/1s with a combat-related ability can be useful in limted environments, that ability needs to be somewhere in the realm between deathtouch and flying. First strike is just not good enough. I like the card concept, though, and I believe that ability is still tertiary in Black (at least it should be), so I just added a little more oomph in a devilish-feeling way.

My design:

Stone-Throwing Devils

markiert , , , ,

Fixing Old Cards: Arabian Nights White

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

Wow, interest in this series waned abruptly, and once again I notice how much my motivation to blog is tied to getting feedback. (Which I still believe to be the norm among non-commercial bloggers.) Well, I had already started with this entry, so I finished it, but it just might be the last.

 

Army of Allah

Army of Allah Original

The biggest issue with this card is obviously its name. Aside from that, it would definitely be printable as is, although the restriction to attacking creatures isn’t especially white, and its power level is a bit below what we can expect – the staple card fulfilling this function nowadays is Fortify, after all. I actually consider another card the closest to an update, though, because of the religious connotations of the original, since it is tied closer to the color White:

 

Guardians' Pledge Original

 

Camel

Camel Original

Neither abilitiy of this card could be saved – banding is just way too complicated. Also, specifically referring to another card by name isn’t something I feel is good game design. (Okay, there is some merit in giving inexperienced players a direction in both limited and casual deckbuilding by pointing them that explicitly towards certain combos, but I still hate this, and it’s not what Camel does anyway.) Oh yes, and with my redesigned Desert that ability would of course be totally meaningless!

So, once again, I had to fall back on the card’s flavor, which is about helping your other creatures to survive harsh conditions. Actually, camels are themselves rather tough beasts, so I reflected that, too.

My design:

Camel2

 

Jihad

Jihad Original

That’s probably the greatest card name ever… on the causing trouble scale, at least. Apart from that, I’m not happy with this card’s mechanical execution. That is a very demanding mana cost here, and it is totally fine if an enchantment with that cost just gives +2/+1 to all of your creatures. Instead, though, there are no less than three disadvantages tacked onto it: The bonus only affects white creatures; it also affects your opponent’s creatures; and most importantly, your opponent (even a specifically chosen opponent in a multiplayer game) must have permanents of a specifically chosen color on the battlefield at all times, or you have to sacrifice your enchantment. That last stipulation alone makes this card essentially unplayable in constructed, but even in limited that is a real issue (in addition to that forbidding mana cost), since you will often attack with a superior force, only to lose your attackers after combat to your opponent’s smaller creatures because those take your stats-boosting enchantment with them if they all die.

I believe that Jihad’s mana cost is already enough of a hoop to jump through, and that it is also doing a fine job of conveying the card’s flavor all by itself in conjunction with its name. Note also that jihad is a religious duty which does not end with the defeat of an enemy (or even requires an enemy, for that matter), but needs to be upheld continuously. So I decided that all that was needed was cleaning this card up, and created a design for those limited environments where its mana cost can be supported at least by some decks.

My design:

Jihad

 

King Suleiman

King Suleiman Original

Hating on specific creature tribes is another misguided concept in my opinion. It makes for terrible limited play, and produces fringe sideboard cards for constructed at best. Djinns and especially efreets being rather seldomly used creature types (Khans of Tarkir block notwithstanding) doesn’t make this any better.

The origin of this mechanic is the Islamic interpretation of King Suleiman as the ruler over jinns, and I see no need that this rulership expresses itself in killing them. However, positive interactions face the issue that djinns, efreets and demons are just not white creature tribes in Magic, so I looked for other hooks. Suleiman is generally described as wise, wealthy and powerful, and he is said to control the winds, which gave me more than enough to work with.

My design:

King Suleiman2

 

Moorish Cavalry

Moorish Cavalry Original

This card feels definitely out of flavor for White with modern sensibilities, but in fact each color is allowed to have trample, although White is probably making the least use of it. Its power level is low, even for limited, but it is still a perfectly usable creature, and if there were specific reasons to put in into a set (for example, tribal synergies with its current creature type, knight), the only thing standing in the way would, once again, be its name. Apart from that, this design is acceptable as is.

 

Shahrazad

Shahrazad Original

So, this card is about playing a game within the game to reflect the concept of a story told within a story. No matter how adorable that design might look, it plays absolutely horrible. So, what to do?

Well, the story of Shahrazad is that of a young woman fated to get executed the next day, but prolonging her life by telling the king who would have her killed stories, which turn out so entertaining that he decides to let her live for just one more day, again and again. Now that is a concept which translates nicely into game terms, I think!

My design:

Shahrazad

markiert , , , ,

Fixing Old Cards: Arabian Nights Artifacts

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

City in a Bottle

City in a Bottle Original

Expansion hosers are among the most stupid concepts in Magic (excluding Un-sets), only behind ante, subgaming, and manual dexterity cards. So, my mission was to design a completely new mechanic fitting the flavor concept.

My design:

City in a Bottle

Pyramids

Pyramids Original

Like with Consecrate Land, this mechanic is of dubious value, but unlike with that enchantment, I did not feel the necessity to connect my design to it at all, since it makes no sense flavorwise – how would pyramids protect lands? For me, the cardinal question was if I should change this card into a land, since pyramids are mightily big artifacts, but I decided to keep them as such and create a concept appropriate to their size.

My design:

Pyramids

(Yes, this would be a mythic rare if I was using that rarity.)

Ring of Ma’ruf

Ring of Ma'ruf Original

Getting cards from outside the game is closely behind expansion hosers on the idiocy scale for me, as is the tournament application of this mechanic which fetches a card from the sideboard. However, Wizards seem to disagree, having revisited that mechanic a couple of times, most recently on Spawnsire of Ulamog. In my opinion, though, cards which work differently in a tournament setting are a clear indication of design failure, and thus the Ring needs fundamental fixing including acquiring a new concept. We know from the story that it contains a djinn who fulfills Ma’ruf’s wishes, but turns against him when his owner foolishly lends the ring to seomeone else, so this is what I got to work with.

My design:

Ring of Maruf

Sandals of Abdallah

Sandals of Abdallah Original

Giving a creature islandwalk is just not an effect any limited environment wants, so once again a new mechanic was needed. I was unable to find a specific source for this card concept, but it seems obvious that a pair of magical sandals would provide its wearer with an ability somewhere in the spectrum between being able to walk on water, though the air, or with high speed. Therefore, a fixed version of this card already exists, albeit shifted to a different cultural background, and I see no need to create my own version.

Fleetfeather Sandals Original

markiert , , , ,

Fixing Old Cards: Arabian Nights Lands

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

Like with Beta, I will only look at those cards which have not been properly reprinted in the meantime.

A note about the scope of my redesigns: I will always keep the name and the color affiliations of the original card. Obviously, some old card names are problematic – especially the real world references in Arabian Nights – and would be out of bounds for a real redesign. However, I consider the name as one of the defining aspects of the cards I redesign. Also, many card concepts work best (or only) if colorshifted, and some already have been. I’d rather change the card’s concept to fit its color affiliation, though.

 

Bazaar of Baghdad

Bazaar of Baghdad Original

Nearly unplayable in fair decks, broken in unfair decks – just the kind of card I despise the most! In this case, however, fixing the power level (and adding a mana ability) should suffice.

My design:

Bazaar of Baghdad

 

Desert

Desert Original

Power level in constructed isn’t the issue here, but I take exception to the role this card plays in limited, crippling small attackers (and also effectively enhancing blockers) for way too little cost. Additionally, I am not happy with the timing restriction for reasons of elegance and grokkability, and I also do not really get what it means that you need to tap this land for its effect – either your opponent has to cross the desert to get to you or not. I thus went for the flavor of retreating to a stronghold surrounded by desert(s) protecting you without the need to get active.

My design:

Desert

 

Diamond Valley

Diamond Valley Original

Wizards have already printed a fixed version of that card. I’m not a fan of legendary lands (actually, not a fan of the legendary concept at all), I believe that activation cost could be a mana cheaper, and there is no need to make this a rare, but this design is close enough for me.

Miren, the Moaning Well Original

 

Elephant Graveyard

Elephant Graveyard Original

This ability would be majorly annoying in any limited environment featuring elephants, even with a reasonably high mana cost attached (it’s definitely undercosted with tapping the land as the only cost). I do not think repeated regeneration on a land is a great idea at all. Also, I’m not sure why a graveyard should allow you to regenerate your creatures in the first place! I decided to go with a different concept fitting the flavor better. I do not think my design is less powerful, but it requires a heavier commitment to an elephant tribal theme to pay off.

My design:

Elephant Graveyard

 

Island of Wak-Wak

Island of Wak-Wak Original

Apart from the unacceptable name (an island which isn’t an island!) and the unclear concept, this card is fine if it gets the usual treatment of adding a mana ability and increasing the cost for its activated ability. Oh, and maybe a quote, rephrased from the original story, which actually relates at least somehow to what the card does.

My design:

Island of Wak-Wak

 

Library of Alexandria

Library of Alexandria Original

Lastly, we have the most overpowered land from Magic’s early history – isn’t it funny how the Library even possesses a mana ability, when Diamond Valley and Oasis don’t? Making this ability more expensive can solve the power level issue, but the whole concept seems wrong to me, making the rich even richer – Sea Gate Wreckage makes so much more sense!

So, the basic idea here is that knowledge begets knowledge, which is of course true, but really problematic in game terms. An abundance of hand cards enabling you to draw additional cards is worse than the already dangerous ramp concept of spending a lot of mana to gain access to even more mana. While people habitually use card draw to draw into more card draw, there should not be a bonus for already having a full grip.

I could just have designed a generic card-drawing land (costing a boatload of mana to activate), but I wanted to use a concept related to the flavor of a library as a place where you search for knowledge instead.

My design:

Library of Alexandria

markiert , , , ,