Schlagwort-Archiv: artifacts

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

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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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My Limited Card Pool: Non-Creature Artifacts (Unaffiliated)

This is the second entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. (Here’s the first.)

In this entry I listed a number of guidelines I follow when deciding which cards I want in my cubes.

Here’s a PDF you can open in a new window to look at the part of my list I’m taking about while reading:

Non-Creature Artifacts

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

The generic cards in this list are mostly made up of mana artifacts and removal. Because interaction is essential to good gameplay, stuff like Brittle Effigy or Icy Manipulator is common, and Ratchet Bomb and Nevinyrral’s Disk will almost always make my cubes (remember that single rares show up with the same frequency as uncommons in my cubes, 1/3). I really wish there were a few more, reasonable designs of colorless cards which can deal with enchantments (for artifacts, there are at least a few options), but there aren’t, so I will always have to be extremely careful with enchantments in my cubes – they must be a relevant part of it, but cannot be too poweful, since they’re so hard to get rid of for some colors. Since Theros block has enchantments as a major theme, there’s a small chance that will change with the next two expansions, but I’m not holding my breath.

I trimmed my equipment selection to mostly include only very basic effects, because I found those to play best – equipment is already offering a lot in its most basic form, and I wouldn’t want to use more complicated equipment instead of simple stuff, but there’s not enough space in a cube for too much equipment. Even very simple equipments, like [Trusty Machete[/card], already became a victim of the crunch, since I only need so many choices.

A few card-specific notes:

Chimeric Mass is a bit annoying, since it will often be a creature with charge counters on it (instead of simply using +1/+1 counters), and I wish there were a cleaner version, but it will do.

It always annoys me when a colorless card needlessly (for flavor reasons) produces colored tokens, like Orochi Hatchery, because in some environments, this makes it color-affiliated (if there’s Kaysa in it, for example), but usually it isn’t. There’s no better choice, though.

I consciously chose Neurok Hoversail over Cobbled Wings, because re-equipping from an attacker to a blocker shouldn’t be too cheap.

Aeolipile is superior to Moonglove Extract, because it is one one hand less clumsy (the point of such cards is to be put on the board pre-emptively for secureness, so cheaper is better), but on the other hand creates what R&D calls „shields-down moments“, allowing the opponent to avoid its effect when you’re completely tapped out.

I avoid indestructible whenever possible (it prevents interaction and is slightly confusing), but it’s not too big a deal on Darksteel Pendant, which provides an important basic function.

Mind Stone clearly edges out Guardian Idol, since drawing a card is better flood protection than providing a clumsy 2/2. Prophetic Prism teams up with it and Millikin for my choice of two-mana artifacts. Coldsteel Heart had for some time been the only snow card in my cube, but I finally got rid of it after I realized I actualy preferred to separate acceleration and mana fixing.

Titan Forge and Lux Cannon are newcomers in my pool. I was looking for a couple more high-end cards for control decks and found these, which play differently from simply expensive cards, because they’re not as attractive for ramp strategies, and specifically reward you for dragging the game out. That’s a pretty small niche in my cubes, but I feel two rares are just right to potentially fill it.

Medicine Bag is the last survivor of a couple cards which I had previously used specifically as discard outlets. See, I knew I forgot something when I listed my guidelines: I got rid of madness, all hellbent cards except Keldon Megaliths, spellshapers, and most discard outlets. Mechanics which specifically encourage you to empty your hand are nearly as bad as those which encourage you to keep it full, madness is rather complicated and confusing, and spellshapers make for repetitive play (and are usually extremely annoying to play against). The whole complex of these mechanics didn’t convince me anymore, and thus I only kept a few select cards which could stand on their own. (The Bag still somehow supports threshold, obviously, but that is not important.)

Seer’s Sundial, although featuring landfall, is now my „generic“ card-drawing artifact. I finally got rid of Jayemdae Tome, which no one, including me, ever used. In the really early limited days, there was a time when the Tome was quite useful, but nowadays, and especially in my cubes, paying 12 mana for an Inspiration is just beyond awful. Cannon and Forge seem to have similar egregious initial investments, but at least produce an impressive effect impacting the board; helping you to win where the Tome might just have gotten you closer to decking yourself.

I wasn’t too happy with my overall selection of high-end colorless creatures, so I included a couple more high-end non-creature artifacts instead. Minion Reflector, Mirari, Mindslaver, Staff of Nin and Aladdin’s Ring are my toys of choice for lategame or ramp decks here, with Mindslaver intended for cubes in the top segment of the power level spectrum.

Some important cards I removed are Serrated Arrows, which are overpowered, and Spine of Ish Sah, which is too expensive to fulfill the role I wanted it to (a catch-all colorless removal spell), and at the same time lends itself to silly combo plays recurring it every turn. Though the Arrows are an excellent design, they need to cast at least one mana more to be fair. It’s funny how strong they are, yet how weak [cast]Dragon Blood[/card] is – a design I’d gladly include in my pool if its activation cost were just tapping it.

Another card which finally got kicked out is Disrupting Scepter, which is essentially a sideboard card in my cubes (reason enough not to use it), and for the rare control-on-control matchup to boot, because it is too clumsy otherwise. I kept it so long because there is just no alternative to it – but then again, in contrast to card drawing, discard probably isn’t an effect which is really needed on a colorless card.

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