Schlagwort-Archiv: blue

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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Fixing Old Cards: Beta Blue & Red

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

It seems moderate interest in this series is still there, so I might keep it up a little longer, although I’m not sure if my posting frequency will stay quite as high. This is the final installment addressing cards last seen in Beta (among regular sets).

 

Psionic Blast

Psionic Blast Original

I was not sure if I should include Psionic Blast, since it has been reprinted in a regular set (Time Spiral). On the other hand, it is pretty clear that this set’s timeshifted cards should not count, since they do not reflect the design philosophy of the time when they were published. I the end, I was just shirking from having to explain my stance on Magic’s color pie, but I wanted to talk about it at some time anyway, so here we go:

I am convinced that the strictness with which R&D (and in this case, that means mostly Mark Rosewater himself) enforces color taboos is a mistake. Note that I talk about taboos, because that’s what they really are, not just weaknesses, even though they are being slowly eroded nowadays for good reasons (Green being allowed to remove creatures if this process somehow involves own creatures, White being allowed to draw cards if this ties in with a specific subtheme like equipment, etc.) If it were fine for Green to have Hornet Sting and Desert Twister (which it should be in my opinion, but Rosewater is adamantly against this), unconditional creature removal would be Green’s weakness. If Green is not even allowed to have a barely playable card like Hornet Sting or an overpriced card like Desert Twister, that is a taboo.

Hornet Sting

To illustrate my point, think of an adventurer group in a class-based roleplaying game – you know, the kind where a fighter, a thief, a cleric and a wizard drink together in a tavern, when suddenly a wealthy stranger approaches them with a treasure map and a tale of great danger… It is important for those kinds of games that their character classes are balanced out. Each needs a niche of something important they do much better than the others, or there would be no reason (okay, apart from actual, you know, roleplaying) for players to run a character from that class. The wizard should not be able to beat up people with his bare hands or wear heavy armor, the cleric should not be able to throw fireballs at a distant enemy or become invisble, the thief should not be able to turn away undead or instantly heal wounds, and the fighter should not be able to pick locks or creep over a battlefield unnoticed. And so on. Each class needs to have strengths and weaknesses to justify its existence, just like the colors in Magic

However, applying Rosewater’s ideas about the color pie to this example, the wizard would be too weak to even walk normally (hey, he can learn spells to fly and teleport after all!); the cleric would be blind (no worry, he’s guided by his god, right?); the thief would helplessly bleed to death from the smallest scratch; and the fighter would be too dumb to speak.

That freakshow mirrors the inability of colors to interact with some opponents‘ game plans even in the most basic way. Black is not bad at dealing with artifacts, it can’t do anything about them at all once they’ve hit the battlefield. The same goes for Red and enchantments, and for a long time it was also true for Green and utility creatures. To compensate for that lack of interaction, in Magic’s early years the colors‘ strengths were exaggerated ever more, leading to the brokenness of cards like Fireblast or Hatred (with both Dark Ritual and Culling the Weak legal at the time, to provide context) – and that was still before Urza Block pulled out all the stops! It makes some kind of twisted sense: If you cannot interact with your opponent’s game plan, you need to win faster.

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Green found another way, becoming the color you would play if you wanted to play all other colors by getting ridiculously good manafixing. I don’t think the color pie makes much sense if it assigns one color the strength to use the strengths of all other colors, though… In the same vein, I really do not get the argument that colorless spells (not Grey, but colorless spells only requiring generic mana) are allowed to do what some colors aren’t. A recent case in point: Scour from Existence. Yes, that card is even a bit less efficient than Desert Twister, but Rosewater’s stance is explicitly that efficiency does not matter! This is where his reasoning simply breaks down. And it certainly does not help that colorless spells actually have even been allowed to do stuff some colors are forbidden to do at all pretty efficiently during Magic’s history (examples are Nevinyrral’s Disk) or Duplicant – oh, and then there was that phyrexian mana thingy, which must count as well!)

It all boils down to Wizards consciously implementing ways to cheat the color pie, while nominally upholding their strict interpretation of it: Colorless spells, too easy manafixing, rarity-driven exceptions (they will usually explain those as flavor-driven, though) – they have realized Magic does not work if decks cannot reliably interact, but they have not drawn the correct conclusion yet: That colors should not have taboos, but merely weaknesses; and that a color’s philosophical identity should not dictate if it is able to interact with basic game elements, but how. Giving Green fight (and recently, even one-sided fight) was a step in the right direction, necessitated by the dynamics of limited play where the ability to neutralize opposing creatures is essential to the viability of almost every deck, but there is still a lot to do.

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Okay, now that I have explained why it is important that each color is able to interact with the basic elements of the game, I have to concede that there is no dire need for Blue to have access to direct damage like Psionic Blast. That is not my point though – it is that color taboos, in contrast to weaknesses, shouldn’t exist in the first place, and that it is fine for a color to do something which does not obviously fit its philosophy if it does it in a very color-specific way (and not too efficiently). This is what the flavor of psionics in Magic is about: Being able to hurt someone with a direct mental attack, but hurting yourself in the process. If you follow the game’s back-story (which I do only sporadically myself), you might know that this is exactly what Jace did to defeat Alhammarret, so this concept from the very first Magic set is still a part of the game today at least philosophically.

The long and the short of it: I did not change Psionic Blast’s function of dealing damage directly, because I believe that this specific way to do it fits Blue flavorwise as long as it isn’t too efficient. I just made sure that the backlash is big enough to not make the card a utility staple, and that limited decks would not be able to splash for it, since you really should not splash Blue for direct damage.

My design:

Psionic Blast

 

False Orders

False Orders Original

I think the basic idea of this card is fine. All it needed was to be cleaned up and made a bit more versatile. I took a page from Master Warcraft here, although that meant borrowing the ability which stops a creature from attacking for a turn from White, but in the context of this card, and fitting in with its chaotic flavor, I feel this was justified. Note that I replicated the timing restriction from Master Warcraft not because I believe it is necessary on either card, but because I am not absolutely sure it is not. Maybe the cards could do something they’re not supposed to without it because of some obscure rules interaction I am not aware of.

My design:

False Orders

 

Raging River

Raging River Original

Among all cards from Beta, Raging River might be the one whose concept is the least compatible with modern Magic design. Setting aside for a moment the incredible complexity of its mechanic: What the heck is red about a raging river, apart from apparently making your creatures harder to block? Since I do not think the mechanical concept of this card can be salvaged, a redesign has to lean on its flavor, and that is decidedly not red. Quite the dilemma! But you know what they say: „We’ll fix it in the flavor text.“

My design:

Raging River

 

Two-Headed Giant of Foriys

Two-Headed Giant of Foriys Original

Lastly, another design I am just fine with (using its Oracle wording, obviously). Okay, Red is not supposed to be especially great at blocking, but it still does block a lot, and with this card’s concept fitting nicely into Red, I don’t see a real issue here. I would have preferred a double-colored cost, but that seems not important enough to merit a redesign. If Two-Headed Giant of Foriys was not on the Reserved List, it would make a perfectly fine reprint in a current set, although probably at uncommon.

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My Limited Card Pool: Blue Non-Creature Spells

This is the 10th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

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:

Blue Non-Creature Spells

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

Flight Spellbomb and Panic Spellbomb are the only survivors from one-and-a-half cycles of Spellbombs. I realized I didn’t need nearly as many of those, and found many of their designs not convincing. In the original cycle from Mirrodin, you mostly knew if you’d cycle a bomb or use it for its effect before the game even started – some effects were too weak to be worth a card, some were too good that cycling were a realistic alternative. Also, there was the issue of players using off-color Spellbombs, which was not what I had in mind when I included a whole cycle of them. The new Spellbombs from Scars of Mirrodin, on the other hand, are mostly useless without the right colored mana, which is good. The blue and the red one had the most interesting and elegant effects, so I decided to keep those.

Just like Seal of Strength did with Giant Growth, so has Seal of Removal shoved out the classic Unsummon for being too similar. Not that these cards couldn’t coexist, but the spots for bounce spells are already crowded, and Blue needs only so many of them. Silent Departure, Into the Roil, Rescind and Time Ebb do everything I need, and let us not forget AEther Adept and AEthersnipe

Think Tank and Strategic Planning obviously support graveyard-based strategies, but this is not their main function in my pool: I use them primarily for card selection (and I was really happy that Planning got reprinted, making it affordable!) Therefore they are not tagged „yard“ and „mill“ – unlike Mental Note, which is meant for environments with such a theme. I use Note over Thought Scour on principle, because milling the opponent is one of the biggest no-nos in Next Level Cubes.

Vow of Flight has some unnecessary and annoying text, and I’m not too happy with that card – all I really want is Spectral Flight to cost one mana more. Granted, playing the Vow on an opponent’s creature will seldom lead to a win, and it’s certainly not too strong a „removal“ option for Blue, but sometimes players will be forced to do it and then probably watch a game they would have lost fast otherwise drag on a lot longer – until they still lose it. Still, this kind auf aura really needs to be there, and Vow is the best choice – Zephid’s Embrace giving shroud is too much, and Nimbus Naiad is a different, and very special concept. Of course, there is Drake Umbra, but that is another really special card, and sitting in a clearly different mana slot.

For me, Sleight of Hand is the most basic 1-mana card selection spell, not using scry, and not involving putting cards from your hand back or shuffling your library.

The options for countermagic are overhwelming. In addition to permanent-based stuff (like Daring Apprentice or Lilting Refrain), I have no less than 8 monoblue cards which explicitly say „counter target spell“ on them in my pool, and a couple more which do similar things (Mage’s Guile, Meddle…), and I still left out a good number of perfectly fine candidates, most noteworthy Essence Scatter, Negate and Mana Leak, which lose out to Counterspell and Miscalculation; and Dismal Failure, losing out to Dismiss.

Perilous Research is effectively a much better Altar’s Reap, so I took out the latter – there are still enough sacrifice synergies in Black. Impulse, however, had to go (a pity, since I had made the effort to get a somehow pricey version with correct wording) – it was just a bit too good. Strategic Planning is a better fit, which pushed out the too similar Compulsive Research. With Mulldrifter gone, the elegant Divination could return and fill that slot, but Thirst for Knowledge still sports that kind of mechanic.

There were several options for a strong tempo card affecting more than one creature. I got away from Undo and Into the Void and returned to the slightly fairer Sleep, which can not be used just to remove tokens, counters and auras, and is an honest pure tempo play instead.

I love Mind Control for nostalgic reasons (which go back to Control Magic of course), but turning your opponent’s best creature against him is still too cheap at 5 mana. Confiscate sits in the right spot, though.

I am a bit wary of any spell which draws more than 3 cards, but since my cubes never are as slow as Magic 2014 was, costing 6 mana makes Opportunity not too unfair.

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My Limited Card Pool: Blue Lands & Creatures

This is the 9th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

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:

Blue Lands & Creatures (The rarities of Daring Apprentice and Clone were switched inadvertently; the former should be uncommon, the latter common.)

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

I never understood the fascination of many players with the bouncelands from the old Ravnica block. „Card advantage on a land“ is what some pro uttered in awe – well, yes (although an extra mana isn’t even technically card advantage unless you can exchange that mana or another land for a card somehow), but at the same time these lands are so slow that Thawing Glaciers seems to work at hypersonic speed in comparison. They can’t be laid on turn one, need another „normal“ land to be played at all, cost you your second turn (and might even lose you a card when you’re on the draw – so much for card advantage!), and do not provide an extra mana before the turn where you would have run out of land drops otherwise. In addition, they make you extremely vulnerable to land destruction, tapping or bouncing.

I was still a somehow active player at the time of Ravnica / Time Spiral block, and I remember two things clearly: 1. Unlike practically everyone else, I picked signets over bouncelands in Ravnica block draft (meaning I got very few of the latter, since some people took to actually firstpicking them), and my win ratio in that format was the highest ever. 2. I playtested standard a lot back then, and whenever I came upon a deck using bouncelands, I very soon tuned them out of the deck, vastly improving that deck’s strength.

That seemed to be a lot off-topic text, didn’t it? Yet I wanted to explain why I got rid of those bouncelands in my pool: They simply sucked. I used them as an additional cycle of manafixers, but noone, including myself, was ever happy drawing them, and when I realized that I didn’t need that much manafixing in my pool anymore after committing to reasonably sized cubes, I gladly threw them out.

However, the idea of a land which would provide mana advantage in a long game for the cost of slowing down your early game wasn’t that bad in itself, if that was the expressive purpose of that land. So, when I was looking for a special blue-affiliated land beyond the fundamental cycles of manlands and cycling lands (every color should have at least one of those), I decided that I could include Coral Atoll from the Visions predecessor cycle of the bouncelands. Blue is the color most likely to want this effect, since it is usually best equipped for the endgame, so that fitted.

Giant Tortoise is cool, because it is a vanilla 1/4 for 1U. (Well, almost.) There’s a million 1/3 creatures for 1U, but a 1/4 is just what’s needed, and there’s no good reason it has to cost 3 mana, unless it has a significant upside. (Armored Skaab brings that upside, if an environment has a strong graveyard theme.) Making a 1/4 cost UU, like Plated Seastrider, is also silly, as Frostburn Weird shows.

Void Stalker as a common highlights again how much value I place on available creature removal as the most important form of interaction in limited.

Latch Seeker edges out Phantom Warrior for crunch reasons – if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a dozen 2/1 or 2/2 flying creatures for 3 mana in Blue when assembling your limited card pool (but you certainly want a few of those).

Scroll Thief is a bit closer to Thieving Magpie than I like, but Stealer of Secrets isn’t too unique either (see Dimir Cutpurse or Augury Adept), and the slow, accumulating advantage this creature threatens to grind out goes better with only a single point of power. (Having it deal combat damage, unlike Ophidian, is still a good idea, because you want to reward players who power this creature up.)

The archetypal pinger, Prodigal Sorcerer, shows that I still see that ability in Blue, where it once belonged (although Red gets to join the party, of course, like with Vulshok Sorcerer), and his big sister, Reveka, Wizard Savant, underscores that.

Clone is common, not only because Blue is a bit short on creatures which makes sense at common, but also because, nonewithstanding its rather complex underlying rules, it represents a really basic version of a typical blue effect, and it isn’t powerful in itself – just playing it on curve, for example, will usually result in a not too impressive effect.

Tower Geist is a hybrid between the acceptable, but not too exciting Screeching Drake and the overpowered Mulldrifter.

From a flavor-based aesthetic perspective, it sucks that I use Air Elemental, Water Elemental and Earth Elemental, but not Fire Elemental – but that is just one vanilla creature too many, and too similar to the others. The blue flyer is listed as uncommon, but I already reversed my stance on that, and it is common again, to fall into line with the other elementals, and to show that Blue can get big flyers at common, but they are not as strong as the rarer creatures of other colors (see White’s Serra Angel).

Ephemeron is the best companion I found as a generic 6-drop creature for Mahamoti Djinn, it being nearly unkillable and all, but I keep my eyes open for a better solution, which feels more generic, and differs more from the Djinn (and Air Elemental).

Tidal Force replaced Tidespout Tyrant, because an 8-drop shouldn’t require additional spells to be worth its mana.

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