Still working on that „shorter, but more frequent updates“ thingie. Now, this entry here should actually BE shorter than usual. I hope…
BTW, if you are waiting for more Next Level Cube content, especially my Magic Origins choices for my Limited Card Pool: It’s coming soonish, and it will be a LOT, with the latter being the reason that I’m not quite there yet. Keep your breath (if you can hold it for another week or so!)
Today, I want to talk about some Magic terminology: The „X-drop“ (usually used with a specific number, like „2-drop“). I’ve seen this term being in misuse for quite a while now. Admittedly, I cannot expect that the whole world will base their use of terminology on my Magic University series (which most of the world never got to know, and the majority of those who did probably only dimly remembers), but I strongly believe that usage of a term should make sense – and in this case, it often doesn’t!
Let me give you a few examples, taken from Magic Origins:
[card]Timberpack Wolf[/card] is a 2-drop.
[card]Throwing Knife[/card] is a 2-drop.
[card]Shadows of the Past[/card] is a 2-drop.
[card]Tormenting Voice[/card] is a 2-drop.
[card]Call of the Full Moon[/card] is NOT a 2-drop.
[card]Reave Soul[/card] is NOT a 2-drop.
[card]Macabre Waltz[/card] is NOT a 2-drop.
The important difference lies here: An X-drop is something you (almost) always can and will want to do if you have those X mana and no better way to spend them. An X-drop is an INDEPENDENT play. If wanting – or even being able! – to use it depends on additional, too specific factors (Tormenting Voice is grazing the line here), it is not a „drop“, since the validity of that term comes with its meaning of allowing you to reliably use your mana for that card. If you have an X-drop, and X mana (of the right colors), you do not need that mana to go to waste.
Now, there are reasons certain terms exist and get used. In the case of the „drop“, is is tied to concepts like mana curve and board presence. However, the term „drop“ just gives you a way to talk about these things – you still have to evaluate specific cards in specific contexts! For example, Reave Soul MAY be able to substitute for a 2-drop in certain situations, and if – IF! – it does, it will help you to hit your mana curve in the same way a real 2-drop would do. On the other hand, Throwing Knife, while being a 2-drop, will often not help you to influence board presence immediately, which is another important concept tied to mana curve – while you do get to spend your mana, and even add something to the board (unlike with using Tormenting Voice, for example), the Knife is just not doing anything without interaction with other cards. That makes it often a less desirable 2-drop than a generic creature, but it still is a 2-drop, and you might be happy, for example, that you already played it on turn two, if you follow up with a good creature on turn three, and then can equip it to that creature while leaving 2 mana for a card like [card]Negate[/card] open on turn four.
I’ve seen „X-drop“ too often used to refer to any card which costs X mana. That makes it not only a redundant term, it also leaves a gap for a term describing your ability to reliably spend X mana for a card. This is why you shouldn’t use „drop“ in a redundant meaning, but in one which is needed and makes sense, like I explained above.