Schlagwort-Archiv: red

Fixing Old Cards: Arabian Nights Red

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

Due to the positive feedback for this series (yes, that really makes all the difference!), I will keep it up at least a little longer. However, I am considering a more fundamental change to my blogging activities which would affect fixing cards as well, but that is still in the earliest phase of consideration.

Ali from Cairo

Ali from Cairo Original

So, what we have here is an especially terrible card name, even if you accept that it references a literal figure from an earth-based story. It just means „an Ali from the story who is not Ali Baba, and about whom we do not know enough to differentiate him other than by mentioning that he stems from Cairo, which Ali Baba doesn’t, as you should realize now if you weren’t aware of it before“.

The card is supposed to play up the fact that this Ali had been rather fortunate in his life, although skimming over the story I did not find a situation where he had a near escape from death, just that he was a very successful merchant who started out with nothing (but pretended to be rich), borrowing some money and making enough profit with that to pay back his loans easily soon, while building up his business.

Thus, this card’s ability fails on all fronts: It does not really describe the character it portrays; it actually does not even protect Ali himself, but the player; and it has no business being in Red at all (it’s clearly white, as you can see on Worship). Oh, and then I’m not a fan of that kind of ability in general…

When I redid Ali’s design, I had in mind that he was a merchant, and that he also was a bit of a trickster, able to turn a bad situation he was in into a favorable one for him. I found a fitting quote in the story, and it all came together.

My design:

Ali from Cairo

Desert Nomads

Desert Nomads Original

When I had first thought about that card, I had just assumed I would give it protection from lands or something similar, since referencing a single card is just too narrow a design (and no modern expansion would feature any utility land at a rarity more frequent than common anymore). But then I created my version of Desert – and protection does not even help against that! Well, I had put myself into a bind there, and needed to find a different way to counter that land’s effect on these nomads. As it turned out, the simplest solution worked well enough. Note that I consciously forewent any kind of landwalk, which is a problematic ability in limited (that’s not to say it’s great in constructed).

My design:

Desert Nomads

Ydwen Efreet

Ydwen Efreet Original

This card is named after a friend of Richard Garfield, Wendy, who married another friend of him, Jamie – so now you also know where the name Mijae Djinn comes from!

I do not like the following things about this design: First of all, the coin flip, which I not only despise in general but is also especially problematic here because of timing issues. Then, the ability is kinda irrelevant, since red decks will gladly just attack with their 3/6 creature for three mana. I’m also not a fan of triple-mana costs unless there is a good reason for them, which I do not spot here.

I decided to stay away from a design aimed at constructed, and instead create a card which would play interestingly in limited. My version of the Efreet actually even entices you to leave it back on blocking duty – of course, it might get bounced, but if that doesn’t happen (and chances are good that it won’t), your opponent just attacked into a 3/6 blocker. Still, the ability is a real disadvantage, especially when playing against evasion creatures, but then again, the stats of my version are still a bit over the curve in limited, so he should be worth the risk.

My design:

Ydwen Efreet

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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: Red Non-Creature Spells

This is the 12th 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

Blue Non-Creature Spells

Red 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:

Red Non-Creature Spells (Claws of Valakut and Lightning Cloud should be rare, while Slagstorm should be uncommon.)

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

I consider Maniacal Rage to be a superior design to Furor of the Bitten, but Furor sits in a better mana slot – on two mana Madcap Skills and Ordeal of Purphoros give me enough options.

Claws of Valakut is not quite as powerful as Armored Ascension or even Blanchwood Armor, but still at the top of the power level spectrum for my cubes. I need it as a companion to Spitting Earth, just as Nightmare is a companion to Tendrils of Corruption, but I don’t like how it threatens to kill out of nowhere.

Disintegrate is my burn x-spell of choice. I do not think Fireball is as overpowered in limited as it once was – games go a lot faster today – but it’s unnecessarily complicated. Rolling Thunder was the bogeyman of Tempest limited, but what’s true about Fireball is also true about the Thunder: Games go faster, creatures are bigger, and that spell isn’t terribly mana-efficient. Since Red has few ways to attain card advantage, it is a good option. Back to Disintegrate: It is a way to deal with regenerating creatures (Red has a few more, but that is a good thing) of any size, and it also makes sure they do not come back, although that isn’t quite as important anymore, since I removed most self-recurring creatures from my pool.

It is probably telling that I already run out of things I want to say about my red non-creature spells here: Red really lacks variance a bit. Then again, since this is the last entry about monocolored cards, I already said everything which pertains to colorspanning cycles, making this entry especially short.

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My Limited Card Pool: Red Lands & Creatures

This is the 11th 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

Blue 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:

Red Lands & Creatures (Hellion Crucible should be uncommon.)

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

Keldon Megaliths is the only card with hellbent left in my pool. I gave up on that mechanic, which simply didn’t play well. The Megaliths are not meant to specifically encourage players to build a deck which empties its hand fast, but as a land with an upside in the lategame red decks can use, just like Hellion Crucible

I upgraded Jackal Pup to Firedrinker Satyr, because the Pup could do with a little extra oomph in limited.

Jackal Familiar and Mogg Flunkies are meant to encourage a weenie strategy, where they are stronger than Ember Beast, which plays more like a slightly undercosted generic creature with a disadvantage.

Skitter of Lizards is a great way to get a usable haste creature for 1 mana in my pool (Goblin Guide does not really work in limited).

AEtherflame Wall is Red’s concession towards the shadow theme, which is why it’s common, but it also provides a generally useful pumpable defender in the vein of Wall of Fire.

Stormblood Berserker, the 2-drop, being uncommon, and Gorehorn Minotaurs, the 4-drop, common, is just as things were in Magic 2012, but feels a bit unintuitive to me, especially because it is the other way around than the rarities of the black bloodthirst creatures. It makes sense, though, as the Berserker is a little more powerful, and the switched rarities make the mechanic feel a little different in both colors.

Attributing rarities was also an issue with Young Pyromancer and Guttersnipe. While the Pyromancer is probably a bit more powerful even in limited (but it’s a lot closer than in constructed), he is more generally useful, while Guttersnipe isn’t too interesting without a strong instery component in the deck. Also, it’s nice if the producer of 1/1 tokens is common, while Talrand, Sky Summoner is rare.

Fire Imp is the smaller variant of Flametongue Kavu, which means it is on an acceptable power level.

Granite Gargoyle, Highland Giant and Earth Elemental are generic creatures helping to balance out Red’s overall very aggressive nature a little, which is of course a defining feature of that color, but makes it play a little too one-dimensional if it is the only strategic option. These creatures still work reasonably well on the attack, though.

Outrage Shaman is one of the few cards with devotion (yes, it doesn’t technically have it) which isn’t too swingy. Thus, I’m not interested in that mechanic for its own sake, but I needed a red color themed uncommon, and this is a great fit.

6 mana is the highest acceptable cost for cards which support a theme. Rustmouth Ogre still is no great choice, but a superior replacement which fits in an uncommon slot and isn’t too similar to other cards in my pool is hard to come by.

Conquering Manticore is overall probably stronger than Shivan Dragon, but it isn’t quite as efficient at winnig a game on its own in short time, which is the problematic part. Also, the Dragon, while one of the most iconic Magic cards, isn’t that unique in my card pool, with Furnace Whelp and Shivan Hellkite doing similar things.

Magmatic Force is the most powerful 8-mana card in my pool. On one hand, that’s strange, since having the best fatty seems to belong into either the green or blue part of the color pie. On the other hand, it is kinda fair, since Red has probably the most trouble supporting a lategame strategy. I still wish there was a slightly weaker alternative, but the only other card in the right power band is Scourge of Kher Ridges, which is too similar to the (much better designed) Shivan Hellkite, and whose abilities effectively clean the board repeatedly, which isn’t a desirable feature.

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