Schlagwort-Archiv: redesign

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: 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: Arabian Nights Green

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

I’ll very probably keep going until I have finished Arabian Nights, but I’m yet undecided if I should proceed to Antiquities afterwards.

 

Drop of Honey

Drop of Honey Original

While I do not especially like this card concept, it works under its current Oracle wording. The issue, however, is that this is not a green effect. It has been reprinted in White as Porphyry Nodes, but since Planar Chaos was explicitly about colorshifting cards from their core color identity to a fringe color identity, it is possible that Wizards do not consider this effect truly white either – if so, my best guess would be that it’s black.

Anyway, my task was to find a similar card concept which works both in Green and with the card name (which is referring to a story from One Thousand and One Nights, where a drop of honey attracts a couple of flies, who then attract a bird eating them, who attracts a cat catching it, and so on, until the whole region is at war). Well, we know Green allows you to destroy creatures if your own creatures are somehow involved, so this wasn’t too hard.

My design:

Drop of Honey

 

Ifh-Biff Efreet

Ifh-Biff Efreet Original

This card showcases very well how different (and less precisely defined) the color pie – which didn’t have that name then – was in Magic’s early days. Direct damage in Green is an absolute no-go today, and Green isn’t supposed to get flying creatures with any regularity either (although I strongly disagree with this philosophy). Also, the Efreet is way too powerful if you’re ahead, and even if not, way too suppressive towards opposing flying creatures. If an opponent actually has access to green mana, however, there are situations where it is flat out unplayable or outright killing you in short order if already on the battlefield, which is just too much risk for a good design. Lastly, I really do not like permanents whose abilities can be activated by all players.

Identifying its core aspects, this card is meant to be an efficient aggressive creature doing double duty as a weapon against flyers, whose deployment poses a significant risk to its controller (a prevalent theme in Arabian Nights). I just had to measure out these aspects correctly for a well-balanced limited creature.

My design:

Ifh-Biff Efreet

 

Singing Tree

Singing Tree Original

Really, isn’t this one of the most terrible artworks ever? It might do for a basic Forest – but where is a singing tree in here?

That issue aside, this card is just unattractive even in limited. Also, there are already more than enough cards in Arabian Nights which impede flyers, and the flavor here doesn’t explain this mechanic. Thus, I decided to create a powerful rare with a more generally useful ability instead – in fact, so powerful that I had to make this tree legendary to preclude having two of them on the battlefield!

My design:

Singing Tree

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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

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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

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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: 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

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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.

Image.ashx

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.

Image.ashx

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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Fixing Old Cards: Beta Green

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

 

Berserk

Berserk Original

Wizards have already tried to fix Berserk several times. Their first attempt involving its initial aspect of doubling the creature’s power was Surge of Strength, while the closest was Fatal Frenzy, completing the move of this design into Red. But I just noticed that the original isn’t actually quite as overpowered as many remember – take a look at this card from a recent set:

Temur Battle Rage

Just like Berserk, it effectively doubles the creature’s power, and in those cases where Berserk might seem overpowered, it also gives trample! And all that for only two mana without killing the creature (okay, this takes away the option of killing an opponent’s creature with it, but that was just a fringe use of that card)!

I have to conclude that Berserk isn’t really much too strong, but mainly too awkwardly phrased. In my redesign however, I decided to get a bit out of the way of Temur Battle Rage, accepting that this effect is now in Red for whatever reason, and concentrate on the flavor-driven aspect of killing the berserked creature instead. That reduces the card’s value as a finisher, but gives Green some kind of roundabout removal (something it is still in dire need of), while not violating the paradigm that green removal must be tied to it having creatures in some way.

My design:

Berserk

 

Camouflage

Camouflage Original

When a card’s Oracle text is twice as long as its original rules text which already fills up its text box to the brim, you know that you’re looking at a design which just doesn’t work. I tried to preserve the surprise element of making the opponent deal with your board in an unexpected way, and exercised a bit of creative license otherwise. Fudging with creature stats in this way is possibly more a blue effect, but I see no reason why it couldn’t be at least secondary in Green.

My design:

Camouflage

(It’s a pity that Americans probably won’t get the flavor text reference.)

 

Ice Storm

Ice Storm Original

I just discussed the issues of land destruction in the previous installment of this series. I decided to create a four mana spell with upside again, somehow mirroring my Sinkhole design.

My design:

Ice Storm

 

Natural Selection

Natural Selection Original

Well, when you have a card which does almost nothing, you can usually save it by turning it into a cantrip. You will have noticed that I already used that trick a few times. This card, though, would just have turned out really annoying if I had done that. I instead went with a typical green effect matching the card name’s flavor (trying to match that art would have been futile).

My design:

Natural Selection
(My original design had a flaw pointed out by Max in the comments: The cards looked at were, of course, still in the library! That meant that you drew one of the three cards you had looked at if you didn’t reveal, which was not my intent, and also lead to the issue of having to prove which card you drew. Max’s suggestion to fix my fix was what I actually wanted the card to do in the first place, so I adopted it.)

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Fixing Old Cards: Beta White & Black

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

 

Blaze of Glory

Blaze of Glory Original

Wizards redesigned that card a decade ago in a very clean way:

Valor Made Real

However, I’m not satisfied with that solution. I do not mind that the fringe utility of forcing an opponent’s creature to block has disappeared – that’s not what this design was about, and it didn’t feel especially white either – but I do mind that this card is unplayably weak even in limited. That is easily amended, though:

My design:

Blaze of Glory

 

Consecrate Land

Consecrate Land Original

Yet another unplayably weak card. Using one card only to protect another is rarely efficient. I doesn’t get better if that other card is already somehow protected by its card type (at least nowadays), and a single card of that type is usually less important than permanents of other types. I suppose it was designed to help a little against Flashfires, and to combo with one’s own Armageddon

Well, my misson is to make each card playable in limited – at least in some reasonably frequently encountered situations in some environments – so I have to give Consecrate Land a bit of a different spin, since all realistic applications of its initial function are constructed only (mostly casual constructed). I feel that consecrating a land should not only protect the land itself, but also those living on it; and this flavor translates well into a mechanic, because you now have a permanent actually worth protecting.

My design:

Consecrate Land

(Yes, I am aware that in modern Magic design hexproof has replaced shroud. I consider this an egregious mistake which needs to be fixed, though!)

 

Lich

Lich Original

Here we have another of those bizarre old designs which I believe would be best off ignored. Wizards seem to disagree, however, as they have revisited this concept a few times, for example with Lich’s Tomb and Nefarious Lich.

There is a lot wrong with this card: Its prohibitive mana cost, its complexity, its weirdness that causes rules issues, and its complete unplayability in normal settings coupled with its potential to be abused (think Nourishing Shoal and the like). Then there is the idea that you lose the game if that enchantment disappears, which admittedly resonates with the card’s flavor, but makes for terrible gameplay. On top of that, I do not even think it makes too much sense to convey the state of being undead with having zero life in Magic.

I opted for a clean design focussing on playability while preserving an element of risk here, borrowing concepts from existing cards (Crumbling Sanctuary, Platinum Emperion).

My design:

Lich

 

Sinkhole

Sinkhole Original

So, let us talk about land destruction. I agree with Wizards that it should never be a viable main strategy for a deck anymore. However, I still hold that the main issue with land destruction for three mana were the Llanowar Elves etc. which made it a possible turn two play. (Well, Wizards seem to finally have come around on those at least…) The fixed version of Sinkhole – Rain of Tears – saw fringe play in all formats at best, while four mana land destruction only sees constructed play if it does a whole lot more than just destroying a land. Still, for a couple of years Wizards kept weakening this kind of card until their designs were utterly unplayable in any format, like Maw of the Mire and Survey the Wreckage. They have finally bounced back a little, though, as Reclaiming Vines and Volcanic Upheaval from recent expansions show, which offer land destruction for four mana with an upside – a good place for this kind of card to be in, in my opinion.

Philosophically, my stance is that players should not have to fear an attack on their mana base if they do not abuse that security. This means land destruction should not be viable against „normal“ decks with reasonable stable mana supported by a good number of basic lands, but it should be possible to punish greedy mana bases (for example, splashing for a color using only a single land producing it which can be fetched in multiple ways; or excessively using non-basic lands), as well as strategies relying on utility lands, land auras or massive ramp. I believe that three mana land destruction which actually cannot be used before turn three fits that paradigm. Thus, Rain of Tears is fine with me for constructed purposes. I also believe that removal which only can hit non-basic lands should be allowed to be a bit more efficient.

Rain of Tears

Back to fixing Sinkhole: The reason I do not just say „I’m fine with Rain of Tears“ and call it a day is limited. A spell which only destroys a land is simply bad in limited unless a specific environment is warped very heavily towards giving lands value. Take Battle for Zendikar limited as an example: Awaken played a big part here, converge encouraged greedy splashes, and there were a couple strong utility lands at uncommon – and yet, Volcanic Upheaval was still 99% unplayable, and even the much more versatile Reclaiming Vines a rarely used sideboard card. While it is certainly possible to crank up the importance of lands even more (for example, by additionally introducing common manlands and dual lands), I do not think I should design cards specifically for such an outlier format.

In an environment warped too strongly towards lands, there is also the danger that three mana land destruction might suddenly become maindeckable. Usually, trading a spell for an opponent’s land isn’t a great deal in limited as well as in constructed, but it’s closer here, because limited mana bases are more shaky, and spell efficiency isn’t nearly as high as in constructed. A reasonable chance to actually have a big impact in a land-centric environment might push a card like Rain of Tears over the edge, or at least close enough that many players will start to use it, even if that is not correct – and then we have the very issue of those non-fun games which are about possibly colorscrewing decks with perfectly reasonable mana bases.

This is why three mana land destruction which can hit basic lands wasn’t on the table for me, meaning I actually had to find a new design. Going with the flavor of the card name, my thoughts immediately went towards a concept which has already found a home in Red (Fissure), and a bit later even spawned a variant in Black (Befoul). I can accept Befoul as is, although I feel it should lose the „non-black“ restriction, but I decided to instead try a concept that Black does not share with Red, and that plays less as „creature removal with a land destruction option attached“ and more like „land destruction you might actually want to use in land-centric environments“.

My design:

Sinkhole

 

Word of Command

Word of Command Original

While you could argue that designs like Psychic Theft or Psychic Intrusion are closer mechanically to this nearly illegible abomination, in my opinion its vibe is best captured by Worst Fears, which I accept as a fixed version, although I would have preferred to cost it at 4BBB (and I do not use mythic rarity on principle). It may look quite different, but it is actually pretty exactly where I was going with my redesign before I remembered that such a card already exists.

Worst Fears

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