1/16/2014 CT: "Will You Fight the Hand that Feeds"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Command Tower, which goes live Thursday morning on magicthegathering.com

Karametra doesn't seem to have much synergy with tokens to me. She triggers off creature spells, not creatures entering the battlefield.

 

I do love the blinking-and-bouncing ideas in the second section though. And once you're blinking-and-bouncing your creatures, and exploiting ETB effects, well, I guess you might as well add a Captain of the Watch and an Avenger of Zendikar :P (Especially given how terrifyingly often Karametra can trigger landfall. Rampaging Baloths were already terrifying, but they're even more so when backed up with Karametra.)

 

It turns out I love this card. She's probably the BOTG God I'm most excited about. It's unlikely the yet-to-be-revealed blue-black one will shift her from that spot, but if it does, hey, more awesome new cards, so much the better

The easiest way to use Karametra will be blinking, however the number of cards for this that are consistently useful and not an attempt at making a GW version of a WU deck are few. You list the obvious ones, but Blinking Spirit is FOUR mana, and does little else on its own. You'll need to be ramping before you drop Karametra, at which point Karametra just kinda seems "ramp more." Do I need to bring in 50+ lands to make Karametra seem like she'll have an impact in a game if I want to get down to the business of ramping? If the goal of such a ramp build is to power out an unstoppable win condition, GW is not necessarily the color-pair to do it in. Karametra says "make your work just a little bit better" and "don't play tokens." R&D nipped pairing Karametra with Mycoloth and Avenger of Zendikar in the bud right there.

 

So your solution should be the few, FEW GW cards that synergize with casting multiple creatures. One Fleetfoot is nice, but where's the second? The real question, though is: Why go GREEN? What makes Karametra better for a blink deck than, say, Ephara, who gets you cards just for casting a critter? Most blink decks have flash creatures, and there are far more WU flash and blink cards than GW. GW already has access to extreme mana ramping on account of being Green, such as Boundless Realms, Kodama's Reach, Cultivate, Skyshroud Claim, Explosive Vegetation, Ranger's Path, STE, Sad Robot, and Seedguide Ash. Yes, you can fetch nonbasics with Karametra. But you can do that with Expedition Map and Tempt with Discovery (the latter even drops them into play untapped!).

 

Sure, you can fuel landfall with it, but how well? You need to cast multiple creatures a turn to make effective use of this, and many of them are, let's face it, going to be white.

 

The number of cards being shown to be paired with Karametra in colors other than GW suggests that this is best considered as a part of the 99, not the 1. So the question then becomes: Why use this over Mirari's Wake?

"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)

This article on Karamestra was great, and gave some great ideas for how to use it.  I don't want to suggest otherwise.  However, the article does highlight one problem I have with the card - it seems to have been designed for Commander, not for regular Magic (block constructed, standard, modern, legacy).  I believe that this type of design has negative implications for Magic the Gathering which are currently manifesting themselves in the Block Constructed Format.

 

The power level of a card, deck, or strategy is dependent upon the rules of the game.  For example, if the starting life total of a regular game of Magic were 30, something like Lava Axe becomes significantly worse (along with other sorts of decks like goblin aggro).  If the rules of Magic stipulated that players drew two cards during their upkeeps instead of one, cards like Sphinx’s Revelation or Mind Rot would become less powerful than they currently are.

 

There is, then, a major problem when cards within the same set are designed for variants of Magic with drastically different sets of rules.  EDH, or Commander, differs drastically from regular Magic.  Players start with double the amount of life, there is a designated card set aside from your deck that you know you will always be able to cast, and the differences go on and on. These differences trump the differences between a Standard or Block Constructed game and a draft/sealed game.

 

With Born of the Gods, Wizards decided to design certain mythics for EDH, and certain mythics for regular Magic.  In particular, I want to focus on the drastic difference between Karametra (God of the Harvest) and Xenagos (God of Revels).  It is clear that there is a place and purpose for Xenagos in standard Magic.  It is equally clear that Karametra has a place in EDH, but not a place in Standard Magic. 

This sort of design imbalances standard Magic. It makes certain colors more powerful than others in standard play.  It diminishes the diversity of competitive decks in block constructed and standard play.  Right now, there is a major problem in the Block Constructed Format.  For weeks, Red/Green (RG) and Red/Green with a white splash for Elspeth and Chained to the Rocks (RGw) are dominating the Block Constructed Format, have been for weeks, and that dominance is only getting worse.  At present, in MTGO Block Constructed tournaments, RG and RGw account for 70% of the decks that go 3-1 and 4-0.

It was thus unsettling that RG got yet another super powerful card with Xenagos, and White/Green received a card that is designed for a completely different format.  This is but one example, but it is an important enough example that highlights a major design problem that has real implications for how newer players like myself experience Magic.

 

The other disgruntling thing about this deck is that it hardly uses the mechanics of the block.  Block Constructed should encourage the use of a block’s mechanics and put you into its world as much as possible.  I am happy that Mono Black Devotion (currently ~10% of decks that go 3-1 and 4-0) does this – it uses the heroic and devotion mechanics frequently, and employs Erebos and his whip, and so feels very much that players are rewarded for investing in the world of Theros.  R/G and R/G/w are simply the amalgamation of a few ramp cards and then the most powerful creatures of its colors.  It is dull, requires no devotion, bestow, or heroic, and yet for some reason Wizards has decided to increase the deck’s power level in Born of the Gods with Xenagos and expend other colors’ slots for cards like Karametra that are not even designed for standard play.

 

Standard and Block Constructed would be much better formats if all cards were designed with the standard rules of Magic the Gathering in mind.  Even limited would improve - how fun is it for someone to receive Karametra in his opening pack while another receives Hero of Iroas?  Wizards needs to design cards with one set of rules in mind.  If people create alternate ways to play Magic, then so be it, but Wizards should only design a set of cards for one set of rules.  Instead of hurting Standard/Block Constructed/Limited Magic by putting Commander cards in its expansion sets, Wizards should consider creating different sets of cards for Commander if it wants to subsidize that play style. 

Sadly, because of this choice, Wizards is going to have to start banning cards like Stormbreath Dragon and Xenagos in order to make Block Constructed fair.  That is not how it should be.

KJSharp wrote:

Standard and Block Constructed would be much better formats if all cards were designed with the standard rules of Magic the Gathering in mind.  Even limited would improve - how fun is it for someone to receive Karametra in his opening pack while another receives Hero of Iroas?  Wizards needs to design cards with one set of rules in mind.  If people create alternate ways to play Magic, then so be it, but Wizards should only design a set of cards for one set of rules.  Instead of hurting Standard/Block Constructed/Limited Magic by putting Commander cards in its expansion sets, Wizards should consider creating different sets of cards for Commander if it wants to subsidize that play style. 

Sadly, because of this choice, Wizards is going to have to start banning cards like Stormbreath Dragon and Xenagos in order to make Block Constructed fair.  That is not how it should be.

A problem with this argument is that the entire set cannot be designed with just one format in mind. You'd end up losing out on the need to seed cards for other formats into the set. Now, certainly, while this can be taken care of by seeding those cards into supplementary products, this runs the problem of having to create supplementary products with cards in them that are also ill-suited for their sets, and may destabilize those formats for some people. Having each format get its own supplemental product seems untenable given the costs associated with it.

 

So what you get are cards that are good in some formats, really good in others, bad in yet others, and "meh" in most. The solution was to disperse these scorings for each format across the cards, and to restrict the ones that aren't suited for the most recent format window (Limited, then Block, then Standard) to the highest rarities, where they are least likely to be seen. Consider what happens when a player opens a pack and finds Karametra, but three other players open packs and finds more viable Standard cards. Those three people are better served by the development desicion than the one player put off. But Karametra is not a dead card in Limited, as indeed most of the cards are pretty strong in Limited. They are merely stronger when built around. In Standard, you trade that Karametra away to someone who wants it, and get something you want. This is a TCG after all.

"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)

Qilong wrote:

 

A problem with this argument is that the entire set cannot be designed with just one format in mind. You'd end up losing out on the need to seed cards for other formats into the set. Now, certainly, while this can be taken care of by seeding those cards into supplementary products, this runs the problem of having to create supplementary products with cards in them that are also ill-suited for their sets, and may destabilize those formats for some people. Having each format get its own supplemental product seems untenable given the costs associated with it.

 

So what you get are cards that are good in some formats, really good in others, bad in yet others, and "meh" in most. The solution was to disperse these scorings for each format across the cards, and to restrict the ones that aren't suited for the most recent format window (Limited, then Block, then Standard) to the highest rarities, where they are least likely to be seen. Consider what happens when a player opens a pack and finds Karametra, but three other players open packs and finds more viable Standard cards. Those three people are better served by the development desicion than the one player put off. But Karametra is not a dead card in Limited, as indeed most of the cards are pretty strong in Limited. They are merely stronger when built around. In Standard, you trade that Karametra away to someone who wants it, and get something you want. This is a TCG after all.

 

I understand that to a degree.  But, it seems that Commander and Standard Magic are not the same game - they are 2 different games that are using the same set of cards.  Their rules are simply too divergent, and consequently you increase the likelihood of having the situation I describe above when you make the "best" cards (the cards typically found at the highest rarities) being made for both Commander and regular Magic.  I think it is much more viable for a set to contain cards designed for Block Constructed and Standard, Modern/Legacy, and Limited - these formats all use the same rules and have the same win condition.  Commander is simply too different.  Mark my words - cards are going to have to be banned really soon in Block Constructed because of this sort of design decision.

KJSharp wrote:

 

Qilong wrote:

 

A problem with this argument is that the entire set cannot be designed with just one format in mind. You'd end up losing out on the need to seed cards for other formats into the set. Now, certainly, while this can be taken care of by seeding those cards into supplementary products, this runs the problem of having to create supplementary products with cards in them that are also ill-suited for their sets, and may destabilize those formats for some people. Having each format get its own supplemental product seems untenable given the costs associated with it.

 

So what you get are cards that are good in some formats, really good in others, bad in yet others, and "meh" in most. The solution was to disperse these scorings for each format across the cards, and to restrict the ones that aren't suited for the most recent format window (Limited, then Block, then Standard) to the highest rarities, where they are least likely to be seen. Consider what happens when a player opens a pack and finds Karametra, but three other players open packs and finds more viable Standard cards. Those three people are better served by the development desicion than the one player put off. But Karametra is not a dead card in Limited, as indeed most of the cards are pretty strong in Limited. They are merely stronger when built around. In Standard, you trade that Karametra away to someone who wants it, and get something you want. This is a TCG after all.

 

 

I understand that to a degree.  But, it seems that Commander and Standard Magic are not the same game - they are 2 different games that are using the same set of cards.  Their rules are simply too divergent, and consequently you increase the likelihood of having the situation I describe above when you make the "best" cards (the cards typically found at the highest rarities) being made for both Commander and regular Magic.  I think it is much more viable for a set to contain cards designed for Block Constructed and Standard, Modern/Legacy, and Limited - these formats all use the same rules and have the same win condition.  Commander is simply too different.  Mark my words - cards are going to have to be banned really soon in Block Constructed because of this sort of design decision.

 

With cards like Brimaz and whatnot, they are creatures competing in power with others like Sphinx's, or the past format of borken planeswalkers, Consecrated, etc. They are tying to seed out very powerful creatures so that, rather than a card or a small few breaking constructed formats, they are balancing the skew being controllish and aggroish decks.

 

Now, much of what you said is focused on Block, and I'll admit I haven't seen what Block is like with only Theros, but that's just it: It's just Theros. You've not got all of BNG out yet, and haven't seen JNX. I'm not sure if Block should even be a "thing" until it's all out. One should not count one's rukh eggs before they hatch.

"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)

Haha, I'm gonna try to wait.  These Born of the Gods spoilers are sure coming out slowly...about how long does it take them to spoil the complete set?  They did about 50 cards last week.  Does Wizards reveal new sets over a 2 week span or a 3 week span?

For your reference about Theros block constructed,

http://puremtgo.com/articles/around-block-37-uwr-control-broken-metagame.

This article is a few days old.  At the time of the article, R/G and R/G/w accounted for 70% of all 4-0 and 3-1 decks.  That figure is now up to 75%.

KJSharp wrote:

Haha, I'm gonna try to wait.  These Born of the Gods spoilers are sure coming out slowly...about how long does it take them to spoil the complete set?  They did about 50 cards last week.  Does Wizards reveal new sets over a 2 week span or a 3 week span?

Big sets get three weeks; small sets get two. When this week is over, people will have everything -- more, if they go to other spoiler sites, though those cards are few ahead of MTG's official spoiler. Most of the filler commons/uncommons to influence Block will not be revealed until the final days of previews. You haven't long to wait.

"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)