11/2/2009 MM: "True Allies"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.

I just have one question about allies


Why are they not called explorers?  What possible reason is there to create a mechanic themed around a party of people in a set with themes of treasure hunting and danger and not call them explorers?

Space issues. The creature type line is only so big, and almost all of the allies have three creature types: [Race] [Class] Ally. From a flavor perspective, I'm sure that creative would have prefered "adventurer" or "explorer", but there just wasn't enough room on the type line for it. (Look at Kazuul Warlord or Highland Berserker in particular.)

Really, Landfall was Mark's eye's opening to mechanics that are both Linear and Modular?


Was he just not aware of Cascade at all? Cascade works wonders both ways, either being a modular mechanic like it is in a Jund deck, or a devoted modular Cascade deck that more or less always starts chains that end in Blightning.


Why are they not called explorers?



Because R&D wants to reuse the concept (possibly into annoying perpetuity), and flavor just doesn't matter as much as you think it does.
That, and it sneaks 'slivers' past everyone who got sick of them.


Really, Landfall was Mark's eye's opening to mechanics that are both Linear and Modular?


Was he just not aware of Cascade at all? Cascade works wonders both ways, either being a modular mechanic like it is in a Jund deck, or a devoted modular Cascade deck that more or less always starts chains that end in Blightning.




Oh, it far predates CASCADE. Cascade is nothing.


Cycling can be linear (in decks which center on it, using cycling triggers, taking advantage of some consequence of it, or using everyone's favorite cycling cost reducer to break the game) or modular (just random cards with cycling because it is useful). Or you know, any number of other mechanics - Dredge (Life from the Loam and Grave-Shell Scarab are both modular, whereas the rest are linear; Life from the Loam itself can actually function as both a modular card (the only dredge card in a deck) or as a linear card (in a dredge deck), as can other dredge cards such as Darkblast and the discard one) is another example.


There are a number of such mechanics through the ages. I'm surprised he hasn't noticed it before.

I love Allies! Powerful but not overpowered, great flavour, enough choice to build different styles of ally deck - I just hope there are more in Worldwake! And a reprint of Ancient Ziggurat next year would be welcome Smile

"Here's my Goblin deck. What do other people's Goblin decks look like? How does mine measure up?"


 


Awesome metaphor, MaRo.

I like the Ally mechanic. Trying to make a deck work on the cheap, though, it's going to be really tough. I've been trying to make an Allies deck without the sac lands, but they're extremely slow at least for Zendikar standards.


 


Oh, it far predates CASCADE. Cascade is nothing.


Cycling can be linear (in decks which center on it, using cycling triggers, taking advantage of some consequence of it, or using everyone's favorite cycling cost reducer to break the game) or modular (just random cards with cycling because it is useful). Or you know, any number of other mechanics - Dredge (Life from the Loam and Grave-Shell Scarab are both modular, whereas the rest are linear; Life from the Loam itself can actually function as both a modular card (the only dredge card in a deck) or as a linear card (in a dredge deck), as can other dredge cards such as Darkblast and the discard one) is another example.


There are a number of such mechanics through the ages. I'm surprised he hasn't noticed it before.




Oh there's no doubt linear and modular happen at the same time all the time, but it just seems odd that he would say that, a set after a really popular and splashy mechanic that is both.


Also I think cycling itself is modular, but helped with a really linear card (Slide).


Dredge is a good example of a both mechanic though.

I like allies, building a deck around them.  But man some of them are really bad.


blademaster - this dude is awesome, but he's double white.  How am I supposed to play him?  With the shieldmate and the cleric?


pyromancer - for the poster child ally, this guy SUUUUUUCKS.  Six mana?  Only creatures?  The "spitting earth that can hit players" costs less than that.


berserker - has this guy's ability ever mattered ever?  I admit I play him because he costs two, but dang.  I think at times I'd rather have the puma.


grunts - why doesn't this guy give allies haste?  Better yet, why doesn't the berserker?


archer - i hate this card so much.


bard - No seriously, why are the green allies the puny ones?  My survivalists feel very sad.

modular in that you can throw any one landfall card into a deck and it will function just fine.


kinda depends on the card. most of them aren't that great unless you are dedicated to them. a couple, though, are playable regardless.


When looking through Zendikar cards, players can easily find the most obvious cards to consider for an Ally deck.


actually that's the biggest problem with them. players can easily find the BEST allies, but they are all different colors and a lot of them don't work well together.



flavor just doesn't matter as much as you think it does.




no, actually it's entirely because of the type line thing. but you keep on grinding that axe of yours, flavor hater.



That, and it sneaks 'slivers' past everyone who got sick of them.




i get the connection between slivers and allies, but the finished product of both are different enough that i'd never connect them if i hadn't been told about it. some of the planar chaos slivers (like harmonic sliver) are closer to allies that other slivers but the vast majority of them feel much different.

Ally colors and costing don't curve nicely.  Half have potential while the other have are annoying filler cards.  So the end result is an excercise in frustration when trying to make a consistent deck.  I think most people are waiting for the next set expecting some missing pieces to come to light.

I've had a rainbow deck for a while that went in a few different directions over the past decade.  I have the mana base for a while and was always looking for some cool strategy that require such a mana base to support.  I'm going to try it out with allies.  All of the non-white, non-defender allies that get +1/+1 counters require only one coloured mana to cast.

<\ \>tuntman


I'm going to try it out with allies.



That's not a terrible idea, actually.  It's probably not going to tear up the Pro Tour, but it seems vaguely workable in theory.

So basically, the design of Allies as opposed to just repeating Slivers was "let's not complicate the board"?  Heck, I play Slivers in EDH and I can always keep track of the board when I have 30 different effects going at once.  Seems like WotC just decided to dumb down the game again...I understand they want new players and all, but I originally started playing because Magic was fun and strategic.  Now it just seems a lot like Yu-gi-Oh!, where it's just "play the best guys and turn them sideways"...

the problem with the 5 color idea is it's not what you really want to do. it's going to be awkward. but it's the only way to make a fun ally deck. that is sort of also not fun due to the difficult mana requirements. and it doesn't help that by far one of the best allies is the WW one. hopefully worldwake will deliver enough allies to make the deck fun.


To make it work, we flipped the adventurer mechanic around so that each creature got a +1/+1 counter whenever itself or another Ally entered the battlefield


why didn't you just go with "whenever an ally..."? the "discovery" that it affects itself is still there, but it's cleaner and more elegant. and it takes up less space. and ultimately i feel that it's less confusing. if you didn't like it, why not raise the power and toughness of the creature by one and say "whenever another"? i think this was one of the siller templating decisions i've ever seen.


but at least it's not as bad as "the land continues to burn."

So basically, the design of Allies as opposed to just repeating Slivers was "let's not complicate the board"?  Heck, I play Slivers in EDH and I can always keep track of the board when I have 30 different effects going at once.  Seems like WotC just decided to dumb down the game again...I understand they want new players and all, but I originally started playing because Magic was fun and strategic.  Now it just seems a lot like Yu-gi-Oh!, where it's just "play the best guys and turn them sideways"...


As an ex-Yu-Gi-Oh player, I think that's a rather great exaggeration. I've played a lot of TCGs in the past, and Magic has by far the greatest strategic element I've ever seen in a game of its kind. Deciding to simplify a single mechanic and deciding to dumb down the game are two vastly different things.


Creatures aren't where I'd look for signs of a coming flood of stupidity anyway. From what I've seen it seems they've almost always been just about the least complex element of the game.


but at least it's not as bad as "the land continues to burn."


What's wrong with "the land continues to burn"? It may not be mechanically explicit, but it gets the point across in fewer characters than "blaze counters remain on marked lands" or somesuch.


EDIT: I forgot to mention my one real Ally complaint, though... I can't for the life of me see why Murasa Pyromancer costs more than Hagra Diabolist rather than the other way around.

that is sort of also not fun due to the difficult mana requirements.

Many, many "casual" rainbow decks merrily withhold A/B/U/R duals and Onslaught-Zendikar fetchlands from pro-caliber players who need them more.

It's not uncommon at all to see a terrible casual deck built on top of a thousand-dollar manabase that some guy has had in a shoebox since 1994.


What's wrong with "the land continues to burn"? It may not be mechanically explicit, but it gets the point across in fewer characters than "blaze counters remain on marked lands" or somesuch.



it does? when you read that sentence you immediately understood what it meant? because i didn't, and i'm pretty sure the average new player wouldn't either. it requires additional explanation, making it useless. i don't feel comfortable with rules text that isn't actually rules text and requires more information to understand. it's better that someone learn the language rather than needing individual "clever" reminder texts explained to them because they can't be deciphered by simply understanding the mechanics of the game. and for the record, "blaze counters remain on marked lands" isn't what needs to be explained. what they're trying to say is that the effect continues for as long as the counters are on, rather than as long as the card with the static ability is in play (as is the case for most static abilities without reminder text like that). all that said, i understand this is really a personal reaction on my part. a strong and hateful personal reaction.


Many, many "casual" rainbow decks merrily withhold A/B/U/R duals and Onslaught-Zendikar fetchlands from pro-caliber players who need them more.




"withhold"? seriously? are you making a hilarious joke or are you being serious here?


unless i missed some recent news that there is a shortage of old lands out there and you can't get them anywhere i am pretty sure pro players who are serious about the game can just shell out the cash. i just looked in ebay and i am seeing plenty of listings. are you suggesting that if someone isn't playing up to a certain professional standard they should be forced to give their cards to someone who is? that is ludicrous, and so is suggesting that anyone NEEDS dual lands. people WANT them, and what they want them for is their business. if they're playing magic with them in any way, then i think they're using them properly.


but maybe you were just being silly. Tongue out


"withhold"? seriously? are you making a hilarious joke or are you being serious here?



A year or three ago (possibly longer), some elitist ass suggested something along the lines of "crappy players don't deserve good cards."  I thought it was funny.

No doubt there's still some guy out there using Black Lotus to power out an early Juggernaut.

man, it sure is difficult to understand tone in a written post.

The 'elitism' goes both ways.
For each "Hey, nub.  You should trade me those card so I can whup up the PTQ or something next weekend.", there's a "Underground sea has no place in Casual!"

I'm a little disappointed in allies because it feels like a poor rehash of Morningtide.  The +1/+1 counters have already been done very similarly in that set, and they worked much better (Rage Forger rocks!).  I would have liked to see a different take on allies.


For example, what if you were rewarded for having unique creature types (i.e. you want different skills in your team)?  When ~this~ comes into play, put a +1/+1 counter on each creature that does not share a creature type with ~this~.  Or unique permanent types (but don't reprint Tarmogoyf!).


Or a reward for having all your allies in the same state.  ~this~ gets +1/+1 for each untapped ally.  ~this~ gets +2/+2 for each blocking ally (or maybe for each ally that blocks the same creature).


I'm not saying these are good mechanics, but I just want to make the point that there are other unexplored group abilities that aren't so *yawn*.  I just think that something might be wrong when everyone in my casual playgroup sees this as bad tribal.

allies in general feel very lorwyn block rehash.



What's wrong with "the land continues to burn"? It may not be mechanically explicit, but it gets the point across in fewer characters than "blaze counters remain on marked lands" or somesuch.



it does? when you read that sentence you immediately understood what it meant?


Yes, or at least I did, and I for one was quite happy to see a return of more flavourful text, even if confined to reminder text.
i don't feel comfortable with rules text that isn't actually rules text.

The whole point of reminder text is that it isn't rules text.
Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011



I'm a little disappointed in allies because it feels like a poor rehash of Morningtide.  The +1/+1 counters have already been done very similarly in that set, and they worked much better (Rage Forger rocks!).  I would have liked to see a different take on allies.



Allies are different from Lorwyn/Morningtide tribal. Yes, Morningtide had creatures, such as the elves Bramblewood Paragon and Winnower Patrol, that got or gave +1/+1 counters because of matching cards matching their creature type. But it had other creatures, such as the elves Brightsoil Druid and Elvish Warrior, that were simply of a tribal type with no tribal abilities.

The lord and tribe model mixes some perfectly good cards, such as Bitterblossom, that are merely of a tribe with some tribal-enhancement cards, such as Oona's Blackguard. The Slivers model uses cards that are weak by themselves, such as a Muscle Sliver that alone is only a Grizzly Bear, but that all enhance each other. Lorwyn/Morningtide blurred the line between those two models by having so many creatures with tribal abilities that one could build a deck entirely with tribal enhancers. Neverthelss, it is still a spectrum, and Allies are closer to the Sliver end of the spectrum than Lorwyn was.

 


Allies are different from Lorwyn/Morningtide tribal. 




i don't think anyone is saying they're not different. the issue is that they're not different enough. the counters concept is much more similar to the morningtide lords, the etb triggers are similar to some (but not most) slivers, but lorwyn block had some tribal etb triggers too (thundercloud shaman, for example). there is a minute amount of sliver-like design and a much larger amount of lorwyn block tribal design involved. time spiral was a while back and sliver-like design is fresh enough now to not be boring. unfortunately i can't say the same for lorwyn-block tribal design.

One of the "lessons" of Time Spiral is that some sort of linear mechanic is mandatory.
There really are players out there that see a pile of cards and simply cannot figure out what to do with them.  Better to annoy the Jaded Old Farts with "slivers again?!" than have piles of exasperated kids give up because a set makes no sense and doesn't seem to fit together.


For every idiot who can't escape obviously 'pre-built' decks, there's dozens who need the step of obviously 'pre-built' decks to bootstrap themselves.  Some people can eventually be able to easily understand particle physics, while others are never going to advance beyond simple arithmetic - but immediately introducing everyone to advanced calculus in kindergarten is just going to scare everyone away.

are you saying time spiral failed because it didn't have linear mechanics? or that time spiral succeeded because it had slivers? or a third option that escapes me?


i'm not sure what the lesson is, because time spiral had slivers (linear) and is considered by wotc to be a major failure.


i'm not sure what the lesson is, because time spiral had slivers (linear) and is considered by wotc to be a major failure.



The TS Slivers didn't really 'linear' well.  Really, just go look at them.  Too many of them are rare, too many of them have "me too!" abilities, and the ones with 'basic' combat-relevant abilities like First Strike and Haste are overcosted into pointlessness in favor of sac-for-effect abilities that noobs avoid like a plague.  It's as if someone took all of the Tempest-block Slivers and created a Bizarro-World.

If anything, TS is a "failure" for being ungodly schizophrenic, without a noob-accessible entrypoint.



i'm not sure what the lesson is, because time spiral had slivers (linear) and is considered by wotc to be a major failure.



This TS Slivers didn't really 'linear' well.  Really, just go look at them.  Too many of them are rare, too many of them have "me too!" abilities, and the ones with 'basic' combat-relevant abilities like First Strike and Haste are overcosted into pointlessness in favor of sac-for-effect abilities that noobs avoid like a plague.  It's as if someone took all of the Tempest-block Slivers and created a Bizarro-World.

If anything, TS is a "failure" for being ungodly schizophrenic, without a noob-accessible entrypoint.




 


As much as I love the idea of Slivers, and as much as I love the idea of Time Spiral (the nostalgia and esp the timeshifted purple cards), that's a really spot-on assessment of the set.

Proud member of C.A.R.D. - Campaign Against Rare Duals "...but the time has come when lands just need to be better. Creatures have gotten stronger, spells have always been insane, and lands just sat in this awkward place of necessity." Jacob Van Lunen on the refuge duals, 16 Sep 2009. "While it made thematic sense to separate enemy and allied color fixing in the past, we have come around to the definite conclusion that it is just plain incorrect from a game-play perspective. This is one of these situations where game play should just trump flavor." - Sam Stoddard on ending the separation of allied/enemy dual lands. 05 July 2013

Allies are much better than slivers, which suck. I'd love to build an ally deck, but I'm waiting a bit until we get more allies in the Zendikar expansions.


And "the land continues to burn" is awesome, so you haters can get lost. It brings extra flavour to the card.


The TS Slivers didn't really 'linear' well.  Really, just go look at them.  Too many of them are rare, too many of them have "me too!" abilities, and the ones with 'basic' combat-relevant abilities like First Strike and Haste are overcosted into pointlessness in favor of sac-for-effect abilities that noobs avoid like a plague.  It's as if someone took all of the Tempest-block Slivers and created a Bizarro-World.


If anything, TS is a "failure" for being ungodly schizophrenic, without a noob-accessible entrypoint.




i don't know if i'd say that makes them less linear, it just makes them more complex to play with. but they still scream "put me in a deck with other slivers immediately," which is linear. i, for one, loved time spiral as a new player, and a lot of the love was for the slivers. i actually have a sliver deck i made a while back which is almost entirely etb trigger and sac slivers, and it's a ton of fun.



Allies are much better than slivers, which suck. I'd love to build an ally deck, but I'm waiting a bit until we get more allies in the Zendikar expansions.



so what you're saying is allies are so awesome that it's not worth making a deck out of them right now. ok.


And "the land continues to burn" is awesome, so you haters can get lost. It brings extra flavour to the card.



if by "get lost" you mean "never play this card ever," then i say excellent idea, sir.

"The one that seemed the simplest to remember was the "enter the battlefield" (ETB) trigger. It came up that landfall also had an ETB trigger. Rather than fight the similarity with landfall, we decided to embrace it. One of Zendikar's themes would be ETB triggers."


*Wishes for an Ally Man-Land*

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick



I'm going to try it out with allies.



That's not a terrible idea, actually.  It's probably not going to tear up the Pro Tour, but it seems vaguely workable in theory.


I only play casual, so that won't be a problem.  I've been searching for a decent mechanic that is spread across many colours.  I missed the Sunburst block, so only have 1 good Sunburst card.  I have two bringers.  The allies seem like a natural fit for a rainbow mana base.



the problem with the 5 color idea is it's not what you really want to do. it's going to be awkward. but it's the only way to make a fun ally deck. that is sort of also not fun due to the difficult mana requirements. and it doesn't help that by far one of the best allies is the WW one. hopefully worldwake will deliver enough allies to make the deck fun.




White has two allies that has the +1/+1 counter ability.  It is definitely the best ally with this ability, but probably should not be spashable.  The defender ally fits the flavour of a splashable, common white ally.  Even though it is a defender, it can still be good in a rainbow ally deck because it is another card that pumps your other allies.  I may consider using some in my deck.


As much as I would like to use the WW ally, it's double white casting cost is prohibitive in my rainbow deck.  Still, I do think that it is designed properly for white weenie moreso than rainbow or any deck that simply splashes white.

<\ \>tuntman


The TS Slivers didn't really 'linear' well.  Really, just go look at them.  Too many of them are rare, too many of them have "me too!" abilities, and the ones with 'basic' combat-relevant abilities like First Strike and Haste are overcosted into pointlessness in favor of sac-for-effect abilities that noobs avoid like a plague.  It's as if someone took all of the Tempest-block Slivers and created a Bizarro-World.


If anything, TS is a "failure" for being ungodly schizophrenic, without a noob-accessible entrypoint.




I disagree. Time Spiral had some of the best slivers. Sedge Sliver and Sinew Sliver are both awesome, and Virulent Sliver was a key card in a Pro Tour and was at some point the dominant deck in Pauper Magic Online. And while they didn't originate in Time Spiral, Essence Sliver and Spined Sliver are also both awesome.


In fact, I dare say that Tempest slivers were just plain awful. Sure, you had Muscle Sliver, Winged Sliver, and Crystalline Sliver. The rest of them (particularly the mono-colored uncommon ones) are outright unplayable even by sliver standards. And as much as I love Sliver Queen, I would never put her in a deck that wasn't devoted to one of the several infinite sliver combos out there. (Even in EDH, I'd gladly choose Overlord over the Queen.)


(And then there's Onslaught, the middle child of the sliver family. There were a lot of decent slivers, but very few great ones and very few terrible ones. The bread-and-butter of every sliver deck, but not the meat.)


I disagree. Time Spiral had some of the best slivers. Sedge Sliver and Sinew Sliver are both awesome, and Virulent Sliver was a key card in a Pro Tour and was at some point the dominant deck in Pauper Magic Online.


Okay, I'll give you that.

The neat thing about Tempest-era slivers is that, apart from the Queen, none of them were more than three mana - individually weak, but they begin to matter earlier.  When I've drawn my seven cards, I'd much rather see a Metallic than a Venser's (assuming there's some reason I'd want to play either), and would much rather have Heart than Reflex.


I suppose it's a difference of philosphy, really.  Tempest slivers were more foundational, while Legions and TS slivers want to be more bomby.

Regarding slivers, I find that the Tempest slivers are more aggro friendly.  The low mana costs of slivers allowed me to make a fast R/G deck without much difficulty.  When TS came out, I did add a few of these new slivers in my deck.  I found that for the most part, it did slow my deck down as many of the TS slivers cost more than 3 to cast.  I primarily added the lower mana cost slivers with a few high mana cost for better staying power (particularly in multiplayer games).

<\ \>tuntman

The problem with making a fast aggro sliver deck is that you don't have a snowball's chance in hell at keeping up with real aggro decks such as goblins. (Somebody will point out that slivers is a casual deck whereas goblins is arguably a competitive deck.) So in order to make a successful sliver deck, I've found that you generally need something more like a mid-range deck.


Rather than trying to cram your deck with the cheapest slivers you can find, you're better off trying to find a mana curve with a number of solid three drops and a peak at about 4, and rather than trying to win the game as fast as possible, you need to focus more on staying power and using the natural synergies between the slivers to overpower your opponent's creatures and win the game.


The Sliver deck that I'm using now is a RWB deck that features Sedge Sliver and Sinew Sliver at its core, uses Heart Sliver, Talon Sliver, Blade Sliver, and Homing Sliver for support, and Essence Sliver as its bomb rare to win games. Essential non-sliver cards include Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth, dual lands (Ravnica or original), and Oversold Cemetery helps against the opponent who has a lot of removal.


Yes, it's a "Legacy" deck, but its really more of a casual deck because there's really no other way to build slivers.


Granted, my playgroup is mostly dominated by aggro, so this deck is tuned to fight other aggro decks. I dunno how it would fare in a playgroup that has more control or combo decks.

 


I like the effects linear mechanics are having on Zendikar limited.


A Sealed ally deck in Grand Prix Kitakyushu chose to run 2 Reckless Scholars and a Beast Hunt(!) while cutting cards like Bladetusk Boar and Kor Skyfisher, and it went 8-0. That pool had 3 ally "Lords" like the Warlord and Beastmaster, so cards that dig out allies and make it possible to play one every turn must have been top priority. But it still amazes me that Beast Hunt got played.


www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.a...


Cards with linear mechanics don't just change the value of other cards using the same mechanics, they can change the value of non-linear cards like Beast Hunt too. 


Every Zendikar pool has multiple ways you can build it, and it feels like working with a puzzle box rather than "select the best colors. then select the best cards in those colors." I think it's partly because the card values shift depending on what themes you choose to follow for the build.


So the linear mechanics here not only provide "comfort" and "guidance," they allow for interesting choices as well!

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