11/9/2009 MM: "Maro on Maro, Part I"

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

I see the article has raised the issue of the Magic 2010 rules change again.


While I don't think that it would be useful to wade deeply into that controversy, I still think it's worth making a couple of points.


Most players don't really think of the large number of Magic cards that exist as directly increasing the complexity of Magic. After all, the only thing that matters in any given game is the cards that are actually in the libraries of the players in any given game, and the number of cards there doesn't steadily increase over the years.


Yes, there is a fallacy in that reasoning. Because Magic is a very open-ended game, there are cards which alter the normal Magic rules in a lot of different ways. These cards interact with each other in strange and surprising ways, sometimes creating unexpectedly powerful combinations (which have, on occasion, made it necessary to ban some cards in Extended) and sometimes requiring complicated additions to the Comprehensive Rules.


As it happens, a recent thread in magicthegathering.com made me aware of a little-known and complicated feature of those rules - the layer system. Because continuous effects are... continuous... they can't be applied in stack order (although rule 611.2c notes one exception to that) but instead, if they have to be ordered in order to determine what effect multiple continuous effects will have, this order has to be a logical order based on the type of effect.


Since this rule makes a difference only in a very limited number of situations, it can be considered tolerable, just as it has been noted that the Magic: 2010 rules changes only changed a few uncommon cases.


As long as one of the well-liked features of Magic is that cards can do all kinds of different things to the game, instead of being rigidly confined to predictable categories, complexity indeed is going to be a problem to manage; this I can agree with.

Coming up with weird ideas to make everyone happy since 2008!

 

I have now started a blog as an appropriate place to put my crazy ideas.

 


Shhhhh!!! Quiet please...


 


 


 


Magic is cresting.


 

Shhhhh!!! Quiet please...

 


 


 


Magic is cresting.



Incidentally, seeing that phrasing in the article kind of bothered me. If this is the crest of Magic... doesn't that imply that it's about to start falling down the other side, spiraling toward its fiery doom? That sort of outlook doesn't really gel with the tone of, well, anything else I've read from Rosewater.


It would, however, be par for the course when it comes to my gaming history. I always seem to jump on the bandwagon just before the horses pulling it shuffle off the mortal coil.


Further tangent: There really ought to be a Black/Red card of some sort called Fiery Doom.

I'm sure he meant "higher than it's been before", not "as good as it will ever be."


And not to get into an M10 rehash, but a lot of the complaint was that the changes didn't eliminate complexity and confusion, they only shifted it while simultaneously limiting options (and tilting a balance that arguably wasn't all that balanced).  I grant the complexity premise though.  Trying to play a game of Mental Magic should highlight for everyone just how complex a 10,000-card game can be.


He's right though that design has advanced so tremendously much over the years, and it is like a technology that they've gotten better at.  Part of that is understanding uses that didn't exist previously, like making a set for Limited.  But just browsing through an older (but post-establishment) set like Ice Age shows needlessly complex cards like Call to Arms.  You'd think that many years and thousands or cards later we'd be more likely to see extra clauses added on, but that just isn't the case.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

Nice article and certainly something I also feel could be done again after the first ' personal' interview. The thing I miss though, really, is why this would be the ' toughest' interview so far as stated on the frontpage?



Magic is cresting.



Incidentally, seeing that phrasing in the article kind of bothered me. If this is the crest of Magic... doesn't that imply that it's about to start falling down the other side, spiraling toward its fiery doom?



Why would it necessarily mean that? The first thing I think of when I hear that phrase is waves, and the thing about waves is that they come in... well, waves. I read it as meaning it has good times and bad (or at least noticably less good) times, and this is one of the good ones.
Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011

But just browsing through an older (but post-establishment) set like Ice Age shows needlessly complex cards like Call to Arms.  You'd think that many years and thousands or cards later we'd be more likely to see extra clauses added on, but that just isn't the case.



Ice Age seems the worst example of 'post establishment'. 1150 cards had been released at that point. The block cycle had not been established.


The current design/development system wasn't in place back then either. MaRo has admitted he wouldn't have been able to work on Tempest in today's system - new recruits like Ken needing an extra year or two to prove themselves.


Nice article and certainly something I also feel could be done again after the first ' personal' interview. The thing I miss though, really, is why this would be the ' toughest' interview so far as stated on the frontpage?





Probably sayings like "the toughest person to manage is yourself" =)

It's funny in that I'm always asked about when Magic will run out of design space and I always give a similar answer - the more I do it the less I'm worried about producing more material.


I thought in recent years he's been saying that it's quite limited actually?


I do like how he emphasizes everything that applies to Magic applies to writing (and to kids, and to... everything)


I think I did a disservice many years back by framing the conversation about acquiring new players. Our real goal has always been to enhance the game for all players of which new players are merely a subset. Build a better game and everyone benefits.


This sounds like "marketing told us not to tell the truth about aquisition anymore because it pisses off too many older players" >.>


Also, awesome to first read the Sliver article with talk about cliffhangers and then having one here Tongue out

I like the interview,  but I believe every interview you do should contain apologies about skullclamp and the other hideous ideas you infused in that set during a time when magic was trying to "crest."


It doesn't seem like you would have to print a mistake like that to figure out how broken it would be.  The painfully obvious overpowered stuff in that set could easily be recognized by ten year olds.


The game was unfun to thousands of players who tried to use the many fair cads in the set, and many people quit during that period. great job!


sorry , im just bitter, magic is too successful to be doing stuff like printing untested cards and writing it off as a neccesary learning process.

The terminology "cresting" did seem odd to me as well, as it does imply Magic's going to be going downhill for a while after this.


There didn't seem to be that much in this article, but there are two helpful takeaway points for me:


"your greatest weakness is just your greatest strength pushed too far" - I like it. As a writer, I should make more use of that.


"take a minute to ask themselves the tough questions no one else has and then answer them." - this is actually really worth doing for most of us.

I'm loving Zendikar limited more than Shards or M10. Zendikar also looks to be a potent set for Constructed as exhibited by the Boros Bushwacker deck. Type 2 seems to be as healthy as possible. Type 1,5 unfortunately got new fetches to sustain the established decks, but I really can't blame you for printing them. Zendikar is no doubt the best set these babies could have been printed in.


So, in general - good job, Mr. Rosewater. Now I'm very curious to see Mr. Nagle's first set. Should also be a blast.

Manaug.gif | Manawu.gif | Manau.gif | Manaub.gif | Manaur.gif

Great article in general, but in particular everything starting with the "de facto spokesperson" section is gold.  The fire metaphor is excellent!


 


Great article in general, but in particular everything starting with the "de facto spokesperson" section is gold.  The fire metaphor is excellent!


 




I just came here to post it again,


 


"The metaphor I use to explain this is fire. I think some of our players think of complexity as this dainty little fire we're building with a handful of sticks. We have to be careful because if we don't constantly nurture it, it will go out. R&D, on the other hand, sees complexity as a fire-alarm fire. We are constantly working to keep it from engulfing the game. The idea that we're going to accidentally put it out seems absurd to me."


 


I've never been one of the doomsayers (insomuch as I'm not constantly claiming Magic is dying, I will point out what I perceive to be flaws in the system along the way though), but I think this is a really good metaphor and somebody besides me should probably sig it.


 


I have to wonder how many of the younger players reading this article Google-imaged that old phone to see if it was real. Heck, my dad's company had one for him years ago that was worse than that one, it was in it's own little bag that sat in the passenger seat of his car and always had to be plugged into the lighter for power.

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

Firstly, im hugely enjoying my second spell as a magic player so thanks to "Maro" for his input into the game


 


Secondly though i really found that article uncomfortable and somewhat self congratulatory...i love reading about magic but how great his life is/how lucky he is/how great magic is just isnt why i check out the latest magic news lol

A copule of things I want to say:


- The rules changes had nothing to do with game complexity.  It instead had to do with making green more competetive and blue less competetive.  Under the old rules structure, giving green competetive mechanics would have introduced more complexity into green.  Consider the things that the new rules changed, and it mostly affected combat-related fast effects, which are mostly found in blue.  The "no mana burn" rule made green's mana acceleration much easier to use.  I suppose it also allowed the whole "take someone else's turn" thing easier to do, and if that was the whole purpose behind removing mana burn, well, shame on Wizards for throwing out the baby with the bathwater for a mechanic that, while cute, nobody really cares about anyway.  Furthermore, we're not angry so much at the rules change anymore, but when you continually LIE to us about WHY the changes were made, it just stokes our anger.  We are not stupid, Maro.  This change had to do with game balance, not game complexity.


- Older players are not asking for more complexity, they are asking for more CHOICE.  It seems like Maro is trying to distill Magic down to a single formula, kind of like formulaic characters, formulaic TV, and formulaic movies.  Unfortunately, distilling magic to a formula is going to significantly reduce choice in how players want to play the game.  The color pie is wonderful because people see it how they want to see it.  By applying a formula, you are forcing a singular vision of the color pie on us.  For example, I don't see white as an aggressive color, yet every set has always had the "white weenie" strategy.  Why can't white do something else?  Why does blue always have to have flying in large quantities?  Why can't green be sneaky once in a while?


- Stop leaning on the old crutch that is linear design to attract new players.  I know you love a linear mechanic to help that new kid build their first deck, but it gets really annoying to have to build decks that rely on drawing a critical mass of cards with "subtype X".  It doesn't really foster creativity, and you're not really helping anyone to learn the game this way.  I will admit that collecting cards for linear decks can be fun (and profitable for wizards), but there are other routes to fun.


I'm sorry if I sound angry.  I just feel like Maro deliberately hides the truth from us.  Flavorless set design that takes no risks seems to be what sells, so that's what we get.  I'm patiently awaiting the next Ravnica, a set where colors had an identity and clearly unique play styles, and I'm afraid it might not come again.


But just browsing through an older (but post-establishment) set like Ice Age shows needlessly complex cards like Call to Arms.  You'd think that many years and thousands or cards later we'd be more likely to see extra clauses added on, but that just isn't the case.



Ice Age seems the worst example of 'post establishment'. 1150 cards had been released at that point. The block cycle had not been established.




Or is it the best?  Wink  My point is that they still had a long way to go, and internal development processes are included.  Yet I think it's fair to call Ice Age a "post-establishment" set in that they knew Magic wasn't just a short-lived, couple-packs-sold gimmick.  Its success had been established.  And there were a great number of progressions by then.


If anything the reason Ice Age is a bad example is because Maro hadn't started yet, so it's not an example of his 14 years of growing.  But it's just such a good case of needless complexity in card design.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

Flavorless set design that takes no risks seems to be what sells, so that's what we get.  I'm patiently awaiting the next Ravnica, a set where colors had an identity and clearly unique play styles, and I'm afraid it might not come again.


By applying a formula, you are forcing a singular vision of the color pie on us.  For example, I don't see white as an aggressive color, yet every set has always had the "white weenie" strategy.  Why can't white do something else?  Why does blue always have to have flying in large quantities?  Why can't green be sneaky once in a while?


Umm... at the risk of making you sound even angrier, isn't there a bit of self-contradiction there? You want to see each color with a distinct identity and a unique play style, but you don't want to see a formula applied to each color? Wouldn't it just make the colors more generic if there were fewer Blue flyers and Green was subtler?


I do see your point about how more mechanics are being shared between colors, as with Zendikar's Landfall abilities and Allies being not only spread across the whole pie but implemented in similar ways on each slice, but as recently as the Alara block there were plenty of mechanics exclusive to each shard. I don't think there's really enough data yet to establish this as a worrying trend.


Now if Lights' colors seem even more samey than Zendikar, I might start to get concerned.

Furthermore, we're not angry so much at the rules change anymore, but when you continually LIE to us about WHY the changes were made, it just stokes our anger.  We are not stupid, Maro.  This change had to do with game balance, not game complexity.


Wow. So the reasons they've already given for the change, well you just know they're lies, because...well, you just know, that's all, and you're just going to stamp your feet until they tell you what you think...sorry, know...is the truth.


That's not going to work out real well for you.

eh. not a whole lot of information in this one.


A copule of things I want to say:


- The rules changes had nothing to do with game complexity.  It instead had to do with making green more competetive and blue less competetive.  Under the old rules structure, giving green competetive mechanics would have introduced more complexity into green.  Consider the things that the new rules changed, and it mostly affected combat-related fast effects, which are mostly found in blue.  The "no mana burn" rule made green's mana acceleration much easier to use.  I suppose it also allowed the whole "take someone else's turn" thing easier to do, and if that was the whole purpose behind removing mana burn, well, shame on Wizards for throwing out the baby with the bathwater for a mechanic that, while cute, nobody really cares about anyway.  Furthermore, we're not angry so much at the rules change anymore, but when you continually LIE to us about WHY the changes were made, it just stokes our anger.  We are not stupid, Maro.  This change had to do with game balance, not game complexity.


So, let me see if I understand you. You think that WotC finally started to listen to us, and decided to help Green and reign in Blue, and used the rules to do it. And then, instead of saying "Hey, we listened to you! Be happy!" they lied to us about it? What could they possibly hope to accomplish with that?

Also, I really don't think the new rules changes did much to make G better or U worse. What actually did that was printing better G cards and worse U cards. 



- Older players are not asking for more complexity, they are asking for more CHOICE.  It seems like Maro is trying to distill Magic down to a single formula, kind of like formulaic characters, formulaic TV, and formulaic movies.  Unfortunately, distilling magic to a formula is going to significantly reduce choice in how players want to play the game.  The color pie is wonderful because people see it how they want to see it.  By applying a formula, you are forcing a singular vision of the color pie on us.  For example, I don't see white as an aggressive color, yet every set has always had the "white weenie" strategy.  Why can't white do something else?  Why does blue always have to have flying in large quantities?  Why can't green be sneaky once in a while?



White does do other things. It's often one of, if not THE best controlling colors. Sure, counterspells and draw power help Blue when the game goes long, but White's kill spells and life gain often are needed for Blue to even get to the end game. UW is a classic controlling color combination. 


- Stop leaning on the old crutch that is linear design to attract new players.  I know you love a linear mechanic to help that new kid build their first deck, but it gets really annoying to have to build decks that rely on drawing a critical mass of cards with "subtype X".  It doesn't really foster creativity, and you're not really helping anyone to learn the game this way.  I will admit that collecting cards for linear decks can be fun (and profitable for wizards), but there are other routes to fun.




Linear design is popular with many people, old or new. People like Goblin decks, and Elf decks, and misc other tribes. There have been plenty of sets that didn't do much for linear players, and now there's been some recent linear sets. It's going to go back the other way. And even in Tribe dominated Lorwyn, there were still a TON of non-linear things good players good dig up.

I really like linear mechanics:P


They are fun, and i also like non-linear mechanics, they help my creativity at building decks, i'm not really that upset about rules changes anymore, and i really love magic, i even like some of the 'worst' blocks of magic like ice age and kamigawa!!


I thinks there's a bit of magic for everyone...that's all...

Mark,


Please do a "Zendikar vs. Tempest" comparison.


I would LOVE to see what you think about the differences.


------------------


Hm, Malcolm Gladwell, eh?  Have you read Tipping Point?  I blew through that book faster than most.


Hm...how do you feel about the 7 Habits (various Covey books)?


"Can we give you the game experience you want while also making the game appealing on an emotional level? This is a super complex issue and I'm sure I'll dedicate a whole article to it one of these days."



Wicked awesomeness, can't wait.


"R&D, on the other hand, sees complexity as a five-alarm fire. We are constantly working to keep it from engulfing the game. The idea that we're going to accidentally put it out seems absurd to me."



Hm.  Interesting.  I know that you sometimes get 'handed' assignments, and that you aren't really writing fiction, but...


How do you feel about Writer's Block?  Hm...
(Personally, I don't worry about it.)



"Zendikar wasn't designed to be better than Shards of Alara, it was designed to be the best Zendikar it could be."



I enjoyed this statement.  Seriously, I DO believe that skill will determine if players can prevent themselves from getting landscrewed 'cause they're holding back lands in order to play abilities.  Having said that, I like how Landfall ultimately "encourages you to do something you wanted to do anyway."  Yes, it's [funner] that way.


"Why yes there is. I hope they may take a minute to ask themselves the tough questions no one else has and then answer them."



I heard a saying once that was pretty awesome:
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
Count Leo Tolstoy


This was pretty cool, Mark.  You're right, it worked once, why not run it again?


 



Bonus random Simpson quote:
"I don't understand why we only try ideas once."
Lisa Simpson

Decent article, although I think a little more time actually examining your own mistakes and regrets and a little less time spent on self-congratulations would have been nice.


Let me clue you in on one thing though, Maro. Although I'm sure you already know this and just won't mention it. Magic's greatest weakness and one of the biggest problems in its design is how much it costs! People know they have to spend hundreds of dollars to play even one or two competitive decks- and they have to keep spending that every 2-3 years just to get a single new competitive deck! In the meantime that person could have continually played World of Warcraft at less than half the cost, or bought other videogames. Magic's greatest competition is how much cheaper entertainment sits out there! As soon as I tell any new friends who like the game how much it would cost them to build an actual good deck, their interest wanes quite a bit. People are willing to put down $50 and think of it like a videogame, but no one is willing to put down $400 and then do it again and again.


"Zendikar wasn't designed to be better than Shards of Alara, it was designed to be the best Zendikar it could be."


I enjoyed this statement.  Seriously, I DO believe that skill will determine if players can prevent themselves from getting landscrewed 'cause they're holding back lands in order to play abilities.  Having said that, I like how Landfall ultimately "encourages you to do something you wanted to do anyway."  Yes, it's [funner] that way.



I'm less thrilled by it, and the reason is that "best" has a very loose definition here.  Look at Mindless Null for example.  In what sense is that the best card it could be, or a component of the best set that could be?  I figure most people just want to rip packs for draft nowadays, and don't care.  Or maybe even agree with the R&D position that it's "funny."  If there's some poor shmuck who's still opening packs to get commons for his decks, he either doesn't know better or doesn't spend enough to be worth caring about.  So whatever.


The point is not that Mindless Null ruined the set.  On the contrary, it's below most people's radar, and I suspect other cards actually annoy people more actively.  But I find the statement "best Zendikar it could be" to be meaningless when there's no clear yardstick and whatever happens they can say "we meant to do that."  I'll illustrate:


Black is so much better than Green in Limited
Yes, so drafters make the call between getting enough black or having all the green.  What a great set!


At 3 mana for a 2/2 with a drawback, Mindless Null is well below the curve.
Yes, it teaches people that some cards are better than others.  And it has a name and picture, that's flavor.  What a great set!


Lotus Cobra seems powerful and utility at Mythic
Yes, so when you open it you say "wow."  What a great set!


The set is very aggressive, and control isn't really possible.
Yes, it's all a pendulum.  What a great set!


Landfall happens almost exclusively at sorcery speed, so combat has few surprises or opportunities to outplay the opponent.
Lots of information and decisions add complexity, which is dangerous.  What a great set!


I mean I understand that the company has to cheerlead it's own products.  And as I said in my previous post, Design is pretty good at what they do.  But what's the point in saying something is "the best it can be" when there's no clear way of measuring?

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.


Let me clue you in on one thing though, Maro. Although I'm sure you already know this and just won't mention it. Magic's greatest weakness and one of the biggest problems in its design is how much it costs! People know they have to spend hundreds of dollars to play even one or two competitive decks- and they have to keep spending that every 2-3 years just to get a single new competitive deck! In the meantime that person could have continually played World of Warcraft at less than half the cost, or bought other videogames. Magic's greatest competition is how much cheaper entertainment sits out there! As soon as I tell any new friends who like the game how much it would cost them to build an actual good deck, their interest wanes quite a bit. People are willing to put down and think of it like a videogame, but no one is willing to put down $ 400 and then do it again and again.




And yet, they are! 


I personally agree with you, and even if I can afford an expensive passtime (like Magic) I never stop considering the value of what I'm getting.  It's the way I was raised, I guess.  So when I see gimmicks designed to get more money from players without providing more value, I have a natural aversion.  (It also bothers me philosophically as a capitalist, but that's a digression.)


However, you and I clearly do not represent a significant PoV.  Magic is doing great right now.  Someone's buying those $ 50 Baneslayers, and grabbing them so fast that the sellers can't keep up.  People don't mind dropping $ 12 on a draft or double that on a sealed and coming away with little to show for it.  "It's cheaper than X" is a convenient justification, so long as you are wiling to overlook that it's more expensive than A through W.


So what can we say, really?  If people are willing to throw their wallets at WotC, should the company be blamed for catching them?  If customers start pushing back and not buying, and citing affordability as a reason, then we'll see a change.  But I've never volunteered for a pay cut and I can't expect Hasbro to do so either.


(As a related aside, I'm intrigued by the Duel of the Planeswalkers pricing approach.  Obviously it offers more limited (not Limited) play than the game at large, but at $ 10 for the game and $ 5 for an expansion it's a world apart price-wise and I still suspect it's a loss-leader to get people hooked.)

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

The discussion about Mark Rosewater's choice of words when he spoke of Magic "cresting" has caused me to think about some things.


I don't think Magic is headed for a fall at the moment. For one thing, the economy hit bottom, and is now slowly improving.


There is every reason to expect that the next block after Zendikar will do well and be popular also, for the usual reason that any Magic block either succeeds or fails; I have reason to expect that this next block will also contain a significant number of good and powerful cards that people will want to acquire.


But the fact that this is the most critical element, in the short run, for the success of a Magic set - rather than being flavorful and balanced - means that things likely will have to crash down to Earth eventually. While the different block types are to some extent nontransitive, so that a circle of block types can each beat the type of block immediately before it without power inflation, this isn't perfect. And so it wasn't possible to avoid Mercadian Masques or Kamigawa.


Eventually, this will probably happen again. But by now, the people working on new sets at Wizards ought to be able to see it coming.


One way Wizards could deal with such an eventuality is this:


As we know, having seen the Phil Foglio art for Aerobics Instructor in a column, work began on a third Un-Set which has not seen the light of day. Well, if the expansion block for a given year appears unpromising...


bring out that Un-Set in the summer months...


and as the big, important, set for Fall, bring out that year's Core Set. Presumably with fanfare and a big splashy gimmick. (Of course, black borders and new cards have already been used, but I think that something bigger than those would be needed in any case.)


Then bring out the expansion block with each set delayed one spot - so that the third set of the block replaces the next year's core set.


After that, return things to normal next October.


If an expansion block is lacklustre, there is also the core set, so giving it top billing instead is not unreasonable.


Of course, if a core set has to be "for beginners" or weak, that won't work. Magic: 2010 changed that, by reducing these characteristics of core sets, but not by eliminating them. But there's no fundamental obstacle to having a set be set in Dominaria, and include the different mechanics without being dominated by any one mechanic, while still having the standard power level.

Coming up with weird ideas to make everyone happy since 2008!

 

I have now started a blog as an appropriate place to put my crazy ideas.


I like the interview,  but I believe every interview you do should contain apologies about skullclamp and the other hideous ideas you infused in that set during a time when magic was trying to "crest."


It doesn't seem like you would have to print a mistake like that to figure out how broken it would be.  The painfully obvious overpowered stuff in that set could easily be recognized by ten year olds.


The game was unfun to thousands of players who tried to use the many fair cads in the set, and many people quit during that period. great job!


sorry , im just bitter, magic is too successful to be doing stuff like printing untested cards and writing it off as a neccesary learning process.




The failures of Darksteel were entirely development failures, not design failures. "The hideous ideas infused into that set" were actually neat ideas, and the only reason you call them hideous is that they were implemented with the wrong mana costs. This is not the aspect MaRo works on or oversees; if someone should apologize for them, it's the developers.


The history of Skullclamp is that it was changed very late in development, and it got nearly no testing in its final form (I think the late change was the very important -1 thoughness...). The level of that mistake was high enough that I'm confident development will not let something like that slip through ever again. They do learn from their mistakes.

Magic The Gathering DCI Lvl 1 Judge Don't hesitate to post rules question in the Rules Q&A forum for me and other competent advisors to answer : http://community.wizards.com/go/forum/view/75842/134778/Rules_Q38A

Part of the 'Darksteel Problem' is the innocent bliss of being stuck in an "unfun" perspective - there seems to be an assumption that everyone will "play nice".
R&D consistently saw Clamp as an equipment version of  Bequeathal.  I honestly believe nobody in the building even considered feeding massive amounts of elves and kobolds to the thing.

Part of the 'Darksteel Problem' is the innocent bliss of being stuck in an "unfun" perspective - there seems to be an assumption that everyone will "play nice".


It's true one can criticize the poster, since his post did indicate unrealistic expectations of other players. If the game-winning card you can afford, or have a copy or two of, happens to be Platinum Angel, and you want to win, of course you will use it.


But it's because people aren't going to "play nice", but will instead play to win, even in casual play, that bad cards are dangerous - because if they're useful cards, they won't be ignored and left unused. So it is necessary to avoid them in design instead.


It is assumed to be unrealistic, I suppose, to try to design Magic so that even top-tier competitive play is as much fun as casual play can be. Since, though, human nature is such that casual players are more competitive than people might expect (this is why Black Lotus was a problem back at the beginning of the game: if people wouldn't have bought oodles of boosters to get complete P9 playsets, there would never have been a need to remove the P9 from Revised) maybe that's exactly the design approach that is needed: since Magic players are very competitive, if the game is to be fun, it has to stay fun when played very competitively.

Coming up with weird ideas to make everyone happy since 2008!

 

I have now started a blog as an appropriate place to put my crazy ideas.

I'm entertained that people keep complaining about the M10 rules changes "because they're bad for old players."  It's pretty clear that you kids weren't playing when the 6E rules were changed.  There was an outcry then too, but Wizards knew what it was doing.


Best or otherwise, Zendikar is really well put together.  Sure, black is too strong in limited.  And, hilarious as it is, maybe Mindless Null should never have existed.  But triple Zendikar draft is one of the more skill intensive formats we've seen printed in a long time; it's much more challenging than Shards or Lorwyn blocks.  Zendikar sealed is also fun.  If you're unhappy with how much it costs to play constructed, keep in mind that Wizards has created this entire limited format to circumvent the problem.


Now as far as hearing about the mistakes made by MaRo, I would happily read that article.  He pointed out a while ago that he's designed more banned cards than anyone else, as well as such all-stars as Carnival of Souls.  What goes into the design of a card like that?  When people played these cards in FFL, what sorts of comments did they leave?  How did these cards trick Wizards into thinking they were printable?

There will always be "best decks" and "best cards".  The problem lies in the "best cards" beating the holy hell out of "everything else" by miles.


Stop designing sets where 90% of the cards are useless outside of limited, and the problems of a Jitte or Clamp or 5CC will just go away.  GILBIC is chasing out more noobs than anything else, when their themedecks full of trash nobody wants is mercilessly hammered into the dirt by Ravager Affinity or something.

GILBIC is chasing out more noobs than anything else, when their themedecks full of trash nobody wants is mercilessly hammered into the dirt by Ravager Affinity or something.


And I would argue as a counterpoint that unexplained acronyms and historical references that we need to google are chasing out more noobs than anything else. *noobish grumble*


Speaking of unexplained things...


The history of Skullclamp is that it was changed very late in development, and it got nearly no testing in its final form (I think the late change was the very important -1 thoughness...). The level of that mistake was high enough that I'm confident development will not let something like that slip through ever again. They do learn from their mistakes.


(Emphasis mine.)


Part of the 'Darksteel Problem' is the innocent bliss of being stuck in an "unfun" perspective - there seems to be an assumption that everyone will "play nice".

R&D consistently saw Clamp as an equipment version of  Bequeathal.  I honestly believe nobody in the building even considered feeding massive amounts of elves and kobolds to the thing.



NOW I get why Skullclamp is banned! I'm not very sacrificially-minded, so genocide in the name of card draw never really occured to me. With a 1/1 token producer (or even a bunch of one-drops) and a Skullclamp, though... One mana divinations for everyone.


Eesh. I finally get it.


And I would argue as a counterpoint that unexplained acronyms and historical references that we need to google are chasing out more noobs than anything else. *noobish grumble*



LOLOMFGWTFBBQ!

GILBIC is simply an acronym for "Good In Limited, Bad In Constructed".  Prime examples of GILBIC are Grizzly Bears, Hill Giant, and the countless clones thereof that appear in pretty much every block at least once.
Essentially, these are cards a person only plays when he doesn't have much choice in the matter.  This, of course, tends to make commons the dumping ground of filler, and drives Constructed decks towards significant rarity inflation.
Consider the case of Daru Lancer vs. Exalted Angel, or the more recent Serra vs. Baneslayer.


The next time you see a deck that's got to have about fourty rares in it (including the lands), blame GILBIC.


 


NOW I get why Skullclamp is banned! I'm not very sacrificially-minded, so genocide in the name of card draw never really occured to me. With a 1/1 token producer (or even a bunch of one-drops) and a Skullclamp, though... One mana divinations for everyone.

This is exactly the sort of "innocent bliss" I meant.
Most players (and apparently also R&D) really do/did see Skullclamp as an enchantment Bequeathal.
The rest of us saw it and instantly thought "Holy crap!  I can stick it on several Kobolds, draw more Kobolds, then Tendrils for a very large number!"
Then, the competent players realized they could do pretty much the same thing in Standard tournaments by using mana-elves.

LOLOMFGWTFBBQ!

GILBIC is simply an acronym for "Good In Limited, Bad In Constructed".  Prime examples of GILBIC are Grizzly Bears, Hill Giant, and the countless clones thereof that appear in pretty much every block at least once.
Essentially, these are cards a person only plays when he doesn't have much choice in the matter.  This, of course, tends to make commons the dumping ground of filler, and drives Constructed decks towards significant rarity inflation.
Consider the case of Daru Lancer vs. Exalted Angel, or the more recent Serra vs. Baneslayer.


The next time you see a deck that's got to have about fourty rares in it (including the lands), blame GILBIC.



Ah, right. Those decks.


The flashy uber-creatures like Ob Nixilis or Baneslayer I really don't mind. They can still be Terminated. What bugs me is that building a good mana base requires you to sell your firstborn into slavery.


My UG Landfall deck cries out for Misty Rainforests. My RB deck desires Dragonskull Summits. But there's no way to satisfy those wants without bankrupting myself. Yeah, that's really annoying.


Incidentally, this is all another point in Pauper's favor.


This is exactly the sort of "innocent bliss" I meant.
Most players (and apparently also R&D) really do/did see Skullclamp as an enchantment Bequeathal.
The rest of us saw it and instantly thought "Holy crap!  I can stick it on several Kobolds, draw more Kobolds, then Tendrils for a very large number!"

Then, the competent players realized they could do pretty much the same thing in Standard tournaments by using mana-elves.



I was also unaware of the existence of 0 mana creatures. Truly frightening.


 


Ah, right. Those decks.


The flashy uber-creatures like Ob Nixilis or Baneslayer I really don't mind. They can still be Terminated. What bugs me is that building a good mana base requires you to sell your firstborn into slavery.


My UG Landfall deck cries out for Misty Rainforests. My RB deck desires Dragonskull Summits. But there's no way to satisfy those wants without bankrupting myself. Yeah, that's really annoying.


Incidentally, this is all another point in Pauper's favor.


 




Oh, i feel the same about building some decks, they are really expensive, and i don't really feel like expending my money in a lot of boosters or in especific cards. Also the 'pro-players' take all the good cards before you even know they are good. Or when you know they're good (as the fetch lands) they manage to take them giving you trash, and pretending it's gold...pfft...that makes me sad sometimes... ):


Furthermore, we're not angry so much at the rules change anymore, but when you continually LIE to us about WHY the changes were made, it just stokes our anger. We are not stupid, Maro. This change had to do with game balance, not game complexity.


Wow. So the reasons they've already given for the change, well you just know they're lies, because...well, you just know, that's all, and you're just going to stamp your feet until they tell you what you think...sorry, know...is the truth.


That's not going to work out real well for you.




I remember an article where Maro was talking about +1/+1 counters and how they would be the only kind of counters on creatures, as adding and removing +1/+1 counters would be the only thing you would ever need to do, and that -1/-1 counters were obsolete and there would never be a need for them.  And then we got Shadowmoor.


Furthermore, I recall a certain developer saying "We will never print Lazy Goblin" (a 2/1 with Haste that couldn't block for 1 mana) as it would forever be "too powerful".  So instead they print Goblin Guide.


I don't normally take such an accusatory tone with people.  However, Wizards has a history of dishonesty with us.  Either that or they just don't understand their own game.  Either way is pretty bad.

So because they miscalculated on what cards they would or would not print, they obviously lied about changing some of the game's rules.


I'm still not happy about my tinfoil hat collection being stolen by a bunch of hoodlums in early June, but at least my accusations have had SOME basis in reality.


Flavorless set design that takes no risks seems to be what sells, so that's what we get. I'm patiently awaiting the next Ravnica, a set where colors had an identity and clearly unique play styles, and I'm afraid it might not come again.


By applying a formula, you are forcing a singular vision of the color pie on us. For example, I don't see white as an aggressive color, yet every set has always had the "white weenie" strategy. Why can't white do something else? Why does blue always have to have flying in large quantities? Why can't green be sneaky once in a while?


Umm... at the risk of making you sound even angrier, isn't there a bit of self-contradiction there? You want to see each color with a distinct identity and a unique play style, but you don't want to see a formula applied to each color? Wouldn't it just make the colors more generic if there were fewer Blue flyers and Green was subtler?


I do see your point about how more mechanics are being shared between colors, as with Zendikar's Landfall abilities and Allies being not only spread across the whole pie but implemented in similar ways on each slice, but as recently as the Alara block there were plenty of mechanics exclusive to each shard. I don't think there's really enough data yet to establish this as a worrying trend.


Now if Lights' colors seem even more samey than Zendikar, I might start to get concerned.




All I'm saying is that:


1.  For each set, each color (or faction) should have its own identity and play style


2.  Each color's play style does not have to be the same in every set (white can do different things from set to set, so long as what it does is distinct from each other color)


I understand that Alara tried to do this.  I actually kind of liked the flavor of Bant's Exalted, and I could grok Grixis's Unearth.  However, Esper's Artifacts, Jund's devour, and Naya's 5+ power were just mechanical misfits in my mind.  Lorwyn's Merfolk were a good example of this done well - they just needed to be a bit more interactive with the other player is all.


 

While I'm here, let me post how I feel about linear mechanics.


1.  Name a format where you win with a linear deck.  Constructed?  I suppose your answer here would be "Faries" or "Elves", but those decks require specific Faries or specific Elves.  Let's see how your Faries deck does without Mistbind Clique and Elves without Heritage Druid.  Sealed?  You're probably not going to get enough to reach critical mass.  Draft? Only if you successfully force it, and even then, you need a critical mass.  I'm not saying that linear mechanics can't win, I'm just saying that you're not going to win consistently by thinking linearly.


2.  There is little to no sense of discovery with a linear mechanic.  Much of what makes Magic so fun is the fact that you discover what cards work well together.  With a linear mechanic, that discovery takes all of 2 seconds.  You're essentially beating us over the head with "play this card with these other cards like it".  Furthermore, your opponent will see one or two Allies and most likely know what half your deck is like.  More subtle combos are far more fun to discover, as they are more hidden, and it's a lot easier (and fun!) to take the opponent by surprise with them.


I understand that Maro has to design for the masses.  If you like linear mechanics, great.  I just don't.

You touch on interesting stuff zubr so I'd like to respond:



I'm entertained that people keep complaining about the M10 rules changes "because they're bad for old players."  It's pretty clear that you kids weren't playing when the 6E rules were changed.  There was an outcry then too, but Wizards knew what it was doing.




Oddly enough, a good bit of M10 directly contradicts 6th edition changes, and gives lie to that argument.  I'm not going to chase it down now, but there's a written explanation of why the 6th edition changes were good for the game, written at the time and used to show why combat damage on the stack was a good thing, among other changes.  And you can lift a paragraph right out of that, line it up against the statements with the M10 rules changes, and it's a 100% contradiction.


So OK they changed their minds, that's reasonable.  But you can't use an old argument to prove how right they are, when they are now saying the exact opposite.


(And a number of the people annoyed are ones who, like myself, supported the 6th edition changes, and now feel that logic has been lost.)


Also, WotC hasn't exactly proven themselves to be acquisition geniuses who are beyond reproach.  I give you Portal.  Not a single player I knew thought it was a good idea to call blocking "intercepting", or to remove instants but make sorceries playable at other times, or to print cards that weren't legal in Constructed.  But they did, and told us it was for the good of the game.  And they were wrong, not us.


So don't buy the pitch that players just don't get it, but R&D always does.  People aren't so easily grouped like that on either side.  And you have to judge the idea separately from it's supporters.  A resume or lack thereof doesn't automatically make someone right or wrong.



But triple Zendikar draft is one of the more skill intensive formats we've seen printed in a long time; it's much more challenging than Shards or Lorwyn blocks.  Zendikar sealed is also fun.  If you're unhappy with how much it costs to play constructed, keep in mind that Wizards has created this entire limited format to circumvent the problem.




I was going to take issue with "more skill intensive", but I'll let that go because the last part blew my mind.  Limited isn't created to "circumvent the constructed problem."  Limited is created to be it's own thing that takes what used to be an acquired product and treat it as disposable.


Although they are better at designing for Limited, there is a significant casualty: certain classes of card do not exist at common.  Look at for example Tortured Existence.  That's an engine card you could build a deck around.  And you didn't have to open much Stronghold to pull one (or 4) because it was common.  However, cards like that would become very awkward in Limited because some decks just can't deal with them.


So it gets moved up in rarity.  Not because it's too complicated or narrow (traditional justifications for rarity).  But because it's bad for Limited, so Constructed takes the hit.  I don't even think we'd see a Haunted Crossroads at uncommon anymore.


And perhaps that's right to do, all things considered.  But let's be honest and acknowledge that Constructed decks get more expensive because effects you will want just will not exist at common, because of Limited.  So contrary to your statement, Limited isn't circumventing the problem.  It's exacerbating the problem.



Now as far as hearing about the mistakes made by MaRo, I would happily read that article.  He pointed out a while ago that he's designed more banned cards than anyone else, as well as such all-stars as Carnival of Souls.  What goes into the design of a card like that?  When people played these cards in FFL, what sorts of comments did they leave?  How did these cards trick Wizards into thinking they were printable?




This is actually the part I wanted to respond to (but your earlier stuff hooked me).  Smile My first attempt an an answer got really long so here's a shorter edit:


They didn't have FFL back then.  Development was a much shorter process, and Mark has never been a developer so he busts out crazy ideas since that's what designers do.  Most of his banned stuff was in Urza's block, and development just didn't realize how good it would be because they didn't understand tempo and engines and even card advantage the way we do now.  Remember, at this time Hypnotic Specter was considered overpowered but Dark Ritual was a staple.  They didn't realize that was backwards until much later.


Tinker was a kicked up version of a card that had never been all that good.


Windfall was thought to be strictly worse than Wheel of Fortune (and blue draws anyway, so it's worse by not being red)


Tolarian Academy was Legendary so it can't be that bad.  And artifacts are a block theme, this is linear.


Stroke of Genius costs more than Braingeyser, 4 mana to draw 1 card isn't very good.


Yawgmoth's Will could be a neat combo if you mill yourself.


Yawgmoth's Bargain costs twice as much as Necropotence!  That must be balanced.


(BTW Carnival of Souls was meant to be bad so it wouldn't engine with Bargain.)


Time Spiral costs twice as much as Timetwister.  And the untap mechanic is a block theme.


See, a lot of times they thought they were fixing something but made it worse because they didn't know quite what was broken about the previous card, or see the issue with the new tweak.  But that's not Mark's fault.  The developers were people who'd just been around the game's early design, and the PT winners like Buehler hadn't been recruited yet.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.