12/7/2009 MM: "Playing With Blocks"

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

Question for anyone: when you play with your friends casually or in Standard, do "lands matter?"  I find when I play that it's more of a secondary theme if anything.

I would also think that having more cards in an environment pool would allow for more viable decks and would better correct for any design mistakes.  On the other hand there could just be the most powerful decks and people will use those few known ones anyway. 

The card count for standard is actually a tad high, as there are some cards (e.g. Cancel) printed in multiple sets; 1351 assumes that, except for basic lands, every card in each Standard set is not in any other Standard set.

I would also think that having more cards in an environment pool would allow for more viable decks and would better correct for any design mistakes. 




You would think so, but it doesn't turn out this way, for three reasons:

1. There's a chance that any card will accidentally be a little better than intended. These cards matter more than any other cards in an environment. The more cards you publish, the more likely you are to have more accidentally overpowered cards. When you get past a certain threshold in overpowered cards, it becomes easier to combine them into decks without using the weaker cards, which means strategies tend to converge.

2. The more cards you print in an environment, the more likely there are to be synergies between the cards in the environment. The linear strategies get better. Large environments tend to have very powerful linear strategies (think goblins in legacy vs. goblins in standard), which constrains the other kinds of decks that can be viable in an environment.

3. There are certain kinds of cards that Wizards prints with a certain frequency that just by their basic function can restrict an environment if they are present in a critical mass. The classic example of this is burn -- even if no one burn card is broken, if you print a lot of good burn, that will pass critical mass and a burn deck will start being too good. Another is counterspells (not a problem right now). These strategies tend to be constraining on the variability of decktypes, because they push you to make use of the critical mass of spells -- i.e., play all the specific cards that fulfill a certain function, with only few variations.

It's similar to how having more cards in your deck doesn't give you more options -- it's the cards you _draw_ that matter.

In an environment, the number of cards doesn't dictate the variation, the cards you _play_ do.

Vintage, with the biggest cardpool among the mainline formats, also has some of the lowest variation on cards played. Almost all decks play many of the same cards, and a card has to really jump out to be playable at all.

Really small formats, like block, also see variation go away, but it is for different reasons. Deck variation is a curve that starts low when you have only a few cards, rises as you print more cards, and then, once you get past a certain point, starts shrinking as you print still more cards.

Standard right now is very small, close to the left of this curve. Hopefully, Worldwake will make it more diverse by giving people more options, but Rise of the Eldrazi may very well curtail it with a lot of powerful cards before we rotate and start over.
Mark is a good writer (if a little verbose at times). 
Anyway, after reading Mark's latest article I got the gut feeling that the third set in the Zendikar block will unveil five new basic lands.  They will produce the traditional five colors, but have new names and will be considered "basic" (ie., as many as you want in a deck).  I imagine that would do wonders for the kinda lame "domain" mechanic, but that will be out of standard anyway.  (And I doubt they'd bring it back in Rise of Eldrazi.)
Still, if this turns out to be a good guess it will open interesting new possibilities going forward.
Hopefully Rise of the Eldrazi secretly means Rise of the control cards so standard can be fun.
OK i hate to sound stupid but will Rise rotate out alara? normaly thats what happens when we start with a new big set. the last one rotates. but it feals much to early for it?? am i right or wrong

Question for anyone: when you play with your friends casually or in Standard, do "lands matter?"  I find when I play that it's more of a secondary theme if anything.


I find that I have some decks that exploit land-matters themes and some decks that do without those themes. Land-matters is an optional theme in constructed.

The spell-like lands, such as Teetering Peaks, are a nice but trivial trick. Annoyingly, they conflict with cards that count basic lands, such as Spire Barrage and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Those two types of land-matters cards exclude each other. The landfall cards work with both, however.

In limited games, the landfall cards are too useful to be neglected, but except for trying to draft a Harrow or similiar card to enhance the theme, there is little I can do to design a limited deck around it. Surprisingly, the spell-like lands interfer with sealed-deck games. They replace a spell slot with a card that acts largely like a basic land, so I have fewer spell choices in designing my decks.
OK i hate to sound stupid but will Rise rotate out alara? normaly thats what happens when we start with a new big set. the last one rotates. but it feals much to early for it?? am i right or wrong



Sets rotate based on the block they are part of, not based on size.  All three sets in the Alara block will rotate once the first set from the block _after_ the Zendikar block is released.  The fact that the last set of the Zendikar block is a large set doesn't change this rotation plan in any way.  

As far as the article goes, I'm glad to see that R&D is showing a willingness to experiment with the shape and size of the sets in a block, and I hope to see them do more experimentation in the future.  At the very least, it's nice to know that blocks that don't need a third set won't get one (I'm looking at you, Weatherlight), and at best, it might make room for interesting stuff like Unglued to sneak back in :-)  

- Patch 
OK i hate to sound stupid but will Rise rotate out alara? normaly thats what happens when we start with a new big set. the last one rotates. but it feals much to early for it?? am i right or wrong



Sets rotate based on the block they are part of, not based on size.  All three sets in the Alara block will rotate once the first set from the block _after_ the Zendikar block is released.  The fact that the last set of the Zendikar block is a large set doesn't change this rotation plan in any way.  

As far as the article goes, I'm glad to see that R&D is showing a willingness to experiment with the shape and size of the sets in a block, and I hope to see them do more experimentation in the future.  At the very least, it's nice to know that blocks that don't need a third set won't get one (I'm looking at you, Weatherlight), and at best, it might make room for interesting stuff like Unglued to sneak back in :-)  

- Patch 


while i LOVE the UN sets the only problome with them thowing out one in place of a standard rotation set is that it will weaken standard format.

while i LOVE the UN sets the only problome with them thowing out one in place of a standard rotation set is that it will weaken standard format.



The thing is, standard constantly grows and shrinks by the size of two small sets (whenever a new block rotates in, it kicks three sets out, and only replaces one); I think that it could probably absorb the loss of a small set without much adverse impact (at worse, you'd have three months, after the next block was released, where you were effectively down one more small set than normal).  

You could mitigate the impact even further by releasing a block comprising two large sets in the same year you released Unglued, or by releasing two back-to-back base sets that more variation in card pool than normal between them.  (There's even an argument to be made that Lorwyn/Shadowmoor would have been stronger had they been released as a large set, large set one-two punch.)

This still doesn't mean that they'd do it -- it's hard to get people to buy cards that aren't tourney legal -- but at least the possibility is there :-)

- Patch 
Mark Rosewater said,
"Upon this discovery, I thought back to my screenwriting professor and I realized that we had hit upon his lesson from that first day. Block designs are the size that they are. Some are large / small / small designs, but others are large / small designs or simply large designs or a host of other possibilities. If design is going to explore new possibilities, it means that we have to be willing to redefine blocks as the need becomes apparent."

I have been re-introducing many people to Magic lately. Several people who had played Magic in high school or college are discovering the lunchtime Magic group at my office. And my opening line to explaining changes to them has been, "Wizards of the Coast has been good about keeping the latest sets interesting." That leads in to telling the returning players that there have been a lot of changes and going into the Magic 2010 rules changes. But really, there have been a lot of changes.

I remember the pattern set by Mirage block. The first set was a large one that introduced the theme and mechanics. The second set was a small one that kicked some of those mechanics into high gear. The third set was a small one that reversed an aspect of the theme or introduced new off-the-wall mechanics. For example, Mirrodin introduced the artifact theme with supporting mechanics such as affinity, imprint, and equipment, Darksteel made the artifacts even more artificial with mechanics such as modular, and Fifth Dawn twisted it with a five-color sunburst theme. The pattern was a pleasant rhythm, but it was repetitive.

Ravnica block broke the pattern with its guild-based sets. Coldsnap was an expansion to a set ten years gone. Time Spiral was a link to dozens of previous sets, the second set Planar Chaos was the reveral one, yet the third set Future Sight was nevertheless a mix of off-the-wall mechanics. The new pattern of the Lorwyn / Shadowmoor year was featured in the article.

Now Mark Rosewater tells us that the new patterns we see are measured and balanced by the story inherent in the theme. That is reassuring. We see echoes of the old pattern, but the lockstep repetition is gone and replaced with innovation.

I like it.


You could mitigate the impact even further by releasing a block comprising two large sets in the same year you released Unglued, or by releasing two back-to-back base sets that more variation in card pool than normal between them....

This still doesn't mean that they'd do it -- it's hard to get people to buy cards that aren't tourney legal -- but at least the possibility is there :-)



Maybe the next Un set should be tourney legal.

Hey, didn't you guys shrink the set sizes to produce less cards? We did. But we did something I didn't tell you about as well. We shrunk the sets a little smaller than we needed to so we'd have room to grow when a design called for it. Even with the addition of the extra cards, the Standard environment when Rise of the Eldrazi comes out will be significantly smaller than it was at the height of the craziness in Time Spiral / Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Standard. How much smaller? When Rise of the Eldrazi comes out, the Standard environment will have 1,356 unique cards in the environment (I'm counting the five basic lands, for those out there doing the math).



I find this statement aggravating. The reduction in the number of cards was a response to overwhelming criticisim of the vast number of cards released per year. It wasn't a gift to take back later. Not only that, but this concession to our wallets came at a cost. Mythics were supposedly that cost - ie. that to maintain sales of products at their current levels, there "needed" to be another reason to buy more product (I could say something on about this rather faulty logic, but its not the point of this post).

However two things happened subsequently. The first was that mythics started to become more obviously tourney staple cards. And not even by accident - check out the Lotus Cobra debate elsewhere in these forums, or look at the number of planeswalkers that make tourney decks as "4 ofs". The second was that the core set got a double makeover - containing all-new cards and being replaced annually rather than every other year. Either of these changes could be seen as increasing the spend on cards annually and taking back the ground that was supposedly given on the cost of the game.

Here now we have a statement that they intended all along to increase the number of cards once a creative reason could be advanced. And, as far as I can see, there is nothing in MaRo's statement that says that they wouldn't increase the numbers again.

I have no doubt that creatively it is useful to have a bigger third set if you wish to explore new designs. However, the recent history of this game seems to be a series of very calculated "sleight of hands" - statements designed to give us comfort about a certain state of affairs with an agenda that runs flatly contrary to the spirit of those statements.

The cost of this game has gone up considerably over the last two years and you have just announced a change that will do the same and passed it off as a design-led change. Its not a huge change, but in the context of recent changes also causing increases in cost, I am not impressed.

I count 974 unique cards from Alara block plus Magic 2010 plus Zendikar. If we add 145 from WWK and 228 from ROE (assuming the lands are basic lands), we get 1347 unique cards. That would mean that with no reprints of the other sets in WWK and ROE, you still wouldn't reach the right number!


Therefore, the 20 new lands in ROE are NEW, not our current basic lands. That gives us 1367 unique cards, or 11 reprints in ROE and WWK that are either in the Alara Block, Zendikar, or M2010. That still seems like a lot, but not improbable.


If MaRo counted all the cards without regards to uniqueness, he'd get 1057, plus 145 and 248 would make 1450 which is obviously way off. If he just remembered to remove basic lands (which he says he did), you'd get 982, which would make 1355 unique cards if all cards in ROE and WWK were also unique (except for basic lands) -- 1 short of 1356, so we know they cannot be the case.

The card count for standard is actually a tad high, as there are some cards (e.g. Cancel) printed in multiple sets; 1351 assumes that, except for basic lands, every card in each Standard set is not in any other Standard set.



See my analysis above.  The number would actually be 1355, 1 short of what he said, so that can't be correct.  MaRo's count is correct and he excluded reprints of cards.
I find this statement aggravating. The reduction in the number of cards was a response to overwhelming criticisim of the vast number of cards released per year. It wasn't a gift to take back later. Not only that, but this concession to our wallets came at a cost. Mythics were supposedly that cost - ie. that to maintain sales of products at their current levels, there "needed" to be another reason to buy more product (I could say something on about this rather faulty logic, but its not the point of this post).

However two things happened subsequently. The first was that mythics started to become more obviously tourney staple cards. And not even by accident - check out the Lotus Cobra debate elsewhere in these forums, or look at the number of planeswalkers that make tourney decks as "4 ofs". The second was that the core set got a double makeover - containing all-new cards and being replaced annually rather than every other year. Either of these changes could be seen as increasing the spend on cards annually and taking back the ground that was supposedly given on the cost of the game.

Here now we have a statement that they intended all along to increase the number of cards once a creative reason could be advanced. And, as far as I can see, there is nothing in MaRo's statement that says that they wouldn't increase the numbers again.

Very well said, although you are actually too generous on one aspect.  It's not that Mythics were the justification for smalls sets.  Smaller sets were the justification for Mythics.  They wanted the 4th rarity, and reducing set sizes was how they made it acceptable.  So your phrasing makes it sound like we're left with a side-effect for no reasons.  Nothing so accidental.  This was a planned move, and they made a concession, and once we got used to it they dropped the concession.

I called it 18 months ago.

So I'm not even that annoyed by it because it was obvious from the beggining.  I may however indulge in a little told-ya-so with certain people (*cough* Mistform_Mage *cough*) who said it was "silly" to even consider that set sizes would ever increase.

(And yes, it will happen again.  The block size stood at 616 from Tempest through Ravnica.  As long as they avoid mentioning Mythics, it's very easy to justify moving up from Alara's 519.)

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.

On a different topic:

That said, I have an important piece of information about Alliances. ... While it was sold as an Ice Age expansion, it wasn't really designed as such. The vast majority of the mechanical tie-ins were actually added in development.



I appreciate the explanation, since I was speculating on this just a few weeks ago.  However, Mark previously said:

The team considered it a failure and purposely didn't put any snow-covered land references in Alliances (the few that exist were put in by development).



So I can't reconcile that.  How could the design team purposely exclude snow references because they were a failure, if design didn't even know they were designing an Ice Age expansion?  They could incidentally exclude them because they were irrelevant, but purposely? 

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.

I think back to the "this is what we are doing for established players" comment Mark made some months ago when mentioning this large set for the first time. The statement doesn't make any more sense to me now as opposed to then. What I remember about Shadowmoor block is that it went by in one big whoosh. That's probably what will happen again with a new core set in July following ROE in May. Unless that core set is a lot heavier on the reprints than the last one, people are just going to get buried in cards again, which is what they were supposedly trying to avoid.



"erdana, sans-serif"> A major event happens that forces the plane to fundamentally shift"

Has anyone else had enough of this pattern? 
heya,

just curious, a few months ago you had a picture of a group of wotc folks watching a slide show, one slide reveled some crazy picture/card that at the time you couldnt even say what that was about, but i am wondering if you ever did reveal what it was you were referring too? 

thanks in advance
Question for anyone: when you play with your friends casually or in Standard, do "lands matter?"  I find when I play that it's more of a secondary theme if anything.



Do you mean beyond getting the right ratio of lands to mana costs? Because of course, that's always there.

I play casual mutliplayer much more than anything else, and yes, lands matter. Sometimes, it's that Maze of Ith/Volrath's Stronghold/Scrying Sheets that keeps you a little ahead the whole game. Others, man-lands keep punishing players after a board sweeper. And then there's always the insanity of Tolarian Academy/Gaea's Cradle/Cabal Coffers... There are lands out there that make a deck work, and those lands feel much like any artifact or enchantment (except somewhat harder to remove). They feel as dissimilar to regular artifacts/enchantments as Planeswalkers do.

The thing I am looking forward the most about that large-small-large pattern is the Block Constructed format it will create. For me, the two other previous bigger-than-normal blocks (Time Spiral and Lorwyn-Shadowmoor) made for the most fun and diverse Block Constructed formats ever. It wasn't only that those blocks were larger, they also had inherent variety, with Time Spiral being impressively modular, and Lorwyn-Shadormoor being in fact two blocks with different themes in a single format. While smaller than the latter by a small set, Zendikar Block Constructed promises to have a lot of what made those previous formats great. Block Constructed with classic large-small-small blocks, especially those based on a linear theme, can't make for block formats that are as good.
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
The cost of this game has gone up considerably over the last two years and you have just announced a change that will do the same and passed it off as a design-led change. Its not a huge change, but in the context of recent changes also causing increases in cost, I am not impressed.



This statement seems a little bit misleading to me.  I play casual--I'm one of those oft-despised "kitchen table" players that seemed to inspire so much hate this summer with the M10 changes, which I frankly liked (and which, along with the revamped design philosophy of the summer's Core Set, made it much easier to teach the game to my wife, who is just starting)--so my costs are pretty much limited to what I spend at pre-release tournaments, FNM draft events, and packs that happen to be hanging close to the register at Target.

History: I started playing in middle school with Alpha and Beta.  I took a break of several years during high school and picked it up again a couple of years into college.

For me, the cost of playing MtG just hasn't gone up in the past few years.  If anything, it has dropped.  I'm a Vorthos in every sense of the word, and Time Spiral block soaked me big-time because I was a sucker for the nostalgia theme.  I bought almost nothing in Lorwyn block and skipped most of the tournaments because it didn't interest me much.

The point is that my costs are driven much more by factors--such as how much I enjoy the theme of a set--other than the ones you cite as driving up the cost of MtG.

Obviously you are correct about the costs going up for a particular subset of players, which I will grant is both large and vocal.  But I would argue that I also represent a large subset of players for whom the cost structure has remained stable and for whom the changes have been positive; I think that cracking packs is more fun when you might get a Mythic.

Players like me have a certain vague fun-budget for MtG which floats from set to set but is relatively stable over time.  I would be willing to bet that a majority of MtG players fall into this category.  The only ones getting soaked by WotC are those whose MtG demand is inelastic; they will pay whatever it takes to fill their particular level of need (whether it's the need to be competitive at PTQs or just the need to be competitive at FNM).  I have a hard time believing that most players fall into that category.
Well obviously the game can be as cheap as you want it to be if you only play casually and skip entire blocks at will.

It's been a while since I last price-checked decks, but it might be time to do that again now that we have another $50+ card out there. But I know there should be some fairly cheap decks out there right now. Of course not everyone wants to just play aggro decks.
I should probably put my earlier comments in context. I am a long-time player (that dying breed!) thatstarted collecting sets during The Dark and gave up on collecting after mythics made it too expensive / torturous. I predominantly play kitchen-table magic and draft, and occasionally i would turn up at tourney events just to ruffle some feathers.

The cost of drafting has gone up, but that is a product of the price of packs increasing (of course, the price increase could only have "stuck" if the sellers could off-load their product, which they can thanks to cash-cards like Baneslayer). I have chosen to draft as much as i used to but it has eaten into what i might have spent elsewhere.

The cost of collecting sets has gone up in that gaps cannot cheaply be filled by single card purchases - notably these are mythics. I no longer collect full sets.

The cost of kitchen-table casual play has stayed relatively static, in that you can (as was observed) pay as little or as much as you wish. It has however affected a number of my kitchen-table playing circle. Since drafting has priced some of them out, there isn't quite the size of card pool there once was, and some others who used to buy single cards don't any more because of the perceived hike in prices for certain cards (mostly its for things like rare lands rather Baneslayers).

I have completely given up dipping into standard. You simply can't compete without the quality expensive cards and as much as you can make a competitive deck for cheap it will always be sub-optimum if you're not playing the best available cards. And i hate that.

So that's my reason for advancing that the price of the game has increased, my observations as to why it hasn't been good for me (perhaps its great for others), and why I draw attention to the increase in the card pool with a certain degree of dismay.

I always used to spend more on this game than the average player. I have now decreased what I spend on the game - not stayed the same - because of the cost increases.
On a different topic:

That said, I have an important piece of information about Alliances. ... While it was sold as an Ice Age expansion, it wasn't really designed as such. The vast majority of the mechanical tie-ins were actually added in development.



I appreciate the explanation, since I was speculating on this just a few weeks ago.  However, Mark previously said:

The team considered it a failure and purposely didn't put any snow-covered land references in Alliances (the few that exist were put in by development).



So I can't reconcile that.  How could the design team purposely exclude snow references because they were a failure, if design didn't even know they were designing an Ice Age expansion?  They could incidentally exclude them because they were irrelevant, but purposely? 




Look at it this way: There are 3 "legs" to what we outsiders think of as R&D.  "Design" includes designing raw card "out of the blue". "Design" is also the part that builds the story, theme, art materials.  Those two legs come together in "Development", the "big picture", that tests cards, builds the actual "set", attaches names to cards, and hands off a "product".  Development can add/cut cards at the last minute to tighten up story, art, theme, color pie, etc. So it's entirely plausable that "design" built the set without snow lands and "development" tacked some on before the product went out the door becasue they wanted it to "feel" like Ice Age.
The cost of this game has gone up considerably over the last two years and you have just announced a change that will do the same and passed it off as a design-led change. Its not a huge change, but in the context of recent changes also causing increases in cost, I am not impressed.



This statement seems a little bit misleading to me.  I play casual--I'm one of those oft-despised "kitchen table" players that seemed to inspire so much hate this summer with the M10 changes, which I frankly liked (and which, along with the revamped design philosophy of the summer's Core Set, made it much easier to teach the game to my wife, who is just starting)--so my costs are pretty much limited to what I spend at pre-release tournaments, FNM draft events, and packs that happen to be hanging close to the register at Target.

History: I started playing in middle school with Alpha and Beta.  I took a break of several years during high school and picked it up again a couple of years into college.

For me, the cost of playing MtG just hasn't gone up in the past few years.  If anything, it has dropped.  I'm a Vorthos in every sense of the word, and Time Spiral block soaked me big-time because I was a sucker for the nostalgia theme.  I bought almost nothing in Lorwyn block and skipped most of the tournaments because it didn't interest me much.

The point is that my costs are driven much more by factors--such as how much I enjoy the theme of a set--other than the ones you cite as driving up the cost of MtG.

Obviously you are correct about the costs going up for a particular subset of players, which I will grant is both large and vocal.  But I would argue that I also represent a large subset of players for whom the cost structure has remained stable and for whom the changes have been positive; I think that cracking packs is more fun when you might get a Mythic.

Players like me have a certain vague fun-budget for MtG which floats from set to set but is relatively stable over time.  I would be willing to bet that a majority of MtG players fall into this category.  The only ones getting soaked by WotC are those whose MtG demand is inelastic; they will pay whatever it takes to fill their particular level of need (whether it's the need to be competitive at PTQs or just the need to be competitive at FNM).  I have a hard time believing that most players fall into that category.




I think part of the tournament circuit is that many players feel the need to play only the best decks. they read about online.. that means they're upset at $50 Baneslayers which is an outlier for the last few years of sets. The Mythic rarity has pushed up the value of some cards, but the vast majority of Mythics are priced at the same level as rares. The majority of rares in current sets are under $2, but under $4 I consider "cheap" because that's retail for 1 pack in the pack-vs-single scale. If anything cards like Baneslayer make Magic CHEAPER for the rest of us due to the "gotta have it crowd" opening lots of product they don't really need flooding the market of singles!

If you look at just the raw numbers (aside from play value) there's about 2/3 the rare cards in the current set.  For purchase considerations Mythics count as rares... there's just a bit of luck involved giving you dupes of some.  IN previous Big sets there were always 110 to 121 RARE cards. That meant to collect a set you needed to buy 110-121 packs (three full boxes) worth MINIMUM. Newer sets have more like 55 Rare and 25 Mythic, meaning you only need to buy 80 packs (just over 2 boxes) to get near a full set.
The cost of this game has gone up considerably over the last two years and you have just announced a change that will do the same and passed it off as a design-led change. Its not a huge change, but in the context of recent changes also causing increases in cost, I am not impressed.



This statement seems a little bit misleading to me.  I play casual--I'm one of those oft-despised "kitchen table" players that seemed to inspire so much hate this summer with the M10 changes, which I frankly liked (and which, along with the revamped design philosophy of the summer's Core Set, made it much easier to teach the game to my wife, who is just starting)--so my costs are pretty much limited to what I spend at pre-release tournaments, FNM draft events, and packs that happen to be hanging close to the register at Target.

History: I started playing in middle school with Alpha and Beta.  I took a break of several years during high school and picked it up again a couple of years into college.

For me, the cost of playing MtG just hasn't gone up in the past few years.  If anything, it has dropped.  I'm a Vorthos in every sense of the word, and Time Spiral block soaked me big-time because I was a sucker for the nostalgia theme.  I bought almost nothing in Lorwyn block and skipped most of the tournaments because it didn't interest me much.

The point is that my costs are driven much more by factors--such as how much I enjoy the theme of a set--other than the ones you cite as driving up the cost of MtG.

Obviously you are correct about the costs going up for a particular subset of players, which I will grant is both large and vocal.  But I would argue that I also represent a large subset of players for whom the cost structure has remained stable and for whom the changes have been positive; I think that cracking packs is more fun when you might get a Mythic.

Players like me have a certain vague fun-budget for MtG which floats from set to set but is relatively stable over time.  I would be willing to bet that a majority of MtG players fall into this category.  The only ones getting soaked by WotC are those whose MtG demand is inelastic; they will pay whatever it takes to fill their particular level of need (whether it's the need to be competitive at PTQs or just the need to be competitive at FNM).  I have a hard time believing that most players fall into that category.




I think part of the tournament circuit is that many players feel the need to play only the best decks. they read about online.. that means they're upset at $50 Baneslayers which is an outlier for the last few years of sets. The Mythic rarity has pushed up the value of some cards, but the vast majority of Mythics are priced at the same level as rares. The majority of rares in current sets are under $2, but under $4 I consider "cheap" because that's retail for 1 pack in the pack-vs-single scale. If anything cards like Baneslayer make Magic CHEAPER for the rest of us due to the "gotta have it crowd" opening lots of product they don't really need flooding the market of singles!

If you look at just the raw numbers (aside from play value) there's about 2/3 the rare cards in the current set.  For purchase considerations Mythics count as rares... there's just a bit of luck involved giving you dupes of some.  IN previous Big sets there were always 110 to 121 RARE cards. That meant to collect a set you needed to buy 110-121 packs (three full boxes) worth MINIMUM. Newer sets have more like 55 Rare and 25 Mythic, meaning you only need to buy 80 packs (just over 2 boxes) to get near a full set.



Its seductive maths, but in pratice I found that mythic rarity made it more difficult to collect sets through opening boxes, not less, and good cards (eg. rare duals) remain as high as they ever were to buy.

I think at the tail end, cheap rares (eg. less than the cost of a booster) got cheaper. I'll give you that. I would say though that the price of buying a set card-by-card or as a whole went up.
Question for anyone: when you play with your friends casually or in Standard, do "lands matter?"  I find when I play that it's more of a secondary theme if anything.



Do you mean beyond getting the right ratio of lands to mana costs? Because of course, that's always there.

I play casual mutliplayer much more than anything else, and yes, lands matter. Sometimes, it's that Maze of Ith/Volrath's Stronghold/Scrying Sheets that keeps you a little ahead the whole game. Others, man-lands keep punishing players after a board sweeper. And then there's always the insanity of Tolarian Academy/Gaea's Cradle/Cabal Coffers... There are lands out there that make a deck work, and those lands feel much like any artifact or enchantment (except somewhat harder to remove). They feel as dissimilar to regular artifacts/enchantments as Planeswalkers do.




i'm pretty sure he's referring to zendikar, the "land matters set." obviously lands can matter when you use powerful lands: in a deck with mutavault or tolarian academy or cabal coffers, those lands are going to matter. but in zendikar, the set that's supposed to be the land set, i think the predominant opinion regarding whether lands matter is "not as much as you would hope." in my personal experience, land mattered more in kamigawa block and that's just a sad thing. and this article helps us understand why we've been feeling that way: mark and others deliberately cut back on what they did with lands. unfortunately, rather than preventing us from being overwhelmed i think he ensured we would be underwhelmed. i think they fell on the wrong side of the line there.
Some people here are complaining that they reduced the set size only to increase it later. In today's article, when MaRo mentioned that Rise of the Eldrazi is going to be a big set, he said "But we did something I didn't tell you about as well", but he did tell us that. Here's the what he said, taken from the article The Year of Living Changerously:

This change is helping to adjust to the right balance. Why then did we choose a number lower than what had been our staple number for so many years? Because we wanted to give ourselves a little wiggle room for when we came up with interesting ideas like Time Spiral's "timeshifted" set or the Lorwyn / Shadowmoor mini-block structure. 519 cards is not our cap, but our new baseline.



MaRo claims that after Rise of the Eldrazi standard will have 1356 cards*, standard with 2 blocks and 1 Core Set with blocks ranging from Tempest until Kamigawa and Core Sets from 6th edition until 9th edition had beeween 1562 and 1571 cards. That's still 200 more cards than what Standard will have in a few months.

*I made the calculations ignoring any uniqueness except for basic lands (so I counted basic lands only once, but didn't remove any repetition from the rest of the count) and I got the same number that MaRo got (1356) and not 1 fewer as someone said. So, unless I made a mistake, that's probably how MaRo did the calculations.
EDIT: I made a mistake, the real number is 1355 because Rise of the Eldrazi has 1 less card than big sets usually have for some strange reason.
There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, those who don't and those that didn't expect this joke to be in base 3.

*I made the calculations ignoring any uniqueness except for basic lands (so I counted basic lands only once, but didn't remove any repetition from the rest of the count) and I got the same number that MaRo got (1356) and not 1 fewer as someone said. So, unless I made a mistake, that's probably how MaRo did the calculations.



Why would you believe that, when MaRo specifically stated he calculated unique cards?  Do you really believe there are NO cards in WWK or ROE that reprint other cards in standard, other than lands?  No Cancel?  Because that is what you'd have to believe to believe your numbers.

*I made the calculations ignoring any uniqueness except for basic lands (so I counted basic lands only once, but didn't remove any repetition from the rest of the count) and I got the same number that MaRo got (1356) and not 1 fewer as someone said. So, unless I made a mistake, that's probably how MaRo did the calculations.



Why would you believe that, when MaRo specifically stated he calculated unique cards?  Do you really believe there are NO cards in WWK or ROE that reprint other cards in standard, other than lands?  No Cancel?  Because that is what you'd have to believe to believe your numbers.



I believe that MaRo just added the number of cards from each set in standard (withought basic lands) and then added the 5 basic lands because a few more cards above or bellow the real number isn't relevant for his point and it's easier to do the calculation like that. So, I believe that MaRo made a mistake when he said "unique cards", but one that's not relevant for what he was saying. Also, I think it would be a too much of a coincidence for the correct number to be the same as the number I got with my calculations (1356).

EDIT: You're right that the number i get doing the calculation my way is 1355 and not 1356. I just remember that Rise of the Eldrazi has 1 less card than big sets usually have. I think MaRo made the same mistake.
There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, those who don't and those that didn't expect this joke to be in base 3.
it seems a lot more likely that maro made a minor mistake and was 1 card off (a single card...not that far off) than that your weird 20 new land prediction is correct, sir bruce. i'm not saying you're wrong, but what you're saying seems way less probable than a minor counting mistake.
Sorry. Double post. I clicked quote instead of edit.

There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, those who don't and those that didn't expect this joke to be in base 3.
it seems a lot more likely that maro made a minor mistake and was 1 card off (a single card...not that far off) than that your weird 20 new land prediction is correct, sir bruce. i'm not saying you're wrong, but what you're saying seems way less probable than a minor counting mistake.



I agree, but he's not talking only about the 1 card off. For example, Cancel appeared in both Magic 2010 and Zendikar and since MaRo said "unique cards" he shouldn't be counting it twice. Making the calculations right, the number should be 1347, which is 9 cards off from what MaRo said. As I said above I don't agree with sir bruce, I think that MaRo just added the total number of cards from each set withought basic lands and then added the 5 basic lands.

There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, those who don't and those that didn't expect this joke to be in base 3.
no i understand the unique cards issue. i guess i should say "it seems more likely he made TWO minor mistakes." both are mistakes other people have made in this thread and seem more probable than there being any hinty significance to the numbers being off. but then, that is his style so i'm not saying it's not the case. it just seems a lot less likely.
I find this statement aggravating. The reduction in the number of cards was a response to overwhelming criticisim of the vast number of cards released per year. It wasn't a gift to take back later. Not only that, but this concession to our wallets came at a cost. Mythics were supposedly that cost - ie. that to maintain sales of products at their current levels, there "needed" to be another reason to buy more product (I could say something on about this rather faulty logic, but its not the point of this post).

However two things happened subsequently. The first was that mythics started to become more obviously tourney staple cards. And not even by accident - check out the Lotus Cobra debate elsewhere in these forums, or look at the number of planeswalkers that make tourney decks as "4 ofs". The second was that the core set got a double makeover - containing all-new cards and being replaced annually rather than every other year. Either of these changes could be seen as increasing the spend on cards annually and taking back the ground that was supposedly given on the cost of the game.

Here now we have a statement that they intended all along to increase the number of cards once a creative reason could be advanced. And, as far as I can see, there is nothing in MaRo's statement that says that they wouldn't increase the numbers again.



So I'm not even that annoyed by it because it was obvious from the beggining.  I may however indulge in a little told-ya-so with certain people (*cough* Mistform_Mage *cough*) who said it was "silly" to even consider that set sizes would ever increase.


Did I say that? I'm not even kidding. I honestly have no idea. I'm looking but that thread is HELLA long. I know I was arguing up a storm, cause damn do I love laughing at nerds crying over spilt cards, but it was 18 months ago and I was in middle school so I don't really remember. And lol ur smarter than a middle schooler about card games :p
Well, I was wrong; MaRo did indeed appear to make a mistake, and has changed his article to say 1,355 "unique" cards.  That means the 20 cards in ROE are basic land cards again, and that he's not counting reprints like Cancel.  Sorry for taking him at his word.
HAHA OMG I FOUND IT. I cannot believe you remember that it was me, my word usage and even that it happened. HAHA AWESOME.

Also that was like the only argument in that thread in which I wasn't condescending for no reason. I sooo don't deserve an I told you so.
Also that was like the only argument in that thread in which I wasn't condescending for no reason.



aw, i thought you didn't know that about yourself. now i like you more!

Hey, didn't you guys shrink the set sizes to produce less cards? We did. But we did something I didn't tell you about as well. We shrunk the sets a little smaller than we needed to so we'd have room to grow when a design called for it. Even with the addition of the extra cards, the Standard environment when Rise of the Eldrazi comes out will be significantly smaller than it was at the height of the craziness in Time Spiral / Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Standard. How much smaller? When Rise of the Eldrazi comes out, the Standard environment will have 1,356 unique cards in the environment (I'm counting the five basic lands, for those out there doing the math).



I find this statement aggravating. The reduction in the number of cards was a response to overwhelming criticisim of the vast number of cards released per year. It wasn't a gift to take back later. Not only that, but this concession to our wallets came at a cost. Mythics were supposedly that cost - ie. that to maintain sales of products at their current levels, there "needed" to be another reason to buy more product (I could say something on about this rather faulty logic, but its not the point of this post).

However two things happened subsequently. The first was that mythics started to become more obviously tourney staple cards. And not even by accident - check out the Lotus Cobra debate elsewhere in these forums, or look at the number of planeswalkers that make tourney decks as "4 ofs". The second was that the core set got a double makeover - containing all-new cards and being replaced annually rather than every other year. Either of these changes could be seen as increasing the spend on cards annually and taking back the ground that was supposedly given on the cost of the game.

Here now we have a statement that they intended all along to increase the number of cards once a creative reason could be advanced. And, as far as I can see, there is nothing in MaRo's statement that says that they wouldn't increase the numbers again.

I have no doubt that creatively it is useful to have a bigger third set if you wish to explore new designs. However, the recent history of this game seems to be a series of very calculated "sleight of hands" - statements designed to give us comfort about a certain state of affairs with an agenda that runs flatly contrary to the spirit of those statements.

The cost of this game has gone up considerably over the last two years and you have just announced a change that will do the same and passed it off as a design-led change. Its not a huge change, but in the context of recent changes also causing increases in cost, I am not impressed.



actually the raw number of cards is nearly the same Zendikar has 15M, 53R, 60U, 101C, 20L That means the print set is the standard 121-up fare..  15M + 53R + 53R = 121. 60U+60U+121 (who gets to be U3?).  101C + 20L = 121.  In the past a Large set would have the full 110 or 121 Rares (or 55/60 for small sets).  They're printing the same number of sheets per set, just "rare" is duped more often by a large margin and mytic is the former rare.

Stop whining and realize they could have watered down the set with 53 more lame "rares" and 60 more lame uncommons to make it "fair" by older standards.  I like the big set trimmed by 115 cards that are kind of lame anyway. What you're seeing in secondary prices is the effect of fewer cards in the set so the good ones bubble to the top more... and the fact that recent sets have cards that would have been considered "too good to print" 3 years ago.

When they publish another 484 card (over 500 with lands) "core" set or "base" set then I"ll panic, but even then the reprints in things like Time Spiral (or inclusion of "Chronicles" cards in 5th) made sense at the time, because crazy big sets can be fun too. The set size reduction is what makes the editors try extra hard and makes the current sets hot selling. It also give them room to do extra Big sets and still not bloat Standard format.

Of course if they make more good cards people want buy, then they'll sell more cards.. and they are a business after all!