2/26/2010 LD: "Developing for Variance"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Here's an argument in favor of multikicker using colored costs - it makes the creatures feel less like they could have all just read "XX" in the mana cost and avoided multikicker entirely.
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Kicker Aggro (Invasion Block) Sunforger/Izzet Guildmage Midrange (Ravnica/Time Spiral/Xth Standard) Dragonstorm Combo (Time Spiral/Lorwyn/Xth Standard) Bant Midrange (Lorwyn/Shards/M10 Standard)
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Angel Resurrection Casual Soul Sisters Sindbad's Adventures with Djinn of Wishes Sphinx-Bone Wand Buyback Morph (No Instants or Sorceries) Cabal Coffers Control Zombie Aggro Hungry, Hungry Greater Gargadon/War Elemental Flashfires/Boil/Ruination - Boom! Call of the Wild Teysa, Orzhov Scion with Twilight Drover, Sun Titan, and Hivestone Slivers Rebels Cairn Wanderer Knights Only Gold and () Spells Captain Sisay Toolbox Spellweaver Helix Combo Merfolk Wizards Izzet Guildmage/The Unspeakable Arcane Combo Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and his Wizards Creatureless Wild Research/Reins of Power Madness Creatureless Pyromancer Ascension Anarchist Living Death Anvil of Bogardan Madness Shamen with Goblin Game/Wound Reflection Combo Mass damage Quest for Pure Flame Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle/Clear the Land with 40+ Lands Doubling Season Thallids Juniper Order Ranger Graft/Tokens Elf Archer Druids Equilibrium/Aluren Combo Experiment Kraj Combo Reap Combo False Cure/Kavu Predator Combo Savra, Queen of the Golgari Sacrifice/Dredge Elf Warriors Eight-Post Sneak Attack Where Ancients Tread Zur the Enchanter with Opal creatures Tamanoa/Kavu Predator/Collapsing Borders Esper Aggro Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and his Darksteel Reactor Theft and Control Unearth Aggro Soul's Fire Vampires Devour Tokens Phytohydra with Powerstone Minefield Treefolk Friendly? Questing Phelddagrif Slivers Dragon Arch Fun I'm probably forgetting a few...
About the poll-

It upsets me greatly that Dragonmaster Outcast got more votes than Omnath, Locus of Mana.

Omnath has a better name. He has a much cooler ability. He has a better picture. And I consider him more fun to play. Then again, I guess the Outcast is a more powerful card... but still! 
"Comeback Potential" is an interesting concept, and I've never thought about it. I've only thought about slow spells and fast spells, but this is somewhat different..

I'm wondering, how can comeback potential be increased in the set? Can comeback potential only be increased by making cards that are "bad" in some way? For example making the early-game spells be as good as blank draws in the late game, or increasing the ability to be screwed by randomness and bad draws in the late game? Those seem to be the more frustrating moments in Magic.

Are there any good spell effects that are considered to be comeback effects? The only ones that comes to my mind is Wrath of God. While these are great, I guess too many reset spells can make the game frustrating, since you'd have to hold back on permanents and can't play aggressively. Cards like Balance always get abused rather than help even the board. I wonder if there has been any other spell effects besides reset spells that have been successful in specifically helping you when you are behind rather than when you're ahead?

Finally, don't multikicker cards also work as comeback spells? Depending on how you look at it, they can be considered as fatties (creatures that can turn around the board position in the late game), except that they have an alternate mode that allows them to be cast in the early game so you can have a higher ratio of "fatties" in your deck than you can with usual fatties. I guess the life-gaining multikicker angel must have been designed as a comeback spell. Maybe a vigilance multikicker creature, a lifelink multikicker creature, or one that makes tokens with fog effects could also have made multikicker a force for comeback rather than just being a way for the player who is ahead to keep drawing relevant spells every turn.

Goblin Artisans - A Magic Design Blog by GDS2 Contestants and Collaborators
They can work as comebacks for you, but a lot of those comebacks come from your opponent drawing lands or small creatures. Multikicker means the player with the upper hand will always have the upper hand, making comeback moments hard.
A brave article, Tom: you're basically admitting that you like the level of randomness in the game to be higher than you could choose to have it. Which is implicit in a number of MaRo articles, including the one about why Magic is so great, but nonetheless. Very interesting points.

I generally like games with less variance. I do love dramatic turnarounds, but IMHO a dramatic turnaround isn't caused by an opponent's deck suddenly giving them rubbish for several turns in a row. When I'm on the ropes and my opponent says "I just need to draw one more of my ten X in the next four turns" (where X = burn spells or whatever), and then their deck gives them the freak draw of rubbishness and I go on to beat them, I don't feel like I earned that victory; I feel sorry for them, because it's like their deck let them down. I don't think increasing that factor is particularly desirable.

I continue to maintain that manascrew and manaflood are the biggest sources of unfun moments in Magic. When you can play three casual games between two well-constructed decks (24 lands out of 60, reasonable mana curve, etc) and have two of them decided by manascrew, those are the occasions which make me question why I'm bothering to play this game. (And I've been a Magic player since Invasion.) I believe the game would have been much better if every card had the Dakkon Blackblade vanguard ability (though there's an interesting article here by an unnamed Wizards author claiming this would be a bad idea and that screw and flood are vital); with a few different card design decisions, the necessary amount of chance could have been preserved.

But, anyway. I think the dramatic turnarounds I prefer are when the player draws a card that's useful in a fairly narrow set of circumstances, or perhaps it's always okay but not usually great, but it turns out to be perfect for that situation. When a card becomes better than it normally is makes for delightful and memorable moments. When a card or deck becomes worse than it normally is makes for frustration, and I don't enjoy the game if either I or my opponent am frustrated.

Nonetheless, I do think the multikicker creatures are great early and late, and so I'm not going to complain about them. I'd like to see more cards like them, in fact.
"Comeback Potential" is an interesting concept, and I've never thought about it. I've only thought about slow spells and fast spells, but this is somewhat different..

I'm wondering, how can comeback potential be increased in the set? Can comeback potential only be increased by making cards that are "bad" in some way? For example making the early-game spells be as good as blank draws in the late game, or increasing the ability to be screwed by randomness and bad draws in the late game? Those seem to be the more frustrating moments in Magic.

Are there any good spell effects that are considered to be comeback effects? The only ones that comes to my mind is Wrath of God. While these are great, I guess too many reset spells can make the game frustrating, since you'd have to hold back on permanents and can't play aggressively. Cards like Balance always get abused rather than help even the board. I wonder if there has been any other spell effects besides reset spells that have been successful in specifically helping you when you are behind rather than when you're ahead?

Finally, don't multikicker cards also work as comeback spells? Depending on how you look at it, they can be considered as fatties (creatures that can turn around the board position in the late game), except that they have an alternate mode that allows them to be cast in the early game so you can have a higher ratio of "fatties" in your deck than you can with usual fatties. I guess the life-gaining multikicker angel must have been designed as a comeback spell. Maybe a vigilance multikicker creature, a lifelink multikicker creature, or one that makes tokens with fog effects could also have made multikicker a force for comeback rather than just being a way for the player who is ahead to keep drawing relevant spells every turn.



This old Sirlin article is pretty interesting read regarding comeback potential.

In Magic, obviously you've mentioned board resets like Wrath of God.  A more extreme example of a comeback reset would be something like Decree of Pain.

Then there are cards which are better when you have less life.  Convalescent Care is one of the best examples of this.  Other cards in this category are things like Mirror Universe/Reverse the Sands, Pulse of the Fields, Death's Shadow, etc.

There are cards that get better when you have less resources.  Land Tax/Tithe/Weathered Wayfarer, Pulse of the Tangle.
Just wanted to say thanks for openly discussing the problems with 3xZen. Hopefully next time we get a past format it will be slightly better tuned as a result.
I generally like games with less variance. I do love dramatic turnarounds, but IMHO a dramatic turnaround isn't caused by an opponent's deck suddenly giving them rubbish for several turns in a row. When I'm on the ropes and my opponent says "I just need to draw one more of my ten X in the next four turns" (where X = burn spells or whatever), and then their deck gives them the freak draw of rubbishness and I go on to beat them, I don't feel like I earned that victory; I feel sorry for them, because it's like their deck let them down. I don't think increasing that factor is particularly desirable.



I somewhat agree, but I also feel that the most memorable games of Magic are those where one or both player can come from behind, and make it interesting down to the end.  If you reduce the variance, you reduce the opportunity for that to happen.  It's just unfortunate that the mana screw games are part of having that higher variance.

About the poll-

It upsets me greatly that Dragonmaster Outcast got more votes than Omnath, Locus of Mana.

Omnath has a better name. He has a much cooler ability. He has a better picture. And I consider him more fun to play. Then again, I guess the Outcast is a more powerful card... but still! 



Human that makes DRAGONS >> walking blob of (yawn) Green mana.

In all seriousness, though - I think Omnath would have been better concepted as some kind of swarm of tokens, where each token is "a mana", or something like that.  That feels more Green than just one more big giant guy.

He Tom, I just wanted to say that I liked the article, it was a very interesting read, and I would love to here more about the ways R&D addressed this problem of variance, so maybe a part II on this?

Here's an argument in favor of multikicker using colored costs - it makes the creatures feel less like they could have all just read "XX" in the mana cost and avoided multikicker entirely.



I agree. If I have one Forest and two Plains on the battlefield, knowing that I might not be able to cast my Gnarlid Pack as a 3/3 if I draw another land makes me happier to cast it immediately as a 2/2 and keep a good pace to the game. The heavy monocolor requirement on the multikicker can get irritating in a multicolor deck, but Zendikar block already has a strong monocolor theme, and colored multikicker is less irritating than effects that count the number of mountains when I would rather play Smoldering Spires. Multikicker is fun as an extra bonus; it is frustrating as delayed gratification.

However, I do have issues about variance.

For almost two weeks my friends and I have been playing a Worldwake League tournament. We each opened six Worldwake booster packs, built the best decks we could, and dueled them against each other. For Sealed Deck format like this, the booster packs of a small set are more balanced when mixed with a few booster packs from the large set in the same block, but our leagues use only the most recent set. We get an intense introduction to the cards that way.

We did notice that Worldwake does not have the aggressive speed of Zendikar, though dropping a Zendikon enchantment on a land that won't have summoning sickness does make for a speedy attack. We identified which cards were bombs, which were lame, and which might be good in constructed but did not work in six-booster Limited.

Zendikar was very much an all-or-nothing setting. Mana stalling, not drawing any lands past my opening hand, was fatal in Zendikar. When it comes to mana, Worldwake is more balanced. I like that.

The strangest things we noticed about Worldwake League was our rankings. After several days of playing our scores were almost tied. We had our usual rankings, with the best deck builders and players mostly ranked higher than other players, but they were ahead by only two or three extra wins out of over fifteen games each.

Our best player pegged the reason why skill was muted: "Whoever plays his bombs first wins." This random factor decided many games. The bombs were mostly mythics and rares, such as Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Anowon, the Ruin Sage, and Strength of the Tajuru, but a few commons and uncommons, such as Searing Blaze and Caustic Crawler act like bombs if drawn in multiple copies.

Does Tom LaPille really want variance to feel so random? No, he said, "Just like you, we want Magic to be a game of skill, but there is already plenty of skill in Magic already."

I generally like games with less variance. I do love dramatic turnarounds, but IMHO a dramatic turnaround isn't caused by an opponent's deck suddenly giving them rubbish for several turns in a row. When I'm on the ropes and my opponent says "I just need to draw one more of my ten X in the next four turns" (where X = burn spells or whatever), and then their deck gives them the freak draw of rubbishness and I go on to beat them, I don't feel like I earned that victory; I feel sorry for them, because it's like their deck let them down. I don't think increasing that factor is particularly desirable.



It is nice to have a little breathing room when attempting a comeback. I play my Vapor Snare on my opponent's most deadly creature and I have a few turns to hit my opponent back with it before he topdecks an Iona's Judgment or Æther Tradewinds. But I prefer the give and take of my opponent playing answers to my answers. I like the games in which he liberates his creature back to his hand with Æther Tradewinds but a turn earlier I had topdecked another way to make my comeback.

But, anyway. I think the dramatic turnarounds I prefer are when the player draws a card that's useful in a fairly narrow set of circumstances, or perhaps it's always okay but not usually great, but it turns out to be perfect for that situation. When a card becomes better than it normally is makes for delightful and memorable moments. When a card or deck becomes worse than it normally is makes for frustration, and I don't enjoy the game if either I or my opponent am frustrated.


Winning with a clever use of an ordinary card makes for fine games. I even like it when my opponent wins that way.
Thought this was a very interesting article, and the idea of variance is something I'd never really considered as part of development.

I wanted to echo what alextfish said about comeback though, and that is that comebacks based around manascrew/flood are not the kind of comebacks I enjoy.  That said, I think R&D recognizes this and that things like all the color-fixing in shards and dual-color man lands in Zendikar are a step in the right direction.

Edit: Also, that they teased you with a card called "Ginger Folk" was completely hilarious!
About the poll-

It upsets me greatly that Dragonmaster Outcast got more votes than Omnath, Locus of Mana.

Omnath has a better name. He has a much cooler ability. He has a better picture. And I consider him more fun to play. Then again, I guess the Outcast is a more powerful card... but still! 



Well, that's not really surprising, as these "What is your favorite card in..." polls tend to give results based on card power more than "coolness", which seems to indicate a readership composed of a greater proportion of Spikes (granted, I think most people who read mtg.com are the ones with a greater dedication to the game, most of which are Spike-types). With that said, Jace is pretty cool and dripping with flavor in-and-of-himself, if you can get over the fact that he's somewhat overpowered and overpricy on the secondary market. As for me, I voted for the Persecutor because I think his unique drawback makes him a beautiful design, more than for its tournament power.

As for this week's poll about the state of Standard, I voted "It's good" but I would have liked a "It's great" option; I feel there is too much of a margin between "It's awesome!" and "It's good". I voted "It's good" when the same question was asked before Worldwake, and I would have liked to be able to say that I think it's much better now, but I don't think it's good enough to call it "awesome", so I'm kinda screwed. 
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eye of ugin better than avenger? who voted for the eye? did you vote as a joke? i can't accept that there are more people who actually like the eye of ugin than avenger of zendikar.

re: omnath vs dragonmaster: both are extremely flavorful and excellent designs, but omnath stands out as a card that makes you feel the flavor. i think it is the better designed card.

re: variance: variance is important to magic because no one likes losing all the time and the built in variance of magic allows any player to win. totally bad new players can win a few matches against seasoned veterans and get enough wins to make them want to get better. but there's enough skill that the veterans will regularly win more and get the prizes.
there is a subset of players that adores cards like [...] Sensei's Divining Top.


I still have to find one person that doesn't like the top, you know.
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57817638 wrote:
I like storm crow because I really like crows in real life, as an animal, and the card isn't terribly stupid, but packs a good deal of nostalgia and also a chunck of the game's history. So it's perhaps one of the cards I have most affection to, but not because "lol storm crow is bad hurr hurr durr".
Listen to my SoundCloud while you read my signature. The Island, Come And See, The Landlord's Daughter, You'll Not Feel The Drowning - The Decemberists by vimschy IMAGE(http://dragcave.net/image/rkvR.gif)IMAGE(http://dragcave.net/image/L3es.gif) IMAGE(http://dragcave.net/image/m71H.gif)
Quotes
56747598 wrote:
57295478 wrote:
Although I do assume you deliberately refer to them (DCI) as The Grand Imperial Convocation of Evil just for the purposes of making them sound like an ancient and terrible conspiracy.
Now, now. 1994 doesn't quite qualify as "ancient".
56734518 wrote:
Oh, it's a brilliant plan. You see, Bolas was travelling through shadowmoor, causing trouble, when he saw a Wickerbough Elder with its stylin' dead scarecrow hat. Now, Bolas being Bolas took the awesome hat and he put it on his head, but even with all his titanic powers of magic he couldn't make it fit. He grabbed some more scarecrows, but then a little kithkin girl asked if he was trying to build a toupee. "BY ALL THE POWERS IN THE MULTIVERSE!" he roared, "I WILL HAVE A HAT WORTHY OF MY GLORY." and so he went through his Dark Lore of Doom (tm) looking for something he could make into a hat that would look as stylish on him as a scarecrow does on a treefolk. He thought about the Phyrexians, but they were covered in goopy oil that would make his nonexistant hair greasy. He Tried out angels for a while but they didn't sit quite right. Then, he looked under "e" (because in the Elder Draconic alphabet, "e" for Eldrazi is right next to "h" for Hat) in his Dark Lore of Doom and saw depictions of the Eldrazi, and all their forms. "THIS SHALL BE MY HAT!" he declared, poking a picture of Emrakul, "AND WITH IT I WILL USHER IN A NEW AGE OF DARKNESS -- ER, I MEAN A NEW AGE OF FASHION!" And so Nicol Bolas masterminded the release of the Eldrazi.
57864098 wrote:
Rhox War Monk just flips pancakes, and if games have told us anything, it's that food = life.
56747598 wrote:
76973988 wrote:
This thread has gotten creepy. XP
Really? Really? The last couple days have been roughly every perverse fetish imaginable, but it only got "creepy" when speculation on Mother of Runes's mob affiliation came up?
76672808 wrote:
57864098 wrote:
57531048 wrote:
Nice mana base. Not really.
Yeah, really. If my deck was going to cost $1000+, I'd at least make it good.
99812049 wrote:
I like to think up what I consider clever names for my decks, only later to be laughed at by my wife. It kills me a little on the inside, but thats what marriage is about.
56816728 wrote:
56854588 wrote:
Of course, the best use [of tolaria west] is transmuting for the real Tolaria. ;)
Absolutely. I used to loose to my buddy's Banding deck for ages, it was then that I found out about Tolaria, and I was finally able win my first game.
70246459 wrote:
WOAH wait wait wait
56957928 wrote:
You know, being shallow and jusdgmental aside, "I later found out that Jon infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people"
56957928 wrote:
"I later found out that Jon infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people"
56957928 wrote:
Jon infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates
56957928 wrote:
OH MY GOD
109874309 wrote:
The only way I'd cast this card is into a bonfire.
82032421 wrote:
The short answer is that there's no rule barring annoying people from posting, but there a rule barring us from harassing them about it.
56747598 wrote:
Browbeat is a card that is an appropriate deck choice when there's no better idea available. "No better idea available" was pretty much the running theme of Odyssey era.
56874518 wrote:
Or perhaps it was a more straightforward comment indicating a wish for you to be bitten (Perhaps repeatedly) by a small yet highly venomous arachnid.
70246459 wrote:
58280208 wrote:
You're an idiot, and I'm in no mood for silliness.
57817638 wrote:
57145078 wrote:
You just... Vektor it.
That's the answer to everything.
70246459 wrote:
58347268 wrote:
I think the problem is that you don't exist.
This would sound great out of context!
56965458 wrote:
Modern is like playing a new tournament every time : you build a deck, you win with it, don't bother keeping it. Just build another, its key pieces will get banned.
57864098 wrote:
57309598 wrote:
I specifically remember posting a thread when I was just a witty bitty noob.
You make it sound like that's still not the case.
58325628 wrote:
Rap is what happens when the c from crap is taken away.
Doug Beyer:
But sometimes it's also challenging. Because sometimes OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS THING?
141434757 wrote:
Flashforward five thousand years (Click for atmosphere) :
57927608 wrote:
to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum, Vektor finds a way.
58347268 wrote:
when in rome **** AND PILLAGE
143229641 wrote:
I always find it helpful when im angry to dress up in an owl costume and rub pennies all over my body in front of a full body mirror next to the window.
Dymecoar:
Playing Magic without Blue is like sleeping without any sheets or blankets. You can do it...but why?
Omega137:
Me: "I love the moment when a control deck stabilizes. It feels so... right." Omega137: "I like the life drop part until you get there, it's the MtG variant of bungee jumping"
Zigeif777:
Just do it like Yu-Gi-Oh or monkeys: throw all the crap you got at them and hope it works or else the by-standers (or opponents) just get dirty and pissed.
57471038 wrote:
58258708 wrote:
It's true that Alpha and Beta didn't contain any cards like Tarmogoyf, Darksteel Colossus, or Platinum Angel. It just contained weak, insignificant cards like Black Lotus, Mox Sapphire, and Time Walk.
Normally it's difficult to pick up on your jokes/sarcasm. But this one's pretty much out there. Good progress. You have moved up to Humanoid. You'll be Human in no time.
91893448 wrote:
94618431 wrote:
I didn't know Samurai were known to be able to cut down whole armies...
They can when they're using lightsabers!
57129358 wrote:
97980259 wrote:
My wife brought home a baby black squirrel they found on a horse track and cared for it for a few days. We named it Grixis, but it died.
Unearth it!
70246459 wrote:
[/spoiler] And I'm on Magic Arcana. How about you? Oh, by the way, I'm also on From the Lab now. Twice, actually. And now with my own submited decklist!
I really liked this article.  I'm glad to know they're thinking about the game in terms of variance.  This has a big impact in casual.  Not being able to come back is unfun and frustrating.
there is a subset of players that adores cards like [...] Sensei's Divining Top.


I still have to find one person that doesn't like the top, you know.



quoted for truth. and amusement.
Here's an argument in favor of multikicker using colored costs - it makes the creatures feel less like they could have all just read "XX" in the mana cost and avoided multikicker entirely.


I think it would be a much better idea to do "XX" than multikicker.
For example:
When {Phail Card} comes into play, you may pay any number of times and at least half of the total cost must come from red mana.
For each time was paid, {Phail Card} gets +2/+2 whenever it attacks.

EDIT: I'm a terrible card designer.

Orzhova Witness

Restarting Quotes Block
58086748 wrote:
58335208 wrote:
Disregard women acquire chase rares.
There are a lot of dudes for whom this is not optional.
97820278 wrote:
144532521 wrote:
How;s a 2 drop 1/2, Flying broken? What am I missing?
You're missing it because *turns Storm Crows sideways* all your base are belong to Chuck Norris and every other overused meme ever.
Here's an argument in favor of multikicker using colored costs - it makes the creatures feel less like they could have all just read "XX" in the mana cost and avoided multikicker entirely.


I think it would be a much better idea to do "XX" than multikicker.
For example:
When {Phail Card} comes into play, you may pay any number of times and at least half of the total cost must come from red mana.
For each time was paid, {Phail Card} gets +2/+2 whenever it attacks.

EDIT: I'm a terrible card designer.


You want cards to be confusing and needlessly wordy and hard to describe?
I continue to maintain that manascrew and manaflood are the biggest sources of unfun moments in Magic. When you can play three casual games between two well-constructed decks (24 lands out of 60, reasonable mana curve, etc) and have two of them decided by manascrew, those are the occasions which make me question why I'm bothering to play this game. (And I've been a Magic player since Invasion.) I believe the game would have been much better if every card had the Dakkon Blackblade vanguard ability (though there's an interesting article here by an unnamed Wizards author claiming this would be a bad idea and that screw and flood are vital); with a few different card design decisions, the necessary amount of chance could have been preserved.



In my last comment, I quoted a lot of alextfish's comment, but I left out the above paragraph. It did not directly relate to my topic. But now that I have had two days to think about Tom LaPille's idea of variance, I see that the above paragraph illustrates the uses and flaws of variance.

The mana curve is unreliable. The unreliability, also known as variance, has an extra dimension in multicolor decks, where a player can suffer from color screw while still having plenty of mana. Most Constructed tournament players try to prevent this color screw by using lands that make several colors of mana, despite the drawbacks that Wizards of the Coast builds into those lands. The players sacrifice power in order to gain reliability.

On the other hand, imagine a new player, relatively unskilled and with a small card pool, who wants to win against more experienced players with better decks. That player, if he or she thought about it, would be willing to sacrifice reliability for power. The newbie wants to win an occasional game of Magic, not every game, and is willing ride a wave of luck to victory. However, the newbie is too inexperienced to think in those terms. He has to stumble upon that solution. And Wizards of the Coast wants to increase the chance of his or her stumbling upon it by putting it smack dab in the middle of everyone's path.

The default unreliability is too severe, however. Imagine an opening hand has two land cards and five spell cards with a good spread of converted mana costs. That would look like a reasonable hand, even if I were playing first rather than drawing first, so I wouldn't mulligan. But in a 60-card deck with exactly 24 lands in it, I would have a (31/53)(30/52)(29/51)(28/50) = 10.7% chance of not drawing any lands on turns 2, 3, 4, and 5. That is one reason we experienced players stock our decks with plenty of spells with converted mana cost two, such as Journey to Nowhere and Gnarlid Pack.

If I altered my deck to have 29 lands instead, the same situation would give me only a (26/53)(25/52)(2/51)(23/50) = 5.1% chance of not drawing any lands on turns 2, 3, 4, and 5. That is only half the chance of mana screw. Nevertheless, there is a cost. For a deck with 24 lands and 36 spells, I draw an average of 6.6 spells in my first 11 cards, and for a deck with 29 lands and 31 spells, I draw an average of 5.7 spells in my first 11 cards. To increase the reliability of my deck, I would draw one fewer spell on those first five turns.

That is one of the fun aspects of Zendikar block's land-matters theme. It gave me a reason to experiment with 29-land decks. Do I mind that I have one fewer spell when my spells are twice as powerful upon landfall?

Tom Pille described variance in reference to coming back from behind:
In other Limited formats, one of the most important ways such a player could come back was for the other player to draw a string of "blanks," or cards that didn't do anything in the situation. If the opponent draws blanks for a few turns while you draw "live" cards, or cards that do relevant things, you'll be back in the game in no time.


I don't understand why he views this as exclusive to Limited formats, because I see it happen in casual contructed, too.

Why would a player be behind in the first place? In a duel between two good players with equal decks, it is because one deck exploits a weakness in the other or because one player got off to a bad start. The weaknesses of colors and themes are designed to be fair in a Rock, Paper, Scissors style. The bad starts are caused by variance. Decreasing variance would decrease the need for comebacks. Yes, the multikicker creatures do reduce variance. That is why they are worth playing.

Or one player could be behind because that player made a few mistakes in deck building or in playing. We want beginners to have a chance to win, even against skilled players and despite a few mistakes. However, using variance to sabotage the good player's deck and leave him or her stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire is not a proper race for victory.

I would prefer putting variance to work directly for the beginner by having it sometimes boost his or her deck to super-wizard levels through some awesome Timmy spell or synergistic Johnny combo. Many mechanics in Worldwake are well suited for swingy effects, such as the quest mechanic, the  Kor equipment theme, the trap instants, and the Zendikon enchantments.

Use variance for good, not evil. Put powerful, unreliable decks in the hands of the newbies. Don't limit those effects to rare cards.
Here's an argument in favor of multikicker using colored costs - it makes the creatures feel less like they could have all just read "XX" in the mana cost and avoided multikicker entirely.


I think it would be a much better idea to do "XX" than multikicker.

Better templating would be "XY" in the cost and "Spend only [color] mana for X, X and Y must be equal".
Even better templating would be Taste of Paradise.

In any case, multikicker is much, much cleaner.

I think it would be a much better idea to do "XX" than multikicker.

Probably not; for some reason, a lot of people tend to get confused as heck about XX cards, whereas multikicker doesn't seem to cause the same confusion.

I've never understood why people get confused about double-X costs, but it is true.

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