9/22/2010 StF: "The Terms of Engagement"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Savor the Flavor, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
So... the Cliff Notes version of Mirrodin and Scars, huh?
Interesting trivia, at the very least.
i appreciate this kind of straightforward, encyclopaedic article.

Insects (which includes beetles, ants, wasps, maggots, roaches, robotic ants, centipedes, a Giant Solifuge, and whatever Clickslither is supposed to be, but oddly enough not Spiders)



it's not particularly odd actually, since spiders aren't insects. solifuge is a bit odd, though, since he looks quite a bit like a spider and his name is derived from an order of arachnida.

edit: and centipedes aren't insects, either. thanks wikipedia!
I'm calling it, there will be a planeswalker of Karn, father of machines.
I sincerely hope the 'big twist' is at least slightly more thought out than "Karn's evil now!"
One important detail that this lexicon doesn't clarify - Blinkmoths are the sole source of water on Mirrodin (the Quicksilver Sea is filled with a magical semi-transparent metal).  Blinkmoths are not only the "stars" in Mirrodin's sky, but they generate the plane's rain in the absence of clouds (go ahead, try to find a cloud other than of necrogen in any Mirrodin card's illustration - there may be one or two but they're almost unheard-of).  If they go extinct due to Vedalken greed for serum, everything other than the golems will die the first of the Thousand Deaths.  You would think they would have brought this up on a card at some point.

The LOTW brings up an idea which is one of the reasons why I think Magic needs to be completely rebooted one of these days.  It really doesn't make much sense to treat Phyrexian as a creature type, but it definitely should be a faction, and while these watermarks work well enough for the block, there's no fixing them in Oracle.  It's far too late to do it in MTG, but if there's ever a Magic that isn't The Gathering, I would like to see them introduce a "plane symbol", which unambiguously identifies where every creature originates, so that cards flavored like City in a Bottle will affect things that come from that plane, but not generic things you can find anywhere which just happened to see print in that set.  It would also give a slightly greater sense of purpose to the myriad vanilla creatures and near-reprints Wizards commonly dumps on us; if there was a card that gave a bonus to all Mirrodin creatures, and another card that gave a different bonus to all Dominarian creatures, there would actually be a difference depending on whether you wanted to play a Quirion Trailblazer or a Sylvok Explorer, instead of it just being possible to play 8 functionally identical copies in a deck that don't all benefit from Echoing Courage but are otherwise indistinguishable.  (Okay, bad example, these are different creature types, but you get what I'm saying.  There are cases of the card being precisely identical save for name and set, I just can't think of one exactly.  There are even cases where the name is identical; Dominarian and Mirrodian Atogs could be distinguished to interact distinctly without requiring different names, though you'd have to adjust the rules for how Oracle text is mapped to cards, which I think is a good idea anyway.)
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
There are cases of the card being precisely identical save for name and set, I just can't think of one exactly.

Those instances are all over the damn place.
Flame Burst / Kindle
Armageddon / Ravages of War
Fyndhorn Elves / Llanowar Elves
Greenweaver Druid / Fyndhorn Elder
...and many more!
i appreciate this kind of straightforward, encyclopaedic article.

Insects (which includes beetles, ants, wasps, maggots, roaches, robotic ants, centipedes, a Giant Solifuge, and whatever Clickslither is supposed to be, but oddly enough not Spiders)



it's not particularly odd actually, since spiders aren't insects. solifuge is a bit odd, though, since he looks quite a bit like a spider and his name is derived from an order of arachnida.

edit: and centipedes aren't insects, either. thanks wikipedia!

That's what I was getting at when I wrote the letter, actually.  Solifuges are arachnids, as are spiders and scorpions, yet the Giant Solifuge is an insect and the other two are distinct types.  Same with centipedes and millipedes - they're as different from insects as arachnids and crustaceons are, but got lumped under Insect as well. 

Meanwhile, the Phyrexians, who all have commonalities like the glisstening oil and their biomechanical nature, don't get to play nice with tribal effects, which would be fun.  Ah well, at least they gave their reasoning for it, and while I don't personally agree with most of it, that's just my personal opinion.

On the subject of insects, I can think of a kind of creaky rationale why centipedes count but spiders don't (scorpions also don't and this rationale fails there, but oh well).  The insects of Magic tend to be large for insects but not for Magic creatures in general; most seem to range from dog-size to person-size to somewhat-larger-than-person size (Goliath Beetle is one of the very few that suggests being much larger than a person in its flavor text, but the art contains no size cues to support that).  Spiders, conversely, seem to start at the size of a tree and go up; in a rare example of real-world measurements, Plated Spider is explicitly forty feet tall, and the original art of Giant Spider shows it towering over a castle.  So in general, I'd say creatures of type Spider are in a size class consistent with giants and dragons, while creatures of type Insect are more in the humanoid size range (Gigapede and Vexing Beetle being among the few exceptions).  That's a fairly decent rationale for them not overlapping, even if it fails in some practical details.  Surely there must be spiders about the same size as Ironshell Beetle, but we mostly see the ones that are genuinely immense, so the creature type mostly represents those, and thus the exceptions largely don't get made into cars.  You could also suggest that spiders routinely get this size while insects don't due either to evolutionary pressures (insects breed en masse, while spiders routinely eat each other so that only a few will survive in an area), or to spiritual/divine causes (the Spider Mother Ananasa devours the Animal Fathers of the insect tribes so they are never able to grow as powerful as her children), or to magical engineering by wizards (guardian spiders are more useful in general than guardian assassin-bugs, so they get created and gigantized more frequently from one plane to the next).

My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
There are cases of the card being precisely identical save for name and set, I just can't think of one exactly.

Those instances are all over the damn place.
Flame Burst / Kindle
Armageddon / Ravages of War
Fyndhorn Elves / Llanowar Elves
Greenweaver Druid / Fyndhorn Elder
...and many more!



Fyndhorn & Llanowar Elves would be the ur-example here I think.  They're both from Dominaria, but from completely different regions thereof; you could have a "Terisiare" symbol and a "Domains" symbol, or just one "Dominaria" symbol that would apply to both of them, but the point is that you could then print a one-mana Elf for other planes with a distinct plane symbol, instead of just a distinct name.
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
While it would be nice to have a "Phyrexian" card type, it wouldn't make much sense right now.  Most of the past Phyrexian cards had "Phyrexian" in their names.  Other than to create tribal effects (which I would support), adding "Phyrexian" to a card with Phyrexian in its name seems a little redundant.  The cards coming out do not have "Phyrexian" in their titles, but have the "Phyrexian" watermark.  If they are planning on working with Phyrexians in the future (after SoM block) then I could see them making a "Phyrexian" creature type.
IMAGE(http://pwp.wizards.com/1205820039/Scorecards/Landscape.png)
Tezzeret will definitely become the new Father of Machines.
I'm calling it, there will be a planeswalker of Karn, father of machines.


yep, obvious after this article. Everybody, welcome your new father of machines. Karn, doing what he is good at. BetrayingImage.ashx?multiverseid=4718&type=card
...but the point is that you could then print a one-mana Elf for other planes with a distinct plane symbol, instead of just a distinct name.

I, uh, don't get it.

Oh, wait.  Yes I do.  You are a Planist!

"I have a dream that my playsets of creatures will one day live in a game where they will not be judged by the symbol of their expansion but by the content of their rules text."
-Martin Luther King, Jr., Planeswalker

I have to agree with the "no Phyrexian subtype" argument. I think it's one of those cases where it would reduce the impact of the Phyrexian name. And I think the watermark idea is a perfect way around that issue. As I've been saying in other watermark discussions here lately, I'd love to see other older cards that get reprinted in the core sets to get watermarks showing their origins. They don't need to have any in-game applications, but it would be a fairly easy way to pump up the flavor. 
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
And people creating crazy deckbuilding contests can always use more stuff to draw from :P