10/08/2010 LD: "Proliferate Expectations"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
First!

Okay, with that nonsense out of the way, my comments:

1.  I love the breakdown of the Runeclaw Bears decision tree.  It's second nature to most experienced Magic players to make decisions like that without thinking about them, but there's still processing power being used, it's important to be reminded of how big the decision is even if it's pretty automatic.

2.  The part about giving the block's keywords to all your spells makes me very sad, because of how very many cases there are where it can't be done.  "All creatures you control gain persist" would break the game in half because of Spike Drone and its relatives.  "Spells in your hand have forecast" doesn't work at all, despite the fact that forecast is a keyword rather than an ability word.  Out of all Ravnica's ten keywords, the only one that could be given away was replicate.  I found this tragic.  Luckily Scars gives us both granted Infect (not globally yet, but I'm betting this'll happen in some form, since there's no rules reason why it can't and it'd be no more powerful than something like True Conviction) and granted Proliferate, so that's cool.

3.  The mention of instant-speed proliferate makes me hope there's an instant later in the block which does nothing other than proliferate twice.  Unless you have a Contagion Engine out, there's no way your Spike Drone can bushwhack a Runeclaw Bear and survive; being able to turn a losing battle into a winning one when Wizards refuses to print any more +2/+2 counters requires access to a double-proliferate surprise, so I hope we get one.  And I'd regard the card as an interesting puzzle if it was just "Proliferate, proliferate", while if it does anything else it'd seem win-more.
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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
My jaw dropped a little while reading the first part of this article, bearing in mind he discussion that was prompted on the forums after last week's article in which Tom wrote:

"Do I want a random card, or do I want to deal 2 damage to something? They're a little simpler to play with if you just get to do both." Tom LaPille, 1st October 2010.

Compare and contrast that comment with:

"making cards simpler would make the game less fun" Tom LaPille 8th October 2010

So the spellbombs got to have their effect and draw you a card because that was simpler. And making cards simpler is less fun. Ergo the new spellbombs are less fun than the old ones?

An excellent point that was made in defence of wotc regarding the spellbombs was pointing out that Tom had said they wanted to keep complex, challenging choices, but they wanted to restrict them to matters of attacking and blocking. Fair enough, I don't agree, but fair enough. But now we have this comment from today's article:

"Dragon Broodmother puts a complicated choice to its controller every upkeep, and I watched several players at the Alara Reborn Prerelease struggling to figure out what to do with a fresh token."

So now we're back to being a fan of complex decisions, and this one is not related to matters of attacking and blocking (ok, obviously the number and size of creatures you have affects combat, but almost everything affects combat in some way, including at least 3 of the 5 new spellbombs).

I suppose the best answer comes from another Wotc employee who made the following excellent point in the forums last week:

"Not every card has to be made as simple as possible, and not every card has to be made as skill-testing as possible. Different crowds enjoy different things. There is not one overriding philosophy that guides this, but a instead an overall goal that requires course corrections on both sides to achieve."

An insightful, sensible and nuanced point. But personally I can't shake the feeling that the spellbomb-simplifying decision was wrong, especially given the author's own words here about the importance of decision-making in Magic, and that this is a little bit of a 180.

"Personally, I believe $50 is the roof that someone will pay for a Standard card, Mythic or otherwise." - Ben Bleiweiss, StarCity Games ----------------------------------------------------------
Earlier in the week, this website posted Chapin's machine red list. It uses the throne, described here as weaker than clasp, as its proliferate engine instead of the clasp, described as contructed worthy.

Based on the contents of this article, it appears that development has no idea that saccing something is the better way to proliferate with the current card pool than to pay 4 mana. I hope it ends up not mattering too much, but this article indicates that R&D may have grossly underestimated the speed the game will play in practice. Besides, its not like they've done that recently...
From very early in the process, this was meant to be a cool Constructed card.


Really? One -1/-1 counter on one creature when it comes into play, and then proliferating for four mana and a tap? Looks expensive for a small benefit. The super-sized version of it has a higher casting cost but a better c-i-p effect AND for the same activation cost will wipe out most opponents' boards. The clasp is a good card in the right Limited or Draft deck, but I'll be very surprised to see it getting much Constructed play.
2.  The part about giving the block's keywords to all your spells makes me very sad, because of how very many cases there are where it can't be done.  "All creatures you control gain persist" would break the game in half because of Spike Drone and its relatives.  "Spells in your hand have forecast" doesn't work at all, despite the fact that forecast is a keyword rather than an ability word.  Out of all Ravnica's ten keywords, the only one that could be given away was replicate.  I found this tragic.  Luckily Scars gives us both granted Infect (not globally yet, but I'm betting this'll happen in some form, since there's no rules reason why it can't and it'd be no more powerful than something like True Conviction) and granted Proliferate, so that's cool.


LaPille seems to have a habit of overstating things a bit, like introducing something by saying "It seems inoxerable" when he means "We try to, when it makes sense". Of course, this habit is completely harmless, just a quirk of writing style, or at least it would be if people here on the forums weren't so pedantic or insanely nitpicky.

The only one of Ravnica's keywords that already has already been given away was replicate, but considering that WotC is now willing to reuse keywords, that doesn't mean more couldn't be printed some day. An enchantment that reads "all cards in your hand have convoke" would be very powerful at a low CMC but completely and totally useless at a high CMC. Or I'd like to see an enchantment that simply reads "Hellbent - all creatures you control get +2/+0 if you have no cards in hand." Simple. To the point.

2.  The part about giving the block's keywords to all your spells makes me very sad, because of how very many cases there are where it can't be done.  "All creatures you control gain persist" would break the game in half because of Spike Drone and its relatives. 

Then again, they often find ways to do something close to that while preventing it from being broken in half. For Persist, that was Cauldron of Souls.

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My jaw dropped a little while reading the first part of this article, bearing in mind he discussion that was prompted on the forums after last week's article in which Tom wrote:

"Do I want a random card, or do I want to deal 2 damage to something? They're a little simpler to play with if you just get to do both." Tom LaPille, 1st October 2010.

Compare and contrast that comment with:

"making cards simpler would make the game less fun" Tom LaPille 8th October 2010

So the spellbombs got to have their effect and draw you a card because that was simpler. And making cards simpler is less fun. Ergo the new spellbombs are less fun than the old ones?

Wow, way to take a quote out of context in a lame attempt to prove a point!

Another consideration is that in many cases, making cards simpler would make the game less fun, and in those cases we don't.

From very early in the process, this was meant to be a cool Constructed card.


Really? One -1/-1 counter on one creature when it comes into play, and then proliferating for four mana and a tap? Looks expensive for a small benefit. The super-sized version of it has a higher casting cost but a better c-i-p effect AND for the same activation cost will wipe out most opponents' boards. The clasp is a good card in the right Limited or Draft deck, but I'll be very surprised to see it getting much Constructed play.



While Contagion Clasp only puts a -1/-1 counter on a creature itself, you would be doing way more than just manipulating that single -1/-1 counter if you have it in your deck.  While Contagion Clasp won't see play in every deck out there, it is really strong in a deck packing a lot of cards that use counters.  

Also, it is a little better since you can play it on turn two rather than turn six.  I agree though that by turn six, it is made obsolete by Contagion Engine.  But until you reach six mana, you should probably have something that can Proliferate during that time.  Thrummingbird has to make it through to the opponent, Steady Progress only happens once, and Throne of Geth needs artifacts to sacrifice in order to work.
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Contagion Clasp is probably going to get a lot better in Constructed once we've got more of Scars block to work with. Right now, the best use for it seems to be putting loyalty counters on planeswalkers, but there will eventually be more things to do with it.

- Doug

 

"Collectability is just a code-word for ripping you off." - David Sirlin

Wow, way to take a quote out of context in a lame attempt to prove a point!

Another consideration is that in many cases, making cards simpler would make the game less fun, and in those cases we don't.




It's a fair cop! Laughing

I must be feeling even more mean-spirited than usual today. Apologies all round.
"Personally, I believe $50 is the roof that someone will pay for a Standard card, Mythic or otherwise." - Ben Bleiweiss, StarCity Games ----------------------------------------------------------
Absolutely bizzare pivot on decision trees, here, from last week's article.  I'm sure this is meant as a subtle response to the forum posts, but subtlety seems out-of-place here.  Say it straight, guys.

I'd also like to note that this article appears to use Bloodbraid Elf as an example of how to correctly cost keyword abilities.  I would have guessed we'd hold up Bloodbraid Elf as an example of what *NOT* to do, ever again.  (Or, under the modern design paradigm, what a model Mythic should look like.)
I'd also like to note that this article appears to use Bloodbraid Elf as an example of how to correctly cost keyword abilities.  I would have guessed we'd hold up Bloodbraid Elf as an example of what *NOT* to do, ever again. 

BBE has the same significance as Exalted Angel - everything else around it was costed wrong.

When a new mechanic appears, and only one or two cards with that mechanic are actually playable, it's a pretty good clue that the rest of those cards are grossly overcosted or over-crippled.
One interesting note about the change to proliferate is that those who play proliferate cards in multiplayer now have opportunities to be political. Did Alexis attack the person you wanted her to attack on her last turn? Reward her with a counter on his ..."OpenTip(event, "Grindclock")" class="nodec">Grindclock. Did Ken hit your ..."OpenTip(event, "Lux Cannon")" class="nodec">Lux Cannon with an ..."OpenTip(event, "Oxidda Scrapmelter")" class="nodec">Oxidda Scrapmelter? Don't give him a loyalty counter on his ..."OpenTip(event, "Elspeth Tirel")" class="nodec">Elspeth Tirel. He'll see what you did for Alexis, and maybe next time he'll do what you want him to.

This is a very good reason for Proliferate to works as it does, actually. I had not considered that before. Against my earlier comments in Mark's thread I think this is a solid enough reason for the ability to offer the choice. 
Absolutely bizzare pivot on decision trees, here, from last week's article.  I'm sure this is meant as a subtle response to the forum posts, but subtlety seems out-of-place here.  Say it straight, guys.

I didn't think it was particularly subtle. And he didn't change his position, he merely illustrated that it had been misinterpreted - that it was never as ridiculously simple-minded as some were accusing it of being.

Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011

Really? One -1/-1 counter on one creature when it comes into play, and then proliferating for four mana and a tap? Looks expensive for a small benefit. The super-sized version of it has a higher casting cost but a better c-i-p effect AND for the same activation cost will wipe out most opponents' boards. The clasp is a good card in the right Limited or Draft deck, but I'll be very surprised to see it getting much Constructed play.



Clasp is an effective weapon against early aggro - you're on the play, turn 2 you kill your opponent's Elite Vanguard, you're on the draw you get hit by it once first but might instead be tagging an Elvish Warrior to make it harmless from turn 4 on and dead soon thereafter.  Also it's not like having an Engine out makes your Clasp completely useless - once you're up to 8 lands you absolutely might have enough counters out there to want to activate both.  A nice way of breaking stalemates.

The only one of Ravnica's keywords that already has already been given away was replicate, but considering that WotC is now willing to reuse keywords, that doesn't mean more couldn't be printed some day. An enchantment that reads "all cards in your hand have convoke" would be very powerful at a low CMC but completely and totally useless at a high CMC. Or I'd like to see an enchantment that simply reads "Hellbent - all creatures you control get +2/+0 if you have no cards in hand." Simple. To the point.



Forecast - Possible but very difficult to do.
Transmute - Almost certainly breaks the game in half if done.
Hellbent - Could be done easily, but since it's an ability word the effects are dumb and random.
Bloodthirst - Can definitely be done with little trouble.
Convoke - As you say, would be hard to do so it's balanced.
Haunt - Dude, don't even joke about that.
Replicate - Done.
Dredge - Seriously, are you kidding me?
Radiate - Somehow working out a way to do this in the rules would probably break the game.
Graft - Migh maaaaaybe be possible but I doubt it.

So the only one that's at all likely to ever be done is "Creatures you control gain bloodthirst X".  (There already is a hellbent ench like you describe, Anthem of Rakdos, but since hellbent isn't a specific effect, giving it away doesn't mean much.)

I'd also like to note that this article appears to use Bloodbraid Elf as an example of how to correctly cost keyword abilities.  I would have guessed we'd hold up Bloodbraid Elf as an example of what *NOT* to do, ever again. 

BBE has the same significance as Exalted Angel - everything else around it was costed wrong.

When a new mechanic appears, and only one or two cards with that mechanic are actually playable, it's a pretty good clue that the rest of those cards are grossly overcosted or over-crippled.



It baffles me how you Spike types can more easily claim that every other card is overcosted than admit that Bloodbraid Elf was undercosted.  That much was obvious to me from moment one, because it was just Gruul Scrapper plus a completely free 0-3-cost spell.  I have no idea how the devil Development let it through.  Ditto for XA; a 4/5 flyer for 4 mana was obviously insane, but they did it anyway, and then you complained that every other card sucked instead of recognizing that this one was the mistake.

The power level of the game should be defined by its weakest cards, not its strongest ones.  Those who claim otherwise are spoiled.
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
Practically every Cascade spell has seen Constructed play. The Hypergenesis deck, the "Five Color Cascade" deck, and the "Spread 'Em" deck all used the "useless" Cascade cards just so they could Cascade into a specific spell (or set of spells). Bloodbraid Elf would be undercosted at five mana, too, simply because a 3/2 with haste is worth slightly more than two mana and making it cost five mana instead of four means that you can now cascade into more expensive spells.

You know, I'd bet that an artifact that cost X and did nothing except Cascade would probably still be Constructed playable. That's how powerful the Cascade mechanic was.

- Doug

 

"Collectability is just a code-word for ripping you off." - David Sirlin

The power level of the game should be defined by its weakest cards, not its strongest ones.  Those who claim otherwise are spoiled.


Just like how Monopoly is defined by Baltic Avenue, huh?