05/02/2011 MM: "Touch of Evil"

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

I think that in terms of limited play this block totally whiffed on creating the feeling of phyrexians growing more powerful across the sets.

This is based on the fact that in SOM/SOM/SOM draft infect was the nuts - aggressive and terrifying. In MBS/SOM/SOM infect was significantly weakened, and this trend looks to set to continue with NPH/MBS/SOM.

For me the theme of this block is weakness through diversification.

Here's my two cents:

Having a really strong block theme is the keystone to a great block. My favourite block, Ravnica, probably had one of the strongest block themes ever. Ravnica's block theme was devolved down to individual cards, to create a really strong block-wide structure, packed with with cycles and mirroring.

Alara block, on the other hand, started with a really strong theme, but by the end of the block, it had just degenerated into a pile of cards. Worldwake felt like much the same "meaningless block continuation".

R&D did a good job with Shards block, and with NPH in particular. The block can't hold a candle to Ravnica, but it's still pretty good.

I get the feeling, however, that the inter-Phyrexian issues and hierarchy in NPH are an unnecessary extra that gets lost beneath the more important bigger picture of the set. A major missing piece in NPH is fairly tight "phyrexianised" cards, inlcuding some that are versions of cards in SOM and MBS, not just original Mirrodin. There should've been a significant number of such cards here. Etched Monstrosity is too different, and misses the mark by a long way.

Mechanically, Scars block was easily one of the better blocks of recent years. All the mechanics were really solid and flavourful. No multikicker, allies, or basic-land-cycling drek. It was also good to not see kicker or cycling again.

I look forward to peering in to INN. \:>
After reading that it makes me feel that MaRo was the lead designer as ever cycle or idea was his.
Although I kinda enjoyed the step-by-step set exploration during previous preview weeks, I think Guillaumegate enabled much better articles like this one with the hampering need for secrecy removed.

I hope everybody involved will notice.
Although I kinda enjoyed the step-by-step set exploration during previous preview weeks, I think Guillaumegate enabled much better articles like this one with the hampering need for secrecy removed.

Not really--the exact same content could have been created without the Godbook leak. It would just have been posted a week or two later, after the prerelease date.

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

Proliferate shows up in red (although not white—there were proliferate cards in white in design, but none made it through development)



They better explain why one of these days =(
I hope it's not the same reason as the splicers

While we've dabbled with Clones in artifacts, we've never done this straight-up a clone (okay, Duplicant was pretty close).



Not Sculpting Steel?


Thus, to make the Praetors work, we bled some of the abilities, as with Urabrask above. (I promise that within the next month I'll write an article about when and how we bend the color pie.)



And once again, Uphill Battle is unacknowledged, disinherited and ignored. Where's the love?


Okay here, I love what you did with the place =)

The Exarchs are cool, Phi mana is cool, -1/-1 counters are cool. Scars block is also a high-point for casual magic for me. Usually blocks only have a few cards I'd like to use, but scars had a lot of them. I'm looking forward to see if Innistrad can continue these design sensibilities.
join me, glissa, and i will make your face the greatest in phyrexia. or else you will die
Sir, I'm afraid you've gone mad with power.

Phy, Fi, Fye
I'm kinda bothered by the lackadaisical validation for phyrexian mana (phy). There is actually no reason these mana symbols and thus payment methods could not be used for nonartifact cards. Similarly, there is no reason that the phyrexian compleated creatures should not all be artifact, unless they were undergoing compleation (as you say it). Even when Alara Block "did it first," the utility of this methodology doesn't void it for other blocks. It actually surprised me, given now that Phyrexian beingness is supported by mycosynth (as derived from the oil), and that mycosynth was responsible for the artifactual integration of Mirrans, that in Mirrodin Block (Mirrodin 1, that is) the various Mirrans that seemed so metallically integrated were not themselves artifacts and colored. You missed a shot there to bring in a facet to the game, a level of approach, that Alara enabled so well. I understand the caveat, that being an artifact increased the threat of removal, but also that it permitted more cards to be "available" to certain problem cards. I think that is both a good and a bad thing, but largely only bad due to the game's inherent favorability to combo in Eternal formats, and bad because you guys enabled it with stuff like Prototype Portal and Copy Artifact -- just to name two interesting open-ended interactors.

Phy is inherently imbalanced: Permit it were casual lifegain exists, and it's essentially free. Place it on cards where speed is key, and only the last lifepoint matters, and it might as well be free and costless. Where Force of Well and Mental Misstep cross paths, problems occur; but where the latter exceeds the former is that unlike the former, when it is "free," it is more free: you lose only one, not two cards. Did MaRo ever dislike "free" spells? Phy puts us back there.

Color Splashing
I get how this works; I can grok it. You know how other sets managed it? They added in the other color, or used offcolor activations, forcing utility. Alara Block harkened back to Ravnica Block, and both of these blocks showed us how offcolor effects and bleed would work in the sets. The latter even gave us our first tast of imprints (watermarks) and factioning. Remember how that worked, MaRo? You missed the chance to put watermarks on Ravnican cards to let them function regardless of the keywords/activations/effects of the other cards that retained them in the printed cards. This system could have worked for Alara as well on cards like Behemoth Sledge and the like.

But what you did was decided that color bleed (the Exarchs and the "target loses 1 life") is justifiable by the mere fact of being Phyrexian, despite a lack of any other identifier (save imprint) of this nature. There was a very elegent manner you've handled this before, way back when: Alara and Ravnica. Just bloody multicolor the cards. The exarchs would have been especially interesting as oCoD, where one of the colors was always , save for the black Exarch, Entomber.

But the life-loss as "acceptable" color bleed? Where does each color "already do damage in various ways[,]" again? How does this work for Green, White or Blue, outside of creature damage? You dip into Black for Red to cause loss of life, but how does this follow into loss-of-life riders? Your response is insufficient, validated by your belief that "allowing straightforward life loss felt acceptable." I contend that a validation, Phyrexia being essentially Black in nature, would have been useful up front, but you had to find a way for each color tobe Phyrexian, and instead made each color partly Black to do it, which is a failure on your justification.

How Each Color "Feels" Phyrexian (i.e., Black):
White:
Destruction, Resource Control. White and Black are the best colors for dealing with permanents and in fact for cards in other zones, and the best uses for the color combo has been Castigate and Resurrection variants. Avoided in the set (Norn's Annex forces your opponent to pay life to attack rather than damaging the creatures post-attack), or made mono-Black (Vault Skirge).

Blue:
Resource Denial, Graveyard Control. Blue and Black are the best as preempting removal, rather than dealing with the cards after thay hit the board or stack. This permits things such as mill effects ("mind loss") as well as access to and denial to the graveyard (e.g., memory Plunder). Avoided in the set (Mind Culling) yet no really mono-Black "Blue" cards.

Red:
Loss of Life, Resource Control. Red damages players and creatures, Black destroys creatures and causes players to lose life; Red destroys lands, Black destroys lands; Red damages creatures, Black permanently scars them, but can also make them be sacrificed, and so too lands. Several cards in the set could have used this, but the effects are close enough that it's excusable. Despite this, Victorious Destruction is the result of a variation on Pillage that hasn't been given a strictly Red rider like "~ deals 1-2 damage to that artifact or land's controller." Wreck Havoc steps into classic territory, while the NPH variant adds 2 extra manner ro move other variants for a bleed that would seem to hit for more were it solid red. Perfect shot for a multicolor card, avoided.

Green:
Resource Control, Graveyard Control, Re-Resource Utility. The ability of these two colors to re-use cards in their graveyards is unprecedented, and the ability to either get stuff into and out of the graveyard for extra costs (e.g., Life from the Loam) seems a perfect conflux, similar to 's creature-recursion overlap. They are also good at controlling mana development, either through accelleration (cards for life, mana for cards or creatures, mana for lands, etc.). Approached by Brutalizer Exarch (potentially mono-Green) while avoided by Leeching Bite.

Artifacts:
Of course, artifacts are the set "thing" being Mirrodin (excuse me, Phyrexia). The Souleater cycle, avoided being colored artifacts despite having the Phy mana in them (just limited to abilities, rather than costs). Several cards have color-aligned abilities that are almost always in those colors and very rarely on artifacts for brokenness, such as mill. This is a general idea, but there's no reason we couldn't have used "two-see" for this, you just didn't because "Shadowmoor did it first" (paraphrasing your previous article on colored artifacts being so limited in this set).

All in all, it makes me wonder why tribal only got on Eldrazi cards, colored artifacts are so limited, and Phy is even present. The justifications are too brief and obviously shy fo reason chains, in my opinion, to be correct.

BTW,

I will be drafting the heck out fo this set, I do like several of the cards, and the chancellors are SEXY. My comments are based solely on the "explaining" of certain figureheads to justify hypocritically what used to seem "rules" but are now not even "guidelines." The sheer number of White "slowdown" cards make White-X control decks useful, and I am thinking life-bleeder decks (my eternal favorite) will be "fun."
"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)
Qilong seems to be under the misapprehension that Phyrexia is black. It used to be, but New Phyrexia - the movement, not the set - is inherently five-colour. So New Phyrexia's white cards are under no obligation to do anything that white-black previously did. 

On the Splicers, I was really disappointed to discover that they were only in three colours. The reason given for this is "to make the deck easier to build (and occasionally draft)"?! Surely for those with a limited amount of NPH cards, the deck'll be easier to build if they're spread across all colours. They'd have been far more interesting if, Sliver-style, you had to choose two or three of the five colours to combine for your deck.
To be honest, I don't like that to make colors feel "evil" you have to add black effects like life loss riders. I mean, it is not a mechanical problem -- R&D does bend the pie when the set requires it, this is nothing new -- but it kinda undermines all the "black isn't evil, guys" point if among the things you do to make a color feel evil is add black mechanics to it.
Where's Undermine?  Why didn't that one make the cut? Tongue out

One of my favorite exchanges ever...
AP: "Life totals are at 10 for you, 6 for me, right?"
NAP: "Yep."
AP: "Urza's rage you with kicker."
NAP: "Undermine."
AP: "That won't counter the rage."
NAP: "I know."
AP: "OK..." *records life loss*
NAP: "Undermine."
...

I am Blue/White
I am Blue/White
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator. White/Blue? Go figure. I'm an L3 Judge!
Although I kinda enjoyed the step-by-step set exploration during previous preview weeks, I think Guillaumegate enabled much better articles like this one with the hampering need for secrecy removed.

I hope everybody involved will notice.


I hope you'll notice that the bulk of the cards we saw seemed to cards that would have been spoiled last week anyway. 7/11 card we would have known at this point anyway (my guess is Glistening Oil would have been Maro's preview card) and another 3 were part of cycles so subbing in any other one would have worked if those specific cards weren't spoiled. It is very likely that this article could have been written had the whole thing been spoiled week one since the a lot of the set is always spoiled at this point anyway.
in SOM/SOM/SOM draft infect was the nuts - aggressive and terrifying. In MBS/SOM/SOM infect was significantly weakened, and this trend looks to set to continue with NPH/MBS/SOM.

Yup, was about to say something very similar.

I was hoping that NPh would have lots of Infect creatures across five colours and be full of ways to persuade decks to run a mix of Infect and non-Infect creatures, which would make for very interesting play.

To be fair, I like Mycosynth Fiend... but it's not even a Common (although the power level would be a problem there) so it seems the block's potential will remain unexplored.

To be honest, I don't like that to make colors feel "evil" you have to add black effects like life loss riders. I mean, it is not a mechanical problem -- R&D does bend the pie when the set requires it, this is nothing new -- but it kinda undermines all the "black isn't evil, guys" point if among the things you do to make a color feel evil is add black mechanics to it.

Well, Black isn't evil, but it certainly can be, and more often is than the other colours. The thing about Black is that it simply has no qualms with doing evil acts; unlike the other colours which each have their own values, and thus avoid certain actions (some of which we call 'evil') based on those beliefs. Again, Black isn't evil, but it's willing to do the things that other folks aren't - and, generally speaking, we each call the things we're not willing to do 'evil'.

That said, societally (since society is inherently White), causing others to lose life does seem 'evil' to us. The point they're making with these cards is that causing your opponent to lose life is not against the values of Phyrexians of any colour - while it may seem Black to us (because, up till now, Black was the colour without qualms toward doing so), on Phyrexia it's just normal.

----

Also, to avoid completely derailing the conversation, I think they intentionally avoiding using mulitcolour in this set; it is, after all, about the differences between the various Phyrexian ideologies. The last time we saw Phyrexia, it was all Black; now, it has representatives of each colour. Design is not in a place to be mixing those sects just yet. As MaRo has pointed out time and time again, you have to define what you're doing before you start running variants on it. New Phyrexia is the first set to showcase the new Phyrexia. Let them establish their definition before you go expecting them to subvert it.

And, quite simply, gold borders put me off. I stayed away through most of Alara Block, simply because gold sets (the notable exception being Ravnica, but that one was just great design) don't interest me. I was hoping to see multicolour pushed out with Zendikar, but one block can only do so much. I'm sure you'll see another multicolour block before too much longer; maybe even a multicolour Phyrexia. But, and I thank the heavens for it, not every block is going to be that.

----

To sum up: The colour pie was never as strict as people seem to think; it's about values, and the actions we take to uphold them. White wants to protect the community, so it avoids hurting people. Phyrexian White wants to protect the community, which sometimes involves hurting its people. Green respects nature, so it avoids interfering with the natural order. Phyrexian Green respects nature, so it spurs natural predation and evolution. The fact that these colours seem nothing like the colours you're accustomed to is how they've made Phyrexia feel strange and alien. The fact that it doesn't make sense to you actually means that they've accomplished what they set out to do...
Why is Tangle Hulk Phyrexian, because the flavor text says it is?
Why is Tangle Hulk Phyrexian, because the flavor text says it is?

The rules MaRo listed were for Scars only. For Besieged, there were no such hard and fast rules, and with the goal to have the set be 50/50, they allowed themselves to align some cards to a faction based on flavor alone.

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
Respecting alextfish, it should be noted that I never mentioned evil. MaRo did. You can take the comparison of Black to evil to him ("Touch of Evil"). Infect, the concept of poisoning and "wither" has been in Black foremost and Green secondarily, simply because -X as a rule has been Black since the game began, secondarily only in Blue, not in other colors. It's in Green because of Shadowmoor (wither) and Time Spiral (poisonous, Virulent Sliver) as an example of creature-on-creature comflict, Green's ability to withstand at-the-time superior colors.

Conceptually, the glistening oil (which is Black, note) is derivative of Phyrexia itself (the Nine Spheres of Phyrexia as discovered by Yawgmoth), and "infected" Mirrodin via Karn. Eventually, of course, is expands into the other colors, making them more like itself, integrating its nature into them. It is, in short, blackening them.

Life as a resource is heavily Black, with very few secondary examples that might be considered "canon" (Channel isn't exemplary of mana for life, while Overabundance follows the concept of "mana burn" to show that damage for mana is an effect, a punishment, not a cost). Black will use anything to get anything to win, and Phy mana exemplifies this. But not when it's in other colors. In a way, yes, they seem like multicolor (the paying of life makes the mana seem hybrid, in a way). But that's not how the cards work.

RedKutai, alextfish, I get Phyrexian integrating "black" into other colors. That's the point. The colors are bloody bled into by Black, heavily, and that's the point. You know how other sets did this type of effect? They made Torment.
"Possibilities abound, too numerous to count." "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969) "Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion Backs)
This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.

I think that in terms of limited play this block totally whiffed on creating the feeling of phyrexians growing more powerful across the sets.

This is based on the fact that in SOM/SOM/SOM draft infect was the nuts - aggressive and terrifying. In MBS/SOM/SOM infect was significantly weakened, and this trend looks to set to continue with NPH/MBS/SOM.

For me the theme of this block is weakness through diversification.




Yeah. Ironic that Phyrexia won. It was the worse faction to take if you wanted to win at the pre-release.
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