06/03/2011 LD: "Aaron's Random Card Comment Archive, Part 1"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
I'll be rereading all of these for sure (for at least the third time). ARCCD is just about the happiest thing to see pop up in my Twitter feed whenever it does. Anyone who can write a couple hundred words of interesting prose about Merfolk of the Pearl Trident is a hero.
This article is the epitome of TL;DR. Would it have killed someone to have copy/pasted his comments into the article instead of making links?

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

Yeeeeeeah, I'm not clicking on all that.
Didn't you guys learn from the backlash on MaRo's "Elegance" article (which ironically lacked any elegance whatsoever)? Oh, apparently not. Guess I'm not getting any development input today...
I hope they're going to do more of these articles (perhaps in place of the New Phyrexia slot in the daily activities?).  Having direct links to the specific comment is a lot easier than clicking large number of links to the card's Gatherer page, then clicking the comment tab and scrolling or searching for Aaron's name.  Sure it's not terribly difficult, but if you're reading a bunch of them it's a bit annoying.

I've often thought about doing RCCDs myself, well before Aaron started, but have never really had the time.  But I'm tempted to fire off a couple rebuttals to some of these.  Aaron's comment on Kei Takahashi is brilliant, but the way he slams Favorable Destiny really burns my toast - that card is designed for Vorthos and Vorthos alone, and it is beautiful beyond words.
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
Hooray, 25 popups of things I read a year ago!

I think it's cool that Aaron does the comments, even though they're most likely just an effort to get people to use Gatherer's comment field. (Which, like most of the Community site, was a pointless overdesign.). But the problem has always been that it's awkward to access them. And this "article" did little to help that.

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.

kinda lame that we dont get a new dev article into the world of phyrexia. kinda interested in how they let broken cards like mental mistep through.
Aaron's comments on Barkhide Mauler (in the Spell Snip entry) are depressing. So if a choice isn't obvious that makes the card badly designed? I don't think so. Similarly with Tectonic Instability being (allegedly) hard for FNM players to figure out. What next? "We're going to add easy-grip handles to all the Commons starting from Magic 2012 because not all FNM players have opposable thumbs!"

Agreed about Tectonic Instability, but this is more an inherent problems of counterspells.

I like my counterspell hosers to say “(This / Your stuff) can’t be countered.” Everyone can figure that out and get excited about the prospect of “fighting back.”

I suppose the open-endedness of Tectonic Instability allows it to work with some other cards and against things other than counterspells, such as making sure your opponent is tapped out before trying a game-winning creature enhancement, but those seem quite marginal.



"can't be countered" is not good game design. Designs should have emergent potential (and magic luckily has a whole lot of that). There's effect A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and A interacts with B, F, G & H. That's good design. "can't be countered" only interacts with counterspells.

Tectonic Instability on the other hand, can do so much more. It could be played in a combo deck for example. Gigadrowse in Dragonstorm much?

Then again, "can't be countered" is adequate design, so if the set needs it, it should be that way.
The thing that always puzzled me about the ARCCD was the curious accents. About half the comments have an á or a ç or some such. What do they mean?

I tried seeing if they spell anything when read in the order they were posted, and at first it looks promising... AILACA...  but then it peters out. That is, as far as I can tell; it's really quite hard to find a single oddly-diacriticised letter in several paragraphs when you're looking for it.
Well, I don't follow Twitter, so this is new to me. Thanks. Good idea for a feature now and then. It's not as good as a full, regular column, but maybe once a year you should have a feature of "random randoms" or something, 25 cards he's commented on? Or maybe you should collect these every 25, but in a sidebar instead of the usual weekly columns?

There were a couple comments I wanted to reply to, though. First, Plated Pegasus, in which I disagree with almost everything you said:
Time Spiral is really two sets jammed on top of one another. The first, which the set began design as, is a “time matters” set based around caring about when things happen or things happening at odd times... The second set is a “nostalgia” set, based on bringing back all sorts of crazy mechanics from Magic’s past, such as morph, storm, echo, flanking, shadow, Slivers, and Thallids...

Both themes combine nicely to show that some kind of crazy mixed-up time phenomenon is happing on the plane of Dominaria, but the truth is that either theme would have been enough to carry a large set, whereas together they were too much.


As for "time matters" carrying a large set, not really, not without making the game completely schizophrenic. You would have felt obligated to print a card with flash and suspend, or haste and split second, or flash and haste, or flash and haste and suspend and split second. And lots of old mechanics fit perfectly well with a "time matters" theme, like suspend twists on old cards and echo and cumulative upkeep, so there would have been a lot of nostalgia there too. Likewise for "nostalgia" carrying a large set. You already put a lot of old keywords and other mechanics in there, and in a pure "nostalgia" set with less new stuff, you would have had to put even more in. Even more non-keyworded mechanics. "Colorshifting" (like Prodigal Sorcerer to Prodigal Pyromancer) would have happened earlier and more often. You couldn't have separated the two themes very well, and if you think Time Spiral had problems, sets devoted entirely to either "time matters" or "nostalgia" would have really been messes.
(For what I consider a more straight-faced execution of nostalgia, see Scars of Mirrodin.)


I'm not sure this is accurate, and even if it is I'm not sure that means it's worth emulating. First of all, it's not just straight-faced nostalgia, it's also setting up New Phyrexia, which isn't nostalgic for Mirrodin at all and we now know was planned even before a Mirran set. Second, it seems more like a sequel to the original Mirrodin than an homage or remake like "nostalgia" would imply. There were very few reprints, or even direct twists on individual cards. (Mana Myr are reprints, spellbombs are direct twists, some other Myr are probably "twists", the Etched creatures... Thrun... anything else, not counting Phyrexianized stuff? There can't be much.) Metalcraft is sort of a "corrected" version of affinity, but plays very differently. And third, to the extent that it was nostalgic, is it really worth delving into that just to Phyrexianize it? I'm going to say no. I like Scars of Mirrodin, but not at all because of the nostalgic elements to it.
Look at Plated Pegasus... Who gets that payoff? Certainly not the vast majority of the audience... Does the card stand on its own? Not all that well. I certainly can't imagine putting it into another set.


OK. So what? I seem to remember reading here and there that you guys make different cards for different audiences. The references are for longtime Vorthoses. Of course you wouldn't put that exact card into another set, but Spikes can focus on its Grapeshot-and-other-combo-breaking potential and Johnnies combine its unusual ability with something else, without stepping on Vorthos' toes or vice versa. I see no problem here.

Well, this is long enough, but tl;dr version: your complaints about Time Spiral look like its strengths to me. Admittedly I'm a longtime player myself and hardly unbiased, but if sales weren't down and the banlist wasn't long, you really shouldn't worry about the fact that not everybody enjoyed everything.

The other comment I had thoughts about was to Suntouched Myr:
Even now in R&D, sunburst is kind of maligned, I think unfairly. Personally I think it can come back; it doesn’t even necessarily have to go on artifacts.


I'd agree with you that it deserves better than it got, but I don't know about bringing it back, especially on colored cards. I certainly wouldn't suggest bringing it back any time soon; we just had two multicolor-themed blocks, Shadowmoor and Alara. More generally, while multicolor is a fine theme, I'd say all-colors-possible, like sunburst or domain, is not. It pushes towards big, bomby, swingy stuff that's Timmyish but not that good for other archetypes. It's inherently variable and complicated, so you don't want to do too much else with it. It makes mana bases tough. And sunburst on nonartifact cards just feels weird in a way I can't articulate well. Monocolored ones wouldn't really be monocolored, and the more colored mana in their cost the less choice you have in sunburst... It sucks that sunburst wasn't Esper's thing in Conflux or something, but if it never comes back, well, lots and lots of good ideas never get developed quite as well as they could.
I always enjoy articles like this, even with the clicking. Are you folks seriously that lazy that you can't deal with another tab open in your browser? Plus, it gives the context of the other comments before and after Aaron's. 


My thoughts: agree that Time Spiral was a lot of fun, and the timeshifted card slot should be done again at some point.

You want to reprint Southern Elephant? So reprint it!! It's name is even generic enough that you wouldn't have to rename it. And while you're at it, reprint all of P3K in some sort of box set so that more than a few people on this planet can get at those cards.

 
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
The thing that always puzzled me about the ARCCD was the curious accents. About half the comments have an á or a ç or some such. What do they mean?

I tried seeing if they spell anything when read in the order they were posted, and at first it looks promising... AILACA...  but then it peters out. That is, as far as I can tell; it's really quite hard to find a single oddly-diacriticised letter in several paragraphs when you're looking for it.

I noticed that all the a's that are followed by ss are accented (máss, clásses, Ambássador, etc.).  So I don't think it's intentional.
The thing that always puzzled me about the ARCCD was the curious accents. About half the comments have an á or a ç or some such. What do they mean?

I tried seeing if they spell anything when read in the order they were posted, and at first it looks promising... AILACA...  but then it peters out. That is, as far as I can tell; it's really quite hard to find a single oddly-diacriticised letter in several paragraphs when you're looking for it.

I noticed that all the a's that are followed by ss are accented (máss, clásses, Ambássador, etc.).  So I don't think it's intentional.



It's quite intentional; all of the ç's are followed by the same two letters as well.

It's clearly to compensate for an over-zealous profanity filter picking out small, undesirable words that happen to be parts of longer, appropriate words.

ETA: I just found an á not followed by "ss" -- it's part of a (non-hyphenated) "mana-less". Definitely a filter dodge.
And we all knew that going into Time Spiral, yet we decided to poke the bear and print cards likeEmpty the Warrens and Ignite Memories alongside Dragonstorm, which didn’t end up proving that the mechanic itself wasn’t inherently busted, but rather to the contrary reinforcing that it was.


I don't think that proves that storm is inherently broken.  IIRC, storm in Time Spiral block was intentionally pushed as part of a "One Big Turn" strategy along with suspend and lots of mana rituals.  Storm would not have been nearly as powerful if it had fewer support cards, or if it appeared primarily on cards that were answers (e. g., Wing Shards) or at least required extra work to use as threats (e. g., Astral Steel).
As for "time matters" carrying a large set, not really, not without making the game completely schizophrenic. You would have felt obligated to print a card with flash and suspend, or haste and split second, or flash and haste, or flash and haste and suspend and split second. And lots of old mechanics fit perfectly well with a "time matters" theme, like suspend twists on old cards and echo and cumulative upkeep, so there would have been a lot of nostalgia there too. Likewise for "nostalgia" carrying a large set. You already put a lot of old keywords and other mechanics in there, and in a pure "nostalgia" set with less new stuff, you would have had to put even more in. Even more non-keyworded mechanics. "Colorshifting" (like Prodigal Sorcerer to Prodigal Pyromancer) would have happened earlier and more often. You couldn't have separated the two themes very well, and if you think Time Spiral had problems, sets devoted entirely to either "time matters" or "nostalgia" would have really been messes.



No he's saying Time Spiral is overstuffed as it is. The time part as it is could have been its own block, and the nostalgia part as it is could have been its own.  It doesn't need additional stuff.

Well, this is long enough, but tl;dr version: your complaints about Time Spiral look like its strengths to me. Admittedly I'm a longtime player myself and hardly unbiased, but if sales weren't down and the banlist wasn't long, you really shouldn't worry about the fact that not everybody enjoyed everything.



The sales were probably quite down. A majority enjoyed very little, at least that much has been said multiple times in articles.
I always enjoy articles like this, even with the clicking. Are you folks seriously that lazy that you can't deal with another tab open in your browser? 
 



Was the editor so lazy that he couldn't copy and paste? I don't know, maybe I'm just lazy because 99.99999% of design and development articles have not required multiple links to read them.  

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

I miss the ARCCD.  Aaron probably quit doing them thanks to that one idiot who kept taking his tinyurl's before Aaron had a chance to use them.

Maybe WotC should have their own version of tinyurl to use?
Look at Plated Pegasus... Who gets that payoff? Certainly not the vast majority of the audience... Does the card stand on its own? Not all that well. I certainly can't imagine putting it into another set.


OK. So what? I seem to remember reading here and there that you guys make different cards for different audiences. The references are for longtime Vorthoses. Of course you wouldn't put that exact card into another set, but Spikes can focus on its Grapeshot-and-other-combo-breaking potential and Johnnies combine its unusual ability with something else, without stepping on Vorthos' toes or vice versa. I see no problem here.


Plated Pegasus specifically isn't really a card for anyone. It references two bad old cards that pretty much no one remembers. There's obviously an audience for nostalgia cards in general, but I think Aaron's point is that time spiral got a bit to cute with what cards they did callbacks too, the audience for callbacks to bad tempest/mirage cards that pretty much nobody has thought of in 10+ years seems like it is exceedingly small. Filling a set with a bunch of weird looking cards that are basically jokes about cards that nobody who wasn't really into the game when the original card was in print wouldn't understand seems like a problem. Its a theme that obviously has a great deal of appeal for people like the people in R&D (former pro players who remember a lot of obscure random old cards due to all the limited they played), but apparently the audience for in-jokes wasn't large enough for it to be a major block theme.
It's quite intentional; all of the ç's are followed by the same two letters as well.

It's clearly to compensate for an over-zealous profanity filter picking out small, undesirable words that happen to be parts of longer, appropriate words.

ETA: I just found an á not followed by "ss" -- it's part of a (non-hyphenated) "mana-less". Definitely a filter dodge.

Oh!  This is for you:   It's funny that I noticed all the a's followed by ss but didn't make the connection!
I liked Plated Pegasus, though I'll admit that even I didn't like it much.  Mostly I disliked the fact that it only ever prevented damage from your opponent's stuff, and thus you couldn't use it proactively.  If it had been a combo enabler I'd have loved it, but I did get both the references.  Nice art too.

As an example of how it could be a combo enabler: you could make a cycle of "Volatile" spells that have a powerful, undercosted effect with a "1 damage to each creature and player" rider; the Pegasus would combine with those to protect you when it wasn't advantageous to damage your opponent, and with flash you wouldn't have to play it until it was needed, so you could keep it off the board if you might want your Volatile spell to hit your opponent.

Volatile Knowledge
Instant, 1U
Volatile (When you cast this spell, it deals 1 damage to each creature and player.)
Target player draws three cards.

Volatile Growth
Sorcery, 2G
Volatile (When you cast this spell, it deals 1 damage to each creature and player.)
Search your library for two basic land cards and put them onto the battlefield.  Then shuffle your library.

Volatile Char
Instant, 2R
Volatile (When you cast this spell, it deals 1 damage to each creature and player.)
Volatile Char deals 4 damage to target creature or player and 2 damage to you.
(Okay, this one wouldn't so much be a combo with the Pegasus.  It also isn't any cheaper than a real Char, since if throwing damage around is your objective, Volatile is no longer an outright drawback.)

Volatile Martyrdom
Instant, W
Volatile (When you cast this spell, it deals 1 damage to each creature and player.)
Until the end of the turn, prevent all damage that would be dealt to creatures you control.
(This one, being white, is especially designed for a combo.  With a pegasus in play, this just means your creatures are invincible for a turn, no actual martyrdom required.)

Volatile Summons
Sorcery, 2BB
Volatile (When you cast this spell, it deals 1 damage to each creature and player.)
Put a 5/1 black Demon token with flying into play.
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
Volatile isn't a drawback at all. Well, that's what they used to think and that led to Balance =p

Even if it only dealt damage to yourself and your creatures, it wouldn't be much of a drawback at all in creatureless/light decks
Well, I've now read all these comments and left a few of my own in response.  Overall, this is great fun and I wish both I and Aaron could spare the time to continue doing this.
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
Spell Snip is garbage and will always be garbage, regardless of how well it was "designed" or whatever comments Aaron makes about it.
Much as it pains me to ever give up on a card, I can't help but agree with you.  It needed to cycle for , that would have made it passable, but it would still usually have been worse than Runeboggle (which is saying something).
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
Spell Snip is garbage and will always be garbage, regardless of how well it was "designed" or whatever comments Aaron makes about it.




No no. Expunge is a card we expect to be good. So when it isn't and we cycle it, we "feel bad". Spell Snip is a card we expect to be bad. So when it isn't and you don't cycle it, we feel good!

It's like having Jessica Alba give you a back rub every day. Except one day you have a bruise and the pressure would hurt. This is bad. By contrast, Jason Statham kicks you in the crotch every day. It's bad, unless you happen to have a doberman attacking you at that exact moment. Get it?

Spell Snip is the kick in the crotch Wizards feels their customers deserve.

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.

Spell Snip is garbage and will always be garbage, regardless of how well it was "designed" or whatever comments Aaron makes about it.



I think this qualifies for my suggestion of using the internal "points" system to cut the chaff from sets. Not everything can be the greatest card, but there's no good reason to have bad cards at the absolute bottom of the scale. 
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
The justification of "Damned Faeries! Oh, and we're printing Awesome Jace next year." is adequate.  However, the card was essentially shipped off to Siberia, forever, the exact moment it rotated out of Standard (if not sooner).
Spell Snip is garbage and will always be garbage, regardless of how well it was "designed" or whatever comments Aaron makes about it.



I think this qualifies for my suggestion of using the internal "points" system to cut the chaff from sets. Not everything can be the greatest card, but there's no good reason to have bad cards at the absolute bottom of the scale. 


you understand how relative scales work, right? there will always be a bottom.

 
120.6. Some effects replace card draws.