8/02/2011 SF: "Dance of the Decks"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Serious Fun, which goes live Tuesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
I guess one way to explain the blocking part of Protection is to say that the creature with protection knows his enemy so well that he can slip past them unnoticed. The reason he can block them, then, is that he ambushes them (which also conveniently explains why he doesn't get damaged. Surprise round!) It's not a perfect explanation, since protection is usually from entire colors which stretches the "know thine enemy" angle a bit beyond believability (I have "favored enemy" goblins, and orcs, and lizards, and dragons, and...) but it's the best I can think of right now. Protection isn't the most flavorful ability, in my opinion. The four parts don't really seem to have that much in common. But your mileage may vary.
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I look at it in a simple way: You are a powerful planeswalker whos summons creatures huge and small, and casts terrible and powerful spells, it's probably pretty easy to grant some of your summoned minions an aura of protection from time to time, which litterally prevents enemies from coming near enough to block. That's enough flavor for me.
Actually, it's pretty easy. Think of protection as, well, a protective magic spell or item. It stops magic of that type from directly affecting you, but it's of limited use against a vast, world-changing magic. (the old "Sword to Plowshares/Wrath of God" problem, although these days it's more "Oblivion Ring/Day of Judgement", I suppose.) It stops harmful things (damage prevention) but not Critical Existence Failures (destroy all, sacrifice, exile all). The thing you're protected from can't willingly come near (can't block) but you can easily interpose yourself between that thing and its objective (blocking).

Hmm, I'd like to comment on the poll. Well, I usually like to test my decks, at least when I build more "serious" decks and plan to spend more money on them. In such cases, I obviously want the deck to work well. Just now, I tend to play standard and extended. In my city, we have regular extended tournaments for beginners (I'm still in the process of learning) so my extended isn't probably the most competitive but when I plan my decks, they usually depend on what is played there and what would presumably be good against it.

I don't have that much chance to play standard, only some game days as we don't have the typical standard FNMs. There are FNMs in my city but they are held on thursdays and they are drafts (and I'm a lousy drafter, I admit). So, standard is a format I really need to read about and I'm always excited when heading to a game day, what the meta will look like. With some friends we are planning to have regular standards once a week but we haven't talked about the details yet so I'm quite curious if we actually start.

Just now, I'm building a deck for the next game day and I tried to play it at the beginners' extended. It didn't go very well, I only won against a standard version of a Valakut deck but the rest... Well, anyway I don't doubt the deck will be good in standard.
The poll is not working for me with IE9. It works in firefox.
Why does that green deck not have Dungrove Elder?  Other than that, I like the green deck.
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why has no one mentioned those eyebrows
I kind of skimmed through this one once I started reading about some intro deck-esque type... things... but I still feel I should comment on the poll. For standard I always test my decks (currently Bant Birthing Pod) with my buddies for a day or two before whatever tournament I may be going to, even though it's just FNM and all that. Hey, it's the summer, I've got the free time, why not? It's worked pretty well for me that way.
And what's a weenie deck without Equipment like Greatsword? Really!

A better weenie deck.
The trouble with magic combat, flavor-wise, is that it's usually ambiguous in what a combat round is. (A full battle? A skirmish? Two people rushing into the center of a small room and punching each other exactly once apiece?) That's fine, until an edge-case makes you realize that you and the person across from you have entirely different notions of what's going on (which is probably why the mechanics make no sense to at least one of you).

Blocking sounds very passive: a guy is coming at you, you tell your lacky to stand in the way. That notion will carry you through most of the game, and works for some combat abilities like trample, but does't mesh well with other parts of the game. An arguably more accurate view is that a guy is charging at you from across the field, and you direct your lacky (also somewhere on the field) to intercept him before he gets to you. This is probably why Portal changed the wording from "block" to "intercept".

Now let's look at interception another way: a guy is attacking you, so you order your goon to attack him right back. This helps us understand what's going on with Protection. Your White Knight has an aura of purity that repells the unclean creatures like Vampire Outcasts, so they'll never be able to get close enough to intercept him. He breezes right by while the vampires, snarling and hissing, are held at bay.  If he chooses to meet them in combat later (that is, he intercepts them), he can carve them up while they'll never be able to land a blow.  He is also protected from black magic, and untouchable by black effects, spells, and enchantments. That's the four points of good old DEBT. The tricky part is teaching that untargeted, non-damage effects get through protection. For example, that Wrath of God destroys Black Knight.

The exact flavor of how a creature gets protection -- an aura of purity repelling black things, being "fireproof", being utterly repllent to wholesome forces, being pre-destined to survive certain encounters, etc. -- doesn't have to be uniform for all creatures. What's important here is that blocking/intercepting is active, not passive. If protection prevents certain forces from acting on the protected creature, then that means they also can't intercept him.
Really guys, the game is easier to learn when the flavor layer is kept ambiguous and optional.  Insisting everything makes "story sense" just leads to arguments about snakes wearing boots and how ridiculous the Conga Line of Doom really is.

The words and numbers on the cardboard rectangles are far more important than whatever the hell narrative Cycling or Kicker (or whatever) is attempting to tell.
Really guys, the game is easier to learn when the flavor layer is kept ambiguous and optional.  Insisting everything makes "story sense" just leads to arguments about snakes wearing boots and how ridiculous the Conga Line of Doom really is.

The words and numbers on the cardboard rectangles are far more important than whatever the hell narrative Cycling or Kicker (or whatever) is attempting to tell.



I can't speak for everyone, but I know I'm not alone in being lured in more by the fantasy setting, art, and flavor than I was by the game itself. You could use the Magic rules for sci-fi, westerns, whatever (and in the old days, most of the competing games did just that), but it's just not the same.  Mechanics have to make flavorful sense. Otherwise, you turn away new players who can't grasp the rules intuitively, and may even feel a little cheated when they are told they understand them incorrectly. At best you get an entire generation of players that gow up saying "yeah, that part of the game is a bit stupid, just roll with it."

You can kind of think of it as a matter of fair labeling. Everyone knows that, practically speaking, a bird can't pick up a sword, and a wurm can't wear boots. The fact that a Squadron Hawk can equip a Sword of Feast and Famine very clearly comes from the fact it's a game, not a simulation, and very few people have problems with this. Game-y mechanical interactions that clearly break with reality in that way may as well have a label "this is just a game". Now, when a single mechanic, requiring only a single card, behaves in a way that just barely breaks with expectations, that's when you have a problem. That's when you have edge cases that lead to player arguments, and players that feel cheated and a little dumb when their clever move turns out just to be a really stupid move based on misconceptions. Neither situation is fun, and both come from the fact that the mechanic is neither perfectly game-y, nor perfectly simulationist. Call it the uncanny valley of roleplay. Protection has a history of being just such a mechanic.
It's easy to link protection to Intimdate.  The ability that grants you protection is powerful enough to withstand any effects that match the protection.  In addition, it creates such a powerful presence, that creatures that match the protection are thrown into fear at your presence.  These creatures are too scared to block you, and being blocked by you causes them to cower and deal no damage to you.
And what's a weenie deck without Equipment like Greatsword? Really!

A better weenie deck.


You win one (1) internet.
Why does the white deck have two rares when each other deck only has one?
I hear Greatsword is "great". You sure the red deck isn't a little over powered? ;) Very well written and an excellent step away from the usual tournament/tech banter.
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