10/10/2011 MM: "Unanswered Questions: Innistrad"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.
It uses an off-color activation. True, it's in the other Zombie color, but in Innistrad the only use of off-color mana was on the flashback spells. Doing just one other one didn't feel right.

Daybreak Ranger, anyone?
I do agree that making one off-color activation card at common is awkward, plus Drowned kinda sucks and doesn't offer anything black doesn't have.

Daybreak kinda works (at least in my opinion) because it's a rare anyway.
Is "Unanswered Questions" a feature you'd like to see with future sets?

Yes. It's a brilliant idea.
Agreed.
+1 to Agreed.
I liked the column idea, too.  It didn't answer any questions I actually had -- most of these I'd never even thought of before, and even now that I have I don't really care about several of the answers -- but some answeres, like the flashback/unearth one was pretty interesting.  It helps that flashback basically *is* unearth for instants/sorceries, although now that it's been mentioned, I can't help wondering if unearth would have been the better abilility to bring back.  It doesn't work on instants, but there isn't much difference between a sorcery and a small unearth-able body with a CIP trigger attached, and unearth is much more flavorful.

But yeah, do the column again; it's a good idea.
So who are these people who didn't understand Haunt?  It's only slightly more complicated that a traditional "when blah dies" effect. And it's about equally as complicated than Imprint, which they just re-used. Flavourfully, haunt fits with Innistrad much better than Imprint did with Scars. Plus, there was more Orzhov goodness in the set making players anticipate Haunt being in the set (and clearly people did, if Maro got the question often).  They functionally reprinted Orzhov's land, and their is a White/Black dual land... and of course if we talk about tropes, ghosts and haunting pretty much go hand in hand.

As a player who remembers Haunt very fondly, and got into the game playing a white black deck back in Onslaught block, I'll be quite dissapointed if we leave Innistrad without seeing Haunt, or something functionally very similar that R&D feels is less problematic.
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except the drowned doesnt suck. it would be a nice reason to go ub and also give blue a needed 2 drop. know what sucks? manor skeleton. needing 2 mana to regen is terrible and so is haste on a 1/1. it only gets in once if your on the play and they dont have a 2 drop. 1/1s dont matter late game for surprise attacks and 2 mana is just bad for defense.

also i completely disagree with the cloistered youth. it might as well not even be a flip card. it doesnt have any condition and it just is a white 3/3 for two with a life loss. white doesnt get 3/3s for two. sometimes it gets a 3/1 for two but even that isnt very white. and its not a spirit but a horror which has no tribal use in the set and typically should just be a spirit or zombie. 

also Maro can we do something about zombies? why are zombies not human zombies. or beast zombies in some cases. we get things like dog zombies because it was a dog remains. we even get giant zombie. which is also rediculous out of context. even goblin zombies. and goblins are very close to humans.

and are skeletons much different than zombies from a flavor standpoint? arent they both just reanimated remains but ones more desicated?
So who are these people who didn't understand Haunt?  It's only slightly more complicated that a traditional "when blah dies" effect. And it's about equally as complicated than Imprint, which they just re-used. Flavourfully, haunt fits with Innistrad much better than Imprint did with Scars. Plus, there was more Orzhov goodness in the set making players anticipate Haunt being in the set (and clearly people did, if Maro got the question often).  They functionally reprinted Orzhov's land, and their is a White/Black dual land... and of course if we talk about tropes, ghosts and haunting pretty much go hand in hand.

As a player who remembers Haunt very fondly, and got into the game playing a white black deck back in Onslaught block, I'll be quite dissapointed if we leave Innistrad without seeing Haunt, or something functionally very similar that R&D feels is less problematic.



haunt was semi complicated but its true it was no less complicated than clone effects which used to be called incredibly complicated or mechanics like imprint. haunt has alot of potential with come into play abilities too. and players really seem to like the citp creatures. haunt mulldrifter, haunt solemn, haunt nekrataal, etc.

Good column, although allowing you to pick the questions is a little weak ;).

Always, with MaRo, it's a good column.

I like the address on the Blue "zombies," but I consider the distinction here to be between two different flavors of organism: Frankenstein's monster is not a Zombie: he's living, a breathing, heart-beating, thinking and emotional creature. In the story, the monster befriends a priest, saves a little girl, and is afraid of the "torch-weilding mob" (excellent name for a card, by the way). Frankenstein, because he is playing the antagonist in this parable, is seeking redemption for having done wrong (i.e., played god). This is because, explicitly, Shelley told the story as a paean to her religious belief that the science of understanding the origins of life would seek to recreate it in the lab, and thus do what was God's work. This is what Frankenstein's monster represents: a living construct. The monster repudiates his makers actions of showing him off and some "ethical' constraint on submitting the thing to research (so he's Blue, which splashes of repentant White), while the monster is primal and affective (so he's Red or Green).

Frankenstein's Monster, in other words, is not a zombie.

On the other hand, Black zombies tend to the magical or demonic animation of undead flesh, including the radiation-spawned "Night of the Living Dead," or as in during the religious sentiment towards All Hallows' Eve, where it is said the Devil pushes the damned to make wicked on their living relatives or pay the Devil homage. Traditionally, the "living dead" are the product of evil forces, and these are certainly colored Black in the multiverse.

The only reason zombies are Blue in Alara is because of the plane of Grixis required it for story, just as there were White beasts and druids in Naya, and so forth. But for Innistrad, it was decided to make a multicolor set without much multicolor, and splash tribes across the colors to feed into this, with certain tribes "determined"; this forces zombies into Blue, and so 'twas done.

On a related matter, though, what about the design of DFCs required two faces? Could not the constraint of a single face have altered the design and development of the cards within the bounds of which you allowed yourself? Wasn't this one of the key tenets of Magic design you espouse? In this way, you explained why the final design of Werewolves prevented this from being used as a flip card, but not how the DFC could have been avoided had you constrained yourself to a transformation mechanic with one face and one textbox.

However, I do have a question:

You guys keyworded the tracker ability of Arena to "fights," but did not keyword "mills." The latter appears extremely frequently, in every set, and in fact in multiple cards in this newer set. More, in fact, than "fights" does (so far). It's evergreen, as far as appearing in core sets and such, so why do you not just keyword it?

"Target player mills [x]" and "You mill [x]" and "Each player mills [x]" and so forth. This cuts down an enormous amount of inveriable text from a large range of cards without requiring mechanical alterations to the ability.
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Wow a post from Rosewater that gets to the point instead of meandering around. 

I definitely agree with all points, I don't think anyone is going to argue about how much of a train wreck flip cards were aesthetically as well as mechanically.
4) Blue zombies in Innistrad like milling you, not your opponents.

Undead Alchemist doesn't agree with that statement.
+1 to agreed.


It uses an off-color activation. True, it's in the other Zombie color, but in Innistrad the only use of off-color mana was on the flashback spells. Doing just one other one didn't feel right.

Daybreak Ranger, anyone?

That's a flip card, so it's different. It's like Garruk the Veil-Cursed.

I'm so glad he answered the question of Ludevic's Test Subject's lack of Egg-yness! How I wish they hadn't discontinued that subtype! (Familiar is one that they should start using, too.)

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For starters, let me stress that no Werewolf is a vanilla creature, because every Werewolf has the Werewolf mechanic.



Wrong, Mark.  Having only the Werewolf mechanic does not de-vanillize the creature.  A larger alternate form isn't integrally part of the base creature, nor is an ability which functions only to bring the larger base form into play.  You claim this the same way you might claim Ivy Elemental isn't a vanilla creature becasue it uses +1/+1 counters.  Guess what - they're still vanilla.  They have nothing but their size.  They are boring.
And there are far too many of them.  The only Werewolves which have an ability on their human side are Instigator Gang, Daybreak Ranger, Mayor of Avabruck, and the two red ones with first strike (and, in the same "technically" way as the werewolf ability, Hanweir Watchkeep's Defender also counts according to you, but not according to a common-sense non-Melvin definition).  Even the werewolf side is functionally blank on Howlpack of Estwald, Krallenhorde Wantons (hehe, Wontons), Rampaging Werewolf and Merciless Predator, plus Gastaf Howler, Ulvenwald Primordials and Ironfang (and, again technically, Bane of Hanweir) are French vanilla.  That leaves just four Werewolves who do anything more interesting than just beat face. 
Defender is not a real ability.  "Can't block" and "Must attack each turn" aren't real abilities.  And the werewolf ability isn't a real ability.  Werewolves who have no ability other than the werewolf flip text are vanilla creatures, and if a werewolf is vanilla on one side, it's not much better than if it was vanilla on both sides.  The werewolves are the signature marquee flagbearers of the set, and they are boring.  I really wish instead of loading up common with vanilla boring werewolves, you'd made more interesting one-off transformers like Cloistered Youth and Dignified Scholar; those are what really make the set IMO.
Come to think of it, the Werewolves in Innistrad have the same problem as the transform cards in Rise of the Eldrazi; a lot of them are forgettable and blur together in part because they were given card names that tack on a random proper noun with some generic descriptor, leaving very little actual sense of distinction among them.
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However, I do have a question:

You guys keyworded the tracker ability of Arena to "fights," but did not keyword "mills." The latter appears extremely frequently, in every set, and in fact in multiple cards in this newer set. More, in fact, than "fights" does (so far). It's evergreen, as far as appearing in core sets and such, so why do you not just keyword it?

"Target player mills [x]" and "You mill [x]" and "Each player mills [x]" and so forth. This cuts down an enormous amount of inveriable text from a large range of cards without requiring mechanical alterations to the ability.

I too wonder why they didn't do this. They changed "is put into a graveyard from the battlefield" to dies, and as you point out, they keyworded the arena ability. I believe milling has been around just as long as Fights, if not longer, and almost as long as Dies, so why no love for the evergreen alternate win condition?

Although they'd probably name it something other than "mills", and it would be weird to adjust after so long.
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You know, that answer for why Haunt isn't in this set is terrible. People didn't understand it very well, so instead of reusing it, you typed up a bunch more mechanics and keywords. Now we have werewolves, which will have their own set of rules and corner cases. Fantastic. You know, if the goal is to make this game accessable to new players, instead of trying to dumb the game down while simultaneously jamming 4 or 5 new keywords and mechanics into every freakin' set, how about we reuse some the zillions of keywords that we already have? Haunt...it's like it was made for this set. You couldn't invent something that would be a better fit for a set that's all about ghosts and ghouls.
Wrong, Mark.  Having only the Werewolf mechanic does not de-vanillize the creature.  A larger alternate form isn't integrally part of the base creature, nor is an ability which functions only to bring the larger base form into play.  You claim this the same way you might claim Ivy Elemental isn't a vanilla creature becasue it uses +1/+1 counters.  Guess what - they're still vanilla.  They have nothing but their size.  They are boring.



According to that, Darkthicket Wolf is also a vanilla. 
Werewolves have a changing P/T when on the battlefield. And it goes both ways. That's not vanilla.  
They're also not boring. I like them in limited.

I liked the column idea, too.  It didn't answer any questions I actually had -- most of these I'd never even thought of before, and even now that I have I don't really care about several of the answers -- but some answeres, like the flashback/unearth one was pretty interesting.  It helps that flashback basically *is* unearth for instants/sorceries, although now that it's been mentioned, I can't help wondering if unearth would have been the better abilility to bring back.  It doesn't work on instants, but there isn't much difference between a sorcery and a small unearth-able body with a CIP trigger attached, and unearth is much more flavorful.



But as MaRo said, that would've meant you either do a Legions-like set with only creatures, or have too many cool creatures ideas to print and not enough exiting stuff to fill the instant/sorcery spots because they have nothing going on.

So who are these people who didn't understand Haunt?  It's only slightly more complicated that a traditional "when blah dies" effect. And it's about equally as complicated than Imprint, which they just re-used. Flavourfully, haunt fits with Innistrad much better than Imprint did with Scars. Plus, there was more Orzhov goodness in the set making players anticipate Haunt being in the set (and clearly people did, if Maro got the question often).  They functionally reprinted Orzhov's land, and their is a White/Black dual land... and of course if we talk about tropes, ghosts and haunting pretty much go hand in hand.



It's complicatedness lies in that the mechanic doesn't make much intiutive sense. It is very hard to grok, to wrap your mind around. From a flavor perspective, it's nicely described. If it dies, it haunts another living being until it dies too. But in gameplay this is a mess. It uses another card, but unlike imprint it doesn't matter what other card so the cards don't combine to make a whole bigger than the parts. It has a keyword that is worthless by itself (rather than imprint that is just an ability word). The ability has to be explained by 2 seperate blocks of text. "When CARDNAME enters the battlefield or the creature it haunts dies" is also a fugly text, compared to the Titans text. The "enters the battlefield" also doesn't help as it is a mental separation, stopping the flow, for encompassing the mechanic. It's just very inelegant from a rules perspective.


It might be the most ugly mechanic ever made. I can't think of anything worse atm, except for Substance =p

EDIT: to clarify, "when this EtB or dies", "when this or that EtB" and "when this or that die" are all easier to parse than "when this EtB or that dies".

also i completely disagree with the cloistered youth. it might as well not even be a flip card. it doesnt have any condition and it just is a white 3/3 for two with a life loss. white doesnt get 3/3s for two. sometimes it gets a 3/1 for two but even that isnt very white. and its not a spirit but a horror which has no tribal use in the set and typically should just be a spirit or zombie.



It's a top-down set, not a tribal set. I rather have cool concepts than everything arbitrarily fitting in a tribe. That said, I do think "Human Spirit" would be better as that conveys 'possessed' more to me.
You know, if the goal is to make this game accessable to new players, instead of trying to dumb the game down while simultaneously jamming 4 or 5 new keywords and mechanics into every freakin' set, how about we reuse some the zillions of keywords that we already have?



Because that doesn't help the cause at all. Whether a new player has to learn Haunt or Werewolves doesn't matter at all, because both are new. They don't need to know Haunt until they get more into the game.
That's a flip card, so it's different.



Why is it different? It's certainly not different by Mark's own stated criteria. All he says is "in Innistrad the only use of off-color mana was on the flashback spells". He doesn't say "the ony use of off-colour mana outside of flip cards," or "the only use of off-colour mana outside of rares," or anything.

It's not a biggie, but this is a case of Mark goofing, made a little more embarassing by stressing that one off-colour activation on its own wouldn't make sense, but that's in fact what they did (unless someone knows of more?).

Also, I don't feel it's the same as Garruk, as you suggest, at all. For a start, Garruk doesn't have any off-colour activations, which is, um, exactly what is at issue. Also, Garruk's reverse side is actually two colours, Black and Green, whereas Daybreak Ranger and Nightfall Predator are both mono-Green.

"Personally, I believe $50 is the roof that someone will pay for a Standard card, Mythic or otherwise." - Ben Bleiweiss, StarCity Games ----------------------------------------------------------
About Haunt, I think most people were confused not with the concept of Haunt itself, but about the way it was used and especially the triggered ability it was inevitably paired with, which made for an extremely poor match with the flavor of coming back as a ghost and haunting something. Things are supposed to happen to something haunted while it's still around, not when the haunted thing dies. If haunt had been implemented as an Aura-like mechanic where some bonus or detriment was granted to the haunted creature (or player, or permanent), it would have been a much better flavor match and would likely have been much better received. (And "dies" would have helped too.) For example, "When ~ dies, you may have it haunt target creature. (Exile ~; it's 'haunting' that creature.) [Line Break] The haunted creature gets -1/-1."

...Oh my. Takklemaggot as a haunt creature. Cool.

However, I do have a question:

You guys keyworded the tracker ability of Arena to "fights," but did not keyword "mills." The latter appears extremely frequently, in every set, and in fact in multiple cards in this newer set. More, in fact, than "fights" does (so far). It's evergreen, as far as appearing in core sets and such, so why do you not just keyword it?

"Target player mills [x]" and "You mill [x]" and "Each player mills [x]" and so forth. This cuts down an enormous amount of inveriable text from a large range of cards without requiring mechanical alterations to the ability.

This has actually been brought up...multiple times, and directly asked of no less than the Rules Manager himself, Matt Tabak, early this year. So it's pretty much a certainty that R&D has thought about it at one point or another--if not before Matt was asked in March, definitely since then.

But as Matt said when it was asked of him, one of the biggest problems is finding a good word for it. "Mill" is the kind of word that's a decent fit once you get the vocabulary to put it in context (milling as in a pepper mill, slowly grinding a large object into smaller pieces), but which you really want to find a better alternative to. And unfortunately nothing really jumps to mind as an instant match. Coming up with vocabulary for things like that is hard.

I'm personally a big proponent of just biting the bullet and calling it 'mill', though. At worst you have to put reminder text on it for a few years to put everybody on the same page, but at least at the end of it you won't have it taking up so much bloody room for such a simple, basic effect any more.

Wrong, Mark.  Having only the Werewolf mechanic does not de-vanillize the creature.  A larger alternate form isn't integrally part of the base creature, nor is an ability which functions only to bring the larger base form into play.  You claim this the same way you might claim Ivy Elemental isn't a vanilla creature becasue it uses +1/+1 counters.  Guess what - they're still vanilla.  They have nothing but their size.  They are boring.

I disagree. They only seem vanilla because of how transform condenses large amounts of functionality into a much smaller, more digestible chunk. Imagine a creature like this: (And ignore the horrid flavor.)


Starve-Loving Mana-Ooze -
Creature - Ooze
At the beginning of each upkeep, if no spells were cast last turn and ~ doesn't have a +1/+1 counter on it, put three +1/+1 counters on it.
At the beginning of each upkeep, if a player cast two or more spells last turn and ~ has a +1/+1 counter on it, remove all +1/+1 counters from it.
4/4


This creature is not vanilla, at all. And yet, it's effectively a simplified version of Grizzled Outcasts. Sure, it doesn't actually do much other than change its size, but the entire point of a vanilla is that it doesn't do anything. At all.

The near-vanilla Werewolves are the simplest possible implementation of Werewolves, yes, and they may be boring to some, so call them chocolate if you like--one of the most basic ice-cream flavors available, but still not vanilla.

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Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.


Although they'd probably name it something other than "mills", and it would be weird to adjust after so long.



Yeah, I think you've answered your own question correctly here. The problem with "mill", what makes it a little different from "fight" and "hexproof" and so on, is that the actual English meaning of the word "mill" doesn't really have any relation to the mechanic it is describing - it's is based purely on the flavour of one old card. "Hexproof" immediately makes sense to a new player, "fight" even more so, but I don't think you can grok "mill" without having the old card Millstone explained to you.

So, they would have to come up with a new term ("grind"?), which would be strange, but it didn't stop them renaming "troll-shroud" I suppose. Actually, I kinda like "grind"... but again, it doesn't really describe what's happening without explanation. I suppose it's because taking cards from the top of your library (representing your knowledge-bank of magical spells) and putting them into a graveyard (literally where your dead creatures get piled up) is a bit of an abstract and mixed-up idea, so it's very hard to encapsulate.
"Personally, I believe $50 is the roof that someone will pay for a Standard card, Mythic or otherwise." - Ben Bleiweiss, StarCity Games ----------------------------------------------------------
So, they would have to come up with a new term ("grind"?), which would be strange, but it didn't stop them renaming "troll-shroud" I suppose. Actually, I kinda like "grind"... but again, it doesn't really describe what's happening without explanation. I suppose it's because taking cards from the top of your library (representing your knowledge-bank of magical spells) and putting them into a graveyard (literally where your dead creatures get piled up) is a bit of an abstract and mixed-up idea, so it's very hard to encapsulate.

Texas hold 'em (and presumably a couple other playing card games) calls it "burning" cards, but that won't work in Magic for fairly obvious reasons.

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Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

So... the big mystery about Daybreak Ranger and the R activation cost. Does nobody else follow these guys on Twitter or something? Daybreak Ranger // Nightfall Predator was changed in development because it was decided that it was too good with a green activation cost. Mark Rosewater was not even aware of the reason why until Aaron said something about it on twitter the other day. Mark had no control over that, and it's possible that development didn't even know of that design goal, as they wouldn't be the ones deciding to reprint the drowned or tattered drake.

As far as milling goes... I think that it should be keyworded, as mill. EVERYONE who's played for any length of time knows it, and new players are typically introduced to it in short order. People are fine with calling it mill, and I bet a good chunk of those people don't even know its origin. It's not really making people learn new vocabulary, because it's vocabulary everyone has learned or will learn eventually anyways - "put the top x cards of your library to the graveyard" is far too long to say during gameplay, especially when an actual mill deck is involved, when you have the option of saying "mill x".
Is "Unanswered Questions" a feature you'd like to see with future sets?

Yes. It's a brilliant idea.


Absolutely. I really liked the concept and hope there will be more in the near future. 


also i completely disagree with the cloistered youth. it might as well not even be a flip card. it doesnt have any condition and it just is a white 3/3 for two with a life loss. white doesnt get 3/3s for two. sometimes it gets a 3/1 for two but even that isnt very white. and its not a spirit but a horror which has no tribal use in the set and typically should just be a spirit or zombie. 


Except that [C]unholy fiend[/C] is black, not white.
On top of that, white always gets the most efficient weenies (thats why its called white weenie). The only thing thats not white, is the concept of paying life for extra power and therefore this creature is black. 
As far as milling goes... I think that it should be keyworded, as mill. EVERYONE who's played for any length of time knows it, and new players are typically introduced to it in short order."



I'm on your side in the sense that I'd like to see it keyworded, and I'd like it to be "mill", but although you may be right that new players learn that word fairly quickly I think that is the sticking point. It's clear that New Players have been heavily influencing R&D decisions for a while now, and the problem with "mill" is that it just doesn't describe what happens - "exile", you can have a pretty good idea at what that means just from the word itself, "dies", ditto, "fights", more of the same. But "mill" is abstract and I think WotC is very wary of putting things on cards that will confuse or alienate someone looking at Magic cards for the first time.

When you think about it "first strike" is an incredibly clunky phrase with no real flavour or imagery attached but it does exactly what it says on the tin.

"Personally, I believe $50 is the roof that someone will pay for a Standard card, Mythic or otherwise." - Ben Bleiweiss, StarCity Games ----------------------------------------------------------
Thank you very much for addressing the flip cards issue directly, even going to the extent of providing a flip card mockup of a werewolf. I've been one of those vocally calling for this to get a more complete answer, so thank you. I very much appreciate you engaging with the player base this way.

I note the precise phrasing about DFCs "The vast majority of the players enjoy how they play". Although I'm a vocal detractor of DFCs, I've admitted that I enjoy how they play (the werewolves at least, which are the only ones I have much experience playing with). Now I still think DFCs were a very bad idea, and the logistical and dexterity consequences are far more negative than the play and flavour benefits are positive, but I will admit there are some medium-level play benefits.

So I do wonder how many of the "vast majority" who "enjoy how [DFCs] play" made that comment followed by a large "BUT I don't think it was worth it". I guess I'm unlikely to find that out.

Ah well. My hopes for the future are (a) somehow R&D manage to use the rest of the block to make DFCs worth the sacrifices (seems pretty unlikely); or (b) after Innistrad block, DFCs fall into a hole even deeper than Arcane and are never spoken of again except in the hushed, embarrassed tones used of Homelands.


On the "vanilla" issue: I can see willpell's point. I'd imagine willpell also wasn't keen on Kresh the Bloodbraided, who I considered a spectacularly boring legend. ...Until, that is, I saw my friend's Kresh EDH deck, using things like Spitebellows and Fleshbag Marauder to turn that "vanilla" guy into a 25/25 beatstick. And yes, it was still "just" a 25/25. But there's enough subtlety in the interactions, the choices of cards to go in his deck, to make him interesting. In the same way, I find even the vanilla werewolves interesting. Primarily this is because of Moonmist, the possibility of which hovers intangibly over my hand every time I attack with a Human-side werewolf. 


Finally, to "Is "Unanswered Questions" a feature you'd like to see with future sets?", I answer Emphatically Yes! It's fantastic to get the view straight from the heart of R&D on these issues which nobody else can even answer.
This means the best-case scenario you can find in a single pack is a premium double-faced card, a premium mythic rare, and a nonpremium mythic rare. As an example, there does exist a pack with premium Garruk Relentless / Garruk, the Veil-Cursed, premium Liliana of the Veil, and nonpremiumLiliana of the Veil in it.



Just imagine opening that pack in a draft, or sitting near someone who does. Third-pick Liliana? What the—?
He didn't answer why transform cards had Planar Chaos-style coloured name/typelines NAHHHHHHH

Like, I get that on most of them it looks cool, but on Thraben Militia and Garruk, the Veil-Cursed it falls down.

also it's not his job to talk about that sort of thing but I DON'T CARE 
He didn't answer why transform cards had Planar Chaos-style coloured name/typelines



They're still not quite the planeshifted because they don't have the patterned textboxes. I think it's to make the Night side have a stronger contrast.

I liked flip cards, the're one of my favorite mechanics ever; but the aesthetics—I now believe he's right.  Seeing this finally convinced me.

 

Mechanically, it works, but for a set that lives and dies on its flavor resonance, you can't easily do away with the pictures and flavor text. And these paintings are better than most sets, so having to crop them would have been tragic.
I like the idea of an unanswered questions column, but these all seemed to be answered questions! I've definitely read Rosewater (and often other members of R&D) answer the lion's share of these questions before, some of them ad nauseum, and some of them in this very column. "Why weren't double-faced cards done as flip cards" for example has been addressed countless times.
So... the big mystery about Daybreak Ranger and the R activation cost. Does nobody else follow these guys on Twitter or something? Daybreak Ranger // Nightfall Predator was changed in development because it was decided that it was too good with a green activation cost.



Pretty telling when R&D uses red to make a card weaker...

If they're going to make this fight ability red-activated (as it was also on Vein Drinker), then why aren't any actual RED cards getting the fight ability any more?
Obligatory Dragon (M) Creature - Dragon Flying Tokenism (This card exists to fulfill a quota.) Whenever Obligatory Dragon attacks, I dunno, maybe it deals damage to something or other. The automated Dragon Dispenser broke down and no one here knows how to design a Dragon card while sober. Hey, tell you what, try attacking with this thing and then shoot us an email to tell us what happens. We'll probably print it in a Core Set. 5/5
I like the idea of an unanswered questions column, but these all seemed to be answered questions! I've definitely read Rosewater (and often other members of R&D) answer the lion's share of these questions before, some of them ad nauseum, and some of them in this very column. "Why weren't double-faced cards done as flip cards" for example has been addressed countless times.


No it hasn't. It's been answered once in his initial DFC preview article, to a degree that many people including me considered inadequate. If you were convinced by what he said that first time, then fine; good for you; but don't assume that everyone was. I could point you at my post in that article's thread with four questions, two of which were specifically about flip cards, for example.

I've been watching his Tumblr and Twitter to see if he's addressed the issue in more detail there, but I didn't see anything. (Not that Twitter would work for making the subtle, detailed points the issue deserves anyway.)

I was glad to see him engaging with the issue in more detail in this article. If you weren't, then all that's required is to recognise that, just like there are cards that aren't aimed at you, there are parts of the article that aren't aimed at you, and this was one of them.
So who are these people who didn't understand Haunt?  It's only slightly more complicated that a traditional "when blah dies" effect.


I know I'm grateful to not see haunt often. Every time I see it in a cube or draft I cringe and try and remember what it does all over again:

1) Okay, so get it killed.
2) It comes back (not really). but is exiled targeting a creature (unless a creaturetureless field killed it).
3) Dont' forget that it's haunting and what its haunted while its disappeared off into the exiled zone.
4) So now get what it (hopefully) haunts killed in (some) amount of time.
5) Okay, finally fully exhaust the use of the card. Pretty narrow use, and doesn't feel that accomplishing; but does the card go back to the Graveyard? No, I guess since it doesn't mention anything, it stays exiled.


And it's about equally as complicated than Imprint, which they just re-used. Flavourfully, haunt fits with Innistrad much better than Imprint did with Scars.


Except that they completely redid Imprint from being a clunky keyword to an open-ended ability word. They had to errata the old ones, and they probably make more sense now. But the new ones are especially easily used and understood.

Plus, there was more Orzhov goodness in the set making players anticipate Haunt being in the set (and clearly people did, if Maro got the question often).  They functionally reprinted Orzhov's land, and their is a White/Black dual land... and of course if we talk about tropes, ghosts and haunting pretty much go hand in hand.



I don't know what Orzhov in the set there is. I mean, there are spirits of the dead, sure. Except the spirits in this set are strongly divided betwen Blue vs White, belligerent vs benign. Not Black and White. The major difference in the theories is that Orzhov White haunts, Spirit-tribe White does not.

So they reprinted an uncommon colorless-producing land that fits just fine in either set flavorfully, that means the two should be the same? Well, should we also have Changelings to go with Shimmering Grotto?

Also, their are enemy colored dual lands because the standard format needs them (as explained in his article a couple weeks ago).

As a player who remembers Haunt very fondly, and got into the game playing a white black deck back in Onslaught block, I'll be quite dissapointed if we leave Innistrad without seeing Haunt, or something functionally very similar that R&D feels is less problematic.


They can't cater to every single player, so I guess some of us just have to make do with nuances. They may make a nudge to an idea of Haunt, but using it wouldn't make a lot of sense.
This article got entirely derailed for me when we got to the flip-card conversation. I don't like the Double-Faced cards, but I get that flip cards wouldn't be much better. And then Mark brings up that in order to turn Tormented Pariah into a flip card they would have had to take out "Warrior" from its type line...

Wait, this guy's a warrior? How is this guy a warrior!? Is it because he's red? He must have gotten his warrior title from the same online school that gave Goblin Roughrider his knighthood.
except the drowned doesnt suck. it would be a nice reason to go ub and also give blue a needed 2 drop. know what sucks? manor skeleton. needing 2 mana to regen is terrible and so is haste on a 1/1. it only gets in once if your on the play and they dont have a 2 drop. 1/1s dont matter late game for surprise attacks and 2 mana is just bad for defense.

also i completely disagree with the cloistered youth. it might as well not even be a flip card. it doesnt have any condition and it just is a white 3/3 for two with a life loss. white doesnt get 3/3s for two. sometimes it gets a 3/1 for two but even that isnt very white. and its not a spirit but a horror which has no tribal use in the set and typically should just be a spirit or zombie. 

also Maro can we do something about zombies? why are zombies not human zombies. or beast zombies in some cases. we get things like dog zombies because it was a dog remains. we even get giant zombie. which is also rediculous out of context. even goblin zombies. and goblins are very close to humans.

and are skeletons much different than zombies from a flavor standpoint? arent they both just reanimated remains but ones more desicated?



I don't see anything great about a 1/1 that requires access to black mana to regen.

Cloistered youth doesn't need a condition, because it makes you lose life as soon as it flips, and you can't flip it back.  it's not just a 3/3 for 2. It has a drawback. And it stops being white when it's a 3/3, so honor of the pure won't affect it. Also, it's a top down card.

Some zombies are made from parts of multiple creatures. it wouldn't make much sense to have to write each type. Zombies can often be sentient and/or smart. Skeletons rarely so.

 
Now I still think DFCs were a very bad idea, and the logistical and dexterity consequences are far more negative than the play and flavour benefits are positive, but I will admit there are some medium-level play benefits.

 

What concequences are we talking about here?

I don't think anyone can say this kind of article is a bad idea (though I wish we'd hear more from other R&D members) 
 
Now I still think DFCs were a very bad idea, and the logistical and dexterity consequences are far more negative than the play and flavour benefits are positive, but I will admit there are some medium-level play benefits.

 
What concequences are we talking about here? 


I'm somewhat wary of derailing yet another thread into The Great DFC Debate... But to summarise very briefly: (I've edited in a few points by TobyornotToby from later in the thread.)

(1) DFCs force people to use either (1a) opaque sleeves or (1b) checklist cards. (1a)'s problems include (1a1) financial implications especially for players with lots of decks; (1a2) it leaves an ugly taste when you recall Wizards' recent promotional ties with UltraPro; (1a3) it leads to scratching cards when putting them into and out of sleeves potentially several times each game; (1a4) it has risks such as putting a DFC back in its sleeve the wrong way round; and (1a5) it means you can't see all the details of the card when it's in your hand (e.g. what's Kruin Outlaw's second ability once she's flipped?). (1b) is a horrible hack which nobody likes; it means (1b1) you can't see the details of the card when it's in your hand (nor its artwork or flavour text), (1b2) to check those details you have to look in an out-of-game pile which is a painfully obvious tell, (1b3) even if you don't look in the pile when you draw a checklist card, you have to look elsewhere on the card for its identity than with most cards, leading people to state they can tell when people draw a checklist card by watching them; and (1b4) it's possible for someone to open and want to play more DFCs than they get checklist cards. (2) In-game, a DFC's back side is potentially relevant public knowledge, but not visible on the table. (3) Drafting becomes a dexterity game where (3a) there are strategic benefits to waiting to make your first pick (or any other pick) until you see what everyone else has picked, and where (3b) it's very easy to cheat accidentally or deliberately by seeing neighbours' current choices when trying to look at their piles for the permitted DFC info; also (3c) drafting becomes very different between f2f and MTGO, which impairs the usefulness of MTGO to practice f2f drafters or vice versa. (4) The flavour and immersiveness of the set is impaired because there are (4a) far fewer basic lands opened in boosters, and (4b) fewer basic land arts in total, even for players who don't use the checklist card.

None of these are strategic points (well, unless canny players start making some of them strategic psychological points); the DFCs have good flavour and reasonable strategic gameplay. But these points add up to a heck of a lot of logistical and dexterity issues that the game would have been much better without.
 
Now I still think DFCs were a very bad idea, and the logistical and dexterity consequences are far more negative than the play and flavour benefits are positive, but I will admit there are some medium-level play benefits.

 
What concequences are we talking about here? 


I'm somewhat wary of derailing yet another thread into The Great DFC Debate... But to summarise very briefly: (1) DFCs force people to use either (1a) opaque sleeves or (1b) checklist cards. (1a)'s problems include (1a1) financial implications especially for players with lots of decks; (1a2) it leaves an ugly taste when you recall Wizards' recent promotional ties with UltraPro; (1a3) it leads to scratching cards when putting them into and out of sleeves potentially several times each game; (1a4) it has risks such as putting a DFC back in its sleeve the wrong way round; and (1a5) it means you can't see all the details of the card when it's in your hand (e.g. what's Kruin Outlaw's second ability once she's flipped?). (1b) is a horrible hack which nobody likes; it means (1b1) you can't see the details of the card when it's in your hand (nor its artwork or flavour text), (1b2) to check those details you have to look in an out-of-game pile which is a painfully obvious tell, and (1b3) even if you don't look in the pile when you draw a checklist card, you have to look elsewhere on the card for its identity than with most cards, leading people to state they can tell when people draw a checklist card by watching them. (2) In-game, a DFC's back side is potentially relevant public knowledge, but not visible on the table. (3) Drafting becomes a dexterity game where (3a) there are strategic benefits to waiting to make your first pick (or any other pick) until you see what everyone else has picked, and where (3b) it's very easy to cheat accidentally or deliberately by seeing neighbours' current choices when trying to look at their piles for the permitted DFC info.

None of these are strategic points (well, unless canny players start making some of them strategic psychological points); the DFCs have good flavour and reasonable strategic gameplay. But these points add up to a lot of logistical and dexterity issues that the game would have been much better without.



I feel that all these are marginal. And you mentionned not seeing both sides in your hand twice. It's very easy to see the picks of someone close to you in draft. It's not easier/harder with DFCs.
As for the ultra pro point. You're free to use whichever sleeves you want. And if you can't afford any, you don't have to use them. Wether the game would have been better without them or not. That's a matter of opinion.  But every new mechanic created within the game potentially leads designers to discover something else. So even if it was bad, something good could, and probably would, come out of it.

The pre-release and release have come and gone with no major problems associated with those cards. So I think we can agree that evidence shows they do not cause any problems.

On average, a card will need to be re-sleeved once, and few of them are good enough that you'd constantly put them in constructed decks. Also, sleeves have minimal friction. I'd like to see how many instances of sleeving a card it would take to actually damage it.
I feel that all these are marginal. And you mentionned not seeing both sides in your hand twice.

Once for the opaque sleeves "solution", and once for the checklist card "solution". Note that this is a problem that flip cards and level-up cards don't have.
It's very easy to see the picks of someone close to you in draft. It's not easier/harder with DFCs.

Have you really not seen this argument anywhere else? The point is that you've now got a legitimate reason to be looking at people's piles, where before there was none. Before there was no justification for peering to your left or right in draft, and anyone seen doing so could have the judge called on them; now it's been given a legitimate justification and indeed a strategic benefit. It's easier to cheat both deliberately and accidentally.
As for the ultra pro point. You're free to use whichever sleeves you want.

Absolutely. But it does nonetheless leave a bad taste in the mouth to see a mechanic like this appear within a year of Wizards forming a business affiliation with one of the most prominent sleeve manufacturers.
And if you can't afford any, you don't have to use them.

That was implicit in the structure of my argument. You can avoid (1a) and all its subproblems by using option (1b) instead, but then you get all the (1b) subproblems instead.
The pre-release and release have come and gone with no major problems associated with those cards. So I think we can agree that evidence shows they do not cause any problems.

Ha! I think looking at a variety of different forums across the internet, all we can agree is that opinions vary widely. There are people in the thread to Tom's article from Friday claiming that everyone at their prerelease felt negatively about the DFCs and they caused great problems. I didn't speak to everyone at my prerelease, so I can't claim that, but I've yet to find anyone I've played against IRL who thinks DFCs are a good idea. 

On average, a card will need to be re-sleeved once, and few of them are good enough that you'd constantly put them in constructed decks.

There are very few discussions in which "This mechanic won't be played in constructed so it doesn't matter" is a good one, and I don't think this is one. If someone tries to use the new mechanic in their deck, they'll be confronted with its problems. I don't think "So don't use the new mechanic in your deck" is really a defence of the mechanic :P
Also, sleeves have minimal friction. I'd like to see how many instances of sleeving a card it would take to actually damage it. 

There are two basic ways to get a card out of the sleeve: with fingernails or with fingertips. One risks scratching the surface, one risks leaving finger grease on the surface. Neither will likely be a problem when done once, but both will be a problem when done repeatedly. There's also the faff and fiddliness.
Once again DFC vs Flips.

The reasons for not using flip cards still doesn't quite sit with me (I'm not exactly a fan of DFC).

I can understand the reason for using mock-ups to show why flips cards wouldn't work (And in fact I'm kinda guilty of using mock-ups to defend flips, but that kinda backfires).

If flip cards were to be used, then the cards themselves would be designed differently. Using existing cards and saying "Look, we had to remove a creature-type" or "The art's all wonky", means nothing really. The cards would have been designed to fit the template, not the other way around. For the same reason that they wouldn't print, say, Ice Cauldron again. I'm sure there wouldn't be arguments that the card box is too small - you design for purpose.
Art would have been created in the knowledge of having a flip frame, double-sided planeswalkers wouldn't be about either (I don't really see that as being a loss tbh, and it's not really a defence for DFC either)

He didn't answer why transform cards had Planar Chaos-style coloured name/typelines



They're still not quite the planeshifted because they don't have the patterned textboxes. I think it's to make the Night side have a stronger contrast.

I liked flip cards, the're one of my favorite mechanics ever; but the aesthetics—I now believe he's right.  Seeing this finally convinced me.

 

Mechanically, it works, but for a set that lives and dies on its flavor resonance, you can't easily do away with the pictures and flavor text. And these paintings are better than most sets, so having to crop them would have been tragic.



Regardless of liking the flip cards, it does show that the design as intended is relatively short in flavor elements. Whether those elements should be retained is something that becomes a question of Creative and Development, in a way.

For instance, the only reason "Werewolf" is on the "Human" side, but not the inverse, is to allow for tutoring elements and to make the "Werewolf-matters" effects synergize regardless of state. Is this mechanic necessary? It wasn't with the flip cards and the legendary-matters effects: you could not Time of Need for Budoka Gardener.


[from La Pille's article on Level Up]

The alternatives do not leave much room for elegance or execution. The former "works" in a single frame, but requires a memory-only tracking elements, which the second resolves, while the second requires a sort of three-frame split, with less room on the left for the signifiers for level "status" and on the right for the P/T box. The DFC design resolves these issues by:

Making room for two different names, two different P/T boxes, actual room for flavor text, full type lines, etc. It allows (unshown) the ability to progress (rather than regress) between two effectively equal states instead of some implication of a constrained progression with flaws when regressed (counters lost mean "lower level," Blinked means you get the base state again, and have to work back up to full).

To follow the original reasoning, it is not problematic to me to find the DFCs as better solutions to those problems. I was not necessarily one of those that wanted the flip cards instead, but merely asked why that solution, already enacted, was not taken instead, as it solves some issues that DFCs bring up, especially the dexterity element of gameplay, which is based on doing something that other games with two-faced cards do not do: Put them in decks.

I think this is the major failing of the DFCs, and is not addressed in this, or any article. It is implied, in the rules, that you can and in some cases should do this, leave them out of the deck and use a "proxy card." This is a "solution" to a problem that could have been avoided.

My base argument on DFCs tends to focus on the feasibility of the single-frame, single-face card, and how you could have executed the design without making two faces or two frames. In many ways, I look back at the cards seen above, and see solutions, while noting that "levellers" and FoD could never work as DFCs: They would require three faces, three frames (as "levellers" somewhat do), and the problems of memory tracking.

1. Werewolves do not solve the memory issue of FoD. In fact, they make that element more complex, as you must now track the number of spells cast by any player in both states.
2. Werewolves do not solve the differential complexity element of "levellers." As above, spell-tracking, but also different abilities per side often interfering with typical play options, increases the process of dealing with cards.
3. Werewolves do not solve the manual manipulation of flip cards. In fact, they make that element more complex.

They do simplify all of the relevant information per state to one side and thus prevent the need to check other sides or elements of the card to infer abilities. This is a bonus. It's a step in the right direction. The only reason i think it's "in the right direction" is that it condenses the reader's necessary information to one side. (Well, aside from the fact that the "reminder text" of the P/T of the transformed side only appears on the original face, which is a "failure".) It stresses to me that the DFCs were originally intended as a "cool design" wanting to be done without interference. I feel, continuously, that when interesting and weird design is enacted (e.g., Tree of Redemption), that the solution is simple, unwordy, and grokkable. The mechanics of DFCs are more rules-laden and complex than at first sight, and that even when you "get" the day/night cycle, you realize it applies only to Werewolves.

It begs the question why we couldn't have cards with a single face, single box, and a series of triggered abilities. Why "memory issues" prevented threshhold as a transform mechanic, but allow the werewolf ability.

My only question on this topic, is this: "Why couldn't you have focused on a mechanic that worked from a single side of the face, and better tackle the issues within the constraints? How could you have prevented the rules complexities of cards requiring external elements to enable effective play (sleeves, checklists, etc.)? Wouldn't these problems have been enough to keep these cards [at common] out of development entirely?"

I know Wizards poushed for this, and don't expect to hear an answer on the corporate elements. WotC needs to push the set. We will hear the success and failure of sets promotes the most strange of mechanics, and the allowance of printing of crap like Jace, the Mind Sculptor again. They will do it, and the odds are highly likely it will be a blue card or an artifact that will get the Hammer.
"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)