12/16/2011 LD: "Bringing Flashback Back"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Swinging a bat and hitting the ball is just more fun than swinging the bat and missing. We need to get some Magic R&D people over to the MLB so they can improve baseball with super-fun tees instead of boring hit-preventing pitchers.

(Love your writing Zac, I'm just not drinking the "simplified isn't dumbed-down" Kool Aid that Wizards has been serving in recent years.)

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.

Look man. Beggars can't be choosers, alright. I'm letting you Shock and draw a card for one mana, and all you can do is complain to me that the additional card you drew off that Shock is so mediocre. You're killing me, Smalls. It's like complaining during the holidays that your grandma "only" gave you a $10 gift card.

Cope.


In a few short weeks, Zac has exceeded a cadre of predecessors the likes of which few would dare compete with.
I don't mind that creatures are better or that they should be more important in the deck (especially because you can still not play them and be good). That isn't really duming down the game.

But cutting a card because people don't know it's powerful? Come on! When you tell them, or when they try it, it will be such an enlightment that they will see the game in a new way.

There are good cards that don't look bad (Divination). Bad cards that look good (Angel's Mercy). Even bad cards that everybody notices they're bad (Defensive Stance). What is missing? Good cards that look bad. And I don't mean Garruk, Primal Hunter. Dark Confidant would be a good example because it gives an undervalued resource (card advantage) couple with a payment newer players try to avoid (life, and most likely a decent amount).

Morbid Hunger certainly looks awful, especially if you see Brimstone Volley in the set. But, hey, it either will teach that card advantage is good (when you see other people playing it, for example), or at least that even though card advantage is good there are cards that suck for costing that much. (I think Morbid Hunger would be way too slow in Innistrad Limited.)

I hate people always complaining about Wizards "dumbing down the game", but at the very least keeping Morbid Hunger would have taught valuable lessons.
Whenever the design and development articles toss around the "visceral" buzzword the way they do, I interpret it as "Come on, guys! You just need to be more red! If only you were red, you wouldn't have so much anguish associated with missing out on all these rational principles, because rationality simply won't be a virtue to you! (And maybe that embrace of irrationality could extend to other facets of your life, like...how much you're willing to overspend on Magic packs, but that subtext will remain unspoken. After all, when you splurge beyond reason, R&D still benefits.)"
I thought it was funny that he mentioned Mind Rot, given that it's not exactly tournament quality. Despite that, Mind Rot tends to be surprisingly painful to play against. Seriously, if you don't mind the fact that it's weaker than another card you'd otherwise be running, try it at FNM. You'll be surprised at just how much opponents will be irritated with fighting it. Mind Rot tends to also allow a lot of room for poor choice making on the part of your opponent. (For bonus points, play it against the blue deck that's holding a counter just to see if they use the counter)
Immature College Student (Also a Rules Advisor)
Man, and he's even a Starcraft player. But I disagree with the comparison there. I used to be pretty mediocre at strategy games until someone explained the importance of resource management to me. And, quite frankly, that has only increased my enjoyment. Now, the entire game is important and you have to pay attention to early attacks and expansion, not just the long run. It actually opens a lot of strategies instead of closing them down.

Also, Morbid Hunger would've been a good reprint. I'll be honest and say I had it down as a complete crap card ever since I first laid eyes on it. And Firebolt unprintable at common? Seems a tad harsh (then again, I'm probably not seeing the real power of that one either).
76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
I think this understates the power of Flashback. I like dredge decks, so I'm well aware that flashback lets you play the card if you somehow dump it into your graveyard - for example, first turn (on the draw) Lion's Eye Diamond to dredge 18 with Cephalid Coliseum and then cast Deep Analysis from the graveyard that turn to dredge 12 more. I like graveyard decks, and it's a pity that Wizards seems to think they're too powerful and aren't planning to bring back Dredge.
Morbid Hunger certainly looks awful, especially if you see Brimstone Volley in the set. But, hey, it either will teach that card advantage is good (when you see other people playing it, for example), or at least that even though card advantage is good there are cards that suck for costing that much. (I think Morbid Hunger would be way too slow in Innistrad Limited.)

I hate people always complaining about Wizards "dumbing down the game", but at the very least keeping Morbid Hunger would have taught valuable lessons.


But he said that it didn't teach that lesson, neither in Odyssey limited nor in their Innistrad playtesting.  The card is good because it's card advantage and removal and life gain, but it's not evident enough to show how good it is.

Honestly, I didn't think that the Morbid Hunger/damage on the stack comparison was a good one. Damage on the stack was a rule contrivance. The only thing you needed to make good use of it was memorizing more information in the rulebook, which in itself does not make anyone a better player.

On the other hand, whether or not to pick Morbid Hunger is a matter of card evaluation, of looking at 3 damage for and with flashback and deciding whether or not it is a good card. If you look at it and see the good card it is and your opponent does not, it is because of an aspect of your ability to play the game. This sort of not obviously good card is something that tests player skill and IMO is the sort of complication that should exist in the game, even more when the card itself is as simple as they get.
This article isn't completely about Flashback but it makes me flash my... back to that, though.
Who wanna win with "point-and-click two-for-ones" when you can win with skill cards like delver of secrets or invisible stalker.  Or Olivia et al.

So seriously Zac, you rather win with t1 delver t2 flip then force spike-muse? Or think that t1 dagger t2 stalker is a noble avenue but uttering "on the stack" is a sad way to win?
I like Zac's writing style.

But I don't think Firebolt is too good for common, any more than Divination or Mind Rot are. Common needs some card advantage spells, even in red. And it even has the "advantage" that it doesn't kill your Bomby McMythicson demons and suchlike.

The point about Morbid Hunger is an intriguing one. It sounds like it's just a skill-tester. I always thought Blightning was horrible and bad, and was really surprised when it started winning tournaments. I don't see why Morbid Hunger would be different to that.

Nice sideways reference to Dominion and its "goldfish" playing style of just buying silver and gold, BTW. Starcraft does seem another natural comparison. (Are you building a worker right now?) 
It's interesting to consider Morbid Hunger as too good in Limited.  My experience with Flashback is almost entirely from Pauper, where "draw a card" is a pretty powerful ability for a common.  Firebolt, Moment's Peace, Mystical Teachings, and many others have all made a splash in Pauper, but I don't really remember seeing Morbid Hunger played ever.  Even Crippling Fatigue was played more.  Morbid Hunger must be just not quite strong enough for Pauper, or else we just didn't figure it out.

I'm sad to hear that Firebolt would be too good for common.  That's one thing I've been worried about with the recent focus on moving where complexity lives - the impact on Pauper magic.  The average power level of a common is so low, that entire Pauper archetypes can be defined by an interesting card.  Just off the top of my head - would Freed from the Real be printable at common now?  What about Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens?
I understand that flashback cards need to look appealing for marketing reasons, but it makes me very sad to have a skill-testing common axed.  Differing card evaluations make drafting interesting.  

Normally I think the "they're dumbing down Magic!" crowd is full of hot air, but this makes me wonder if they have a point. 

 

Goblin Artisans
a Magic: the Gathering design blog
I actually rather agree with what he's saying - cards like Silent Departure and Travel Preparations seem much more skill-testing than the oldbies like Firebolt and Morbid Hunger.

The point I believe he was trying to make it that Firebolt and Morbid Hunger are two-for-ones; almost explicitly so. Both of these spells will do the same thing, which is put your opponent down a card, twice. If you realise that they're going to do that, you'll pick them because they're explicitly good. If you don't realise that, you won't pick them. It's not a matter of skill, but of simply recognising how they work.

Cards like Silent Departure and Travel Preparations, however, are not explicit two-for-ones. You get twice the use out of the card, yes; but only if you recognise the appropriate opportunities to use the card, do you accrue advantage. They're not about recognising which cards are worth two cards; they're about recognising which plays are worth more, and taking advantage of them. These cards can still generate just as much (or more) advantage as Morbid Hunger, but it's much more a matter of skill to do so, than just knowledge.

I disagree with the notion that they're "dumbing Magic down", though I hear it everywhere. The fact is, there used to be a broad line between 'good' players, and 'bad' players - much of that involved simply knowing how the game works, like explicit card advantage and damage-on-the-stack. What I feel they're doing today is to allow the game to work at every skill level. The value of cards like Morbid Hunger was essentially either 1 or 2 cards, depending on what you knew; the value of cards like Silent Departure could be less than a card if used poorly, or much, much more if you recognise how to use it appropriately, with myriad potential values in between depending on the skill of the players involved. I don't believe that moving away from cards like Firebolt and Morbid Hunger makes the game less skill-intensive; it simply replaces the binary concepts of 'skilled' and 'unskilled' (in fact 'knowledgeable' and 'uninformed', respectively) for a curve that more aptly reflects the skill of the players involved, at any level...
It was weird when I started reading the article, because I would have sworn that I had already read the first couple of paragraphs before; but then, as Zac got into the meat of the article, I realized I was wrong. But the article was great, super entertaining and very informative, and I'm glad that Zac was able to explain something that I perhaps felt (especially when playing casual magic) but was never able to put into words.

It's interesting to consider Morbid Hunger as too good in Limited.  My experience with Flashback is almost entirely from Pauper, where "draw a card" is a pretty powerful ability for a common.  Firebolt, Moment's Peace, Mystical Teachings, and many others have all made a splash in Pauper, but I don't really remember seeing Morbid Hunger played ever.  Even Crippling Fatigue was played more.  Morbid Hunger must be just not quite strong enough for Pauper, or else we just didn't figure it out.

I'm sad to hear that Firebolt would be too good for common.  That's one thing I've been worried about with the recent focus on moving where complexity lives - the impact on Pauper magic.  The average power level of a common is so low, that entire Pauper archetypes can be defined by an interesting card.  Just off the top of my head - would Freed from the Real be printable at common now?  What about Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens?



Except, Limited and Pauper are completely different beasts - Pauper has legitimate combo decks (the Freed from the Real, Grapeshot, and Empty the Warrens that you mentioned, as well as others) that make the format much faster and more focused than Limited has ever been. Thats why you don't see Morbid Hunger; its just too slow to do anything meaningful, and there are better interactions available. But for Limited? Its exactly what you want / need, both in speed and effect. The combo enablers you mentioned aren't particularly powerful, even, in Limited; Limited and Pauper are just totally different formats, interested in different types of effects, even if the bulk of the cards played in both are commons.
Interesting point about the cards that people don't realise are good, hence perhaps shouldn't be in the set. I feel like Innistrad is one of the sets with the biggest variance in card quality depending on what deck it is in of any set in recent memory, which is part of what makes it so much fun. In the past I have definitely enjoyed that period of time where I know what's going on while others don't (e.g. knowing about Viridian Longbow, or knowing about how powerful slivers were in TPF), but I can see that there being individual sleeper cards could be kind of problematic.

I don't particularly think that Morbid Hunger not being around is a problem, as to be honest it seems to me that unlike a lot of the cards that got in there above it, it is one where people would either work out that it is universally quite powerful, or not, rather than working out that it is good in such and such an archetype and worse elsewhere, creating a different kind of knowledge gap.

Personally I'd say that the formats that prove to be the most fun are the ones where card quality varies quite a bit by context, and there is a lot of potential to build powerful decks, but those powerful decks would almost inevitably not all look the same. In limited, Ravnica was good for this, as was Time Spiral, and now Innistrad. In constructed, Invasion block constructed (once Apocalypse came along to iron out the issue of red being really really good) was very good for this, as was Ravnica block constructed. At various stages Legacy and Extended have also proven good for this.

Currently loving the fact that there are very few cards in Innistrad that are automatically definitely not worth playing, depending on context, as it means that while drafting, there is a much better chance of more people sitting at the table, receiving their pack 3 fifth pick and being blown away that the perfect card for them is still there. There are just so many 'perfect cards' for people.

In fact, I've just gone through the whole of Innistrad, and the following are the only cards are ones that I have not, and likely will not play in limited or constructed.

Cellar Door
Graveyard Shovel
Gruesome Deformity
Infernal Plunge (probably won't play...)
Maw of the Mire
Skeletal Grimace
Wooden Stake

Dude... that is bonkers. I'm fairly sure that if I did the same exercise with any other large set, I would have *a lot* more cards than that. Good job.

 
It's not that people don't "get" it—we're not dumbing down the game. It's not that players don't understand what's powerful. It's that when you say to somebody, "Oh, if you want to win, you shouldn't summon that awesome Demon Angel Dragon or cast that awesome spell that makes your guys 27/27 or assemble that awesome combination that deals 62 damage to each opponent for every Squirrel Penguin Cat Lord you have in play; instead, you should cast Mind Rot," they say, "That's nice, and I understand—but why in the world would I ever want to do that?

This. 1000x this. I think the core thing I like about modern game design is that designers are now smart and experienced enough to be able to put out a game that's actually about what it's supposed to be about. 

Compare to chess. On the box, chess has a lot of flavor. There are all these interesting pieces that do interesting things and have interesting interactions. But what chess is actually about is systematically getting rid of those pieces in well-mapped, well understood ways, and then playing a tedious end game involving pawns. 

On the box, Magic is about summoning fantastic creatures and playing interesting spells. For a large part of its history, it was actually about casting small creatures and burn, or playing lands plus counterspells, with a combo deck or two thrown in here and there. Discovering this fact -- I remember when the first sligh deck hit the scene -- was a little bit exciting. But it wasn't really _Magic_. 

I'm much happier to spend my hobby money on a game where I can cast a dragon, and have that be the right choice and the right play, rather than on a game where I'm sitting on two untapped islands, with the 100th alternate art version of Counterspell in my hand, telling my opponent "pass turn, go."
I'm much happier to spend my hobby money on a game where I can cast a dragon, and have that be the right choice and the right play, rather than on a game where I'm sitting on two untapped islands, with the 100th alternate art version of Counterspell in my hand, telling my opponent "pass turn, go."

So... they're "scrubbing" down the game?
It's "Magic: the Gathering", not "Creatures: the Blocking".  (Actually, I have no idea where this argument is going)

The simple fact is, all R&D can really influence is Limited play.  Constructed will aways be dominated by the exact perfect blend of sixty cards for any given cardpool, and Casual play will always have to deal with the fact that wizards cannot unprint anything.

I don't particularly think that Morbid Hunger not being around is a problem, as to be honest it seems to me that unlike a lot of the cards that got in there above it, it is one where people would either work out that it is universally quite powerful, or not, rather than working out that it is good in such and such an archetype and worse elsewhere, creating a different kind of knowledge gap.

Morbid Hunger so universally bad in anything that isn't Odyssey-block Limited, that one has to "know" to draft and run it.

So... they're "scrubbing" down the game?



Nope. Being a scrub is refusing to play the game that actually exists because you find an imaginary game that lives on top of the game to be more "fun." What Wizards is doing (for Standard and Limited, at least), is focusing on tweaking the actual game so that it's a bit more like the game advertised. You still have a "real" game to discover, but the real game is more "fun", and the discovery more pleasant. 
Okay, let's try that from the other direction:  They're actively marginalizing the "stop having fun guys".
Okay, let's try that from the other direction:  They're actively marginalizing the "stop having fun guys".



Yep. Or inviting them to relax and have fun. One of those two :-)

To those saying that Firebolt would be fine at common, I have to disagree.  Firebolt will kill most one-, two-, and three-drops right away, and then at some later point can get another card.  Think how good Silent Departure is already, then image how good it would be if it killed the creature rather than bounced it.  It's not a perfect analogy, but I think it's pretty easy to see that Firebolt would be much better than Departure both in aggro and control decks.  It would make a fine uncommon, though.

As far as Morbid Hunger, though, I find it hard to believe that the card was too good.  I mean, it seems to be pretty similar in power level to Into the Maw of Hell, and that card isn't exactly busted.
Okay, let's try that from the other direction:  They're actively marginalizing the "stop having fun guys".


I'd say "exposing them as scrubs" for clinging to a certain mode of play even when it stops being the optimum.

L1 Judge

I'd say "exposing them as scrubs" for clinging to a certain mode of play even when it stops being the optimum.

Huh?

I am so tired about these "no fun"-posts, followed by a statement that nobody who *really* enjoys MtG likes anyway.

I play magic for more than a decade now, a large part of that time as a tournament player and I still love to play this game. Yes, I have "fun" playing this game - because of its interactivity.

I prefere to cast "smaller", efficent cards and clearly enjoy that more than casting huge dragons. - a card like counterspell (which is easily the most interactice non-creature spell in the game) has so much more to offer than your game-winning fatty dragon (aka bomb). It simply isn´t important what you cast for that amount of mana - if it is a dragon, a giant or a firepengiun. It wins the game, if you or your opponent can´t answer it - gameover.

Its not about "learning to chill out",  its about the fact that wotc (maybe hasbro?) turns Mtg from a mindsport-variant to a solitaire-variant.

By the way, slight was an amazing deck and the first breaktrough to teach players that MtG offers more than one strategy and can reward you for a good resource management. Saying that slight wasn´t a "real" deck is a sacrilege in my opinion ;).


I respect that not every interesting card from the past needs to be reprinted if a set comes up where it might fit in.  So it's fine to not include Firebolt or Morbid Hunger because they didn't fit, or proved too skill-testing, or whatever.

However, I strongly disagree with Firebolt, *if* it were reprinted, being unusable at common.  Didn't one of the other developers say that he added 1-2 obvious first picks to each color in Zendikar to reduce choice overload?  Firebolt is a great spell in Limited, a clear first pick that adds a lot of strength to Red, no doubt.  But it's hardly broken.  It doesn't even suffer from the "deceptively skill testing" issue like Morbid Hunger apparently does - everybody knows, or learns very fast, that burn is good in Limited.  Plus, Firebolt has some simple but neat combo options - milling it just for the Flashback, casting it twice in one turn for a 6 mana: 4 damage to a critter burn spell, etc.  New players will discover these and think themselves a badass.  Which is good!
The logic of this article is a little bizarre, especially the part about Morbid Hunger.  You call it an information disadvantage, but in all honesty, it's just being bad.  The first couple times you draft against someone less experienced and beat them with cards that don't look great on the surface, like Morbid Hunger, Tormentor Exarch, Pith Driller, Kavu Climber, etc., it's an information disadvantage.  However, if they're an intelligent person with the capability to improve at this game, they will recognize that their opponent is beating them with these cards that don't look great on the surface, and figure out why that's happening.  If I'm better at Calculus than you because I took the class and you didn't, that's an information advantage.  If I'm better at Calculus than you because I took the class and passed, and you took the class and failed, that's just me being smarter than you.


Honestly, cards like Morbid Hunger allow better players to take a lot of the variance out of the game, by mitigating the impact of mana flood.  Wizards doesn't want to take away variance.  They want to increase it.  Variance is good for business.  It means that the 99% of players who are awful at this game have a chance against the 1% who are actually pretty good.  It's just a fact of life now adays that I will occasionally lose to terrible players in limited because they have a Consecrated Sphinx or an Inferno Titan or an Olivia, whereas before it was immensely less likely because older limited formats didn't have a lot of ridiculous bombs.  The same goes for constructed.  Wizards has been printing some absurdly powerful cards that can allow even the worst players a chance to win.  The two biggest offenders in this category are Tempered Steel and Shrine of Burning Rage.  Yes, you can improve your winning percentage by being a good player, but no matter how bad you are, if you can figure out that playing a bunch of 0 and 1 mana artifact creatures and then playing Tempered Steel is good, or if you can count to 20 and play a Shrine of Burning Rage, you're going to get some wins.  There is a mildly mentally retarded man that plays Magic at my local store.  He had one of the lowest DCI ratings in the entire world.  He went over a year at the store without winning a match.  He had "some day I will win" written on his binder, not kidding.  Once Wizards printed the card Tempered Steel, he actually wins a reasonable amount.  Like will finish FNM at 3-3 sometimes.


So don't tell me you're not dumbing down magic.  It makes sense to do so, but it's 100% what you're doing.
The first couple times you draft against someone less experienced and beat them with cards that don't look great on the surface, like Morbid Hunger, Tormentor Exarch, Pith Driller, Kavu Climber, etc., it's an information disadvantage. 

But, the new deal with Magic is to preemptively prevent that "I'm so awesome!  I'll surely go tear up the tourney at the comic-book store!  -  WTF!  I got blown out by jerks playing stupid cards!  Screw this game!" from ever happening.

Wizards assumes that "first couple times" is actually going to be "frustration and ragequit" after the first time, and wants to prevent it by any means possible - unless of course a $80 mythic is moving packs, then there's no need to do anything about it for about fifteen months.

They just don't want the learning curve to become a brick wall.  The over-emphasis on Limited is why it's all getting to be so silly now.
To those saying that Firebolt would be fine at common, I have to disagree.  Firebolt will kill most one-, two-, and three-drops right away, and then at some later point can get another card.  Think how good Silent Departure is already, then image how good it would be if it killed the creature rather than bounced it.  It's not a perfect analogy, but I think it's pretty easy to see that Firebolt would be much better than Departure both in aggro and control decks.  It would make a fine uncommon, though.


I think the most correct comparison would be Geistflame, which we all know it's a very good card, and also because that and Firebolt wouldn't be in the same set.

Geistflame is good because Innistrad has tons of important 1-toughness creatures. Ambush Viper, Bloodcrazed Neonate, Civilized Scholar, Vampire Interloper. And tons of Spirit tokens.

Firebolt would be able to kill Avacyn Priest, Falkenrath Noble, Insectile Aberration, Rakish Heir. But it's sorceryness would make it ineffective against the Viper, for example.

But Geistflame would be underwhelming in Shards of Alara (as underwhelming as a removal can be, though). It's just a matter of context. Firebolt can work as a common, in my opinion. But Geistflame was probably a better choice for Innistrad.
Compare to chess. On the box, chess has a lot of flavor. There are all these interesting pieces that do interesting things and have interesting interactions. But what chess is actually about is systematically getting rid of those pieces in well-mapped, well understood ways, and then playing a tedious end game involving pawns.

For those of you who aren't historians, "Chess" was a short-lived game that nobody played, nobody liked, and certainly nobody respected. This "Chess" was such an utter and colossal failure that clearly no game should want to be like it in any way. If anyone ever utters the name of your game in the same sentence as Chess it's a clear insult that should cause you to run in the opposite direction.

You know what's a good visceral game that provides a flavorful experience as described on the box? Mousetrap:

IMAGE(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/b/b3/Mouse_Trap_Board_and_Boxjpg.jpg/250px-Mouse_Trap_Board_and_Boxjpg.jpg)

Yeah, that's a classic. So please, let's all hope that Magic moves as far away as possible from utter failures like Chess and Poker, and toward more lasting successes like Mousetrap or Fireball Island. Hey, maybe the next plane should be populated by a race of starving Hippofolk, and feature a set mechanic about gathering counters...

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.



In fact, I've just gone through the whole of Innistrad, and the following are the only cards are ones that I have not, and likely will not play in limited or constructed.

Cellar Door
Graveyard Shovel
Gruesome Deformity
Infernal Plunge (probably won't play...)
Maw of the Mire
Skeletal Grimace
Wooden Stake


Funny enough, I think even those cards, save maybe one or two, are playable in the right circumstances.

Cellar Door is playable if your deck can create stalls where you have enough time to get value from it, and just slowly milling you or your opponent directly helps your plan in addition to the possible tokens. Granted, that's very narrow, but I've seen pros consider it.

I think Graveyard Shovel may be a viable sideboard card against decks based on flashback spells, altough Ive never tested it. EDIT : Oops, I thought you targeted what to exile with it. Since it's the targeted player's choice instead, it is utter poop. Worst card in the set by a mile. Using it on yourself to gain life is very weak too; a deck that could put enough creatures in its graveyard to gain any significant amount should be doing something else with the creature cards in its graveyard, either leaving them there for cards that count them or using them to summon skaabs.

Gruesome Deformity is awful, but I could see myself considering it against a deck without removal that I'd need evasion to beat. Not likely that ever happens. Probably the worst second worst card in the set, which is saying much.

Infernal Plunge allows for some interesting plays in a red-white deck. If you have white creatures with death triggers as well as high-cost creatures that can easily win the game if played early on, it can be surprisingly worthwile, I think. It also combos with Traitorous Blood (not too impressive but fine if you can use the mana).

Maw of the Mire I could see myself sideboarding against one of the rare lands with activated abilities, such as Gavony Township or Kessig Wolf Run.

Skeletal Grimace could be surprisingly good against non-blue decks. Without the risk of a bounce, the chance of a 2-for-1 is slim if you time it well, and you end up with a stronger, harder to kill creature that can block ad nauseam. Ive never dared try it myself, but I am convinced its more playable than most people think.

Black-red vampires is an actual draft archetype, and Wooden Stake is a very strong sideboard card against it. It plays a very narrow role, but it does it well.
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
Compare to chess. On the box, chess has a lot of flavor. There are all these interesting pieces that do interesting things and have interesting interactions. But what chess is actually about is systematically getting rid of those pieces in well-mapped, well understood ways, and then playing a tedious end game involving pawns.

For those of you who aren't historians, "Chess" was a short-lived game that nobody played, nobody liked, and certainly nobody respected. This "Chess" was such an utter and colossal failure that clearly no game should want to be like it in any way.



I started my post by noting that I was talking about "what I like about modern game design". Let me unpack that a bit:

Chess is a great game, and it has been satisfying to people for many generations. But game design technology has made some important advances in the past couple of decades. Modern game designers have given a lot of thought to, and generally have a better handle on, crafting rules to be accessible, and to deliver a specific experience. Magic, especially, has had to cope with the enormous collective cognitive power brought to bear on it by the Internet, and has come out as a much more sophisticated game from a design and development standpoint, ridding itself of simplistic archetypes like Prison and straight up mana-curve exploiting Sligh in the process. 

"Accessible" and "deliberately crafted" don't necessarily mean "good". There are a bunch of accessible, deviously crafted games on Facebook that are basically the root of gaming evil. But I appreciate "accessible" and "deliberately crafted", when well done, and applied to a worthy game, which is what I think we have with the past few years of Magic. 

Aside: As far as Limited goes ... Limited is actually just another approach to the problem that the 60 card minimum and 4-of limit addresses. Collectible Card Games are fundmanentally degenerate. Without some sort of restriction, there is nothing to stop players from building a deck with nothing but Black Lotuses and Lightning Bolts. Which is about as fun as playing against a chess player who starts 15 queens. I like Limited a little better that Constructed; it feels closer to the "original spirit" of the game to me. It does short the "collectible" part, so I understand why others prefer constructed. 

Second aside: Magic is non-trival, whilst Chess is technical solvable, and that makes Magic more "fun" in a geeking out on math sort of way, but that's neither here nor there :-)
Out of the entire article, this was the part got me so excited and happy:

We've made it a lot easier to win with the kinds of things most people want to win with, and a lot more difficult to win the game with Force Spike into Whispers of the Muse. That's good. But it's not good if the only thing a player can do is summon creatures and send them mindlessly bashing into one another, either. Magic is fun because there are a lot of strategies you can use to play Magic and win at Magic in a way that's satisfying to you. It's just that because raw resource advantage is so much more fundamentally powerful than everything else, it requires a lot of diligence to balance it effectively.

This is the kind of mindset that gives me hope in this game. That magic is a different game to everyone, and not everyone likes to attack or block with creatures. But not everyone likes to play counterspells either.

Just keep this mindset, Zac, and don't let anyone tell you differently.
Compare to chess. On the box, chess has a lot of flavor. There are all these interesting pieces that do interesting things and have interesting interactions. But what chess is actually about is systematically getting rid of those pieces in well-mapped, well understood ways, and then playing a tedious end game involving pawns.



Oh, you're one of those players. You know you are. You're the guy who, instead of playing for the end goal of the game (the mate), you try to mess with your opponent's board to deal with his plays. Reactionary. Non-proactive. The kind of player who doesn't understand chess.

Chess is not about systematic anything; it's about strategy, and making a position on a board that deprives your opponent of success. The only time the game devolves to mastery by pawns is when the players are throwing their "battleships" around (bishops and knights and definitely the queen) and end up getting them nuked. Then the game drags on into a pawns vs. king maneuver, which is, frankly, boring. It's also a bad way to play chess.

Imagine instead you're playing go (or igo): you have two types of pieces, white and black, and they all have the same move (placement). No flavor whatsoever, because you've stripped the identity from the pieces by also depriving them of their ability to move (and thus different types of moves). Consider then that the only flavor in the game is that of battlefield structure, and that it, much as chess, was developed to teach people tactics. If your tactic is to annihilate your opponent's forces and kill his queen and king, you won't go far without losing most of your field, and that tells me you're a bad general. If instead you play to acheive your goal in the shortest time possible, with the fewest casualties, by advancing a position that pulls your opponent's weakness out, then exploit it and getting to his king, or controlling the board in go, then I know you're a good general, especially if you lose as few pieces as possible. Go is also famous for one of the greatest rage quits in ancientdom.

Magic is not similar to chess, it is similar to go, and yet despite that it is nothing like go. It is similar because go advances a strategy of acheiving victory in a variety of ways; aside from mate, there is only one way to "win" at chess and that is to have more points than your opponent in order to defeat a draw. It is dissimilar because of the limitations in position and rules, but similar again because of the complexity of methods of play. Despite the novels written on chess, there are novels on go. It is also a far more interesting game, despite lacking the flavor that so precedes discussions of rules on chess.

Because of this, I would rather have a game like go that rewarded the player for inventiveness than a game like chess which would punish them for wanting to "play."
"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)
The elitism that bubbles up whenever somebody is accused of "dumbing down" a game is like walking into a smoke-filled room. It's so thick your eyes burn.
The elitism that bubbles up whenever somebody is accused of "dumbing down" a game is like walking into a smoke-filled room. It's so thick your eyes burn.



I prefer the analogy that is simple to deconstruct, the one I made above. Sometimes Magic is like chess, and sometimes it is like go, for different people. Because different people enjoy the game for sometimes completely opposite reasons. That is why there are demographics, but also why applying individuals to these demos (Timmy, Johnny, Spike) ends up revealing no one is pure anything: We can enjoy the same game in different ways at different times. I prefer to suit up a lurching Timmy aggro green, while at the same time I can like a swift monowhite super-efficient Spike aggro, or perhaps I will go suicide Black or control Black. The games depend on a state of mind, a willingness to try new things, and expand on them. This only works if the game expands and allows the ability to grow into it. This does not happen when people tell others what the game is and isn't.

What I said was not elitist, it was an attempt to show how bald the argument of being elitist can be.
"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)

Oh, you're one of those players. You know you are. You're the guy who, instead of playing for the end goal of the game (the mate), you try to mess with your opponent's board to deal with his plays. Reactionary. Non-proactive. The kind of player who doesn't understand chess.



My chess is poor. Comes from discovering Magic in high school and dropping the chess club :-) I think the original point is relatively undamaged, though: the game of Chess has ermerged over the centuries, and "fun" stuff like tromping about with your Queen, or going into assault mode with your King, is generally a bad idea. Magic is deliberately designed to be a specific thing, and there are sets where doing crazy stuff (like milling your own library, or building a mana ramp deck) is actually a strong thing, strategically, to do. 

... was developed to teach people tactics.



The current "flavor" of chess is actually about court intrigue, rather than battlefield manuevers (that's why the Bishop and Queen, both noncombatants, are so powerful). Earlier variants were more focused on a battlefield metaphor; the idea was that the court and the battlefield are both similar places. That's probably not relevant, but, hey, being pedantic is fun sometimes :-)

Magic is not similar to chess, it is similar to go,



Magic is probably more akin to Poker than either Chess or Go. Chess and Go are essentially "Tic-Tac-Toe" style games: they're about territory control (or power projection), and contain no hidden information. Poker and Magic are more like Rock-Paper-Scissors: they're focused on hidden information and comparing relative strengths of the pieces, absent a strong metaphor for territory. Chess and Go are, given a powerful enough computer, "solvable" -- there is always a "best move", even though we can't crunch numbers fast enough to see it. Poker and Magic do not have optimal moves -- there are stronger and weaker strategies, but your reaction to any given situation is contingent on what you think your opponent is going to play, and what you think your opponent thinks you are going to play (and how you think they are going to react to this information). 

Magic teaches you to play the odds and bluff; Chess and Go teach you to analyze options, and exert power.

Because of this, I would rather have a game like go that rewarded the player for inventiveness than a game like chess which would punish them for wanting to "play."



Agreed. (One of the interesting things about Go is that because the possibility space is so much larger than Chess, it plays more like a non-trivial game ... of the two, Magic probably is more like Go, though I'd still argue that Poker is the better comparison )



Stop saying nonsense. Magic is not chess, and Magic is not Go. Magic is Othello. Othello has a clearly defined goal, but it just happens that if you play a strategy so that every step goes towards that goal, you lose. In fact, the more pieces you have in the board, the more likely is that you are going to lose the match.

In Magic, it looks like having more life is good, but if you cast lifegaining spells you probably lose, because the game isn't at all about having more life than the opponent (and I would call this a pretty obvious design flaw), but about taking away options from him or her so that when you deal a powerful last blow he or she can't do anything to prevent it.

Like in Othello, it doesn't matter how few pieces you have in board at a given time, as long as you don't open yourself to the possibility of losing them all in one move from your opponent.

While it's good that WotC focus their attention in making magic intuitive and definitely not like Othello,  I would be more worried that their tournaments have been rigged so that only blue decks playing FoW + Brainstorm have any chance to win the big prize for so long, some of their players hadn't been born when the problem originated and now fairly assume it always has been this way, and it's actually better that it works that way because the fear from the unknown is too much to withstand.

Creating a card game that has you pick a color from a set of five choices, and then having 4 wrong choices that make sure you'll never do well at tournaments for decades is the most glaring flaw in the game, one that WotC hasn't fixed in all these years, and the one that makes them lose the most players. If they want to make a useful poll, bring one that asks how many years have you been playing, and which color is your favourite, and take note how many nonblue players keep playing the game for more than 5 years. I don't think there'll be many. The only friends I have that still play magic are the ones that chose blue right at the start. The rest got bored and are playing WoW now.
Don't be silly. Magic is not like Othello. Or Go. Or Poker. Or Tic-Tac-Toe, or Rock-Paper-Scissors. It's obviously like Minecraft. They both have Zombies. 

But seriously, I think this is all oversymplifying Magic. There are 12,246 distinct cards in Magic (not counting reprints twice, or cards that aren't in gatherer, or special cards such as planes or schemes). At that level of complexity, no analogue is sufficiently similar to be accurate.  
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