2/17/2012 LD: "Building Limited Strategies"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Very interesting aticle to read. One paragraph jumped out at me though because it confirmed just about my first (admittedly negative) reaction to Innistrad when it came out.

We weakened the context-independent power-level of your average card, so you're forced to look for synergies to recoup that power discrepancy. It's asking our players to make a little bit of a cognitive leap, but 
Magic's audience is very smart and we felt the risks were worth the rewards. Every time I win games by enchantingRotting Fensnake with Skeletal Grimace, or blowing out combat with a Moonmist, I'm happy we moved in this direction. 


In hindsight I can agree with this sentiment but SURELY you could have picked a better example.

I mean, 6 CMC (with two coloured mana nonetheless) and two cards for a 6/2 with regen in black? Eeeeeeew!
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A great article on one of the best draft formats of all time!
Zac Hill is quickly becoming my favorite writer on the site.  His writing is smart and detailed, and I love how often he gets into the nuts and bolts of development's thought processes and how they caused particular things to be the way they are.

Keep up the great work, Zac.
He's giving away all of the secrets! Now any idiot will be able to design an award winning card game with lasting appeal and a loyal fan base!
A great article, but I had a problem with the same quote as f4sak3n. However, mine is slightly different in that while this is awesome and I generally like the Limited environments we've seen the past couple of years, it has also made these Limited environments far more bomb-dependent. Rare and especially mythic rare power levels are so high that it's difficult to out-synergize a guy with a bunch of great cards.
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.
Very interesting aticle to read. One paragraph jumped out at me though because it confirmed just about my first (admittedly negative) reaction to Innistrad when it came out.

We weakened the context-independent power-level of your average card, so you're forced to look for synergies to recoup that power discrepancy. It's asking our players to make a little bit of a cognitive leap, but 
Magic's audience is very smart and we felt the risks were worth the rewards. Every time I win games by enchantingRotting Fensnake with Skeletal Grimace, or blowing out combat with a Moonmist, I'm happy we moved in this direction. 



In hindsight I can agree with this sentiment but SURELY you could have picked a better example.

I mean, 6 CMC (with two coloured mana nonetheless) and two cards for a 6/2 with regen in black? Eeeeeeew!


Well, at least he's complimenting the Magic player base, unlike Tom LaPille who called us lazy and stupid following the reaction to the bannings in Modern.  I'll take Zac's writing any day over Tom's.


-Thay
The sentence (fragment) that caught my attention came a few paragraphs later:

we have toned down the density of creature cards in a booster pack



It's nice to officially know I haven't been imagining this...
Zac Hill is quickly becoming my favorite writer on the site.  His writing is smart and detailed, and I love how often he gets into the nuts and bolts of development's thought processes and how they caused particular things to be the way they are.

Keep up the great work, Zac.



Good article, thank you! It's nice that the power level of auras has improved enough that, although people often still dismiss them, when they do work they can win games.  Skeletal Grimace and Spectral Flight are in just the right place, in my opinion.
Thanks to everyone who helped with the design of the plane of Golamo in the Great Designer Search 2!
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These are the decks I have assembled at the moment:
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Kicker Aggro (Invasion Block) Sunforger/Izzet Guildmage Midrange (Ravnica/Time Spiral/Xth Standard) Dragonstorm Combo (Time Spiral/Lorwyn/Xth Standard) Bant Midrange (Lorwyn/Shards/M10 Standard)
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Angel Resurrection Casual Soul Sisters Sindbad's Adventures with Djinn of Wishes Sphinx-Bone Wand Buyback Morph (No Instants or Sorceries) Cabal Coffers Control Zombie Aggro Hungry, Hungry Greater Gargadon/War Elemental Flashfires/Boil/Ruination - Boom! Call of the Wild Teysa, Orzhov Scion with Twilight Drover, Sun Titan, and Hivestone Slivers Rebels Cairn Wanderer Knights Only Gold and () Spells Captain Sisay Toolbox Spellweaver Helix Combo Merfolk Wizards Izzet Guildmage/The Unspeakable Arcane Combo Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and his Wizards Creatureless Wild Research/Reins of Power Madness Creatureless Pyromancer Ascension Anarchist Living Death Anvil of Bogardan Madness Shamen with Goblin Game/Wound Reflection Combo Mass damage Quest for Pure Flame Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle/Clear the Land with 40+ Lands Doubling Season Thallids Juniper Order Ranger Graft/Tokens Elf Archer Druids Equilibrium/Aluren Combo Experiment Kraj Combo Reap Combo False Cure/Kavu Predator Combo Savra, Queen of the Golgari Sacrifice/Dredge Elf Warriors Eight-Post Sneak Attack Where Ancients Tread Zur the Enchanter with Opal creatures Tamanoa/Kavu Predator/Collapsing Borders Esper Aggro Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and his Darksteel Reactor Theft and Control Unearth Aggro Soul's Fire Vampires Devour Tokens Phytohydra with Powerstone Minefield Treefolk Friendly? Questing Phelddagrif Slivers Dragon Arch Fun I'm probably forgetting a few...
Great read, and like everyone else, I've been really enjoying Zac's writing.

But I do agree with Zindaras.  The widening playability gap between the commons/uncommons and the rares/mythics that have been pushed for constructed really can get annoying. 

Also, apropos of nothing, something that's been kind of bugging me about how these strategies have been designed lately: Often they seem to hinge around "build-around-me" uncommons like Burning Vengeance or Furnace Celebration or Intangible Virtue. And while in theory uncommons sending you in a different direction seems cool, it seems like a lot of set real estate is devoted to these strategies, even though you can get totally hosed when your signature uncommon just doesn't show up.
I don't seem to find the current draft format very creative at all.  Almost all our draft winners have just picked a theme that WotC solved and were fortunate enough to draft a few cards that fit it.  I am not coming up with my own interactions or playing my spell freely.  If I see FB cards and a BV, ooooh I go BV.  Genious.  Otherwise, I just do what is best and roll with little guys and buff them.  I find it incredibly redundant and boring.


That being said... Standard is worse.  There is pretty much one way to play magic right now.  Creature bash.  You dont like it?  [Edited]  Why?  I understand that you are pushing this whole stupid larp story about Avacyn and his humans against some bi-sexual vampire army, but can I at least have some decent spells?  Can I have an interesting combo deck?  Can control have so cards that can compete with an insta-win Angelic Destiny on Geist? 

Innistrad was one of the most lame formats of all time.  DKA has added some spice to it for this first Pro Tour (smart to have the PT right at the new release where creativity with the new cards is at an all time high, and our announcers can rave about diversiy, before the format completely flattens out again), but the format with get stale quickly because of over-powered creatures you can't touch with spells.


I can't imagine it is too hard to design cards so that each play style is competitive.  is it?  You sure make it seem this way.  I realize that development probably isnt as easy as I think, but I am sure you can make much more "fair" and balanced spells that the lopsided crap you handed us.  Gee... I think I'll play some U/W today and win, or be creative and hope to get REALLY lucky.  Lame. 

Stop patting yourselves on the back and step it up.
Control defined Standard until Delver came to the table. Control made Ramp better than Aggro. Then Delver made Control bad again (and Ramp stuck around). And Control not being able to beat Delver efficiently means all Aggro decks that can have some chance against Delver see a lot of spotlight. That's where we're at right now. Once again, an amazing Aggro/Control deck has completely changed a format.

I look at it negatively only because we're literally saying Titans aren't good enough anymore for Control to piggyback the format. That's an awfully scary thought. I only hope instead of making Control more powerful they get rid of the 6 CMC gods and stop giving Blue amazing creature cards.

"Blue? Don't they have amazing spells to aid their crappy creatures?" "Well, yeah, but players just take the Blue Spells and find another color for good creatures." "Well, I guess that idea didn't work. So how about we give Blue good creatures? I mean, their weakness isn't weakening them anyway, right?" "SEEMS LEGIT." 
We're happy that worked out—but one of the ways we made it work involves something a lot of players don't like in their gut. We weakened the context-independent power-level of your average card, so you're forced to look for synergies to recoup that power discrepancy. It's asking our players to make a little bit of a cognitive leap, but Magic's audience is very smart and we felt the risks were worth the rewards...


Can someone explain this passage to me? The two possible readings of it I see are:

  1. Cards are weaker than in the average set, so you need to rely on synergies more (which seems blatantly untrue unless our baseline is shards or something)

  2. The gap between "Context-independent power level" and "context-dependent power level" has been widened by making "Context-independent" decks worse. (This is my guess for the correct interpretation)

If #2 is the correct reading, I'm still not really sure how they did this by weakening "context independent power level". Decks that are full of "context independent cards," that ignore synergies, still seem on the strong end, at least from a historical perspective. If anything, it seems like this gap has been widened going the other way, by making the cross-card synergies better (particularly by making late pick cards interact well with some uncommons), and I'm not really sure why a player would have a problem with this "in their gut." Its not like we are third picking sea snidds or looking for combos in our late picks to get enough playables in this format, most of the decks are full of cards that seem like they would be quite strong in any format, even without any kind of synergies.
"Blue? Don't they have amazing spells to aid their crappy creatures?" "Well, yeah, but players just take the Blue Spells and find another color for good creatures." "Well, I guess that idea didn't work. So how about we give Blue good creatures? I mean, their weakness isn't weakening them anyway, right?" "SEEMS LEGIT." 

This is brilliant.
It's all a side effect of them making creatures in general better, because for the longest time they weren't that good (apparently). But since they can't make the best creatures too much better, this means they're making the worst ones a lot better, which closes the gap. So the colors that are supposed to be best at creatures (Green) are comparatively worse now, while the colors worst at creatures (Blue) get barely-worse, if worse at all, creatures now, on top of their still-the-best non-creatures, and all hell breaks loose.
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