03/05/2011 MM: "Topical Blend #4"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.

Wow! How exciting! I loaded the site at midnight sharp and found a new Topical Blend, which I had been eagerly awaiting for literally years. Literally literally, even! I've been reading Making Magic since before the first (I probably voted in the topic poll...) and these columns have always been a highlight.

A topical blend of magic and Magic is very delicious. The theme of "best-designed cards" is a good peg, because it makes the card reveals a lot of fun - these are cards with good associations and stories. I can think of memorable games involving every single one of the cards you posted in the article.

Looking forward to part two. I'm really happy to see the Topical Blend series continue. I was worried that Maro felt like it was impossible to surpass the standard he had set so we wouldn't get any more. Even if no other topic will ever be quite as "relatable" as Dating Troubles, the idea of the topical blends is still a great way to structure the occasional column.
Glad to see I'm not the only one who's loving this column so far.

My thoughts on the cards: they're all good design (with the exception of Akroma; she's flashy, powerful, and expensive, but she's too often either an "Oops, I win" card or else a do-nothing that gets bounced/countered, and neither of those seems like very good design.  I was on hiatus during Time Spiral block, but if she's the best design the block has to offer, I'm glad I missed it), but not necessarily the ones I would have picked.

For Mirroden block, I'd have picked Vulshok Morningstar.  Equipment generated arguably more excitement than the expensive 'can't lose' effect, and I love the Morningstar as a representative example for its simplicity and symmetry (every number on the card is 2).

For Champions block: hard to argue with Kiki-Jiki, but it seems like it would've been even better design at 2RR to cast and R, Tap to use its ability.  Still basically the same for all fair uses, a little less broken when combined with, say, Tooth and Nail.  Anyone else agree/disagree with this?


Interesting that all the cards previewed so far are rare. I might've thought some common might get a slot because it seems harder to design nifty commons.

 Also interesting that Doran beat out all the planeswalkers in Lorwyn (probably Garruk). To me, it seems like Planeswalkers are the single coolest thing to happen to Magic in quite a while, so I would have thought one of them would get the nod, even though many of the planeswalkers since then (Karn, Nicol Bolas, Zendikar Sorin etc.) are probably cooler. 
I think for Time Spiral Tarmogoyf might've gotten the nod for teasing Planeswalkers if it hadn't ended up being stupidly powerful. After all, previewing an entire concept via reminder text of all things is pretty impressive. Certainly more impressive than Akroma, Angel of Wrath at any rate.

I still dislike Planeswalkers for getting placed exclusively at mythic with the exception of the Lorwyn 'Walkers. (Because of course mythic didn't exist yet) I understand they're supposed to be special and unique, but they end up being almost impossible to find for new players, and their rarity helps add to the fact that most new players have no clue how they work. (Just this past weekend I met a few guys who had purchased Ajani vs Nicol Bolas and had no clue you could attack Planeswalkers or redirect damage to them. Heaven knows how they thought you were suppoesd to get rid of them)
Immature College Student (Also a Rules Advisor)
I think for Time Spiral Tarmogoyf might've gotten the nod for teasing Planeswalkers if it hadn't ended up being stupidly powerful. After all, previewing an entire concept via reminder text of all things is pretty impressive. Certainly more impressive than Akroma, Angel of Wrath at any rate.

I still dislike Planeswalkers for getting placed exclusively at mythic with the exception of the Lorwyn 'Walkers. (Because of course mythic didn't exist yet) I understand they're supposed to be special and unique, but they end up being almost impossible to find for new players, and their rarity helps add to the fact that most new players have no clue how they work. (Just this past weekend I met a few guys who had purchased Ajani vs Nicol Bolas and had no clue you could attack Planeswalkers or redirect damage to them. Heaven knows how they thought you were suppoesd to get rid of them)



Thats really a problem of reading a few simple rules, though, isn't it? I mean, all the Duel Decks come with that info in their pamphlet.
My thoughts on the cards: they're all good design (with the exception of Akroma; she's flashy, powerful, and expensive, but she's too often either an "Oops, I win" card or else a do-nothing that gets bounced/countered, and neither of those seems like very good design.



Just as MaRo says, it's about an emotional response, not just the technicalities. When she was originally printed in Onslaught, people loves her. The loved to win with her. They loved to lose to her. Sure in the abstract she might be that oops I win/do nothing just like a bunch of other card, but the emotional connection made her stick. 
In retrospect, Akroma was the first clear example of a design philosophy that's become much clearer over time: if you can resolve a sufficiently big spell, it's fine for it to take over the game all by itself.

This effect has been singlehandedly responsible for the fact I seldom play casual formats anymore, but I can't deny it works really well for competitive formats.
Yay, Topical Blend! I suspected this was coming when I saw the Twitter question (I don't follow Twitter frequently enough to get my answers in in time, but it's fun to see nonetheless).

Many of these are very good choices. I made guesses for each of them, but each time when I clicked the reveal link, it was "Oh, yes, of course, definitely". Mirrodin block had lots of very new-and-cool effects, but Platinum Angel was definitely one of the newest-and-coolest. Time Spiral brought many classic throwbacks - I loved getting my hand on some Conspiracy and Coalition Victory - but, yes, I remember how classic Akroma was, how adored she was, how much people were clamouring to see more of her. The reprint sheet was a very innovative idea and very fitting for the block in question.

For Ravnica block I thought "what the audience wanted" would actually be the dual lands, Temple Garden and friends. They're insanely elegant, extremely good, and far simpler than most dual-land ideas that people were throwing about before they were printed. They piloted the "ETBs tapped unless" idea which has been used on virtually every rare dual land since then. They were a champion of good design and are still iconic of the set. But for all that, yes, okay, Doubling Season is another excellent choice, indubitably.

For Kamigawa, Kiki-Jiki does indeed make me smile as a Johnny... although the appeal is definitely dampened somewhat by the horrifying things that were done with him in constructed. I got beaten up by a Kiki'ed Sundering Titan, and that's really not pleasant. 

The place I most disagree with Mark is the Lorwyn answer. I agree one of Lorwyn's high points was the willingness to be goofy. But I really don't think Doran, the Siege Tower epitomises self-recognising goofiness. I mean, Boggart Shenanigans, Morsel Theft (delicious pie), Lowland Oaf, Noggin Whack, sure. But Doran? Doran is clever, but not goofy. He's interesting, quite Johnny-appealing (I have an EDH deck with him, making things like Eland Umbra and Improvised Armor terrifying), but not goofy.
Yeah, Doran seems a little off :P.


I've got a couple unrelated complaints. I don't like copies, especially disappearing ones. Kikki-Jikki I hate then. Copies you can't actually see or represent correctly (I wish we made up a better way to use them, Riku of Two Reflections makes me sad until then). Then when you go through all the trouble of trying to represent copies, or even tokens sometimes, them disappearing at the end of whatever makes what they are sometimes irrelevant. Geist of Saint Traft makes a token that you pretty much might as well be a burn spell, and it's a waste of time putting the token into play, and Kikki-Jiki can be similarly bothersome to mess with the copy, especially if the copy is about to make a million of itself :/, then all those neat, cool things just disappear as the game disappears.
Somehow it's very easy to imagine Rosewater as a failed magician...
Platinum Angel: hmm...sure, that's reasonable.
Kiki-Jiki: Obviously.
Doubling Season: Obviously.

Doran: Hmm...yeah, I can't think of a card from Lorwyn I liked more.


But.......Akroma?  Seriously?  Akroma?

There's nothing from Time Spiral you'd rather do?  I notice your cards are all splashy rares and all from the first set of their block, so just searching through the rare list and ones that jump out at me as "oh yeah, I remember that and thought it was neato"...Norin the Wary, Serra Avenger, Specral Force, Stuffy Doll, oh hell yes Stuffy Doll!  Stuffy Doll seems like the obvious pick.

Now, ok, I get that you want to pick a timeshifted card.  Let's see...Avatar of Woe, Browbeat, Dandan...ok I don't even have to search the rest of the list to know that Dandan is going to be my personal favourite.  (Although shoutout to Mystic Snake as another personal favourite.  And Spike Feeder, and...ok I have to give you credit for reprinting Squire and Uncle Istavan).

And...I don't know; the thing that Time Spiral did was bring back things that didn't fit in modern magic, like Psionic Blast.  Akroma DOES fit in modern magic.  By the time she was reprinted she wasn't particularly out of place.  She stands out a lot more in Onslaught than she does in Time Spiral.

Cats land on their feet. Toast lands peanut butter side down. A cat with toast strapped to its back will hover above the ground in a state of quantum indecision.

@Maro, on Akroma:

I definitely see why you chose that card and I agree with your decision.

I hate her though.  I hate everything to do with Akroma, she is a mess of a card in my opinion and everything related to her tends to be as well because of it, shy of Sword of Vengeance.

This is coming from someone who loves Timespiral Block, my favorite set in fact.  I love all the references, twists, suprises, throwbacks, mirrors, etc..  You'd think I love Akroma, Angel of Fury, instead I hate her.  I hate her because of how convulted she had to be to do similar things to the original but in ways that didn't "copy" it.  Why? Because the original was such a mess, containing Keywords she simply shouldn't have.  Despite even being in the block where more White creatures get haste than in any other (thank you Suspend, <3) Akroma always stood out to me as the most....awkward angel I'd ever encountered.

So, just some more perspective for you on that particular card choice.
~Rae~
Nice post. I noticed that many were legendary creatures. I assume to be legendary you have to have a very distinct goal and feel to just how the legendary creature is set apart. I can see how that much thought put into a card can make it an easy canidate for the best developed card. I am just so excited that he mentioned Doubling Seasons! It was a little after I started playing magic and Ravnica came out. It has the best art in my humble opinion. The art in Innistrad has the most thought behind it and continuity but Ravnica lands are bar-none the most beautiful. Doubling Seasons is so cool and did something in Magic that was ingenious and helped develop interesting strategies and exciting combos that are just plain explosive! Hope we get to revisit that world in the future.
Predicted Doubling Season, not the rest. I agree with both Kiki-Jiki and the Angel (or, at least, understand the reasoning). Akroma and Doran...not so much. Then again, I honestly don't have anything better than Doran and I do love the card (and did not like Lorwyn), so I'm fine with that one. Akroma...I just think there has to be something better than her in the most card-laden block ever (which happens to be my favourite block ever as well).
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.
In retrospect, Akroma was the first clear example of a design philosophy that's become much clearer over time: if you can resolve a sufficiently big spell, it's fine for it to take over the game all by itself.

I seem to recall, though official channels, reference of Akroma being what you get when Armageddon is no longer around.

Enjoyed the article. Went back and read topical blend #3 as well. (Major LOL about the hellhounds and D20/Princess bit).
I agreed with a lot of Maro's picks here, but I have to comment on two in particular.

Platinum Angel is one of the worst designed cards in Magic, in my opinion.  It breaks immersion more than any other card made, which is something I hold in extremely high value in the games I play.  Ultimately, I dislike when pieces of the game know that they are part of a game, and while I can understand things like Lich flavorfully altering the rules, I find it bad form when something just straight up supercedes or overrides the rules.  Platinum Angel knows its a piece in a card game, and I find it very difficult to get over that from a design perspective.  I quit Magic after the Onslaught block (not to return until New Phyrexia) and specifically this card is one of the top 3 reasons.

Akroma, Angel of Wrath I find to be a very ironic choice.  In the Great Designer Search, one of the questions was about what color a hypothetical creature with Haste (and another ability) would least likely fit in.  One of the options was White, which was the correct choice, and I got that question wrong.  But Akroma is actually a White creature with Haste, and was my reasoning for not selecting White as the answer, since she represented precedent (while one of the other options had no precedent).  The actual reason given was that Haste was not White.  And now here I find that Maro thinks Akroma is the best designed Time Spiral block card?!  HILARIOUS.

Both parts of the article I thought were an excellent read though.  I've always loved Maro's dedication to the Making Magic column

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Akroma, Angel of Wrath I find to be a very ironic choice.  In the Great Designer Search, one of the questions was about what color a hypothetical creature with Haste (and another ability) would least likely fit in.  One of the options was White, which was the correct choice, and I got that question wrong.  But Akroma is actually a White creature with Haste, and was my reasoning for not selecting White as the answer, since she represented precedent (while one of the other options had no precedent).  The actual reason given was that Haste was not White.  And now here I find that Maro thinks Akroma is the best designed Time Spiral block card?!  HILARIOUS.



Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, Jugan, the Rising Star, Vapor Snag, Form of the Dragon, Beast Within. Color bleed.

I can't find the question you're talking about, which one was it? =)

Platinum Angel is one of the worst designed cards in Magic, in my opinion.  It breaks immersion more than any other card made, which is something I hold in extremely high value in the games I play.  Ultimately, I dislike when pieces of the game know that they are part of a game, and while I can understand things like Lich flavorfully altering the rules, I find it bad form when something just straight up supercedes or overrides the rules.  Platinum Angel knows its a piece in a card game, and I find it very difficult to get over that from a design perspective.  I quit Magic after the Onslaught block (not to return until New Phyrexia) and specifically this card is one of the top 3 reasons.



Magic is made for different audiences. Platinum Angel-type cards might be a total miss for Vorthos, Melvin might love them.
Cards don't have to be for everyone. I'm sure every card in MaRo's list doesn't sit well with a certain part of the audience. 
I can't find the question you're talking about, which one was it? =)


For more detail (and a couple corrections to what I remembered), it was the very first question for GDS2 and the question was asking for the *most* appropriate mono-color for a 3/1 creature with Lifelink and Haste.  Prior to Lorwyn, the only color that actually had creatures with those two keywords was White, and only because Akroma had Haste.  Mono-Black wouldn't see the text "Lifelink" even printed on a card until Lorwyn and wouldn't see it actually be a legitimate part of a creature until M10.  The only mono-Black creature that had lifelink's predecessor was from Arabian Nights.  So, I asked myself, "what's more valid -- a very recent, mostly untested bleeding of the color pie, or an established precedent that's seen reprint (twice since Modern)?"  But, here's the reasoning given for the correct answer:
I chose to start the test with a pretty easy question. The question wanted to know if you knew what colors the keywords of lifelink and haste appear in. Lifelink appears in white and black. Haste appears in red and black and every once in a while in green, mostly on tournament-caliber cards (a short explanation for this appears in Gatherer on the Discussion page for the card Blackcleave Goblin—it also will introduce you to Aaron Forsythe's Random Card of the Day Comments if you aren't already reading them). The only overlap between the two abilities is black, so this card has to be black.


So, I find it extremely ironic that Akroma is chosen as the best designed Time Spiral card that apparently shouldn't exist and doesn't actually count for establishing design precedent.

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I can't find the question you're talking about, which one was it? =)


For more detail (and a couple corrections to what I remembered), it was the very first question for GDS2 and the question was asking for the *most* appropriate mono-color for a 3/1 creature with Lifelink and Haste.  Prior to Lorwyn, the only color that actually had creatures with those two keywords was White, and only because Akroma had Haste.  Mono-Black wouldn't see the text "Lifelink" even printed on a card until Lorwyn and wouldn't see it actually be a legitimate part of a creature until M10.  The only mono-Black creature that had lifelink's predecessor was from Arabian Nights.  So, I asked myself, "what's more valid -- a very recent, mostly untested bleeding of the color pie, or an established precedent that's seen reprint (twice since Modern)?"  But, here's the reasoning given for the correct answer:
I chose to start the test with a pretty easy question. The question wanted to know if you knew what colors the keywords of lifelink and haste appear in. Lifelink appears in white and black. Haste appears in red and black and every once in a while in green, mostly on tournament-caliber cards (a short explanation for this appears in Gatherer on the Discussion page for the card Blackcleave Goblin—it also will introduce you to Aaron Forsythe's Random Card of the Day Comments if you aren't already reading them). The only overlap between the two abilities is black, so this card has to be black.


So, I find it extremely ironic that Akroma is chosen as the best designed Time Spiral card that apparently shouldn't exist and doesn't actually count for establishing design precedent.



Yes, a splashy rare doesn't count as a design precedent. A bunch of commons and uncommons, like Vampire's Bite and Escaped Null do. Higher rarities are allowed more bleed. Akroma is allowed to exist because she is allowed to break the rules. But it's important to see that she is breaking the rules, and not setting some precedent. 

There have been 5 black (un)commons with lifelink in zendikar block and M12. This isn't just 'bleeding' anymore.
Also, Wizards is concerned very much about the now. So yes, something recent and mostly untested carries more weight than something from years back.
So, I find it extremely ironic that Akroma is chosen as the best designed Time Spiral card that apparently shouldn't exist and doesn't actually count for establishing design precedent.

I think it's been noted that (at the time of the GDS2), "modern design" went back to Alara block.  Sets earlier than that weren't considered precedent, especially ones before Lorwyn.

Time Spiral is certainly a terrible block to use as precedent for anything; color pie violations were everywhere.  I mean, Psionic Blast?

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...