03/12/2012 MM: "Topical Blend #4, Part 2"

43 posts / 0 new
Last post

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

"[landfall] mattered in every game but always in different ways"


What? I guess if you ignore zendikar limited and 95% of the decks that played landfall cards in standard I guess you could come to this conclusion.

The implementation of landfall was pretty abysmal. These articles keep on talking about it like it was some kind of brilliant mechanic, but the best thing you could figure out to do with it was to use it to print some aggressive 1 and 2 drops with landfall standing in for "~ cannot block"
I like part 2 even better than part 1, and I liked part 1 a lot. I feel like there was more description of the magic show which made the "turn" to the magic cards more compelling. One thing though - Contagion Clasp is obviously a much better design than Blightsteel Colossus, and I'm actually a fan of the one-hit one-kill infectious robot monster. Thing is, proliferate is just such a great mechanic that a "best of" design column should take the chance to pay tribute to it.

Of this week's cards, I think Lotus Cobra is actually the best design. It is elegant and powerful, fun to play, and just feels right.

One of the cards, Endless Ranks of the Dead, is a card I consider a design win but a slight development fumble. The problem is that it feels a bit weak once you play with it, a little bit slow to ramp up. Even if you drop a zombie on 1, 2, and 3, you then spend 4 and are rewarded with a single zombie a turn later...of course the dream obviously involves several turns, but I think that the card would be more fun if it cost more mana but made more zombies. If it cost 5, could it make X instead of "half X, rounded down" perhaps? In real games of all types, there is usually enough removal that half X rounded down is smaller than you would hope.

In other words, the idea of the enchantment is so great that I think it would deliver on its premise better as a more expensive but bigger effect. This is a development issue, not a design issue though.
Haha! I guessed Lotus Cobra! And I totally agree with it. Landfall (and the entire Zendikar block) remains my favorite design in Magic history. It's clean and simple, yet incredibly versatile. Missed on Progenitus, though. I originally thought it would be Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker for Shards block, though Proggy is really the better choice now that I think of it.

The one thing I disagree with is Figure of Destiny. It's a good card, and it spawned the Level Up mechanic (another great part about Zendikar block), but it's not a great design by itself. I find it to be rather klunky, wordy, and hard to keep track of. My pick for Shadowmoor block would be Helix Pinnacle. While other "you win" cards such as Battle of Wits and Barren Glory are somewhat fragile and hard to pull off consistently, Helix Pinnacle feels like you've always got a fighting chance. They can't destroy it except by mass enchantment removal (and who runs that anyway?) and you're constantly working towards your goal in a way that lets you measure your progress. Helix Pinnacle certainly isn't as good as Figure of Destiny, but it's better designed IMO. I'd also give a very honorable mention to Mana Reflection, Painter's Servant, and Wakethrasher (comboliscious).
I didn't realize anybody was mad about Blightsteel Colossus. The only reaction I remember is, "do want, do want, do want." I've heard many stories of players winning with it. I've heard many stories as well of people fighting it off. It's story-inducing, not complaint-inducing.
Lotus Cobra. All my hate... Utility Mythic rares. *shudders* 

I didn't realize anybody was mad about Blightsteel Colossus. The only reaction I remember is, "do want, do want, do want." I've heard many stories of players winning with it. I've heard many stories as well of people fighting it off. It's story-inducing, not complaint-inducing.


I agree. So many times around the kitchen were great times because I played a Blightsteel and then someone copied it and then someone else copied it and we didn't know what to do next. Ah Blightsteel Colossus. All of my love. Timmy Mythic rares. *smiles fondly*
Much more interesting to me than part one. With the older sets I found myself nodding in approval at the choices, but these were more surprising to me.

I felt Landfall was a huge failure as a mechanic. The innate problem that it's better on attack than defence (because land drops always happen on your own turn) is something that needed solving. That the set shipped with it unsolved diminished the enjoyment of both Zendikar and Worldwake for many players.

Proliferate was indeed a great idea, but I don't think its deployment was handled correctly at the Limited/Casual level. It wasn't really possible to draft a deck that cared about proliferate because too many of the effects were 1-shot or outside Common. That's a shame, because when first reading the spoiler before playing with the set I was quite excited by the possibility of underpowered artifacts with charge counters that became great if you had enough profilerate. And this did happen, but very seldom and not usually in a way that mattered.
I didn't realize anybody was mad about Blightsteel Colossus. The only reaction I remember is, "do want, do want, do want." I've heard many stories of players winning with it. I've heard many stories as well of people fighting it off. It's story-inducing, not complaint-inducing.



It's the second creature ever that can kill in one hit, but Phage the Untouchable couldn't be cheated into play and was easier chumped. New things always create fear and anger. 

I like my games and stories to be back-and-forth struggles, played out over multiple turns. Some of the fatties of late, like the collossi and the eldrazi are just too swingy for my tastes. 

It's the second creature ever that can kill in one hit, but Phage the Untouchable couldn't be cheated into play and was easier chumped. . 



*Ahem* Dark Depths
At one point in time my two favorite cards ever were Figure of Destiny and Progenitus so its nice to see I'm not alone

Yech, Mark's still calling DFCs a home run? No, no, no, no, no... I agree with Godavari that Figure of Destiny itself is a pretty clunky design. It's certainly good to stretch and try things, but Shadowmoor block had loads of really nifty cards that pulled together two or three elements from the interlocking mechanical web; to choose a card with so little mechanical synergy with its block seems to miss the point of Shadowmoor to me.


I also agree with sulfuricmage that Endless Ranks of the Dead is very unimpressive. It doesn't feel like "an army massing outside the room", it feels like "a card that sits there doing nothing at all". Zombie decks have far more explosive and terrifying things to do than cast this enchantment (thanks partly to the excesses of Onslaught block like Noxious Ghoul). Now ERotD has gorgeous art which evokes a feeling very well, but I don't think that feeling is backed up by the mechanics.


Contagion Clasp and proliferate definitely are the home runs from Scars of Mirrodin block to me. BSC is a big dumb fatty. I'll agree that Progenitus was definitely something special, but BSC is just another iteration of "big tramply hard-to-solve artifact creature" like Inkwell Leviathan. I agree with TobyornotToby (as seems to be happening a lot recently) that the best games are back-and-forth struggles over several turns. Rares shouldn't "just win" like BSC does; they ought to swing the game in your favour, but not be so swingy that the opponent can't do anything.


It's the second creature ever that can kill in one hit, but Phage the Untouchable couldn't be cheated into play and was easier chumped. . 



*Ahem* Dark Depths



*Ahem* Shivan Dragon

It's the second creature ever that can kill in one hit, but Phage the Untouchable couldn't be cheated into play and was easier chumped. . 



*Ahem* Dark Depths



*Ahem* Shivan Dragon



*Ahem* eh....nevermind. The Marit Lage token kills without pumping though, expensive to non-cheat into play though it might be.
[C]Lotus Cobra[/C] would be one of my picks for worst. I might hate it less if it hadn't been mythic, but I don't think so. It's too explosive too quickly.

I don't mind big I Win Everything Evarz (though I do think Wizards are going too far in that direction.) I do mind it when it's cheap enough to facilitate I Am The Hugely Winnyfaced One on turn three in Standard.

Playing against Cobra is just "Crap, I didn't draw my removal spell on turn one or two. Oh look, you have a Titan now. GG, but it really isn't."

I don't mind that nonsense much in something other than Standard, but it made Standard very un-fun. Power's great, but it should come with fun. Not with absurd mythics that make the whole game dependent on "Where's my Bolt?"

It's the second creature ever that can kill in one hit, but Phage the Untouchable couldn't be cheated into play and was easier chumped. . 



*Ahem* Dark Depths



*Ahem* Shivan Dragon



*Ahem* eh....nevermind. The Marit Lage token kills without pumping though, expensive to non-cheat into play though it might be.



But still you either have to combo it with another card or pump a lot of mana into it to make it do its thing. Say you restart the game with Karn Liberated that has only 1 card exiled. If that card is Blightsteel Colossus or Phage the Untouchable, you threaten a T1 kill. If that card is Dark Depths or Shivan Dragon, not so much.

EDIT: in case of Phage it certainly is a T1 kill, forgot they are put onto the battlefield, rather than starting there like leylines, so it's not the best hypothetical example. 

Your examples do show that Blightsteel isn't *that* big a leap, so a lot of those worries were unfounded (like a lot of other things that threaten to kill magic). It's a personal preference thing, just like infinite combos or land destruction in casual.  

It's just that with an ever-expanding card pool, the boundaries will continue to be pushed. Before Akroma, Angel of Wrath, casual decks had pretty tame endgames compared to all the goods we have since. 
I didn't realize anybody was mad about Blightsteel Colossus. The only reaction I remember is, "do want, do want, do want." I've heard many stories of players winning with it. I've heard many stories as well of people fighting it off. It's story-inducing, not complaint-inducing.




The possible outcomes from this card are very few. Once you've played those handful of games, every other one is just a carbon-copy repeat. How exciting is casting this thing and winning for the 10 time? How exciting is it to swords/path one for the 10th time? It is all the same. If it gets killed, it is a minor footnote in the story of a game. If it doesn't, then it ends a game in a boring way that might have otherwise been an exciting ending. Thus, colossus steals both an interesting story and the time it took to play a boring game of Magic. If you happened to already be bored of this same thing happening with Emrakul, it reduced the iterations of colossus that were interesting to one time at best. 'Oh look, the specific answer card is different, but outcomes are exactly the same'. We just played a game of 'Can you cast a very specific answer right now?'

When people tell stories of colossus, they complain about how the card is bad for Magic if they feel it robbed them of that amount of time they actually got to play Magic. These complaints happen for lots of cards where the possible outcomes are extremely small and one of the outcomes is the game immediately ends. It basically paints people into a corner of losing the same way every time, or playing the same answers and being ready to deploy them every game. 

The entire infect mechanic has a fairly narrow range of games it can produce. Your range of games spans: 'do 10 infect damage all through combat' to 'do a poison damage to my opponent in a non-combat method and proliferate 9 times'. With colossus, you further reduce that iteration down to attack once. The infect overrun is very cheesy, but the game usually lasted a little longer because tinker and bribery don't factor in. There are opportunities to use a variety of methods to keep it from ever being effective. It can end a game very quickly, but there is some variety beyond one-shot the robot.       

I didn't realize anybody was mad about Blightsteel Colossus. The only reaction I remember is, "do want, do want, do want." I've heard many stories of players winning with it. I've heard many stories as well of people fighting it off. It's story-inducing, not complaint-inducing.


It tends to be pretty hated in EDH, since the most common way it gets played is, "You don't have any blockers? Okay, Blightsteel, equip Greaves, kill you, have fun sitting over there while the other three of us finish the game." That being said, there are many cards that are less fun than Blightsteel in EDH, and I don't actually consider it unfun in normal Magic, so I don't really have a problem with it overall. Compared to the stupid fatties from the previous block, it's far less offensive.

I did have a problem, though, with Maro's attempts to justify printing Blightsteel. He kept saying you should make cards people love even if other people hate them, which pretty blatantly flies in the face of Wizards nerfing countermagic and other things that are "unfun".
blah blah metal lyrics
I did have a problem, though, with Maro's attempts to justify printing Blightsteel. He kept saying you should make cards people love even if other people hate them, which pretty blatantly flies in the face of Wizards nerfing countermagic and other things that are "unfun".



Last time I checked, countermagic is still being made every set =p
Last time I checked, countermagic is still being made every set =p

Too bad counterspells are in pretty much the same sad state burn was in around 2004.

Last time I checked, countermagic is still being made every set =p

Too bad counterspells are in pretty much the same sad state burn was in around 2004.




Too bad for some, of great rejoice for others. 
Figure of Destiny -- oh, eh sure, I guess so; didn't realize we were counting shadowmoor as a seperate block.

Progenitus -- well I guessed what card it would be before it was previewed just based on the description, so I suppose that's fair.

Lotus Cobra -- I have mixed emotions about this card just because...why is a utility creature that every deck wants (from the ramp deck to the aggressive deck) a mythic rare.  I'll agree it was an interesting design, but when people point to mis-steps about mythic rarity, Lotus Cobra is always, always the first card they point at.

 Blightsteel Colossus -- Yawn, give me Phyrexian Obliterator.  Or...damn near any Preator from new phyrexia (Ok, not Vorniclex, but...Elesh Norn, Jin Gitaxis, etc).  Or Myr Battlesphere.  And that's just pointing at big creatures, not even considering Contagion Clasp.  I dunno, I shruged and granted you Progenitus because it really was new, but Blightsteel Colossus...at least from the perspective of a Johnny/Spike was "ok, so this swaps in for a tinker target in some eternal decks, and that's it".  It's not like we were going to hardcast it or Summoning Trap it--we had Eldrazi (which were much more interesting design) for that.

Endless Ranks of the Dead -- First card where I completely forgot it existed (other than the art, which is gorgeous, I remember the art).  At first I thought you were showing Army of the Damned (and the fact that I remembered the more straightforward design first is weird; not really like me).  To be honest, I'm scratching my head at this one regardless.  There was this showcase mechanic in Innistrad, maybe you remember it, it's called flip cards--were none of them good enough?  Or, y'know, the other showcase of finally using the word human on cards.  Like Zombie Apocalypse with the phrase "destroy all humans".

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.

Last time I checked, countermagic is still being made every set =p

Too bad counterspells are in pretty much the same sad state burn was in around 2004.

Mana Leak, Dissipate and Snapcaster Mage all see a lot of Standard play, and the solid instant-speed card draw & removal even allow viable "draw-go" decks.
I notice that MaRo thinks that "design" here tends to involve "doing thigns that haven't been done before." I did not realize that merely pushing your foot into new territory was what qualifies as "great design". Many of these "designs" are not very interactive, or indeed very intuitive constructions. Take Akroma: She was designed to just have everything lumped in together -- how interactive is protection? Not at all. That's one reasons the Circles aren't in the Core Set anymore. If your idea of creature big finisher creatures that are literally unsolvable or completely uninteractive, then then "design" must seem incredible! Moreover, they are all rares or mythics, so I tend to thing Mark is ignoring the quality of design under a constraint while doing NEW things, in the lower rarities, places where cards can shine without having to be broken.

For the original Mirrodin block, he chose a card that doesn't nothing by itself but prohibit your opponent from winning. It enabled going down below 1 life and surviving, but by itself was not unremovable. The same could not be said of Darksteel Colossus, which has a small subset of cards that can get rid of it, and cannot be defeated in combat, in block. Conversely, the Angel is an example of a card that attempts to tread in areas where the player sets up a less interactive board state: I just won't block anything you swing at me with, and I'll start hitting YOU. Your Darksteel Reactor? Useless. Door to Nothingness? You wasted your door for nothing! Such a card seems to say: "Go somewhere else, just quit; you are not wanted here." If your opponent can't kill it permanently, the Angel just kept coming and coming back: players would try to find ways to keep the Angel around because it stopped your opponent from being able to do anything with HIS deck. FUN!!! Equipment, on the other hand, offered a very open-ended aspect to the game, and due to its prevalence in all later sets, represents a broader, farther-reaching effect than the Angel does, something that says GOOD design worked. In which case, the mechanic of equipment represents the best designed suite of cards, although I'd be hard-pressed to find where just one of them represents a pinnacle of design from many angles.

Kamigawa had a lot of odd, weird cards in the various rarities, some of which were obsenely broken no matter how you looked at them, and Kiki-Jiki is one of them. Why is this ridiculously simple creature being chosen? Mark likes things that make copies, and so I tend to think he's drawn to token makers and duplicators. At least this card required him to THINK about building your own deck, since Kiki can only copy YOUR creatures; the level of interaction increases, and Kiki becomes only as good as your other creatures ... or your steal effects. So Kiki by itself at least does nothing, but it can do what it needs to as soon as you plop it down, and it can get degenerate pretty quickly. So intuitively, the card wants the worst [for your opponent], best [for you] cards, and all ready to go when you drop it. In many ways, this fills a compulsive need to Johnny, but I tend not to think it represents GOOD design. The degeneracy could have been solved somewhat by losing haste, which makes it TOO good. Choice of Damnations, on the other hand, is a thinker's card: You are forced to make a decision (choosing a number) while your opponent has to then make a decision based on that number, and the wrong number and the wrong choice can lead to a game loss, for you. The card does not necessarily mean you win, and makes for a level of interaction that pleases me. For the less "power," the hot potato of doom Measure of Wickedness is my pick for best-designed card, especially but not just because it was designed by Mark Gottlieb. Sometimes design is about knowing when to push the interactivity of the card.

Some of Mark's picks are cards that he personally made, and don't actually reflect the unique flavor or structure of the block in which they are chosen, especially cards that are simplistic. Doubling Season, like Kiki, asks you to use other cards. It actually made little impact until later sets, largerly because Rav could use it, but not well. Then it starts working with broader formats, and is an expensive card in Commander/EDH largely because of this interaction (it gets every Planeswalker to ultimate immediately, no waiting). Contrarily, Rav's BEST designed card, in my opinion, was Watchwolf, and it's VANILLA. Sometimes, design is about knowing when simplicity is the better part of valor.

You really picked a REPRINT for Time Spiral? Akroma was an annoying reanimation target, because it is also one of the primary reanimation targets of choice these days, along with using Tooth and Nail to fetch it. This doesn't scream good design, this screams "Throw me at the guys who CANNOT solve me!" You COULD have picked innovative design, such as Ixidron or any one of the wonky new things you made in Future Sight. Even Tarmogoyf, both the threat and the solution, qualifies as better deisgn, because it was both innovative and simplistic at the same time. TSP block had a lot of innovation and unique space going for it, involving the creation of new concepts, the development of Cancel to replace Counterspell, and a host of "fixes" for older cards. Some of the best deisgnd cards, however, were lands: Horizon Canopy and River of Tears, lands that could do things only if you had that other thing to help them out: the first cycled from play, the second required you to get other lands (so HARD in :U::B:!).

There's not much that I can say about Doran, the Seige Tower: Its ability does not actually reflect its colors, merely that its colors reflect its type and the setting. The ability was innovative in that it twisted the known concept of damage dealing by creatures simplistically. Countryside Crusher, on the other hand, dealt with a known and did something with it, without having to invert a constant. It took a resource -- your library -- and made use of it in a way that cannot necessarily be controlled, and one in which it became favorable to increase land count to make use of. How interesting was that?! Sometimes, good design isn't about trying something new, but working with what you got ... in a new way.

I also tend to think Shadowmoor, like many others, is part of Lorwyn Block, as it seems you agree when you fail to separate Zendikar and Rise of the Eldrazi. However .... I am curious why MaRo picked Figure of Destiny. As he wrote here, FoD suffers from two problems, and another has been pointed out elsewhere: 1, textiness -- there's too much of it; 2, complexity -- there's too much of it; 3, memory issues -- there's no markers to indicate changes. In praise of Brian Tinsman, MaRo gushes over FoD ... but largely because what he's selling is how much it led into "levellers": FoD deson't stand well as design on its own, but as the antecedent to the Level up mechanic. How is this "good design" again? As I note upwards, Lorwyn Block kinda tops out with Countryside Crusher on a range of features, including being less complex, dealing with known values, being interactive, and so forth, while still being novel.

Alara Block had a LOT of innovative deisgn, especially in the form of the arc cards in the first set and the variety of hybrid multicolor cards in the last. Each of these did something fun to the game, such as Trace of Abundance, in how they created interactivity, or disabled it -- you could protect your value land while also getting a benefit from the card! Progenitus lacks interactivity. It has NONE. It also requires knowledge that the ability printed on the card has rules baggage, as you must actually read the rules to know what it does: "everything" is not a value in the game's terms. It's instructive, though, that Proggy asked people to look at the rules, even if they didn't need to. But the card by itself simply does nothing but provoke a "sweep, or die" condition, and this is not good design. It doesn't promote playing WITH someone, instead it forces playing AT them. Alara did stuff with several other cards that can be considered great design in the multicolor front, but the best card, I think, was Path to Exile, because it actually raised the question of whether you could Path your OWN creature to get a land drop, and whether you should Path THEIRS and accellerate them. It was removal, but also a save spell in some cases, and the drawback had a novel interaction with it; you could even help an allied player in multiplayer with it, accellerate THEM. Sometimes, the best design is avoiding states where your opponents can't actually play with you.

My feelings on Zendikar Block are mixed: I stopped playing for two years starting with Zendikar, but largeloy due to M10. Thus, I have few things to say. Lotus Cobra seems fine, but its rarity made it an obvioyus cashgrab on Wizards' part, and I think that was a failure of design for the sake of design, but rather rarity for the sake of cash. There is no reason this card could not have been like Bloom Tender or Bird of Paradise and been rare for a valued cheap-costing mana creature. This is especially significant because given the right circumstances, those other creatures can produce MORE mana than the cobra. On top of this, it is also aggressively built, and perhaps that too was a failure. MaRo also spent very little time talking about how the Cobra fulfills his argument from design -- "doing something very well." Landfall is VERY open ended, because it actually does nothing ... how "well" can landfall be? Avenger of Zendikar is an example of a landfall card that is by itself sufficient, not requiring other cards to work (the Cobra's mana goes nowhere without a spell to cast, but the Avenger pumps his tokens nonetheless), and I wonder if this makes it better as a design, rather than just cash-grabbing -- a mythic worth the rarity.

I am aghast, but perhaps not surprised, that MaRo's love of infect influenced so cleanly his best pick for Scars of Mirrodin, the horrible and flat out noninteractive Blightsteel Colossus. Do you think it is a good thing that Darksteel Colossus dies itself to this thing? I am not a fan of infect, and given that the designers decided that infect would have no solution despite its prevalence, feel that it is an example of BAD design. Formats given a value towards winning, such as equipment or planeswalkers, need to have solutions towards them. Depriving players of solutions means that you make the concept deliberately unbalanced. The only solution then is to use typical effects -- coutnermagic, removal, sweepers, discard -- to control the presence of these things. Wither, when introduced, gave you solutions to it, as well as ways to mitigate the effects: Heartmender. The thing is, there is little removal that can take out a Colossus, especially in block when there are only two cards, and one of them -- Dispatch and Into the Core ... causing them to sac a creature requires the board state to be "just right." Whenever you introduce a mechanic, you need to care about it both positively and negatively, and this mechanic (and this card) have little to no antithesis in the block. This was sensible for the story -- because you were setting up for a failure -- but not for the game itself -- in which you were setting up for a failure. The "second best" pick is a BETTER example of design, but is itself parasitic with the theme of the block itself. There is no innovation, resource control, or new thing going on here: the Colossus is a reprint with a new ability, and that is all, and is a failure of design so far that, like Akroma, you essentially picked a reprint, but +1'd it. BAD. Very little about the set is actually interesting from a design standpoint, aside from taking two concepts (artifacts and counters) and running with them; I'd like to think the Exarch cycle is a very, very nice example of balance between two decisions -- one good for you, one bad for them -- and would nominate the Black, Red and Green Exarchs as the best designs of the set. Good design should be about doing something at least somewhat novel, not copying something done before.

Innistrad Block is not over, so I won't list anything yet, and nor should MaRo have (he has the benefit of knowing what's in the next set, we don't). It does not surprise me one bit that it is either 1, a token maker; 2, a rare; or 3, parasitic to the set it is in, which seems to cover pretty much everything else in it. There are a lot of interesting and very well done designs, but I think endless Ranks does not climb up that wall very high.

I have an idea, MaRo: How about giving the READERS a chance to vote on cards, giving criteria for each aspect of design -- innovation, uniqueness, awesomeness, impact, effectiveness, etc. -- and see which cards hit all the buttons? Maybe THOSE cards will be the "best designed" cards. This might actually remove some of the subjectiveness of your choices from the list.
"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)
Last time I checked, countermagic is still being made every set =p

Too bad counterspells are in pretty much the same sad state burn was in around 2004.

Too bad for some, of great rejoice for others. 


Which is the whole point. The claim was that you should do things people love even if other people hate them. A lot of people enjoy countermagic.

The point wasn't countermagic specifically anyway, it was the general category of things Wizards considers "unfun" (and note that while I disagree on countermagic, there are plenty of other things I'd agree with them on there). "Unfun" really means "people hate it", and yet lots of interesting things are killed for being unfun even though Maro claims people hating something doesn't mean you shouldn't make it.
blah blah metal lyrics
"[landfall] mattered in every game but always in different ways"

 
What? I guess if you ignore zendikar limited and 95% of the decks that played landfall cards in standard I guess you could come to this conclusion. 

The implementation of landfall was pretty abysmal. These articles keep on talking about it like it was some kind of brilliant mechanic, but the best thing you could figure out to do with it was to use it to print some aggressive 1 and 2 drops with landfall standing in for "~ cannot block"


I felt Landfall was a huge failure as a mechanic. The innate problem that it's better on attack than defence (because land drops always happen on your own turn) is something that needed solving. That the set shipped with it unsolved diminished the enjoyment of both Zendikar and Worldwake for many players.


Zendikar had development issues. Both it and the previous block pushed things too hard. But if you aren't playing blazing-fast Stepped Lynx/Plated Geopede, the rest of the cards are pretty cool. It didn't help either that things were costed as though there weren't fetch lands in the block.
Also, Harrow, Frontier Guide, Walking Atlas and Arid Mesa's cycle are ways to trigger landfall on your opponents' turns. I may be missing some but those I remember at least. Of course, the fact that attacking a 2/3 is way better than merely hinting you could block with one (because nobody is attacking into it if it's bad) while you hold your lands on hand just for a minor trigger is a problem. But I don't mind it being a "sorcery-time"-only mechanic.


Lotus Cobra. All my hate... Utility Mythic rares. *shudders*

The Cobra is mostly "just good", but it has some degenerate plays with fetch lands. If you take away the Spike-ness, though, those moments of "Oh, I cast my six-drop on turn three" are pretty mythic.
 

I agree with Godavari that Figure of Destiny itself is a pretty clunky design. It's certainly good to stretch and try things, but Shadowmoor block had loads of really nifty cards that pulled together two or three elements from the interlocking mechanical web; to choose a card with so little mechanical synergy with its block seems to miss the point of Shadowmoor to me.


I don't think it's clunkier than your average rare. Having it check types instead of putting counters is cleaner than what most people would come up with (and it does add a relation although minor with Lorwyn block). It has enough "stages" that it matters, and that its final form is splashy enough without even having four abilities or micro text.

Proliferate was indeed a great idea, but I don't think its deployment was handled correctly at the Limited/Casual level. It wasn't really possible to draft a deck that cared about proliferate because too many of the effects were 1-shot or outside Common. That's a shame, because when first reading the spoiler before playing with the set I was quite excited by the possibility of underpowered artifacts with charge counters that became great if you had enough profilerate. And this did happen, but very seldom and not usually in a way that mattered.


I don't think it was ever the point of having you work around proliferate. Sure, design had more proliferate cards (which was certainly dangerous), so they cut a lot (and only left Steady Progression in common). But the quality was fine. As the block progressed, the original idea came up more often (more one-shot common proliferate instead of repetable in higher rarities). So it's certainly possible to have a few charge-counter artifacts and say "Hey, now this Grim Affliction is better.", but if you could reliably draft that it would mean there would be too much proliferate. There are a few, but most cards with proliferate don't put counters, so they would be worse.
Which is the whole point. The claim was that you should do things people love even if other people hate them. A lot of people enjoy countermagic.



And so Wizards keeps printing counterspells. Which was the whole point. 

Whether they're making counterspells good or not is a wholly different subject, and a development issue rather than a design issue, so not something MaRo is talking about.

In the end, printing Blightsteel Colossus works because the people who love it increase sales more than the people who hate it decrease sales. With strong countermagic, it's the other way around.

The point wasn't countermagic specifically anyway, it was the general category of things Wizards considers "unfun" (and note that while I disagree on countermagic, there are plenty of other things I'd agree with them on there). "Unfun" really means "people hate it", and yet lots of interesting things are killed for being unfun even though Maro claims people hating something doesn't mean you shouldn't make it.



But how many of those things are actually 'not made' entirely? Complex cards. Downside mechanics. Griefer cards. A lot of things have been downplayed by Wizards over the years, but they have never disappeared entirely. They have been adjusted in frequency, power level, rarity, etc. 
Doran I absolutely agree with. My reasons are different though: It is good design because it rewrites a core rule of the game without invoking any confusion. 
 
Gotta echo the "Figure of Destiny is too complicated" at least when it comes to gameplay. It's simply unpleasant to have an opponent ask what it does. Also, "what is it now" isn't something that the mechanics inherently answer. "What is it now?" is the cursed question of the levelers, this one included. 

Good design yields good communication during a game.


My pick for SHA would probably be Puncture Bolt or Puncture Blast. Both make burn an interactive combat trick mechanic and give red reach against big monsters. It truly demonstrated the awesome power of wither. (As did Rust Razor Butcher.)

It's interesting to see the discussion on Blightsteel Colossus, and I agree with the people who say that cards that just end the game immediately if not answered aren't fun; however, I have a different reason for thinking Mark should have chosen another card in that position. The point of this list was the best designed cards. Taking an existing card and adding a keyword to it doesn't seem like good design to me. It's pretty bland and uninspired. Proliferate was a much better design, as it simultaneously did something new and, more importantly, did something that people wanted to do and that made the game more fun. Contagion Clasp should have gotten the nod (especially considering it'd mean that he didn't exclusively stick to rares and, shudder, mythics).
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/c6f9e416e5e0e1f0a1e5c42b0c7b3e88.jpg?v=90000)

Zendikar had development issues. Both it and the previous block pushed things too hard. But if you aren't playing blazing-fast Stepped Lynx/Plated Geopede, the rest of the cards are pretty cool. It didn't help either that things were costed as though there weren't fetch lands in the block.
Also, Harrow, Frontier Guide, Walking Atlas and Arid Mesa's cycle are ways to trigger landfall on your opponents' turns. I may be missing some but those I remember at least. Of course, the fact that attacking a 2/3 is way better than merely hinting you could block with one (because nobody is attacking into it if it's bad) while you hold your lands on hand just for a minor trigger is a problem. But I don't mind it being a "sorcery-time"-only mechanic.


I agree that the "sorcery-timeness" was no the problem. But when you fill your set with commons like adventuring gear, plated geopede, steppe lynx, surakar marauder, etc. its pretty hard to argue that the mechanic played differently every game. Or was something other then a fancy way to say "attacks each turn if able". I'm sure a lot of the fault lies with development, but it seems like every other week Maro is claiming landfall revolutionized the way we played the game, or that every card was super interesting and played completely differently every game flies in the face of how the mechanic played in any real format. Entirely ignoring how the mechanic played in real life doesn't seem like the greatest metric for evaluating the design of a mechanic. Its hard to call a mechanic a sucess when many of the enablers weren't even playable in limited decks with a lot of landfall cards.
I like how there are a lot of people who feel that Maro is wrong just because they disagree with him.

I mean, it's not like he has access to employee-only information about the marketing and statistics of the aggregate players' opinions through something called the "Godbook", but hey our individual opinions matter much more than the guy whose actually working on these things.

And also if we type our criticisms our one by one in greater length, they're even more correct, of course.
While I agree that people routinely underestimate how difficult it is to create MTG cards, I think Maro is inviting some friendly debate by declaring that these are the best designs. It's not "My Favorite Designs" or "Cards that Were Measurable Successes in Marketing". 

His choice of Blightsteel he admits is contraversial. Without a doubt, I believe that Blightsteel and Inkmoth were excellent choices for evoking the corruption of Mirrodin.  But best design? 

It is my opinion that Infect is more a testament to the brilliance of Wither rather than an standalone success. To be sure, yes it was the absolute best way to bring back poison. But... Would a majority of players been happier if Wither had just returned instead?

Was there a way to make Infect more inclusive? Perhaps a conjoining of Frenzy and Wither. You have the essence of Infect, but it is less linear. When you get down to deckbuilding, doesn't Infect seem sorta parasitic?

Now compare Infect to Proliferate. I think almost everyone can get behind Proliferate. THAT is a brilliant design.  And yes, I know it is intended to bolster Infect. But its a testimony to the flexibility of Proliferate that it enhances an arguably "shoehorn poison" mechanic.   
Now compare Infect to Proliferate. I think almost everyone can get behind Proliferate. THAT is a brilliant design.  And yes, I know it is intended to bolster Infect. But its a testimony to the flexibility of Proliferate that it enhances an arguably "shoehorn poison" mechanic.   



Well there is a difference here between linear and modular mechanics. I think modular mechanics are by definition more brilliant on avarage. But linear mechanics still have a very large fanbase. 

Well there is a difference here between linear and modular mechanics. I think modular mechanics are by definition more brilliant on avarage. But linear mechanics still have a very large fanbase. 



Linear is a matter of degree. Infect stands out as particularly volatile because it is laden with an alternate win con. 

It would be interesting to know how Infect rates in popularity compared to other linear mechanics like Slivers. Would it have been possible to accomplish something similar in a better way?

In the end, it isn't that Infect necessarily shouldn't have been made, but citing it as compelling trait on a best design is debatable.  Undoubtedly if Wither hadn't been invented first, it would have fared more respect.

Oddly enough, I actually think Infect was successful, but would not classify the end contribution to the game as a "great design". And unlike a host of other mechanics, I would not miss it if it did not return.
I agree that the "sorcery-timeness" was no the problem. But when you fill your set with commons like adventuring gear, plated geopede, steppe lynx, surakar marauder, etc. its pretty hard to argue that the mechanic played differently every game. Or was something other then a fancy way to say "attacks each turn if able". I'm sure a lot of the fault lies with development, but it seems like every other week Maro is claiming landfall revolutionized the way we played the game, or that every card was super interesting and played completely differently every game flies in the face of how the mechanic played in any real format. Entirely ignoring how the mechanic played in real life doesn't seem like the greatest metric for evaluating the design of a mechanic. Its hard to call a mechanic a sucess when many of the enablers weren't even playable in limited decks with a lot of landfall cards.


To be fair, design started with the simplest for commons. That was a +1/+1 pump for landfall (I'm assuming Steppe Lynx was 1/1 and Plated Geopede was 1/1 first strike). Higher rarity cards could do cooler things. That part was good.

It turns out that the set wanted more power and they wanted landfall to matter more, so they changed the pump to +2/+2 while other safer higher-cost cards that did cool things like Roil Elemental were a bit too scary for them. (Of course, remember Sower of Temptation -a card some regretted- was just rotating out.)

In the end, only a few were tournament-worthy. And Bloodghast is really an awesome design. But landfall isn't remembered as "What could things you can do at the time you play your land" as much as "I have to play about 14 fetch lands to win as fast as I can". I've played many landfall cards in more casual Constructed, and they're really cool. Not the most innovative, but "having benefits just for playing Magic" definitely has its appeal. So I'll go with "development had to care about some things that they didn't know were going to make design stand out less.

For the ones saying Blightsteel Colossus isn't innovative, I'm going to ask: "Hasn't design been not always coming up with revolutionary ideas, but sometimes merely directing the obvious to where it fits best?" Most people could design Blightsteel Colossus as a card, but fewer people would think Mirrodin Besieged needed something like it while designing it. There's still merit there.

About Figure of Destiny:

I think some of you are missing the point about FoD: It's a card that changes. What cards represent is a onetime look into a spell/effect/creature. It's a pretty impossible thing to do with a cardboard card. There have been a few attempts at trying to create an object that changes with Homarids, Threshhold and the Kamigawa Flip Cards being the most well known. When you have so much physical space devoted to what the card can do, you can only demonstrate change so much. This was a one of to try something different, not a cycle or a mechanic. When the set was first being spoiled, I was expecting to see something like this in all colors. However, I ended up being impressed it was only this one (and in the correct colors for this ability).

Is it as "elegant" as it could be? Maybe not, but it was an experiment. It works: it's powerful, and it's intuitive. You get the whole story of watching a card "grow and change" over time. The four stages (Starting with the 1/1) tell a complete story of a little warrior that worked his way to become the hero to his people. Can you name one other card that came before this that you felt a journey told with this card? If the card technology/terminology had existed when Alpha was around, this is the type of card that I would expect to see there. It's extremely flavorful, and it would lead me to believe that the success of this helped usher mixing flavor with function movement that we see with M10.

This card was pushed because WotC wanted to see if this concept could work. It did. Casual AND competitive crowds have enjoyed this card so much that you see it in decklists and the ultimate compliment of a powerful card: an inclusion in almost every Cube. Design isn't just breaking new ground (which is what Figure of Destiny did); it's about telling a story, conveying an idea well, and the execution of said idea. Figure of Destiny fits this perfectly.

It's just too bad its "inspired by" gimmick was intentionally kneecapped.
Will just toss in the belated "Yes, Blightsteel Colossus is lame" comment.  Okay, the idea to "corrupt" iconic Mirran critters is fine.  Darksteel Colossus is not a good choice within the realm of Magic to pick for this, because Infect just doesn't work on the card at all interestingly.  If DSC had originally been a 9/9, then *perhaps* I could see Blightsteel Colossus.  At least you get some reward for poisoning your opponent beforehand.  As is, it's a lame Phage variant that's easier to cheat into play and harder to interact with once it is in play.  The flavor of the mighty unstoppable infected crushing just doesn't work right.  (Of course, I would have added Phage-esque wordings to the Eldrazi too.  Emrakul came into play without paying his mana cost?  Take 15 damage and sacrifice 6 permenants, Lord of the Pit style.)
Oddly enough, I actually think Infect was successful, but would not classify the end contribution to the game as a "great design". And unlike a host of other mechanics, I would not miss it if it did not return.



Well what is 'great design'? A lot of MaRo's picks are 'great cards' but not special from a design perspective, so I really wonder what kind of criteria he used. 
I loved FoD.  I got me one in a pack just before I played my first Friday Night Magic.  I also happened to be playing a crappy tweaked version of the Premade Kithkin deck.  I had fun, got a great card I never got to use.  Still love me some FoD.

I really liked wither.  I like the idea of weakening critters if I cant kill em.  Infect was just annoying. 

Well what is 'great design'? A lot of MaRo's picks are 'great cards' but not special from a design perspective, so I really wonder what kind of criteria he used. 




From the article:   
"The result was My Pick For the Best Designed Card in Every Set (I limited myself to picking the best card from an entire block and just the last ten blocks in Modern) and magic (lowercase, as in "Hocus Pocus")."

;)  

Sign In to post comments