05/25/2012 LD: "Rolling Planes"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Damn you! Now that song's going to be playing through my head all night.


Hey! I feel like you stole my icon! :P

On the actual topic of the article, 60-card multiplayer is my preferred constructed format, so I feel that I am definitely in the target audience Zac is talking about.  Anyway, I am fine with new cards being printed in both Commander and Planechase, and the cards they've shown us are pretty cool.  The one thing I do think they need to look out for, however, both in these products and in normal sets, is printing cards that are broken in a multiplayer environment.  So, what do I mean by that?


In multiplayer, some people play decks that are better than others.  That's normal and expected; however, it's not good if those people reliably triumph.  Fortunately, there's a built-in balancing factor: the weaker players can gang up on the strong.  The additional cards, land drops, and life points available to a temporary alliance can overcome many disparities in deck quality, and ensure that everyone has a chance to win.  However, some recently printed cards (Consecrated Sphinx, Lighthouse Chronologist, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur, some of the other Praetors) give their caster more resources than all of his or her opponents put together, upsetting this balance.


Cards that can make a player stronger than the rest of the table combined are very appealing to the Spikier of casual players, so WotC, with their new push to design for casual players, has made an effort to include that sort of splashy cards in their sets.  After all, they're often not an issue in Standard at all - a card that draws you a card for each opponent is only a cantrip in a duel.  In multiplayer, however, they can break the format, particularly at weaker tables.  The current status of most such cards as Mythic Rare has slowed the onset of the problem, in my experience, as many casual players do not have easy access to them.  However, in the long run, continuing to print such cards may permanently damage the format.  Unlike Modern, Legacy, and Vintage, WotC will have no way to repair it if that happens.


Please be careful, Wizards!


P.S.  Of course, there are many combinations of cards that can dominate a table, or outright win the game.  They can be a problem too, but at least they are somewhat easier to deal with, either mechanically or socially.  What I am concerned about here are "one-card Archenemy"s such as those listed above.  They are a new phenomenon in Magic (Seedborn Muse and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir weren't on quite this power level), and a worrisome one.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the design of the plane of Golamo in the Great Designer Search 2!
My Decks
These are the decks I have assembled at the moment:
Tournament Decks (4)
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)
Casual Multiplayer Decks (50)
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...
This is just the natural progressing way of casual. I remember when Akroma, Angel of Wrath came out, and suddenly you could be dead in 4 turns! What a beast. Until then maybe the most scary thing was Spiritmonger? Then Darksteel Colossus, then Progenitus and now Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. And so it is with a lot of effects. Each year, casual Magic is slowly morphing into something different, to never return to what it once was.

As for the card, it seems interesting enough to try and build a RUG or Bant Living End deck for modern. Demonic Dread has always been ugly, as it required a target to be cast. The deck could go Bant with Ardent Plea, but Violent Outburst is still the best as an instant. With RUG, you could play the 2 best cascaders and ALL 16 1-mana cyclers from Reborn... at the cost of a horrible mana base =p
EDIT: OH WAIT these cards aren't legal in Modern... shame. 
Damn you! Now that song's going to be playing through my head all night.

I already did that when Phenomena were first revealed--it's out of my system by now.

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

I play Casual Multiplayer Magic exclusively, and never tournaments.  Frankly, I welcome these new cards with open arms, if only because I like to see what new designs the environment allows for.

And yeah, as fractal brought up, cards should be more prepared for multiplayer environments, lest things like Vorinclex or Consecrated Sphinx ruin them.  Do you guys playtest for multiplayer?  Even when making cards for core sets or expert level sets?  No offense meant.  I just want to know.

Frankly, what I want out of casual games are relaxed games with a relaxed pace, and where things like mass discard, mass land destruction, tribal decks and hard locks are tossed to the side.  But that's more a product of the playgroup then what cards are printed.
What exactly makes Shardless Agent green-blue? Unless cascade has been shifted to be only green and blue in the colour pie, I see no indication why this creature is these colours.

Also, the artifact creature part just seems tacked on. The only reason I can see for it being an artifact creature is a flavour one, to show that the shards really have merged.

These thoughts are all through seeing this card alone, not in whatever deck it's going to be presented in. Although that's exactly why this seems like a poor preview, especially given that the explanation for the card focused more on the fact that cascade is powerful, not why cascade is there.
I can't figure out why Shardless Agent is green-blue either.  Bant was the only shard that had access to green and blue, and Esper was the one with colored artifact creatures...but I can't think of any connection to any other shard.
What exactly makes Shardless Agent green-blue? Unless cascade has been shifted to be only green and blue in the colour pie, I see no indication why this creature is these colours.



My guess: green/blue are the ones getting captripping creatures the cheapest (Elvish Visionary, the new Strix, Wistful Selkie, Coiling Oracle so it's not so much the cascade, but "the efficient creature that gets you a new card" part that makes this those 2 colors.
But the new Strix is blue-black.  =P

So the idea is that, now that Alara is whole again, the shardless agent can do the etherium thing and the card drawing thing without being considered a heretic by Esper?  That's some pretty dense storytelling...
In my group, the rule is four or more players. Nobody wants to play with less.

What I enjoy most about multiplayer is the (typically) slow, high-power environment. I can create decks whose strategy is to build up some complicated engine or deep box of tricks. When that kind of challenge is replaced with 'play Emrakul, win', it loses a whole lot of its charm. Not that I begrudge other players using those cards (although Emrakul is perhaps a shade too strong), but they fall flat for me. I'm also not a fan of 'just make it hit everyone'. Putting four copies of Exsanguinate into every deck with Swamps isn't creative or interesting, but is almost always correct. I appreciate the effort being put into multiplayer design, and a lot of it is an improvement, but I feel like some of these solve-everything-in-one-card cards stifle deckbuilding.

Of course I'm sure Timmy enjoys getting to eight mana and playing Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, but it seems like R&D are under the impression that multiplayer is for Timmy and nobody else. Multiplayer is the format that allows creative decks the chance to perform complex tricks; it's a haven for Johnnies. I can only speak for my group, but not one of us plays these multiplayer bombs. Everyone already knows Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur will win the game, so what's the point in actually playing it? Again, I can only speak for myself and my group, but we favour high-powered but open-ended effects like Deadeye Navigator (see, it's not all criticism of modern design) over dreary monsters like Eldrazi. Recent sets have provided both, and that's good, but the proportions seem to be pretty lopsided.

I guess one issue may be that R&D are primarily Spikes. Multiplayer doesn't attract a large proportion of Spikes; if you're in a four-player game, you can't afford to care too much about winning. In multiplayer, everyone wants their deck to do interesting things, and then hopefully win at the end of it. A lot of the multiplayer-focused cards that are being printed are just expensive bombs, which really isn't that exciting. There seems to be a trend of printing powerful, interesting combo enablers, then sticking them to creatures powerful enough to count as win conditions by themselves. All of the Praetors (bar maybe Urabrask the Hidden) are less interesting by virtue of being large creatures rather than enchantments. I find a game produces a more interesting narrative when the decks' dominance play isn't also their big finisher.
In my group, the rule is four or more players. Nobody wants to play with less.

Duels are rare in my group as well, although they and three-player games do occasionally happen, before the rest of the players show up.  However, they lack the inherent balancing of multiplayer, so you either have to carefully select evenly-matched decks, or else be prepared for a lot less fun.

What I enjoy most about multiplayer is the (typically) slow, high-power environment. I can create decks whose strategy is to build up some complicated engine or deep box of tricks. When that kind of challenge is replaced with 'play Emrakul, win', it loses a whole lot of its charm. Not that I begrudge other players using those cards (although Emrakul is perhaps a shade too strong), but they fall flat for me. I'm also not a fan of 'just make it hit everyone'. Putting four copies of Exsanguinate into every deck with Swamps isn't creative or interesting, but is almost always correct. I appreciate the effort being put into multiplayer design, and a lot of it is an improvement, but I feel like some of these solve-everything-in-one-card cards stifle deckbuilding.

Yeah, Wizards has realized that they can design for multiplayer, and they're starting to do so.  Unfortunately, they don't really have a good handle on how to balance it yet, and the development team is selected for tournament experience, not casual.  They need to remember that the most powerful cards are not necessarily the most fun; this is even more true for multiplayer than for duels.

To use an analogy, I'm concerned that we may be entering the Urza's Saga stage of multiplayer design.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the design of the plane of Golamo in the Great Designer Search 2!
My Decks
These are the decks I have assembled at the moment:
Tournament Decks (4)
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)
Casual Multiplayer Decks (50)
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...
Hey! I feel like you stole my icon! :P

On the actual topic of the article, 60-card multiplayer is my preferred constructed format, so I feel that I am definitely in the target audience Zac is talking about . . .


In multiplayer, some people play decks that are better than others.  That's normal and expected; however, it's not good if those people reliably triumph.  Fortunately, there's a built-in balancing factor: the weaker players can gang up on the strong.  The additional cards, land drops, and life points available to a temporary alliance can overcome many disparities in deck quality, and ensure that everyone has a chance to win.



I feel like the target audience, too, though more because Zac said something about, "Or do you just play whatever?" I'll play anything I can, and my only concern with Planechase is not being able to find other people who think it's interesting just because it's different. I wasn't around for the first one, so I don't know how easy it is to talk EDH groups into trying it for a day.
I like the part when he implied Edric isn't a borderline-broken commander
I like the part when he implied Edric isn't a borderline-broken commander



In multiplayer?
I don't care what you have to do. Insert random Foils in Planechases and Commander product.  No, It can not be done is not a good Answer.  Do it.