07/16/2012 MM: "Core Design, Part 2"

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

I quote
"The biggest design challenge red Planeswalkers do have is that red currently has the smallest amount of effects in its share of the color pie, giving us less to draw from when making distinct red Planeswalkers"


I have a bone to pick then with wizards. OK we have developed green and white and the color black even though black gets blurry in the face of R&D and blacks goals.  Blue at least in it counters is being sucessfully punished right now. How about taking some time and re-evaluating what red can do and what red should do and maybe branch out from there.

Back in the day red would get interesting cards, sometimes powerfull most times not, like any other color. It seems like currently there is no R&D member willing to go out there and define the things red needs and can and cannot do. Or if we have a theme like say Krenko, maybe not following up as hard as they should. Mogg flunkies was a slap in reds face, when as a reprint ember hauler would have worked just as well in that spot and been more relevant to goblins overall.

Or why not streach the creative muscles and start pulling from the teriary abilitys that red's had over the years. Yes reds the color of chaos, and impuse but its also the color of warriors, and honor among the powerfull. We dont NEED another act of treason/mark of mutiny/act of aggresion/traitorous blood every single set. Please give me back char or make things like thunderous wrath if you have too, but let them be 1rrr, or 2rr so that we may have a chance to actually benifit from a new mechanic. I get that you design sets more around a sealed and limited format, but isnt standard the format that gets touted out more often?
"Some have said there is no subtlety to destruction. You know what? They're dead." —Jaya Ballard, task mage
You say there are lots of rares that play poorly in limited, and that's obviously true.  But I wish you would constrain things a little.  Formats like AVR strongly demonstrate that too many constructed-viable rares damage the limited environment in a big way.

Red Planeswalkers - It's less that you don't make strong red planeswalkers and more that you don't make red planeswalkers that play well.  It really isn't about changing the numbers.  Try to be objective: has anyone ever built a deck with Tibalt that used it in either a fun or consistently effective way?  It wouldn't be better if it cost 1 mana; it would still be frustrating and disappointing half the time.

Master of the Pearl Trident is a card I really wonder about.  I mean, ok, so you don't make a goblin lord of the same quality, sure.  Goblins would gain a lot more from it.  But why not ANY other tribe?  There are dozens of interesting tribal cards out there just waiting to hit critical mass, but instead of pushing up any of them into the limelight with a strong tribal enabler, you take the best tribe and put it (even if only slightly) farther ahead.  And even that would be less than galling if it weren't for the fact that the deck has to be a monoblue aggro deck, of all things.  The decklist is basically a list of color pie mistakes, or rather, of the same color pie mistake being made over and over of thinking that blue is primary in little aggressive beaters.

Ffarqhuar @maro254 Why Thragtusk's second trigger is "leaves play," rather than dies (besides the obvious cross set synergy with AVR)?


My best guess is that the designers wanted to allow some other synergies with other cards in the set.




zombielynx21 @maro254 What was the thinking behind reprinting Ground Seal?



I wasn't involved in the process but I'm guessing it's something like this: "The previous block has a huge graveyard component. Just in case it gets out of hand, let's put a sideboard card in the following core set."



It's funny how clueless Maro is about the real reasons why Thragtusk is worded like that and Ground Seal got reprinted (to fight Vapor Snag and Snapcaster Mage, respectively).


Yeah he doesn't have to know, but working in R&D you'd think he'd be more aware of the competitve scene and development choices.

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192884403 wrote:
surely one can't say complex conditional passive language is bad grammar ?
"Because down deep under it all, flavor is secondary to good game play."

I'm glad to hear that, but...Gem of Becoming?  

It has about 5% the utility it would have if it said "three basic lands."  Plus the Traveler's Amulet - Armillary Sphere - Gem of Becoming progression would have been natural that way.  And you'd still be able to get all three colors of M13 hood ornament Nicol Bolas if you wanted to.  Instead we've got Anaba Bodyguard 2.0, if you grok.  

Clearly there are RtR duals that count as the basic land types, and I understand the shift from Rampant Growth to Farseek to accommodate this, but in the case of tournament-unplayables like Gem (and Ranger's Path), for the sake of Limited they 'should' have just gotten basic lands of the player's choice.  As printed they're practically useless in Limited and too expensive for Constructed.  
I think the better question is why Ranger's Path and not Skyshroud Claim?
"Because down deep under it all, flavor is secondary to good game play."

I'm glad to hear that, but...Gem of Becoming?  

It has about 5% the utility it would have if it said "three basic lands."  Plus the Traveler's Amulet - Armillary Sphere - Gem of Becoming progression would have been natural that way.  And you'd still be able to get all three colors of M13 hood ornament Nicol Bolas if you wanted to.  Instead we've got Anaba Bodyguard 2.0, if you grok.  


Clearly there are RtR duals that count as the basic land types, and I understand the shift from Rampant Growth to Farseek to accommodate this, but in the case of tournament-unplayables like Gem (and Ranger's Path), for the sake of Limited they 'should' have just gotten basic lands of the player's choice.  As printed they're practically useless in Limited and too expensive for Constructed.  




You do realize gem and ranger's don't say basic? They're fringe playable with typed duals in standard. Probably more likely the green one since it accelerates and 5color green is probably a deck at some point, but you never know how far control decks will need to go for card advantage and marginally improved draws.


And in limited i've seen people in 2/3 of gem's colors run a basic of the third type as a free roll.

I will probably quit magic if Zebra Unicorn is not in 2014 or at least Ravnica. (must have same flavor text. I sing that song to my girlfriend every night and day.)

What we found over time, though, was that randomness made it hard for us to make consistent red cards.


Took you a while to realize that, did it?



Red Planeswalkers - It's less that you don't make strong red planeswalkers and more that you don't make red planeswalkers that play well.  It really isn't about changing the numbers.  Try to be objective: has anyone ever built a deck with Tibalt that used it in either a fun or consistently effective way?  It wouldn't be better if it cost 1 mana; it would still be frustrating and disappointing half the time.



Tibalt was intentionally pushing the cmc barrier so he's not a great example.  The Chandras, especially 2.0, would have had potential at different costs. Also if they'd wanted to, Sarkhan Vol probably could have been red-only.  (Change the first ability to +1/+0.)  It would have been a fine card.


That said, Planeswalkers are inherently long-game cards and Red has never really found a place in the long game.  

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I think the better question is why Ranger's Path and not Skyshroud Claim?

I think it is because Skyshroud Claim defies the the expectation set by Rampant Growth and Primeval Titan. Players expect free lands to enter the battlefield tapped.
I will probably quit magic if Zebra Unicorn is not in 2014 or at least Ravnica. (must have same flavor text. I sing that song to my girlfriend every night and day.)

They probably will not reprint Zebra Unicorn, because it looks like it has lifelink, but it does not.
Tibalt was intentionally pushing the cmc barrier so he's not a great example.  The Chandras, especially 2.0, would have had potential at different costs. Also if they'd wanted to, Sarkhan Vol probably could have been red-only.  (Change the first ability to +1/+0.)  It would have been a fine card.

That said, Planeswalkers are inherently long-game cards and Red has never really found a place in the long game.  




Okay, I suppose you're right to some extent.  Chandra Ablaze would certainly have been fun to abuse if she had been costed reasonably.  But it's a case where making her cost less does more than just affect the power of the card, but it affects how it plays, as well.  You can't put an ability that's only worthwhile on cheap spells onto an expensive spell and then say "Oh, sure, we could have made it stronger by making it cheaper, but stronger doesn't equal good design."  Cheaper DOES mean good design when the ability actively hurts you relative to your opponent when you're running 6-mana spells in your deck.

Chandra 3.0 is just boring.  Her ultimate and +1's are incredibly tame compared to almost any other 4-mana 'walker.  Her second ability has potential, but it becomes obvious real quick that it's a 1-shot most of the time, which is also boring.  It's the same thing where tweaking the numbers wouldn't just make her stronger, but would actually make her more interesting - as is, she's basically just a worse Prodigal Pyromancer.  Chandra 3.0 isn't even a particularly good limited card, because the costs for using her as anything other than a bad Prodigal Pyromancer are typically not worth it or not achievable.
Chandra 3 would actually be really good if they were to reprint Stone Rain. She seems tailor-made for an LD deck: her second ability copies Stone Rains to make them more devastating, and her first ability kills the creatures that can be cast off one land.
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I think the better question is why Ranger's Path and not Skyshroud Claim?

I think it is because Skyshroud Claim defies the the expectation set by Rampant Growth and Primeval Titan. Players expect free lands to enter the battlefield tapped.

I disagree: Balance says lands you fetch out of your library should come into play untapped. It is quite likely that the cost of Skyshroud Claim is too low for its effect, and thus would be higher were it to grab nonbasics and put them on the field untapped. Recall a past article on the site discussing the costs of cards that are basically putting two copies of a single card together? Their powerlevel is pretty high, and only balanced by making them much more expensive than they normally would be: Innocent Blood -> Barter in Blood, and so forth. Skyshroud Claim is a double Nature's Lore/Three Visits, but may be too cheap.

"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)
I disagree: Balance says lands you fetch out of your library should come into play untapped. It is quite likely that the cost of Skyshroud Claim is too low for its effect, and thus would be higher were it to grab nonbasics and put them on the field untapped. Recall a past article on the site discussing the costs of cards that are basically putting two copies of a single card together? Their powerlevel is pretty high, and only balanced by making them much more expensive than they normally would be: Innocent Blood -> Barter in Blood, and so forth. Skyshroud Claim is a double Nature's Lore/Three Visits, but may be too cheap.

Whether or not adding the casting costs together is balanced or not depends entirely upon the effect.  If it's a cheap effect (1 mana), such that the main cost to using it is the card rather than the mana cost, then doubling the power and doubling the cost is likely to be overpowered.  For example, double Lightning Bolt or even double Shock would be ridiculous.  On the other hand, doubling the cost of a more expensive effect (4+ mana) is likely to make the card unplayable, up until the point where the card is so powerful that the cost is irrelevant, because people jump through hoops to avoid paying its mana cost (Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, I'm looking at you).

In the middle are effects that cost 2-3 mana; doubling or combining these may create effects that are strong (six damage to a target for would be pretty good) or weak (Rain of Salt was unplayable).
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I disagree: Balance says lands you fetch out of your library should come into play untapped. It is quite likely that the cost of Skyshroud Claim is too low for its effect, and thus would be higher were it to grab nonbasics and put them on the field untapped. Recall a past article on the site discussing the costs of cards that are basically putting two copies of a single card together? Their powerlevel is pretty high, and only balanced by making them much more expensive than they normally would be: Innocent Blood -> Barter in Blood, and so forth. Skyshroud Claim is a double Nature's Lore/Three Visits, but may be too cheap.

Whether or not adding the casting costs together is balanced or not depends entirely upon the effect.  If it's a cheap effect (1 mana), such that the main cost to using it is the card rather than the mana cost, then doubling the power and doubling the cost is likely to be overpowered.  For example, double Lightning Bolt or even double Shock would be ridiculous.  On the other hand, doubling the cost of a more expensive effect (4+ mana) is likely to make the card unplayable, up until the point where the card is so powerful that the cost is irrelevant, because people jump through hoops to avoid paying its mana cost (Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, I'm looking at you).

In the middle are effects that cost 2-3 mana; doubling or combining these may create effects that are strong (six damage to a target for would be pretty good) or weak (Rain of Salt was unplayable).


Yes, so instead of double Nature's Lore, you get double Rampant Growth; which is better than Rampant Growth + Lay of the Land, but it also gives more of a 2:1 to Modern and EDH, which enjoy these "double up" cards. Double Regrowth is Restock, costs 1 more, and exiles itself. And it's still considered very powerful!

Part of the effect of balance here is that you expand on cost or reduce the power of the effect to make the card available under a given criterion; but sometimes the people out there will instead cheapen this, or empower that and thus unbalance it to make it viable in a given format (Darksteel Ingot as a common was a push, whereas the mechanic {artifact, 3, taps for 1 mana of any color; extra effect} is an uncommon which Manalith may now baseline. But no matter, balance is the driving force here, while other features are secondary to it.
"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)
You say there are lots of rares that play poorly in limited, and that's obviously true.  But I wish you would constrain things a little.  Formats like AVR strongly demonstrate that too many constructed-viable rares damage the limited environment in a big way.

Red Planeswalkers - It's less that you don't make strong red planeswalkers and more that you don't make red planeswalkers that play well.  It really isn't about changing the numbers.  Try to be objective: has anyone ever built a deck with Tibalt that used it in either a fun or consistently effective way?  It wouldn't be better if it cost 1 mana; it would still be frustrating and disappointing half the time.

Master of the Pearl Trident is a card I really wonder about.  I mean, ok, so you don't make a goblin lord of the same quality, sure.  Goblins would gain a lot more from it.  But why not ANY other tribe?  There are dozens of interesting tribal cards out there just waiting to hit critical mass, but instead of pushing up any of them into the limelight with a strong tribal enabler, you take the best tribe and put it (even if only slightly) farther ahead.  And even that would be less than galling if it weren't for the fact that the deck has to be a monoblue aggro deck, of all things.  The decklist is basically a list of color pie mistakes, or rather, of the same color pie mistake being made over and over of thinking that blue is primary in little aggressive beaters.



on tibalt- I am most likely the president of his fan club, so bear with me. But hes only been around for a few months. Give him some time. The defining deck right now attacks for 3 on turn two, and  board stalls are undesirable due to vapor snag and moorland haunt. But hopefully wotc won't make the mistake of setting delver back up in rtr, so we will hopefully have him playing at some time.