10/5/2012 LD: Population Building

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Huh?  Eyes in the Skies in a weak card even with populate?  Since when is at minimum two flying power for four at instant speed weak in limited?  It's almost as good as Midnight Haunting which has seen constructed play.
Archetypes have ruined limited.
Archetypes have ruined limited.

Which Limited have you been playing?  Of the four previous Limited formats, three of them were excellent, and I expect Return to Ravnica will also prove to be great.  Drafting synergy and having a plan is certainly better than playing some mediocre creatures, some removal, and hoping you draw your bomb before the opponent draws his.
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...
Archetypes have ruined limited.

Which Limited have you been playing?  Of the four previous Limited formats, three of them were excellent, and I expect Return to Ravnica will also prove to be great.  Drafting synergy and having a plan is certainly better than playing some mediocre creatures, some removal, and hoping you draw your bomb before the opponent draws his.


I'm certainly not arguing that synergy is bad or that bombs are good (bombs getting exponentially better is another feature of new limited that's pretty terrible). But I'd argue there's a distinction between Innistrad or old limited (for instance, spirits in kamigawa) archetypes, and say populate or infect or any number of match the keyword archetypes that have permeated new limited design. It seems like too often, new card design emphasizes the latter, which can overly limit the flexibility and potential for interesting decks or difficult choices. Innistrad for the most part failed in its heavily linear archetypes (the tribal decks (werewolves in particular), and burning vengeance) which led to a diverse and interesting format, unlike say scars of mirrodin. Synergy was important in old limited, but it seemed like the archetypes were much less set in stone.

This, along with the increased emphasis on curving out and the decreased emphasis of fun things like combat math has led to some of the worst limited formats in history. They are trying their best to turn limited into constructed. I don't want limited to be sealed, but limited environments where we don't all need hyper-synergistic decks to be able to win before your opponents play their bombs seem much better than formats where the optimal strategy is to pick every card with the best "set keyword." If I wanted to play constructed I'd play cube.
Interesting article. Kinda makes sense that you aim to hit all points along the spectrum, but interesting to see development's POV on it.

I had a heavy populate deck at the prerelease, and I'd say Druid's Deliverance and Eyes in the Skies were my MVPs. They needed me to have got out at least a Centaur, and preferably my Grove of the Guardian or a 4/4 or bigger Slime Molding, but the instant-speed blockers plus nullification of a combat step (or better, as Druid's Deliverance still permits making advantageous blocks) were what it was all about. Trostani's Judgment was certainly good as well, but it was the relentless stream of Eyes / Deliverances that won me so many games.
Eyes in the Skies wasn't quite my MVP - Collective Blessing beat it - and the number of times I left mana open to cast it at the end of my opponent's turn, started my turn and then cursed myself as an idiot probably accounts for my finishing bottom-8 rather than top-8 (out of about 35).

Still, while I rated Eyes as filler during deck construction, after playing with it, I'd be happy to play it even in a deck with no other token generation - two flying chump blockers and/or pumpable evasive attackers appearing at instant speed can upset a lot of combat maths, and there were several games where populating the 1/1 flier rather than throwing another 4/4-or-bigger into the ground-level stalemate was the right call to make.
M:tG Rules Advisor
I almost feel like I don't know anything about Magic after reading this article. 

In what universe is paying 6 mana for two 3/3 vanilla creatures or exiling a creature with the hope to Populate, good?

How is it that Fog with the option to get another creature (especially in Limited) or making all your creatures indestructable with the option to get another creature, bad? How is getting a 2/2 with vigilance and the option to prevent damage every turn for 3 bad? 

Eyes in the Skies sucks no matter what.

I just...I don't get it at all. Populate is a bad mechanic but I feel like there's a genuine inverse between what is good and what the author believes is good. 


 
I almost feel like I don't know anything about Magic after reading this article. 

In what universe is paying 6 mana for two 3/3 vanilla creatures or exiling a creature with the hope to Populate, good?

How is it that Fog with the option to get another creature (especially in Limited) or making all your creatures indestructable with the option to get another creature, bad? How is getting a 2/2 with vigilance and the option to prevent damage every turn for 3 bad? 

Eyes in the Skies sucks no matter what.

I just...I don't get it at all. Populate is a bad mechanic but I feel like there's a genuine inverse between what is good and what the author believes is good. 


 



In the universe called limited? Also the universe of reading what's actually said.

Coursers' Accord and Trostani's Judgment are called 'fine' not 'good'.

The entire point of Druid's Deliverance is that it's good when you can consistently make tokens and bad when you can't. Fog is bad, barring situational scenarios. 

Rootborn Defenses is called reasonable, not bad.

Vigilance is not very relevant on a bear, and the ability to prevent 1 damage to a player isn't that great an ability. It's not bad, it's just low-impact. Weak, just like the article says.

How can you say Eyes in the Skies is always bad when it can make 4/4 worth of creatures for 4 at instant speed?


In the universe called limited? Also the universe of reading what's actually said.



If you want to pull the semantics card, that's great but it won't clarify things for me and your tone won't encourage reading. 


Coursers' Accord and Trostani's Judgment are called 'fine' not 'good'.



Courser's Accord and Trostani's Judgement are bad, not 'fine'. There is no format where you wouldn't rather do something better with 6 mana. There's a potential argument for Accord (though the standard would be a 3/3 for two mana, and Bestial Menace doing essentially the same thing for 1 mana less, hence it being bad) but Judgement? 


The entire point of Druid's Deliverance is that it's good when you can consistently make tokens and bad when you can't.



Yes, I get that and I understand why Populate is bad. Fog is not a terrible trick in limited, and Fog + a potential creature isn't a terrible trick either so...?

Rootborn Defenses is called reasonable, not bad.



Actually they aren't: that's part of the 'Weak Independent of the Strategy but Strong with It" section and making your creatures Indestructable for 3 is a pretty good deal. Getting the chance to make an extra creature? Even better.  


Vigilance is not very relevant on a bear, and the ability to prevent 1 damage to a player isn't that great an ability. It's not bad, it's just low-impact. Weak, just like the article says.



Just gonna agree to disagree there; cards that can play offense and defense are usually good in Limited and as a common, it's priced about right-that there's a repeatable bonus seems good.

How can you say Eyes in the Skies is always bad when it can make 4/4 worth of creatures for 4 at instant speed?



It could make 9/9 worth of creature for 4 at instant too but it won't except for those awesome Xmasland adventures which show up and people tell over and over. But working once doesn't mean working effectively. It's going to make 2 1/1s as an instant most of the time. 
If you think Populate is a bad mechanic, I'd like to introduce you to my 4-0 Selesnya deck from the prerelease. Populate was backbreaking, even when it was little 1/1 birdies.
Courser's Accord and Trostani's Judgement are bad, not 'fine'. There is no format where you wouldn't rather do something better with 6 mana. There's a potential argument for Accord (though the standard would be a 3/3 for two mana, and Bestial Menace doing essentially the same thing for 1 mana less, hence it being bad) but Judgement?



We are talking about limited here right? The standard in limited is NOT 3/3 for 2.  

There has been a trend these recent sets to make removal worse, more conditional, more overcosted, etc. An instant that exiles a creature is very strong, even at 6 mana. Even if it didn't had populate, it would be a good addition to most decks, especially as G/W historically lacks in creature removal. The exile is very relevant versus scavenge. 

Yes, I get that and I understand why Populate is bad. Fog is not a terrible trick in limited, and Fog + a potential creature isn't a terrible trick either so...?

 

From the article: "No matter how appealing Fog effects are to some players, they tend not to be strong cards in Limited."

You seem to be overvaluing fogs and undervaluing removal.
 
Actually they aren't: that's part of the 'Weak Independent of the Strategy but Strong with It" section and making your creatures Indestructable for 3 is a pretty good deal. Getting the chance to make an extra creature? Even better.



It's not a pretty good deal. It's somewhat like Safe Passage, better in some ways worse in others, and that isn't a very high pick either. Fine to have but nothing to write home about. Unless you consistently populate.

Just gonna agree to disagree there; cards that can play offense and defense are usually good in Limited and as a common, it's priced about right-that there's a repeatable bonus seems good.



It's not a common, but that doesn't matter. The thing is that you want to pay 2 mana for your bears. 2/2s and 2/1s for 2 are good. Then, as a 3 drop, you need something to survive combat with a 2 drop. 2/3s are good. Evasion is good. a bear with first strike is good. 

What is not good, is a 3 drop that trades with 2 drops without any other upside.
The land's ability is not enough upside. Like lifegain and fog effects, it's good in a racing situation but doesn't affect the board in other situations.

Also, in this format specifically, creatures are a bit larger than before. This is not a 'bear' format, but a 3 format. 3-toughness defense-oriented cards are less good here than in other formats, and 4-toughness defense-oriented cards are key. Again a strike versus a 2/2. 

It could make 9/9 worth of creature for 4 at instant too but it won't except for those awesome Xmasland adventures which show up and people tell over and over. But working once doesn't mean working effectively. It's going to make 2 1/1s as an instant most of the time. 



Meaning it will go late in the draft for the person who can consistently make a 3/3 with the populate, which is the purpose of the card. This is not magical Xmas. There are multiple cards at both common and uncommon that make 3/3s. That's why I said 4/4 worth of creatures and not 9/9 because the first is a very real possibility.
If you think Populate is a bad mechanic, I'd like to introduce you to my 4-0 Selesnya deck from the prerelease. Populate was backbreaking, even when it was little 1/1 birdies.



I know it's a bad mechanic but congrats on your deck! 



Courser's Accord and Trostani's Judgement are bad, not 'fine'. There is no format where you wouldn't rather do something better with 6 mana. There's a potential argument for Accord (though the standard would be a 3/3 for two mana, and Bestial Menace doing essentially the same thing for 1 mana less, hence it being bad) but Judgement?



We are talking about limited here right? The standard in limited is NOT 3/3 for 2.  



Watchwolf and Call of the Conclave disagree with that. I am aware the rarity is different and I'm not about to suggest that every color should suddenly get 3/3s for 2. The point is that there are vastly better cards and things to do at 6 mana, even at common.

There has been a trend these recent sets to make removal worse, more conditional, more overcosted, etc. An instant that exiles a creature is very strong, even at 6 mana. Even if it didn't had populate, it would be a good addition to most decks, especially as G/W historically lacks in creature removal. The exile is very relevant versus scavenge. 



Going to agree to disagree there too. There's no format where I care about exiling a single creature for 6 mana. If that's the best you can do, you've lost the game already.


Yes, I get that and I understand why Populate is bad. Fog is not a terrible trick in limited, and Fog + a potential creature isn't a terrible trick either so...?

 

From the article: "No matter how appealing Fog effects are to some players, they tend not to be strong cards in Limited."

You seem to be overvaluing fogs and undervaluing removal.




Possible: I do enjoy the fog effects.
 
Actually they aren't: that's part of the 'Weak Independent of the Strategy but Strong with It" section and making your creatures Indestructable for 3 is a pretty good deal. Getting the chance to make an extra creature? Even better.



It's not a pretty good deal. It's somewhat like Safe Passage, better in some ways worse in others, and that isn't a very high pick either. Fine to have but nothing to write home about. Unless you consistently populate.



High pick? It's a common. This is not the kind of thing that defines a deck. But it DOES act as a foil to about 90% of removal, a fog and potentially a one sided Wrath for the low cost of 3. Nothing else even comes close without a significant limtiation (Withstand Death can only target a single creature) or a pretty severe drawback (Break of Day). 

Just gonna agree to disagree there; cards that can play offense and defense are usually good in Limited and as a common, it's priced about right-that there's a repeatable bonus seems good.



It's not a common, but that doesn't matter. The thing is that you want to pay 2 mana for your bears. 2/2s and 2/1s for 2 are good. Then, as a 3 drop, you need something to survive combat with a 2 drop. 2/3s are good. Evasion is good. a bear with first strike is good. 

What is not good, is a 3 drop that trades with 2 drops without any other upside.
The land's ability is not enough upside. Like lifegain and fog effects, it's good in a racing situation but doesn't affect the board in other situations.

Also, in this format specifically, creatures are a bit larger than before. This is not a 'bear' format, but a 3 format. 3-toughness defense-oriented cards are less good here than in other formats, and 4-toughness defense-oriented cards are key. Again a strike versus a 2/2. 



Got me on the common thing.

Not sure how you can justify the rest though.

53 creatures with toughness 3 or greater, across all rarites and CMC 3 or more in RtR.
60 in Innistrad. 52 in Avacyn Returns. It appears that the number of creatures with toughness > 3 is about the same, so unless your statement is that a 2/2 for 3 is bad all the time, I'm not sure where you're getting your conclusion. 


It could make 9/9 worth of creature for 4 at instant too but it won't except for those awesome Xmasland adventures which show up and people tell over and over. But working once doesn't mean working effectively. It's going to make 2 1/1s as an instant most of the time. 



Meaning it will go late in the draft for the person who can consistently make a 3/3 with the populate, which is the purpose of the card. This is not magical Xmas. There are multiple cards at both common and uncommon that make 3/3s. That's why I said 4/4 worth of creatures and not 9/9 because the first is a very real possibility.




If you say so. Don't buy it myself and I don't think that one will ever be consistently able to populate 3/3's or better. 

Just wanted to pitch in on Security Blockade: I played it in a UW skies draft deck today and it was pretty amazing. Vigilance is a relevant ability, even on a bear, so the 2/2 knight for 3 is ok even without populate. (It can also trade with Cobblebrute, Selesnya Sentry and Stonefare Crocodile, all very playable commons.) The enchantment may not seem like much but there's a pretty good chance that it will give you a little edge in a race; In a lockdown with only one or two evasion guys hitting you each turn it's gold.
Watchwolf and Call of the Conclave disagree with that. I am aware the rarity is different and I'm not about to suggest that every color should suddenly get 3/3s for 2. The point is that there are vastly better cards and things to do at 6 mana, even at common.



Watchwolf and Call of the Conclave do not disagree with the standard. They are above the standard, above average. The standard is where the majority falls.  You can't talk about Lightning Bolt and say it sets the standard for burn. Not in limited or rotating formats.

I am drafting a G/W/x deck (x can be U for Azorius or B for Golgari) in RtR limited. What commons at 5/6/7 mana are vastly better than 6/6 worth for 6?

Just curious, what is your opinion on for example Vastwood Gorger in this regard?

Going to agree to disagree there too. There's no format where I care about exiling a single creature for 6 mana. If that's the best you can do, you've lost the game already.



No problem, just as long as you realize you're disagreeing with a lot of people

magic.tcgplayer.com/db/article.asp?ID=10...
www.channelfireball.com/articles/return-...
magic-ad.eu/review-white-and-selesyna/

High pick? It's a common. This is not the kind of thing that defines a deck. But it DOES act as a foil to about 90% of removal, a fog and potentially a one sided Wrath for the low cost of 3. Nothing else even comes close without a significant limtiation (Withstand Death can only target a single creature) or a pretty severe drawback (Break of Day).


Yeah yeah, we agreed to our difference in valueing those. =)

But 3 is NOT a low cost for foiling removal. In the early & mid game, there won't be many cases where you keep that up.

Which leaves the one-sides wrath, and that is christmas land. Break of Day is good because it also pumps power. Your opponent will attack/block most of the time in such a way that his creatures survive and yours will not, meaning the result of this card is more often that no creatures die.

Not sure how you can justify the rest though.

53 creatures with toughness 3 or greater, across all rarites and CMC 3 or more in RtR.
60 in Innistrad. 52 in Avacyn Returns. It appears that the number of creatures with toughness > 3 is about the same, so unless your statement is that a 2/2 for 3 is bad all the time, I'm not sure where you're getting your conclusion.



The format is still young so this might indeed turn out otherwise, but it's what the pro's have been saying. 

Just played a Selesnya Sealed last night, and I popped the Grove in 3 games. Fortunately, my opponents only had Ultimate Price for removal, so I did quite well. So thanks for the good times, WotC! 

Populate definately feels like a deck you draft because A) You got Grove/Growing Ranks/Armada Wurm in your first pack, or b) you have some worthwhile token/token generators, and the 12th pick Populate cards just up your overall power. Removing a token at a key moment with bounce/kill can destroy this deck too easily: I'd label Selesnya as for Johnnies.

My thoughts: Eyes in the Skies work as a kind of regeneration spell for tokens. If your Elemental is targeted by removal, drop the EitS and you've got another!

I found Druid's Deliverance to be very useful vs. Rakdos, since their only strategy is attack-attack-attack. Stopping an alpha-strike AND adding a creature to your army can be very back-breaking to , especially if they can't block.

With a selection of Bird, Knight, and Centaur tokens, Populate is very versatile in giving you the exact creature for your army, a la Primal Clay.  

I'm surprised Knightly Valor wasn't included in this discussion, as it's very good with Green creatures, with or without Populate. 


"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

There has been a trend these recent sets to make removal worse, more conditional, more overcosted, etc. An instant that exiles a creature is very strong, even at 6 mana. Even if it didn't had populate, it would be a good addition to most decks, especially as G/W historically lacks in creature removal. The exile is very relevant versus scavenge. 



Going to agree to disagree there too. There's no format where I care about exiling a single creature for 6 mana. If that's the best you can do, you've lost the game already.

I find this absolutely incomprehensible. Would you splash for Explosive Impact? Of course you would. It's great removal against pretty much all commons and most uncommons/rares. It's expensive, but late game is when you most need to pull out the big guns anyway. Little 2/2s and 3/3s you want to be trading with, not using removal spells on. Trostani's Judgment is exactly the same, except that instead of the option of doming the player (which is relevant in Rakdos but not so much in GB or GW splashing R), you get even more effective removal, plus a token on top if you've managed to keep any tokens around by this point.

Trostani's Judgment is absolutely worth splashing for in a GB deck or some UR deck with an Azorious Guildgate or two. Or, heck, even without any manafixing, it's strong enough to splash. Removal in Limited is... I mean, it's the second category of BREAD. In most Limited decks, most drafts, you pick removal over everything except massive bombs. I'm just... utterly failing to understand how you can have played more than a handful of Limited games and not find Trostani's Judgment very good. 

(I'm not claiming it's a bomb; just very effective removal. I'm not claiming it's remotely any good at all in constructed; just limited. I'm not even claiming you'd play 4 of them if you got them; you do need to bear mana curve in mind. But it's a very effective removal spell, with populate as occasional tasty icing in non-Selesnya decks and as a backbreaking addition in populate decks, making it something like Dark Hatchling.)

(I'm also not claiming it's good colour-pie-wise. I think Trostani's Judgment is a horrible colour pie violation, in fact, like Iona's Judgment before it. I agree with MaRo that white shouldn't get unconditional, irreversible removal. But given that it has been printed, it's eminently playable; I'm not going to handicap my deck by only playing cards whose design I approve of. Well... not in Limited, at least.)

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