12/7/2012 LD: "Why We Make Good Cards"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Latest Developments, which goes live Friday morning on magicthegathering.com.

Well, we have confirmation of anti-Thragtusk "checks and balances" coming up in GTC/DGM, then. That should be interesting.

Good read.
Standard Pauper! (play it on MTGO)
I'm glad to hear about anti-Thragtusk coming up.
I like the mirroring with Mark's article here; nice idea.

I do think Pack Rat is a bit too strong. It's not completely unbeatable, but the two mana price point just outright invalidates way too many answers when it's dropped on the second turn on the play. I was judging a Sealed PTQ a month or so ago and one of the things players were joking about was that the people in the Top 8 formed two categories: "really good players who consistently post solid results locally" and "mostly unknown or mediocre players who have Pack Rat in their decks". With the latter outnumbering the former.

I will admit it can be skill-testing, though, because it's way more powerful in the hands of a more experienced player. I had it played against me second turn on the play by a new player a week ago; the only reason I was able to deal with it was that my opponent didn't know how good it was and didn't keep up mana for it. (The episode was downright terrifying in a way I've never experienced before in a game.)

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

Honestly curious as to what Thragtusk hate looks like. (Appetite for Brains being the closest thing I can think of right now.) Guess we'll know it when we see it.
I've been playing Pack Rat in Standard for FNM. There's obviously more options to get rid of it at the moment you need to (hit the first one, or hit them all -- there is no in between) but I've been getting really good results with it.  

Of course, it helps that the boogyman known as Thragtusk is in the deck as well. 
Honestly curious as to what Thragtusk hate looks like. (Appetite for Brains being the closest thing I can think of right now.) Guess we'll know it when we see it.


A strong lifegain hoser would do the trick.  Rain of Gore, for example, would put a stop to Thragtusk shenanigans pretty fast.
Pack Rat is probably fine.  It's a really swingy card that dominates Limited games, and maybe should have been mythic just to make it even harder to happen, but it's an interesting enough card for Constructed, and it needs to be printed somehow, so it's an okay once-in-awhile thing.

Thragtusk, not so much.  To be clear, I love cards like Thragtusk, which is precisely what makes Thragtusk so irritating - it instantly invalidates all those old interesting grindy value cards that had weaknesses & such by just being so much better than them, and splashable.  And then it gets stuck in the same environment as a set that has a Flickering theme.  Yes, the power level of Magic is expected to fluctuate, but I think it can be safely said that Thragtusk is absolutely among the highest power 5 mana green creatures ever created just on its own merits, and see above about it having synergy on top of that.  I'm reminded somewhat of the R&D stories about how Jace the Mind Sculptor was created to defeat Jund.  Hosing the previous strong deck a bit is usually cool, but there's always the risk of creating the next oppressive deck in its place...  and recently it all seems to be done with the help of Mythic Rares, too.  Meh.  Yes, Thragtusk is certainly beatable (it's 5 mana in an environment with strong fast decks), but "beatable" != "a good idea."
1) You worked on Vs? Vs was my favourite TCG ever; it was better than MTG, not close. You guys did take way too long to ban Dr Light though.

2) I like the idea of a Thragtusk hoser. I just hope it doesn't look like a 1-mana artifact that says "Players can't gain life. Creature tokens can't enter the battlefield". Given recent hoser cards, I'm not optimistic.

3) There seems to be a rule in development: Johnny cards are either bad or get hosed to the point of unplayability in the same set as they are printed, or both. For some recent examples, see Burning Vengeance, Sundial of the Infinite, Cackling Counterpart, and others. It's frustrating that Spike gets Delver and Timmy gets Thragtusk but Johnny hasn't had a tournament-tier deck or card for about 5 years.
hmm maybe an anti-thragtusk card could be a kill spell (black/blue) that negates the ability of the killed/burned creature (kinda stifle stapled on a kill spell). Would they do that? Probably not, but that is one way.

Pack rat is pretty swingy in limited, but it is not exactly lighting up constructed, so its okay (could have had a couple extra common removals but whatever).
1) You worked on Vs? Vs was my favourite TCG ever; it was better than MTG, not close. You guys did take way too long to ban Dr Light though. 2) I like the idea of a Thragtusk hoser. I just hope it doesn't look like a 1-mana artifact that says "Players can't gain life. Creature tokens can't enter the battlefield". Given recent hoser cards, I'm not optimistic. 3) There seems to be a rule in development: Johnny cards are either bad or get hosed to the point of unplayability in the same set as they are printed, or both. For some recent examples, see Burning Vengeance, Sundial of the Infinite, Cackling Counterpart, and others. It's frustrating that Spike gets Delver and Timmy gets Thragtusk but Johnny hasn't had a tournament-tier deck or card for about 5 years.




vs. Was just a bad mtg clone with some old 90's variants attatched to it and marvel glued on front. It's still better then the other mtg clone (WoW).
8) We like money

We make good cards because it sells sets. This, by the way, is also why we tend to put most of the good cards at Rare and, especially, Mythic Rare. As long as you, our players, keep spending money to buy the overpowered Mythic Rares, we'll keep making them. So what if it makes it harder for budget players to play; they don't give us enough money anyway. So what if it makes it harder to build a unique deck, one that doesn't use the handful of over-the-top cards that invalidate most other similar cards; having just one or two worthwhile decklists means more people are fighting over the same cards, which means more money for us.

We make good cards to exploit our customers at the expense of varied deck-building and good gameplay.
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/c6f9e416e5e0e1f0a1e5c42b0c7b3e88.jpg?v=90000)
1) I can understand the need for good cards. My concerns lie with the current differences in power between the supposed good cards and the rest. The presence of Good Cards is fine. Having those Good Cards completely outclass any non-Good Card is not.

2) I'm mostly Johnny myself, and I can see that not every card is meant to appeal to me. Still, it would be nice to actually be able play the cards that do have appeal. It used to be possible to build a deck around some lesser-used cards, just to enjoy using those.Not the best deck available, but it could at least hold its own often enough. Nowadays using cards I like results in quick defeat everytime, as it is simply impossible to stand up to Good Cards with them.

3) Having to adapt to a new format is a good thing. But how does this require the extreme Good Cards? Shouldn't adaption involve more than 'Deck with Good Card A' is gone. 'Deck with Good Card B' rules now?

4) This seems to be the source of most of my problems. Making an answer to a dominating deck is fine, but there really is no need to make it deal with everything. Your new card is already trying to overpower the most powerful deck available, so how can you not expect it to dominate if you push it to fight other decks as well? All you are doing then is just creating an even bigger problem.
5) How is a clear disbalance in powerlevel in cards helping skill? Sure, it takes skill to utilise the best cards in the best way, but finding the best cards is too easy. If Good Cards, even played without skill, overpower non-Good Cards played skillfully, this seems like the opposite of rewarding skill.

While I can appreciate giving new players a chance, having a random 'you win'-clause addable to decks does not seem like a good method to achieve this. Losing is fine. Losing merely because your opponent had Good Card X is not. Especially since these tools might give new players some wins, but ultimately skilled players will use them far more often. Being forced to play (or lose to) certain cards just so new players can win out of nowhere feels wrong.

6) Flavorful cards having power is good, but does not require those cards utterly outclassing the non-flavored ones. Having Superman, Batman and the Hulk as the best options is fine. Having them being the only viable option is not.

7) I would like to believe the power level of cards is a mistake. Years of supposed mistakes followed by bigger mistakes have convinced me otherwise.

Coming at this from a Limited player's perspective (I don't play competitive Constructed), two things:

1) Since MaRo wrote his article the number and badness of bad cards have been massively reduced and this has done nothing but improve the game both strategically and in terms of player experience.

2) There's a distinction to be drawn between cards which are powerful and cards which are "broken" in the sense that they frequently make an entire game of Magic end in a way that renders all other cards in that game irrelevant. Pack Rat is broken.

There's a two-tier system of values in play at WotC where if something breaks Constructed there's a huge outcry and bans are handed down (and sometimes even a few rueful words spoken). But if something breaks Draft there's just a grin and a shrug. Or, as in this case, an article explaining why the players are wrong.

Now that MtGO has popularised Draft to such an extent, I don't think this attitude any longer makes sense. Ten years from now I expect to see the numbers of broken and unnecessarily overpowered cards in each set greatly diminished in the same way that the number of bad cards now is compared to 2002.
How do I want my bombs? Beatable. Bloodline Keeper was barely beatable, and Pack Rat should have been about the same power level instead of just flat-out bonkers. Keeper cost more, had summoning sickness, and never made mooks that got larger than 2/2 (unless it flipped, in which case your opponent was just dead anyway.)

The best bomb in a set should be powerful enough that two people at the same skill level can usually have the game be decided if one draws it and their opponent doesn't instantly answer it is what I'm aiming for, I guess. It shouldn't play itself (a point in Pack Rats's favor, since there are at least two strategic decisions to make with it and good sideboard options against it) but it certainly shouldn't be underwhelming and easily beaten either.

Telling me that the person on the play won approximately ten percent more games (problem here is I'm assuming 50/50 P/D) based on a single card in their deck is not my idea of balance. Is that something you are comfortable with as single-card-level variance? On a Rare? (ps make the best bomb mythic)
1) You worked on Vs? Vs was my favourite TCG ever; it was better than MTG, not close. You guys did take way too long to ban Dr Light though. 2) I like the idea of a Thragtusk hoser. I just hope it doesn't look like a 1-mana artifact that says "Players can't gain life. Creature tokens can't enter the battlefield". Given recent hoser cards, I'm not optimistic. 3) There seems to be a rule in development: Johnny cards are either bad or get hosed to the point of unplayability in the same set as they are printed, or both. For some recent examples, see Burning Vengeance, Sundial of the Infinite, Cackling Counterpart, and others. It's frustrating that Spike gets Delver and Timmy gets Thragtusk but Johnny hasn't had a tournament-tier deck or card for about 5 years.



How about the Seance deck that made T8 of a GP a while ago?
How about the Trading Post decks that were pretty awesome?
The Stuffy Doll/Blasphemous Act decks?
The hilariously Battle of Wits/Birthing Pod deck? 
All decks from within the last half year or so. 

Burning Vengeance is in the first place meant for Limited where it did fine.
Pack rat is pretty swingy in limited, but it is not exactly lighting up constructed, so its okay (could have had a couple extra common removals but whatever).



"The thief is breaking in houses in the next town, but not in my town, so it's okay"

There's a two-tier system of values in play at WotC where if something breaks Constructed there's a huge outcry and bans are handed down (and sometimes even a few rueful words spoken). But if something breaks Draft there's just a grin and a shrug. Or, as in this case, an article explaining why the players are wrong.

 

While I agree with the rest you're saying, this article does NOT say the players are wrong. They are merely stating why they do what angers us so. 

4) This seems to be the source of most of my problems. Making an answer to a dominating deck is fine, but there really is no need to make it deal with everything. Your new card is already trying to overpower the most powerful deck available, so how can you not expect it to dominate if you push it to fight other decks as well? All you are doing then is just creating an even bigger problem. 

 

It needs to deal with everything if you want it to be played maindeck. If it's only good against 1 deck, it would just be a narrow sideboard card, which is a different kind if hoser.
The most popular casual formats are eternal so when you make good cards for casual, you are pushing out other playable cards. You note this relative to competitive play, but it happens at the casual level as well. I don't think casual was ever discussed, but I skimmed limited stuff and other parts as I don't play sanctioned Magic. Casual play it about variety so making cards good for casual is pushing casual play towards always looking the same. When that happens, people will get bored of casual play.

Cards that cost a lot cost very little in casual. Go look at the eternal card pool at how many ways there are not to pay 12 for something. Cards that do way too much for their cost never go away in casaul. I am bored of praetors, but will be seeing them forever unless you print more 'good' cards that outclass those boring cards. What we need is restraint, not good cards. Keep that in mind as you release special sets of casual cards every year. Animar is bonkers without protection from colors in a format that cares more about colors than any other format for example.
1) I can understand the need for good cards. My concerns lie with the current differences in power between the supposed good cards and the rest. The presence of Good Cards is fine. Having those Good Cards completely outclass any non-Good Card is not.

Yes!
How do I want my bombs? Beatable.

Yes!
Thragtusk, not so much.  To be clear, I love cards like Thragtusk, which is precisely what makes Thragtusk so irritating - it instantly invalidates all those old interesting grindy value cards that had weaknesses & such by just being so much better than them, and splashable.  And then it gets stuck in the same environment as a set that has a Flickering theme.

Yes!


I don't have a problem with R&D knowing which cards they expect to see play in Constructed. I do have a problem when there are some cards so absurdly cranked that they're going "YOO-HOO, PLAY ME IN CONSTRUCTED", or worse, "Either play me or play against me", like Thragtusk or the Titans.


Did Thragtusk really need to make the token on leaves-play? Blinking it would still gain the life even if the token was a death trigger. It's just so much better than anything before it... except perhaps Grave Titan, and that is not a good comparison to trigger (being another "I win the game now, no matter what went before" card).


What we need is restraint, not good cards. Keep that in mind as you release special sets of casual cards every year. Animar is bonkers without protection from colors in a format that cares more about colors than any other format for example.

Yeah, I do feel like I'm cheating when I play Animar. I'd rather have him without the prot-colour.
As for the article:

Since we want to make cards to help newer players win more often now and then, we'd be curious how you might want them to win. In what fashion would you like to take your defeat? Just be careful your answer doesn't ultimately simply boil down to being outplayed or out-skilled or seeing that it happens less regularly, since that is at odds with the goal of the small percentage of cards we'd like to be doing this.



Isn't that what mana flood/mana screw and bomb mythics like planeswalkers and guild leaders are already for? Did you really have to make a rare that ruins so many great games between experienced players just to make the newer players win a few more games?

I accept being beaten by lesser skilled players because of luck or bombs from time to time. But the sheer volume of games decided by Pack Rats is unacceptable. If you really feel newer players need to win even 'more often' than that, this could be the breaker point that makes me say 'magic isn't for me anymore'.

What the problem boils down to basically is that I have no problem being beaten by a new player with a Pack Rat. I have a problem being beaten by an equal player with a Pack Rat, because it just ruins the game for us both. 
1) You worked on Vs? Vs was my favourite TCG ever; it was better than MTG, not close. You guys did take way too long to ban Dr Light though. 2) I like the idea of a Thragtusk hoser. I just hope it doesn't look like a 1-mana artifact that says "Players can't gain life. Creature tokens can't enter the battlefield". Given recent hoser cards, I'm not optimistic. 3) There seems to be a rule in development: Johnny cards are either bad or get hosed to the point of unplayability in the same set as they are printed, or both. For some recent examples, see Burning Vengeance, Sundial of the Infinite, Cackling Counterpart, and others. It's frustrating that Spike gets Delver and Timmy gets Thragtusk but Johnny hasn't had a tournament-tier deck or card for about 5 years.



How about the Seance deck that made T8 of a GP a while ago?
How about the Trading Post decks that were pretty awesome?
The Stuffy Doll/Blasphemous Act decks?
The hilariously Battle of Wits/Birthing Pod deck? 
All decks from within the last half year or so. 

Burning Vengeance is in the first place meant for Limited where it did fine.



And at Tier 2, you've got Heartless Summoning, Epic Experiment, Deadeye Navigator, Chromatic Lantern/Door to Nothingness, Rhox Faithmender/Chalice of Life...
I just got to experience playing a draft deck with two Pack Rats.

2 Pack Rat
2 Ultimate Price
36 Swamp

was my deck on the play.

Honestly curious as to what Thragtusk hate looks like. (Appetite for Brains being the closest thing I can think of right now.) Guess we'll know it when we see it.


arrest that gives shroud... oh w8 they stop making shroud

In what fashion would you like to take your defeat?



First off, as far as how I like to lose: 1) I like it when games are down to the wire, when they're close and I feel the whole time like I have a chance (I don't at all like unwinnable situations), 2) I don't mind losing to something new and unexpected, 3) I like games that require me to make complex decisions and plan my actions, so that even when I lost I felt like I actually did something, and 4) I hate losing to a pile of rares and mythics.  This last one is especially frustrating to me because (like most players, I suspect) when this happens, I don't feel like there's a way of fixing it because it's simply out of my price range to compete with a $150 standard deck.

When I started playing back in the Invasion/Odyssey block days (a couple years, btw, dominated by uncommons), my favorite card to play against was Fact or Fiction, because not only was it an uncommon that I could get ahold of if I wanted to, but I knew it was powerful and why, and I had some level of control over how it played out.  It was a game within a game, if you will, and I felt like at least I could think about and make the optimal decision in that choice; for me it balanced the frustration of repeatedly playing against a powerful card with the enjoyment of being able to affect how powerful that card actually was.  The immediate feedback I got from their choice made it easy to see when I made a mistake (and they filled their grave with cards that they later removed via Psychatog).  Wizards really needs to look at bringing this guy back (I say this even though I never used it) and/or making more powerful cards that give opponents a choice; even when players are losing, I feel like it's better to go down with a fight than to watch expensive cards pound the snot out of you all day long.

To me, cards like Thragtusk are boring and bad for Magic.  Yes, they're powerful in a vaccuum, but they're obvious.  It's a no-brainer that it's good, and there are very few decks with green mana in them that don't want to play it (in Standard).  It doesn't feel like a win when he's removed.  A great game of Magic (IMHO) should have some give-and-take.  It should be a new experience every time.  There's not a lot of that with Thragtusk.  In fact, it would have been more palatable as a 2ggg or even a 3gg than a 4g, because with the mana fixing available right now it's worth splashing for in a lot of different decks, so we're always seeing it.  If Wizards thinks they're going to nerf it, they're mistaken, because access to the Simic and Gruul dual lands are just going to make it worse.


Since we want to make cards to help newer players win more often now and then, we'd be curious how you might want them to win. In what fashion would you like to take your defeat? Just be careful your answer doesn't ultimately simply boil down to being outplayed or out-skilled or seeing that it happens less regularly, since that is at odds with the goal of the small percentage of cards we'd like to be doing this.



Lastly, I'm shocked to hear someone from Wizards say this, because it's asinine; if you want newer players to win more often, that's akin to saying that you want veterans to lose more often.  This defeats the purpose of playing longer and improving as a player.  I mean, I can understand why Wizards wants to reel in the new player market, but the simple fact is that veteran players are using the same card pool as newer players, and are by-and-large going to win more because of their knowledge of the rules, optimum strategies, card pool, and game theory.  The only way to reduce that is to make ridiculously swingy bombs or dumb down the game's interaction, and that's fun for nobody.

Maybe they should scale tournament matchups based on number of games played, such that you're matched up in the first round of any tournament with someone that's played a similar amount of games to you, then in the second round it returns to the way it was before.


I just got to experience playing a draft deck with two Pack Rats.

2 Pack Rat
2 Ultimate Price
36 Swamp

was my deck on the play.



Did that actually, you know, work? A super-quick calculation suggests that you only have a 50/50 chance of getting a Pack Rat in EITHER your opening hand or mulligan to 6. Just a 33% chance of getting one in your opener.
Honestly curious as to what Thragtusk hate looks like. (Appetite for Brains being the closest thing I can think of right now.) Guess we'll know it when we see it.


A strong lifegain hoser would do the trick.  Rain of Gore, for example, would put a stop to Thragtusk shenanigans pretty fast.



That card would make me very happy indeed.


Since we want to make cards to help newer players win more often now and then, we'd be curious how you might want them to win. In what fashion would you like to take your defeat? Just be careful your answer doesn't ultimately simply boil down to being outplayed or out-skilled or seeing that it happens less regularly, since that is at odds with the goal of the small percentage of cards we'd like to be doing this.



Lastly, I'm shocked to hear someone from Wizards say this, because it's asinine; if you want newer players to win more often, that's akin to saying that you want veterans to lose more often.  This defeats the purpose of playing longer and improving as a player.  I mean, I can understand why Wizards wants to reel in the new player market, but the simple fact is that veteran players are using the same card pool as newer players, and are by-and-large going to win more because of their knowledge of the rules, optimum strategies, card pool, and game theory.  The only way to reduce that is to make ridiculously swingy bombs or dumb down the game's interaction, and that's fun for nobody.

Maybe they should scale tournament matchups based on number of games played, such that you're matched up in the first round of any tournament with someone that's played a similar amount of games to you, then in the second round it returns to the way it was before.




obviously you understand him wrong. He did not say they want newer players win more than the experienced ones, but they'd like to newer players to win more than they used to
I just got to experience playing a draft deck with two Pack Rats.

2 Pack Rat
2 Ultimate Price
36 Swamp

was my deck on the play.



Did that actually, you know, work? A super-quick calculation suggests that you only have a 50/50 chance of getting a Pack Rat in EITHER your opening hand or mulligan to 6. Just a 33% chance of getting one in your opener.


Good thing you don't stop at mulling to 6, then, isn't it? He was even smart enough to play 36 Swamp and not dilute with more spells. Might be wrong to play the Prices there, though.
I just got to experience playing a draft deck with two Pack Rats.

2 Pack Rat
2 Ultimate Price
36 Swamp

was my deck on the play.



Did that actually, you know, work? A super-quick calculation suggests that you only have a 50/50 chance of getting a Pack Rat in EITHER your opening hand or mulligan to 6. Just a 33% chance of getting one in your opener.


Good thing you don't stop at mulling to 6, then, isn't it? He was even smart enough to play 36 Swamp and not dilute with more spells. Might be wrong to play the Prices there, though.



Exactly, you don't want to be drawing nonlands when you mulled to 1 swamp, 1 pack rat. 2 rats 38 swamps should do it.
I just got to experience playing a draft deck with two Pack Rats.

2 Pack Rat
2 Ultimate Price
36 Swamp

was my deck on the play.



Did that actually, you know, work? A super-quick calculation suggests that you only have a 50/50 chance of getting a Pack Rat in EITHER your opening hand or mulligan to 6. Just a 33% chance of getting one in your opener.


I think your supposed to mull to one if you have to.  Can't remember the odds if you try with two cards, know its pretty good. Same idea as the Lost in the Woods decks back from DKA/INN/INN limited.
Although it's pretty nuts that that's a reasonable deck. The card's interesting in constructed, probably should have been printed in a sealed product like commander or planechase rather than a limited format. Or at least wait for one with better removal.


Since we want to make cards to help newer players win more often now and then, we'd be curious how you might want them to win. In what fashion would you like to take your defeat? Just be careful your answer doesn't ultimately simply boil down to being outplayed or out-skilled or seeing that it happens less regularly, since that is at odds with the goal of the small percentage of cards we'd like to be doing this.



Lastly, I'm shocked to hear someone from Wizards say this, because it's asinine; if you want newer players to win more often, that's akin to saying that you want veterans to lose more often.  This defeats the purpose of playing longer and improving as a player.  I mean, I can understand why Wizards wants to reel in the new player market, but the simple fact is that veteran players are using the same card pool as newer players, and are by-and-large going to win more because of their knowledge of the rules, optimum strategies, card pool, and game theory.  The only way to reduce that is to make ridiculously swingy bombs or dumb down the game's interaction, and that's fun for nobody.

Maybe they should scale tournament matchups based on number of games played, such that you're matched up in the first round of any tournament with someone that's played a similar amount of games to you, then in the second round it returns to the way it was before.




obviously you understand him wrong. He did not say they want newer players win more than the experienced ones, but they'd like to newer players to win more than they used to



I'm fully aware that's what they said.  But my point is that if one group wins more, another group has to win less - it's simple math.  So if new players win more, who wins less?  I'll give you a hint - there's only one other group.

In order to allow new players to win more, you have to decrease the barrier to entry.  The standard barriers to entry are the rules, the knowledge of cards, knowledge of game theory, etc, but you're never going to speed up this acquisition.  You obviously can't jack knowledge of all of the cards into players' brains.  You obviously can't jack knowledge of the metagame into players' brains.  You obviously can't give them a crash course on game theory, especially when they're just learning the rules, the cards, and what cards are good and bad.  

So Wizards has, over the years, been trying to reduce the impact of all of these, so that new players can win a little more.  That's fine, and they've mostly done a good job of it.  But as it stands, the only way to reduce the amount of cards that players have to learn in an ever expanding card base is to create formats with reduced card pools (Standard, block).  The only way you reduce the impact of theory is to get rid of archetypes that are more powerful than they seem to a new player (card-drawing, mana-fixing, counter-magic, etc) and increase the power of more intuititive mechanics (attacking/blocking, life gain).  The only way you reduce the impact of the rules is to "vanillaize" spells and reduce the amount of complicated rules niches that these spells can dig into - or at least reduce their power and push them into higher rarities.  

Magic has done all of these, and many of them are hated by veteran players.  We hate the lack of complicated mechanics (Lorwyn was the best block ever, but for some reason I've heard that combat was too complicated).  We like our eternal formats and wish they were pushed more (although to be fair, there is also profit motivation in pushing Standard).  We like card-drawing, mana-fixing, and counter magic.  We hate vanilla creatures.  I'm okay with life gain, but it's a frustrating mechanic to play against.  Our extensive rules knowledge causes us to appreciate the game more (I like knowing that the only creature that doesn't use the stack when it comes into play is Dryad Arbor).  Our extensive card history helps us better judge new cards (although not perfectly!) and evaluate formats and decks more quickly.  It builds within us a relationship to the game that many of us feel Wizards doesn't appreciate in its search for new players.

Wizards is a company.  They are beholden to profit, as all companies are, and that's fine.  For the most part, they cater to us pretty well, but I do miss the days when things were more complex, it seemed like there was more thinking involved and the game itself was harder.  There was more to explore; I miss that sense of discovery, and don't feel like Wizards goes out of its way to bring that to us.


For those players calling for Pack Rat to be banned in limited - As far as I'm aware, a card has never been banned in limited. If they decided to ban it in limited, how would that be accomplished?
Immature College Student (Also a Rules Advisor)
For the first few days after Mirrodin was added to Magic Online, Fatespinner didn't work: the opponent was on the clock to make a decision, but they never implemented a way to select that decision, so all they could do was watch their clock run down and lose on time. This inevitably led to people building decks solely around Fatespinner, as it was even more bonkers in its bugged state than Pack Rat is now, and until Wizards could patch the game to fix it, their solution was to emergency-ban Fatespinner in all formats, even Limited. You could still get the card in a pack, and draft it, but it was as worthless as drafting a basic land.
For those players calling for Pack Rat to be banned in limited - As far as I'm aware, a card has never been banned in limited. If they decided to ban it in limited, how would that be accomplished?


Who is calling for that?
For those players calling for Pack Rat to be banned in limited - As far as I'm aware, a card has never been banned in limited. If they decided to ban it in limited, how would that be accomplished?


Who is calling for that?


Not sure it was in this thread, but the article itself says:
There have been many players suggesting we ban Pack Rat in Limited.


and this has come up in Magic General a bit.
Immature College Student (Also a Rules Advisor)
For those players calling for Pack Rat to be banned in limited - As far as I'm aware, a card has never been banned in limited. If they decided to ban it in limited, how would that be accomplished?


Who is calling for that?




I couldn't help wondering that either.  Its a rare.  You don't face it the vast majority of the times you draft.  More people lose to bad mana screw than pack rat, pack rat just feels worse because your opponent controls it 
Cards that are that obviously too powerful are stupid, and no, I don't think "people like opening strong stuff" is justification. Guess what, you just said that there will always be better cards, so you can tone down the power and people will still open whatever the strongest stuff is and be happy with that.

Fundamentally, I like to win and lose games in which every card cast along the way matters. I don't want it to be "the last card matters." I want it to be "every card matters." In a game in which Emrakul resolves, for instance, nothing else in the game has mattered except Emrakul and whatever allowed him to resolve. I think this is absolutely terrible. In a random casual game like the ones I play, things like Titans are the same way - it doesn't matter what I've done in the first few turns, or what my opponent has done - they just resolved a Grave Titan, great, I lost unless I instantly deal with a 6/6 black creature that is basically immune to Edicts. Obviously it can be dealt with, but what it is doing is saying "here's a game decider, does it win or do you immediately stop it?" rather than saying "here's something that will contribute to my victory over the next few turns."

Strangely enough I don't really care THAT much about Thragtusk, obviously it is really good but at its heart it is just a 5 power guy for 5 that contributes more to you not losing than to you immediately winning. I do think it is too strong but it doesn't offend me as much as something like Consecrated Sphinx or whatever, and without the Restoration Angel and stuff like that it would be OK. I mean, it isn't even enough to beat the aggro decks most of the time as it stands, so I can't imagine how that deck would do if that card wasn't overpowered.

Regarding Pack Rat, screw that card and it is a much, much better design for it to be printed exactly as is, but let you discard a card to put two 1/1 rat tokens into play, rather than copies of itself.  
For those players calling for Pack Rat to be banned in limited - As far as I'm aware, a card has never been banned in limited. If they decided to ban it in limited, how would that be accomplished?

In a sanctioned tournament environment, I imagine you could just have a judge hand each rat-opener a replacement rare, like proxies for damaged cards.
Huh I totally get the pack rat thing now.

While mana screw does add variance to games allowing the less experienced player to sometimes win, it isn't very likely to help enough over the course of an entire tournament. Our newbie on the rise will eventually just get smashed by someone much better who doesn't get mana screwed. Not to mention, he will often notice that he only won because the opponent 'lost to their own deck' and that doesn't feel very good. (The 'newbie' might not be an actual new player it could even be someone who's being playing for years but is just not as good / never placed well in a serious tournament).

On the other hand, powerful cards like pack rat will help over the course of the tournament, always helping the player whose deck they're in rather than random bolts of mana screw lightning striking people at random. And it feels better to win with your own powerful cards rather than the opponent losing to bad hands.

As the author admitted, that's not to say that pack rat itself is okay. It's so powerful that the good feeling you get from winning with your own card is lessened compared to other bombs. (Not to mention people's usual complaints). But how could they have changed it? Change either the mana cost or the activation cost by 1 and it wouldn't do much work. You know that there's not going to be a rare at the level of pack rat for winning limited games in every limited format, so if the bombs are a bit bombier than usual for three months I think we can deal with it (even in RGD 2013 pack rat will be three times less common to show up).

But the concept behind pack rat is good. Newbies need a chance to win tournaments, or people will be too scared to enter their first ptq. And pack rat does more 'right' than merely being a powerful card. Notice, for example, most other bomb cards usually cost a lot of mana (like six mana titans). To make the most of them you have to play a more defensive limited deck which could be difficult for the newbie. And then you get bombs that require more skill to play the bomb card itself (I had an opponent who didn't realize dracogenius could kill creatures), so they don't accomplish their aim of letting the newbie win.

An aside. The tricolor uncommons in Shards of Alara (like Rhox War Monk and Wooly Thoctar) were a good idea, because it feels good to luck out and get their right colors to play them on the third turn (like the reverse of mana screw). One possible answer "what do you want to lose to?" could be "my opponent gets perfect mana to play their risky cards." But I guess they're not exactly bombs, and you can't rely on reverse mana screw any more than on every opponent getting mana screwed.

The trick to liking pack rat is to think of yourself as the newbie they made it for. We're all newbies compared to someone else, unless you can regularly top 8 the ptq with skill alone. Not everyone has the time and patience to level up their Magic skillz and our casual playgroups get a lot more cool stories when our random mate top 64'ed a GP because he opened an awesome pool. 

Good idea for an article, but it didn't read well.  Too much of it felt like a book report on MaRo's original piece.  It got better toward the bottom though.


As I said in response to the Making Magic column, a lot of what you want from good/bad cards can be accomplished with broad/narrow designations instead.  Of course that means more work for R&D, but suck it up.


What I'd like to know though, and feel free to take a future column for this: when exactly did "game of skill" become a negative to you guys?  I know Aaron redirected things a bit when he took over, but I'm betting on one guy in accounting with a Venn diagram crossing "Smart enough to enjoy skill games" "Dumb enough to dump four figures a year on them."

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There is a lot I could say to some of the posts here but I'll just leave it at this: Pack Rats is beatable. Hell it's not even that hard to beat even when it drops on turn two. If you curve out well because you have built a well-curved deck (lots of 2-4 CMC cards) it really isn't hard. Swinging every turn you often put them in the awkward spot of losing a Pack Rats or getting dangerously low.

And that isn't even including fliers or D-Sphere. Or Azorius. Or Ultimate Price. Or Abrupt Decay. Or Electrickery. Or Izzet Staticaster. Or Dreadbore. All which beat Pack Rats on turn 2-3 (not withstanding you are on the play).

Pack Rats is strong, no doubt. Possibly the strongest card in limited. Unbeatable though? Absolutely not. I've actually seen it lose more games than win at my FNM.

*****

As for good cards in general, RnD could not possibly create a set where the gap between the best card and the worst card is small. Because its not just power that's relative, it's the power gap that is relative.

If X card is only a tiny bit better then Y, but everything else (A - W + Z) is equal, then X is absurdly powerful and Y is awful. And X will seem broken.

You are Red/Blue!
You are Red/Blue!

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