4/26/2013 LD: "Structuring Dragon's Maze Limited"

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

Boros was decent in RtR. The monocolored cards of both were pretty strong and synergistic, so if both were open sometimes you just ended up with a winning Boros deck.


I have high hopes for the LLS set structure, and I kinda expect it to be the best ever. I'm already exited to open RtR boosters again. Instead of having a large set you open all year (Scars of Mirrodin), a large set you'd wish you'd open all year (Rise of Eldrazi) or the awkward double-large format (Dark Ascension), you now seem to have the best of all worlds. Each large set is drafted a nice 2 sets long, not 3 or 1. Each small set is drafted with 3 different boosters right away. And we have a set being opened again that hasn't been opened for a while, leading to subtle feelings of nostalgia. 

Right now my bet is on "LLS is the best block structure as of yet and you should do tons more of those".
I notice a trend in a lot of design and development articles "we were having some problem and then Erik Lauer came and fixed it". He's like the Gandalf of M:tG.
There's nothing wrong with making removal spells expensive and bad.  The problem is when you combine bad, slow removal spells with over the curve common creatures.  People might not like games that last 20 turns with every creature being killed, but I don't think they're big on losing to two drop, three drop, combat trick + two drop either.  You might not want to have common removal spells as efficient and powerful as Terminate and Murder, but Shocks, Disfigures, and Pacifisms are absolutely necessary if you're going to print a ton of 2 mana 3 toughness creatures.  Getting curved out by Simic or Boros is just unbelievably frustrating.


 You state that people don't like slower limited formats, but I would guess that Invasion, Ravnica, and Rise of the Eldrazi are among the most popular and highly regarded limited formats you have created, and all three of those were slowish and filled with excellent removal.  I would guess that if you polled your audience who has played all of them, those three plus Innistrad would come up as the four most popular.
Good article. The points about "bad" removal and mana-fixing are spot-on.

I prefer slower limited formats than Gatecrash's, so I appreciate the insight into how its speed affects that of DGM-GTC-RTR.
Good to hear such solid support for the importance of "bad" removal (which I prefer to think of as "balanced removal"). One by one R&D is gradually fixing all my persistent design whinges about Magic. At this rate I'll be out of things to be grumpy about by around 2020!

I notice a trend in a lot of design and development articles "we were having some problem and then Erik Lauer came and fixed it". He's like the Gandalf of M:tG.

Although in this case the speed of Gatecrash was a bit of a disaster (in fact I'm very surprised to hear that RtR was also designed along the same lines) so maybe more like Emmett Brown than Gandalf?


Like the others up there ^, I'm pretty stoked about bad removal! Limited should never devolve into a collection of permission decks, and turn 4-5 red deck wins. I love a format that gives players breathing room, and play choices.
There's nothing wrong with making removal spells expensive and bad.  The problem is when you combine bad, slow removal spells with over the curve common creatures.  People might not like games that last 20 turns with every creature being killed, but I don't think they're big on losing to two drop, three drop, combat trick + two drop either.  You might not want to have common removal spells as efficient and powerful as Terminate and Murder, but Shocks, Disfigures, and Pacifisms are absolutely necessary if you're going to print a ton of 2 mana 3 toughness creatures.  Getting curved out by Simic or Boros is just unbelievably frustrating.



Gatecrash has by far the best removal in the entire block though, so the problem you're having is not caused by the factor you're talking about here.
Good to hear such solid support for the importance of "bad" removal (which I prefer to think of as "balanced removal"). One by one R&D is gradually fixing all my persistent design whinges about Magic. At this rate I'll be out of things to be grumpy about by around 2020!

I notice a trend in a lot of design and development articles "we were having some problem and then Erik Lauer came and fixed it". He's like the Gandalf of M:tG.

Although in this case the speed of Gatecrash was a bit of a disaster (in fact I'm very surprised to hear that RtR was also designed along the same lines) so maybe more like Emmett Brown than Gandalf?





Like the others up there ^, I'm pretty stoked about bad removal! Limited should never devolve into a collection of permission decks, and turn 4-5 red deck wins. I love a format that gives players breathing room, and play choices.




And when the limited game is done, those cards become common box chaff. I've never been a fan of draft/limited and the more I see comments like this (esp from WOTC staff), the more I think it was the worst thing done to the game. 
Proud member of C.A.R.D. - Campaign Against Rare Duals "...but the time has come when lands just need to be better. Creatures have gotten stronger, spells have always been insane, and lands just sat in this awkward place of necessity." Jacob Van Lunen on the refuge duals, 16 Sep 2009. "While it made thematic sense to separate enemy and allied color fixing in the past, we have come around to the definite conclusion that it is just plain incorrect from a game-play perspective. This is one of these situations where game play should just trump flavor." - Sam Stoddard on ending the separation of allied/enemy dual lands. 05 July 2013
Good to hear such solid support for the importance of "bad" removal (which I prefer to think of as "balanced removal"). One by one R&D is gradually fixing all my persistent design whinges about Magic. At this rate I'll be out of things to be grumpy about by around 2020!

I notice a trend in a lot of design and development articles "we were having some problem and then Erik Lauer came and fixed it". He's like the Gandalf of M:tG.

Although in this case the speed of Gatecrash was a bit of a disaster (in fact I'm very surprised to hear that RtR was also designed along the same lines) so maybe more like Emmett Brown than Gandalf?





Like the others up there ^, I'm pretty stoked about bad removal! Limited should never devolve into a collection of permission decks, and turn 4-5 red deck wins. I love a format that gives players breathing room, and play choices.




And when the limited game is done, those cards become common box chaff. I've never been a fan of draft/limited and the more I see comments like this (esp from WOTC staff), the more I think it was the worst thing done to the game. 

Color me confused.  Why is this a problem?  If you don't like the commons then buy singles. 

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From Mark Rosewater's Tumblr: the0uroboros asked: How in the same set can we have a hexproof, unsacrificable(not a word) creature AND a land that makes it uncounterable. How does this lead to interactive play? I believe I’m able to play my creature and you have to deal with it is much more interactive than you counter my creature.

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Post #777

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MaRo: One of the classic R&D stories happened during a Scars of Mirrodin draft. Erik Lauer was sitting to my right (meaning that he passed to me in the first and third packs). At the end of the draft, Erik was upset because I was in his colors (black-green). He said, "Didn't you see the signals? I went into black-green in pack one." I replied, "Didn't you see my signals? I started drafting infect six drafts ago."

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MaRo: I redesigned him while the effect was on the stack.

Meh, if we didn't print so many DSpheres then maybe we'd use more Arrests.
Good to hear such solid support for the importance of "bad" removal (which I prefer to think of as "balanced removal"). One by one R&D is gradually fixing all my persistent design whinges about Magic. At this rate I'll be out of things to be grumpy about by around 2020!



I sometimes feel that way too. Especially when it comes to limited/casual, they've gotten very good at doing what they do.

I drafted a lot of Onslaught. There was a common that would easily dominate any game in which it was cast, Sparksmith, and a second that was a bit harder to set up but almost equally dominating, Lavamancer's Skill. The number of common answers to Sparksmith? Three: Shock, Solar Blast, and Cruel Revival. (I could be missing one.) The second set in the block, Legions, almost made things worse. It added common morph creatures (one black and one red) that could kill Sparksmith, but it also added Timberwatch Elf, which was almost as dominating as Sparksmith.

Anyway, the bottom line was, every pick order in sets in the Onslaught era started with the 1-3 mana removal spells. They once experimented with Ember Shot but it took them another ~6 years to really try going in that direction. Another welcome change is that the best removal spells (Incinerate, Terror) used to be splashable, but when the removal spell is one of the color's top commons, they've started making it harder to splash (Murder, Grisly Spectacle).
There's nothing wrong with making removal spells expensive and bad.  The problem is when you combine bad, slow removal spells with over the curve common creatures.  People might not like games that last 20 turns with every creature being killed, but I don't think they're big on losing to two drop, three drop, combat trick + two drop either.  You might not want to have common removal spells as efficient and powerful as Terminate and Murder, but Shocks, Disfigures, and Pacifisms are absolutely necessary if you're going to print a ton of 2 mana 3 toughness creatures.  Getting curved out by Simic or Boros is just unbelievably frustrating.



Gatecrash has by far the best removal in the entire block though, so the problem you're having is not caused by the factor you're talking about here.





The removal in RTR and GTC is about the same.  The difference is the power level of early drops, as well as the lack of quality defensive creatures in GTC, that are abundant in RTR.




The scenarios mentioned in the original article could be bad.  Formats where games go 20 turns and every creature is killed aren't good.  Those formats don't really exist though.   In fact, you would think that the power level of removal would go up since the power level of creatures has gone up exponentially, but in fact it has been exactly the opposite.  These problems they allege that good removal spells create don't actually exist.
Good to hear such solid support for the importance of "bad" removal (which I prefer to think of as "balanced removal"). One by one R&D is gradually fixing all my persistent design whinges about Magic. At this rate I'll be out of things to be grumpy about by around 2020!



I sometimes feel that way too. Especially when it comes to limited/casual, they've gotten very good at doing what they do.

I drafted a lot of Onslaught. There was a common that would easily dominate any game in which it was cast, Sparksmith, and a second that was a bit harder to set up but almost equally dominating, Lavamancer's Skill. The number of common answers to Sparksmith? Three: Shock, Solar Blast, and Cruel Revival. (I could be missing one.) The second set in the block, Legions, almost made things worse. It added common morph creatures (one black and one red) that could kill Sparksmith, but it also added Timberwatch Elf, which was almost as dominating as Sparksmith.

Anyway, the bottom line was, every pick order in sets in the Onslaught era started with the 1-3 mana removal spells. They once experimented with Ember Shot but it took them another ~6 years to really try going in that direction. Another welcome change is that the best removal spells (Incinerate, Terror) used to be splashable, but when the removal spell is one of the color's top commons, they've started making it harder to splash (Murder, Grisly Spectacle).





This is a problem with repeatable onboard effects, not removal.  Wizards has mainly removed creatures like this, and those that do appear tend to be uncommon or higher.
The removal in RTR and GTC is about the same.  The difference is the power level of early drops, as well as the lack of quality defensive creatures in GTC, that are abundant in RTR.



Oh come on.

Looking at the commons, the only removal costing less than 2 in RtR are Electrickery and Dramatic Rescue.
GTC has Mugging, Smite, Death's Approach, Devour Flesh, Executioner's Swing, Pit Fight.

The expensive removal of RtR costs 6 (Explosive Impact, Trostani's Judgment) whereas GTC's costs 5 (Angelic Edict, Totally Lost).

GTC has cheaper removal to match the aggressive early drops. I don't know how you can say that GTC limited would play about the same if all the removal would be replaced by the RtR removal.
In terms of feedback for RTR and GTC alone, I'd like to throw in my take on them.  I've played a ton of RTR and GTC since their release, RTR being my favorite of the two.  Return to Ravnica is a lot of fun to play in limited because the great variety provided by each of the guilds.  Every guild has a different playstyle, and the best part is that you can go for three color (which I almost always do) and splash another guild to add their power.

Whether it's going token crazy with Selesyna, trick heavy with Izzet, racing with Rakdos, having a scavenge fest with Golgari, or just going over the top with Azorious, I found there was always a different way to approach each draft or sealed.  I really enjoy the fact that you can add another guild though for three color power, taking advantage of the power of more then one color's gold cards.  It's something that I miss when I play the core set, Magic 2013.  Playing a standard two color deck can get a bit boring, but it doesn't come with the pitfalls of a three color manabase. 

For RTR, I feel it is the better of the two sets as for the most part games aren't ended in the blink of an eye, and it allows each player to feel the depth of the set each game.  With Gatecrash, and the addition of the bloodrush mechanic, games can end surprisingly quick.  I've always been more fond of longer games of Magic, not blowing your opponent out in just a few turns.  This isn't something I personally want to see in limited, but it happens a lot.  The Boros guild seemed a bit too powerful, and when you added Gruul to their team for bloodrush, games close out fast.

It's not all bad for GTC though, as I really enjoyed the addition of extort in the Orzhov guild, my particular favorite.  Battallion was another neat addition that made combat a little more exciting.  Having special triggers on creatures and being rewarded for having a larger board presence is awesome. I found the Dmir guild to be very lacking in power though, and it was certainly a letdown for the set. GTC provided them so many neat tools for milling an opponent out, but because there are too many options for beating your opponent down quickly in this set it's very hard to take advantage of what Dmir has to offer.  Cipher is one of my favorite mechanics added to this set though, and a lot of fun to use.

Overall I prefer Return to Ravnica hands down, but one thing I must say is that both of the sets combined is a blast. I got the chance to play in a Mini Masters tournament at PAX this year and combining the two sets to create a deck was awesome.  I very much so look forward to playing all three sets together :]
The removal in RTR and GTC is about the same.  The difference is the power level of early drops, as well as the lack of quality defensive creatures in GTC, that are abundant in RTR.



Oh come on.

Looking at the commons, the only removal costing less than 2 in RtR are Electrickery and Dramatic Rescue.
GTC has Mugging, Smite, Death's Approach, Devour Flesh, Executioner's Swing, Pit Fight.

The expensive removal of RtR costs 6 (Explosive Impact, Trostani's Judgment) whereas GTC's costs 5 (Angelic Edict, Totally Lost).

GTC has cheaper removal to match the aggressive early drops. I don't know how you can say that GTC limited would play about the same if all the removal would be replaced by the RtR removal.





SMite, Death's Approach, and Pit Fight might technically cost 1 and 2 mana, but since they aren't really playable before turn 4 or 5 in most games, their value is minimal against the 2 drops that low cost removal needs to be able to deal with.