1/5/2009 MM: "Resolutions"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Happy New Year! Eventually!
1) When I go off on one of my useless tangents, I will ask someone else on my staff to write the design article that week.
2) I will finish turning all of my articles into Wikipedia entries, and by the end of the year almost every phrase will be a hyperlink to another article.

I predict one of these is on his list
I hope it's drawing cards. I really like to draw cards.
Objection!

Design Lesson #3 doesn't line up with a recent action you have taken. Remember Ooze Garden? I recall you pushing the design when almost everyone else wanted it out.
I love it when you're able to tie together design lessons and life lessons, Mark. I know I'll do my best to apply these lessons to both.

Of course, I'd add a number 11: Trust yourself. If you have doubts about something, figure out why, because there's a good chance there's something about it worth doubting.

Objection!

Design Lesson #3 doesn't line up with a recent action you have taken. Remember Ooze Garden? I recall you pushing the design when almost everyone else wanted it out.

The resistance to Ooze Garden was not due to it not fitting in the set. In fact, it has excellent synergy with unearth and exalted.
Comment Re: Odyssey: Yeah, I can see that being a set not well-received by non-Spikes. Sure, I guess part of it was that discarding cards (especially randomly) isn't fun, but it was also the wildly inconsistent power level attached to it. On one end you have Wild Mongrel and Wearbear... and then you have the Red discard commons in Odyssey. Discarding a card randomly for a great effect? You might sell casuals on that (Stormbind). Discarding a card randomly for +2/+0? On a 1/1? (Pardic Swordsmith) Not so much.

Many of the good cards in Odyssey were also rather subtle such that didn't leap out to casual players as awesome (Bearscape, Moment's Peace, Careful Study, Master Apothecary - all excellent in the right spot, but none say "Wow"). The set also had a huge proportion of crap rares. Yes, every set needs bad rares, but Odyssey needed more bad rares like Cabal Patriarch (Huge, makes the graveyard relevant, good for casual players) and fewer like Tombfire and Pedantic Learning.

I definitely think "discard is cool" could be sold to casual players, but not underpowered discard. Vaguely similar to Echo, I suppose- as discussed in an earlier column, Echo is a nonsexy mechanic whose only benefit is that it allows R&D to safely undercost various effects. Therefore a card with Echo that isn't selling itself on brokenly awesome extra effects (Avalanche Riders vs. Flamecore Elemental) is pretty much a guaranteed failure. One of those mechanics only fun at a high power level, I guess.
I hope it's drawing cards. I really like to draw cards.

Oh wow, I hope so, that would be pretty cool.

But I imagine it's something else, like playing creatures or something like that.
"Attacking" is the conventional answer: the reason why Nicol Bolas is more popular than any of the other Elder Dragon Legends, and the reason why most dragons with triggered abilities since then have triggered on dealing (combat) damage to a player. (Hateflayer is another excellent example of rewarding a player for doing what they want to do anyway with their 5/5 wither.)

But "drawing cards" could be good too.

There's even an outside chance it could be "gain life". (Or "play multicolour spells", I suppose.)
IMHO MaRo should have explicitly stated that the Razortooth Rats from Mirrodin was actually Dross Prowler. I imagine there's a very confused player out there somewhere. Probably more than one, actually.
I like to respond with my thoughts. And anything that makes me think makes me happy, so respond I shall.

#1: "Look Outside the Box only after looking inside it". I understand wanting to maintain consistency and all that, but I really think that's a developmental concern more than a design concern. They do tie together, but I'm of a mind that design is far more about being "new and different" than the same-old same-old.

I do have to concede that there's no reason to change something for the sake of changing it; that's why it's important to present yourself with as many different design directions as possible. One of the great things about Magic is that it normally is fresh and new, but when constantly retreading old ground it turns out bad.

I do think Shards suffers a bit from "doing it to do it". While I really like a card like Kederekt Creeper, I find myself constantly looking at it saying "So, why is it blue? It looks red/black." The best answer I can come up with is "it's a common Grixis creature that establishes the color theme of the set" (I don't think a 2/3 body communicates color unless it's distinct. A 4/1 red-white creature with Vigilance would be distinctly red in body; 2/3 in black doesn't seem out of line to me).

Also, just because you explore a design space during the design process does not mean that you have to use it. It is entirely possible that a good design can be cut from a set for reasons unrelated to its potential (I understand a local enchantment mechanic was cut from Tempest because the Licids already filled that space). I firmly believe some days people are more creative than others, and creating a backlog of good designs helps overcome times of "designer's block".

In short, I think the simplest solution to a problem is usually the best; to have the freedom to be creative, you need more new interesting problems.


#2: "If you can do without it, do so". Can't argue with that; it cuts down on necessary complexity. The important thing is to be sure you don't throw out things that are important, but you already addressed that in the article.

#3: "If it doesn't fit, don't force it". I follow this rule already, and it's mostly good. I don't think an ill fitting card is a bad card though; I think it's a good card in the wrong place. I think of it like a good kid with no friends; you don't hate it, you just want to put it in a place where it can be at it's best, and not where it will be all alone and miserable.


#4: "Everything Affects Everything". It's true. I think one of the reasons colors are important is to help group things that are similar where they will play nice with others, while keeping things divided so that you aren't forced into anything. For example, the big creatures in green tend to make you want to play acceleration, which in turn affects everything else in the color green (and the rest of the game). The end result is that players used to play green to get every other color online faster -- the creature color had inefficient creatures because it already had raw power to get them out sooner. Black suffered from a similar problem where nothing that practically won the game on turn 1 could be printed at 3 mana or less.

I think this fits in with point #3 too.


#5: "Pay attention to Feedback". Well, I'll give you some feedback. I constantly feel like I'm on the verge of getting a deck with a new theme together with the sets lately. I don't have many people to trade with, and don't buy a lot to trade, but I still want to have fun with the new mechanics. The other cards are either in a later set, by which time I may have lost interest, or they're at rare where I'll never see them.

When I see a rare that would fit well into a deck I already have, I think "I know I'd like that, it's perfect!". When I don't quite have a deck together, and it looks like I need a rare to pull it together, I think "I don't even know if I'd like to play with that" and tend to buy less (I had this experience when making a mono-black Goblin deck, and realized that to get enough 2 drops I needed four Weirding Shamans).

I've also had the experience that I can't really put a deck together until the next set releases. I think this is worse than the "block on block violence" that used to happen, because I have to wait so long to get a cohesive deck together, and then I don't get to play it long (to say nothing about the expense).

I really would like if there were more on-theme commons/uncommons; Hissing Iguanar and a few random uncommons (the Elemental and Drake) was a great start that built into a Jund deck that I then started seeking out more stuff for. Without a "critical mass" of cards I don't get around to building.

I wouldn't think this is a problem except I'm constantly told I have a "large collection". It's big, but it's mostly just random cards from packs, so I end up with a lot of chaff, and no real desire to trade. If I didn't see it, I don't know I want it. I feel like I'm ranting now, so I'll stop.

#6 "Listen to the uninvested". That's mostly true, but only so long as you can trust the uninvested people to give you decent advice. You also have to remember your audience.

Sure, you can ask outside people for advice, and sometimes that works out. But unless they are similar enough to you to understand what's valuable, they just won't get what's really important.

That said, sometimes a fresh perspective helps quite a bit with problem solving. Even "giving it a rest" and coming back to it can give you a fresh new perspective.


#7: "Give yourself time". This is the one I've been hurting on most recently. No commentary necessary.


#8: "Mistakes are educational". Yeah, usually. Sometimes, the whole point of trying something is to "see why it doesn't work". When I've taught new players Magic, they'll sometimes say "I don't want to attack, but I don't know why. Can we see what would happen if I did attack, and then back up?". Knowing you shouldn't do something has some small value, but knowing why you shouldn't do it has far more.


#9: This is probably the inverse of #1. Wait, why are you looking outside the box? Sometimes the fact that something is working, but not "the way you want it to" is motivation enough to look for another answer. You can always return to what worked.

Funny as it seems, this means that an apparent success is sometimes a failure. "When you have time" I do think you should analyze what you're doing and try to figure out if it really works as well as you think it does.


#10: As a guy with an interest in human factors, I totally agree. Figure out what makes people tick and use it to make everything better whenever possible. Admittedly I tend to apply it to the most mundane things in life (I still think that using natural mapping on a stove is awesome), but sometimes the little things that nobody quite notices are the ones that make life really great instead of just not-bad.
I got deja vu when reading the actual article. It felt like either some or all of that was mentioned before somewhere. Also, there should have been more examples accompanying each resolution. Other than that I have to say it is extremely refreshing now when I don't see a gimmick.
I got deja vu when reading the actual article. It felt like either some or all of that was mentioned before somewhere. Also, there should have been more examples accompanying each resolution. Other than that I have to say it is extremely refreshing now when I don't see a gimmick.

Yeah, he seems to be repeating himself a lot lately, though I seemed to get a different impression this time. In the same way I read Aaron Forsythe's article today as a pretty grim outlook on Magic's future, I'm thinking Mark is seeing the same things and is seriously making himself knuckle down.

As for the points, not a lot to add but #1 sticks out for me because I still feel the same way I did the last time he brought it up:

With regards to Design Lesson #1: Look Outside the Box Only After You've Looked Inside It : Sometimes the best way to see inside the box is from just outside of it, you might have even been standing on something that could be useful.

Design Lesson #3: If It Doesn't Fit, Don't Force It
While I mostly agree with this, I'm reminded of a discussion sometime last year I think where they discussed cycles and whether or not they should finish cycles that don't quite fit flavorwise or for whatever reason. I think the example they gave was the five dragons of Kamigawa and how they felt the last one (green, IIRC) seemed like a kludge. My response then, and now, is that if you're at 4 and the 5th would mostly fit (and is also something cool like dragons! for example, then do it. If you're at 3 or less, and the 4th and 5th are real stretches, then leave it at 3. Basically, if it doesn't hurt the set, and you could gain a smidge flavorwise, I'd be in favor of putting it in. Like...say.... frikkin goats in a set with a frikkin card called frikkin Goatnapper! Gah, that still honks me off...


Not much to say on the rest except overall I get the impression that Mark seems to really "feel" the ideas a little more in this particular article. Like I said above, maybe he's on the same wavelength as Aaron and they're trying to change course mid-stream.
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
"Attacking" is the conventional answer: the reason why Nicol Bolas is more popular than any of the other Elder Dragon Legends, and the reason why most dragons with triggered abilities since then have triggered on dealing (combat) damage to a player. (Hateflayer is another excellent example of rewarding a player for doing what they want to do anyway with their 5/5 wither.)

But "drawing cards" could be good too.

There's even an outside chance it could be "gain life". (Or "play multicolour spells", I suppose.)

how about winning the game?

I want a mechanic that rewards me for winning the game.

Ante is back!
I love how Dash Hopes is under "Learn from mistakes". It has two meanings, perhaps?
I like to respond with my thoughts. And anything that makes me think makes me happy, so respond I shall.

#1: "Look Outside the Box only after looking inside it". I understand wanting to maintain consistency and all that, but I really think that's a developmental concern more than a design concern. They do tie together, but I'm of a mind that design is far more about being "new and different" than the same-old same-old..

I say (game) design is about creating fun. Thus the question is what creates the most fun? The friction here, I think, is that for hardened veterans like us forum-posters, fun comes more from the "new and different" while the audience at large is more pleased with the "same-old-still-awesome" (not to mention all the new players who never experienced the old, to whom the "proven-to-be-very-fun old" is more like "proven-to-be-fun-AND-new-and-shiny" :D

Other than that, great additions.

I'm ver glad with the explaination why mistakes are so valuable! I never realized that yes, success doesn't lead to change and mistakes do (I know they did, just never connected the dots >.>)

Also, #3 has been a life lesson I learned from design myself too not all that long ago ;)

To make the best choices about what I am going to do, I have to think about what I want out of my job in its entirety.

especially the 'want' part. What you truly want, in detail. You can sit with 9 others and all say "I want to make an awesome game", but on further narrowing down what 'awesome game' means, find out that you all have wildly different ideas what makes a game great, what you want out of a game.

in my daily life too, I'm more and more asking that same question as in the article; 'what I want out of this?' and then decide what to do and what not to do...

here's my #12: Hook your audience. If you're pitching an idea to other designers, you'll have to hook 'm, with something enthousiastic, something personal, something energizing.

When you're writing a letter of solicitation, or signing up for a room, the same rules apply. Hook 'm! Move 'm! (I'm not sure yet if it is really true yet, but it -is- something that has crossed over from design into real life :D)
Here's the problem: Doing things for the sake of doing them leads to bad design. First, you make inconsistencies because you create things that don't work the same. Second, you prematurely chew up design space. And third, you create things that aren't grounded with the rest of the design.

Alright MaRo. You're off my hit-list for not making an Enchantment block yet. But start working on the Keyword block already. I want to live to see an enchantment that gives all creatures with Trample +1/+1!

"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

After reading this article, I followed the link back to Topical Blend #1, and now none of the "Click here" links for revealing hidden text in that article work anymore. Could someone fix this?

EDIT: Sorry, I probably should have updated this post earlier to reflect this, but: I tried again later in the evening after having restarted Firefox and it worked fine. I don't know what the problem was but it seems to have a pretty easy fix/workaround at the very least.
Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
My 2009 Resolution: Use every Magic Card in my collection in a deck.

I have a giant collection. It makes me sad just watching some of them collect dust. Therefore, any way possible, they are going into a deck. It will be interesting to see what lessons I learn from this.

Later
Well if you aren't doing anything competitive you can make this happen fairly easily. I haver a number of casual decks whose main contents are the dregs of the sets I've been around to enjoy. They are absolutely terrible decks, except for a few tribal ones like Kithkin or Faeries which are merely bad (although the Kithkin deck still goldfishes on turn 4 most of the time). The thing is I still weed out cards. I don;t know how easy it would be to literally put every card in a deck and use it. I could see putting a singleton in a casual deck and just never playing it.
Well if you aren't doing anything competitive you can make this happen fairly easily. I haver a number of casual decks whose main contents are the dregs of the sets I've been around to enjoy. They are absolutely terrible decks, except for a few tribal ones like Kithkin or Faeries which are merely bad (although the Kithkin deck still goldfishes on turn 4 most of the time). The thing is I still weed out cards. I don;t know how easy it would be to literally put every card in a deck and use it. I could see putting a singleton in a casual deck and just never playing it.

I fully realize some/most of the decks are going to be horrible. I am doing it for a learning experience. Example: What's the most difficult color to make decks out of? What's the easiest ways to make decks? What other complications will I run into? Most of all, why?

Is this trivial? Maybe, but I find it interesting.

Already, I've gone from 26 decks to 45. The easiest way to make decks are to make them tribal. I made an insect deck, a wurm deck, and a horror deck. The probelm I am finding trouble is with the flavor of these decks. Sure, dragons are flavorful, but most of the tribes do not have much for flavor. When building my centaur deck, there is very little in common with the centaurs. The most that the centaurs have in common is a picture of a centaur. No mechanic or storng flavor links them. Not like elves or goblins.

One of the other problems I am running into is utility. My oblivion rings, terrors and naturalizes are quickly disappearing. I find myself rationing them for my "better" decks.

Secondly, I am quickly running out of land. Very quickly, if I plan to keep this up, I am going to have to go out and actually buy some land.

Well, that's what I am finding so far. Anyway, I am still interested where this project will take me.
Hehe, you are running smack into everything I did last year. I ran out of all of the good removal and started using the secondary stuff, then the stuff after that. One of my decks is running Ghostfire and Fatal Attraction. It's just painful to play that deck. I also made a lot of tribal decks, but that was partly because I started doing this at Lorwyn when I had this big pile of cards that would never be any good elsewhere. I did try and pick up some extra removal, some Rift Bolts and Oblivion Rings, but that was defeating the purpose of me trying to get rid of cards so I stopped. Land also became an issue, but I got lucky and someone donated a ton of it for my cause.

Some of the decks are better than others, but ultimately I am only trying to make the decks playable against each other. This decision has allowed me to leave decks bad as long as they were not so bad as to be unplayable. They get tested in 2-3 games, labelled and put away. One day it will be done and people can come over, grab two deck boxes and challenge me.

I have about 40 of these decks now myself, and a lot more cards yet to work with. I am hoping to return to this project sometime this summer. I would like to finish it or at least decide to stop by December. But even at that I doubt I'll ever use every card. There are just so many more creatures than anything else, and those last decks would ultimately be nothing but 36 creatures/24 land. When I get there, it's donation time. Good luck with your project!
I have about 40 of these decks now myself, and a lot more cards yet to work with. I am hoping to return to this project sometime this summer. I would like to finish it or at least decide to stop by December. But even at that I doubt I'll ever use every card. There are just so many more creatures than anything else, and those last decks would ultimately be nothing but 36 creatures/24 land. When I get there, it's donation time. Good luck with your project!

Care to tackle my 70,000+ cards when you're done? I already have about 60 decks built and boxes and boxes and boxes of cards. I do at least have plenty of land, though.
This forum shouldn't have been made active until it was finished. There's just no excuse for this piece of garbage.
7000....my word!

I feel like the guy on Ad Nauseum just thinking about it :D