10/11/2013 LD: "Cross-Block Synergies in Theros"

16 posts / 0 new
Last post

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

So what does more damage to Magic: a Mirrodin block or a Kamigawa block?  Urza block or Masques block?  They do seem to happen with that one-two punch, but which is worse: the overpowered block or the weak one?

 

Sam seems to be suggesting that the weaker one is worse.  The biggest danger from Zendikar block wasn't the bomb that powered up Equipment, but the junk uncommon that might fight them?  I have to disagree.  I get it from a business standpoint: make players buy the latest unstoppable set which just happens to beat the last unstoppable set.  But that strikes me as pretty cynical and dangerous.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

What he means is that tuktuk had the potential of being unduly efficient against most of the next block. After all, it's teh equivalent of printing a Renounce the Guilds-like effect in Innistrad block. Of course tuktuk turned out to not be a problem because of the caw blade steamroller, but just because it turned out to be a non-issue doesn't meant it wasn't a design and development error.

Amarsir wrote:

So what does more damage to Magic: a Mirrodin block or a Kamigawa block? Urza block or Masques block? They do seem to happen with that one-two punch, but which is worse: the overpowered block or the weak one?

 

Sam seems to be suggesting that the weaker one is worse. The biggest danger from Zendikar block wasn't the bomb that powered up Equipment, but the junk uncommon that might fight them? I have to disagree. I get it from a business standpoint: make players buy the latest unstoppable set which just happens to beat the last unstoppable set. But that strikes me as pretty cynical and dangerous.

 

Whether a block is strong or weak is not important. What is important is keeping the Standard environment fresh and interesting.

 

You are speaking with hindsight. They did not know what was going to be strong when they put those cards in the set. Tuktuk Scrapper was more dangerous, because if Allies was the best deck when Worldwake released, Tuktuk Scrapper would ensure it continued to be the best deck for eighteen more months. Cards like Stoneforge Mystic change the environment and keep it from stagnating when new cards come in.

 

As Sam says, judging a card's individual power level is hard, and avoiding a mistake like Stoneforge Mystic is not something they can design for, but avoiding printing hate for strategies coming down the line is something they can design for.

One thing I don't like is, most of Theros's enchantments are built for Limited play, or are intended to be auras. The gods are great and all, but I feel like we didn't get our token Johnny/ Crap rare enchantment like Possibility Storm, or Search the City. I feel like so far this block is only for Timmy and Spike.

This is becoming one of my favorite columns. 

Coralus wrote:

One thing I don't like is, most of Theros's enchantments are built for Limited play, or are intended to be auras. The gods are great and all, but I feel like we didn't get our token Johnny/ Crap rare enchantment like Possibility Storm, or Search the City. I feel like so far this block is only for Timmy and Spike.

 

Actually, it's more than that. There is no pure enchantment in Theros, so there cannot be a Johnny/bad rare enchantment. The closest we get to pure enchantment are the 'enchantment but sometimes a creature' gods or their enchantment artifact weapons, and they're too tied to their cycles and flavour to be of that Johnny/bad rare type.

Agreed, Sam is doing a great job. Some of the articles on the site get a little cute so it's good to see someone who:

 

a) Knows what he's talking about

b) talks about it plainly

and

c) is still willing to do that despite the fact that these forums get super negative some times.

Coralus wrote:

One thing I don't like is, most of Theros's enchantments are built for Limited play, or are intended to be auras. The gods are great and all, but I feel like we didn't get our token Johnny/ Crap rare enchantment like Possibility Storm, or Search the City. I feel like so far this block is only for Timmy and Spike.

 

I don't know about the Timmy/Johnny/Spike breakdown, and I love the "gift of the gods" flavor of Theros generally, but I, too, found it weird that Theros is called the Enchantment Block when it actually contains ZERO non-Aura non-Creature non-Artifact enchantments! It would be kinda like having an Artifact Block where half the creatures had the Artifact creature type (including colored creatures) but there were no non-creature artifacts (baubles, gears, equipment, engine pieces, "enchantment-like" artifacts, etc.).

 

They must be saving them for the other sets in the block, after deciding that they needed lots of Auras and Bestow to have a critical mass of Heroic triggers.

It baffles me how completely people missed my point, but I'll try again.  Let's say there are two different ways to get a "new and exciting" Standard.

 

  1. Every strategy has an answer, so if something dominates one week it gets pushed back the next.
  2. Decks are allowed to intentionally dominate for a while, provided they are rotated into the next one.

I like method 1.  It's flexible and unpredictable, protects against mistakes and let's people play a T2 or T1.5 deck for a full two years with moderate changes if they so choose.  But what Sam is describing is a rejection of method 1 and an embrace of 2.  He's not saying they won't allow a Faeries-level deck.  He's saying they will allow one, just not for 2 years.  So we get:

 

Now maybe it doesn't always matter, and we don't know if enchantments will dominate right now.  But if it does, and Mortify would have made the difference, then it's a dominance they entirely created just to knock down later.  That casts Magic players as sheep who just stampede from one set of dominant things into the next.  Which is great for business, if we're willing to do that.

 

Furthermore, the idea that they are willing to power up the coming environment but not fight it is totally asking for trouble.  If printing Tuktuk Scrapper is bad because you couldn't predict how good it will be against Scars block, then printing Stoneforge Mystic was even worse because you couldn't predict how good it would be with Scars block.  You can't claim one and not the other.  If you're worried that Allies might be too good then Scars has nothing to do with that.  Just print a hate card for Allies!  Tuktuk Scrapper is a ridiculous strawman because even if Allies were dominant, that card wouldn't have seen play prior to Scars.  And therefore would have changed the deck and possibly the colors thereof.  

 

But if Stoneforge Mystic was already good prior to Scars (and it was), then it could only gain from what was printed.  Which is why people got sick of it.  As they may now with Boros Reckoner.  Cross-block synergy is good, and I was just saying here two weeks ago that I like it.  But this attitude that hate cards are too risky is just asking for trouble.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

Amarsir raises a very valid point speaking against rosewaters new world order. I agree with it wholeheartedly. 

MartianReaver wrote:

Amarsir raises a very valid point speaking against rosewaters new world order. I agree with it wholeheartedly. 

Where does Amarsir mention NWO or commons?

Amarsir wrote:
Furthermore, the idea that they are willing to power up the coming environment but not fight it is totally asking for trouble. If printing Tuktuk Scrapper is bad because you couldn't predict how good it will be against Scars block, then printing Stoneforge Mystic was even worse because you couldn't predict how good it would be with Scars block. You can't claim one and not the other.

Both cases are bad, but Scrapper being too strong with Scars is worse. If Scrapper is too strong with Scars, things stagnate. If Stoneforge Mystic is too strong with Scars, at least things change.

Amarsir wrote:
But if Stoneforge Mystic was already good prior to Scars (and it was), then it could only gain from what was printed. Which is why people got sick of it. As they may now with Boros Reckoner. Cross-block synergy is good, and I was just saying here two weeks ago that I like it. But this attitude that hate cards are too risky is just asking for trouble.

Stoneforge Mystic was not played prior to Scars. People got sick of it, because it was good with Scars, then was good with Besieged, and then dominated with New Phyrexia.

Hate cards are good. They print hate cards all the time, but preprinting hate cards for strategies that have not had the chance to exist yet is dangerous.

the cycle of 2 and 3 drop bestow creatures can be thown early in a slow dragon maze deck

 

bestow is like a kicker cost and can step up if a large mana base blooms

president obombya speaks anger prejudice and a time for US foreign air strike while the US worries about its rights

Let 'em burn [Frozen Parody]

PirateAmmo wrote:
Both cases are bad, but Scrapper being too strong with Scars is worse. If Scrapper is too strong with Scars, things stagnate. If Stoneforge Mystic is too strong with Scars, at least things change.
Can you give me an example of a time when a deck dominated too long because it pre-hated the following block?  I can't think of an example.  And I suspect that Sam can't either, because his best example (Tuktuk Scrapper) is a case where it didn't happen!  I grant in abstract theory that it's possible to stagnate this way.  But it hasn't been demonstrated.

 

Meanwhile, it's easy to think of examples where a deck dominated because there wasn't enough hate.  Or where a card that was already strong became more dominant because of the next sets.  So I think it's odd to be so optimistic about synergy yet wary of protection.  History has played out the opposite.

 

(To be clear, I'm responding specifically to what Sam said in light of historic blunders.  I'm actually quite happy with the quality/quantity of hate-cards that have been printed recently and think Development has done a good job protecting themselves like that.)

 

 

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

Shiny_Umbreon wrote:

 

MartianReaver wrote:

Amarsir raises a very valid point speaking against rosewaters new world order. I agree with it wholeheartedly. 

 

Where does Amarsir mention NWO or commons?

I didn't specifically, but it's related.

 

Prior to NWO, the attitude was that they were going to print a bunch of good cards, at all the different rarities.  The upshot was that the environment wasn't all that predictable, but with enough stuff at comparable levels you could always build a different deck to take down whatever the monster was.  This point of view hit a peak around Ravnica block, where it was described as "no tier 1, lots of tier 2".

 

But with NWO the common and uncommon slots have been dedicated to Limited.  If some of the more utility cards (e.g. removal or cheap beaters) also cut it in Constructed, that's fine.  But if they don't that's also fine because Constructed isn't supposed to revolve around them.  It revolves around high-profile Mythics and Rares.  Case in point: Voice of Resurgeance was given a high-profile promotion in something like ten different dailymtg columns before the set was even released.  Sphinx's Revelation was similiarly pushed, and both have had very predictable effects on the environment.

 

Contrast this attitude with promos for Time Spiral block, where they suggested the most Constructed-worthy cards were Serra Avenger, Magus of the Disk, and Tivadar of Thorn.  (My evidence being that they were Swimming with the Sharks previews here, here, and here.)  Nothing against those cards, but they clearly weren't format-defining like the current stars.

 

So the attitude has shifted from "nobody knows what will be on top, but there's lots of good stuff" to "R&D knows to 90% what will be on top, and the rest of you will find out".  (In Sam's FFL column a few weeks ago, he went so far as to practically apologize for not knowing 100%.)  Now this is good for business because if they know the top 5 cards in the environment they can put most/all at mythic and ensure that lots of packs are opened.  And it might be good for balance, although I point out that Stoneforge & Jace came after NWO.  (Tarmogoyf was before it, for a counterexample.)  But I don't know if it's the best thing for players.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.