2/25/2014 Serious Fun: "Start Me Up: A Tribute Primer"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Serious Fun, which goes live Tuesday morning on magicthegathering.com.

Disclaimer: While the push for cards that are all upside is boring to me, it is necessary with cards that allow your opponent(s) to choose the mode. The payoff has to be worth the uncertainty. Tribute is terrible. Obviously the Hydra and Phoenix are playable because Wizards does have a tendency to push higher rarity cards. Fanatic of Xenagos will be solid as well. It was pushed greatly for constructed 1 on 1 play and trample is playable in multiplayer while haste, especially after board wipes, is quite good. Of course, this presents part of the problem. Tribute could be a fun multiplayer mechanic however mana efficiency isn't as important in multiplayer. I digress before I even begin. 


Richard, I have been reading since you were a Muse and, having written articles, I know how difficult it is to find topics, and, once they are found, explaining your take on them. However, I don't understand why you feel the need to defend a mechanic that should have been pushed further. It seems that you want it to be good. Just because you enjoy the game within the game doesn’t mean that Wizards didn’t mess up. They could have pushed these cards because the cards play differently for constructed 1 on 1 than they do in multiplayer. [I do acknowledge the effect this would have on draft, but I am responding to a multiplayer article, and these cards fail to deliver for multiplayers and, with heroic being another main mechanic, there isn’t a lot for multiplayers.] While I believe innumerable people will gain enjoyment from these cards, as they are punisher mechanic that seek to create a game within a game, which many like, as you seem to, that does not make them objectively good. Perhaps it makes them fun.


Nessian Demlock is the poster child for the problem. Acidic Slime is, in the vast majority of situations, superior. I do not want a vanilla 6/6 for five in multiplayer nor do I want to use my few deck slots for dealing with non-creature permanents on a maybe. [Yes, it kills planeswalkers. Most groups know to attack them.] Even if you finagle the destruction of a permanent, the Demlock will seldom be relevant while the Slime can usually trade and has pseudo unblockability - unless they want to trade or lose their wall.


Ornitharch suffers the same problem. Dude with tokens is good as Cloudgoat Ranger can attest. However, a french vanilla 5/5 flyer for five is just decent. If you are playing a token based strategy it will be 5/5, which is all right, but, since you are playing tokens, you will run something else - say, Cloudgoat Ranger. If you want a 5/5, a 3/3 flyer and 1/1 flyer chumps is good, but hardly beats the aforementioned Cloudgoat Ranger, is largely outclassed by the, sadly, seldom played Serra Angel, is out-defended and out-tricked by the hard to kill Phantom Flock, and is relatively equal to the unloved Shepherd of the Lost.


I have attempted to only compare similar cards to show that tribute cards aren't very good and that they will not see a lot of play in the long run: a large waste of cardboard.


I have droned on long enough. Some might say that those are old cards and these new ones are fun. Fair enough. Some might point out that the Giant has interesting ramifications. I agree, but I don't see why I would run it over something else except for reasons of fun. If that is the answer then this argument "you have probably messed it up at least twice as much" should never have made it to print. If the cards don't work for you it is your fault as a player! That is the crux of your argument. My response: if the cards weren’t designed well enough to see play in multiplayer they will not, and the onus is on Wizards not the player.


P.S. Many of your phrasings seem to promote table-talk. Care to clarify? Personally, I am against it as then the game is who is most convincing, best at argumentation, and what personal relations everyone has. That certainly would affect the playability of tribute cards…

This article in a nutshell: "Have more people skills, yo."

In fairness to wizards, and to Mr. Richard, the tribute mechanic flopped because Wizards was too careful in the non-rare department. The disadvantage of letting an opponent choose should be counter-balanced by both effects being far above the curve, and not just "fair." Either option for Siren of the Fanged Coast (which is hilarious they showed art for it in the article, it's by far the worst tribute card in the game) is only fair. Taking control of an opponent's creature and a 1/1 flyer for  is fair. Getting a 4/4 flyer for that cost is fair. Letting an opponent choose which is silly unfair, especially since there are more reliable cards for both of those options (Mind Control, Air Servant). And there is absolutely no way you will ever be able to lobby, even if you table talk, even if you choose a player who doesn't have any creatures out to steal, to not have tribute paid, simply because the amount of card advantage you would gain would instantly make you the biggest threat. In fact, the only time tribute won't be paid is when nobody else has creatures out. In which case, you get nothing. Absolutely nothing. If the Siren cost , it would be very playable. Taking control of an opponent's creature for that cost is stupid broken. Getting a 4/4 flyer for that cost is stupid broken. Letting an opponent choose which makes it fair. (For example, if they have a Doom Blade, they can deal with the 4/4, and will choose that. If they have a creature that they can afford to lose, then they will let you have it so that you don't get a massive early beater.) That way, even if you don't get what you want, you still get something that is undeniably helpful. For that matter, a skillful player could use the tribute mechanic as a means to get more effecient French Vanillas; using a Siren not to steal creatures but to get a 4/4 flyer by turn two. (And if you get a creature, then, hey, free card advantage. I'll take that.) The tribute should be a win-win for the caster and a lose-lose for his or her opponent. The problem was that the common and uncommon tribute cards were lose-wins.


TL;DR The tribute mechanic was good in theory, but poorly executed. Cut Wizards a break, and just play the cards you actually think are fun.


P.S. Wizards, print more monstrosity in JNX. That mechanic is awesome, and I just can't get enough of it.


Green Red holds and impressive line of 3 drops including Fanatic of Xenagos and Kragma Butcher

I agree with most of the comments here. Most of the tribute cards are terrible. Too much trouble for the effect you want. As an example, if I want to steal someone's creature, I'd rather have a spell that steals someone's creture outright (ex- Control Magic) rather than a maybe tribute card. Most casual players won't play them because there are many other cards that do similar things better. They will only see play if someone wants to change it up a bit and play some different cards for a time, but that player will replace them with the better creature / card versions after a game or two.


Monstrosity on the other hand......I LOVE!!!