Okay, this is probably going to be my longest post ever, because I have a lot
to say on this subject. I'll be using spoiler blocks to make it more manageable.
The fact that Avacyn Restored is, apparently, a financial success absolutely depresses me. I loathe
that set; I hate everything about that set. I wanted that set to fail so badly that you'd never consider doing anything like it again. And while you do admit in your article to some
of the faults of the set, you still seem to have completely missed the point. So, without further ado, I present to you "Why Avacyn Restored is the worst Magic
set in recent times":Block Continuity
Yes, you touch on this in your article, but the fact that you consider it more successful than Rise of the Eldrazi is telling. Mark, it's not about "returning keywords" (your comment that "maybe we should have reused a second keyword, maybe flashback" shows that you don't understand this concept in the slightest). It's about theme. It's about how the set feels. And in this regard, Rise of the Eldrazi does it a lot better.The prerelease
First, though, let me touch on the story. Rise of the Eldrazi was the culmination of the block story. Everything up to that point was building to what happened in Rise of the Eldrazi. Things were progressing with an undeniable inevitability to the events of the third set. We visited a world of danger, saw things get worse, and then saw the reason those things were acting that way. Rise of the Eldrazi was a true climax to the story of the Zendikar block.
Avacyn Restored, on the other hand, was a complete reversal. Everything in the first two sets was indicating a rise of evil. The events of Dark Ascension, where humanity was on the brink of extinction, indicated that, even if humanity somehow pulled through, they'd get, at best, a pyrrhic victory. And then Avacyn Restored brought the worst deus ex machina I've ever seen in fiction. It was a subversion of the story. It wasn't the fact that the good guys won; that could have been done well, and made for a great story. It was the fact that they won so absolutely, and so easily. Avacyn Restored was an anti-climax to the story of the Innistrad block.
Now, back to the thematic disconnect. Rise of the Eldrazi, even though it dropped the mechanics of the Zendikar block, did still play into its themes. The first two sets told us that land matters, and rewarded us for playing more land; the third set then came along and made use of all that extra mana we had laying around, with giant Eldrazi and leveling creatures. I won't say it wasn't a disconnect: it was. All I'm saying is, it still felt like it belonged in the same block as "land-matters".
Avacyn Restored, however, dropped all of the themes of the block. Monster tribal became "angels and demons"; graveyard matters disappeared entirely, and nothing in AVR plays into the same theme; sacrifice and death triggers, too, were gone, and in fact you removed most of the removal of the set so that Morbid was weaker for the inclusion of that set in the block. Yes, you included a few token representatives of all the monster tribes (except werewolves), but then again, Rise of the Eldrazi did have some kor and vampires to play into those tribal themes. Yes, you brought back Undying, but that was the most modular keyword of the lot; including it didn't actually tie the set to the block in any way.
What I'm saying is, Avacyn Restored absolutely, undeniably failed to be connected to the rest of its block. It's not even a partial success, as you attribute it as being; it was even more of a disconnect than Rise of the Eldrazi. When next you do a Large/Small/Large block, don't just include some token cards for "decks from the previous sets" and return "two keywords this time, guys!". Actually make it connected to the themes of the block!
All the negative feedback you got for the Helvault Event must have tipped you off that you messed up here, but I still want to include it for two reasons: One, you didn't touch on it at all in the article; and Two, for the sake of completion of this "everything wrong with AVR" post.Limited
First, without even touching on the horrible idea of "premium Helvaults", let me say that the idea of the Helvault experience was flawed from the start. The achievements cards were a neat idea, but the reward for doing them was pointless. It was extra swag, equal for each person who participated. As in, you could have just included the oversized card, die and token as part of the door prize for showing up and it wouldn't have been any different. Besides, the "you have to work to open the Helvault and earn your prize" thing was folly; like any store was going to return the unopened Helvault to you if they didn't manage to break all the seals.
And, of course, I have to at least mention the "premium Helvaults" thing. The sheer disparity in value, coupled with the nonrandom distribution, is a humongous marketing failure on your part. It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of human psychology. Bad job, Wizards.
I don't draft, so I don't have much to say. I just wanted to include it because, you know, completion.Miracles
Everything I've heard about this set (and the article confirms it) indicates that AVR is a terrible set to draft. Bad job.
These ramp up the variance of the game far too much. Any time I hear about a deck winning a tournament because it top-decked a Miracle to close the game, I can't help but think that the victory wasn't truly earned, even if the deck and the player piloting it were both brilliant. I can't help but think that because of the nature of Miracles: if they hadn't top-decked that Miracle at that time, would they still have won?Soulbond
You reward the incredibly swingy nature of top-decking with extremely undercosted cards. That's a step in the wrong direction. The game has already degenerated into "who spends the most money wins"; do you really want to give the signal to your audience that you also want it to turn into a "luck into your victories" thing?
Honestly, this has been done to death, so I'm moving on.
The only thing in the entire set that I actually like. The only thing you did right. Moving on.Angels and Demons
Okay, angels and demons are both cool because of their rarity. They are cool because they're not a common thing; if you see an angel, it's supposed to feel epic and special. By making "angels vs demons" your theme, and thus printing a glut of them, you water down that coolness. You make the special and powerful into something mundane. It also means your other three colors don't get to play into your set's theme, at all. That's just a bad idea.Loner
I love angels, but seeing that many of them in one set has actually made me hate them. That's not a good sign.
Seriously, after an entire block of "Black is Evil, White is Good", thus setting back any notion that Black can be heroic and White can be villainous, you worsen things by indicating that Black doesn't play well with others. That's just ridiculous.Mythic rares
You made the theme of one of the colors (consequently, my favorite color) into something that players don't want to do. "Hey, build decks that want to only play one creature", you say, to which we reply "That doesn't sound fun at all". It also, as you indicated, screws with Limited. And color balance. It was just a terrible idea. Moving on.
Ahh, the crux of things. This has already been hit on in the forum here, quite a few times, but since I'm chronicling everything wrong with Avacyn Restored (which is to say, everything about it) in this post, I'm including a blurb about it.Legendary Werewolf
Wow, what great design skills you have. You demonstrate that making a card more powerful than anything you can get at lower rarities sells packs. That's clever of you. It must take real skill to win people over with overpowered cards, as opposed to clever or interesting designs, or fun gameplay.
Seriously, though, it continues to degenerate year after year. You guys keep ramping up your mythic rares. I wish you'd stop, but at this point there's no indication that you even consider it a problem.
As others have suggested, these power mythics could even be a large part of whythe set sold so well. I honestly hope this is the case, because it would restore my faith in humanity that they bought such a horrible, crappy set for a logical reason: you gave them no choice if they wanted to stay competitive.
Every Griselbrand played in a Legacy deck is 120 booster packs. Every Restoration Angel is 60 packs. Maybe you shouldn't pat yourself on the back just yet, until you're sure that this wasn't the case.
You failed to complete a cycle. How dreadful.The Story
You also screwed up a cycle in M13, by the way. Nefarox costs six but every other legend costs four. Seriously, bad job on cycles lately.
Last but not least, the absolute worst thing about the set of Avacyn Restored. I hit on this earlier, on how it was an anti-climax and a deus-ex-machina, two things that good storytelling should always strive to avoid. But the problems go beyond that. Avacyn Restored is riddled with plot holes, dropped plot threads, smaller anti-climaxes, and just general disappointment.
I know that it's hard to tell a story now that you've discontinued the novel line, but seriously? This was the best you guys could do? If Creative weren't still coasting on their laurels for having built such an amazing world in Innistrad, I'd suggest you fire them all. AVR was an absolute disaster creatively, and the entire Creative Team should feel ashamed for ever letting this thing out the door in its current form. The articles on this site were laughably bad, with such classics as "Even though we said most angels went into hiding when Avacyn disappeared, now we're saying that all three Flights "doubled their efforts" to protect humanity in her absence" and "let's make the fight between Liliana and Griselbrand amount to 'and then she killed him' and nothing else" and "I know we painted Sorin as important to the story, but let's not do a darned thing with him"... the list goes on.
As much as I hate the design and development (and marketing) of this set, I feel like the Creative Team are the ones who did the worst job. And that's saying a lot for a set as dreadful at this one.
So in conclusion, everything that could have gone wrong with this set did so. It succeeded in undoing all
of the goodwill earned from Innistrad, which, considering it was possibly the best set you've ever done, is no small feat. After this disaster, you can't afford a single mistake for quite some time.
Unfortunately, M13 was a major let-down for me. It was far too random, with too many themes and subthemes running around; it didn't feel cohesive. It also failed to live up to my expectations of what makes a core set; that is to say, it didn't include the staple effects of each color (you seriously got rid of Shock
? What the heck? And Giant Growth
still isn't back?) This means you really need to hit it out of the ballpark with Return to Ravnica.
Unfortunately, from what I've seen so far, that doesn't seem likely to happen. Oh sure, using keywords with limited design space for the guild keywords makes sense; you have to include five in each set, and all ten in the final set. But that's not really a way to impress your players. If all ten keywords are going to be shallow, then I really don't think there will be much for someone like me, who loves the game for its depth and complexity (New World Order, by the way, has seriously decreased my enjoyment of the game as well).
I don't want to be so trite as to say "I'm quitting Magic
", but, well, I don't have much choice. If Avacyn Restored is a financial success, and if that's the direction you're going to start taking this game, then there is nothing left for me to enjoy. This may well be where we part ways.
Take care, Mark.