Discussion in 'Casual Decks/Variants/Etc' started by Spiderman, Apr 4, 2018.
Discuss! Article is here
As an apologist for Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister, Regrowth, Tendrils of Agony, Kaervek's Torch, Braingeyser, Yawgmoth's Will, Corrupt, Life from the Loam, Eureka, Exhume, Demonic Tutor, Pox, Replenish, Mind's Desire, Prosperity, etc., etc., etc., I heartily endorse the emphasis in this deck on sorceries. Favorite card type, hands-down.
Interesting! Sorceries hold the most power, but I have become spoiled in expecting things go on the stack at instant speed. I think my true love of the game is in the structure of the rules as a whole and in the stack as a zone, which is particularly notable because it did not exist when I first started playing.
Yeah, I mentioned it in an article at some point, but I was resistant to "the stack" at first, but came to appreciate it later. That simplifies matters because, back in the olden days, I was definitely more a fan of interrupts than instants. And then there were "mana source" cards. Now they're all just instants. Of course, some instants have been particular favorites of mine, like Dark Ritual, Force of Will, Fork, Diabolic Edict, and Orim's Chant.
I guess the distinction I'd make, the kind of gameplay I'd like to see, is an environment in which the sorceries are more commonplace and are also most of the "big plays." Stuff like Armageddon, Persecute, and Show and Tell. Players trying to use sorceries to take over the game. Instants are important too, but the thing that makes them special is that they're faster than normal, that they break from the typical pattern of "I play my stuff on my turn." I want spells to be instants when it's important for them to be used as responses to things, where that adds utility and enhances the strategy of the game, as in the case of things like Disenchant, Giant Growth, Commandeer, Lightning Bolt, etc. I wouldn't want everything to be an instant.
All that being said, I am a fan of cards like Vedalken Orrery and Quicken.
Instant and sorcery interactions can even make creatures great, with examples like Hypersonic Dragon, Sphinx of the Final Word, and Snapcaster Mage.
My ideal for a Magic card game is probably MetaEsper vs Golgari Affinity. For me, mana obscures the true resource dynamics and beauty I appreciate in the card game known as Magic, which is card interactions.
Similar to something I read recently about League of Legends (paraphrased): "Rather than worry about balancing manaless champions, accept that mana gating is an outmoded concept and bring more fun and dynamism to all champions via manaless mechanics."
Along those same lines, the more a deck can push its interactive speed to the stack, the more interactively interesting I find it.
Well... it's not like the rest of us enjoy paying mana. It's a necessity, like paying the rent.
I was actually thinking of it in similar terms yesterday. I was thinking about how and when constructed economic systems break down, people tend to create interesting and nuanced networks of bartering. I think that mana to me feels the same way - a means to create an evenhanded yet boring system for regulating interactions that can actually be supplanted with a well designed tradeoff system. If you told someone, "You can play two radically different decks in Magic, Modern format, against one another without ever having the potential for any player to create mana," they might well disbelieve you without evidence. MetaEsper vs Golgari Affinity shows how doable and even interesting such a matchup can be, and how mana, which even Wizards in their rule set seem to regard as a necessary element of the game, is not at all.
Collectible card games will always have one common theme, and that is cards. If someone is playing a CCG, it seems a truism that they have at least an indirect interest in the cards themselves. Building fun game mechanic sets that do not feel like they contain burdens can revolve around economies and tradeoffs between the cards themselves rather than imposing an arbitrary mechanic layer mediating between the cards that is not the rules structure itself. When Magic first started, ideas about all this were fairly new and without significant previous context for those involved (Richard Garfield is a genius, is part of what I am saying). We have all since had the privilege of learning a lot about games of this type and how they can intersect with strategy, tactics, and the idea of constructing card sets, which is why I would advocate for evolving our CCG experiences.
On the topic of the Brawl Approach deck, I just did a bit of testing in the Just for Fun Standard section of MtGO - won turn 12 after dodging Lost Legacy with Lay Bare the Heart. Next game won turn 11 after casting Hour of Revelation to wipe a huge board presence on turn 8, Approach turn 9, Razaketh's Rite to fetch Approach turn 10, Approach turn 11. Early testing indicates that this should compete nicely in Brawl, though we shall see what unexpected surprises await.
Test game three was won on turn 14. Not a fast deck, but the reliance on creatures in Standard gives it a bit of a metagame edge against a lot of casual decks. Game 4 continues the unexpected undefeated streak, and gives a little more weight to a turn 12 average finish.
I do, I do!
Well, there's some nuance to this. So I'll say that firstly, the mana system in Magic is a firmly entrenched part of the game's mechanic that has been abandoned in virtually every subsequent CCG/TCG for similar sensible reasons. That's not a coincidence. It has been said that the designers of those other games learned from Magic's mistake, and that might be true. Magic's mana system adds an unfun kind of variance to gameplay, which was what inspired the "mulligan" concept in the first place, as a means to mitigate the problem. Setting aside the issue of mana color and its effect on deck construction, the simple fact is that you might get blown out by either drawing too many lands or too few lands, and that is an especially harsh kind of bad luck. By the very nature of card games, there's a random element that could affect any player. I might draw cards that are good against what you have or you might get really unlucky and fail to draw the cards you need to deal with what I have. That's the nature of the game. This isn't chess. The indeterminacy makes the strategy take the form of more probabilistic analysis than of extensive long-term board-reading and turn-planning. Richard Garfield has talked about this sort of thing in the past. Different types of game tend toward different types of strategy, and the strategy in Magic is meant to be more like the strategy in bridge than the strategy in chess. Some people interpret card games as being luck-based and cardless board games as being skill-based, but Richard Garfield contrived some thought experiments to explain that this line of thinking isn't right.
However, and I don't know that Richard Garfield and friends foresaw this part at all at the time, the variance induced by the randomization of deck-shuffling takes different forms and some of those forms are almost impossible to make into a fun situation for players. One of the anecdotes Mark Rosewater reuses a lot is from when Mike Long was playing ProsBloom in a major tournament and, in the final round, was set up to win on his next turn, but his opponent had a single way to turn the game around, and that was by topdecking Abeyance. Supposedly after the topdeck did indeed turn out to be Abeyance, the audience (in a different room) saw it on a camera and cheered so loudly that Mike Long knew he'd just lost. That kind of variance can be exciting! and exciting is fun. Not every game with that kind of variance is going to be fun, and some scenarios in most matchups are really only fun for one person. But the infamous "mana screw" and "mana drown" scenarios are pretty much inherently unfun for everyone involved and frustrating to eliminate for most decks in most environments. In Magic, we can try to mitigate them with rules changes and deckbuilding, but I do think it's telling that the type of mana system that causes this brand of variance only appeared in the very first CCG/TCG ever and seems to have been ruled out by the very nature of every subsequent game in the genre. It sure looks like an indictment! Game designers learned their lesson and didn't repeat the mistake of Magic: the Gathering. And that's not just a disagreement between the designers of Magic and a crowd of other game designers who fashioned their own card games: the same individuals who worked on Magic later went on to design other card games themselves, some of those at Wizards of the Coast, even. And none of them had this issue.
All that being said, Magic has more depth than just about any other game and my favorite thing about it is that there are so many options operating along so many different axes. The basic concept along the lines of "You have land cards and you have spell cards. You need your land cards to make mana and your spell cards cost mana" really does display the flaw that you might draw too many lands or too few lands and just never even get the opportunity to play the game at all, or worse yet, both players might run into this in the same game and sit around doing nothing for several turns, which is even more boring than if it happens to only one person. But virtually every Magic set has done something interesting that uses the basic concept as a starting point and allows for something else. Anything else, really. "The Hall of Illuminating Magic Decks" is a gallery of some notable demonstrations of this...
You can use lands as a resource to do something other than producing mana. You can weaponize the system itself with something like Manabarbs or Ankh of Mishra. You can rely on artifacts instead of lands to produce mana. You can circumvent mana production entirely with alternate casting cost spells. You can virtually ignore the consideration of actually resolving spells at all, as in the case of Manaless Dredge. You can increase the pressure of mana requirements with cards like Nether Void. There are so many options and when they compete against each other, the possibilities are dizzying in their scope. The mana system has its downsides, but it has enabled things like me blowing up everyone's manabases in high school when they got greedy with artifact lands and I was using Powder Keg, or Spiderman grinding out his opponents with classic synergies between mana-producing creatures and land-punishing cards like Winter Orb. The system is the framework that allows for even the decks that thwart it entirely, like Angry Hermit or Zero-Land Belcher. It lets me use lands drops for utility instead of mana-production, like The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. And of course, it creates my favorite application, which is to use spells increase my available mana beyond what my lands could normally provide, with stuff like Bubbling Muck or Gaea's Touch.
Anyway, I do think that decks like MetaEsper and Golgari Affinity are very cool. But that's in part because of the framework Magic built with the mana system, not in spite of it. And as a lot of the posts I've been making have shown, when I talk about my own history with cards like Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond, Tolarian Academy, etc., I'm particularly fond of the combo shenanigans that mana acceleration cards provide. I'd go so far as to say that when it comes to the awkwardly unfun mana system that game designers would learn to eschew, Magic turned what was a weakness into a strength.
Definitely agree that the designers of Magic have done a good job in taking an unnecessary, and sometimes problematic, mechanical layer and finding ways to make it more interesting, remove it, subvert it, and otherwise make it one more part of the game to have fun playing with directly.
End of the day, the game I am probably looking for is Magic 2.0, a rebuilt from first principles game inspired by the original. And that is down to my personal aesthetics rather than any objective weakness or wrongness in how Wizards have shepherded the game over the last 25 years.
I do hear in person, and read online, strong and solid critiques of the mana system as the thing people find most off-putting about learning, relearning, and playing Magic. It is a balance though, and there may well be more who tend to your feelings in the matter than the restless malcontents like me who clamor for something else
Seems an alternate axis reflection of my obsession with zero nonland permanent decks where Wizards, and probably a majority of the player base, want to push and focus on the playing of things to the battlefield.
I knew at one point I'd said something kinda-sorta about this topic, but I couldn't remember where. Well, this morning it dawned on me. Here's what I was thinking about...
Was that during a discussion about Tribal Wars?
Relatedly: I am playing a zero nonland permanents Approach deck for the Arena beta in part as protest against having to play against Yet-Another-Merfolk-Backed-By-Cancel.dec
Taking Standard and then further limiting access to the card pool paints an ugly picture of the game as a whole, in my view.
No, it was in the thread Shabbaman started about the CPA getting a nod from Abe Sargent at the site Gathering Magic.
As far as our Tribal Wars games went, I never felt like they got even close to having the problem of devolving into generic midrange grinds. People were always trying to do stuff. Problems emerged when "stuff" turned out to be too broken, but there were always different elements in there to keep things interesting.
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