Magic Memories: Stone Rain

Discussion in 'Single Card Strategies' started by Oversoul, Feb 21, 2018.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    That old Type 2 deck Black Rasmussen put in the article looks awesome. I didn't use Thermokarst a ton because of the double-green color requirement, but I did have it in some old land destruction deck at some point.

    The new art and flavor text are probably fine. I might just be nostalgic for all the iconic Richard Kane Ferguson art I saw in the 90's. But the original flavor text? My favorite flavor text on any card. It's just so delightfully violent.

    I didn't find much that resonated with me in the Zach Barash article. But I contemplated it and I guess all of that stuff is probably about right...

    ...for booster draft and perhaps other Limited formats.
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    In the casual decks forum, I already posted my Ankh deck from the old Magic computer game. Here's the list...

    4 Ankh of Mishra
    4 Stone Rain
    1 Strip Mine
    1 Regrowth
    3 Drop of Honey
    4 Birds of Paradise
    4 Ice Storm
    4 Ghazban Ogre
    4 Kird Ape
    4 Lightning Bolt
    4 Taiga
    1 Black Vise
    2 Fellwar Stone
    4 Juggernaut
    1 Mox Emerald
    1 Mox Jet
    1 Mox Pearl
    1 Mox Ruby
    1 Mox Sapphire
    5 Forest
    1 Black Lotus
    5 Mountain

    I think the file on my computer indicated that I constructed this list in late 2005. It was loosely based on an older physical deck I'd once had, but I've long since forgotten the details. My older deck probably had a full playset of Strip Mine, no copies of Drop of Honey (I've never owned that card, sadly), fewer copies of Ice Storm (I have now acquired two copies, which is what I think I once owned a long time ago), no Taiga (might have used Karplusan Forest), and no Power 9 stuff. Regardless of how unfun land destruction supposedly is, I had a lot of fun with these decks. On paper, the artifact to use with land destruction was Dingus Egg.
    But in practice, the kind of LD deck I was running wanted to be blowing up lands early, preferably around turn 2 or 3. Dingus Egg would mean that you were giving up your turn 4 and not either dropping a creature or destroying a land, when most of the important disruption was already done. Dingus Egg was respectable alongside Armageddon and Zuran Orb, but for Stone Rain, Ice Storm, Sinkhole, Strip Mine, Wasteland, Thermokarst, Icequake, Rain of Tears, Rain of Salt, Befoul, Despoil, Choking Sands, Creeping Mold, Pillage, Dwarven Landslide, Raze, Winter's Grasp, etc. I preferred Ankh of Mishra.
    Ankh's low mana cost meant that it was easier to get it in, and it did its job after you'd blown up your opponent's lands. The opponent is left with too few lands to keep up a board presence, so Ankh of Mishra says, "You can play lands and die to me or you can hold onto your lands and die to something else."
  3. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I am going to show my biases here, but genuine question. Having played with individually targeted LD again online in Modern, is it not always more effective now to find a fast, hard to disrupt engine and then do something like recurse Avalance Riders or Acidic Slime, or play early control and finish with something much more broad like Enchanted Evening + Primeval Light? With resource frameworks as they currently exist, destroying anything one at a time per turn feels antiquated in a less than effective way. If my premise has any validity, it may by extension call into question the utility of destroying lands at all, when you could instead go for defining the game outcome directly.
  4. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Well, I just posted that list from one of the land destruction decks I used in the old computer game. Here's the other one.

    4 Birds of Paradise
    4 Erhnam Djinn
    4 Armageddon
    1 Balance
    1 Black Vise
    2 Dingus Egg
    4 Ice Storm
    3 Juggernaut
    4 Kudzu
    3 Llanowar Elves
    1 Regrowth
    3 Savannah Lions
    4 Savannah
    4 Serra Angel
    3 Swords to Plowshares
    5 Forest
    4 Plains
    1 Library of Alexandria
    1 Strip Mine
    1 Mox Pearl
    1 Black Lotus
    1 Sol Ring
    1 Mox Emerald

    I played both. I don't remember everything, but I'd think that neither one was strictly better than the other. They were based on very different principles. My red/green deck had more opportunities to get fast land destruction and attempted to pile on a lot of damage, relying on creatures and Ankh of Mishra to pressure opponents. My white/green deck could destroy more lands overall, but took longer to do it. Not completely analogous to your scenario, but in my experience, different approaches to the timing and scale of land destruction effects have their own strengths and weaknesses.

    On one extreme, you could be playing a three-color deck, draw an opening hand that is very strong but only has one land as your source of a color you're relying on for the hand to work, and I could Sinkhole that land on my turn after you play it. Your tempo is ruined, your cards are dead until you draw another source of that color, and my deck might be able to wreck you before you ever recover. On the other extreme, you might be playing a deck meant to function with zero lands. Usually, it's going to be somewhere in between, right?
  5. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Let me rephrase my question then - Is there a contemporary constructed format, Vintage, Legacy, or Modern, where a land destruction strategy (focused specifically on lands rather than more broadly) can be both as fast and as consistent as competing strategies that will just end the game instead, or destroy lands as a bonus to a much larger attack against opponent permanents? My limited Modern experience suggests that single target LD is too slow / card disadvantageous to compete, though my Legacy and Vintage knowledge is insufficient to answer.

    My follow up thought being, "If LD is non-optimal, and also irritates a segment of the player base, then it seems relegated to a marginal place in the game overall."
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    In large, established tournaments? I mean, it's kind of a high bar to set. I think a lot of perfectly interesting mechanics don't make it into the highest tiers of current tournament gameplay. Still, LD does show up in all three of the formats you named. I agree that it seems slow for Modern, but results indicate that Stone Rain shows up in highly placing Modern decks. These seem to generally follow the Ponza model of "Beat them up with creatures while slowing them down by disrupting their manabase." I mentioned that in Legacy, traditional land destruction runs into problems, as decks have more tools than ever before to get robust mana production in multiple colors. Deathrite Shaman is one of the most popular creatures in Legacy, and lands blown up by Stone Rain can be exiled from the graveyard to produce mana of any color. Even so, Wasteland is ubiquitous, and Ghost Quarter is pretty good too. Decks that are built to comfortably trade a land for another land are common in Legacy. Stuff like Stone Rain? Yeah, too slow. However, Pox is still a viable deck in Legacy, even if it's not very popular. And it runs Smallpox, Liliana of the Veil, and Wasteland, as well as some Pox decks employing Sinkhole and (on rare occasions) the original Pox. Vintage is the format that allows all those pesky 0-drop mana-producing artifacts, so land destruction would be a bit of a hard sell. This is the format where Gorilla Shaman used to be one of the best creatures because you could use it to cheaply blow up Moxen. But Wasteland and Strip Mine are quite popular. After all, Vintage also has Tolarian Academy, Library of Alexandria, and Mishra's Workshop. Balance can also be a powerful play in Vintage. It used to be popular to slow opponents down with "taxing" effects like Sphere of Resistance and then deal with lands using Tangle Wire and Smokestack, but this is relatively rare these days. So land destruction has its competitive niche, even if it's not exactly dominating competitive Magic.

    This gets at something I don't think I've written about here, but which I think is the most important issue surrounding contemporary Magic design. I guess I was planning to eventually write an article about it...

    When I hear players talk about their favorite decks ever, when I hear the most celebrated stories from tournaments, and whenever I've seen people really, really excited about a Magic deck, it's involved a deck that was hard control, hyperfocused aggro, or a dedicated combo engine. I've encountered this with casual players, with tournament grinders, with pros, and with WotC employees. It always seems like when people are most passionate about a card game, it involves something that does one of those three things in a potent and interesting way. Whether it's an epic control vs. control grind, a control deck racing to stabilize while aggro is trying to kill it before it can, combo trying to sequence its plays to beat disruption while control tries to maintain enough answers to keep combo from going off, etc., these can lead to some intense, memorable matchups. And of course, there's a corollary to that: when these things are strong, it means someone can be shut out. "I thought I had a good hand but he flooded the board with attackers and killed me before I could do anything." "He countered everything I did." "I didn't find an answer to the combo and died on turn 2." They go hand in hand. You empower aggro and/or control and/or combo enough and you can get more big, flashy plays that are fun, cool, exciting, impressive, etc. But you also get more bad beats stories. You get more games where things went wrong and one person felt powerless. To be clear, I'm not talking about the level of balance in a tournament environment overall. Obviously if one deck is dominant in a format, that's a problem. Setting balance aside and focusing on what the gameplay itself is like in a matchup, strong aggro, control, and combo are fun. They also lead to a higher risk of someone getting completely trounced.

    In contrast, stuff that's more middle-of-the-road, decks that apply high offensive power without that all-in rush, decks that are kinda-sorta controlling, decks that have combos but not ones that explosively win the game, well, they're more safe. It's not that I don't like them or that they're bad or anything. They're fine. They can be a part of the game too. But they're not what make things exciting. You'll have more back-and-forth, lots of games where both players felt like they were doing stuff to try to win, fewer games that are one-sided. But to put a damper on the bat beats stories you also have to sacrifice those legendary games, those things that really move people. I don't think you can get the advantage without taking on the drawback. Design that lends itself to getting people fired up in a good way also means they might get fired up in a bad way. And I think that, on this spectrum, Magic has been headed in the wrong direction.

    Most complaints about certain types of effects in Magic seem to be along the lines of those bad beats stories. Sometimes the problem is balance, and in those cases I do think we need to look for solutions. But otherwise, I consider polarizing mechanics to be a good thing. They add flavor. Style. A level of interest. I mean, look at what Blake Rasmussen wrote about that old LD deck he liked from Type 2 in 1996, at his fondness for it, at what it means to him as a player. Yeah, someone back then was probably irritated by that deck. But now, over 20 years later, the cool factor still means something. That someone got a little salty over having his lands destroyed? So what?
  7. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Ghost Quarter is a great counterexample on your part - it is ubiquitous, and plays (along with similar nonbasics like Wasteland) a unique role in decks and the metagame. I was too narrowly focused in my earlier analysis on dedicated strategies rather than LD as an integrated tactic.

    On your last point, I once read an article that really stuck with me about how counterspell heavy decks can detract from the casual game (I searched for a link to no avail). Like me, the author taught Magic to high school kids. One kid particularly seemed to enjoy himself until he played the authors heavy control deck. After that day, the kid was still friendly and stopped by, but never showed an interest in playing Magic particularly again.

    The author felt (understandably to me) devastated that he may have driven someone away from the game who had shown earlier signs of really enjoying it. That could be a perspective, and anxiety, particular to teaching, but it shows the other side of saltiness - sometimes a mechanic feeling unfun can detract from the presentation, and opportunities, of Magic more broadly.
  8. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Yeah, land destruction as utility is probably the biggest space for it in tournament play. That's why Wasteland and Strip Mine are so good: they offer that utility when it becomes valuable, but work as normal lands the rest of the time. I do wish more of the stuff like Pox decks, Stax decks, Nether Void decks, etc. hadn't fallen by the wayside to the extent that they have.

    There was some talk by Richard Garfield where he brought up polarizing effects from when the original game was being developed. Some testers felt that Counterspell and similar effects should not exist and some felt that Stone Rain and similar effects should not exist. But another one, which didn't make it into the published game, consisted of these cards he referred to as fairies or pixies or something, which could switch places with a card in the opponent's hand. Thinking of polarizing effects in that context, it's interesting to think that the stuff people did/didn't like in the 1992/1993 gameplay testing and the decisions made there shaped the very nature of the game. It became the case that "countering a spell is a thing" and "destroying a land is a thing" while "putting a card you don't own into your hand is not a thing."

    I dunno. I remember seeing people try the game out only to give up on it. For various reasons. It sucks to feel like you're the one who drove a person away, but I don't think there's a way around it. An aspect of the game that pushes one person away might be the same thing that draws another person in. Interestingly, the cards that seem to get the most complaints and the most vigorous complaints seem to almost always be highly interactive cards, cards that can keep broken stuff in check. Stone Rain and Counterspell are highly visible examples. It seems to be a common trend that to get your toys kept in check incenses people.
  9. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Getting your toys checked at the door incenses people who approach Magic as an opportunity to have some random fun with specific toys. For people who approach Magic from the perspective of a competitive contest between players (Oversoul as exemplar? ;) ), getting your toys checked is your loss if you didnt plan accordingly. Both sides are just approaches to a common denominator at variance with one another, and both make sense from their own premises (both fun and competition are inherent parts of understanding the concept game).

    I think it all comes down, for me, on either knowing your meta (vs Oversoul, go for maximum Overkill :) - for others, start goofy and work from there) or the excellent Turgy Solution (tm) - have casual games defined by a single deck builder and opponent choices on piloting. Between those, and tournament play, I feel like I have a good handle now on bringing the fun for any given Magic environment.
  10. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Well, we all have our perceptions of ourselves that might not line up with how others see us. I think that I can approach gameplay in a very competitive way and I find some of the really competitive "Spike" games to be interesting academically. But I'm more of a "Timmy" at heart and so much of what has held my interest in the game for so long has to do with playing laid-back games with friends. I mean, I still try to win mostly, but I don't really hone a competitive edge.

    For whatever reason, I do think that "maximum overkill" resonates with me in terms of casual games (I like big stuff), but not when I'm being competitive. There, I appreciate efficiency. There was a quote I saw about another game. Something like "Nevermind the most that you can do. What's the most that you need to do?"
    Psarketos likes this.
  11. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    If we ever play a casual tribal game, I'm bringing an Oath deck ;)
  12. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I admit that my mind did immediately jump to "What tribe could exploit Oath of Druids?" I think I'd look for the creature type with the highest rate of creatures that can be sacrificed for very big effects that don't turn off Oath. The usual approaches that make Oath powerful aren't really compatible with tribal deck construction rules. But we could work around that!
  13. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician


    Spike-Timmy, lets say :)

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