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Rule of Law – Unsolicited Advice to Wizards R&D

 

As the result of a popular but strange American expression, we’re often told that we can’t “have our cake and eat it too.” Wizards design and development (which I use interchangeably with “Wizards R&D”) has been trying to have the delicious cake of powerful dual- and multi-color producing lands and eat it too, by making powerful cards that are supposedly hard to cast because they contain multiple colored mana symbols. Don’t understand how printing cards is like eating the cake? I told you the expression was strange, but I’ll explain further below.

The Principles of Wizards

Design and development over at Wizards seem to use two heuristics (among many others) to design/develop cards that are justifiable in isolation, but combine to produce unfavorable results. These “principles” aren’t written in stone or anything, so there are counterexamples, but I think they are generally adhered to when cards are designed or tested. The first principle is that players should have robust access to mana of different colors, mostly from powerful lands (dual, tri, and 5 color lands) (“The Easy Mana Principle”). The second principle is that a card costing CDE or 1CE can do something much more powerful than a card costing 2C (“Tougher Cost=Greater Effect” or “TC=GE” for short”, where “Tougher” is in terms of colored mana requirements). Similarly, a card costing 1CCC can do something much more powerful than a card costing 3C. (I’m using C, D, and E to represent colored mana, with C and D being next to each other on the color pie. An example of a CDE casting cost is that found on Rhox War Monk. A 1CE would be Maelstrom Pulse, and a 1CC would be Vampire Nighthawk. WUBRG are used for the actual colors). Power can be qualitative (doing something different but more powerful at 1GB than you could at 1BB, such as destroying an enchantment, Dystopia notwithstanding) or quantitative (doing something for less mana).

The problem is that in a world which adheres to The Easy Mana Principle, it becomes difficult to justify TC=GE based costing. When The Easy Mana Principle is extremely applied, as was the case during the reign of the Vivid lands + Reflecting Pool, TC=GE costing is almost entirely unjustified, and its application during design/development leaves us with a standard format featuring way too many gold, hybrid, and CCC cards. Would Wizards have printed Cryptic Command at 3U? I hope not. Did it matter in the seasons of “5-Color Standard” that the card cost 1UUU instead of 3U? Not really.

Moving on to a more recent problem, some of you may have played against a deck called “Jund” in standard. Why are this deck’s spells so much more powerful than any mono-colored deck in the format? The answer seems simple enough: because they are harder to cast; i.e. because sometimes the caster won’t have the color of mana she needs. Alternatively, you can justify the principle by saying “one must build a less consistent deck to be able to use this card.” So we can say that the theory underlying TC=GE is that if the cost is tougher, and the spell sometimes can’t be cast, you ought to get more when you do cast it. This is unassailably true. However, the issue is not whether tougher cost should yield greater effect, the issue is how much greater of an effect should you get (or how much tougher should the cost be). For the effect Sprouting Thrinax has on the board, you shouldn’t always be able to cast it turn 3. Unfortunately, given the mana-base Jund is allowed to use, the Jund player can consistently (not always of course) play a turn 3 Thrinax.

You might have noticed that half of the TC=GE equation is greatly affected by Wizards’ decision to apply a lot or a little of The Easy Mana Principle, thus the two principles interact. Imagine if Badlands is a basic land in Magic 2013. Well, Blightning isn’t “tougher” to cast than Mind Rot in a deck where every land produces both black and red, so why the hell is it so much better? One way recalibrate TC=GE is by modifying the use of The Easy Mana Principle. For example, we can make Blightning feel like it should do more than Mind Rot by making it feel like it is substantially more difficult to cast or play with a Blightning than it is a Mind Rot. So why haven’t they done this? I suspect it stems from a modern trend in R&D to “give the players what they want” rather than risk making them jump through one too many hoops at which point the game stops being fun for them. Players like being able to cast their spells. Having robust mana-bases leaves fewer cards stranded in the hand instead of duking it out on the battlefield. I’m not arguing this is irrational or bad. Making players happy is good. Letting people cast their spells is typically good. But there is a cost, and it sometimes is a large cost, to this method of keeping the players happy. MaRo has said (paraphrasing obviously) that if access to all 5 colors of mana gets too easy, a fundamental part of Magic, the differences between the colors, is lost. This is only one example of the impact of too much Easy Mana. Another critical example of the cost of Easy Mana is that cards that are costed based on “players won’t always have what they need to cast this” or “players will need to build less consistent decks in order to get the mana for this” are too strong because these conditions don’t exist.

Turning to the latter half of the Tougher Cost = Greater Effect (TC=GE) equation, Wizards could just make the gold and heavy-colored spells a little, but not a lot, more powerful than the easy to cast spells. This seems sensible to me. Mind Rot and Lava Spike can still be combined to form Blightning, which is cool, but let’s go ahead and make it cost 2RB instead of 1RB. Knight of the Reliquary should be similarly costed. The short hand rule I would suggest is that when you make something at 1CE or 1CE or 1CC that you wouldn’t make at 2C, ask yourself why you wouldn’t print it at 2C. A tempting answer is “because 1B typically can destroy creatures but not enchantments/artifacts, and 1G can typically kill an enchantment or artifact, but not a creature, Maelstrom Pulse at 1GB gets to kill either. This makes a great deal of sense, but is the color pie the only reason we wouldn’t print 2C sorcery – destroy target nonland permanent and all others with the same name? I think it is not. The versatility of that effect should command a higher price or come with a drawback. Perhaps the easiest proof is that we can all likely agree that Oblivion Ring is a good, but not too good, card. Oblivion Ring’s target coming back into play if the opponent finds a way to get of Oblivion Ring is a meaningful aspect of the card, and it prevents O-Ring from being too good in my opinion. Getting back to the larger issue of guiding principles, how much better than O-Ring is Pulse allowed to be? It’s a tough call, but I’d say if they had left off the “echoing” (all others with the same name) clause, we’d have a better card.

The Problem of Gold

In a way, the existence of cool gold cards drives the desire to have Easy Mana. Why print Rhox War Monk if players can’t use it? This fact, along with data suggesting players love gold-themed expansions, presents a trap for R&D. Rhox War Monk might not even seem overpowered to you, but it would be if other gold colored cards weren’t even more aggressively costed. I believe if you want to print a card like Rhox War Monk, you need to make it more difficult to cast than it is now. The manabase of a WG deck from years ago (I’m thinking of a Living Wish and Worship deck I used to be fond of) had a manabase that might have looked something like this:

9x Forest
6x Plains
4x Brushland
4x Windswept Heath
4x Birds of Paradise

It was pretty good at casting its Green and White spells, but you couldn’t just throw in another color for the hell of it and expect consistent results. Rhox War Monk in this context makes perfect sense. You can’t cast it as consistently as your Anurid Brushhopper, even when you add the Adarkar Wastes and Flooded Strands to the deck. But when you do cast it, it sure outclasses the opponent’s Basking Rootwalla. Furthermore, you have to play 8 painlands to fit in into the deck, which will make you vulnerable to aggressive decks. These trade-offs feel much more legitimate to me than the ones I encounter when I sit down to build a WG deck in current standard (which I just did recently). Nowadays, the sense you get is “why wouldn’t I add Blue or Red or Black to this deck?”

Standard isn’t broken or pointless or pushing me to quit Magic. But deckbuilding in Standard isn’t challenging (and thus rewarding) in the same ways as the Standards of way-back-when. The name of the game now is “most powerful strategy” rather than “most consistent strategy” (there is of course overlap, but hopefully the above WG example gives you a sense of what I mean). Having your colored mana is a given, and all that’s left to do is figure what you want to be doing. Goblin Ruinblaster and Tectonic Edge feel like “magic bullet” rather than organic fixes to the problem. Sure, they punish extremes like Cruel Ultimatum and they reward mono-colored decks, but the overarching race to power rather than consistency remains.

72 thoughts on “Rule of Law – Unsolicited Advice to Wizards R&D”

  1. I think the problem is that it’s hard to make heavy color requirements on 1-3 mana spells other than forcing people to reveal cards to prove an investment in the color.

    Leatherback Baloth seemed to be a step in the right direction, as was maybe imperiosaur, but both require you to play decks that are fundamentally weaker than something like Warmonk or Reliquery.

    I think this is especially a problem in legacy where players might have a hard time casting some of the crazier Alara nonsense (wasteland/stifle) but still have an easier time casting Warmonk than something like Leatherback Baloth, as three green sources are harder to keep in play.

  2. This feels a bit dated to me, although perhaps it is somewhat submerged and needed to be said. Forsythe came out and said the Vivid lands were flat out the worst mistake in that standard (which contained Bitterblossom and etc). To me the balance would be pretty close in this Standard – if not for the Saclands, which must be considered a bit of an anomaly. The saclands are too good. My theory is that they put them in there due to nervousness about Zendikar’s popularity and/or mandate from Hasbro that they wanted to hit out of the park.

    If it weren’t for the saclands, how close would we be?

    Best Magic articles being written right now… keep it up

  3. Keep in mind we’re coming also off a severe multicolor block (especially Reborn).

    Hopefully they won’t beat that horse again too soon…

  4. Zendikar block is reversing this trend. It provides dual lands of various kinds, but no gold cards whatsoever, leaving the color options up to the player to combine single-color cards in the appropriate manner.

  5. AND ANOTHER THING – In your w/g manabase example, couldn’t you add another color of fetchland (Strand or Foothills) and a couple extra painlands to painlessly add a splash, same as now?

    To me, Vivids notwithstanding, the essence of the problem you describe is that

    Fetchlands
    Shocklands
    Duel Lands

    are all fundamentally overpowered, despite the fact that people love them

  6. Excellent article. Normally theory articles are too large and daunting for me to read but this was great. I would enjoy a follow up to this article provided you wanted to say more on the subject.

  7. Once Jund rotates out of Standard I think the environment will become alot more enjoyable.

  8. I agree with you. It isn’t actually a problem that Wizards have decided to print these new and powerful multicolor producing lands, but it is a problem with how stinkin’ many of them they keep printing in such a short time frame. Honestly, Vivid lands were fine, even with Reflecting Pool in existence, and Hybrid lands are also fine to have around, but did we seriously need to have them TOGETHER? Anyone notice that none of these “all-powerful” decks in Standard are a problem in other formats though? That tells me that the spells in and of themselves are not overpowered, because they are being strictly outclassed by a pool of superior spells and more streamlined strategies so their effect is minimal.

  9. I think you’re ignoring the fact that Jund has been forced to spend 27+ slots trying to get a stable mana base and probably still aren’t quite there. Also in your example GW had 8 duels that didn’t CIPT or ETBT right now they have 4. I think building the perfect mana base is harder than ever (more choices make it harder) and right now going for extra colours isn’t always being rewarded.
    I know someone who is running Halimar depths, fetches, manlands, m10 duels, refuges and some basics who wonders why he either gets mana screwed or can’t cast gatekeeper and/or deprive depending on how many lands he runs. My point is there are lots of options but it takes skill to realise that 12 CIPT lands is too many and find the right build

  10. So my point was your article may be a bit behind the times. 12 months ago you’d have been spot on but twelves months ago wizards were designing for 6-12 months in the future.

  11. The Saclands aren’t a manabase issue except in Extended and Legacy (Legacy already has the Onslaught ones though, so it’s not that much more of a problem). The bigger problem is definitely the combination of the trilands, the M10 duals, and the manlands, and to a lesser extent the Refuges and Terramorphic Expanse. With all this land-based manafixing, you really can build a comes-into-play-tapped 5-color manabase if you so choose. The drawback is that you’ve basically time walked yourself for a more consistent manabase, but if you’re willing to do that, you can. The mere fact that a deck like Spread ‘Em can exist (not that it’s well positioned in the metagame or that it wins, but simply that it functions) is something that should not be allowed to happen if you are to believe TC=GE.

    I agree with pretty much everything in this article. One point, though: which is more restrictive: CCC or CDE? That is to say, is Woolly Thoctar OK in the context of Leatherback Baloth (and vice-versa)? I’ve discussed this with some friends (who have limited ratings in the 1750+ range), who have unanimously said that CCC is more restrictive than CDE, since, in the example of Woolly Thoctar, CDE gives you access to Path and Bolt which CCC (in this cade C = G) doesn’t give you. For other examples, Rhox War Monk gives you access to Path and Hierarch while Cryptic Command only gives you Negate (in a “normal” format, anyway), and Sprouting Thrinax gives you Terminate and Pulse while Ball Lightning only gives you Bolt. Perhaps it’s the CCC cards that WotC should be pushing instead of the CDE cards?

  12. @David: There really are no options. Your friend just has no clue what he’s doing. Refuges are unplayable; they exist only for Zendikar Limited. Halimar Depths shouldn’t be played in a deck trying to do both BBB and UU in the early-game (although why you’re planning on casting Deprive in the early game is beyond me, but we’ll forget that for a moment). If you’re building a 3-color deck, this is probably your manabase:

    4X Appropriate tri-land
    4X Appropriate enemy fetch
    6-8X Combination of M10 Duals and manlands (according to color weighting)
    8-10X Combination basic lands (according to color weighting)

    If your friend is getting color screwed, he’s probably built his manabase wrong or his deck is bad.

  13. Say what you will, but comparing the power-levels of Cryptic Command and Inspiration is wayyyy off. Not every card is in the same power-level league as each other card, so I’d say a better comparison would be Gifts Ungiven. Doesn’t seem like such an extreme difference does it? What does that have to say about Wizards R&D? I don’t really know, but I don’t think a comparison between a standard-dominating rare and a worse-than-Divination is a very solid foundation for any argument.

  14. @ Lyle

    I agree that CCC is more restrictive than CDE. Although its quite rediculous that even a card as powerful as a 5/4 for 3 mana isn’t seeing any play anymore. If that thing were back in Ravnica Block it would have been amazing :/

  15. i wonder if an even bigger part of the design problem hasn’t been wizards’ catering to the casual crowd’s demands of weaker counterspells and weaker land destruction. In the core sets, stone rain was dropped in tenth for demolish and cryoclasm and in m10 the best land d was priced at 5. Even now, the ability to hit a basic land starts at 4 mana (correct me if i’m wrong, but there’s only one spell out there that can do even that), and it is no cheaper to try to kill a non-basic. So far as counterspells go until the release of rise there was no card in standard that could counter any spell on turn two (and even deprive comes at a steep and practically game losing price on that turn two). With the absence of strong early options on both land kill and counterspells, two of the greatest weaknesses of midrange decks disappear, and their strengths are allowed to thrive and shine. The last major change has been the extreme swing of card advantage to creatures. In the early days playing any creature risked card disadvantage or at least gave controlling and even aggressive decks the ability to make card parity. Now think of how many of standard’s most prominent creatures generate not only guaranteed parity, but also guaranteed card advantage. Bloodbraid draws and even plays an extra spell every time you resolve it. Ranger of Eos is a built in 3 for 1. Thrinax can sometimes be a 4 for 1. Noble hierarch is an attacker and a mana accelerant at the same time if you have a second creature. Stoneforge mystic, wall of omens, and elvish visionary all replace themselves and only cost 2. I could go on about so many other major players, but suffice to say the built in card advantage on creatures has gotten so ridiculous that things once thought unheard of like 5/4 or 4/5 with no drawback for 3 mana or 3/3 for 1 mana are considered marginal to completely unplayable. This format has the best, cheapest, and most diverse spot removal suite of perhaps any standard format in history, along with multiple cheap sweepers, but so many of these spells seem like card disadvantage when merely casting such a plethora of creatures generates such advantages, and casting them is almost guaranteed in a format devoid of a truly great counterspell or piece of land-d. Without strong true control to stomp it down, disruptive midrange becomes the format champion and jund just happens to be the best midrange deck.

  16. I have to disagree with the author here.

    I think that considering we just came out of a block that was designed for 3 color decks to be viable and thats exactly what we have. The mana fixing is good enough to support 2-3 colors but more than that is really pushing it (remember those terrible control decks that tried to play rupture spire).

    Vivid lands + reflecting pool was a strait up mistake. R&D has admitted that they just plain didn’t catch the interaction. Kudos to Bucher and Co. for finding it.

    Also blighting is NOT an example of an over powered card it’s basically a minor upgrade to mind rot in a format where people are actually playing mind rot. The problem with Jund is bloodbraid elf (not the cascade mechanic but this card in particular). The card is just plain overpowered and should of been banned twice already.

    @ R inspiration was MILES better than counsel of the soratamami thank you very much

  17. Thanks for saying this, and I hope R&D reads it. It’s been bugging me for quite some time now that the color-fixing has been much too good. I’m of the opinion that two-color decks should be the norm (and what Garfield originally intended, despite also creating the dual lands which were rare and therefore intended to be seen rarely), and that three-color decks should be a little bit of a stretch. I loved Ravnica, but I’ll be glad that there’s no more gold-themed blocks for a long while.

  18. While generally what you’re say is right, you’re looking at this the wrong way. There’s something you’re missing: context.

    In a block where the theme was Multi-colored, WotC rightfully decided that it’s good to print lands that allowed people to play their cards. If Shards was printed with just Teramorphic Expanse, people wouldn’t be able to play their Rhox War Monk or Sprouting Thrinax very easily. So in that environment, players would ween away from those cards since they couldn’t easily play those cards. How you can picture that is if Rhox War Monk was printed in Zendikar how little it would get played. Yes, other factors such as other duals in the standard pool matter, but if we had access to the Hybrid lands, it would still be pretty difficult to pull off on a consistent basis.

    Gold cards should be more powerful than mono-colored ones, and you support that fact. Psychatog was a powerful card (and was thought of to be the best creature ever) at a cost of 1CD. Yes, sometimes it’ll get outclassed (see Tarmogoyf), but generally the gold cards are better than their mono-colored cousins. By having greater restrictions by having two (or three) colors in a spell, it should be more powerful than just having one color needed. Of course the amount of one mana in a card means it’s more restricted in the different types of colored decks it can see play in. Cryptic Command is 1CCC because it is completely Blue, and not any other color. Green should not have easy access to that type of card.

    Of course, the perfect storm happened with the Vivid Lands, Reflecting Pool, the Hybrid Lands and the Tri-Alara lands. By trying to allow players to play their multi-colored spells they created a metagame where that Green deck could play Cryptic Command. There will always be some sort of Dual Lands in a Standard environment. The last one that didn’t have easy access to such a time was from 9th-Mirrodin-Kamagawa. Besides trying to push artifacts (which it would’ve said they were successful in doing), the format was mono-colored or a mix of Green/Whatever, warping the metagame with trying to get access to other colors. Since then, being able to make at least two colors of mana has been a large presence in the game of Magic.

    But, as we’ve seen, Zendikar is swinging that back to more of a mono-colored to slight two-colored deck. When Alara block rotates and depending on what dual lands we’ll get in M11 (if they change at all from M10), it will be harder to play that 3 colored deck. But it all mattered in the format this is coming from (Alara block which pushed 3 color play). When Scars of Mirrodin comes around and pushes Artifcats, there will be less and less pressure to add that third color. And, most importantly, less card selection to allow that to happen.

  19. A small thing, but something that bothered me: ‘To have your cake and eat it” is NOT an American expression.

  20. This article is excellent and shows exactly why Jund is by far the dominant deck in this Standard format. It’s not just very effective spells – it’s the fact that they can be run with very little downside. `

    I agree with the Blightning = Mind Rot + Lava Spike example but I wonder why you didn’t ‘atomize’ Bloodbraid Elf in this way (Gruul Scrapper + random free spell) to drive the point even further. 🙂

  21. While I agree that R&D needs to rethink how good they want the fixing in T2 to be at any given time, I don’t think it’s actually that big an issue. We just came off what MaRo and others admitted was a “glut of multicolored sets”, and they are consciously pushing that trend the other way. While it is something that needs to be kept in mind, I think the M10 lands are a step in the right direction toward balancing off the mana once and for all.
    What I’m more concerned with is the various other areas in which not only do R&D NOT believe they are making mistakes, but do not even acknowledge as areas of issue. They’ve removed Counters and LD which, like it or not, are important elements of the game. They’ve killed combo entirely by no longer printing the kind of tools necessary to make it viable. And everyone finally realizes how ridiculous the creatures have been basically ever since Ravnica.
    I increasingly fear that R&D no longer has a solid grasp on the fundamental needs of the game, and will continue to push toward Fan Service and Money Grabs, at the expense of healthy formats.

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  23. Something that the author did not consider (or at least discuss) is the fact that very color intense cards restrict you to only cards of that shard, and they are not splashable.

    For instance, agreed, sprouting thrinax is very, very good. But, IF you choose to play sprouting thrinax in a deck with reasonably consistent mana, you 100% are cut from blue and white.

    Furthermore, the its a reasonable debate what the best splash is for elves for instance. Some say black for thoughtsieze, some say white for ranger of eos. Blightning isn’t even a possibility becaues of its 1CD casting cost.

    Basically, multicolored cards are allowed to be very powerful even in a format where mana fixing makes them easy to cast becaues they wont be splashed, and they restrict you from splashing cards of other colors.

  24. I agree with Rich and VibeBox. I highly doubt it is going to change for the better. Magic has been selling better than ever since they started using this design philosophy and although it probably isn’t entirely the reason for magic’s success it is probably part of it. I think Wizards thinks (or pretends) that the selling success is evidence that the game is healthy when in many ways most people would agree it isn’t.

  25. To put it another way, Sprouting thrinax and Rox War monk are allowed to be outrageously good, and easy to cast in the decks that they appear in because you will NEVER see them in the same deck.

  26. I really think you are overrating the ‘easy mana’ in T2 right now. Yes Jund can usually fix it’s colors by turn 3, but they’ve worked very hard to find that balance, and they STILL use fixers like Rampant Growth and Borderland Ranger. I think that mana in standard is just where it should be. It’s sort of ‘if you’re playing 3 colors, you’re going to be fine UNLESS your opponent interferes. Its at the perfect place where something like Spread ’em could be effective and a card like Goblin Ruinblaster is great in the SB.

    Overall, I think its great that the jund player can play a turn 3 thrinax, but the RGB land death player can stop them with a turn 2 Spreading Seas.

  27. Its true that the game would be far more exciting if cards would be cost correctly. In Invasion, Blightning would have costed 2BR. Mind Rot + Lava Spike combined on one card is excellent design. No need to make it even cheaper. Its already 2 cards for 1 all by itself from the effect.

    The game would be more fun if the power would be cut back and if there where better counters and LD.

    Well its probably one of the reasons i play limited only. T2 really sucks with these casual based designs.

  28. I agree completely. I feel people are missing the crux of your article. There is no more consistency versus power tradeoff in the format. The only penalty in the format for running additional colours is an increase in the number of CIPT lands. If the shards lands did not CIPT there would be a plethora of 5 colour running around in the format.

    The problem that some people seem to be missing is that 2 colour decks should be less “powerful” (or at least have access to a small pool of powerful cards) than 3 colour decks. But the benefit to running a 2 colour deck is that it has more consistent mana and it shouldn’t have to mulligan as often. The same argument should hold with a single colour and 2 colour decks. However with this format, the mana is stable enough that there is very little cost to adding an additional colour or two. The cost of running a 3 colour deck is largely mitigated by the quantity and qualitity of available lands. In fact running an additional colour provides the deck with additional mana lands which actually ADDS to the consistency of the deck. 1 colour and 2 colour decks are in general just underpowered when compared to 3 or even 4 colour decks.

    The argument that mana denial is the solution to this is also flawed.
    1) There is the potential to not draw the mana denial spell. In which case their mana is almost as consistent as yours and their deck is significantly more powerful than yours due to having access to an additional colour.
    2) Drawing a mana denial spell is effective against any deck. Spreading seas hurts vampires and mono red almost as much as jund.

  29. Completely agree with the article.

    Fundamentally the cost to run 3 colors is just very very low right now, which when combined with the overpowered gold stuff we got in Alara block, is warping the format.

    And the fact that we just had a gold block isn’t a good excuse. You want to make fun overpowered gold stuff like Leech and Thrinax? Great, no problem. But I do have a problem with them printing that stuff AND making it very easy to cast them consistently w/o much dedicated mana fixing.

    Basically what it comes down to is that broken gold cards are fine…if it is a stretch to play 2+ colors reliably.

  30. This is a somewhat awkward article for me to read, given that I am a budget player and don’t like to shell out money for any cards, let alone a mana base (and no, I’m not trying to be self-righteous. Budget is a relative term- many people I know don’t even spend any money at all on cards.). So I think that the tri-lands and the vivid lands were a good thing, but I take issue with the quality of the mana fixing at rare. One of the things I loved about Shards was the fact that I could get a tri-land in the uncommon slot of any pack. I take much more issue with cards like the filter lands and the fetches and the shocklands, since those are extremely budget-unfriendly, but are at the same time almost an entry requirement for most competitive decks in extended and legacy. I do agree that many of the tools multicolor has access to right now are overpowered and undercosted, but I don’t think that the mana-fixing is the primary issue. If overpowered mulicolor decks make competitive magic unfun, then play casual. Because trust me, I’ve been to FNM’s, and I’ve reliably found that the most miserable beatings I’ve suffered have not been at the hands of Jund or some other multicolor monstrosity, but rather Vampires or White Weenie.
    But I have a very strong bias towards multicolor stuff, being a child of Ravnica block.

  31. I really don’t see the problem as much. Jund didn’t dominate that much because of gold I think but simply because of the best cards being together in those colors (bbe, blightning etc.).
    I agree though that manafixing has been a little too good lately and that the reward for playing monocolor hasn’t been what it was. Cryptic command should have been a reward for being heavily blue (which it kind of is in extended) but was merely a great tool the vivid base got. At the moment it seems to be decent in standard though with 2 colored or mono colored strategies doing alright again.
    I just think strong cards should be balanced with strong monocolored cards making the decision between splashing and staying on one color very important. For example cards like kargan dragonlord or student of warfare really fit well into this making monowhite or monored better compared to other strategies. The vivids in combination with flooded grove and the like were a mistake as they made decks that could play any card way too dominant, for the rest it’s going fine really.
    Sure design makes the occasional hickup like cascade or anything but then again it’s very hard to make good new abilities and not let them be overpowered at the same time. Useless keyword abilities feel alot dumber then the overpowered ones.

  32. @ MikeR

    2) Drawing a mana denial spell is effective against any deck. Spreading seas hurts vampires and mono red almost as much as jund

    SS is one example of a universal but most of the semi decent land spells in standard target non-basics like Ruinblaster or Tectonic Edge, these are certainly better against jund than Vamps.

  33. “The Easy Mana Principle” isn’t actually a principle. The principle is rather that there should always be drawbacks to using more colors. CIPT, pay 1 life and only choose once, etc. Before the manlands, jund regularly lost to mana troubles because of it’s volatile mana and it’s still totally skipping it’s 1-drop and often 2-drop in order to use CIPT lands. This is a serious backside to the Jund deck and one of the things that keep it reasonably in check. The naya deck have similiar issues, having very few ways to cast Noble Hierarch on turn 1. Compare this to mono red, vampires and eldrazi green that have all been having success. They all give up power in favor of consistency and speed.

    You might also notice that in the previous standard, even with vivid lands/reflecting pool, 5CC and Jund were kept in check by decks like Faeries, Elves and Kithkins. The major issue has been that the 2 first sets of Zendikar block have been unusually weak letting the multicolored Alara Block dominate.

    Now if you would simply argue that Reflecting Pool was badly positioned and the manlands were too good I wound agree, but you are generalizing too much. The reason multicolor cards are dominating is simply that the most powerful cards were multicolored by design, not that they were undercosted compared to Figure of Destiny, Bitterblossom or Heritage Druid.

  34. So are no good counterspells in standard killing magic. Are creatures too good? Is mana fixing too good? Do we need more LD? More combo decks?

    These are all just silly over reactions too a hard to beat jund deck. Yeah bloodbraid elf was a mistake. Cryptic command was a mistake in a standard where 1UUU was easy.(although assuming the next set is mono-color themed, I don’t think cryptic command would be too good.) Except for the fetchlands all multicolor lands in standard CIPT. They’re not too good. Counterspells are costed just fine when paired with cheap removal. The soft counters force you to make decisions in deckbuilding instead of just throwing four UU counterspells in every deck. You have to think about what you want to counter. Good creatures are fine when paired with good removal. Good LD makes the game less interactive. So does combo. Control is very viable in standard. UW control is arguably the best deck. So is midrange obviously. And so is aggro and burn. Really the biggest problem with standard’s metagame are individual too powerful cards not any bad design philosophies. Any midrange deck that wants to be good has to run Bloodbraid elf. That makes the metagame less diverse.

  35. gigglioronomicon

    Good article!

    The key to this argument is the fact that there is very little downside to running a 3 color deck as opposed to a 2 color deck nowadays, which should not be the case, even with a tri-color block. You should have to actually work to enable that jump but with the lands we have right now it’s more like casually strolling along like “3 colors? sure why not? =P”. This is only actually dangerous because of the power that opens up when you mix gold cards (a lot of which are naively costed) from different combinations of colors into the same deck. You get Bloodbraid+Blightning+Pulse+Thrinax, Thoctar+KotR+AjaniV+Bloodbraid etc. all with virtually no downside.

    Luckily once the abomination that Shards has evolved into leaves standard we can all breath the fresh air again and get back to building decks at a more natural pace. I’m certainly looking forward to a more focused and concise standard. I’ve had enough of people’s grubby jund decks laden with pizza grease and mountain dew. There’ll always be this ‘class’ of deck but at least the next one won’t be ‘bbelf+blightning+thrinax har har har you actually think this game should be fun.’

  36. This article uses a lot of words to say that cards like Blightning and Cryptic Command are undercosted.

  37. This article seems appropriate about a year ago during cryptic command + cloudthresher days, not now.

    It’s cool to have your opinion and all, just think it’s not very valid. Especially now that the main direction wizards is going is eldrazi “hard to cast with converted mana cost” spells. Forget your multi-colored spells. Wraths can go in white, red, and now black. All is dust can go anywhere that wants it. Big colorless is your new “TC=GE” and you didn’t even touch on it.

  38. Standard is the way it is because Wizards DESIGNED it to be this way. High-powered gold cards coupled with the ability to consistently play them has lead to a Standard environment that is faster and more powerful than just about any that has ever existed… and this was Wizards’ intention. Next year the situation will be completely different, and I’m sure we’ll have found something else to bitch about by then.

    If you think that the pace and power of Standard is an accident because sets were designed poorly, think again.

  39. Power creep caused by “reduced costs on powerful card and effects” because they were multicolor (and in the game’s creatures in general), relatively easy mana (fetches, m10s, trilands, manlands, etc.), Easy 2 for 1’s in colors that don’t normally get distinct and easy to cast card advantage for the cost of 2RG. The lack of non restrictive playable countermagic. The lack of card card advantage in other colors (unless you cascade)… Just a ton of stuff culminated in the standard environment we have today, dominated by jund, but I wouldn’t necessarily blame the mana.

  40. I found it difficult to read this article through, simply because I disagreed with one of your premises. Without support, the rest of the argument felt largely irrelevant.

    Specifically, I disagreed with the “Easy Mana” principle. I feel this is poorly named and carries an implication that color access should be an end unto itself. As per your paraphrase of MaRo, full color access should not be trivial. There is a world of difference between saying that “people should have cake” and saying that “people should have cake at a reasonable cost”.

    Once that addendum has been made, the TCGE principle encounters no conflict. Instead, a statement incorporating both sounds something like this: “Spells with difficult color requirements should be more powerful because supporting those spells requires a cost paid in the manabase”.

  41. @those suggesting I’m being too harsh on the current Standard. I agree. I didn’t mean to suggest that current Standard is the same as Vivid Winter. It is still a great example of what I’m trying to illustrate, it just is not as extreme an example as I may have painted it. You can’t do whatever you want, like add blue cards to Jund, without some ramifications. Still though, Thrinax isnt as hard to cast as it needs to be.

    To everyone saying the article is not timely or that standard is this way just because shards was a gold block:

    This is a recurring problem for Wizards. Gold themed sets are very popular. As a result, they are common, just take a look at the last several blocks and count up how many of them have gold themes or subthemes. These blocks tends to overshadow the neighboring blocks when together in a format due to easy mana + TC=GE costing. Unsolicited advice is rarely useful if you wait until after another mistake is made before offering it. I’m trying to highlight a trap that is likely to recur and some ways to avoid it.

    Blightning is a great case study for illustrating what some people aren’t understanding at first glance (its my fault for not being clearer). Blightning is properly costed in one sense, but undercosted in another sense. If you’re going to insist on “Easy Mana” so that people can cast the gold spells you’re printing, the gold spells can’t be on a different power curve than regular spells. ALTERNATIVELY, if you DONT give access to Easy Mana, cards like Blightning aren’t under costed. They can be more powerful, since they are harder to play. This is the essence of “have your cake and eat it too,” letting players cast all their spells, but then costing the cards as if Thrinax is really hard to cast turn 3.

  42. So there are two alternatives that appear as obvious path’s to take:

    1) don’t print easy mana, but keep gold cards like they are now.

    2) print the easy mana, but stop making the gold cards much more powerful by pretending they are difficult to cast.

  43. @ mike r
    I agree that good land destruction doesn’t necessarily solve the problem entirely, but part of what I am saying is that its noticeable absence has created a format where the drawback to playing 9+ cipt lands along with a significant number more conditional cipt lands is not a terribly huge drawback. The extremely high quality of very cheap removal only increases this problem as it helps prevent opposing aggro decks from punishing cipt land heavy draws with signifcant tempo loss. Jund (and Naya, UW control, mythic, junk and the various tri-color control decks) can start advancing their board state on turn 3 or 4 without having to worry about being blown out by counters, land d, sweepers (because of the inherent card advantage of so many of their creatures) , or hyper aggressive starts (since all of them run a heavy dose of cheap removal… well maybe not mythic).

  44. The manafixing in each set since Ravnica has been pretty good. Rav had the duals. Time Spiral had terramorphic expanse, chromatic star, urborg for anything with black, coalition relic. Coldsnap had CIPT snow duals. Lorwyn had vivids and reflecting pools and Shadowmoor had filterlands. Alara with the tricolor lands and Ancient Ziggurat if your deck could use it. Zendikar took the golds out but they provided us with the enemy fetchs. Oh and all the core sets have had shocklands until M10 with the new allied color duals that don’t count as basic land types. Although I agree that the manafixing has been really good(hell, you could make a budget casual deck that could run 3 colors, just not in a timely enough maner to cast CDE on turn 3 but certainly be turn 4-6 every game with obelisk and stuff) it’s not really the problem. The problem is that there is no answer. The reason that every Legacy deck doesn’t run 5 colors is because Price of Progress, Back To basics, Blood Moon, Magus of The Moon, and Wasteland. That’s not even mentioning all the good Land D out there. In standard, the best you have is the Spread’em suite and to nobody’s surprise, those cards are run in the deck that beats Jund(U/W Control). Fine, let people extend their manabases. I don’t care. Let people get the mana to cast CDE guys on turn 3. Just let me color screw them before they get to cast him. If there are easy methods to gain something, there should be easy methods to take it away. In a Meta with Wastelands, Jund would not be viable. In Legacy, Bloodbraid Elf isn’t really a factor and In Extended, although she appears in some builds she is far from a staple. One can’t agrue that there are better and more vast options for getting different colors of mana in both Legacy and Extended, but it’s not an issue there because they can deal with it. Give standard as many tools to handle the manabase as it does to make it.

  45. Easy Mana can’t take sole responsibility for Jund’s dominance. All the different shards have access to fetches, tri-lands, and so on.

    Jund got on the map because of Cascade. You probably remember the joke that Blightning wasn’t being run in it’s namesake deck. If I recall, nobody argued that it wasn’t good, just that it wasn’t good enough. When Bloodbraids started flipping them though, the card became truly backbreaking.

  46. “So there are two alternatives that appear as obvious path's to take:
    1) don't print easy mana, but keep gold cards like they are now.
    2) print the easy mana, but stop making the gold cards much more powerful by pretending they are difficult to cast.”

    Or… 3) Print enough reasonably costed spells that “destroy target land” to keep players honest. Spreading Seas isn’t going to shut down BBE on turn 4 without some luck involved. Goblin Ruinblaster is too slow. People don’t like so-called “griever” strategies but when you nerf players’ ability to disrupt their opponents’ gameplan, the format very quickly favors whoever is simply doing “the most powerful things,” as you and I think also GerryT have mentioned today.

    Pick your poison.

  47. I didn’t buy a single thing said in this article. Maybe what you said was a concern when 5C control ran rampant, but not at any other point in mtg history, and not now.

    1. The fact that there are still single-color decks such as WW and Eldrazi Green, the fact that the majority of decks are expected to be two color anyways since the dawn of magic, and the fact that the three color decks such as jund are known to have weak manabases, have had that weakness exploited, and now run extra lands and fixing to compensate, all directly oppose your argument.

    2. What you are missing is that even though a CDE card can be played consistently in a dedicated CDE deck, it doesn’t go into a CD, CE, ABC or BCD deck, whereas a 2C card could be played in any of those decks. THAT’s why CDE cards are allowed to be inherently stronger. Yeah obviously blightning is much better in jund which (usually) has no problem casting it, but black control, RDW, and vampires can’t afford to play it without making a splash, and if they do then they can’t splash into another color for something like maelstrom pulse or bloodbraid elves without crippling their heavily focused manabase.

    To reiterate one last time, the less decks that can reliably play a card, the more powerful that card is allowed to be, seems perfectly reasonable to me.

  48. I’d like to add that saying Blightning and Sprouting Thrinax are broken multicolor cards that are better than any of their monocolor counterparts, therefore we have a problem with the power of multicolor cards, is a logical fallacy, especially considering the amount of multicolor cards in standard right now. It’s like saying because Baneslayer Angel is better than any of its counterparts in other colors, white is a broken color.

    There are just as many bad multicolor cards and good monocolor cards, and you could argue TC = GE (tougher cost = greater effect) as much as HR = GE (higher rarity = greater effect) and NB = GE (not blue = greater effect, you see a lot of bitching about this in the forums) when in fact, some cards are just better.

  49. I completely agree that WotC has made a higher then average amount of mana fixing lands available. I don’t think its quite to the level that your saying. Yes there are extremely powerful and efficient 3 drops in the Shards block but each combination got one. Some were just better then others. Thats an unavoidable and necessary evil in any card pool of any size/consistency. Certain cards will always be better then others. I think they need to make mono colored spells a little more powerful like the commands for example. Make it more competitive in each color so those that choose to go mono can still have access to relevant spells. Hopefully they’ll reprint Counterspell and strip mine in M11 lol.

  50. @ Jason W: I’d argue that keeping a Wasteland analogue in the base set would probably be enough. I can understand why WOTC doesn’t want LD back as a viable archetype, just as they don’t want Blue Based Control to always sit on top. Tectonic Edge feels a bit too narrow to make the difference, but IMHO it’s close.

    I should also mention that if I were making the call, I’d much rather err on the side of weakness. It’s easy to make stronger versions of something down the line. Outside of Standard, something broken stays in circulation for a long time in Extended and the Eternal formats are called that for a reason.

  51. @Vick: To retort each point:

    1) When was the last time WW or Eldrazi Green broke top 8 ever? I think I’ve seen maybe 1 WW deck ever on Decks of the Week on MTG.com, and Eldrazi Green hasn’t been seen in any amount of force for about 6 months. Saying that monocolored decks exist in Standard is like saying that combo exists in Standard. Yeah, sure, there’s Standard Dredge, Runeflare Trap, and Jacerator, which are all Tier 2 decks, but none of them are actually any good in the format, therefore they don’t count.

    2) That’s actually exactly the problem. There is no problem with playing CDE cards in a CE or CD deck. The reasons Boros Bushwhacker didn’t play Wild Nacatl was because it already had 10 1-drops that were better and because of the anomalous manabase of the deck since it needed 12 fetches. Exactly what you’re stating can’t happen is exactly what does happen and is exactly what the problem is. I will agree that a CDE card can’t be played by a deck playing ABC, and a deck that is mono-C probably shouldn’t be playing a CDE card, but if you’re already CD or CE or DE, you probably should be playing that CDE card.

    3) RDW does play Blightning. It’s called “Blightning Deck Wins”. Look it up. Vampires don’t play Blightning only because it doesn’t fit with their strategy. They can easily play Dragonskull Summits to splash if they wanted to, but that type of disruption isn’t what they need for a 3-drop. And Mono-Black Control isn’t a deck.

    4) I don’t follow with your “logical fallacy”. Multicolor cards are generally (but not always) built as a combination of already-existing cards in their respective colors. Monocolored cards are built on the color pie. White gets big flying beaters. No other color gets big flying beaters except Blue (Black used to but they don’t anymore) but Blue’s creatures are more Limited-oriented as opposed to White’s which are constructed-oriented. You can’t compare cards which are built as a combination of other effects to cards which are concepted as their own card from the start.

  52. @ Lyle:
    3. Sure it runs it, but has RDW been a deck anyone takes serious lately? I hadn’t heard it as such. The best I recall is from Loucks’ article where he basically says he’ll be running it to prey on the people running janky new stuff because the format hasn’t settled out yet.

    4. It’s called a Fallacy of Composition. The fact that a Great Dane is big doesn’t mean that all dogs are. Seeing a couple powerful (I wouldn’t even say broken) multicolored spells doesn’t mean that they all are. As Vick said, for every multicolored card that sees competitive play, there are a dozen that don’t.

    Next, did R&D tell you directly the multicolored cards are built the way you suggest? Yes, we can see that multicolored cards often end up showing their roots, but who are you to say that they start that way? MaRo’s Nut’s and Bolts columns imply the opposite: that everything starts off the same.

    I’m not sure what you were getting at with your flying comment, but the only color that almost never sees big monocolored fliers is green. Black has had and still has demons: Abyssal Persecuter and Archdemon of Unx to just start the alphabet. Red still has dragons, ’nuff said.

  53. 1. Maybe I should have said vampires then, but I was listing decks which I thought might make a comeback with RotE

    2. That is probably why nearly all competitive decks are either 1 or 3 colors (even UW occasionally makes the splash for r). But that is more an impact of Shards in standard than a problem of card design.

    3. I never said these decks can’t splash, I said these decks must make an effort to splash for the cards they want, and they can’t splash for all the best cards without regard for their manabase (blightning and bloodbraid elves used as examples for being the so-called two most broken cards in standard)

    4. What Delha said

  54. I agree and although this is often commented, expressing it in an article is a good step to get it mentioned at the mothership.

    If a bunch of duals is always going to take out inconsistency issues in multicolored decks, then monocolored cards have to be stronger than multicolored ones. Suddenly the true drawback becomes to try playing monocolored instead of the opposite one, which is what traditionally has been considered for design.

    Another issue that has to expressed is how necessary is the presence of good nonbasic hate to keep multicolor on check. To me, the biggest problem wasn’t the existence of Vivid lands and Reflecting Pool: the true mistake was to take out any nonbasic hate card like Blood Moon from the format, allowing 5 CC to run rampant and without any fear. Jund wouldn’t be so strong if we had Wasteland, Back to basics or Primal Order to punish it. We could even receive new better anti nonbasic cards to compensate for the existence of better manabases in these new times.

  55. @javert are you kidding me, reprinting any one of those cards would end multicolor decks in standard.

    and how could you ever, ever begin to justify making monocolored cards STRONGER?

    I think you are on some major crack.

  56. Good article, I enjoyed! Should be noted that wizards R&D has the challenge of making limited play fun as well as constructed play. If you ever drafted alara block, you’ll know that all of the color fixing was necessary to make playing good cards possible. The mana was never “too easy”, but was doable. Drafting alara block was fun, so wizards succeeded on the limited front anyway.

  57. Vick:

    It’s false that Blood Moon and friends would end multicolor right away. See Ravnica Standard, where the presence of stuff like Blood Moon or Eye of Nowhere and Stone rain combined didn’t stop multicolored decks to become the rule rather than the exception. That’s the basis to say that better nonbasic hate would be probably fine.

    About making monocolored cards stronger, of course I am refering to cards costing triple or even more colored mana cost. Even a card costing 1GG must be stronger than something costing 1GW because in a world with duals, restricting to less colors is the drawback rather than the opposite. It’s the same argument about Leatherback baloth having to be better than Wolly Thoctar.

  58. I think the biggest problem in the current meta (besides bloodbraid elf) is the lack of powerful mono colored cards compared to gold.
    most of the gold cards from alara would be considered awesome way back when, but before the recent shift towards gold themed formats there were just too few good gold cards printed in each format to make going 3+ colors an obvious decision. Its not that splashing extra colors is too easy (imho making extra colors easily splashable helps open up more options for deckbuilding) it’s just that there are too many incentives. if a R/G deck wanted to splash black for bligtning, thrinax, broodmate, leech, pulse OR bituminous blast that would be fine. A little extra mana inconsistancy for a a bit more power. It’s when that splash provides SO MANY more powerful cards that we have a problem.

    Someone earlier in the forums said something about leatherback baloth being a bigger commitment than woolly thoctar. this is really because there are just so few incentives to go mono these days vs 3+ colors. People often seem to lament the loss of mono black control and keep looking for its revival each new block. It doesn’t look like it’s ever going to happen because wizards never seems to care much about pushing single colored strategies. For people to want to play single colored strategies we need more than just leatherback or spire barrage etc. we need probably at least 2-3 cards in each colour on the same level as massacre. cryptic command, clooudthresher (obv without the vivid shananigans), nantuko shade, etc.

    The fact is there are way more XYZ cards out there at the moment than XXX or YYY. if you balanced them out im sure there would be a much healthier environment even with the glut of dual and tri lands.

  59. The entire argument is still refuted by the fact that Jund was not the best deck in Lorwyn+Alara+M10 standard. It became the best deck when Zendikar was released even though it used 0 cards from the set, simply because the rotation of Lorwyn block killed all the other decks that was successfully competing with Jund. I say it again, 3+ color decks dominate(d) because Alara is a multicolor block and Zendikar block has been weak. During the other multicolor blocks decks have not been predomitantly 3+ colors, though there have usually been some decks that were.

  60. VICK wrote: “I'd like to add that saying Blightning and Sprouting Thrinax are broken multicolor cards that are better than any of their monocolor counterparts, therefore we have a problem with the power of multicolor cards, is a logical fallacy, especially considering the amount of multicolor cards in standard right now. It's like saying because Baneslayer Angel is better than any of its counterparts in other colors, white is a broken color.”

    I’m saying these particular cards (bloodbraid, thrinax, et al.) are too strong. How did they get that way? Through application of different costing rules for gold cards. The Baneslayer counter-example really isn’t, since I would argue that Baneslayer is too powerful a card and should not have been printed. Gold cards don’t have a monopoly on being too powerful, but they are more likely to be too powerful given how they are presently costed.

    VICK also writes “2. What you are missing is that even though a CDE card can be played consistently in a dedicated CDE deck, it doesn't go into a CD, CE, ABC or BCD deck, whereas a 2C card could be played in any of those decks. THAT's why CDE cards are allowed to be inherently stronger. Yeah obviously blightning is much better in jund which (usually) has no problem casting it, but black control, RDW, and vampires can't afford to play it without making a splash, and if they do then they can't splash into another color for something like maelstrom pulse or bloodbraid elves without crippling their heavily focused manabase.”

    Sure, not every deck can play these cards, which just disincentivizes those decks (e.g. vampires) and incentivizes the Jund deck. If the Jund cards were properly costed or had reduced effect, both the Jund deck and the Vampires deck could cast their spells consistently, but Jund's spells wouldn't be twice as powerful. I never made the claim that Thrinax can go in any deck you want it to. My claim is that the card Sprouting Thrinax is not properly costed given how easy it is to make a deck that can cast it on turn 3. Someone's post above about Jund having to play 28 mana sources is well taken, but man-lands are the latest aspect of Easy Mana to alleviate this concern.

  61. @Vick:

    1) Those decks don’t actually need to make an effort to splash. Take RDW, remove 4 Mountains, add 4 Dragonskull Summits, add Blightning. Gratz, that was hard. Ditto for Vampires, except in reverse.

    2) Would you argue that Blightning isn’t just Mind Rot + Lava Spike with a reduced mana cost? If you would, we have nothing to discuss, because you are denying a basic axiom that both I and the original author are using in our card comparison. I’m not saying all multicolor cards are like this, I’m merely saying that you can’t compare cards that have obvious comparisons (e.g. Blightning to Mind Rot + Lava Spike) with cards that don’t (e.g. Baneslayer Angel).

    3) The point isn’t that multicolored cards are more powerful than other cards; the problem is that multicolored cards are undercosted for what they do. Mind Rot + Lava Spike has a cost of 4/2/2 (I’ll explain that in a moment) while Blightning has a cost of 3/2/1. What I mean by that is that it has a CMC of 4, in 2 colors, with 2 cards. Many newer players forget that cards are resources. You get 1 card per turn, and you may use that card any way you wish. Blightning, because it is harder to cast, has both its mana cost and its card cost reduced. Both of its composite cards are fairly costed, so it should not have had its mana cost reduced. Any card that is a combination of other cards have their card cost reduced, and often the combination of mana cost and card cost reductions make cards too cheap for their effect.

  62. @Lyle
    1. The effort they made to splash is what prevents them from splashing further into more colors. Seriously, read what I wrote. I never said a single color splash was in any way not viable except that it adds more restrictions to other cards you wish to play.

    2. Even if blightning can be treated as lavaspike + mind rot, which it is not, it could be undercosted for any number of reasons. Maybe R&D considered that no deck that ever ran lavaspike would want mind rot, or vice versa, and thus combining the effects does not really end up leading to the sum of their power. And in fact, I think it’s pretty obvious a blightning costing 2BR would not be played, so their design space wasn’t exactly wide open. But even conceding that blightning is very good, perhaps too good, based on what you said, it’s just a single card. How do you make the same argument for other multicolored cards considered overpowered such as BBE or thrinax? So you are refuting my Baneslayer Angel argument drawing upon the ONE card that you could find a good comparison for, while still not understanding the crux of the fallacy?

  63. @Matt
    1. And I do not believe the reason these multicolor cards are too strong is because of a combination of so called Easy Mana and TC=GE

    Bloodbraid Elf is too strong because cascade was a badly designed mechanic

    Blightning is too strong because, as previously mentioned, its effects are not wholly synergistic and the design space available for such a card tended towards undercosted more than overcosted, and also it benefited in part from cascade

    Sprouting Thrinax is… not even too strong, and not nearly so far above the curve as, for example, BSA

    And the PURE COINCIDENCE that these cards happened to be playable in the same three color deck (add putrid leech) is what brewed the monstrosity that is Jund

    More generally, in any environment some cards rise above others in efficiency, given the proportion of multicolor cards in Standard now is it surprising some of them are multicolored? What you did was point at Easy Mana and TC=GE, which are real observable and, I would argue, very reasonable design specs, and say their combination led to the problems we have in Standard. And that is where we disagree. Which leads into

    2. The popularity of Jund is, as said above, a fluke and a singular mistake. Otherwise statistically there is nothing to indicate that monocolor or twocolor decks are somehow disincentivized. And what three color decks there do exist are, I stress this again, the influence of Alara block in standard…

  64. Think about it this way: When have any of us truly done something so perfect that everyone has agreed with it in every way possible? R&D is comprised of People. Human beings. They aren’t perfect, and they are doing the best they can. It is not our place to overly criticize. To post suggestions, comments on how certain aspects of the game have changed or developed in a way that has not been appealing, yes. But to write something that comes across as hateful towards the people who are responsible for perpetuating, evolving, and creating the game that we all play and love is wrong. I don’t agree with everything they do. I do sometimes point out mistakes they have made with friends and joke about what they have done in the past, etc. but i do it in such a way that everyone knows I still respect them for what they do and appreciate the fact that they keep going with this game rather than saying “we’re done”

    Just something to keep in mind for the future, to not come across as you did here.

    Note: While not blatantly intended to be offensive, i was offended by this article, so take it with that in mind.

  65. @Dave, what is offensive about this article? What makes you think I don’t respect (or worse yet, that I hate) the people who design Magic cards? I doubt anyone at Wizards was offended.

    @Vick,
    So was the success of 5c control a fluke? That was based on Vivid lands (Easy Mana) combined with the assumption that casting cards like Cryptic Command, Cruel Ultimatum, and Volcanic Fallout was more difficult than in really way (TC=GC). Sure, each format these decks was good in is just one example, one snapshot, but if you see a pattern that can help avoid the recurrance of this lopsidedness in yet another standard format, I think its valid to state that pattern.

  66. I’ll have to concede that in the era of 5C control, the cycle of vivid lands and reflecting pool pushed Easy Mana over the edge for any deck willing to sacrifice its first 2-3 turns (post sideboard a deck that can play both wrath of god and cruel ultimatum reliably is what crosses the line, imo).

    But I think it’s neither the case for Jund nor a problem of current standard. And I’d like to think wizards R&D has learned their lesson from the 5C debacle.

  67. Wizards also keeps close check on the amount of multicolor lands in each color combination. The only non-ETBT lands are the M10 duals and the enemy fetches. The other lands either ETBT or have other unacceptable drawbacks. Consider the case if there were friendly fetches. Now, no one at all would run mono color. Monored could easily replace 9 mountains with 4 Summits, 4 Fethces and 1 Swamp and splash Blightning and other cards. Aggressive mono white decks could easily add the same package in order to have access to cards like Knight of the Reliquary, Qasali Pridemage etc. You would lose so little by “splashing” that there would be no point to monocolor. This restrictive policy on land forces you to choose between speed/consistency and power level.

    It’s also very important to note that the power level of card is a design choice, and the powerful cards are spread outacross all colors. This means you have to choose your colors wisely based on which of the powerful cards you want to use, and also consider cutting colors in order to use the heavy monocolor cards like Mind Sludge, Searing Blaze and Kor Firewalker.

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