The 5 Biggest Problems with Magic as a Game. And How to Fix Them.

I love Magic. And even though the game frustrates me from time to time, I always keep coming back and asking myself how this great game could be even better.

Here are my main sources of frustration, and how I could see fixing them:


Mana and color screw are dumb since they lead to fully non-interactive games. Mana flood at least gives you some tools to play with, but at a certain land-spell ratio, you are fully unable to win a game of Magic. Wizards did a pretty good job printing mechanics to stabilize screw and flood, such as scry, cycling, landcycling and so on. Here’s my take on it: Print more vanilla creatures or spells with scry. And print more lands with extra abilities. Here are some of my ideas, all of them intended to represent a cycle of cards for each color:

Blue Waterfall
Land – Waterfall
Blue Water enters the battlefield tapped.
Tap, Add U to your mana pool.

When Blue Waterfall enters the battlefield, search your library for any number of Waterfalls, reveal them, shuffle your library, and put them on the top or at the bottom of your library in any order.

This fixes color screw, mana screw, and mana flood in a pretty effective way, and just imagine the possibilities with Treasure Hunt

Blue Mine
Land – Mine
Tap, Add U to your mana pool.
Cycling: U
Blue Mine enters the battlefield tapped if you control another mine.

Blue Lagoon
Legendary Land
Tap, Add U to your mana pool.
Cycling: B/W

Cycling lands are a great way to prevent mana screw and flood in Limited. Amonkhet was dull, and Hour was great. Part of the reason was the cycling lands. And if they’re well balanced, they can even see some play in Constructed, like the cycling duals do.

Evolved Evolving Wilds
As Evolved Evolving Wilds enters the battlefield, scry 1.
Tap, Sacrifice Evolved Evolving Wilds: Search your library for a basic land and put it onto the battlefield tapped.

Makes for some interesting situations.

Grizzly Bearscape
Creature – Bear
Forestcycling – Pay 2 life

Landcyclers are great, but most of them are overcosted. Sometimes you just have 1-landers and those landcyclers that cost 2 mana. The cards wouldn’t need to be spectacular, but you can just print land/spell split cards by just tacking landcycling onto some vanilla guys or spells, even for free specific landcycling (green cards only for Forest, white for Plains, and so on), which would be a great way to have more balanced draws and therefore better games of Magic.


In some formats, the die roll matters too much. While I think part of the problem is the speed of the format and the lack of good answers to aggressive openings, I think it would be interesting to introduce the mechanic compensate. I wrote about this in some previous articles, you could just print this as a keyword for a bonus you get when going first, something like Gemstone Cavern does.

Two examples from my previous articles:

Counter target spell
Compensate: Costs 1 less

Legendary Human
When * enters the battlefield, create a 1/1 soldier with vigilance.
Compensate: Create two tokens instead.

While cards like these would be great for certain decks that want that effect, it would be even better to tack compensate on lands. At best, some fetchable ones, so that you get some nice money rares in the next sets.

Gemstone Badlands
Land – Mountain, Swamp
Gemstone Badlands enters the battlefield tapped unless you were on the draw this game.

Having tapped lands on the draw can be brutal if you don’t hit your curve against a fast deck. I would love to see lands like these.

Gemstone Plains
Legendary Land – Plains
Compensate: When Gemstone Badlands enters the battlefield, gain 2 life.

Red could get a free ping, green the possibility to put another land on top, blue could have a Halimar Depths trigger, and black a free Raise Dead or something like that.


In my second Pro Tour Top 8, in Paris (ironically), I mulliganed 8 times in my quarterfinals and lost a close match 3-2. Mulligans are frustrating because they lead to similar non-games like mana screw or color screw do. While I love the Mulligan update with the scry rule, a mulligan to 5 or less still ends the game in most cases before you even start your first turn. While mulligans to 5 are rare, it should be fairly easy to fix them.

  • When you mulligan, you scry once for each time you send back your hand. For a mulligan to five, you scry 2, for a mulligan to 4, you scry 3, for a mulligan to 3, you cry.
  • You get two mulligans to 6, scry 1 if you keep your initial 6, and don’t scry if you send them back again.
  • You get two mulligans to six, or your opponent gets to scry 1 too if you send back your first one.


Bannings just suck, especially if you pay good money to buy a playset of chase mythics and then their price just collapses.

Again, to prevent this, you could just print some better answers. I think the current and old Standard, with Aetherworks Marvel, Smuggler’s Copter, and Felidar Guardian banned, lacked an answer like Pithing Needle, or a better version of it—printing Sorcerous Spyglass and Duress in Kaladesh instead of Ixalan would have helped a lot. Toss in a Thoughtseize and a Stifle, and you could have kept Emrakul too. While Spyglass and Duress could have helped keep good cards in check, it would also have helped in a metagame where Heart of Kiran and Gideon were that dominant.

Other than that, I would love to see restrictions in newer formats like we have in Vintage, meaning that you can only play 1 copy of it in your deck. Marvel and Guardian would be no problem as a 1-of, since then you cannot just build your deck around them. Also, Hazoret would have made a great restricted card since it was or is too powerful, and Gods should be restricted anyway, flavorwise. Also, restrictions wouldn’t wreck the card prices that badly. Maybe mythics (or a new rarity they could bring) should be restricted in Constructed from the day they come out.

Magic Online

Well, Magic Online and I have a great love-hate relationship. But apart from all of the bugs and the shuffler, I do think Magic Online is a great tool and should have more play options. My wishes for Christmas:

  • GPs on Magic Online: No travel, no flight or hotel expenses, less logistics, no cheating, and awesome coverage. I’m aware of the fact that other problems would pop up, like multiple guys teaming up and playing out a Top 8 via Skype. But you could enable younger people with less money to attend more GPs, and you could enable dads like me with less time as well. Also, team GPs via Skype—how awesome would that be?!
  • High-stakes online Magic tournaments. While this would only be cool for a small amount of people, it could make the pro player lifestyle more interesting.
  • Always having a Cube as a regular Draft option. When a Draft format wears out, as Ixalan did some weeks ago for me, I would love to get some nice alternatives for Limited play. They could have like six different Cubes, rotating after a month or so.
  • Getting to play Chaos Drafts and Standard/Modern Highlander on Magic Online. I just love Chaos Drafts, as well as goofy formats where need you to tinker around new ideas.
  • Getting more players to play Magic Online by putting Play Point Vouchers in regular booster packs, instead of the token card. This is an idea from a friend that I met at FNM which I like a ton (both the idea and the guy). It would be a great advertisement for Magic Online, and it would give you a nice way to get even when cracking a box for drafting, which is a lot harder now that Wizards moved away from putting Invocations into booster packs.


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