Tag Archives: wizards of the coast

What happened with Legacy and the Reserved List?

Death of a Legacy

WotC has finally taken action on the Reserved List, bowing to immense pressure from the gaming community that subsist on and support their product; the following concession was made after the voices of thousands cried out for the ending of the archaic contract that soon promised to keep Legacy from being playable by all interested parties: The Final Word.

It seems that the final word on the issue, handed down from upon high by an Executive somewhere, likely with a nodding Legal staff behind him, was essentially a single word.

No.

If you haven’t looked at the links yet, the official word is that there are a handful of reprints using the previous ‘premium loophole’ that will come out this year, 2010, but that beyond that there will never be another reprinting of the cards other than oversized promo materials.

A Murder Mystery

I have been speculating on the situation above and I could make some reasonable guesses as to the events that lead to this. Let me start out by saying that Legacy will not die overnight. This is not a decapitation. This is Phthisis. Let’s have a mental exercise to see possibly whodunit.

Hypothetically, the format is currently being supported in part by WotC, and also in major part, by a substantial secondary market card store (SMC). WotC is only getting marketing value out of supporting Legacy, selling very few cards from recent sets to support the players. The SMC, being the biggest name in the market, benefits greatly from card resale traffic. As the format grows in popularity, the margin on each card grows with demand. This is especially true for powerful cards that are needed in a vast number of decks and are also on the Reserved List. The Dual Lands are the best example, followed closely by cards like Mox Diamond and Lions Eye Diamond.

(Disclaimer: I will state now that while it was suggested that I go to law school, I haven’t, so lawyers and law students feel free to jump in and correct erroneous assumptions or support/guide my suspicions.)

Means

Wotc’s Reserved List, I suspect, could be seen as some type of legal guarantee of value in the investment medium of the game components listed upon it. By ‘promising’ in an open publicly known and promoted policy, WotC may have opened themselves to the Reserved List acting as some sort of contract. This would also open them up to possible lawsuits if someone with significant interests and resources would stand to lose from unfavorable changes in this policy.

A SMC could launch a suit do to the increased buzz of activity and discussion around negating the Reserved List, either defacto through the ‘premium loophole’ or in whole by obliterating it. Such a suit, if it holds merit or if it would prove very costly, would pressure WotC into an out of court settlement, changing the policy, reaffirming it, possibly even paying losses, all the while the employees of both WotC and the SMC being bound by a non-disclosure agreement which requires them to refrain from discussing the reasoning, implementation, and fall out from such an action.

Motive

If WotC negates the Reserved List and prints a new bevy of limited circulation cards, the demand for the cards vital to this format will drop. Subsequently sales traffic and margins will also drop, denting the SMC’s bottom line. Meanwhile, this would be healthy to WotC and the MTG community playing as more players would gain access and WotC would be able to sell the reprint product fresh off the printers.

Opportunity

If WotC, seeking to test the waters regarding a possible elimination of the Reserved List, began talking about it in public forums, such as their company website, and gave an interested party reason to believe that they would suffer major capital losses, such a party could begin to monitor the situation closely, and perhaps even send representatives to meet and discuss the issue. They could then use the information gathered to launch a suit, and perhaps even an injunction, against WotC citing imminent and unrecoverable business losses.

Means, motive and opportunity aside, the bit players and key figures in each company and the community might not have even known what all was going on until it came to a head in some series of hush-hush legal meetings. Perhaps all figurehead parties would love to have gone ahead with the elimination, but those behind the scenes with their fingers on the purse strings might have moved to interfere. We will not know for certain due to the shield of the law. This means that we are left to only our own reasoning and speculation. I have nothing against the hypothetical SMC described above, but without explanations, this is what makes the most logical sense to me.

What this all means is that the Legacy format will likely continue for a time to climb in demand and prices until such a time that only the wealthiest players can afford to play, and the format will slowly fade into obscurity as prices will only ever creep upwards due to cards leaving circulation in any number of ways.

Eternally yours, Unrequited

Sadly, I was slowly attempting to pull together a Legacy legal deck as I really wanted to play in the only GP within a reasonable distance from my particular location on the globe, GP Columbus, OH. With the prices of Legacy required cards sky rocketing, I cannot afford to buy-in to the format at a latter time. With the prices as high as they are, I cannot afford to buy-in now thanks to the Economic Recession. Now that I know prices have no hope of coming down while also maintaining a healthy format, I feel no desire to invest into the format.

I am a player of Standard and Limited as they are the easiest formats to enter competitively. I would play Extended if the format had support in my area as I’m not in a position to go fifty to one hundred miles out of town each weekend to play in a PTQ. Vintage, proxied tourneys aside, is priced at such a level as I would only consider it if I won the lottery or some other windfall. Legacy was a shining hope for playing with old good cards and making a run of it competitively.

Legacy now has fallen into the same compartment as Vintage. Indeed, I almost see no reason in separating them anymore as both serve the same elite level of players: the wealthy and well-connected. I will miss this opportunity lost, but WotC doesn’t love me back, and so I must look now to the future.

Classic Revolution

We, the players, will have to pick ourselves up, dust our cards off, and begin anew. The Reserved List has not been added to since Urza’s Destiny and will not be added to ever again, in theory. I then propose that we push the emergence of an Eternal format that may be eternally renewed without the barriers of some arcane seal barring the cards from reaching our hands.

Classic is a format in which all cards older than Mercadian Masques are banned. All sets from Mercadian Masques on into the foreseeable future will be legal, reasonable broken card bannings not withstanding. This format will enable both WotC and the MTG community to do a few important things.

  • Have a stable, ever expanding format in which new discoveries will be possible with each new set.
  • Create, for however brief a time, a new game-wide meta-game and format structure to explore and develop.
  • Ensure that if a card begins to rise to meteoric heights that WotC always has the option to reprint it. This also applies to cards dropping out of circulation and the hands of players for whatever reason.
  • Retain cards that rotate out of Extended and other rotating formats and continue to play them in a widely accepted and non-elitist format.

These things represent an Eternal format that is healthy and not impossible to enter for those who are students, work for a living, have a family, or have not been playing since the dawn of the game. Yes, I am aware that there are plenty of people in the game that have traded-up, won, or otherwise acquired the best cards in the game, but a fine minority should not rule the majority. Besides, I don’t believe that having Classic, a format with the above listed qualities, would hurt the game in any manner and provides only upside for both WotC and her customers.

Luis Scott-Vargas, Pro Tour Champion and Magic-Strategy Coach

Just this past week, we notified Power 9 Pro customers that we’re launching another series of MtG workshops led by Luis Scott-Vargas. We definitely wanted to keep our blog readers up to date too!

I’m especially excited to have Luis Scott-Vargas on as an instructor/coach with Power 9 Pro. It’s taken a lot of juggling of schedules but we finally figured out all the details just in time for an excellent finish to 2009.

If you don’t know Luis (often endearingly called LSV by the Magic community) from his win at Pro Tour Berlin or numerous top 8′s at multiple GPs and Pro Tour events, you may know him from his “Drafting with LSV” series on YouTube/Channel Fireball. Regardless of how you first heard about LSV, his record is extremely impressive.
His most notable finishes include:

  • 1st – Nationals 2007
  • 1st – GP San Francisco 2007
  • 3rd/4th – GP Philadelphia 2008
  • 1st – Pro Tour Berlin 2008
  • 1st – GP Atlanta 2008
  • 1st – GP Los Angeles 2009
  • 2nd – Pro Tour Kyoto 2009

LSV is a great new addition to the instructor base at Power 9 Pro, where he’ll be able to leverage years of article writing as well as his foray into online video. He’s written content for BlackBoarder and Channel Fireball, conducted interviews with WotC and much more. Power 9 Pro Online Workshops are the next step in LSV’s consistently giving nature that always results in a fostering of the Magic the Gathering community and player base.

There are numerous benefits to the online workshops for players, the most notable of which is summed up by “Learn from the best to be the best.” Truly top-level coaching is hard to come by and here’s your chance to dive deep into relevant discussions on Magic. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions about what cards to include when evaluating your sideboard options–whether prep’ing for an FNM or Grand Prix Trial. LSV himself is excited to share his insights into drafting Zendikar. His perspectives from over 1200 matches (not counting MTGO!) will be leveraged for your benefit. Don’t miss out on this opportunity. The last workshop of 2009 is a “Deck Doctor” format which means you can send in your deck for LSV to make a list of adjustments. See how he would adjust the card base for optimum results for your deck. Talk about an unique experience!

Here’s an example clip from our recent workshop series led by Ben Lundquist.

You can learn more about the workshops at power9pro.com/workshops or in another recent blog post.

Further information about Luis Scott-Vargas is located at wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_Scott-Vargas. You can also read some of his latest articles at Channel Fireball where he also does a weekly video-cast called Magic TV. LSV has also written for notable Magic the Gathering strategy sites Black Boarder and Starcity Games, though his writing is exclusively available on Channel Fireball as of early 2009.

FYI, if you sign up for Power 9 Pro’s (very infrequent) newsletter, we’ll send you a mp3 clip with Ben Lundquist discussing the in’s-and-out’s of the Metagame. This single 2 min clip alone will help you make better choices when it comes to what decks to expect at the next tournament and how to track the best decks in a format. We’re happy to provide this as a small sample of what Power 9 Pro aims to accomplish with our workshops.

As always, we want to hear from you. If you have workshop topic requests, thoughts or concerns, feel free to lets us know in the comments. I can also be followed on twitter where I post updates, commentary and discussions with fellow MtG players. :)

Magic Grand Prix 2010 Schedule Announced

Wizard’s has announced the GP lineup for 2010 and I have to say it looks great. Lots of variability–something I felt was missing from this year’s schedule which featured a ton of limited.

Here’s the schedule:

Dates City Country Format Feeds PT
Feb. 13-14 Oakland USA Extended San Juan
Feb. 27-28 Madrid Spain Legacy San Juan
March 13-14 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Standard San Juan
March 20-21 Yokohama Japan Extended San Juan
March 27-28 Brussels Belgium Standard San Juan
April 3-4 Houston USA Extended San Juan
May 8-9 Lyon France “Prosper” Limited Amsterdam
May 22-23 Baltimore USA Standard Amsterdam
June 5-6 Sendai Japan Standard Amsterdam
June 12-13 Manila Philippines Standard Amsterdam
July 31-Aug. 1 Columbus USA Legacy Amsterdam
Aug. 28-29 Gothenburg Sweden M11 Limited PT 2011 #1
Sept. 11-12 Portland USA M11 Limited PT 2011 #1
Oct. 9-10 Sydney Australia “Lights” Limited PT 2011 #1
Oct. 23-24 Toronto Canada “Lights” Limited PT 2011 #1
Oct. 30-31 Bochum Germany “Lights” Limited PT 2011 #1
Nov. 13-14 Nashville USA “Lights” Limited PT 2011 #1
Nov. 27-28 Florence Italy “Lights” Limited PT 2011 #1

And of course we’re all looking for those especially coveted foil cards and the 2010 GPs have a Whopper for us: Umezawas Jitte!!!!

Here’s a look at the actual new art.

So what do you think? Excited? Will we be seeing you at one of these GPs? Which GP are you most excited about attending? On a personal level I’m excited about having a fairly local GP (Oakland).

Why Magic the Gathering is Better Than a Video Game

First off, I am making a bold statement here and by the end of this article it should be clear why that is. As always, would love to hear from each of you in the comments section.

For clarity sake, I am lumping MTGO into Magic the Gathering generally.

In order to understand the framing of this question–that is, the question of Magic’s advantages over video games–it’s important to understand a concept called Creative Destruction. The term was made famous by an early 20th century economist named Joseph Schumpeter. Through creative destruction, the marketplace essentially creates an environment for innovation which ultimately replaces older models and methods of doing things. We see this all the time in modern society. Take the advent of digital cameras replacing rolled-film cameras which had replaced Poloroids–or, more recently, phone-based cameras to some degree competing directly with stand-alone digital cameras. Other easy to understand examples include [pretty much] anything related to the Internet: email nearly replacing “snail mail,” Facebook vs MySpace vs Friendster, CSS vs ‘old school’ HTML, or newspapers migrating in-mass to digital pushes.

The political jargon used by policy makers is simply to site “innovation” as a/the driving force of the market place. For the scope of this discussion, it isn’t necessary to get into an analysis of the implications of creative destruction within society–or where Schumpeter felt capitalism would lead. Rather, we simply need to understand that the process of innovation and creativity as a driving force within the mechanisms that propel us toward improvements can be used as lens for examining the relationship of players to various games.

Let’s first examine Magic the Gathering from the perspective of creative destruction before examining video games. After examining both types of medium and addressing a couple of caveats, we can then move to the implications of creative destruction and the ultimate conclusion that Magic the Gathering is better than a video game. Within the conclusion, I will also address a few concerns or obstacles for the game to be aware of.

Creative Destruction and Magic the Gathering:

As anyone who plays Magic for more than a month knows, a whopping four times a year the development team at Wizards of the Coast releases a fresh set of cards for players. With the release, the card pools for various types of game-play change. This period is lovingly referred to as ‘Format Rotation.’ Cards, and the block-centric mechanics related to those cards, are no longer eligible for constructed tournament-ready decks. Because a metagame is often defined by specific archtypes such as “Mono-Red Burn” or “Affinity” or “Faries,” the loss of cards such as Sulfuric Vortex, Arcbound Ravager or Cryptic Command & Bitterblossom actually represent major shift-points for the game.

In summation, ‘format rotation’ (and ‘block rotation’) is WotC R&D actively entering a process of creative destruction. Archetypes constituting the “metagame” become format-defining. Cards which were format- and archetype-defining, such as those cited above, cause the entire floor of the metagame to fall out from under itself. This process of “falling out” is often seen in technology but it’s very interesting to see it occurring with a “game.” Take chess of example, the game has not changed in thousands of years; it’d be like someone inventing a “Queen on Steroids” or a “New Rook that Jumps Like Checkers”–it’d redefine the method of playing and analyzing chess.

Let’s now shift our focus from Magic the Gathering to video games.

Through physical constraints of software development, video games are hard-coded to function correctly the first and 100th time. In business parlance, finished video games are “weighed down by rules and procedures that discourage innovation.” In fact, that makes complete and absolute sense. You certainly wouldn’t want your video game to randomly decide that after completing level one, you go directly to level 10. That’s considered a bug. The goal with a video game is to create a predictable model for how the user will experience the game.

Games such as World of Warcraft (WoW) and EVE Online are interesting counter-examples but let’s keep in mind that the companies are forced to release “expansion sets” but the fundamental base of the game does not change. In fact, after talking with a very-dedicated WoW player, certain areas of the game cannot be accessed with equipment (such as ‘flying mounts’) released in early editions. The base of the game(s) still fall into the pigeonhole I commented on above: “rules and procedures.” These somewhat adaptive games aside, we can clearly see this trend with games such as Zelda, Mario Brothers, Halo, etc. Though for games like Halo there is a certain segment of play allowing for “player vs player” that does lend itself to the sustainability of the game (and so the business models associated with subscriptions), I still take the stance that these games ultimately lose appeal for the vast majority of players–despite the release of “new levels” or “new weapons.”

Looping back to my first point that the goal of a software-based game is to create a predictable model from which players experience the “digital world,” it’s the predictability aspect of the game which ultimately pushes many players away–often to the next “hot game.” I mean, how many times have you replayed a game after beating it? It becomes a “what’s the point” sort of situation. I would even go so far as to describe Player vs Player-centric games to fall into situations of “hot flare up, quick fade.”

In summary of our analysis of video games, the take-away is that they are fundamentally resistant to change. Entrepreneurs take note! –the ability to innovate within this particular constraint, represents the type of creative destruction cited by business/economic thinkers as leading to wealth creation–or wealth transference depending on your perspective.

With the framework of creative destruction used to contrast video games with Magic the Gathering in place, we can move to a few quick, non-verbose conclusions.

1. Magic the Gathering has staying-power

  • Mark Rosewater has commented numerous times, both in his weekly column and on Twitter that he could happily develop and innovate for Magic the Gathering until he dies and never run out of ideas.
  • To return to the economic analogy, Magic the Gathering exposes itself to “market pressures.” The game operates within a framework where the current-hot-must-have-cards become tomorrow’s toilet paper (well, maybe not that extreme). WotC R&D becomes a “creator, operator and trader of assets.”
  • Magic the Gathering follows a pattern of Innovation and Destruction: incremental (new expansions sets…vis a vis Conflux or Alara Reborn versus Shards of Alara), substantial (oops, that card was more broken than we realized: aka Tarmagoyf), and transformational (base sets: Time Spiral, Lorwyn, Shards, Zendikar…).

2. Magic the Gathering is constantly creating an environment where through the process of creatively destroying itself, the construction environment opens up to a new atmosphere of innovation.

  • Just take a recent discussion leading up to Pro Tour Austin as an example. Heck, Ben Lundquist spent about 20 minutes discussing the cycle of a meta-game last week: new sets usher in the aggro deck (Deck-X), leading to a deck designed to beat deck-X (Deck-Y), and then decks designed to play against the “fear of Deck-Y” with decent match ups against Deck-X (Deck-Z). This happens at a minimum of three times a year if you’re only counting the set-releases. Major tournaments such as GPs, $5k’s and PT’s debut new innovations opening up new deck archetypes, effectively setting the tone for the MetaGame. If we look at all the archetypes that popped up within just the last 12 months, the number is significantly higher. Development teams for video games would be extremely hard pressed to keep up with one such ground-breaking environment change.

3. Players come back.

  • I can’t even keep count of how many times I’ve heard the story, “Yeah, I started playing back in Beta, stopped in [insert old expansion] and then restarted in [insert new-ish expansion].” It’s practically cliche. (I for the record have never stopped and know that I never will stop playing). Other than spending a few minutes farting around on an old school Nintendo system, I never ever revisit old games. As I said earlier, there’s no point. I’ll wager there’s a lot of research around this point. To wit, here’s one simple example. Interesting quote from that link: “[One Smarty-pants-Panelist] pointed out that under the age of 20, “anyone who is not a gamer is an aboration.” According to his experiences, they actually move as groups from game to game – often sampling 20 to 30 games a year.” [Emphasis mine].

Some points for WotC to watch out for:

  • Don’t allow profits to run the development cycle. The perpetuity of the game will ultimately rest more on the design team’s ability to adequately address the need to re-constitute itself than it will on any marketing scheme. This is actually a more difficult challenge than at first glance will lead us to believe. Companies–aka management teams–find creativity cumbersome to manage. Creativity requires freedom, something that fundamentally contradicts a company’s/management’s desire to control operating procedures. Management’s responsibility to fulfill this “need for creativity” then becomes a matter of finding the right people–people who are capable of asking the right questions, not providing the right [sounding] answers–because let’s face it, if you ask the right question, sometimes the answers aren’t so great sounding.
  • On that point, let’s not ever ever ever forget that it is the players that drive this community forward. WotC, in this respect, merely needs to continually create the right environment(s) for Magic to be played; little over-sight needed. Pro Tours, MTGO and FNM are great examples of this type of behavior. I’m confident they can keep this up. :)

Last point, some people bemoan the release of new sets (or the new rules which I still hear people whining about). Mostly these arguments come from a reluctance to “dish out the cash” to “keep up.” True, the system does require continual purchases and is expensive. However, that is exactly what keeps the game interesting. It’s just something you have accept and embrace. I’d rather have an interesting, “living” game than a bunch of cardboard I abandoned to the dust-gods because the game became stale.

[[edit]]
Spoke with a few friends tonight about this article and one friend in particular (Xavier–who’s also published a few posts here) suggested I include this final thought. If you find this idea interesting and worth pondering, an interesting phenomena worth examining further is why games such as Settlers of Catan has had such great success in maintaining interest from its player base since 1995. Again, I can easily posit that much of the continued enthusiasm stems from the expansions sets such as Seafares of Catan. Again, I see this as a result of the makers manipulating the “expected game experience” which results in prolonged interest (and purchases) from a loyal base of players.

Wizards’ Zendikar preview article gives props to EDH

On the mothership, in his zendikar sneak preview article today, Kelly Digges reveals a new mythic rare legendary octopus creature called Lorthos, the Tidemaker.  Behold:

Before I even see the casting cost or textbox or typline or anything, the name of this guy makes me wonder whether the psychographic profile / player type “Vorthos” is the intended audience for this card, simply because the names are a single consonant apart.  This suspicion is bolstered in my mind by the fact that Digges then goes on to post an EDH deck as his example deck.  At first glance, EDH as a format does seem to me to be vorthos-esque, though perhaps this is a contentious claim?

This constitutes some major props for the format which seldom sees the light of main-page articles, much less the headliner.  Aside from this piss poor deck, searching EDH and/or “Elder Dragon Highlander” doesn’t turn up many recent results outside of the forums.

At any rate, what good is this creature?  Is he worth consideration as an EDH general?

Well, Vorthos comes to mind immediately as I glance at the 8cc and type line.  Octopus?  Really?  Have there been any other octopi in Magic, I wonder?  Just Giant Octopus, it turns out.  He’s also a non-evasive 8/8, which makes spike throw up in his mouth a little.  Okay, so let’s see if this ability can save him…

When he attacks you can pay 8 (!!!)… if you do, you tap eight permanents.  They essentially “sleep” for a turn. Again, this is all vorthos-central.  It’s crazy eights!  It’s Octo-card!  Eight cc, eight power, eight toughness, eight mana to activate, eight permanents get tapped.

So this lazy octopus requires a mana input for each tentacle it uses, and won’t budge any of them unless you jolt each and every one… it’s all or nothing.  Then he tentacle-slaps eight permanents?  Weak sauce.

By the time you cast this guy in EDH, you’re going to be in big trouble, and the payoff seems like a far cry from “I win.”  It seems to me that Digges deck would instantly become better, for example, if he ditched the octopus and went with kira great glass spinner, teferi mage of zhalfir, or arcanis the omnipotent as general, all of which are in his deck.

However, in the spirit of Vorthos, I think we can all agree that he does indeed have a certain flavor appeal.  He’s very similar to darksteel colossus in his whole numerological repetitiveness, with darksteel using 11 rather than 8.  This was the impetus for my very first joke magic card, btw:

dorksteel_colossus

Anyway, I’m glad to see wizards supporting EDH, as well as Vorthoses everywhere.  I wonder, though, how the EDH community takes the tacit association of their format with this particular player type.  I know about 15 EDH players, and of them all, there’s only one or two who come close to being a Vorthos.  Most are actually spikes who play EDH in their “down time.”  Holler in the comments section if you have an opinion about this crazy eights guy or the edh / vorthos connection.

Rules Changes for Magic: the Gathering — Team Discussion

For this post, I thought I thought it would be interesting if I pooled a number of different perspectives from the Power 9 Pro team. In that sense, we have a virtual round table discussion of the recent rules changes.

I’ll start the discussion.

James:
So, team, we have a new set of rules rolling into place with the release of M10. This set is really starting to create waves; first we were told that the core set would contain a slew of new cards and now we’re getting hit with a series of, in some cases, very drastic changes.
Most notable of which is the elimination of the combat damage & stack. Wizards also eliminated the splitting of damage among various creatures, except so far as Deathtouch is concerned. What do you guys think of these changes?

Sean:
Right away I can tell you my biggest problem with this whole thing is the elimination of damage stacking. Think of a deck like boat brew that runs 4 mogg fanatics. This deck is instantly much worse. This also goes for utility cards like qasali pridemage and call to heel. The change also limits your strategic options. For example, I could easily see a situation in core set limited where a spined wurm gets team blocked by a pair of giant spiders and a pyroclasm can no longer wipe the board.

James:
Keep in mind, Sean, that during the declare blockers step, you still have the option to play an instance at that moment. This is still considered a step and so there is an exchange of priority. It’s only at the time of “damage step” that players are no longer able to make responses. This definitely lowers the value of cards like Qasali Pridemage, though.

Dillon:
I have been thinking about the rules changes all morning. The way the
“declare blockers” step is set-up right now, I can attack with a 7/7
Cloudthresher and then my opponent declares their blockers. Lets say
they have Wall of Denial, 0/8, and then seven 1/1 insect tokens. If
they block with their entire horde of dudes, putting the Wall of
Denial first in the order, I have to assign 7 damage to the wall. Then
Cloudthresher gets eaten by insects.

Zak:
Actually, it is the attacker who choses the blocker numbers, so your Thresher will still kill the insects.

James:
Yeah, it’s important to understand that the attacker gets to choose the “stack” of blockers when there are multiple blockers to one attacker.

Dillon:
I am glad I misread.
[Still it's] Kind of goofy. It makes abilities like indestructible, a lot better…Same goes for regeneration.

Joe:
The combat damage change is harder to swallow since for over a decade many of us have learned to use the stack to our advantage at the end of the combat phase… but I think this will also prove to be a good change for the same reason. As the announcement said, it never made sense that a creature could throw a punch, then disappear completely only to have his punch land. Doesn’t make sense in the metaphor of creatures battling. Attachement to old-style combat tricks is just that: sentimental attachment. It’s arbitrary.

James:
There have been a lot of comments about people “quitting” the game because of these rules changes. Even a petition started with threats of quitting and boycotting WotC. Whereas I do think that’s a bit drastic–I mean, how much did you really like the game if “the combat stack” was the only allure–it is worth taking fairly seriously in the sense that the player base is not generally happy about these changes. Or maybe the people who are unhappy about this are just vocalizing more than the rest?

Joe:
Over the years I’ve seen wave after wave of changes to the game, whether rules changes or layout changes, bring cries of agony and pledges to quit the game forever from the peanut gallery of morons out there, only to see, time and time again, that the changes in question improved the game dramatically. In some cases, like the new card borders, they make some mistakes. At the time, white and artifact cards were painful to distinguish, and they rectified this problem in the next printing. Overall, the changes have consistently been for the better. This comes as no surprise, given that the team responsible for making the game has grown in number and sophistication over the years. I have developed a certain amount of trust in WotC R&D, and I believe they make these changes only after thoughtful deliberation and careful testing. Thus, I met the current wave of revulsion at these new rules changes with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The simple terminology changes are great. They bring the flavor and the mechanics of the game into closer alignment, making the metaphor of two mages dueling in a fantasy setting more apt to intuitively convey the proper game mechanics. Who could ask for a better change?

James:
What is your perspective on some of the other changes? Such as mana pool’s no longer burning before emptying between phases, the introduction of the “Battlefield” and “casting” versus “playing”?

Sean:
So far as the Mulligans – Good idea. They tested this at nats last year and everyone said it seemed to work fine.
Terminology Changes…I don’t really mind. I could see this making things easier for new players and the functional changes are slight.
I think the Mana Pool Changes is dumb, especially with mistbind clique in the format and functional changes to cards like valleymaker. I don’t know about anyone else but I have personally floated mana in response to clique to then draw an instant speed answer to it.
As for token ownership – Good idea. It was pretty counterintuitive before.
Deathtouch – Only necessary because of damage stacking changes.
Lifelink – Undecided. It is a large functional change that effects more than just corner cases. On the one hand lifelink now works in a more intuitive way, on the other hand loxodon warhammer on rhox war monk (AKA the love rhino) isn’t quite what it used to be.

Joe:
Lifelink and deathtouch are likewise good fits flavor wise, and will result in more players intuitively playing correctly without deep rules knowledge.

James:
Deathtouch just became one of the most powerful abilities for a creature to possess–especially if you can give a deathtouch creature first strike such as Pestilent Kathari–only that’s a 1/1 so not that hot. Bad example but y’all get my meaning.
So far as lifelink is concerned, I think this makes more sense. Other abilities such as flying, trample, forest walk, etc didn’t have such a meaningful impact if they stacked. Lifelink stacking doesn’t make much sense in the first place but overall it has such a HUGE advantage in a game where life totals are a resource to be managed in and of itself. I’ll never forget what you told me, Joe, when you were first teaching me to play: “You’re just as powerful at 1 or 2 life as at 20; just focus on managing your lifetotal like your lands and spells and you’ll be a better player. Don’t worry so much about losing one or two life. It doesn’t affect your ability to damage, and ultimately, kill me.”

Dillon:
Deathtouch became my favorite ability overnight.

Joe:
The only real rules issue I don’t fully grasp is why it was necessary to force an attacking creature to deal full lethal damage to each creature in the blocking line before moving to the next. I don’t see why this was necessary from a flavor standpoint. An attacker who recognizes his imminent demise might choose to wound many blocking creatures rather than kill a few and only wound one… and enforcing this new rule eliminates the viability of things like doing 2 damage to 3 of your opponent’s x/4 creatures, only to cast infest in your second main phase. Previously you would have wiped the board. Now it doesn’t quite work, and I’m not sure why they chose to do this. Still, I’m willing to roll with it.

James:
I agree completely but the reason may be that if your creature’s “weapon” (or whatever) can’t cut through the creature completely, how is it cutting through the next one? Did i magically (doh, bad pun) skip to the next enemy? It’s probably just an attempt to streamline the functionality of combat generally–again, right along with the elimination of the combat stack.
However, it is worth noting the rules changes so far as splitting damage is concerned is contradicted by allowing deathtouch creatures to divide their damage. Meaning, R&D addressed some of the issues w/ damage allocation but then found itself backed into a cornered with creatures like Kederekt Creeper. It’s a fairly blatant “breech” of the rules and I’m finding it hard to swallow myself.

Any final last comments?

Zak:
I think these are great. As a player who routinely teaches new players, these rules are a blessing, and although I’ll need to get used to them, I’m sure they’ll work out fine.

Joe:
Final point. The rules are always the given. You try to use the rules to your advantage. Now that the rules are different, you’ll have different ways to (ab)use them to your advantage, and previous ways of doing so may vanish entirely. Big deal. Don’t fret and make silly promises to quit magic before you see the full extent of the changes and give them a chance to grow on you! I just keep thinking of interrupts. Who would argue that the game was ruined when they dropped interrupts?

James:
I don’t like the elimination of manaburn. That is a very relevant factor in the game. In fact, the loss of a point or two of damage has won me a game or two in the past. I’m sorry to see that go. In fact, I don’t see the justification for it’s dropping…

That’s it for now. We’d love to hear alternative perspectives and opinions. Let us know what you think!
You can also join us in the discussion on twitter. It’s awesome for all those not “in the loop” as it’s SUPER easy to engage big-names like Flores and Brian David Marshal.

Magic the Gathering on XBox — 6 reasons not buy it

there’s not too much news out this week for magic the gathering…so i thought i would do a review ofMagic: the Gathering – Battlegrounds.

from the title of the post, you can tell that i’m not down with this shameless attempt at milking more money from the magic the gathering player base.

so why do i feel it’s a shameless money-making scheme with no real value for players? everything appealing about mtg is missing:

  1. you’re not actually playing magic…at all
  2. no collectible cards
  3. no unique art (“cool graphic” != “unique art”)
  4. there’s no social aspect to it.  might as well play any video game
  5. step backwards in developing fantasy-based games.  (there’s NOTHING new here so far as fantasy-games are concerned; it’s all old hat)
  6. how can i be a spike in such a “well rounded, no broken affect” world?

Details on each point:

1)  example:  there aren’t instants, no deck-constructing (it’s all “duel decks.”  PUKE) …all i can think is “it’s not even magic the gathering.”  it’s just a really bad licensing attempt.  for those of you not familiar with licensing, it’s basically what made disney the powerhouse it is today.  think “mickey mouse”  now think about all the products that have had mickey’s face plastered to it throughout the years.  that “face-plastering” is licensing.  Mr. Jonny Sells-Alot wants to make a t-shirt w/ mickey’s face on it.  disney says, “okay, pays Lots of Money.”  that’s what wizards did here.  they didn’t have atari make a new mtgo–because why do that when they can make money on mtgo AND mtg-battlegrounds?  well, in the attempt to figure out a way to make a magic the gathering game that didn’t affect the monoply wizards has for [legitimized] online play, atari made a bastardized, dumb-down version.

2)  there’s no cards.  this reinforces point 1.

3)  no art!?  wtf!?  no offense to the design team at atari who i’m sure worked their asses off to make this a solid game, but there’s a huge, huge, HUGE difference between graphics for a video game and art for collectible sake.  just listen to how volkan baga talks about his art. from speaking with mark hyzer at the conflux pre-release, this is something that the art team at wizards is actually very aware of as well.  (notice i’m trying to distinguish between the art team and the business team at wizards…)

4)  part of what makes magic awesome is the communal interaction we get sitting across from someone slinging spells at us.  if we’ve already established that it’s not even magic the gathering, why would i play the atari fantasy game simply named “magic the gathering” when i can play way better (read as more thoroughly developed) fantasy-based games?  for example, the elder scroll games.  they’re consistent and i’ve been playing them since arena.  this game might as well be an elder scroll game, developed and released by bethseda because this atari look-alike has 1/2 the game play mechanics (read as 1/2 the fun).

5)  hate to be labor the point but what’s so damn special about this game?  enchantments? creature-spells?  sorceries?  again, all that stuff has been in the fantasy-game world since…FOREVER.  originality:  get some.

i honestly don’t know any players who sit around thinking about the “magical fantasy” part of the game.  wizards, spells, etc are just the context of the game.  they’re elements that our human brains use to abstract into a situation where we can use our puzzle solving skills.  sure.  there’s some cool stuff with dragons and demon dragons and wizards but that stuff is just cool in up to a certain point. is it really truely possible that the people at wizards and atari don’t get that?  magic isn’t the same thing as “general fantasy.”  it’s MORE THAN THAT.  it’s more than the sum of it’s parts, and that’s why we all love it so much.  if we just wanted fantsy–and any fantasy would work–we could just play d&d anyway…

6)  uh, i can’t be a spike when the game is morphed into some sort of bastard version of magic the gathering.  only 70 spells!!??  wtf!?

anyone else have any points i missed?  is there a list of 6 reasons TO buy it?