Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dark Ascension mechanics

Just a quick set of thoughts on the mechanics of the upcoming set. You can see what I'm talking about here.

Undying: I like it. Not quite as awesome as Persist but still really cool. The lack of awesome is because there are more ways to deal with a -1 counter than a +1 counter, which made elements of Persist easier to combo with. However, Persist didn't give you a bigger creature and that benefit is a big deal. Taking 1 a turn instead of 2 a turn can make killing that creature worth it, because now you have more time. Taking 3 instead of 2 is a bigger problem. With Undying, you have less time by killing a creature and as a bonus this mechanic combines easily with Morbid and Devour, too.(Persist did that as well but I want to live in the now.)

It took me about 9 hours to figure out that Strangleroot Geist should go in my mono G stompy deck. (Granted, most of that time was spent asleep.)

Fateful Hour: sad. I want to like it and certainly Form of the Dragon has a new potential friend but the problem is simply this: if you're at 5 life and this mechanic doesn't help you come back from the brink then what good is it? Now, I have seen only one of the cards with the mechanic but that card is not impressive. If I'm losing, especially in Limited formats, I'm probably losing because I've lost the creature battle and dropping the Thraben Doomsayer isn't going to help me. If I'm winning, the Thraben Doomsayer is merely 'win more'. If this is a multiplayer game, I've suddenly become a huge target because all my creatures have a pretty significant boost now.

There is an interesting subgame that exists with this mechanic, because if I can give someone using Fateful Hour life, their bonus disappears but I've extended their game life. That's a good complexity but not the kind of thing I see coming up very often: the 'crazy story' that happens will last a lot longer than the usefulness of the mechanic will.

So this means that Fateful Hour is a good mechanic when you've achieved parity/stalemates in the game, AND are at 5 life for less. Too narrow to really enjoy, I think but the one time it works Fateful Hour will seem So Cool. Unless they do print a card that breaks the game open, which they won't, because WotC doesn't do that too much anymore.

Double Faced cards: sigh
Fun anecdote from last night: I'm playing stonethorn's werewolf deck, I'm at 18 life facing Kruin Outlaw and Instigator Gang with a Spectral Lynx and a Meekstone in play. I can't read the back of the cards because, as WotC suggested: stonethorn is using opaque sleeves. I know that I'll be facing a 5/5 and a 3/3 if I don't play any spells and I remember that the Gang will give bonuses to attackers, but I think can block, regenerate, take the other damage and his creatures will be tapped down. All I can see about the Outlaw is that it will become a 3/3.

So I do nothing, the werewolves flip and stonethorn swings for 20. I can't block anything.

I lost because of imperfect information, that was the direct result of poor design.

So fuck you, WotC.

The checklist: hey, there's going to be 7 more werewolves! No, wait; that sucks. My prediction; Huntmaster of the Fells and Wolfbitten Captive will be the cards that push people into giving the werewolves deck the old college try. Two one drops a solid curve to four and what is sure to be a hell of a lord in the Huntmaster means that as an aggro deck, Innistrad/Ascension is posed to make people try that deck.

It'll work when they have one drops and it'll be shit when they don't.

Morbid, Flashback and Curses; all OK but not too special: Flashback will continue to be the avenue people trying to break cards will follow, Curses will continue to be their weird subset of Enchantments and Morbid will probably continue to be solid. They don't push mechanics like they used to and so there will be space for Morbid to do things that nobody will bother with. This is both good, because it means they can revisit the mechanic later and do interesting things, and bad because it means there's interesting things they could've done and didn't, thus steering players towards a situation where they ignore the mechanics produced.

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