Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Need To Do Something New

I'm a little burnt out after all the Modern testing and I think I may be sick of decks running Black/White or Black/Green or Green/Red. Seriously. All that maximizing for value and hounding after the perfect play has left me a little worn out. Modern Masters is coming up, M14 is coming up and those are all very exciting but after the long stretch of writing and playing and work on Modern...I need more pizza and beer, at least short term.

On Modern Masters: I really hate that WotC is allowing this to be treated as some kind of money printing machine. $300+ for a single box of cards is extortion and leads me back to the my money > less of my money rule. To hell with paying that much for a box! That really is insane.

On M14, Slivers are back, yay! Wait, now they look different and dull. I got it and at first I was OK with it. Then it was pointed out to me that Slivers were just going to look I tend to agree with Evan Erwin's point on slivers here and there is a much more scathing overview of them here. And the more I think about it, the more I agree with those points.

Worse is the reason that Slivers have been changed, which is what I'm going to talk about. Because this kind of change has to be something that we should expect, is actually inevitable, I think, once we talk about the why, mechanically, this change had to be made: the need for everything to be all upside.

When I started the game and Juzam Djinn roamed the land, I remember staring at the card Armageddon and thinking, "Why would anyone play this?"

Then someone showed me (you add elves!) and it was a huge revelation! New pathways opened up in the game and new deck ideas, along with solid principles of deckbuilding were brought to light. Challenges to break symmetrical cards compelled genuine decisions about what was best for your deck and it was more difficult to throw in the kitchen sink.

Ditto with Slivers; how do I play a deck that helps my opponent, if they have Slivers? Well, you have to figure out a way to make your Slivers matter more than theirs. Then someone figured out how to make it work, (Muscle Sliver + Crystalline Sliver) and suddenly there was something interesting going on.

One of the ways that Sliver decks became balanced was that the benefit went for all of them, so if your opponents outplayed you with the same creatures, then you had a real brainbender to work out.

One of the reasons I play Magic is to problem solve. If Wizards continually gives players cards that are always good for you and just you then they are removing an element of problem solving from the game. I'm not suggesting that Armageddon should come back (which would be awesome to me but wreak havoc on newer players and likely return a UW control deck that I'm sick of, after nearly 20 years) I'm saying that they are limiting themselves and the game by insisting that every mechanic or idea that now comes to light, always and easily be beneficial for the player.

Sometimes, I think we, as players, deserve more difficulty. I'd like to see those more challenging cards or mechanics at least once every two years; not as a mandatory thing but as something that doesn't get rejected because it isn't new-player friendly enough. It's not as if Slivers were incredibly difficult to understand though: they just didn't fit in the new paradigm of "Every mechanic should obviously benefit the user and only the user."

That's sad and even worse, I believe it's restricting. If they can't occasionally give us mechanics that are challenging then how much of the game is being cut off in order to make sure it appeals to the most people? I'd argue that a vital area is being cast as "Here Be Monsters" and it's going to bite the game in the ass, eventually.

More importantly, I'd like to see some respect given to the past. Slivers have been one of the most popular tribes in Magic's history! They've gotten respect from pro players and love from casuals since they debuted in Tempest, but now, likely in the name of marketing, the history and iconic features of a beloved creature type is being cut away.

Now, add this to Erwin's point that the new Slivers should just be Allies, given how distinct they've become coupled with an artistic direction that obliterates their distinct look, and I believe you have a recipe for ruining the thing that made what was cool, cool.

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