Thursday, February 23, 2017

Aether Revolt Balance

This article taking an overview of the Kaladesh set presents some interesting problems for me.

First, it gets some basic facts confused.
Kaladesh, the most recent card set (called a “block”) of Magic, is what’s known as an “artifact block.”
Card sets are not called blocks. Blocks are made up of card sets: the Kaladesh block is comprised of two sets: Kaladesh and Aether Revolt. So from the get go, I feel as though there's something off about this opinion piece.

Second, the article wants to talk about Kaladesh in a vacuum.
Deck builders flocked to artifact cards like Aetherflux Reservoir, Smuggler’s Copter, Dynavolt Tower and the (extremely powerful) Aetherworks Marvel in order to generate very fast, very efficient and very splashy win conditions for their decks.
Of the cards listed, Smuggler's Copter and Aetherworks Marvel were problematic but of the cards listed only Smuggler's Copter was banned. The other two cards (Emrakul the Promised End and Reflector Mage) came from two other sets! (Eldrich Moon and Oath of the Gatewatch, respectively).

It is a grave oversight to talk about the issues of the Kaladesh block and not talk about the impact it has on the Standard format, which includes two other blocks, or how those blocks contributed to the current situation. Why? Because while you can play a game using only cards from Kaladesh (or Aether Revolt, or both!), almost nobody does that in Constructed. They play Standard because that's the format of the tournaments and local Friday Night Magic events.

So it's only giving you a very narrow part of the story. However, Draft and Sealed are discussed:
Playing any kind of limited game, which encompasses Sealed and Draft play, means that you are always at the mercy of a player who opens a more powerful artifact than you. In Magic, there are often “bomby” sets. Put simply, there are some cards, often rare ones referred to as “bombs,” that are just better than most of the others, and if you open them in a limited game you will probably win more often than someone who didn’t open one.
The first sentence says that you're always at the mercy of a player who gets better cards than you and the second sentence says that this is the case for many Magic sets.

Well that isn't a criticism of Kaladesh, then, it's a criticism of Magic. Just because artifacts are to blame here doesn't mean that you couldn't replace "artifacts" with "creatures" in Onslaught (a set that pushed creatures) or M11 (notorious for the Titan cycle), for example. Many, many draft or sealed deck stories end with, "and then my opponent/I drew (awful bomb card) and the game was over".

That said, there is a point to be made by the author, here:
Without a mana cost associated with a color, there is no significant check on their playability in any given deck, and sitting across the table from any one of those cards feels like a brutal beating.
Which has been true nearly every time Wizards has made a block where artifacts were a heavy theme, most notably in the Urza's and Mirrodin blocs.

However, (as with those other blocks) I have to ask: is the problem one of colored mana costs-because Mirrodin and Scars blocks both had that and produced unfun situations-or is the problem that Wizards didn't provide us with the proper answers to the questions these cards were posing? Because Scars block didn't have this complaint-we were busy dealing with another problem entirely.

There is a lot of vagueness here, from what format is being critiqued to what the actual problems are and I hope that in the future there's more concrete content available.

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