[Strongly Jaded Gamer] The Magic of Controlling Power Creep

(Bear with me if this blog seems a bit ramblerific, I’ve been spending the last two weeks catching up on nearly seven years of missed Magic, so my thoughts are a little scattered)

I’ve been a magic player since around the Urza’s Saga Block (though I’d be lying if I said I was very active much before Odyssey) and its a very different game now than was looking like it would be when I stopped playing at the end of the Time Spiral block. What with the New World Order created in the wake of that circle jerk on par with 90’s Super Hero Comics, its not really much of a surprise. Wizards embraced the fact that, for the most part, Standard was the entry point for people (specifically Limited) and as such Standard’s card level complexity needed to be controlled.  And I must say as, a Limited veteran, I can agree with the changes “Maro” Rosewater and team executed while I’ve been away. Splitting the difference between theme and complexity couldn’t have been easy, but from what I’ve seen of Innstrad and 2013, they’ve done a pretty good job. There  are still commons that carry the theme for the set, like Ajanni’s Sunstriker, but are overall easy to understand. It makes Draft and Sealed much more welcoming environments to play and be a new player in.

Granted, this scaling back likely means no more cards like Vile Deacon, Wellwisher, or Timberwatch Elf, but it also means no more commons that are 80% rules text. Like this one. Or this one.  Nothing kills an otherwise enjoyable card more than by having too much text explaining it. Which might be why I’m not of a mechanical win type of guy. I prefer a slug fest. No fuss, no muss. Just some flyers, some beaters, and a hint of removal to deal with things my critters can’t. That isn’t to say I don’t like being a Johnny, my Cephalid Siege Machine deck (Looters, Brokers, and Megrim) is a great example of me being able to pull out mechanical win conditions, but my heart belongs somewhere around Timmy.

Anyway, the point is that because Magic has gotten simpler, at a card level, it allows the game to be more complex as a whole. Which allows the metagame to balance itself out for the most part. A deck that wins big immediately has a number of counters. Which means next week that either that deck has evolved or its been unseated by something else. Right now, Blue-White Devler is big, but so is Birthing Pod Revival and Green-Red Aggro because they have answers for Delver (and, in response, Delver has answers for them). Actually, Delver is a great example of just how effective the noncomplex common is. A 1/1 for U? It transforms (the theme for Innstrad) when a trigger state (revealing a non-permanent spell on top of your deck) is reached? Seems simple enough. Mix that with Index, another common that lets you reorder the top five cards of your deck (or other cards available in Standard), and you get a 3/2 Flying creature. That’s two commons for a one turn set-up that transitions right into midgame power mode. That’s way simpler than Suspend ever was (even though I love the mechanic) and it feels good to pull off. It also says quite a bit that a common’s main competition currently is a combo that requires a rare in either case.

Now on a card level, those Onslaught block commons aren’t really much stronger than Delver. However, on a game level they’re absurdly more complex. Not only do you need to keep track of X number of creatures, but so does your opponent–and they might not just be your cards. It wasn’t uncommon in Onslaught and Odyssey to end up facing off against decks with the same tribe so elf on elf could get very messy.

What I’m trying to say, I suppose, is that’s because Magic uses a sliding set of cards with a solid concept for the playing field they create a strong competitive environment that is also welcoming to new players. I wonder if that would work for a game like League? If say, only the last 10 champions created, plus a “core” set (the Free To play champs?) to cover missing roles, could be played in ranked then maybe balance would be less of an issue. Suddenly the remake for Eve adds her back to the pool of junglers in standard. Compared with just Hecarim, Diana, Xin, and Twitch her viability is a totally different scale than when compared against Lee Sin, Mundo, or Udyr. Or maybe that would be terrible. Who knows?

Anyway, that’s this week. Catch ya’ll around.

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About Trevor Gulley

Trevor Gulley is a writer, cartoonist, and gamer. He works full time in the IT industry and judges Magic most weekends.

Posted on 08/10/2012, in Gaming, Strongly Jaded Gamer and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Limiting people to a pool would be an interesting idea (Dota/HoN offers a variety of modes for character selection), but to do so for ranked would probably be too awkward. The game has so many characters, and forcing people to use only a handful would just make people frustrated. Nonetheless, tiers will always exist in this current format.

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