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Shards of Alara Critique January 9, 2009

Posted by James in : all, random, theory, reviews, constructed, shards of alara block, limited, draft, sealed, design , trackback

Whether you are playing in a Shards of Alara Sealed tournament, Draft tournament, or block constructed tournament, there are some serious unprecedented problems that we face.

Block Constructed

One problem that Wizards of the Coast faced with Ravnica Block was the possibility that five color decks would be better than 2 color decks. The only factor that contributed to the dominance of 2 color decks was whether or not cards in other colors were worth splashing for.

Shards of Alara has this same potential problem. We have to make sure that three color cards are good enough to be worth playing, but we also don’t want people to only splash for these three color cards. What did Wizards of the Coast decide to do about this? They decided to embrace five colors. Shards of Alara will evolve into a five color set.

There are five worlds, each a “3 color shard.” These five worlds will reform into a single “5 color world.” This could have just meant that a world would be formed with five colors. Instead, Wizards of the Coast decided that it means that the world forms into a five color deck.

The problem with this picture is that “the five color deck” will probably be the best deck in Shards block. In other words, we will end up with one deck as a clear victor, just like Affinity was the clear victor of Mirrodin block. That isn’t fun. We might as well invent a new tournament type: Everyone plays the exact same deck. That way the winner will likely be rewarded for playing skill.

Sealed Deck

90% of everyone playing in a Shards of Alara sealed deck tournament play Naya because it has overpowered cards. Other shards require a lot of synergy to get to work properly, which is very difficult to pull off in a Sealed Deck tournament. Usually if a player can’t play Naya, he or she makes a 5 color deck and just plays all the best cards possible.

Sealed Deck & Draft

When playing in limited Shards of Alara tournaments it is pretty likely that you will get mana screwed quite often. You not only have to draw enough lands to play expensive spells, but you also have to draw all three colors. The odds of drawing exactly what you need every game is unlikely. For some reason Wizards of the Coast decided that the game is more fun “when you win because your opponent gets mana screwed. Everyone can win! Just hope your opponent gets the wrong cards! Wahoo!”

Wizards of the Coast must have done a lot of research with little kids to try to get more Yu-Gi-Oh players to become Magic players. “The kids like to win. If the opponent has to get mana screwed in order to win, they don’t care. In fact, the kids don’t seem to notice when the opponent loses due to bad luck.”

I find the opposite to be true of people I play with. We know exactly when we win just because our opponent gets unlucky and it makes us feel dirty to win that way. The opposite isn’t quite as true: If we win because we get lucky, then we might still find the game to be amusing. The same is true when we lose. If you lose because you get mana screwed, you feel cheated. If you lose because the opponent gets lucky, you might still find the game to be amusing.

My next article will be posted on Tuesday 1-13-2008.

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