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Will Beta Dual Lands Come Back? April 17, 2009

Posted by James in : all, random, design, speculation , trackback

underground seaYes. This may sound absurd because of the reprint policy. No problem, they will be printed again but slightly differently. Without land types, for example. Why will this happen? For at least two reasons. One, because it will guarantee that lots of sales will be made. It will do exactly what Magic exists to do: Make money. Two, some day Revised dual lands will be too hard to get and players will demand that they get a chance to play with them.

taigaWill 11th Edition have Beta (or drawbackless) dual lands? No. Right now Wizards of the Coast wants basic lands to matter, but they don’t currently matter enough. Beta dual lands would assure us that basic lands matter even less.

Basic lands need to be good

First of all, Wizards of the Coast wants us to play with basic lands. I admit that the Beta dual lands won’t be reprinted if this assures us that no one plays basic lands.

Mark Rosewater recently noticed that few players are actually playing with basic lands when he said, “If Top 8 deck lists consistently show up without any basic lands, that would be a sign that something has gone amiss.” Guess what? That is pretty much what has happened recently. (Right now the decks tend to only play a few basic lands because of Path to Exile.)

I actually think Rosewater has the wrong attitude here. No, nothing has gone amiss when people don’t play basic lands right after you make a multicolor set. Shards of Alara wants us to play three colors and wants to make sure that three color decks are worth playing. Mathematically it is not a good idea to play basic lands in a deck that needs three colors. You need to draw at least two dual lands to get all 3 colors. You certainly don’t want to hope to draw the three right basic lands.

Conclusion: The more viable a multicolor set is, the less likey it will be for decks to play basic lands. Especially when that multicolor set wants us to play at least three colors.

Rule #1: no land can be strictly better than a basic

galaxyMany people probably think dual lands will never be made again because of some things said by Mark Rosewater. In particular, in the article “This Land is Your Land.  Rule #1 is “no land can be strictly better than a basic land.” However, “[s]trictly better” means that one card is in all occurrences (within reason) better than another.” In other words, it is reasonable to consider nonbasic lands to have a drawback if enough nonbasic hate exists. For example, a one casting cost card that can destroy a nonbasic land would help. The opposite goes for basic lands: We would want many cards to give you a bonus for playing basic lands. Take a look at the following articles to see how basic lands can become viable in the future:

Mark Rosewater says that, “The nonbasic land status, incidentally, is not considered by R&D to be enough of a drawback.” So beta duals can’t be made again because they are strictly better than basic lands, right? Wrong. Mark Rosewater actually implied that nonbasic land status can be considered a drawback given changes in the game when he said, “While there are spells that hose nonbasic lands (like Price of Progress), there are also spells that hose specific basic lands (like Boil) that do not affect nonbasic lands (other than the original dual lands).” In other words, if the game changes so that way more cards harm nonbasic lands than basic lands, then it will become more of a drawback.

Some members of Research and Development disagree with Rule #1 as seen here.

Conclusion: It is quite possible that Rosewater’s interpretation of Rule #1 will be changed when the game changes, and Rule #1 could even be abandoned entirely considering that not all members of research and development agree with it.

But Beta dual lands would ruin the game!

Some people think drawbackless dual lands would ruin the game. Why? Wizards of the Coast uses dual lands to excite us. We want new dual lands, but we want them to be powerful. If a drawbackless dual land is made, how will Wizards of the Coast “wow” us with new dual lands?

horizon canopyThere are at least two possible answers to this. One, they could stop making dual lands. No dual lands were introduced in Arabian Nights, Antiquities, or Legends, but all of these sets were more profitable than expected. Two,  they can make dual lands with bonus abilities. Horizon Canopy is a good example of a dual land with a bonus ability that could potentially be worth playing over drawbackless dual lands.

Mark Rosewater admitted here that “dual lands’ design space is one that we’ve mined pretty heavily and thus becomes harder and harder to find new designs for.” This implies that we have probably seen at least half of the “awesome” dual land ideas. Many people have tried to guess what the dual lands might look like in the future at the mtgsalvation forums, but only a few of the ideas seem to be awesome and powerful. Only these ideas seemed to “wow” anyone. Take a look at them here.

In other words, it looks like Wizards of the Coast will have a good reason to stop making dual lands at the current power level. Drawbackless dual lands will not prevent Wizards of the Coast from “wowing” us. Just the opposite. It will become too hard to “wow” us with dual lands at the current power level because ideas are running out.

Conclusion: So far we have good reason to think dual lands will be made again. It might take another 20 to 40 years to see it happen, but it is a surefire moneymaking plan for a company that needs to make money.

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