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Critique of “New” Magic the Gathering & Rise of Eldrazi April 16, 2010

Posted by James in : all, random, theory, reviews, previews, design , trackback

From Onslaught to Eventide was a golden age for Magic. The sets were extraordinarily very well balanced and fun for drafting and other limited events. Shards of Alara, Magic 2010, and Zendikar missed the mark. What about Rise of Eldrazi? I will examine the design flaws of each of these sets and give my first impressions for Rise of Eldrazi.

Shards of Alara

  1. Forced us to play three colors.
  2. Not enough mana fixing. Too much risk and luck involved with drawing the right colors of mana.
  3. Too many large creatures that almost win the games all by themselves (adding one more luck component that isn’t fun to play against).
  4. Too many high casting cost cards that make mana screw twice as bad and give us a new sort of problem: The problem of drawing a bunch of high casting cost spells that make you helpless for your first five turns.

Magic 2010

  1. Not enough mana fixing.
  2. Too many large creatures that win the games almost all by themselves.

Zendikar

  1. Too many large creatures that win the games almost all by themselves.
  2. Seems poorly playtested. There are too many high casting cost cards, and the power level differences between cards is too great. Some cards are the most powerful we have ever seen and some are the weakest we have ever seen. One person can draw an awesome hand with all the good stuff and you draw all the mediocre cards. One more luck element that isn’t fun. Not only can you get mana screwed but you can get “not enough good cards screwed.”
  3. Landfall adds another luck element. Not drawing lands can be five times worse than usual. Not only will you be unable to play spells, but your landfall cards will be useless.

Rise of Eldrazi

And now for my predictions for Rise of Eldrazi:

  1. Too many large creatures that win the games almost all by themselves.
  2. Too many high casting cost cards.

Not only does Rise of Eldrazi have ridiculously powerful cards that have a high casting cost, but it has them as commons! There are two such cards as commons and two are uncommons.

hand ofemrakul

Conclusion

Wizards of the Coast is increasing the luck element of the game, but this ends up making the game less fun. We didn’t like getting mana screwed, we don’t like mana screw to render us completely helpless (from so many high casting cost spells or landfall), and we don’t like a single creature to be so powerful that it makes everything else in the game irrelevant.

We didn’t like mana problems before and rather than help us through solutions that make mana problems a small factor, they have exaggerated the problem.

We don’t like luck to be a key factor for at least two reasons:

  1. The actual game can become irrelevant and drawing a key card can be all that matters.
  2. The actual game can become irrelevant when we draw only mediocre cards, high casting cost spells, no lands, or all lands.

We like games to last a while and to involve an “epic battle.” Oe important element of the game is the storytelling. An epic battle is the story we want; not a story about how our opponent couldn’t draw anything good or we drew a good card and that was the end of the game.

You can see the complete Rise of Eldrazi Spoiler here.

Comments»

1. 神の一手 - April 22, 2010

From what I have heard of prerelease reports, level up decks did better than Eldrazi decks on the whole.

2. James - April 23, 2010

神の一手,

That doesn’t eliminate the luck element that I discussed, but I am glad that there is more than one choice as far as which decks to play. I did well with eldrazi decks and I never got enough level up stuff to make a decent deck.

3. Alex - April 29, 2010

I don’t think this set is exceptionally more luck based that in the past. To account for the existence of the Eldrazi you just have to prioritize certain removal/counters, evasion, and other ways to deal with them.

In fact I think that this set is a lot less luck based than in the past, 1- because the removal is exceptionally strong and plentiful, making it less likely to get blown out by a random bomby creature, 2- the levelers mitigate mana flood a LOT; I almost won a game using just 2 levelers, 4 spells, and 13 land. In any other format a 13 land to 6 spell ratio would mean certain death, but the levelers really help you put your mana to good use. And finally 3- the existence of the spawn tokens, a plethora of fixing, and playable 1-drop and 2-drop levelers make it more likely that everyone can have a reasonable early game, mitigating mana screw.

Overall I think the large amounts of removal, fixing, ramp, and levelers make decks more consistent and able to function at all stages in the game, resulting in less blowouts, despite the existence of the Eldrazi.

4. James - April 29, 2010

Alex,

There are some good things about the set, but I still think it can be unusually luck based. I won a game with a 4th turn giant Eldrazi and it wasn’t much of a surprise that I won after doing it. When you get a bomb, either you just won or you didn’t. The fact that the opponent might be able to deal with it doesn’t fix the problem.

I also don’t agree that the removal helps the luck factor much. The removal is awesome against small creatures, but not so awesome against the giant monsters that you really need to be able to deal with. The best removal against the big guys is Narcolepsy, which is basically just a pacifism. Oblivion Ring and Journey to Nowhere were leagues better.

Not to mention that there are almost no answers to planeswalkers at all. Half the direct damage only hurts creatures and the direct damage tends not to do much damage anyway. I did extremely well one game until the opponent played a Sarkhan the Mad. I could only deal with two of the dragons he made. Then he got to draw one or two cards off Sarkhan afterward. Give me a break.

5. Playa1 - May 6, 2010

Luck may not always be fun, but the prospect of drawing that one card that can save you at the right time can! I am surprised that a set that is designed to stalemate didn’t get a criticism for slow play; however, what really sucked about Zendikar was the opening bombs you could draw that landfall and hurt early game. There isn’t anything like that here. Level up and eldrazi are going to make limited a slow process — long enought to get 8-12 mana out nearly every round. This makes mana screw less likely. Eldrazi spawn was a great idea since they are so versatile. I can use it to block an 8/8 that doesn’t trample. I can use it to cast my huge monsters. I can use it with some other mana to cast an instant that my opponent isn’t expecting. Having 2 untapped blue lands and 2 ES on the battlefield means that is my opponent casts shrivel to threaten my 6 ES, I can sacrifice 2 ES, tap 2 blue to cast a 4 mana counterspell. It definitely makes the game less “lucky” and offers more choices each turn that the good player can take advantage of.

6. James - May 6, 2010

Playa1,

I agree with what you said about Zendikar, but drafting Rise of Eldrazi has not given me many (temporary) stalemates or slow games. Level up decks can be quite fast. You can play a 2/2 second turn and turn it into a 4/4 on turn 3. The teacher that puts counters on level up creatures makes level up very fast.

Even in sealed, I got a 4th turn giant 8/8 guy. The opponent died pretty much right away.

Mana screw is horrible in RoE. If you don’t draw enough lands, it isn’t a good thing. I’ve got mana screwed with 6 lands because of all the expensive creatures I drew.

I agree that Eldrazi Spawn help smooth things out, but this is still an extremely luck-based format.