They Can Take It, But Not Dish It Out: Toughness and Magic 2014 (Part Three)
an MTG article by: CML
6. Wall of (Bored to) Tears
Last week, I presented these ideas:
-M14 has no aggressive strategy.
-This results in an inbred metagame, where it’s almost always correct to try and “win the control mirror” by first-picking Opportunity and even Divination.
-Blue is therefore too strong, for maybe the first time since the days of Caw-Blade and Magic 2011.
“The best Core set original printing, ever. You’re welcome.”
7. Build a Wooden Wall
This is bad. New players’ Magic experiences are centered around the combat step. Limited games are centered around the combat step. Much of Standard and Modern are based around the combat step. Trivializing it can bring neither critical nor commercial success.
I’m surprised R&D didn’t consider the power and toughness metrics when designing Magic 2014, as it’s simple and intuitive and predictive of the environment’s deficiencies. I imagine the set would be much better with a few easy adjustments — Pillarfield Ox into Silvercoat Lion; Minotaur Abomination into Minotaur Aggressor — and M14 begs that common question: “If R&D is so good at their jobs, which they are, then why do they release sets like this?” Make no mistake — R&D is good at their jobs; but that topic is outside the scope of this article.
“My last draft deck had so many crabs, they called me the Governor of Maryland.”
The same casual-competitive guy later told me, “Last night I played against a guy who Doom Bladed my best two creatures. I remember thinking, ‘This seems so unfair.’ But then I remembered that it’s exactly what should happen in Limited. It just felt unfair because I couldn’t do it to him — I was just staring at his 2/4 with a Shock in my hand, feeling dumb.”
Another friend put it this way: “M14 is a very old format — you’ll gunk up the ground, then draw four cards and win the game.” I’m reminded of the old cliché, “end-of-turn Fact or Fiction, you lose” — only this time, it’s “end-of-turn Opportunity.” It speaks tomes to the quality of Magic 2014 that it can be so easily pigeonholed.
“For the birds.”
What does this mean for Cube design? The connection is almost too easy. A format with bad threats, no pressure, skewed archetype balance, a high curve, too much card draw, too much removal, and one where Blue is just a little too powerful? It’s almost like we’re drafting the Modo Cube.
“One of these things is not like the other …”
At the risk of sounding like I have the same solution for everything, I offer this advice:
-Stuff your Cube full of one-drops, and improve the density and power of the fixing.
-Vary the function, if not the quality, of your removal. For example, Red should have Lightning Bolt, but also Firebolt. White should have Swords to Plowshares, but also Condemn and Prison Term. Stock up on cards like Vindicate and Maelstrom Pulse to get rid of problem permanents. In Black, I’ve often thought of a “removal curve” — at one, I have Innocent Blood and Darkblast; at two, Shriekmaw and Chainer’s Edict; at three, Liliana of the Veil and Bone Shredder; and at four, Seize the Soul and Damnation. Even within a single color, the removal excels against certain kinds of threats, while sucking against others.
“Cloudgoat Ranger? That’s awkward.”
When I was first getting back into the game, I drafted a lot of Magic 2011 with another friend. He told me, “I like M11 — it feels like old-school Magic.” He meant the childhood experience of playing MtG, rich in fantasy and role-play and grisly creature fights and impromptu deck-building. M14 feels more like playing against the fifth unbeatable draw-go Blue dude in a row. And isn’t that the kind of “old-school Magic” you and I and Wizards are trying our best to forget?
Thanks for reading!
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