Chill guys, chill

Reposting with permission from his Facebook page, here’s Zac Hill’s nice take on why the current combat rules are counter-intuitive:
Basically: That the existing combat damage rules, although we’ve gotten used to them, are counter-intuitive beyond belief. So my guy and this other guy stab each other in the heart with some spears, but before either one of us dies, we’re like “WHOA WHOA WHOA WAIT A SEC CHILL GUYS CHILL” while our homeboy-wizard-dude sets about casting some shit at his convenience? It just makes no sense. Plus, trying to explain deathtouch interactions to new players, or killing 2/2s with Blinking Spirit or whatever, always elicits these huge I-don’t-understand groans. Because how can two guys deal damage simultaneously, yet one gets hit and the other doesn’t?
Remember, Mogg Fanatic won a Pro Tour in pre-6th edition rules. Some cards get better, some get worse, but it’s not like there’s going to be all these huge huge huge power-level shakeups.

And you can read more about why I like this change in my previous post.

Making the invisible visible

Since the announcement of the coming rules changes in M2010, there has been the most wigging out about the changes to combat. A lot of the complaints come from the idea that putting damage on the stack is an integral concept, that removing it makes for dumber game play, and that players will need to learn what the stack is eventually anyway.
Well, yes they will, but from my own perspective of having taken a ten-year hiatus from the game (1996-2006, give or take), “damage on” is hardly integral to what makes Magic Magic. More to the point, I think the big gain here vis-a-vis new players has nothing to do with the stack or no, but in making invisible information visible.
More on that (with pictures!) in the extended entry. Go take a look!

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Brighter (an Alara Reborn Standard deck)

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In recent Standard events, I’ve run Green/White and Black/Green/White big-dude aggro decks. Clearly, I’ve been interested in other concepts, but I think there’s a solid possibility for something along these lines to do well in an upcoming PTQ.
During the recent coverage for PT Honolulu, we saw B/G Elves sweep the LCQs. At the same time, a G/W deck did reasonably well in block itself, which spurred BDM to mention a Tsuyoshi Fujita quote in a deck tech. Paraphrased, it says that playing two colors is a solid choice in a three-color environment, because you’ll win a notable percentage of games on opponent’s mana stumbles. Now, whether this applies in a land of Vivids and Pools is unclear, but I have nonetheless decided to take a look at two-color archetypes in contemporary Standard (despite my continuous desire to splash Maelstrom Pulses into everything).
Click through to the extended entry for a G/W big-dudes aggro deck that’s been refined to fit my perceived version of the potential metagame.

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These will be great in Extended

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There you go.
In his first column discussing M2010, Aaron Forsythe said this about the new duals coming in M2010:
We wanted to make a cycle of powerful dual lands that risk-averse newer players would like, which meant coming up with something that didn’t involve losing life.
This is sort of like a variation on Nimbus Maze, in that it keys off of land types. This is probably better overall than Nimbus Maze, as it’s minimally a CIPT land even if you can’t pull off the appropriate interaction.
However, my post title comes from the fact that these duals seem pretty exciting for the new fetch-free Extended that’s coming up once Onslaught rotates out. Glacial Fortress, for example, can come into play untapped if you control a Hallowed Fountain, Godless Shrine, Temple Garden, Sacred Foundry, Breeding Pool, Steam Vents, or Watery Grave. Now, that is solidly nifty.
This also makes it look like I’m going to get a chance to design decks with my multi-color aesthetic, searching up Basic Lands and activating my M2010 duals, which is nice.
How much should these cost? Hard to say. I think they’re okay, but they’re not really shocks…
(Also, we don’t yet know if we’ll have five or ten of these.)

Magic 2010 rules changes announced

Forsythe and Gottlieb have announced a palette of new rules changes coming in with M2010. Here they are as one-liners, followed by my quick review.
Simultaneous Mulligans
Instead of player A mulliganing repeatedly, and then player B doing so, player A says, “Oh, going to 6” and then play B says, “Yeah, me, too” and then player A can say, “…and down to five” and so on.
This is a good change. It’ll speed up tournaments.
Terminology Changes
“In play” is now “The Battlefield,” spells are “Cast” instead of “Played,” activated abilities are “Activated” instead of “Played,” “RFGed” becomes “Exile,” and the beginning of the end of the turn is now explicitly labeled.
These are all good changes that will make the game easier to comprehend for new players. Witness the amount of confusion “playing” versus “putting into play” causes.
Mana Pools and Mana Burn
Mana Pools now empty at each phase (no floating mana from upkeep to draw) and there’s no mana burn anymore.
Also a good change. Mana burn is usually inconsequential in gameplay terms, and it’s yet another weird part of the game that ambushes new players. Clearing pools more often seems fine, too.
Token Ownership
If an effect puts tokens into play under your control, you now own them. Warp World decks now suck a lot more than they used to, for example.
This seems okay. Again, it’ll help new players with the game. I’m a little sad to watch some Johnny opportunities go away with this change, but that’s okay.
Combat Damage Doesn’t Use the Stack
Oooh, this is a big one. Combat damage is now dealt as it’s assigned. The upshot here is that you can no longer wait for damage to be assigned and then use some prevention effect. To deal with that, you now assign a priority among multiple blockers. Consider:
Progenitus attacks. I block (Edit: Yes, this doesn’t work at all. Please pretend it’s a random 10/10 instead. 🙂 ) with a Cloudthresher, Kitchen Finks, and Wild Nacatl. Under current rules, I would say something like this:
“Assign 7 damage to Cloudthresher, and 3 damage to Kitchen Finks.”
Under the new rules, I would say something like this:
“Order blockers as Cloudthresher, then Kitchen Finks, then Wild Nacatl.”
This initially feels less elegant to me than damage using the stack. I’m not so fond of it. I mean, it’s also an okay way for the game to work, so I’m cool with it, but I’m not excited about it.
That said, it does gain in elegance because it means you can literally line up the blocking cards in your priority order, which is easier to deal with than remembering where damage was assigned.

Edit: For a clear explanation of what I think is good and elegant about this change, and a combat example that works (no Progenitus!), click here.
Deathtouch Breaks the New Rule!
Of course, if you can’t assign damage points, Death Touch doesn’t work right. So, it lets you assign damage anyway. Woot.
Well, it had to be done to make it work.
Lifelink is Static
Likelink becomes a static ability, so the life gain happens immediately.
This is more intuitive for new players as well. I’m cool with it, and I’ve definitely seen Lifelink as a triggered ability screw up more than one new player.
Overall, I like the rules changes. They will help keep the rules from ambushing new players with nonintuitive features, and they don’t screw up the game play. Good stuff.
Also, Aaron preview the new duals. More on that in the next post.

Congratulations all ’round

I was away at a wedding this weekend, but I’m glad to see that my picks from day one did, indeed, make it to the top eight. Congratulations to both Brian Kibler and Zac Hill for making it there. Also, big congrats to Kazuya Mitamura for winning on this third run at a top eight.
The full coverage is, of course, available here.