Five Recent, Subtle Magic Things I’ve Liked

You know, stuff that isn’t actually very important, but just happen to tickle me in the right places.

1. Painlands are no longer strictly worse than the original duals

It took over 20 years, but its finally happened.

Sure, the original duals are still better, but not strictly. There have been other duals that aren’t strictly worse than them over the years, such as the fetches (which are arguably better than the original duals), creature lands, filter lands, even temples and karoos, but you still basically always prefer the originals.

Verdant CatacombHissing QuagmireTwilight MireTemple of MaladyGolgari Rot Farm

Well, not anymore. With the advent of colorless mana, these lands have a whole new purpose, which means that sometimes you don’t need the original duals, but can go for the pain lands instead.

Adarkar WastesBattlefield ForgeBrushlandCaves of KoilosKarplusan Forest
Llanowar WastesShivan ReefSulfurous SpringsUnderground RiverYavimaya Coast

Funnily enough, we probably won’t be seeing much of them after this. As you can see, they reference a very specific places in many of the names, so unless we are going back to Dominaria, where those places exist, I don’t see them printing these in standard legal sets, as they have been doing over the years (including the last two core sets).

2. White is finally showing its true nature

What do these cards have in common?

Elusive TormentorTown GossipmongerArchangel AvacynPious Evangel

They all change colors when they transform. (Okay, Westvale Abbey gains a color as well, but since it doesn’t have one first, I’m discounting it.)

Insidious MistIncited RabbleAvacyn, the PurifierWayward Disciple

Note that three of them are white in the beginning, and the only black card is only blue-curious and can change back into black. So, basically the civilized manner of white is only a veneer, which a little provocation can make lose and they’ll fall easily into either red or black.

I’d like to note though, that I don’t like this color pie bleed, or breaking. Each of the three cards have something white doesn’t usually get and they should have been more careful about this.

3. No more need for awkward extra lines of text for powerful creatures

See the difference?

Kozilek, Butcher of TruthKozilek, the Great Distortion

Of course, there’s a lot of differences, but I’m talking about the last ability of the first version.

I’ve actually written about this previously from a different angle. In a way, the extra lines of text do give the card a great flavor of being unstoppable, but on the other hand, its just a stupid thing you have to remember. But it used to important. There were very cheap ways of animating creatures and since discarding is a common “drawback” or cost in cards, it was just too easy to get creaturs into play very fast.

Animate DeadGoryo’s VengeanceExhumeReanimate

Now the reanimation spells are much costlier. You can still cheat cards into play cheaper, but its not that easy.

Ever AfterNecromantic SummonsFearsome AwakeningFated Return

It doesn’t feel like cheating anymore… but might still be Standard playable strategy under the right conditions.

4. Prowess makes spells better, but you still need creatures

There’s a contingent of players, who wanted the balance between spells and creatures to shift back where it was back in the day. That will never happen. We won’t be seeing Counterspell, Demonic Tutor or Swords to Plowshares in Standard anytime soon. Its just better for the game as a whole, when you can play creatures, because that’s what most players like. Playing out monsters is just that much more visceral than waiting around with counterspells in hand.

Still, you don’t want to downgrade spells too much. With Prowess, you just bring an additional element of play to them, and you still incorporate the creatures.

Monastery SwiftspearAbbot of Keral KeepBearer of Overwhelming TruthsNiblis of Dusk

There hasn’t been any Standard playable creatures with Prowess since Magic Origins, but we’ll be seeing them in the future. Its just that the colors that have it (blue and red) aren’t very creature-centric. In fact, they are the two colors with least creatures and the lowest creature quality overall, so the constructed playable creatures need to have something special.

5. More emphasis on fun

Of course, this began a couple of years ago with Walking the Planes and Friday Nights, and Community Cup has been around for ages, but a couple of weeks back they started the Community Super League. Its a continuation of other Super Leagues, of which only Vintage seems to have survived, but with a different slant. Instead of focusing on the best players, it focuses on personalities. Instead on being an annual thing, it runs for nine weeks. At least the viewership on the first episode was on par with any of the episodes of the previous Super Leagues, and they probably haven’t even reached most of the audience out there yet.

The thing is, as a more competitive player, I’m in the minority. People like winning, but most of the 20 million players around the world, have never and will never take part in a tournament. We are actually a very miniscule part of the whole. The rest aren’t interested in the intrigacies of complex board states. They want to see fun things, showy plays and ambitious plans. They want to see people turn their libraries upside down with Primal Surge (like Kenji Egashira did) and they want to see weird formats, like the Tribal they’ll be playing next week. Finely tuned decks with subtle synergies aren’t really their thing.

I know this is a bit of a sensitive subject right now, with the Platinum benefit issue just in the recent past, this is the way they should be going. They aren’t marketing only to the hardcore crowd (although they should also be doing that), but there’s a larger market out there, which hasn’t been really served in the past. Of course they should honor their promise to the pros, but if they aren’t willing to put serious money into the premier tournaments, they should be taking this approach.

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