The Addition of Treasure Hunt to Historic Tells You Everything That’s Wrong with the Current Design Philosophy

In case you are not familiar with the card:

If you haven’t seen it in a deck, it seems innocuous enough, right? What’s wrong with it, then? I’ve been playing Historic lately, as Standard feels just stupid and I’m not interested in playing against a bunch of Drafts hoping to not play against one more cycling deck where no one in the pod blocked that one player, who just has everything. I’ve seen [scryfall]Treasure Hunt[/scryfall] decks every now and then. I guess the most common build looks something like this:

1 Thassa’s Oracle
3 Treasure Hunt
4 Mystic Sanctuary
52 Island

I guess, if you are not interested in the game itself, this is a nice deck to avoid actual gameplay.

And there’s the problem. The current design philosophy pushes these decks, which do their best to avoid actual gameplay. You have very streamlined commbo and ramp decks, which try to enact their gameplan as fast as possible and that’s it. There’s often these decks on both sides. When you have a huge cardpool of thousands of playable (and even more legal) cards, it’s understandable that these decks will come into existance, when the testing teams just can’t test everything.

Historic is everything you have on Arena (currently available) plus anthologies, which add 25 cards (the last one was 27) to the format. The idea is that these enable certain decks in the format, which might need a little push to become good. For example, lifegain is popular among newer players, so they gave that deck a tool or two in the format. It’s arguable that they shouldn’t push this specific deck, but okay. Historic still has a pretty limited cardpool, so they could theoretically test it, but I don’t think they are interested, because they want to see it as more of a casual format to enable people to play cards that are no longer legal in Standard.

But then you have these situations, like [scryfall]Treasure Hunt[/scryfall]. Let’s suppose this is purely binary and you have two possible outcomes: It’s good and sees play or it’s bad and doesn’t see play.

If it’s the latter, why would you include it in the format? It’s not going to do anything. It’s has too much variance to be a part of Control decks as a form of card draw. Why, then, would you use one of only 25 slots to put out this card? Not all of those cards are going to affect the meta, but you could potentially slot them in some themed decks.

It it’s the former, you’ve just made your format much, much worse. You’ve inserted a deck that, with the current mulligan rules, can quite consistently win on turn four or five. Sure, it’s going to lose to itself some of the time, but that’s not much fun for the opponent, either. Suppose this deck wins 40% of the time and you go to play a tournament, where you meet these decks on every round. That means that you can’t actually affect the outcome of most games in any way, because these decks sort of make the decision for you. Sure, luck does have a role in the game always, but there’s a balance between luck and skill and this just isn’t it. There’s many decks like this in the game currently, especially Modern, but these kinds of decks are also a reason many players are stepping away from the game.

So, the addition of the card is pure lose-lose. Sure, it’s not binary in reality, but even if you are somewhere in the middle, how are you making the game better for anyone? My confidence in the design teams has been down for a while now (as evidenced by my other recent posts) and I also know I’m not alone on this. Making mistakes like this is just amateurish.

The role of the design and development teams should always be to make the game better. Sure, you can argue what makes the game good, but pushing cards that make the game feel like a coinflip are probably not part of anyone’s definition.

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