Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wizards of the Coast Moves My Cheese

Relevance Warning: For those of you haven't played Magic: The Gathering before, this post will be of no use to you. We're not only going to discuss nerdular games, but we're going to discuss detailed rules of nerdular games. You're wasting your time here when you could be wasting time at one of many other places on the Internet. You should probably check some of those out right now and move along.

For all the Planeswalkers still with me, read on.

Today, WotC announced a fairly dramatic change to the rules of Magic: The Gathering. In terms of predicted public outcry, I think this ranks just above the 8th Edition Card Facelift and just below the 6th Edition Rules Change which was more sweeping that this one. They also didn't give much notice on this one either. July 11th, it goes into effect. (It goes into effect July 29th on MTGO. Not that I give a rat's behind.)

So, let's take a look-see, shall we?

Statement of purpose: The rules ought to be tweeked in a way so that they function more intuititvely, in such a way that new player's expectations are met, and reasonable assumptions are typically correct. This dovetails with their efforts to make the flavor aspects of the game (card names, creature types) more familiar and understandable (i.e. changing phrasing like "local enchantment" to "enchantment - aura").

Sounds reasonable to me. So what's changing?

1) Simultanious Mulligans
What Should happen: Each player draws their starting hand of 7 cards. The player who is going first looks at hand, decides it sucks, and says "I'm going to mulligan down to 6." He reshuffles and draws 6 cards. "Still sucks. I'm going to 5". He reshuffles and goes to 5. "Ok, I'll take it.". Then and only then does the other player decided whether or not to mulligan his inital hand of seven cards, and continue to redeal his hand or keep as above.

How it really happens:
Player 1: "My hand sucks. I'm drawing 6."
Player 2: "Yeah, mine too. I'll do the same"
Both players reshuffle and draw 6 cards without waiting for the other one.

The Change: They're going to make what Really Happens into How It Should Happen.

My two cents: Yeah, this is no big deal, and it helps to move things along. I usually forget that I'm supposed to wait anyway.

2) Terminology Changes
Old and Busted: the In-Play zone; Play a Spell; Play an ability; Remove From Game.
New Hotness: The Battlefield; Cast a Spell; Activate an ability; Exile

My two cents: Making the same sound cooler and more flavorful while simplifying basic concepts is always fine by me. This change is mostly cosmetic, except that cards that are Removed from the Game Exiled are no longer considered to be "Outside the Game" so Burning Wish, Ring of Ma'ruf and the like can no longer retrieve a creature hit with a Swords to Plowshares. Not a big deal.

3) Mana - Floating it, and burning from it
Mana used to last up through the end of the phase, now it only persists until the end of the step. So, if you tap an Island for a blue before you declare attackers in the Combat Phase, it's vanished by the time your opponent is declaring blockers.

But you no longer take mana burn from it. It just dissapears into a puff of mystical mojo.

My two cents: The Solitary Confinement Deck I love so very much will take a hit becuase I can't maniupulate my life total for Convalescent Care via mana burn, but I can get on board with this change.

4) Token ownership
How it used to work: I play Hunted Dragon. I get a fat, cheap dragon and you get a trio of 2/2 white knights with first strike. Then I play Brand, which gives me control of your Knights, becuase I own them even though you control them. "Wait, what?" Yeah, my Dragon made them when they came into play, so they got my name stamped on them. Brand makes them mine.

How it's going to work: I play Hunted Dragon. I get discount dragon, you get knights. I play Brand. The knights shrug, unimpressed. They are owned by the person that controls them when they came into play.

My Two Cents: As a person that never exploited ownership of tokens, I'm fine with making this more logical to minds of new players.

5) Combat Damage no longer uses the Stack
I was starting to think there'd be nothing in these changes that would send me into a fit of Fanboy Rage. Then I read this part.

How it used to work: I attack with an Air Elemental (4/4) for 4. Opponent blocks with a pair of Wild Griffins (2/2). I assign two damage to each of them, each Griffin assigns two damage to the Air Elemental for a total of four enough to kill it. I play Unsummon on my Air Elemental, rescuing it from its fate, while the Griffins take two damage each, and die from the Elemental that had been winked out of existance for a moment.

How it's going to work: I attack with the Elemental, he blocks with the Griffins. I can either unsummon the elemental before damage is delt, and his Griffins live, or I can lose my Elemental and he loses his Griffins. Unsummon can no longer be timed in such a way that I can take out both his Griffins and save my Elemental from the graveyard. (note: at this point, I'd just unsummon one of his Griffins so my elemental would live, and I'd take out at least one Griffin.)

My two cents: OMGWTFBBQ?!?!?!!!1 WIZTARD$ OF TEH COST IZ KILLIN THE GAME IM NEVER BYING ANUTHR CARD EVAR AGAIN THAY SUXX!! Wha- woah... sorry. Ok, I regained control now. Sorry, that's a side of me I try my best to hide.

But serisously, I loved the ability to snatch my creatures away while still dealing damage to them, or use a self-sacrifice ability after damage is on the stack to kill two birds with one stone. This one is going to take some getting used to.

Additionally, they mentioned that instead of attacking creatures distributing damage to blockers as desired, they now have to be lined up in a queue or some nonsenese. I'm not going to try to articulate those changes, but here's the gist of it: if my 4/4 Beastie is blocked by a pair of 3/3 Hill Giants, I can't deal two to each of them and finish them off with a Tremor. Now, I have to assign 3 to one of them, and 1 to the other one. Meh.

6) Deathtouch and Lifelink
How Deathtouch used to work: Your Basilisk with deathtouch is blocked by my Drudge Skeletons with Regeneration for a Black mana. I have to regenerated it twice. Once for leathal damage, and once for the Deathtouch ability.
How Deathtouch is going to work: Same combat situation as above, I only have to regenerate it once.

How Lifelink used to work: I'm at two life, you attack with a pair of 2/2 Grey Ogres. I only have one 2/2 creature with Lifelink. I block an Ogre, and take two damage. I die before the two life I'd gain from the lifelink triggered ability resolves.
How Lifelink is going to work: Same combat situation as above, same blocks as above. Ogre deals two damage to me, but my Lifelinked creature dealt two damage at the same time, and gained life at the same time. I'm still alive at two life (I took two damage, and gained two life). Although now I've lost my creature and you've lost an Ogre.

My Two Cents: I like it. It just makes more sense than some oddball triggered ability that doesn't resolve before I die. Which is what they were going for.

So, for the three of you that read this post and care, let me know what you think in the comments.


Brian said...

/sigh i guess i shouldn't be surprised by major rules overhauls in magic anymore, but it still hurts.

simultaneous mulligans: no surprise there. i wasn't even aware that that's how it was.

terminology changes: mere semantics, except for the RFG cards. the very purpose of those cards is to be able to snatch back what has been, well, removed from the game. if i can't wish back a creature that's decided that the path of peace is better than smashing face, what good is the wish? it's not even cheating, like wishing for more wishes. giant FEH on that ruling.

mana floating and burning: i was rather fond of when mana lasted until end of TURN, not just end of phase. that took some getting used to, but i dealt with it. further breaking the usage window into steps of the phases i think will just cause more confusion. the ditching of manaburn makes the vorthos in me cry a little. it's part of the inherent danger in drawing mana that if you don't use what you take, the elemental fury is going to burn you, literally.

token ownership: i never used brand, but i really liked the johnny implications rather than just getting back your stuff that a blue mage stole. not a huge deal. i think josh had a deck based on this idea, using thieves auction and some other stuff.

combat damage not using the stack: this outright pisses me off. combat tricks are my bread and butter. I'M NEVER BUYING ANOTHER MAGIC CARD AGAIN! i fell off the wagon and did a sealed deck a few weeks ago with travis and co., and i feel dirty. not to mention that i'm going to have to relearn a retarded rule like this, as well remember it as i'm teaching amanda to play better.

deathtouch and lifelink: no real issues.

Fuzzy said...

I gotta disagree with you on the RFG Cards. The wishes aren't about bringing back RFGed cards, they're about (in competative format) getting something you need from the sideboard. If your maindeck card was really that swingy, you'd probably have more of them in your deck, anyway.

And in casual, the fun part was playing the Wish, going upstairs to your shoebox full of cardstock, grabing a card, blowing the dust off of it, and bringing it back downstairs and playing it. Good Times.

As for combat damage, I'm with you. Combat tricks are my most favorate part of the game. I think it's especially going to make a lot of limited games a little more boring. I'll give it a try before I swear off magic completly, but I have to say, I'm not pleased about that one.