onsdag 29 juli 2015

Legendary rules

Hm, writers block?
That was a long time since last. It's a kind of odd experience. Now that the blog actually has lots and lots of readers, I feel some new sense of responsibility to actually write something. Lets look in the closet and see if we find something sweet to talk about.
Khalsa Brain mats? Those are sweet indeed, but I already did it. An old school life counter perhaps?
Yeah, that one is definitely coming. Not today though. Should do some more research before. Maybe the first Magic novella from 1994?
I guess I should try to read it first. Also found a Shandalar game. Now that's something. Bought it back in 1997. Only works well on Windows though, and there's currently no computer in my possession running on anything less than Linux. I'll put that in the future-pile as well.

A Legends-booster? Yeah, lets look at the Legends rule card. That could be a lark.
Before we check out the rule card, lets take a quick look at the three uncommons we opened. Kobold Drill Sergeant, Fortified Area and Horror of Horrors. For the trained eye, there are some implications here. We'll never open Mana Drain, Land Tax, Underworld Dreams nor Sylvan Library in a booster from this box. In fact, the only good uncommon we could hope to open here is Karakas. These uncommons are all from the b-sheet.

There have been a lot of complaints regarding the sorting of recent sets like Modern Master 2015 and Magic Origins lately. (Entitled kids with their newfangled tap symbol and shiny booster mapping apps. Back in the days we were lucky if anything less than the entire set was miss-sorted. Instead of foils, we had the occasional card with the correct artist credit. Luxury, we thought.) In any given box of Legends, you'd either open cards from the top half of the uncommon sheet or the bottom of said sheet. The top part, most commonly referred to as the a-sheet, contains almost all of the good uncommons in the set.
Legends uncommon sheet.
This had been sorted out by the release of Italian Legends in 1995. In Italian Legends however, you only got one rule card per display rather than one per pack. This trade-off was deemed satisfactory by most.

So, the rules card. Legends was the first set to introduce new keywords to The Gathering. Though I guess one could argue, with some merit, that Arabian Nights did it first. Cards like Cyclone and El-Hajajj gave us a first peek on what would become frequently used new abilities. But Legends went far deeper, and was the first set to actually introduce new vocabulary. Lets see how the rules stack up in today's New World Order.
Rules card front
Bands with other
This might be the most odd ability in the history of the game. I guess Substance from 2005 might have been weirder. Phasing had it's moment in the sun as well, when it used to trigger "leaves the battlefield" but not "enters the battlefield". Anyways, there are a couple of funny things with bands with other. The main issue is the linguistic implications. For example, if you had a Seafarer's Quay in play, you might assume that your blue legends, whom now have the "Bands with other legends" ability, could band with any other legend. Silly you. A creature with "Bands with other <creature type>" could only form a band with another creature, regardless of type, if that creature had banding or the exact same bands with other ability. E.g. a Goblin and a Zombie that both have "Bands with other Elves" could band together. They could not form a band with an Elf though, unless it also had that same ability.

Unlike normal banding, where up to one creature in an attacking band could join without banding, all the creatures in a bands-with-other band needed to have the ability. Also unlike normal banding, bands with other would only work on the defensive if at least two creatures blocking the same attacking creature had the same bands with other ability. To make things slightly more confusing, any other creatures blocking that same attacker would get to join the defending band, and damage could be distributed between all the blocking creatures of defending players choice. And this was at a time when even normal banding was the cause of headaches.

Icing on the cake? A total of zero creatures have been printed with the ability. There are a cycle of lands that grant the ability to legendary creatures, and the tokens created by master of the hunt have the ability, but as for actual creatures with the keyword, the count is nil. Even so, there are two hoser cards to remove the ability.
Random fact: This is one of very few creatures in the set with a standardized creature type, and it still got creature type errata. It's currently an ouphe.
Rampage, much like Substance, is an ability that has no effect (seriously, substance. 502.49a Substance is a static ability with no effect. That's the actual comp rule.). Rampage was discontinued in Mirage, and never pumped a creature before that. I guess that flanking might be a fixed version of rampage? It was the first new creature keyword, but was still not returned for the Timespiral block. That says a lot about how little impact it had. I guess Wolverine Pack is pretty sweet though. Awesome art and flavor, and a 2/4 for four which can't be double blocked by Knights or Factories could have some merit. I'd still rather have an Erhnam, Iff-Bhiff or a Giant Spider in a four mana green creature, but at the very least it's a slam-dunk first pick in Legends draft. Can't recommend drafting Legends btw.
Also awesome art and Shakespeare flavor.
Multicolored cards
Now we're talking. While a majority of players might not be familiar with Rampage or Bands with other, gold cards still are a major player in the game. It is pretty cool how the Legends design team kept the design space for multicolor cards so open; the only gold cards in the set are legendary creatures. The color pie balance in the cards feels kind of random though. A multicolored card today usually has a connection to the colors of the card, or at the very least show off some rad abilities. In Legends, you instead got stuff like Sivitri Scarzam, a Legendary blue/black Craw Wurm for seven mana. But it's 'A' for effort, and they had already improved it by The Dark with flavorful cards like Dark Heart of the Woods.

Enchant World
World enchantments are awesome. The flavor of changing the setting of the battlefield is sweet, and the strategic implications of the cards are real. If you're playing a black prison deck, would you rather have the battle in a Nether Void or in The Abyss? You can't chose both. I remember a game I played with Tax Edge a few years back. My opponent, GaJol, was down to two life. I had an active Land Tax in play, along with a Serra Angel and a Land's Edge. He had nothing, but The Abyss was waiting at the top of his library. It promptly destroyed my Land's Edge and then forced me to kill the Angel in my next upkeep. Solid topdeck. It is by no means useless that cards like Concordant Crossroads and Field of Dreams can be used to destroy Nether Voids or Storm Worlds. When Olle Råde won the first invitational, his first suggestion for his invitational card was an Enchant World for one mana with no effect, simply to destroy other Enchant Worlds (though I guess he could have designed it with Substance and Rampage for the same effect).
I kind of understand why World Enchantments were removed from the game. They do come with some rules baggage and make the game more complex. A "fixed version" of World Enchantments were introduced in the casual Planechase release, where different plane cards were used to represent where the battle took place. It was pretty fun, but far more random than the old school World Enchantments.

Legends and Legendary Lands:
Gotta love that the rule card has to state that Legendary Lands are treated as lands instead of creatures.

Legendary creatures are interesting in that they are very beloved and popular, but game-play wise simply are creatures with a built-in drawback. When Legends first was released, all legendary creatures where even restricted to keep the flavor at a peak.

The first attempt at the Legendary rule was very different from what we have today. Basically, the first player to get a legend in play got a huge edge. Any new copies of that card entering the battlefield would get destroyed, while the first version would stay in play. During the Combo Winter of 1998, it was not unsusual for e.g. green decks to play Tolarian Academy, even without the artifacts to support it. A first turn Academy of a Crop Rotation would make sure that your opponent couldn't play his or hers and combo off as easily. This legendary rule got particulary troublesome around the time of Mercadian Masques, when Lin-Sivvi rebels was the deck to beat. The first player resolving a Lin-Sivvi in the mirror had an almost insurmountable advantage. The legendary rule was then updated in 2004, with the release of Champions of Kamigawa, to instead destroy all copies of the card in play whenever a new one would enter the battlefield. It was then updated again in 2013 to only trigger of legendary permanents controlled by the same player.
So, all in all, of the five new rules introduced in the Legends rule card, one was discarded immediately, two lingered on for a few years before being discontinued, and two got heavily updated but are still around today as "evergreen" mechanics. I guess that's decent? If we compare it with the track record of Arabian Night's introduction of things like -1/-1 counters, lifelink, cantrips and coin flipping, it looks pretty bad, but most things looks bad compared to AN. Come to think of it, Poison counters were introduced in Legends as well, even though they are not mentioned on the rules card. Like the legendary rule, how cards use poison counters has been changed twice since the inception. First in Time Spiral, with the keyword Poisonous, and then in Scars of Mirrodin with Infect. The solid design but lacking development of many cards and abilities in Legends again shows just how little time the team at WotC had to complete the set. Given an extra month or two of development, I'm certain that e.g. the Mana Batteries would have a mana cost of 2-3 rather than 4.

So, this was easy enough to write. Now I should just try to power my way through the Arena novel.

3 kommentarer:

  1. Nice read Mg! 8) That reminds me that I have a book that is yours, please remind me so I can bring it next time we'll see each other!

    A side note to your Shandalar issue from a fellow linux user, if you run virtualbox and windows within it shandalar works 8)


    1. Thanks! Do you mean the Mastering Magic Cards book? In that case, the book is all yours. It was a price at BSK given to you due your sweet deck and attitude :)

      Yeah, setting up a virtual machine sounds like the best plan to get Shandalar up and running. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Hehe yes that's the one. I've read it two times already, it is awesome! But the trading parts of it might be a little off ;)