torsdag 17 mars 2016

RTFC

Between early 2006 and late 2008 I played various Time Vault combo decks. In the span of these 30-ish months, the card lived with no less than four completely different erratas. Each update changed the card's functionality enough to make me either seriously rebuild or to scrap my deck. Time changes most things, even the seemingly inanimate.

In the last decade, in particular since Magic 2010, functional or power level errata have been almost completely absent from the game. It's easy to be nostalgic about how some cards worked a few years, or decades, back. Remember in 2005 when Brass Man still could be untapped as many times as you wanted during upkeep? I used to have a sweet deck built around him with Quicksilver Dagger, with a Mind Over Matter / Dagger combo as eventual wincon. Or in 1999 when you could cast Waylay during the opponent's end step and basically play it as an upgraded white Ball Lightning? It used to be one of the best decks at the Pro Tour. I think that the most odd corner case for me was when I played casually against a man called Flax during Gothcon 2011, and he asked me if we could play using the late 1999 Phasing rules (which I for some reason was well versed in). He played a sweet Floodgate/Vanishing combo in his deck, and if you know what both those cards do without a google check, you're probably in too deep. We have rose-tinted glasses when it comes to our pet decks.
We try to avoid "official" power level errata in this format. Yeah, Twiddle gets a little different when you can't use it as a combat trick to reduce a blocking creatures power to 0. But if you want to use Twiddle that way, you are obviously free to do it. You don't need permission to play cards as your local group wants. We've never attempted to do anything but to provide the baseline. In Bazaar of Moxen tournaments, you get to chose two creatures and get two "fair flips" with Falling Star. At Eternal Central, Winter Orb turns off when tapped. At East Cost Gaming, you can switch life totals while at zero with Mirror Universe. In a town in Denmark, Alpha Orcish Artillery and Orcish Oriflame cost 1R to cast instead of 3R. An experienced player named Gael recently emailed me a well-written argument for reducing Mishra's Factory's power to 0 if it would become tapped. There are many more examples.

But walking down the path of power level errata could lead to a slippery slope. People have different ideas of what's fun and when errata is needed. Winter Orb Parfait won the 34-player n00bcon 4 without power level errata on the card. Mirror Universe combo placed in the top4 of the 55-player BSK 2015 tournament. Falling Star is a very quirky card, but playing it as written hasn't been a problem yet. If we started doing errata it's hard to find where to draw the line, and players would regardless have to learn an additional set of rules or corner cases.

Anyway, this is not about ranting on errata; this is about ranting on the printed text. I think it was a good thing that WotC started to remove power level errata in 2006. If a novice picks up a card and reads it, it should work as written, they argued. But there are some cards from 93/94 that really don't play as written, even if we adhere to the current comp rules. The cards where "written intent" and the ambiguous wording of the mid 90s meet. Some are pretty funny. Lets delve down :)
This looks terrific!
Relic Bind looks pretty damn solid with the original wording. Put it on a Basalt Monolith and you'll deal all the damage in the world and gain all the life ever. Power Artifact has proved very strong with the Monolith, even if the double blue mana can be a little rough (in particular if you want to hold up a few counters) and you'll need an additional wincon to actually close the game. So why hasn't anyone ever built a deck with Relic Bind in the history of the game? Well, Basalt Monolith used to have its fair share of power level errata. First, it stated that you couldn't use mana from a Basalt Monolith or a Mana Vault to untap a Basalt Monolith (or Mana Vault). Then, in February 1995, they stated that the untapping of Basalt Monolith wasn't an activation cost. In June 1995 they relaxed the untap rule a little and just stated that you couldn't use mana from a Monolith to untap a Monolith, but Mana Vault was okay. Finally in September of that year, they changed it to the errata it would hold for over a decade; that the untap ability was indeed an activated ability, but that it didn't untap the Monolith until the end of the phase in which you paid to untap it. In July 2006 this restriction was removed, and players were finally free to abuse the Monolith with Power Artifact for the first time since before Worlds 1994 (depending on local rules).

But the Relic Bind then? That one got errata as well, and was printed with new text in 4th Edition 1995.
This looks terrible!
When wizards did their "play cards as written"-errata of a bunch of cards in 2006, they figured that there were a much greater number of Relic Binds printed with the 4th Edition text than the Legends text, and never changed it back to the original wording.
The big dude from Sri Lanka is a really good card. Alongside his Efreet brethren, it was the main beatstick of the UR Burn Deck that took down BSK 2015 and has wrecked havoc in multiple top8s during the last year. It wasn't that frequently played in the mid 90s though, as the drawback was considered too restrictive. Some players still took it to the to battlefield in local groups, but in those cases they often tried to bypass the drawback by using Consecrate Land.

See, in the mid 90s we didn't really care for grammar, rules or consistent use of vocabulary. We listened to Melvins while sacrificing cards from our hand and discarding cards from the battlefield. Have you noticed that Bazaar of Baghdad doesn't say that you "draw 2 cards" in its text or that the Alpha version of Birds of Paradise just says that you'll get one mana, not that it can be of any color? That was just how we rolled. It was a rad time.
So, while "sacrifice" was an action in the game (see cards like Lord of the Pit), a whole bunch of cards used it interchangeably with "bury" or "destroy". And as written, the Djinn destroys lands. As Consecrate Land makes a land indestructible, you can just slap it on a Factory and keep targeting that with the Djinn to ignore its drawback. One can argue about written intent here for hours. Should this combo work? In some playgroups it did, but in a majority it didn't. (Sidenote: It's pretty weird that The Abyss still uses "destroy" rather than "sacrifice". There were even official rules in place in 1995 that stated that if the creature you targeted with Abyss left the battlefield, you had to choose a new one to destroy. That's pretty much exactly how it would work if it had a "sacrifice" clause, and it was the only card that forces your opponent target a creature to "destroy". Also, this was way before indestructible became a keyword, and before the rules for protection were clear, so "sacrifice" would have been a much more logical choice. But I digress. It made Autumn Willow sweeter I guess.)

Hey, remember how we just talked about how we often used "destroy" instead of "sacrifice"? Well, this one actually worked:
No, not Reflecting Mirror. We used small bodies of water as mirrors in the 90s. Luxury, we though.
Do you realize how awesome this is? Energy Flux is one of the best hoser cards in the format, the major issue being that it is symmetrical and you have build your decks around it. With many decks playing 15-20 artifacts, it can be hard to build a deck that can abuse it properly. Enter Guardian Beast. I play four Guardian Beasts in my pet deck and would absolutely throw in a bunch of Energy Fluxes maindeck if the guy would make the card one-sided. Unlike cards like Relic Bind that were changed already in its next printing in 4th, Energy Flux was a combo with Guardian Beast in each of its printings in Antiquities, Revised, 4th Edition and 5th Edition. It wasn't until its last reprint in Mercadian Masques in 1999 they decided to rewrite it and destroy the dreams of a Prison Project M.
Actual facial expression of people playing against this card.
Where to start? The rules for face-down cards were first updated properly in 2002, alongside the release of Onslaugth with its Morph mechanic. Before that they were, to put it mildly, weird. Lets go back to 1994. Illusionary Mask. The creature you hide is the exact same card face-down as it would be face-up. That means that, even if it's completely hidden information, all its rule text still applies.
"Attack with Digging Team". "I block". "You can't". "Oh. OK, I take one." "You take two."
Say I begin a turn with a face-down card. During my upkeep I activate my Mishra and sacrifice it. My opponent asks why, and I look at her clueless. Given some knowledge of the card pool, she might deduce that the card I have is a Yawgmoth Demon, Lord of the Pit or a Serendib Djinn, but I wont tell her. Maybe I boosted an Atog. Or say I have two facedown creatures. In the beginning of my turn I say that her Su-Chi gets forestwalk. During her turn she attacks with the forestwalking creature, but I block with my previously hidden Erhnam Djinn. Why she asks. I don't know. Maybe I can block creatures with forestwalk. Maybe my other creature is Lord Magnus. It is god damn hilarious.

I recently got my hands on two Masks, and just thinking about these interactions is reason enough for me to put the Masks in a deck. Yeah, I know that face-down creatures are just lame 2/2s without text with the current rules, but it might still be amusing enough. And it's not strictly bad in combination with creatures with upkeep costs, like Djinns and Efreets.

In other news, it is like one week left to n00bcon! It will be awesome. I'm much looking forward to meet a bunch of players from the international stage for the first time; guys like Marc Langria from Germany, David Chambers from the US and Danny Friedman. And returning international players like Constantine from Russia and Simon Gauti Rokkjær from Denmark, this time flanked by more of their countrymen. Teams from all over Scandinavia, like the Arvika crew, the Stockholmers, Kanel Fireball of Varberg, Scania players, the Eternal Vikings of Oslo, Squattlehaups, and a bunch of others will gather in Gothenburg next Friday to determine who is the Master of Magic Cards and crowned the World Champion of Old School Magic. We will btw provide a stream this year, hosted by Jesper "Yespair" Djinn flanked by the 2014 WSK Champion and all-round good guy Jokemon for commentary during the event. I'll update the blog with more info when it draws near.
This might have been the face-down card two pictures up. Also the first price in a tournament in Quebec this weekend!
Before n00bcon though, there's a sweet tournament coming up this Sunday in Quebec City; Le Roi de la Chope. The first group to organize tournaments in the format outside an 80 mile radius from Gothenburg were btw Canadians; the first report from Toronto on this blog is from back in 2012. Anyway, this will be the first tournament of old mages in Quebec, and this one will take place at the restaurant La Chope Gobeline ("the goblin's mug") rather than at a kitchen table or game store. The entry fee is a Summon Goblin of any kind legal in the format, and the winner will get a Goblin King signed by all participants. If you are in the area and are interested in the format, check out their Facebook event. If you are going, I'd be really happy to get some pictures or a report from the gathering :)

11 kommentarer:

  1. "During her turn she attacks with the forestwalking creature, but I block with my previously hidden Erhnam Djinn. Why she asks. I don't know. Maybe I can block creatures with forestwalk. Maybe my other creature is Lord Magnus. It is god damn hilarious."

    This made my night. I am grinding out new words for my next blog and I needed a laugh. Great as always.

    SvaraRadera
  2. It's always fun reading about the format, tournaments and part of the games history. But I need to rant a little here regarding the end:

    I wish people would stop scribbling on old cards. There's already not enough of many of these cards and gang signing them is pretty much as good as destroying the card. It's especially troublesome with chase rares, I've seen plenty of them being inked to death related to the old school tournaments. This shouldn't be news but it feels like people still don't quite grasp the fact that there won't be any more of these cards.

    SvaraRadera
  3. Can we get a link to the twitch adress of the stream so I can share it?

    SvaraRadera
  4. Cool article :)

    Two remarks tough.

    First off for anyone interested, there will be an old school 93/94 tourney at GP Paris tommorow (sunday, the 19th), not sure which rules will be used, this isn't organised by Bazaar of Moxen so no reason to expect their specific rules.

    Second, the errata on Basalt/MVault wasn't issued until 7/27/94, seemingly as an emergency fix before the first world championships, which were about to happen (wich would explain how heavy-handed they were about it). I have browsed the web and collected a somewhat extensive set of the first rules, rulings, tourney rules from the first years of magic, here's a link to those : https://www.dropbox.com/sh/eqg0z9m6o79e8is/AAAwl0L-JdFZKDfks9E4UHL6a?dl=0

    SvaraRadera
  5. Oh and I forgot : back then the Guardian Beast + Energy Flux combo would have been way sicker since you could not use an artifact until you'd have paid its upkeep cost (also, Arboria + The Tabernacle at Pendrel Vale !)

    SvaraRadera
  6. @Ben: Thanks a lot man. Loved your last post!

    @Anonymous: I think that in many cases, a signed victory card will get more love than an ordinary one. I e.g. play Prodigal Sorcerer and Festival in my deck simply because they are signed and something to show off. But yeah, I get that they pretty much gets off the market once they are signed; it would be rare for someone to sell (or buy) them. Then again, the prizes are usually not that expensive cards ;)

    @Loff: I don't have it yet, but I'll post it here as soon as I know.

    @Gael: Thanks for the additional info! :) I checked the archived rules from Stephen D'Angelo, but I missed the earliest updates on Monolith that it actually worked with Power Artifact in the months leading up to Worlds in the summer of 1994 (this was before I started playing myself). Thanks for gathering the early rules updates set. And yeah, the thing with not being able to use a permanent before the upkeep cost was paid used to be a pretty big deal, in particular with cards like Demonic Hordes it very much changed how the drawback worked.

    SvaraRadera
  7. Kanel Fireball.

    lol =)

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. Il show you lol ;),
      see ya all on Friday! Going to be awesome// Jhovalking

      Radera
  8. ": I think that in many cases, a signed victory card will get more love than an ordinary one."

    It's not that they might or might not be loved, but rather that they tend to get back in the circulation eventually. You could say the same about the pony p9 too, but they too were just on ebay.

    "Then again, the prizes are usually not that expensive cards "

    This I understand of course, nobody will miss some revised goblin kings or unusable commons as you aren't actually affecting the card availability in any way.

    But that said I'm all for preserving the history of the game for as many as possible and I'd prefer not to make it intentionally disappear as cards get lost or destroyed over time already.

    SvaraRadera
    Svar
    1. We don't sign on revised cards, since we want people to be able to play with their winnings, and you can't use proxies in our events.

      Signed Giant Sharks on the other hand. omnomnom. I need more!

      Radera
  9. https://argivian.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/an-immense-river-of-oblivion-is-sweeping-us-away-into-a-nameless-abyss/

    here's a nice tournament report made by a friend of the event held at Quebec city in march

    SvaraRadera