Naughty or Nice

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By: Cliff Daigle

It might be an over-used trope, but since this is the day after a major holiday, I thought I’d present my year in review, of the good and the bad.

Naughty : Everything MTGO

Sad but true that this should be a flagship. Duels of the Planeswalkers, as a watered-down version of Magic, is a lot of fun to play! Imagine you’re a new player, you’re good enough at Duels and you’re ready for ‘the real thing’ only to find out that it’s buggy, slow, non-intuitive, and ugly.

It’s been this way for quite some time, which is the worst part. I’ll give you that it is more stable than when I played in the long-ago days of Lorwyn and Shadowmoor, but there’s still a legion of other things that need to be addressed. The problem is not with the game: We have several years of consecutive, record-breaking growth. The online version should be able to offer the gameplay and strategy elements of the game, while in-person play adds a social context.

Nice: End of Core Sets

I could not be happier about this change. It’s true that the summer sets offered a change of pace (notably, M14’s focus on Opportunity after the blistering speed of RTR and Gatecrash) but there was a sacrifice of story and a loss of continuity.

Core Sets did offer the chance to return to some fun mechanics (Bloodthirst, Convoke, etc.) but that’s a goal that will be easier to accomplish in an independent world. I’m not worried about the frequency of reprints.

Naughty: Born of the Gods

It didn’t add much and took a lot away. It offered some interesting and fun cards, but it was just not the right fit for anything. Inspired turned out to be difficult to use and not often worth the payoff. Tribute gave your opponent all the power, and let them choose what they could deal with. Luckily, Wizards recognizes this issue and won’t have to deal with three-set blocks anymore.

Nice: Reprints Aplenty

We are in an era where only the Reserved List is safe. Putting the Onslaught fetches into a big fall set was an awesome move, making those lands Modern-legal AND knocking those prices down into easier realms.

The effect on Zendikar lands is noticeable too: We’re not asking “Will they?” but instead “When will they?” reprint these lands. This is going to be their policy going forward, especially with regard to lands. If you are expecting your Tarmogoyfs to hold their $200 tag, I don’t think that will be the case forever. Wizards will continue to judiciously reprint cards, especially Modern-legal ones.

I have enjoyed the effect of a Core Set reprint on Commander cards, especially Chord of Calling and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Conspiracy, Commander, Duel Decks, PTQ-only foils, new judge foils…we’ve got a lot of ways to get extra copies of a card into circulation.

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Wizards now has two cases of reprint-only sets: Chronicles and Modern Masters 1. By modern standards, Chronicles had a tiny print run and the cards looked noticeably different than their originals. If that happened today, I don’t think the reprinted cards would take much of a hit, especially with white borders!

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Naughty: Cheaters

Jared Boettcher. Trevor Humphries. Alex Bertoncini.

Three very successful players. One Rookie of the Year. One winner of more than $20,000 in the past year. One ‘rehabilitated’ cheater. All banned for at least three years for having the gall to cheat on camera.

Lots of words have been written about the awful effect a cheater can have on a game, but this bears repeating: You have to have enormous confidence in your trick to try it on camera. Professional magicians can get caught by slo-mo cameras. Your minor-league shuffling trick will get caught.

Nice: Getting them!

As a community, there’s issues we have to deal with, and our response can be lacking. Luckily, cheating is a very galvanizing topic, and with high-definition footage available on YouTube, it can be parsed into frame-by-frame GIF files for endless scrutinization.

We did good, by noticing it, reporting it, and letting the DCI take care of things. We will also be on the lookout for anyone who shuffles our deck differently from how they shuffle their own. It sucks that we have to, but these cheaters only got to be on camera by winning lots of not-on-camera matches.

Naughty: the prize wall with Cascade Games

This was a feature of GP Los Angeles and apparently will be present at every Cascade Games event, including the upcoming GP Vegas for Modern Masters 2015. I don’t mind having something to work for, a chance to accumulate prize points and redeem them for sweet Magic things or just a ton of packs.

My issue is putting side drafts at a GP up to $20. Sure, it’s nice to get 3rd or 4th and have 50 tickets which can get you five packs of Khans, but at $20 you’re going to be drafting less. Offering these drafts for $20 or the simple drafts for $10 is a way to let us decide how much to spend.

Nice: SCG’s $10 drafts

Star City Games may have high prices on singles, but this is my favorite part of an Open coming to town. I can draft and draft and draft, and focus on getting better at the format. After a few drafts in a row this way, you’ll have mastery of the combat tricks at least, and likely many of the archetypes.

Plus, drafts at $10 is less than MSRP for packs, and that always gets me happy. It’s not Buy-One-Get-One good but it’s still something to be a bit thankful for.

Naughty: $10 MM 2015!

Good grief, $10 per pack? Is this just a straight-up cash grab from Wizards? What could they do to these packs to justify it? Guaranteed foils were worth $7. Are we getting double rares? I don’t think we’ll get much more, but the card choice will likely determine the worth involved.

My favorite piece of speculation is that there will be a foil token in every pack!

Nice: Worldwide Distribution of MM 2015

There will be three Grands Prix held at the same time, all the same format: Modern Masters 2015 Sealed Deck. This is unprecedented, and is done to show the demand for the format. Hopefully, a larger distribution means that I’ll get to do more than the one MM draft I did last time.

There will be three languages available as well, a change from last time and adding another chance to make your Commander deck that next level of unique.

Join me next week as I make some resolutions for the new year!


 

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