Day 25 – let’s talk about tempest remastered

I know, I said I was going to talk about my Plane some more today, but as nobody has been jumping up and down excitedly, I will take one day off of this particular project and return to real life Magic. Or rather, online Magic still months away.

The full list of Tempest Remastered is up here, and the first thing I did earlier today, was to check it for two very important cards. The two cards I remember least fondly from this format:

These were a common (rolling thunder) and uncommon respectively, and Rolling Thunder in particular has probably never been beaten in that format. God, that card was stupid. So, I was hoping to see either no Rolling Thunder, or Rolling Thunder on rare or mythic, which while still crazy good would be at least somewhat acceptable. On my way down to R I found this:

That’s good! Both of these really needed an upgrade to rare, even if Flame Wave was always kind of clunky. It was however the only 7drop even remotely playable, because Plague Wind + Lava Axe, yeah turns out, that is worth seven.

So, fingers crossed… and… oh come on!

I cannot understand the reasoning behind moving this up to uncommon. Either admit that you made a horrible mistake ever printing this card, and own up to it by not bringing it back, or at least moving it up all the way to rare, or, if you are going to be a jerk about this, just to make sure nobody forgets the charm this card brought to the format, just leave it on common, so everybody can experience the fun.


Now, Andreas Pischner and I do not always remember the same format, when, you know, remembering the same format. It sounds a bit, like that is again the case here. The format I played (though only on MTGO), did not suffer from being “too slow”. In fact the format I fell in love with, I played games like this very regularly:

t1: Carnophage
t2: Foul Imp, attack (my life: 17, goldfish’s life: 18)t3: Vampire Hounds, attack (my life: 16, goldfish’s life: 14)
t4: attack, discard Lowland Giant, reanimate Lowland Giant, Foul Imp (my life: 9, goldfish’s life: 6)
t5: attack (goldfish’s life: -6)

Or something like this:

t1: Jackal Pup
t2: Mogg Fanatic, Carnophage, attack (me: 20, him: 18)
t3: remove his dude, attack (me: 19, him 12)
t4: attack, hope one dude makes it through, Blood Frenzy it, Fling it post combat for a clean 12

Or maybe:

t1-9: get horribly destroyed by your opponent being ready for aggro and getting him only to like 18
t10: attack with everything, make one dude get through, blood frenzy, blood frenzy, fling, gg

Or in fact any other combination of throwing around with cards and life for additional damage. Guess why I liked these creatures (except Jackal Pup, which I liked because it is awesome)? Because they had two toughness AND DIDN’T FREAKING DIE TO ROLLING THUNDER! Or rather, they DID die to rolling thunder, but usually only two of them did, instead of your entire board. Let’s look at some of the cards that in fact did not become friends with rolling thunder ever.

In a format so dominated through tempo, cheap removal and one mana two power creatures – from pure aggressiveness probably almost if not actually on par with Zendikar – having twodrops was not optional. Yet most of them had one toughness, making pingers completely crazy – pingers that in Tempest Remastered have been moved up in rarity, or cut altogether. The aggressive shadow creatures on this list were premium high picks, and yeah, they were still very good, but when I could, I tried to pick up things with toughness to not be just dead to a Rolling Thunder for X=3.

I have seldom seen a Rolling Thunder cast for more than X=4, but when it was cast for 4, it usually killed three creatures and ended the game. Very few of the cards I loved drafting and sweeped draft upon draft with in Tempest Block actually made it into Tempest Remastered, and looking over the spoiler, I’d say the format should be a good deal slower than it used to be. Does that make Rolling Thunder worse? Erm… no? That’s the craziest thing about this card: it is completely busted in an aggro format, because it kills three dudes on turn 5 or 6, and it is completely busted in a slower format, because it kills three bigger dudes on turn 7 or 8, or just kills your opponent a little later still.

In other news, I have finally gotten around to proxying up some vintage decks, which means my time is cut short, because the goldfish will not beat itself. Once I feel like I get dredge, I might actually buy me a deck online (dredge is the only deck I can possibly afford to get, so yay, I guess?), and vintage it up every now and again. This is the only constructed format I can imagine myself loving, and if dredge is going to let me play it, well, dredge it is. Fun!



Day 24 – waiting for that Dragons Online release (and talking about my new pet project while at it)

Yesterday, I mentioned I might post something longer today, seeing as how I theoretically had some time during my train ride. Yeah, didn’t work out that way … surprise! What I did do during my train ride, was think some more on the world I am trying to create.

Because it came up: I think that if you are designing anything like this – a complete world, represented by a complete block of Magic cards – you absolutely cannot start creating cards before you know what will happen in your story.

The fact is, that before you can even think of designing any red card, you need to know what the red guys in your story are all about. Do they like attacking? Why do they like attacking? What are they trying to accomplish? Do they ride on elephants? Do they ride on Wolves? Do they care about their friends? Do they even have friends? What kinds of weapons do they use?

In the end the cards need to be an accurate representation of your story and vice versa. If you start developing whatever cards you feel like, and frantically try to come up with a reasonable explanation on why all these random guys are in there… well, that’s not very efficient and in the end it will not feel clean.

So, my approach is this: know what I want the block to be about theme wise (Planeswalkers!) -> develop a story supporting this theme -> completely flesh out what is going to happen, when it is going to happen, who is going to be involved, what kinds of groups of people are going to be fighting alongside each other, what they are trying to achieve, HOW they are trying to achieve it, how they develop within the confines of my story, what kinds of creatures are going to be inhabiting this world, etc -> develop and flesh out all the relevant characters for the story -> [several steps of planning out how many cards of which mechanic etc. I want] -> start designing the actual cards and writing the actual story (simultaneously)

This feels like the most intuitive and efficient approach, though again, I have never done something like this, so it is mostly trial and error.

There are two major pitfalls to writing, that I and others often fall into. The first is getting invested in a crazy idea and not being able to accept that it is unlikely to succeed. Sometimes you have that crazy idea in your head, and it sounds like it could be SO AWESOME, and then you simply refuse to think through to how likely it is going to be to result in something satisfactory. Like designing something around Planeswalkers. Yeah, it is different, and cool, and new and everything. But there are a ton of obvious problems I still have no answer for and it is definitely not smooth sailing. But god does it seem fun, so Planeswalkers it is. Then you run into difficulties and you get another crazy idea, that sounds like it could be awesome, and like it will fix so many of your problems, but it is also pretty flimsy and will bring with it a whole slew of new problems. But that is ok, because damn, is it going to be cool when it works out. And then you run into ten new problems, so you get a crazy idea, that sounds like it could fix them… and so on.

The other major Pitfall is getting invested in something you wrote, and refusing to accept that you should cut it from the final story. Sometimes you have that one idea, that one sentence, that is so awesome. You love it so much that you construct a whole fucking story around it. How couldn’t you? It’s freaking awesome! In the end your story isn’t even that bad, just a tad bit long and it feels like there is something you should be cutting. But what? This final step is probably the most difficult of all, because often you are unable or unwilling to see that that original idea you wrote the whole thing for is now the weakest and least necessary part of your story. How can you cut it out? You wrote the whole damn story for just this sentence! Yeah, you did, but now the story stands on its own, and now that sentence is just not good enough, so it’s gotta go.

All of that being said, I am going to bring back Urza for my story!

Hear me out!

Can you imagine the one thing I have been thinking about most for the past days, because it seemed like an insurmountable obstacle? Yeah, it was how to explain how this whacky “I get a Spark, you get a Spark, he gets a Spark, EVERYBODY GETS A SPARK!!!” actually happens storywise. I do not even think the story is supposed to be about that, because there is so much else going on already, and trying to find out how the whole mess started is just going to distract from the things I am actually trying to talk about. This is however a classic example of something that is not the main focus of the story, kind of irrelevant in the end and as long as there is a sort of plausible explanation that gets at least hinted at, and can downright ruin your entire enjoyment if the explanation is stupid, or not given at all. So, even though I do not want to make it a big thing I am focusing on, I personally really need to know how this whole mess got started, so I can construct a coherent story. And that was something I just could not find an answer to for a really long time.

At some point I decided the only way this was going to be even remotely reasonable, was if they were somehow artificially created for whatever reason (though probably to create weapons, because why else would you go to those lengths?). This, while a far cry from an elegant solution, did help solve a lot of the problems I had on other fronts – like explaining why these sparks were somehow unstable, and instead of giving you the power to use all five colors of mana (making you very flexible), instead usually only gave you fairly narrow powers – something that definitely needed to be addressed if I wanted to make Planeswalkers with only one ability. The next step was to figure out who would have a) the resources and b) the inclination to pull off a project of this size. I didn’t really want to pull a new character out of my ass, because – honestly, if someone was able to do THAT, we would know about him by now – so I went through the possibilities. Or rather possibility, because the only that came to mind was Nicol Bolas.

I may have mentioned, that I do not really follow the storyline anymore. I know next to nothing of Nicol Bolas. But, what I do know about him, did make it feel like something like this wasn’t really his style. I was also very reluctant to write about someone I never read about for obvious reasons. Then I remembered Urza. Screwing over a whole world, for what he in his twisted mind perceives to be “the greater good” – in this and every other case that greater good being weapons to fight the Phyrexians with – with zero regard to individual lives lost or destroyed? This whole scenario was exactly down his alley.

There was just one problem – Urza died. Like a million years ago. Since I didn’t actually read the Invasion Block books, I went through the summary, looking for some kind of loophole, some plausible explanation on how he survived and why he would be returning some hundred years later to once again build weapons against the Phyrexians.

Well, turns out, when he died he was just a disembodied head, sustained through the power of the mightstone and the meekstone in his eyes, then gave up both the stones and his life to complete the legacy weapon. Sounds pretty dead to me. I was just about ready to give up, when I thought I’d read through the summary of Time Spiral block too, just to make sure I couldn’t get me a past Urza into the future somehow. And lo and behold: yes, the past and the present (among a complicated process of two worlds at the same spot of space, one phasing back in) did mix in Time Spiral, so that could work. But the best thing is, that Planar Chaos added to that already sort of complicated mix an infinite number of alternative universes ALSO mixing uncontrollably with Dominaria’s present.

And what would be more reasonable than pulling an alternative Urza, one who DID defeat Yawgmoth without having to sacrifice himself in the process into this complete nightmare of a world, where Mirrodin was overrun by Phyrexians and made their new home, only to ask of him to defeat them all over again?

I have about 20 pages of scribbled down notes, ideas, questions and just general brainstorming here. I have the basic story fleshed out, and am starting on character profiles now. I will write a bit more on my progress tomorrow, because it is 30 minutes to deadline, and I am currently in a draft.

This draft:

Archfiend third

I know what you’re thinking, and no, the Archfiend wasn’t second pick. It was third.