Quick shoutout for some good designs (imo)

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Post by DirkGently » 1 week ago

Something that I've noticed in some of the design philosophy recently that I really dig is a push towards...de-breaking potentially powerhouse legends by putting limitations on them. In particular, the ones I wanted to mention are:
A lot of these have abilities that could very easily have been groan-inducing, if-it-lives-the-game-is-over abilities without the restrictions in place. Kalamax if he could copy every instant, for example, could be a pretty cancerous storm commander. Barrin could do some stormy nonsense with Shrieking Drake if his ability triggered every time something was returned, instead of once at the end of the turn. Gavi could easily become "dig through the whole deck in one turn" nonsense if it wasn't limited to a once-per-turn discount.

The result of these tweaks is that these commanders don't work in an instantly-win-the-game combo of vomiting through cards - instead they're slow value engines that have to be more careful and meticulous with their card advantage - and I LOVE it.

And in a lot of cases, they've literally printed the exact same effect WITHOUT restrictions on another (generally nonlegendary) card. Gavi → New Perspectives. kalamax → Swarm Intelligence. jolrael → The Locust God. Gadrak → Phyrexian Altar (kinda). And all those cards are, imo, combo hellscape nightmares. But the legends are really neat and encourage thoughtful, careful gameplay to grind out optimal value instead of wading through a twenty minute combo turn that plays out essentially the same every game.

A lot of legends in recent years have made me groan, but recently I've noticed a major uptick in legends that make me go "hmm, that looks like I'll actually be happy to see it across the table from me". So, y'know, shoutout to whoever is pushing for these design restrictions, because it looks intentional to me, and I really like it.
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Post by pokken » 1 week ago

See Ephara, God of the PolisChulane, Teller of Tales for my statement of profound agreement on this issue :)

I really approve of this design paradigm where you don't make things scale so absurdly - Ephara would be a lot more boring if she straight up drew a card every time a creature entered but as we've seen that's really not outside of the realm of possibility from a power level pesrpective at 4 mana.

Putting these scaling caps on things just makes the game better overall.

Commanders as windmills are generally more interesting than rocket boosters.
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Post by Wallycaine » 1 week ago

I think some of it is a costing choice as well? For example, a Kalamax that copied every spell probably wouldn't cost 4, lest it accidentally spawn a legacy storm deck. It's definitely an interesting design choice, where they're leaning more towards restrictions on the value creation to allow them to make other parts of the cards better.

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Post by toctheyounger » 1 week ago

I'll get in on this. General agreement with the above, limitation breeds creativity. It's why I've stuck with Dralnu, Lich Lord over Kess, Dissident Mage or Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge.

In recent times, I've loved the crap out of Varina, Lich Queen. She totally can be a combo deck, but that's up to the builder and what they put in the 99, so you totally can't blame it on her - She doesn't enable it herself. There's just SO much scope for variant builds with her too.

And recently, building Tayam, Luminous Enigma I became worried that it would just end up being a sick combo engine. There's a pretty high level of power there, but the fact that it mills means that any combo including the commander itself is self limiting. So while it's pretty strong it's not Ghave, Guru of Spores.

As an aside to Dirk, I saw your list for Cazur, Ruthless Stalker and Ukkima, Stalking Shadow. Thank you for being an advocate for non-Food Chain decks, it's refreshing. I love to leave the groans at home. Nothing against cEDH, I just don't understand the desire to bust every card possible wide open to degeneracy.
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Post by darrenhabib » 1 week ago

Yeah last year was a huge miss with Chulane, Teller of Tales and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King being JAFCDC (just another f**cking card draw commander) with absolutely no design around preventing spam drawing your whole deck easily.
Basically as far as I could tell the talk behind closed doors would have been "lets make them 5 mana instead of 4 mana to balance them out". That's the sort of effort put into these cards.

So I agree the sets this year have felt a lot better in design around legendary abilities. I'd say the only one that feels a bit too much of a spam combo is Emiel the Blessed.

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Post by Mookie » 1 week ago

Yeah, the recent designs for M21 and Ikoria legends have been A+. I'm extremely curious what caused the change, and whether it was coincidence or if it was an intentional effort - 2019 had a ton of problematic cards (Golos, Kenrith, Chulane, Urza.... to say nothing of Oko / Once Upon a Time / etc), and I wouldn't expect all the negative feedback to have that much of an impact yet, given that most sets are designed years in advance. I'd actually assume it to be a result of the sets and slots that cards were designed for.

Working backwards and hypothesizing about how some of the recent cards were designed....

Golos - 'let's make a callback to Solemn Simulacrum that's also a 5C commander for brawl'
Kenrith - 'let's make a 5C group hug commander'
Chulane & Korvold - 'let's make a 3C commander for Brawl'
Urza - 'let's make a pushed card for Modern'

In comparison...
Gavi, Nest Warden & other Ikoria commanders - 'let's make a commander to support an Ikoria mechanic, and to support an Ikoria wedge'
Jumpstart commanders - 'let's make a 1C/2C commander to support a specific Jumpstart archetype pack'
Jolrael & other M21 legends - 'let's make a 1C commander for a classic character'
Rin and Seri, Inseparable - 'let's make a commander for cats and dogs'

So, looks like the main elements are that they're making cards to support a specific deck or mechanic, instead of making a more open-ended legend for the sake of supporting an archetype in more colors. I'll hope that things keep up and stay more focused. Still, I wouldn't say that all the old commanders were all too strong (Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig, Athreos, Shroud-Veiled, and Ayula, Queen Among Bears say otherwise), nor are the new commanders necessarily perfect. Emiel the Blessed is a potential combo engine, while I've also seen complaints about Neyith of the Dire Hunt being too generic. I'll also call out Kels, Fight Fixer vs Korvold, Fae-Cursed King being very similar - Kels looks weaker because it is targeted towards new players with Jumpstart instead of being designed to pull experienced players into Brawl, but there isn't that much difference otherwise.

....I'll also say that the focus also means that a lot of new commanders are misses for me - if I'm not excited to build a deck for a specific mechanic, then I'm going to ignore the associated commander. Simultaneously, if a commander is tied to a specific deck too closely, then there may not be enough space for the deck design to actually be interesting.

...as a counterpoint though, there are a ton more legends being printed this year - with both Jumpstart and Commander Legends bringing a ton of legends in addition to the normal commander decks, it may have just been necessary for commanders to be significantly more specialized so as to not step on each others' toes. Simultaneously, a larger percentage of misses is acceptable as long as the number of hits is consistent - I'm only planning to build ~2 new decks per year, so whether that is 10% of 20 new legends vs 1% of 200 new legends doesn't matter that much to me.

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Post by Maluko » 1 week ago

I just wanted to add the following:
Mookie wrote:
1 week ago
I'll also call out Kels, Fight Fixer vs Korvold, Fae-Cursed King being very similar - Kels looks weaker because it is targeted towards new players with Jumpstart instead of being designed to pull experienced players into Brawl, but there isn't that much difference otherwise.
There is a huge difference between these two cards: Kels requires mana. One mana may not seem much, but as time has proven over and over again in Magic, "free" things ruin games and formats. Korvold has the potential to go insane with a free sac outlet (e.g. Viscera Seer), but Kels' ability is limited by how much mana you have. And, as Dirk explained in his first post, this forces players to think. You can no longer rely on sacrificing your stuff as a last-minute response to something. Abilities such as Kels' reward good decision-making: they put more emphasis on the player and less emphasis on the power of the card. Kels forces you to consider how are you going to spend your mana: should you cast that five-mana spell and tap out, or should you keep mana up to respond to mass removal? These kinds of effects are excellent for literally any format in Magic, and I, too, agree we should see more of them in the game.
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Post by onering » 6 days ago

It seems like they are finally learning. Early magic was ride with design mistakes, but it was also rife with cards that had restrictions, and locked payoffs behind hoops and limited them. As it aged, magic became more refined, and we saw fewer outright design mistakes while the restrictions became better calibrated, creating cards with payoffs that were powerful enough to work for behind restrictions and drawbacks meaningful enough to matter without being so onerous as to drive people away. Post 2010, we saw a trend towards printing cards, especially creatures, with fewer restrictions and drawbacks. The idea, spoken of by MARO, was that these things made cards too complicated, and drawbacks scared off newer players. What we got was garbage designs that provided too much value without restrictions or drawbacks, overpowered tired nonsense, flashy new toys that got boring to play against almost immediately. It looks like they may be seeing the error of that philosophy, finally

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Post by umtiger » 6 days ago

I wonder how much internal discussion there was to make Containment Priest symmetrical?

I appreciate the card and appreciate that they had the wherewithal to make it symmetrical.

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Post by DirkGently » 6 days ago

You mean in 2014?
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Post by FoxOfWar » 5 days ago

I agree on the notion that at least some of the folks in there designing this stuff are starting to grasp where the line rides between 'interesting to build with' and 'generates value off of doing anything at all'. I found myself at least giving some thought to a lot of the legendaries that have come out so far this year.

The more they poke at niches, the happier the deckcrafter in me is.

That said, I do think C19 had (mostly) pretty good set of 'fun, but not overly stupid' legendaries as well. Built Chainer and Ghired out of 'em. The one highlight, methinks.
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Post by Mimicvat » 5 days ago

Big +1 to the concepts ITT. I love seeing some more reasonable commanders, with intriguing payoffs for less standard deck builds. I have an aggro/control Derevri deck that I'm seriously looking at turning into Inniaz, the Gale Force for example. Same ideas - evasive creatures and combat payoff - but restricted colours, less straightforward value payoff and way more fair overall.

I'm particularly happy with the two colour options. 2C is the sweet spot for deck design and colour philosophy imo, always loved playing these decks but felt I needed 3+ colours just to keep up with the raw staple power of those other decks...
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Post by Sinis » 4 days ago

Can I talk about how much I like the design of Force of Negation? I really like this card.

One the experiences I had in Legacy was that Force of Will was a 'who had more' problem. I played reanimator, and I would just as likely be using Force of Will to push through my reanimate (which would ostensibly end the game, Griselbrand is gross) as I would to stop an game-winning play, like the start of someone's dredge (like their Lion's Eye Diamond). Pushing through combo with a free counterspell feels like bad game design (c.f. Pact of Negation which is in decks that will almost never pay the upkeep trigger).

The second feature of Force of Will is that it's self-referential. Take Mental Misstep. Even if you had a deck that didn't care about one mana spells from your opponent (doubtful, but possible!), MM could counter your opponent's MM that was targeting one of your one mana plays. It quickly became a four-of in every deck; either you badly wanted to stop someone else's one mana plays, or you wanted to protect your own, or, most likely, both. Because of this, the periphery of the Force of Will fights was inevitably ruled (for me) by Duress effects and Daze, and often the player going first had an extreme advantage because they could pay for a Daze (instead of countering it) or got to leverage a Duress first.

Finally, it won't counter creatures. Creatures are ostensibly fair; if your opponent is casting an out of depth creature, it's usually with an enabler like a ritual or mana rock of some sort, and FoN could have stopped it.

Force of Negation is what FoW should have been. You can't push a combo through on your own turn if you're casting it using its alternate cost: You need to pay. If you combo off on your opponent's turn, I suppose you can use it then, but then your combo is very weird, or might require an extra piece. Second, the free-cast of FoN is not self-referential. There will never be free FoN fights like there are with FoW.

tl;dr: I think Force of Negation is the most fair free counterspell they could have printed. I really, really like design.

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Post by ilovesaprolings » 4 days ago

I wouldn't call Akim good design. The concept is interesting, but it's so underpowered it hurts.
Sadly it's hard to balance. If you make fun but no OP commander people will complain.

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Post by Sinis » 4 days ago

onering wrote:
6 days ago
The idea, spoken of by MARO, was that these things made cards too complicated, and drawbacks scared off newer players. What we got was garbage designs that provided too much value without restrictions or drawbacks, overpowered tired nonsense, flashy new toys that got boring to play against almost immediately. It looks like they may be seeing the error of that philosophy, finally
I don't know man, Elder Gargaroth...

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Post by BeneTleilax » 4 days ago

stop nerfing comander korvold is fine the real problem is combo even if you get al the good generals baned combo will still be there

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Post by pokken » 4 days ago

BeneTleilax wrote:
4 days ago
stop nerfing comander korvold is fine the real problem is combo even if you get al the good generals baned combo will still be there
Apply some next level thinking as to why people are attracted to combo when the format is so loaded with oppressive value engines in the command zone now.
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Post by toctheyounger » 4 days ago

Agreed. Korvold, Fae-Cursed King doesn't even need to combo, his value is enormous as is. You could say the same about a lot of newer commanders too.Yarok, the Desecrated, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, Chulane, Teller of Tales, Urza, Lord High Artificer, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician.

I personally think a deck is as broken as the person playing it, but these above take a whole lot less effort. And I run two of them, I would know.
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Post by DirkGently » 3 days ago

ilovesaprolings wrote:
4 days ago
I wouldn't call Akim good design. The concept is interesting, but it's so underpowered it hurts.
Sadly it's hard to balance. If you make fun but no OP commander people will complain.
I think he could have been cheaper, but the payoff is pretty reasonable. You can create a 1/1 flying token every turn, if you trigger enough. That's a lot of value, and pretty easy to close out the game with Coat of Arms or similar. I've actually been working on a deck around him.

Yes, a lot of people aren't attracted to anything that isn't absurdly broken. I don't think those people have a good understanding of the long-term health of the format. WotC not catering to those people is exactly what I want to praise.
BeneTleilax wrote:
4 days ago
stop nerfing comander korvold is fine the real problem is combo even if you get al the good generals baned combo will still be there
Who knows what's happening at wotc, but the story I imagine is that this is exactly what wotc is telling themselves when they design oppressive commanders - sure, it's absurdly OP on its face, but it's not going to be more OP than whatever the current top-tier cEDH combo is. And I think that's a HORRRRRRIBLE way to look at it. If I sit down against someone playing sliver hivelord, if they're playing food chain combo, that's a nice, distinct barrier between what is, and isn't, cEDH. And if I don't want to play against cEDH, I can walk away, no hard feelings (usually). If I sit down against someone playing Korvold, or Golos, or Chulane - that line is a lot blurrier. You can build a korvold deck that's very powerful but doesn't run any combos, stax, or MLD - and korvold is strong enough that he pushes the deck toward that high power level. And the owner can say "well, it's not cEDH, it's just a good deck". And if that's higher than the power l want to play at, there isn't an easy out of "well, sure, it's OP, but that's just because it's cEDH." It's Korvold just being Korvold. Then the line starts to blur between cEDH and normal EDH. And that's REALLY not something I like to see.

And there's also commanders like Niv-Mizzet, Parun which are both absurdly broken on its face and also compatible with combo. Which means people can even intentionally avoid combos, yet still have a deck that forces constant removal to avoid getting run over, blurring the line even further and making it harder to keep cEDH in a nice fenced-off area. I like cEDH in its cage. Stop trying to make every commander broken, wotc. More commanders like the ones in OP, fewer niv mizzets and korvolds.
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Post by pokken » 3 days ago

DirkGently wrote:
3 days ago
Yes, a lot of people aren't attracted to anything that isn't absurdly broken. I don't think those people have a good understanding of the long-term health of the format. WotC not catering to those people is exactly what I want to praise.
Part of this is WOTC just ballooning the number of problematic commanders in the last few years. For years and years and years it was like, animar, maelstrom wanderer, zur, arcum, and maybe a few others.

Then this new strategy cropped up of printing do-it-all buildaround commanders that have all the things.

Cards like Arcades, the Strategist even push it too far for me - why make deckbuilding easy mode? I used to play a Doran, the Siege Tower defender deck that took actual thought to achieve its ends then they print Arcades and just build the deck for you.;

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King is the next power level of that where instead of being narrow it's broad engines that apply to a bunch of designs and set the power floor even higher because they work with generic strategies.

I think we've been around this block a bunch of times but the specific symptom you have called out before of people being so jaded to the power level that they can't appreciate lower powered critters is really a unique aspect problem I had not considered.

At this rate it'll be a couple years before all decks are Golos.
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Post by Shabbaman » 3 days ago

pokken wrote:
3 days ago
At this rate it'll be a couple years before all decks are Golos.
I suspect for most people it'll be Golos, Tired Playgroup a lot sooner.
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Post by DirkGently » 3 days ago

pokken wrote:
3 days ago
At this rate it'll be a couple years before all decks are Golos.
Well, that is the fear, but these designs to me look like a pushback against the eventuality. Seeing them in the commander precons especially gives me hope. For fun playability out of the box, and having fun, non-OP commanders, this might actually be my favourite commander set of all time. Every other set has had multiple commanders that make me go "eugh, god, I really don't want to play against that".

I do agree arcades vs doran-wise, for sure. I really dig needing to work for my payoff. Building wall tribal with doran is lulzy and fun, would happily lose against it. Playing against arcades wall tribal is like "well, ok, you proved you can scryfall search for 'defender', what a great deckbuilder you are."
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Post by Wallycaine » 3 days ago

I really think there's room for both? Like, sure, you can have fun with your Doran, the Siege Tower wall tribal... but that's not everyone's schtick? Not everyone is out here trying to wow you with their unique and weird deckbuilding skills. Sometimes people would just like to be able to build a deck around a theme and have it work out of the box. Having options like Arcades, the Strategist lets them do that without having to work hard at figuring out exactly how to build a deck around that theme.

In general, I think the new, limited designs are cool because they let them push the cards in other areas. I'd rather focus on praising the stuff we like that focus on bashing what you don't.

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Post by BeneTleilax » 3 days ago

combo is boring its just oh now i win. its not about power or cedh. combat decks used to be ass then they made good generals that can really combat and you complain. korvold is good because it lets the deck be all theme cards because he gives you draw so you dont need to run boring function cards like nights whisper.

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Post by DirkGently » 3 days ago

Wallycaine wrote:
3 days ago
I really think there's room for both? Like, sure, you can have fun with your Doran, the Siege Tower wall tribal... but that's not everyone's schtick? Not everyone is out here trying to wow you with their unique and weird deckbuilding skills. Sometimes people would just like to be able to build a deck around a theme and have it work out of the box. Having options like Arcades, the Strategist lets them do that without having to work hard at figuring out exactly how to build a deck around that theme.

In general, I think the new, limited designs are cool because they let them push the cards in other areas. I'd rather focus on praising the stuff we like that focus on bashing what you don't.
I think commander precons are the places for the ez-mode commanders that give you very obvious direction how to build, especially the face commanders. There are already a lot of those options, and they're always easily available in stores.

I also think that, ideally, commanders that give you a very obvious direction to build in shouldn't be as good as commanders that require more deckbuilding prowess. Arcades just being way better than Doran I think is kind of a bummer, since what's the point of building Doran as wall tribal anymore? If Arcades cost 6 (maybe buff his stats) then at least if you can navigate building Doran, you'd have a reasonable tempo advantage - that would be the ideal imo.

I think it's worth praising as well as bashing. Bashing is absolutely necessary imo. Sure, I don't have to build Korvold if I think he's a bad design. But I'll probably still end up playing against him, and that's going to impact my experience. I don't have the luxury of just ignoring designs I don't like.
BeneTleilax wrote:combo is boring its just oh now i win. its not about power or cedh. combat decks used to be ass then they made good generals that can really combat and you complain.
I don't think any of the designs I dislike have much to do with combat. Korvold becoming a decent sized beater is really the least annoying thing about him. It's more about how much card draw and/or mana cheating so many commanders do.
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