Tuesday, March 1, 2011

8 Things Wizards Could Change to Improve Magic

This morning I was making my usual Magic news rounds, and I came across an interesting article which talked about ways Magic could be improved. I agreed with a lot of the writer's points, but I felt that he spent too much time talking about minor aesthetic changes (like removing foils). Obviously, I decided to create my own list of changes Wizards could do to improve the game. Bonus: I am including dinosaur pictures for you readers who don't care about Magic

Super relevant to the conversation.

1) End the gimmicky set/block designs.

        Starting with Invasion, Wizards decided that each block that comes out is going to have a distinct theme which is going to be explored in depth in that block. Examples include Invasion's multi-color theme, Odyessy's graveyard theme, and Zendikar's land theme. I really like this, and I think some interesting mechanics have been introduced in these kinds of blocks. What I'm sick of is Wizard's insistence to change the way blocks are made. Now, usually a block consist of one large set and two smaller sets which expand on the mechanics introduced in the large set. What we've been seeing recently are blocks like Lorwyn, which had one large set and on small set, and then a separate large set with a completely different theme and a small set attached to the second. Is this really necessary? Zendikar's land matters theme was super interesting and had a lot of room left to grow, but this trend of messing with block structure made the land matters theme get cut short. Messing with block structure makes the blocks feel incomplete and unfinished, and its abundantly clear that they just do it for the increased marketing. Lets be honest here, a war was portrayed excellently in Kamigawa block without the use of gimmicky watermarks or 'whose going to win' marketing (I'm looking at you Scars of Mirrodin).

2) End or Alter the Reserved List

For those of you who don't know, Wizards has a giant 'no reprint' list of a bunch of older cards. They did this in response to a set called Chronicles, which was reprints of older and sometimes expensive cards from Magic's early sets. A bunch of collectors complained about their card value plummeting with Chronicles, so Wizards decided that they were never going to reprint a bunch of cards ever again. This makes sense for cards like Black Lotus, which can only be played in Vintage and would seriously harm collectors if they reprinted it. Know what else is on the reserved list? A bunch of cards like Baron Sengir, which only really appeal to casual players, hold little value, and would be awesome to see reprinted for formats like EDH.  Also, Wizard's second most supported format is Legacy, which is being severely hampered by card availably of format staples due to the reserved list.

3) Increased Support for Other Formats:

From a competitive stand point, the only formats that are supported by Wizards on a widespread basis are Standard and Limited. They'll have PTQ seasons that will be Extended, and they'll have the occasional Pro Tour or Grand Prix that are Legacy or Block, but thats about it. I keep up with Standard since I know that there will always be Standard tournaments of various sizes throughout the year. I don't give a shit about Extended since there are only Extended tournaments for about 3 months out of the year. Give stores and event coordinators special incentives to run Extended and Block FNMs or 1Ks, like special promos or something. Anything they can do to increase support for formats like Block constructed or Two Headed Giant is good for the game.

4) Expand the PTQ System

In most cases, in order to qualify for the Pro Tour, you need to win a Pro Tour Qualifier (PTQ). Currently, you get invited to the Pro Tour with paid airfare if you get 1st place in a PTQ. Anything less than 1st and you only win product. For a given season, there are only a couple of PTQs available to each city without any substantial travel. So basically, in order to qualify for the Pro Tour you have be incredibly fucking lucky, or be willing to spend a bunch of time and money traveling throughout the US every weekend to go to extra PTQs, which obviously isn't an option for most of us.This could be remedied by awarding Pro tour invites without airfare to the top 4 players in a PTQ, or by taking a page from the Star City Game Invitational, and give players points every PTQ and they qualify for the Pro Tour once they reach a certain amount of points. This would drive up the amount of players in competitive events, and anything that increases tournament participation grows the game.

5) Expand Red's Color Pie

I read an interesting article last year that broke down mathematically the mechanics in Red over the years. It turns out that Red used to have about 15% of its cards in a given set be burn spells like Lightning Bolt. Now burn spells account for about 40% of Red's cards in a given set. This is absurd. Imagine if 40% of the blue spells in a set were counterspell variants. Seriously, in recent sets, Red gets a bunch of goblins, a ton of burn, some narrow combat tricks, some artifact destruction, a couple of bad land destruction spells, a dragon, a couple temporary theft cards, and one chaos card or temporary mana card if we're lucky. This makes modern red cards incredibly boring. Moving looting over to red, making decent land destruction again, and increasing the numbers of some of red's more interesting mechanics that don't get printed a lot (like pheonixes, redirection, and chaos spells) would do wonders for the color.

6) Test out Planeswalkers More

Its been about four years now since Planeswalkers have been around in the game, and Wizards still hasn't learned to develop them properly. Its understandable to make some errors in judgment when a new card type is released (see Jitte and Skullclamp with the introduction of equipment), but seriously, Planeswalkers like Jace, the Mindsculptor have warped the game. It seems like most Planeswalkers they make are either really bad or amazing. There isn't much in between. All I'm asking is for Wizards to play test and tweak their Planeswalkers more from here on out until they finally learn the intricacies of their design. Players have complained a lot about Planeswalkers since their introduction, and I think once design learns how to create balanced Planeswalkers it will put to rest some of the player's complaints.

7) Tone Down the Creature Power Level a Bit

I really do think that increasing the power levels of creatures is good for the game. The problem is that you have to draw a line somewhere. Cards like Goblin Guide and Knight of the Reliquary are a good step in the right direction for what a good creature should look like. Baneslayer Angel and the Titans are not. Creatures like the Titans warp meta games in such a way as to make certain strategies unviable (like Mid-Range decks in the current Standard since Titans are so much better than every other big creature). In formats like casual and EDH, they invalidate so many other creatures its ridiculous. Plus from a color pie standpoint, why the hell is blue getting a 6/6 creature for 6 mana with a powerful coming into play effect with no drawbacks? Blue is the color of the mind and its creatures are supposed to be worse than the other colors for a reason. Wizards, just scale back a little bit and you'll have a happier player base.

8) Stop Depending so Much on Style Guides for Art

I know I railed against the other article for talking too much about aesthetic changes, but I felt like I had to include at least one. I am so sick of the trend in modern Magic card art of only depicting 'cool' looking CGI action shots. You don't really see a lot of humor in Magic card art these days, nor do you see a lot of abstract art anymore either, nor art in different mediums like watercolor. I understand that the art style guide is important for world building, but there isn't anything that says that cards done in watercolor couldn't follow the block's art guidelines. The art in recent sets are so homogenized these days that the card art is getting dull.

And there you have it, my suggestions for improving the game of Magic as a whole. Too bad most of these aren't going to happen anytime soon :(

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