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Subject: I left out an issue I have with the game in my other thread, so here it is.... rss

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There's this (sadly) accepted understanding that it's not okay for a strategy to upset the other player. For example, I recall from my brief experience with the game a long time ago (Portal/Weatherlight period) that one type of strategy was a land-destruction strategy, which makes a lot of sense since it focuses on the heart of a player's resources. But apparently, because players whined and cried about having their precious mana-base destroyed, WotC bone-headedly (now THERE'S an adverb!) nerfed this particular strategy. I've also heard rumblings about how other just as valid strategies get down-played simply because some baby somewhere whined about how "waaughh! That's not 'fun' to play against."

Give me a break. The whole point of any card-game experience is the constant gamesmanship and strategic-level thinking found in the metagame and at the deck-vs-deck level. Why in the world any designer would even remotely cater to complaints such as these is utterly baffling. The game clearly can offer ways to counter land-destruction spells or other types of supposedly unpleasant strategies.

Furthermore, who's to say that any given specific strategy is any more or less annoying than any other? I find constant spell-countering (vis Blue cards) type of gameplay to be both boring and devoid of creativity but I don't cry about it - I recognize its validity as a solid strategic focus and will do whatever I can to address it. The whole idea that some faceless mass of cry-babies can dictate or control how I approach the strategic challenges of the game is supremely frustrating. angry

The real issue isn't that something creates some sort of mystical "non-fun gamestate" - such a thing genuinely doesn't exist, objectively speaking at least - it's that the games' developer/designers aren't willing to balance all strategies. Why that's the case, I don't honestly claim to know - maybe these extra strategies are just too hard to find a balance for within the current plethora of strategies? Maybe they listen TOO much to player feedback (such a thing is certainly conceivable and falls under the category of "too many Chiefs, not enough Indians")? Who knows?

All I know is that this type of thing makes the game wimpier and less cool, sadly.

I look forward to hearing the thoughts of those who have been playing for a long time. Be aware, however, that points focusing around it somehow not being fun, just don't hold much water to me, since (as I pointed out above) the developers could address such a strategy with other hate cards to the land-destruction (to use the main example) strategy.
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People tend to let the theme get away from them in Magic, the theme intent being you are "supposedly" a great Magician doing battle against another "Great" magician.

Imagine in 'real fantasy life' you are walking down a dusty road and encounter an evil Mage and he start tossing spells at you and summoning creatures and you don't 'like' what his magic is based on, so you drop to your knees and start complaining "no fair! I don't like your Mag..." -- then you are crispy toast at 0 life.

I too find that funny.

Most Magic players think there is this set of unwritten rules out there that says you have to approach the deck design and game play the same way your opponent does or the same way the local meta game has developed.

Such BS.

Find a deck you cannot beat and find a way to beat it.

THAT IS THE GAME.
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Cyrus the Great
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I do find it funny the way you criticized the whiners. devil

As someone who has played with and against many decks like land-destruction, Statis, and Turbo-Fog, sometimes it isn't fun. That's not to say it's better than anything else (necessarily), and even if it only wins 1/3rd of the time, it can be extremely frustrating that 1/3rd of the time. Theoretically there should be no problem with decks like these if they aren't OP. But Magic is not just about building the best deck possible, it's a game, and it is about having fun (for most people. I'm actually impressed that Wizards realized that this was a real problem and willingly denied themselves design space and deck archetypes for it.

The problem isn't that it screws with the other player. The problem is that it creates gamestates where one player has absolutely no chance of winning, yet the game continues onward for several more turns. Say in a game of Agricola the game ended at the regular point and the player in the lead was declared the winner. Then the game continues onward for five more rounds and the other players do nothing, while the leading player takes their actions normally. If you weren't in the lead, you definitely would not enjoy that scenario! Land-destruction and similar decks create situations like this.

If anything, Wizards has been taking steps to increase interaction between players recently, but the interaction has come in the form of creatures and other threats, so that even if you are behind on the board, there are still things you can do about it. These games are a lot more exciting, because when a player gets a big advantage, the advantage comes in the form of having more threats, hence the ability to win the game quickly. In these situations, there certainly may be times where one player has no chance, but the game will soon be over so one player doesn't have to sit in misery for several turns.

And markgravitygood, sure, if Magic were attempting to be an entirely realistic simulation of Planeswalker combat, it should have land destruction. But as I said above, this is a game, and if it isn't fun, whatever is making it unfun shouldn't exist.
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Cyrus, thanks for the explanation - I wasn't aware that it led to dead game-states for several turns. But couldn't a savvy player just concede then?

It still doesn't seem like a legitimate enough reason to neuter deck archetypes, imho. Or at least not totally legitimate enough...
 
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I think you are forgetting something really important here. Magic is supposed to be fun and WOTC makes Magic to make money. They do extensive pooling of their players to find out what people like. The more people that are happy with the game the more cards they sell the more popular the game gets the more cards they sell. It is in the best interest of the players and WOTC for them to make strategies that the majority of the players think is fun and design the game based on that info.zombieninjagoodevilsauron (my son likes the emoticons.)
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Why in the world any designer would even remotely cater to complaints such as these is utterly baffling.

To sell more games. If your game has a rep for NPEs, it's in trouble.
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The designers made a conscious choice to direct the game's focus to creature battles instead of spell slinging. Since then the game has been extremely more fun.

Most other games have much more migitated screw-you factor, or at least it's temporary. The decks mentioned create a permanent lock in order to win the game.

Other similar examples:
a) DotA has an item called Cranium Basher that has a chance to stun the opponent on hit. A fast hitting character can permalock you if he gets in range, which means you basically watch your character die. LoL (a DotA clone) removed this item and suddenly the game is much more engaging

b) In Dominion, attack cards combined with fast card drawing to ensure you have one each round is an all-winning strategy if you can set it up. That's why many players play with banning (open 10+number of players and then each player removes one) to avoid Pirate Ships, Ghost Ships and other horrible, experience-ruining strategies. It simply isn't fun for some people to play games with these cards
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Eric Jome
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This is a common and typically foolish rant in the Magic world.

I'll let you in on a little secret; people like to play the game.  Really think about that.  Hard.

People like to play the game.

When you lock another player, that player is not playing the game.  Not playing it.  They are not able to participate in the basic activities of the game.

Players are fine with losing.  People lose all the time.  But when you lose because you didn't even show up, that's not fine.  It's the difference between two baseball teams taking the field and playing nine innings... and one baseball team showing up.  People pay real money to see their awful team play another team and get slaughtered.  People want their money back when one team doesn't show up to play.

Land destruction, cheap and plentiful counterspells, and other locks are written out of the game because they make the game not fun.  They aren't legit strategies for winning just like puncturing the tires on the tour bus of another baseball team is not a legit strategy for winning - it doesn't make the game, it ruins it.

In fact, Magic is a mechanically flawed game because two results, mana flood and mana screw, produce the same results as a lock.  They ruin the game when they happen.  Just like you'd be ruining the game if you caused that with the game play.  Do you enjoy a mana flood or mana screw?  Does your opponent?  No.

It isn't winning to destroy all the lands.  It's ruining the game.  Because people don't get to participate in the game.  Even a losing participating is worth far more fun than not participating at all.

 
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Eric Jome
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Could we design a situation in which plentiful and easy land destruction was common?  As you suggest, would this be the "right" or "fun" way to design because it would not narrow the strategic field, but broaden it?

Sure.  If you put in twice as much cheap land searching and cards that allow the play of more than one land per turn.  On plain utility cards.  In every color.  What?  Green is the land search and land play color?  Apparently not if everyone can destroy lands all the time easily and cheaply.  You've just made everyone have to play Green or lose... narrowed the strategic field.  Or you've ruined the color identity of Green by giving a core effect in that color to everyone.  Or you've ruined other high speed environments or made other fundamental cards irrelevant or useless.  Suppose we print the following;

Awesome Land
Playing Awesome Land does not count as your one land play each turn.
Tap: 1 colorless mana.
1, tap: 1 mana of the color of your choice.


This will go in every deck in every format it is legal to the maximum it is allowed.  If we didn't have the rule of 4, it would replace basic lands.  But this is the kind of thing you'd have to print to have a play environment where there were four different variants of Sinkhole available.

And you're making the game about the resources.  Huge wings of game play, combos and creature battles, vanish.  Soon, you'll see a post on the forums from someone who likes combos who says "this game sucks and the designers are stupid for tuning the game toward land destruction and away from combos" - just like a madlib of your post.

You haven't made the game better insisting on resource breaking strategies.  You've made it worse.  Less fun.  Less strategically diverse.  Could it be done?  Not in a way that makes the game better.
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cosine wrote:
When you lock another player, that player is not playing the game.  Not playing it.  They are not able to participate in the basic activities of the game.

Here is a great article by one of the game's developers that backs this up:

Land Destruction article
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Adrian George
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cosine wrote:

In fact, Magic is a mechanically flawed game because two results, mana flood and mana screw, produce the same results as a lock.  They ruin the game when they happen.  Just like you'd be ruining the game if you caused that with the game play.  Do you enjoy a mana flood or mana screw?  Does your opponent?  No.


This is a fundamental problem with the game, and land destruction can cause it or worse exacerbate it.
 
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Don't worry, if you want to stick it in your opponent's eye, even without land destruction there are plenty of other "hate" decks that will earn you dirty looks & scorn. I give Mark Rosewater & the gang credit for keeping the balance in Magic for as long as they have. Like others have said, if Magic isn't fun, Magic doesn't sell. Sure, they could make a card that sez, "Your opponent's hand-size is limited to 1 card," but they don't because they know players would rather challenge each other based on actual card interactions and skill, not pulling 1 kneecapper card that immediately turns your opponent into a quadriplegic. A large, large, LARGE part of Magic R&D pertains to game balance.

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Never been a big fan of Manalock decks for the reasons others have stated, it creates a static game-state.

That being said, I once built a turn-denial deck that functioned by abusing Timesifter in a 2 player game. It wasn't pretty, and wouldn't work in a "serious" environment, but it did work the one time I played with it. At the end of the game, my opponent, having lost, basically saidd that he would never play against that deck again because it ws about as fun as playing against a land-denial deck. I didn't disagree with him, and the deck was scrapped, I built it to see if I could make it work, it did, and I didn't see a reason to trot it out again.
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Robert Loblah
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georgeofjungle3 wrote:
cosine wrote:

In fact, Magic is a mechanically flawed game because two results, mana flood and mana screw, produce the same results as a lock.  They ruin the game when they happen.  Just like you'd be ruining the game if you caused that with the game play.  Do you enjoy a mana flood or mana screw?  Does your opponent?  No.


This is a fundamental problem with the game, and land destruction can cause it or worse exacerbate it.

I recall comments from Garfield about how he saw this as the biggest failing of the design of Magic. I think his later CCG designs (Jyhad and Netrunner) addressed this fundamental problem, and are actually better designed games.
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Bobloblah wrote:
I recall comments from Garfield about how he saw this as the biggest failing of the design of Magic. I think his later CCG designs (Jyhad and Netrunner) addressed this fundamental problem, and are actually better designed games.


LOL, Vampire addresses basic resource destruction by making it the victory condition
 
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Despite respecte the OP, I have literally no sympathy for him on this point. In game design, "This isn't fun" should be the main reason to change things. You know what happens otherwise? The game isn't fun!

Yes, I too recall the joy of winning games of Magic with a lone Stinging Barrier played on turn 6 while holding up UU for a Counterspell and not letting my opponent resolve anything. Turbo Stasis was a great deck idea, and I certainly remember winning with that crazy Tolarian Academy deck. I like the game better now.

In an attempt to be somewhat useful, though, I'll note that a lot of people get their fix for "unfair/unfun" cards by playing cube (albeit not the sort of cube I play). You could try that!
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cosine wrote:
This is a common and typically foolish rant in the Magic world.

I'll let you in on a little secret; people like to play the game.  Really think about that.  Hard.

People like to play the game.

When you lock another player, that player is not playing the game.  Not playing it.  They are not able to participate in the basic activities of the game.

Players are fine with losing.  People lose all the time.  But when you lose because you didn't even show up, that's not fine.  It's the difference between two baseball teams taking the field and playing nine innings... and one baseball team showing up.  People pay real money to see their awful team play another team and get slaughtered.  People want their money back when one team doesn't show up to play.

Land destruction, cheap and plentiful counterspells, and other locks are written out of the game because they make the game not fun.  They aren't legit strategies for winning just like puncturing the tires on the tour bus of another baseball team is not a legit strategy for winning - it doesn't make the game, it ruins it.

In fact, Magic is a mechanically flawed game because two results, mana flood and mana screw, produce the same results as a lock.  They ruin the game when they happen.  Just like you'd be ruining the game if you caused that with the game play.  Do you enjoy a mana flood or mana screw?  Does your opponent?  No.

It isn't winning to destroy all the lands.  It's ruining the game.  Because people don't get to participate in the game.  Even a losing participating is worth far more fun than not participating at all.

 


I appreciate the opinion, however I gotta call baloney on this. People are just as capable of playing against these strategies and the proof is in the fact that they did do so, quite successfully in the past, when the strategies were still valid and more functional. It definitely seemed like they were acceptable back then - something has changed in the way we, as gamers, accept how these games play out or conclude. Whether it's simply poor sportsmanship or something else, is hard to say. It's probably just the fact that we're a crazily entitled demographic these days. Like I said, there's nothing intrinsically more noble or exciting about creature combat than any other aspect of gameplay, per se. Any strategy can prove annoying to any particular person. The real issue here is not letting the game develop itself (to some extent - obviously it needs careful crafting and shaping) but instead listening to the gripers who seem to want to push their style of approved gameplay onto the majority of M:tG gamers.

Again, just my opinion, I can basically understand the counterpoint to this concern but it seems like it's starting to become the de facto complaint whenever a deck functions strongly. I've read a lot of comments online about hating the Delver decks and recently I read an article griping about how Flickering and that mechanic in Avacyn Restored Draft is sucky. I think it's a super slippery slope and they (WotC designers) may want to think twice about getting too crazy with catering to this kind of thing in the future.
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Just read that old article. You know, I think my point is just that it shouldn't be THAT hard to make land-destroying cards a bit more viable rather than being stupidly over-costed. That's my main point. These guys design set after set after set. I would expect they would be sharp enough to make options for all kinds of play styles and strategies.

It's disappointing that the game isn't so much designed around the game itself (I realize that sounds a bit Zen, LOL) but around the gripes of players who dislike specific strategies. That's my main concern and I'd say that even if there was a tough deck type that caused issues that I hated - it's up to me to figure out how to combat that deck.

Besides, can't they just ban problematic cards to tweak the one-dimensional metagame environments that occasionally crop up, anyway??
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Eric Jome
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I didn't realize this was going to turn into a piece of crazy conservative agitprop regarding "entitlement".

I'll tell you what's different now over then.  Designers sucked then.  Designers suck less now.  Tell me about how fair and reasonable those early cards are - it's all just some liberal conspiracy that we no longer see Time Walk, Black Lotus, and so on printed in every set, right?  Those were great cards.  Clearly they're holding you back by not allowing them.

Go on.  Tell me how awesome the game was when there was no 4 card limit.  I was here then.  It wasn't.  But, no, tell me how I'm just a spoiled brat who doesn't understand real cutthroat play.  I was here when we played for ante and that's all I ever did.  I've been here forever, read a hundred posts like yours, watched half a dozen R&D teams succeed or fail to deal with important issues.  I expect you to be posting soon with a rant about why they print coasters or some other equally foolish, lingering question that shows more about the questioner's understanding of the game (or lack thereof) than anything about the game per se.

But here's the ultimate trump to this silliness.  You liked that stuff?  Go play Vintage.  Plenty of people will enjoy seeing your old school game sensibilities there.

If you can't see why it is bad for the game to have cheap land destruction, you don't understand enough about the game.
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Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist
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wytefang wrote:
Just read that old article. You know, I think my point is just that it shouldn't be THAT hard to make land-destroying cards a bit more viable rather than being stupidly over-costed. That's my main point. These guys design set after set after set. I would expect they would be sharp enough to make options for all kinds of play styles and strategies.


Apparently, it *is* that hard to make cheap, plentiful land destruction and have a fun game, as the people who are paid to do this as their day job have determined that they couldn't do it.

wytefang wrote:
It's disappointing that the game isn't so much designed around the game itself (I realize that sounds a bit Zen, LOL) but around the gripes of players who dislike specific strategies. That's my main concern and I'd say that even if there was a tough deck type that caused issues that I hated - it's up to me to figure out how to combat that deck.


The game isn't designed about specific people griping. It's designed about playership and sales numbers tanking when environments are dominated by non-interactive decks that keep the opponent from actually participating in the game. WotC has focused the game primarily on interactive decks that win through creature combat because that gives both players something to do and lets the loser feel like he had some kind of impact or options. Land destruction and counterspells have moved to pinpoint answers that you use against key cards rather than blanket strategies you throw against everything.

wytefang wrote:
Besides, can't they just ban problematic cards to tweak the one-dimensional metagame environments that occasionally crop up, anyway??


That's exactly what they do. They've just preemptively banned cheap land destruction by not even printing it in the first place because they already know it's a problem.
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wytefang wrote:
I think my point is just that it shouldn't be THAT hard to make land-destroying cards a bit more viable rather than being stupidly over-costed.
You could always try to stick an Acidic Slime on a Mimic Vat and call it a day
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Y'know, I partly sympathize with you. I find combo decks really really fun, and in Legacy I enjoy playing both Storm decks and Dredge decks. These are two of the classic decks that R&D frequently make it sound like they'd love to eradicate (I HAAAAAAAAATE when they say that Dredge "isn't Magic"). I was pissed as HELL when they banned Mystical Tutor in Legacy, and it drove me crazy when Tom LaPille justified it with an "unfun" argument.

But you know what? They were right. Storm is still just as viable as ever, it just had to adapt a little. Storm is more fun when the opponent has more of a chance to interact with it. The key is that INTERACTION is fun! Non-interaction just makes for a worse game; look at all the complaints about "lack of player interaction" in board games! You know what Legacy deck is *actually not* fun *at all*, unless you're playing a blue deck?

Belcher.

Anyone who thinks that we should allow unfun decks: find a Belcher player, or proxy up a Belcher deck and play against it with a deck without Force of Wills. I think you'll change your tune pretty quickly.

In such a wide-open game, there's a lot of balancing and tweaking that has to be done; any time they make one thing stronger it makes another thing weaker. Strengthening land destruction and countermagic both naturally weaken decks that want to cast expensive spells, so there's no way to avoid making a choice there: which of those things do you want to be more prevalent? EVERY choice makes something weaker.
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cosine wrote:


I'll tell you what's different now over then.  Designers sucked then.  Designers suck less now.  Tell me about how fair and reasonable those early cards are - it's all just some liberal conspiracy that we no longer see Time Walk, Black Lotus, and so on printed in every set, right?  Those were great cards.  Clearly they're holding you back by not allowing them.


Technically speaking, development is responsible for the new lack of broken cards, not design (although I agree design has gotten better, the original design of Alpha was an incredible achievement in game design.) Development was near non-existent at the beginning, mostly due to incorrect beliefs of how the game would be played.
 
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Cyrus the Great
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One additional problem that I realized with the "why did they completely nuke LD" argument is that LD by its very nature is a linear mechanic. Generally, trading LD spells for lands one for one isn't a big deal (unless you are wrecking someone's manabase or killing their utility lands.) If they have 3 lands in play instead of 4, your opponent doesn't mind that much if you've spent a card and mana. LD is only effective if you seriously devastate their land to the point where their spells become useless. Setting someone back one turn on mana is not a big deal, but setting someone back to turn 1 or 2 is a huge deal. That's why the only recently widely-played LD has been Tectonic Edge, which lets you pay just 2 (and a card) for the effect, but sets you back on land as well.

Therefore, either LD will be a viable archetype (in which case we have the "no fun" problem) or it will be nuked to the point where there is no way it can be played. There is no middle ground where you can play LD, but it won't create its own unfun archetype.
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wrote:
And markgravitygood, sure, if Magic were attempting to be an entirely realistic simulation of Planeswalker combat, it should have land destruction. But as I said above, this is a game, and if it isn't fun, whatever is making it unfun shouldn't exist.


You'll locate a player in every group who will complain that the game is "unfun" simply because they are losing to better decks. That is the nature of the beast.

I never mentioned locked game-states. Those do suck, and should be avoided, but sometimes it happens. What I was commenting on was the brutal truth about playing Magic and getting your ass handed to you by a 'better deck' and all you can do is complain that it's "unfun", with no effort on your part to find a solution. It's a GAME. Someone will lose.

Take it like a man, try and improve your deck, rinse and repeat.

That's all.

As an aside: I've played chess against players I had no business being in the same room against. They certainly had a better 'deck' than I did. I knew I was going to lose. But I still played. I still took the opportunity to learn something from the experience. Seems to me too many Magic players lack a certain patience for that learning process because their egos can't seem to take the blow, so they cry 'unfun'.

Maybe that's a better metaphor.

Lock decks are a scourge of Magic, for sure.



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