Off Topic: Land Ho!

I miss Cranial Insertion. If I got lazy, I had the weekly guarantee that my article would disappear into the Internet abyss. Now I have pressure. I said I was going to make a set in front of the whole world. Failure means mass public humiliation. No biggie. I got accepted to graduate school and everything else that follows. My wife has to find a new job, we have to find a new place to live, packing, forms, books, and etc. My playgroup isn't exactly happy. My determination hasn't wavered, but life has demands.

Designer Lesson One: Stick Your Foot in Your Mouth

There may have been a time or two where I criticized Wizards. Okay, maybe it was three. One of my criticisms was lands coming into play tapped. I don't hate the ability. There are many times I think it is appropriate. However, I think it is a crutch. Make a land and stick on a drawback of it coming into play tapped. As a player, I want alternatives. Fetch lands are an example of this fact. I set out to validate my stance. It wasn't easy. Many of the comments on my set that I have received usually have players asking me to pump up abilities. Crank it up. I feel like a parent in having to say no to the teenager who wants to go to social event above their level of maturity. The truth is there is a sweet spot. It is the spot were it isn't too powerful, but strong enough to get players excited.

Lands are tricky. There are a lot of informal restrictions. Nothing is written is stone, but taboos exist. Part of the problem is lands don't have the luxury of being part of the color pie. When developing a blue card, we can reexamine the philosophies of the color and start designing. Lands? It is a land. I don't know? The one axiom is the land can't be better than a basic land. I do roll my eyes at this a little. In Legacy or Vintage, we have dual lands that are basically better than basic lands. Thee only reason players play with basic lands is because of Wasteland. If Wasteland was banned from the classic formats, there would be even less basic lands in those formats. There is Blood Moon and friends, but those cards are rarely seen nowadays. So don't mind if I take the axiom with a grain of salt.

Keeping in step with tradition, I started examining every resource in the game for a drawback. I thought about extra cards, creature tokens (see Forbidden Orchard), life, damage, discard, and etc. One area I found under utilized was information. It is a under appreciated aspect of the game. It is the reason I enjoy discard. A turn one Cabal Therapy gives me a lot of information even if I whiff. I instantly discover if my opponent is holding nada and I can be more aggressive or I should slow roll a hand because my opponent is holding lots of mass removal. It is my belief why players love Sensei's Divining Top. Instant information. This lead me to the following land.

Everyone's Paradise (Rare)
When Everyone's Paradise enters the battlefield, target opponent may look at the top five cards of their library and put them back in any order.
t: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

The spikes out there probably aren't drooling over this card. I'll get to those cards in a second. Just showcasing the drawback of information slash stacking of the deck. I designed this card more for commander in a world that froths at multicolored producing lands. Yes, it has a drawback. It has a political edge though. Who gets to stack their deck? I get to fix all my mana problems while I make a friend and it didn't even cost me three dollars per minute. I'd play it in my commander decks.

Let's talk about the mechanic/ability/whatever. It is a drawback that isn't a drawback. I don't loose anything. My opponent doesn't gain anything. Well, in a strict resource advantage kind of way. It does showcase how powerful information can be in Magic… and stacking your deck. Yes, it isn't just about information. Stacking the top of the deck is extremely powerful. Some games are won simply because an opponent got mana screwed. Others are won because the opponent didn't draw his/her spells in the correct order or he/she was one turn away from drawing the spell that would have turned the game around. Oh yes, giving an opponent a free pseudo-mulligan can be a huge disadvantage by giving away a consistency advantage.

Ocean Beach Something Something (Rare)
When Ocean Beach Something Something enters the battlefield, target opponent can look at the top two cards of their library and put them back in any order.
t: add W or U to your mana pool.

Are you going to play with this land? It doesn't come into play tapped. Sorry, I'm old and I have to keep reminding myself it is enters the battlefield. Anyway, this seems not so powerful as a single card. The reality is players will play with multiple of these in their decks. What happens if a player wants to play three colors with eight of these lands? Turn after turn, you drop a stacking land into play. Every turn, your opponent gets to stack their deck optimally. I realize I am playing devil's advocate to a point. I just want to get across this subtle drawback can be a real hindrance.

Sometimes, it the drawback won't matter. The opponent looks at the top two cards and they are just two lands. Sometimes, they are two Day of Judgements. It won't matter. As much as I have pushed the disadvantages, it won't matter. Did I already say that? None of these cards have gone through development. Are two cards too much? How about three? I thought three was the right answer initially until I realized four of these would be in a constructed deck. Therefore, I went with symmetry. Two cards for two variations in mana. Five cards for five colors. If we wanted to push the cards, I could tack on land types to the land. I don't know if it would really add anything. If people played the cards in world with fetch lands, the cards would lose a lot of appeal. Do you really want to fetch a land in an environment that will let an opponent stack a deck?

Flavored Lands

I think the stacking lands are viable, but I have designed other options. The world I envisioned has islands peaking out of the ocean that eventually join the original land mass. It also has plains that are eventually overtaken by the encroaching forests. I wanted multicolored lands to emphasize this point. Not just to create mana fixers, but to give flavor to the set.

Island Expanse (Rare)
t: add U to your mana pool. If you control three or more lands, add R to your mana pool instead.

Encroaching Forest (Rare)
t: add W to your mana pool. If you control three or more lands, add G to your mana pool instead.

Is it better than a basic land? Maybe. I rank this right up there with River of Tears. I actually thought River of Tears was an amazingly designed card. Typically, you wanted U on your opponent's turn and B on your turn to play discard or what not. Island Expanse and Encroaching Forest is more about flavor, but they both have the advantage of mana fixing. Why three land? Have you ever been stuck with a single-colored mana board? It sucks: one color with nothing but off-colored spells in hand. These lands help the transition. On the first few turns, they let you dump those blue and white spells. After dropping that third land, you can start dumping those spells stuck in hand. Perfect? They aren't meant to be. It is an option. It is a puzzle for the players to crack.

This is just one of the things I have been working in those times in between life.

Off Topic: Financial What?

Financial articles seem like they are getting more popular. They have ebbed over the years, but I have a sense those articles are starting to ramp up. On the other hand, financial articles tend to crop up as a new set comes near its release. I don't have a problem with those articles. A lot of them consist of assumption, a lot of speculation, and some sound logic. What makes me scratch my head are the small margins. Take for instant the mega coupon clipper shows on television. I don't remember the names. These people spend an inordinate amount of time clipping coupons: hours and days worth of time. Yeah, they saved thousands. It is extraordinary. Until, you calculate the hours spent doing that job. I mean hobby. Take the amount of hours spent clipping coupons, driving to the store, gas money, any other expenditures during the process, and divide it or rather the other way around to get a minimum wage job.

It is accounting at its finest. Many people don't account for the small amounts and miscellaneous things that go into doing a task. Once you add it up, it is more than you might of thought at first glance. It is the reason I don't think financial articles are worth my time. Every second I spend trying to make money at Magic is seconds I could have spent working an actual job getting a real paycheck. Yes, a trade can take only minutes. However, in order to make that trade, hours were spent analyzing the metagame and prices. A person has to make a lot of money off those few trades before those trades can compare to having an actual job. It is another reason I don't like trading these days. If a trade takes fifteen minutes, it is eight dollars. Eight dollars is what I would have made if I worked an extra fifteen minutes the other day.

I once heard a statement that said it would be a waste of Bill Gates' time to stop to pick up a one hundred dollar bill. Do you think it is worth Bill Gates' time to save fifty cents on a trade? Yes. This is extreme hyperbole, but I have a point and it isn't an unreasonable one. If I work two hours of overtime, I can just go buy a Force of Will. Ta da. I'm fortunate to have a good paying job. Some people would complain I'm lucky and they are poor college students. I was one once. You know what? I worked hard, got a degree and placed myself in a position to get paid well. It is the reason I roll my eyes when players are squabbling over trade because of a fifty-cent difference. Good Lord.

I understand I sound like a crotchety old man. Get a job! It is just frustrating when my wife has girlfriends linked to some puds. No ambition. No motivation, but they want all these things and complain about it. She works hard while he sits at home all day playing video games. Don't get me wrong. I love video games. I hack at my PSP everyday at work during my breaks, lunch, or the long bus ride home. But seriously dude, sitting around all day is just lazy and then they try to nickel and dime me over fifty cents. Maybe it is the illogical part of it that gripes me. You want toys. You get a job. Job gives you money in order to buy toys. Simple.

I know I sound like an $#@%$. It is just tiresome always being harassed by people who don't have a job. It seems like an epidemic with Magic players some days. They whine how expensive Magic is to play. Yes, it is expensive. I want a Ferrari too. If I want a Ferrari, I need to earn more money. I earn more money. I get a Ferrari. Part of it is the self-entitlement of it all. It irritates me people think they should just get money (ironic since I am pro-welfare). Anyway, I realize people may respond that I have a good paying job. Do you think I just sat around doing nothing? Really? I didn't have to spend all that time in lab, in class, or studying. People would have just given me my job without all those things? College isn't for you? Open a business. Work hard. What you put into those jobs is what you will get out of them. Sorry, done.

Get a job. Work hard. Buy Magic cards.


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