Aaron's Random Card Comment of the Day #29, 11/4/10
The structure of (Planar Portal) is based on that of the oft-reprinted original card advantage machine Jayemdae Tome. Replace the 4’s with 6’s and change “draw” to “tutor” and there you have it.
As a designer, I like this card about a tenth as much as I like Jayemdae Tome. As designers, we strive to make sure the game has the right amount of variance in it; variance leads to replayability and it keeps the outcomes of individual games in doubt longer. Players, at least those whose primary goal is winning, strive to reduce the variance in the game as much as possible. Things like tutors, scry, and card drawing are used to make sure the same spells come up in essentially the same order--or at the very least at close to the right time--game after game. If a deck can consistently assemble a game-winning combo on turn two, players will do that over and over and over. Games like that get really boring really fast, so we need to fight back against that. The mystery of the draw is a vital part of the game.
Tutoring every single turn has the potential to remove all the variance from at least one player’s part of the game. Once Planar Portal is up and running, assuming its controller isn’t under significant pressure, the outcome of the game is a foregone conclusion.
Not only does Planar Portal eliminate variance, it adds shuffling, which is another way to make a game consistently less fun.
The only thing that makes the card printable are the high costs associated with using it; you have to spend 12 mana to get the first benefit out of it. The mere act of surviving long enough to activate it is a feat in itself. It’s okay for us to print cards like this that do powerful-but-bad things at high costs once in a while, but personally I’d rather focus our efforts on powerful-and-fun.
Commander's singleton format and 100-card deck size often cause people to instinctively stuff as many Tutor spells into their deck as they possibly can. Sometimes it's necessary—perhaps your Commander needs a boost to be really good or you're trying to assemble some sweet off-the-wall haymaker play that requires a couple specific cards. Or maybe you're trying to be a control deck which is quite the high-wire act in multiplayer where you can't always rely on pure card drawing to have the right answer in your hand.
But I think all the Tutor power that is readily available for just about every Commander deck you build takes away a bit from the enjoyment of the game. Today I want everyone to take a few minutes to think about letting go of Tutors in Commander or at least minimizing the quantity you use.
Embrace the Chaos!
There's a reason why this is Sheldon Menery's catchphrase for Commander and it's the reason why it's a singleton format with 100-card decks. One of the joys of playing a Commander deck without Tutors is that each game is going to play out differently keeping the experience fresh and fun. If you've tuned your deck into a machine that kills the same way each game not only will your opponents quickly tire of playing against you but you're going to tire of playing it yourself.
When Bennie Smith wrote his article about letting go of tutors in Commander, I thought the argument against having players search through their decks in secret and pull something out while laughing maniacally was a compelling one. You make the entire table wait for you, and they don’t get to know what you’re doing. It makes them a bit nervous, and they may have a tendency to want to attack you because of your secret shenanigans. I thought at the time that my objection to face-down tutors may have stemmed from not wanting to inflict that kind of game experience on the group I was playing with. I think now, although my gut instinct to shy away from face-down tutors was correct, that I may not have interpreted my aversion to them properly in a 75% context. I think trying to come up with a Zegana deck may have given me the proper context to evaluate what I really don’t like about face-down tutors and what other things I’d like to avoid in 75% decks.
As much as I’m averse to face-down tutors, I find myself partial to face-up tutors.
But why are face-up tutors better? Is it because your opponents don’t like to see you root around in your deck in secret? I thought about it seriously and asked a lot of players, and that’s really a small part of it. But the more I think about it, the more I realized that face-up tutors work better in a 75% context because they’re narrow. And narrow tutors are very, very 75%. A face-down tutor finds you a card face-down because your opponent doesn’t need to see it. You can grab anything. You can fetch a Swamp. You can find a Steamflogger Boss. It could be anything; it could even be a boat. A face-up tutor needs to be face-up so you don’t Wizardcycle a Vedalken Aethermage and grab a Force of Will. Face-up tutors need oversight because everyone needs to verify you found something legal. Narrow tutors not only give away information, which puts you at a competitive disadvantage compared to face-down tutors, but they force you to derive your answers from a smaller pool of cards. And I think that there is an inherent danger in this and requires a little vigilance on your part. I’m suggesting there are situations in which you might want to voluntarily remove tutors from your deck.
While narrow tutors are good because they have limitations and are therefore more 75%-friendly because they cause you to be a bit more creative in deck-building they can lead to homogeneity in game experience. If your one tutor target with Worldly Tutor is going to be It That Betrays all the time, you might as well just play Demonic Tutor. You might as well not tutor face-up if you’re fetching the same thing every time. If your tutors allow you to create a path of least resistance and homogenize the game experience, they need to be re-evaluated.
• Try to vary the game experience, and build with multiple paths to victory in mind.
• Play tutors or card-draw, but not both.
Quote from ilovesaprolings »Try to house ban
demonic tutor enlightned tutor imperial seal mystical tutor personal tutor sylvan tutor vampiric tutor worldly tutor
and then have fun
Quote from Macabre »If you ban one type of tutor like demonic tutor then you warp what the color choices people use in edh away from black. Technically rampant growth is a tutor, that also puts a permenant strait in to play. Is that ban worthy? It doesn't seem far to ban demonic tutor variants without also hitting all of the green land-ramp and creature spells, the white equipment and enchantment tutors, the blue spell tutors, and the joke of red tutors in gamble and sarkhan's triumph.
My issue with people bringing up this topic is usually similar to my issue with people wanting to ban fast mana. If you take away all the fast mana-rocks then competitive decks are going to be all semi-green to use all the 1cmc mana dorks and land-ramp. It would be terrible for the entire format from casual to competitive.
Quote from DoubleT »Tutors are just basically wild cards which I find unfun in all games not just Magic. It seems they've been printing more tutor hate of late. I just hope they continue to print more playable tutor hate, then the problem will fix itself as tutoring will not be a sure thing.
Quote from Buffsam89 »Green ramp spells have minimal impact on the game, at least in comparison to other tutors. You aren’t tutoring up a game winning/saving answer with Rampant Growth.
Quote from Macabre »
Regarding green land-ramp tutors - I strongly feel that land-ramp focused decks tend to dominate most non-competitive tables. It's really kind of sad of just how little hate and negative attention this gets. The sheer volume of landramp tutors that cheat extra permenants in to play is insane compared to what other tutors do. Lands tending to be the hardest to deal with card in the game, and if you happen to run MLD you may be classified as a terrible person.
Mass land-ramp decks tend to plaque casual tables and green/blue/x casual ramp decks are, imo, the worst. I have a typical ramp bant deck and it feels like every win was never deserved. I honestly feel that they are the catalyst for most issues in the format. To answer a deck that can consistently put 8 lands into play around turn 5 to 6, you have to make a quicker deck full of fast mana (which people complain about), and a fast combo win (which people complain about), and the tutors to get these parts (which people complain about).