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 lyonhaert »(snip)
Seems pretty straightforward to me and not "mental gymnastics".
Quote from Dragoon91 »
You need to wait long enough for Floral Spuzzem to make a decision?
Quote from Dragoon91 »Quote from Drain Life »I honestly do not even understand how the play line described gave him the six mana needed for his fourth turn play of Kethis, the Hidden Hand and Helm of Kaldra. He made each land drop and only ramped with Sac-Tribe Elder, which means he should have only had five mana on turn four, but this is a side observation.
The Helm is legendary, so Kethis reduces its cost by one.
Quote from Drain Life »I honestly do not even understand how the play line described gave him the six mana needed for his fourth turn play of Kethis, the Hidden Hand and Helm of Kaldra. He made each land drop and only ramped with Sac-Tribe Elder, which means he should have only had five mana on turn four, but this is a side observation.
Quote from illakunsaa »http://www.starcitygames.com/articles/38957_Gen-Con-Commander-Rules-Committee-Play-By-Play.html
Turn 5 Sorin Markov is just too stronk for 75% meta.
Gavin (Kethis): Plains, Sorin Markov. We laugh, thinking he's not going to "ten" somebody. To the surprise of three of us, he sets Toby to (10), then attacks him to (7). In fact, Toby's still laughing and doesn't initially realize he's been targeted. It becomes the source of a brief conversation, mostly because there were people waiting to grab games afterward with us. It could have gone longer and deeper.
To be fair, we never had a pre-game Rule 0 chat, because I think all of us assumed we didn't have to. To be even more fair, Toby, Scott, and I have played lots of games together since the last time more than one of us have played with Gavin. Three of us settled into a power level agreement over the years, and it's firmly 75%. Turn 5 Sorin definitely doesn't fit that model.
In the abstract, it's a perfectly acceptable play. It's only less so if it's outside of a group's comfort zone. Since we hadn't had the group discussion involving Gavin, it's a fair play, even if I'm not a fan of what the play does (see below). Gavin's argument was a version of “Toby's already getting out of hand,” which is somewhat reasonable under the circumstances. Theoretically, I disagree that it's a good play, because even if it cripples or kills the one player, the other two are thinking “I don't want him to do that to me,” which makes you the archenemy (and for me would violate my theory of being second best).
The play itself isn't what I'm saying is problematic; it's what the play does in the bigger picture that slips us down the slope. Knowing that Turn 5 Sorin is a distinct possibility, the best defense is to kill the Sorin player on Turn 4—which is where the problem starts, as it ramps up the arms race really quickly.
what is the established pattern? (regarding flashback)
But I think it's a little self-centered to say "Madness is not interesting." as though it was a statement of fact. Especially when your justification is that it wasn't seen in competitive constructed formats. So what? This is commander, the format where all those lost cards and mechanics that never quite worked in constructed get a chance to shine in the sun of casual multiplayer. Why should we care what worked in other formats? I happen to think madness is interesting, and I know I'm not alone.
Quote from Gashnaw II »Drain life, can you tl;dr that please?
Quote from DirkGently »
white gives you increasing devition, as well as waves of aggression, leave // chance etc. Plus the new flashback spell, and others they’ll presumably print. And all the general utility stuff like stp, good board wipes, etc. Sure it makes it harder to fit into the 99 but it’s basically pure upside as a commander.
Quote from DirkGently »(snip)
Blam, T1 win. Ban Anje plz wizards, 2OP4EDH.(snip)
These face commanders actually look very fair, but good enough that I’m sure I can still crush with them at my local group. I’m so pleased to see some actual restraint in their designs, instead of designs that say “screw balance, it’s just casual. Let’s give them OP nonsense so they buy as many as possible”.
But if you really want powerful, I’m pretty sure krrrik is busted somehow.
Quote from DirkGently »Quote from Mimicvat »The flashback one is pure value, and the BUG one is pure value, while the ones with trash mechanics and weaker colours are also weaker and trashier. Everything went pretty much as expected, nothing to see here people.how is anje not value? She basically reads: you may cast any number of madness cards for their madness cost, and draw a card when you do it. Seeeeeems strong to me. How many good madness cards we’ll have remains to be seen, but there aren’t a ton of good morphs or flashback spells either. Also anje costs 3. If any commander breaks into cEDH, my money is probably on anje.
Ghired is combat focused, so ofc he’s not broken good. But with haste that’s still at least 10/13 of stats for 5, with more each turn...for low/mid power tables I’m sure he’ll be fine.
Quote from Mimicvat »The flashback one is pure value, and the BUG one is pure value, while the ones with trash mechanics and weaker colours are also weaker and trashier. Everything went pretty much as expected, nothing to see here people.
Quote from Faruel »If you throw all your one drops on the field, even 1 board wipe can be the end. I can see that he is really powerful in 1vs1 but multiplayer? When you are the threat on turn 2 and everyone is throwing removal-spells at you? It seems like your game group has too little or no early game. If you play Edgar you are at least forced to play those mediocre or even awful 1 drops or to the vampire tribal. Oloro on the other hand is just good stuff.
Quote from Buffsam89 »
Some games, I’m going to say not most games. Cool beans,
a boardstate left unmolested for 3 turns does damage! We could probably link a hundred deck lists that can do that too, that aren’t Edgar.
He’s a glass cannon that gets stumped a lot of ways.
Hardly the strongest deck at any given table.
Powerful, but swingy, and very much so meta-dependent on how powerful he is.
Heck, she can win via Commander damage, something I’ve yet to see an Edgar deck do.