Welcome, everyone, to the first of hopefully many episodes of The MageLaughlin Group! Since nobody signed up, I figured a Field of Dreams approach might do the trick, since people will be able to see what this (fingers, toes, eyes, arms, legs, and chromosomes crossed) ongoing series will be like, so they can decide whether or not to participate.
For this inaugural episode, I'll be joined by Daij_Djan, Editor Extraordinaire, Global Mod, and all around mensch, as the only panel member, with the hope that we'll get some more members soon.
Please note that some of these questions might be a little out of date, as their formulation was 20 days ago, and the most recent bannings seem to've adequately stabilized the meta.
First of all hi @sdfkjgh, this could get interesting.
Considering it was indeed your recruiting question, I guess I'm not supprised it's the question you're starting with – even though it might be the one I have the least to say to be honest.
Here's the deal: I've never been much of a format player, but Standard is the format I never could really get behind simply due to its nature as a rotating format. I do watch / listen to quite a few Magic content creators on a regular basis (the two of us have seen each other in the Magic Mics comments section several times in the past ), so I have heard a few bits here and there and have some thoughts on the matter (like concerning the question you're probably going to follow this one up with) – but not really for this one as Ugin rarely got mentioned to be honest. The format has / had in my opinion a different issue than an eight mana planeswalker – and while being colorless is an obvious advantage I don't even think colors mattered much considering the format could get dominated by a fourcolored CMC4 mana card..
So all in all I don't know whether Ugin really was an issue all by itself – though if I had to name any card anyway I'd easily name Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker as he's simply the much cooler dragon planeswalker
Daij_Djan: Of all the Nicki-b 'walkers you could've chosen, I'm glad you chose what is arguably the weakest one. However, the correct answer is Liliana, Death Weilder, reprinted at the correct cost of , because as a planeswalker deck 'walker, she was intentionally overcosted by at least (despite being perfectly fair at cmc5), and her abilities, while on the low end of powerful, are still fair.
Question two is a continuation of Question 1's main point: What is the right amount/acceptable upper limit of ramp per rotation?
@sdfkjgh: To be honest I chose that iteration of Bolas not really because of power level, but because to this day I prefer his first iteration over the never cards
But yeah, Liliana really is a nice showcase for a Planeswalker Deck design and the issues that came with them..
Sidetracking aside, we now reached the (imho?) much bigger issue Standard has / had – its ramp supply. This is (compared to your previous question) a topic I've heard several opinions on, so I have been able to come up with one myself (even though, again, this is kind of a meta-opinion so I might be totally off track ).
Here's the deal: I don't think there really is a limit required simply because (normally) there just is a limited amount of slots a deck can really only dare to use for ramp cards without turning into a glass cannon basically – it's the quality of ramp that is the issue.
There basically are two different types of ramp cards:
The big mana doublers
The one-off / one-mana ramp cards
Mana doublers used to be very rarethings, only showing up very, very rarely. So when it did happen, they were exciting and unique – while often being kept in check by having some sort of downsides or being vulnerable. Nowadays however, we get one after the other – they just keep coming and have kind of turned into an always present threat.
The other category consists of “traditional” ramp cards like Rampant Growth, mana dorks like Llanovar Elves or mana rocks like the Signets. These cards, while powerful are inherently risky to play as they make you trade in a card (aka resources) for offering ramp. Things change however once you add a simple cantrip to these effects. Explore, Growth Spiral and particularly Uro offer not only ramp, but also replace themselves. This makes deck using them much, much more consistent and allows for more greedy decklists.
So all in all, I don't think Standard needs a fixed quota – but less selfreplacing ramp and less big mana doublers, please.
@sdfkjgh: Well, I'm not sure such a harsh palate-cleanser really is neccessary – but I might be biased here because I actually do enjoy ramp decks – the “traditional” ones I might add
Concerning your next question, I guess some backstory is required for everyone else that might read this not knowing our behind-the-scenes smalltalk As mentioned before, I rarely played in formats per se in the past. My old playgroup technically played Legacy/Vintage legal decks on the one hand, but we're not talking about tournament level decks at all – we simply were filthy casuals back then – and Highlander (a.k.a. 100 cards Singelton) on the other hand (this was before EDH / Commander became big). Since my playgroup fell apart, I rarely played aside from a few instences of Cube or Tiny Leaders – but now that my son is ten years old, I've actually begun teaching him Magic and we've now settled on Pauper as a format so he can play cheap yet powerful decks.
We don't play fully powered decks (on the Commander deck level scale these would be considered focussed, I guess) simply to keep all of our decks on an equal power level among themselves, to keep some of the more expensive cards out – and simply because some cards never had a German printrun
Now that that excursion is out of the way – I have to admit I'm not 100% sure what you're aiming at So to clarify, are you talking about..
(a) ..allowing Pauper decks up to three slots of uncommon cards?
(b) ..three uncommons I wish would get downshifted to common?
@sdfkjgh : Guess both is an acceptable answer as well
Concerning (a): This one will be short: No, absolutely not. The Pauper format has such a simple clean and elegant deck design premise, I really wouldn't want to see that getting blurred by allowing uncommons even if only on a limited slot basis. Your suggestion isn't completely new though and there literally exists a format like it (or rather it existed since as far as I know it has pretty much phased out nowadays): Peasant. It's basically Pauper with five uncommon slots and its own unique banlist.
Obviously (b) is the much trickier question to answer. I don't really have any specific card in mind, bringing some Arcuns into the format would allow for a wide variety of new and interesting decks. Also as I'm writing this, I do get one idea for a specific card (or at least a group of them) I could mention. I currently ponder about one or two decks to expand our deck selection (since Christmas and my son's birthday shortly after are getting closer) and one of the concepts I had in mind was a lifegain deck. I would really like to see some “whenever you gain life” payoffs, yet Marauding Blight-Priest is the only really playable one legal in the format – but the effect exists one so many other cool cards. Don't get me wrong, I'm obviously not asking for an Archangel of Thune or something, but would Attended Healer really be too powerful for the format? But again, this is a purely selfish wish rather than something the format would benefit off
Daij_Djan: Since I have no opinion on the format either way, I'm giving you the default. Also, poor Sunbond; Light of Promise is telling it to "Go cry in a corner", and most people aren't even using THAT card, either!
Question four: Against all possible signs pointing to the contrary, Wizards actually does the right thing, and hires a separate advisory group for each format, dedicated to rigorously stress-testing potential new cards/new reprints ahead of time, to make sure they don't break that format. If you were hired for one of these groups, what would be your format, and what inviolable laws would you institute to help protect and preserve that format?
Ajani's Pridemate on the other hand.. Guess this really nicely showcases the struggles Auras have to go though to make it in Competitive..
Moving on to the fourth question first of all: Yeah, having such a group for every format would be a good idea. Last time I heard of it they do already have one for Standard – but that's clearly not working out well for them.. (Or maybe it is, kind of? I rember hearing about them apparently having a new design philosophy (F.I.R.E. As I recall?) basically boiling down to them indeed being more comfortable with having more bannings anyway – but I might be completely wrong here.)
Concerning my own place in such a group: As much as I'd really, really love to be able to work for WotC, their best choice would be to not hire me at all for this spot Seriously, there simply is no format sanctioned by them I know enough about to get hired and make important decisions like this. Pauper really is the format I'm most familiar with and even there “my” meta isn't really representative of the format itself.
Then again, Limited exists as well – so they should just hire me as designer, which would be my dreamjob anyways (Reading the GDS rounds I was so sad I couldn't even participate.)
Daij_Djan : Well, I guess a copout answer is still an answer.
I'd ask to be on the Standard and non-Commander multiplayer teams. The latter one would be much easier, because there really wouldn't be all that much to do currently, but Standard needs a literal fuckton of work:
Step 2: You remember these guys? Of course you don't, nobody does. And that's the problem. R&D designed them to be the big thing to pair with devotion, but nobody paid them any attention, because they are all underpowered, understatted, overcosted, don't have the right abilities, or some combination thereof. I would make sure that if R&D has set something as their anticipated bar, then EVERYTHING ELSE IN THAT SET/STANDARD isn't as powerful as that! The most recent episode of Magic Mics covered howSylvan Advocate was only powerful in Standard, and did nothing in any other format. I would make sure that we go back to that situation being the rule, instead of what we have now, where cards break Standard, then break every single other format as well.
You mentioned the F.I.R.E. design philosophy, and I'm glad you did, because many people have seen it as the reason Standard sucks so bad lately (yes, with the recent bannings, the format seems to've been fixed, but I'll hold off my judgment until the next Standard-legal set, to see if they've actually learned their lessons1, or they've done what they always do: force themselves to relearn the exact same goddamn lessons every single motherfucking time). <---Despite all evidence to the contrary, I'm not so harsh on F.I.R.E.: I believe it's only the E that's the problem. R&D are going too far and hard on the excitement, to the detriment of the rest of the acronym, and the entire fanbase. It appears that we have an example of Braess' Paradox on our hands here, whereby if we drastically pull back on the Excitement over the individual cards, the overall Excitement for the entire format will be increased.
EDIT: Step 3: Muxus, Goblin Grandee and Winota, Joiner of Forces are obvious, huge mistakes, and it all stems from Collected Company. I would institute a law that if you're looking at the top X cards of your library to put some number of cards on the battlefield (or cast some number of cards from those looked at), then you can't ever look at more than 5, and that's ONLY if there's just one thing being selected. If multiple cards are selectable, then that maximum goes down to 4, mebbe 3 if the selection amount is greater than 2. SIX CARDS IS FAR TOO DEEP, ESPECIALLY FOR REPEATABLE EFFECTS!!!
This got a little soapboxy, and I promise not all of my answers will be this long-winded.
Last question: In Magic's infancy, got EVERYTHING. They've since gotten better at partitioning the various abilities around to the rest of the Color Pie, but there are still some abilities and mechanics that belong elsewhere. What ability/mechanic should be moved from one color (not necessarily ) or color combination to what other color or combination?
@sdfkjgh: Yeah, it is a copout answer – but an honest one
Also yeah, that Eldraine cycle was weird. It was really obvious what they wanted to achieve – but it was also pretty much obvious right from the start how that wouldn't really work out well..
And big thanks for linking the original FIRE article. I missed it back then and will gladly read it afterwards
So, your next and final question: Shifting the color pie. As WotC currently shows, they are still fine with shifting things around and I'm actually happy about this. Not that I want them to do so constantly, of course, but acknowledging shortcomings and then trying to rectify them is important.
The first thing coming to mind when reading your question is something I didn't come up with on my own to be honest, but I really like the idea so it kind of stuck in my head One issue currently in the Commander format I've seen being talked about multiple times is white being almost laughably weak – for a format like Commander being last in card draw and ramp at the same time causes some obvious problems, I guess. WotC seem to be trying their best to nail card draw currently (and I think I remember there being a statement by MaRo (?) about their struggles with it), but ramp? “My” suggestion would be to take green's land Auras and shift them into white. Green is still left with mana dorks as well as land tutors and could easily stay on top as the king of ramp – but this would allow white to get a share of it as well. Blessing a land with holy might or adapting a landside to fit your community fits well into white's flavor philosophically and white actually is “Friendly to enchantments” more than green from a mechanical standpoint.
And I know, I know – ramp is kind of a red flag for you currently But since this is mostly an issue born from the Commander format anyway, this color pie shift could easily be started in non-Standard-legal products.