Sunday, September 11, 2011


After rolling the card around in my head for some time, it is time for some deeper considerations.

Mindshrieker is a little dude, easy to cast in the first few turns of the game. And he benefits from the kind of high-casting-cost rich decks you find often in EDH games. While a bird-centric deck would be ideal, I think just about any EDH deck (blue, mind you) is going to love Mindshrieker.

Let's play out the bullet points.

1) The pump effect is fairly cheap (2 of any mana), repeatable, and happens at instant speed. You can use it in response to a Lightning Bolt. You can use it after your opponent decides not to block. You can use it after your opponent does decide to block. There is a world of possibilities. A great starry-whorled galaxy!

2) You can use it against yourself, or your opponent, whoever you most want to mill.

3) The milling itself will probably not be a big deal, since it's only one card at a time. And unless its land, your Shrieker is getting pumped by at least 1 and probably much, much more.

4) Here's where the milling might be useful. When deck manipulation (like you might see in the occasional blue deck!) comes into play. Personal Tutor, Brainstorm, even Sensei's Divining Top. Some time ago I went off on a lark and put my ancient copy of Millstone into one of my decks. This seems like the effect I was going for, only much, much more effective.

And regardless of your motives, the Mindshrieker is going to be swinging in or blocking with gusto. Spellbound Dragon is less blind, but you can only do the effect once a per turn. Mindshrieker keeps getting bigger. With the miniscule cost of 2, I am predicting at least a +6+6 bonus every turn Mindshrieker gets into the action.

What a bird!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Awesome and Weird

I received an email a couple days ago. It was a heartfelt plea for me to finally clean up my act in regards to the continually worsening blog design here at the Minotaur Illusionist.

I have some pretty eccentric ideas when it comes to personalization, and combined with a stunning lack of html skills that can lead to some pretty atrocious color combinations and low contrast layout settings.

I have decided on this day to relieve the strained, tired eyes of the random people who stumble across my blog and switch back to a "default" type of blog template. White and black and hopefully "read" all over. And I can work my way forward from there.

Long time readers (I know there are at least 2 of you!) will be familiar with my random blog template changes. This is more of the same, with hopefully an emphasis on readability.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Card Backs: A Retrospective

The link to my card back theories was featured prominently on this week's Monday Night Magic (about 3 minutes worth, towards the end), and Chris seems a little doubtful about my wingnut card back theories.

Honestly, I feel like new card backs are the future. But on the other hand, I never in a million years would have believed double faced cards were coming, either.

I will leave the issue with a single point. 

In April of 2004, smack in the middle of the "Ask Wizards" Column, one Mark Rosewater answers a question. Here it is:

Q: "What does the 'DECKMASTER' on the back of Magic: The Gathering cards mean?"
-- Craig Stubing, Chicago, Illinois
A: From Mark RosewaterMagic Lead Designer:
"When Magic was first designed, Wizards of the Coast had plans for a series of trading card games. To group these games together, they were all given the name "Deckmaster". MagicJihad(renamed Vampire: the Eternal Struggle) and Netrunner, for example, were all Deckmaster games. Wizards of the Coast eventually abandoned this method of grouping our trading card games, but the Magic card back is locked (to ensure that all the cards look the same fromm the back) so the Deckmaster logo remains."
Now fast forward 2 years from now. How would Mark answer the question?
"Well, Craig, the Magic card back is locked (to ensure that all the cards look the same from the back) so the Deckmaster logo remains. Except, of course, for those 10 werewolf cards we printed way back in Innistrad. They will forever remain the exception to the rule."
Are people going to be using the special "checklist" card to disguise their Innistrad double-faced cards in the next Modern Grand Prix? Honestly, they will probably be using card sleeves. Which would also hide different card backs.
Richard Garfield, when designing the original Arabian Nights expansion, conceived of a hot pink card back to differentiate from the Core Set. I don't think we will be seeing colors for different expansions, but one single "modernized" remake.
But that is neither here nor there.
The Innistrad previews keep coming. I found my new favorite card to discard to blazing shoal:

In EDH, this is going to be both a monster board sweeper and a great pitch card for just about everything. I've already put Greater Gargadon into my Spellbound Dragon. Now things are about to get more Blasphemous. And to think, I was kinda excited about Into the Maw of Hell. And to think a few years ago I was kinda excited about Shivan Meteor.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Endless Ranks, Rooftop Storm and MORE

Last night, they previewed a pretty dynamite card for zombie decks. It was this:

There is an entire world of casual zombie decks out there. People going all-in-black with simple cards like the Warchief and Cemetery Reaper. People switching over to blue and black for cards like Jhessian Zombies and Lich Lord of Unx. Or maybe heading over to black and red for cards like Pyre Zombie and Deadapult. Black and green Zombie decks! Black and white Zombie decks! They all exist, you just have to believe hard enough.

Endless Ranks of the Dead empowers zombie decks of all kinds, because they all have one thing in common…their unnatural love for the creature type zombie.

This time around, the pull will certainly be towards the blue/black spectrum for the excellent "science" zombies Innistrad previews have hinted towards.

Rooftop Storm lets you play Zombies in your hand for FREE. Endless Ranks gives you extra Zombies.

You might envision yourself casting Rooftop Storm and then powering out a HUGE zombie for free on the next turn. Problem is, however, that 6 mana is just about the top of the Zombie food chain. So if you cast Rooftop Storm, you will probably have enough mana at this point to power out any zombie you want through normal methods.

The most powerful Zombie you would ever want to put out would probably be Bladewing the Risen, Sedris the Traitor King or the awesome Thraximundar. And there's always Phage.

This does lead to an interesting application in EDH, since if your general is a Zombie you can cast him for free (plus the usual tax for repeated castings, unfortunately).

But in most cases you are going to have to find a way to get zombies in your hand and get them on the ground running as fast as possible.

One of my favorite cards, Read the Runes, would give you plenty of cards to either discard into the graveyard (if you wanted them there) or cast them for free using Rooftop Storm.

For straight card draw you could probably use Keep Watch or Distant Melody. Gaveborn Muse has the advantage of being card draw that you can also cast for FREE using Rooftop Storm. Although you will probably die pretty quick unless you hurry up and actually win the game.

The ultimate card would probably have to be Null Profusion. But now we are up to having 2 6 mana enchantments on the board at once! Which happens in EDH, but not much.

Speaking of EDH, I've been thinking about the annoyingness of Rhystic Study and think I have found a better card for my black EDH decks. Gravestorm! The next time you play EDH, check out people's graveyards and see how often you can find someone you could probably draw a card off of. I think the groupthink will probably blame your opponent, and not you, for the extra card…leaving you in the clear for shenanigans!

So there you have it. A bunch of cards, dumped in a pile. You're welcome!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Day and Night, "Back" to Work

When I've been absent for a while, I sometimes feel like I should come back with a big, complex post. Something that required a lot of research, in-depth analysis. Something to show for myself being gone for so long.

Let's see how I do.

Apparently people are crazy about magic players, but not in a good way.

There are also a few revealed mechanics for Innistrad.

The "transform" mechanic, aka "the day and night" mechanic, seems to be at the top of people's radar.

I'm trying to imagine what Wizards R&D could possibly do that would rival the unnatural weirdness of "flipping the card over" as an actual mechanic.

To be honest, I can't even imagine a double-faced card showing up in an "un" set. And here it is, coming in with a vengeance, one guaranteed in every pack of Innistrad you buy.

I am reminded of the card Illusionary Mask. This card lets you cast a creature for a cost "equal or more" than its actual mana cost in exchange for casting it face down. This is not the "morph" mechanic, but something very similar.

Can you cast Civilized Scholar with Illusionary Mask? Does Ixidron (one of my favorite cards) automatically turn a Civilized Scholar into a Homicidal Brute?

No! As near as I can tell, any type of flipping mechanic instead does nothing…except for the "transform" trigger itself. And there are about 100 more interactions people will have to figure out when these cards enter the pool.

Here's the weird thing about Magic expansions. You basically have to play with them. Every time a new card set comes out (about 4 times a year), all the new cards get lumped together into the giant Magic card pool (over 10,000 unique cards) and we just have to deal with them.

It's not like Carcassonne where you can just say "let's stay away from The Princess and the Dragon, that's a little too random." Unless you and all your friends are members of the same Borg Collective, rogue cards are getting in because its all the same pool.

Are there any exceptions? Currently, 3 types of cards are on the "shunned" list in the great Magic Collective.

1) "Un" Cards. These cards are from sets literally created as a joke, to fuel more casual magic games with design mechanics that don't fit into the rather dry and technical framework of the Magic The Gathering Comprehensive Rules.

2) Ante Cards. These cards are from the very early days of Magic, when Richard Garfield thought people would perceive the game much differently than they do now. Ante Cards assume that you are using the Ante Rule in your magic game, i.e. "playing for keeps" for a randomly chosen card from each side. Very few magic players play for ante anymore. But if you do, and you have a few Contract from Below, you are probably doing pretty good.

3) Dexterity Cards. This type is represented in Un sets with cards like Volrath's Motion Sensor and real cards such as Falling Star.

Everyone knows about Chaos Orb. This guy has achieved arguably more mytholicial trappings than even any of the power 9. Has anyone actually seen him in action? No…unfortunately the card is officially banned in every magic format due to it's dexterity requirements.

Here are the weird play requirements that make double-faced cards roughly in the same league as these other 3 types.

1) You have to play with card sleeves, or use a proxy card instead of the real card in your hand. The proxy is then swapped out whenever you put your real card on the battlefield. 

2) If you are playing in a sealed pack draft, you are allowed to hide double-sided cards by any reasonable means to conceal what card you actually picked. Players must remain seated in doing this.

I would stack both of these issues at least as high as dexterity requirements on my personal magic card comfort level. Which actually means I don't have a big problem with it (who doesn't love dropping cards on the table?) but I can definitely understand people who do (like drafters).

Which leads me to a pretty big revelation. And you are welcome to tell me if I'm crazy or not.

I think we might see the end to a constant companion all these years of Magic playing. I'm talking about this guy:

The good 'ol Magic Card Back.

I'm not saying there's going to be a future where every card is a double-faced card. What I'm saying is that we are heading toward a future with a redesigned card back.

Way long ago, in a set called Eighth Edition, Magic made a huge design change. They altered the front of future Magic cards from this to this.

The reasons for making the change were
1) To improve clarity
2) To improve readability
3) To make room for more text
4) To make more room for art

Now, here we are, looking at a card back that has never changed since 1994. The reason the design has stayed "locked in" has always been to avoid mechanical complications of cards with different backs.

Well, here we are.

Why would Wizards be deeply interested in changing the backs of Magic Cards? Let's take a look at the card again.

1) The fonts and colors for the Magic: The Gathering logo changed long ago to a high-visibility yellow, as seen everywhere else.

2) The Deckmaster logo is no longer used.  Since all the other card games in the "Deckmaster" series have all since died out.

3) There is a blue pen mark going through the Deckmaster logo that once, logo ago slipped though the proofing process and has remained, immortalized for all time like fingerprints left in fresh concrete.

4) The Magic Card Back is ugly. Ask any graphic designer.

So let me sum up the bright new future I, as a magic player, have awakened into. There are now double-sided cards. They exist, and everyone is going to start playing with them somewhere around September 24th. There's no going back to a time without them, unless these new additions experience a shunning similar to Ante Cards (which isn't going to happen). Finally, assuming the surety of these double-sided cards being around for a while, don't be surprised when the M13 set comes out next year and the card backs are completely different. 

I won't be.

edit: bad terminology is bad terminology…they are "double-faced" cards, not "double-sided" cards. Ugh.