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.

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