Tuesday, December 16, 2014

the ideology of modern bannings

All discussions of format banned and restriction lists are ideological debates. We have different ideas of what cards, decks, and strategies people should be allowed to play, because we have different ideas of what we want Magic to be like.

Modern brought with it a new banned list, comprising far more cards than its predecessor, the seven year Extended format, had before that format was destroyed. These bans were not targeted at making sure one specific deck wasn’t dominant, but rather, ensuring that all the good decks from old Extended wouldn’t be allowed. That metagame consisted of Thopter-Depths, Faeries, Elves, Dredge, Hypergenesis, Affinity, and Scapeshift with Punishing Fire, among other decks. Not only did all of those have crucial cards banned, but lesser decks that weren’t playable had cards banned as well, because they would have been playable in their absence.

Why were all these cards banned? The “turn four” ideology. If a deck consistently wins before turn four, it isn’t allowed in Modern. This is a new development for Magic banned and restricted lists: things are banned not for oppressing tournaments, but because if they show up at a tournament, that is A Bad Thing. Blazing Shoal Infect didn’t even have to win a single tournament before getting struck down by the DCI, because it is ideologically opposed to their idea of what Modern should be.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

kill reviews addendum: coldsnap

Coldsnap was not a good idea. The execution has its ups and downs, but the core concept of reviving the themes of Ice Age for a set that “completed” that block was bad.

I reviewed the original Ice Age block as my second review. Ah, how we’ve all grown since then. Remember the good old days, when these reviews would come out on a weekly basis? I’m glad that we’ve moved beyond such trivial preoccupations. Readers from way back when will remember that it was an alternate vision of Magic that emphasized marginal value gains and horribly bad creatures over the sort of immersive flavor-based gameplay that defined Alpha. Its mechanics included snow-covered, which had as many cards that punished the player for using it as it did ones that rewarded it, and the rewards were mediocre at best. There was also cumulative upkeep, which needed no external influence to make it bad.