Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Multiple Choice Magic Design Question of the Day 12

12) Which of the these is the most important reason to stop making cards with islandwalk?

 a) Blue decks have the weakest creatures.
 b) Landwalk isn't very interactive.
 c) Blue has the fewest answers to evasive creatures.
 d) It's too easy to give your opponents islands.
 e) We don't want to punish people for playing basic lands.
 f) The quality of your deck shouldn't depend so heavily on the nature of your opponent's deck.

Click through to see the answer and my rationale.

Blue creatures aren't weaker than any other colors', just smaller. If anything, evasion defeats the utility of large defenders more, so this is not a reason to stop making landwalk.

All forms of evasion are less interactive than regular combat but still potentially interactive (except unblockable): Fliers can be blocked by fliers and spiders; Shadows can be blocked by shadows; landwalkers can be blocked by not playing the land they walk through. But that's not great interaction: It's usually decided during deck-building before the match (or even the tournament), and when it does happen within a game, it usually means mana- and/or color-screwing yourself.

Blue doesn't have the fewest answers to evasive creatures. Even if it did, that wouldn't factor into the use of islandwalk.

Few tournament-viable cards can turn your opponents' lands into islands or give them islands. Regardless, that's considered a good interaction because it rewards the player for putting two pieces together to create something greater. We want to encourage that kind of deck-building.

We really don't want to punish people for playing basic lands: Partly because we don't want to price budget players out of the game; and partly because basic lands are a core component we don't want to lose. Doing so would make the game rather more complicated than it needs to be—basic lands are the ultimate vanilla card.

While the metagame is important, we want players to predict and counter strategies, not just exploit secondary characteristics (like deck color and land composition) of those strategies. There's also no value to being randomly paired against a deck that happens to include the one color your deck is hating on. Collateral damage sucks. It's one thing to choose the top deck and sit down across from an opponent who built to beat that top deck; it's another entirely to choose the deck you prefer and sit down across from an opponent whose deck is ill-suited for the meta-game but just happens to go after your land type.

F is the best answer. B and E are the only other fair answers.

You could eliminate answers A and C just by knowing islandwalk wasn't the only landwalk ability moved out of evergreen status and that blueness was a red herring. To go much further though, you need an understanding of game design or at least how much fun color-hate abilities like landwalk add/subtract from the game (it's usually a net negative). You can read slightly more about this particular Design choice at the end of Evergreen Eggs and Ham.


  1. Notes and answer, before clicking through:

    C and D are untrue and can be eliminated immediately.

    The end of has Maro's description of why landwalk got killed. He mentions that it's swingy and non-interactive (like intimidate) and that the only way to stop it is to not play your basic lands. A is irrelevant to all this so it's easy to eliminate, and I think we can eliminate E as well since it isn't Maro's main point.

    That leaves B and F, both of which are accurate reasons for killing landwalk. Maro's explanation doesn't make clear whether he thinks swinginess or non-interactiveness is the bigger problem. But we can make a guess from the context. Landwalk was killed along with intimidate and protection, all of which are (usually) color-matters mechanics. Furthermore, Magic kept strictly less interactive mechanics like "can't be blocked". So F is the better description of why landwalk shouldn't be used.

  2. Good question.

    Yeah, I agreed about the order of top three before clicking through. I didn't try to get the others in as complete an order and didn't quite get them right.

  3. I went with E, but F was my second choice. I think maybe because "so heavily" is kind of a subjective evaluation. I see blue as a heavily reactive and responsive color, so I don't think it's unusual for the deck's power to depend somewhat on the enemy's deck. But there's a line between that and "so heavily dependent." And landwalk was heavily dependent.

    I think I tripped myself up on the fact that the question was about islandwalk. If it had been a different color I probably would have perceived it differently.