Friday, June 10, 2011

An Alchemical Distraction

Those of you keeping track of M12 spoilers in the midst of Commander reveals and the roiling discontent surrounding Standard may have noticed a curious Green enchantment, Arachnus Web, an amusing fusion of Arrest and Domestication. Well, it just so happens that I wrote my GDS2 color-shifting essay about this very design decision, so I thought it pertinent to reprint it here and see how folks feel about Green branching out into the wide-world of Pacifism.

The core mechanic best suited for a permanent color shift is Pacifism, moving it from White to its ally, Green. While Green has seen pseudo-Pacifism in the form of Utopia Vow and the much earlier Song of Serenity, Green is deserving of permanent possession of this effect for many reasons. The primary intent is to provide Green with a more reliable form of common removal for limited purposes, while simultaneously taking away from White, as the rise of Exile-based mechanics has resulted in an abundance of removal for the White drafter. By giving Green a means to remove non-fliers through enchantments, players will be more inclined to draft Green, a color that has a habit of being typically less useful (or simply less fun) due to its reliance on bomb-dependent beatdown strategies. Pacifism-effects also avoid circumstances like Hornet Sting, where Green has been provided with marginalized but unconditional direct damage.

Though I refer to it as the Pacifism mechanic, Green should more specifically receive Arrest variants, as Green has a precedent of opposing activated abilities through the counterspells Bind and Voidslime, as well as somewhat briefly in its use of Entangling Vines. Green Arrest represents not only a reflection of Green's occasional opposition to combat damage (Fog) but its mistrust of Blue's creature-based board manipulation. From a flavor-perspective, Green Pacifism/Arrest is found in its asceticism and willingness to put down arms in favor of supporting nature, more in line with the concept of Pacifism itself, rather than White's imprisonment. With this shift, White would retain broader taxation of combat, as per its taxing/balancing nature, but the individualized non-taxing effect would be specific to Green.

As a slight amendment to the above, please understand that the GDS2 essays were restricted to 250 words, so statements like "reliance on bomb-dependent beatdown strategies" should be construed as hyperbole for effect, rather an accurate representation of how I perceive Green's position in the typical limited format.


  1. Hmm... I can certainly agree that stopping activated abilities makes sense in the Green pie.

    Natural Condition G
    Enchantment - Aura (C)
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature's activated abilities can't be activated.

  2. For Melody, I've currently got Ascetic Influence in a common slot —

    Ascetic Influence (C)
    Enchantment - Aura
    Enchant Creature
    Enchanted creature can't attack and its activated abilities can't be activated.

    My rationale for costing and the removal of the "no-blocking" clause, is that A) I feel the philosophy of Green would support the right to defend one's self against an aggressor, and B) such a card is effectively Lignify without the rules baggage.

  3. The card itself is very flavorful, and it creates an in-game story where a creature is captured but then receives a boost with some spell or equipment and manages to break itself loose.

    Your argument leads to an interesting question: is color bleed ok when it goes on low-frequency, weak cards that are only good for balancing limited?

    I'm not sure of the answer to that, but seeing how Blue-Green decks function decently in many draft environments, with its own distinct style (play the best creatures in the land and air, win time advantage with ramp and bounce), I'm not sure I want to give blatant removal to Green. Also, green is a color that can play mana fixing to splash removal from other colors, and it's fun to build decks like that. This is a kind of limitation that breeds deck diversity.

    On the other hand, the part of your proposal that I can agree with the most is the fact that Pacifisms are the most incomplete type of removal. Some of them shut off abilities, some of them stop attacking. Also, the Aura can be destroyed to get the creature back to normal.

    While I'm not a fan of giving weaker versions of abilities to other colors, I think giving a subsection of an ability that's more limited in scope (White getting spells that counter spells targeting a permanent they control, etc.) is ok.

    I've had no objections to Lignify and Utopia Vow. I don't remember my initial reaction to Entangling Vines, but I think it's ok now.

    My main gripe with Arachnus Web is that it can get a blocker out of the way for an attack, which I think green pacifisms should avoid. Like you said, it should be more geared towards handling tap abilities or evasion (or making the opponent's fatties beatable in combat by your fatties.)

    I guess Utopia Vow removes blockers too. But at least it gives your opponent a resource, unlike Arachnus Web. It's more like converting the creature's use. That said, it's true that I wouldn't want to give Path to Exile to green. Having a strong flavor and being incomplete removal is also a prerequisite.

  4. Honestly, I think my argument was less an argument for a true color-shift, but rather a suggestion for removing a certain obscuring layer from a mechanical concept that already exists within Green. Subordinate to that argument is the suggestion that at some point White has acquired a variety of removal types (Tap, Exile, Pacifism, Smite, Anti-Attacker Direct Damage) that feels disruptive to the balance of mechanical identities.

    We're all aware of Red's deficiencies in regards to what it has access to at a common level, a diminished toolset that is especially disconcerting when we consider the versatility of other colors. Of course, here I'm suggesting a pro-Green "color-shift", but it's nonetheless rooted in this general observation.

    And yes, I agree that Arachnus Web has great flavor, something that assuredly helped sell its transition into green.

  5. I like this point, however there's a problem with color-shifting green/white, and its that white and green are already very, very close in terms of design space, and Mark Rosewater made matters worse when it moved Naturalize to green. Moving yet another white ability to green is due to that a wrong turn in the quest to differenciate them.