Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Design Review of Magic 2012: Green (Part 1)

I will be continuing my review of Magic 2012,  looking at each card from a design perspective. With this episode, I'll just focus on the Green card draw spells.

The New Garruk

Garruk, Primal Hunter 2GGG (Mythic)
Planeswalker - Garruk
+1: Put a 3/3 green Beast creature token onto the battlefield.
-3: Draw cards equal to the greatest power among creatures you control.
-6: Put a 6/6 green Wurm creature token onto the battlefield for each land you control.

Planeswalkers are an awesome card type that have become the face of the franchise. Mechanically, they give you many actions to take during the game, as well as make creature combat matter more.

At the same time, due to their current mythic positioning (which is probably correct, but let's not take anything for granted), they are expensive, and there can't be a whole lot of different planeswalkers in the environment at any one time. Thus, if balanced wrong, they can be a force for making competitive decks expensive, as well as a force for making decks of the same color look alike.

With that in mind, I like the power level that they hit with this card. It's strong enough that any casual player can put it into his deck just because s/he opened it in a booster. It's not like Nissa Rivane in that sense. (Although specialized planeswalkers are good too.)

It's also probably strong enough to show up in many constructed decks, but the high cost keeps it from being an auto-include in green/X decks.

I especially like how the cost makes it hard to put this in a Super Friends deck. If Super Friends ever became the dominant deck type in Standard, it would warp the way Magic plays (attacking units directly, keeping track of HP over turns, etc - that's almost like a war strategy game, if all your permanents acted like that), hurt diversity, and make entry into the game prohibitively expensive. I'm glad that's not happening with this set.

I like how even though the new Garruk is generally useful, it also gets a lot stronger if you build around it. It pushes green's ability to draw cards off of creatures. I expect it will take some time before players find the right build to maximize Garruk's potential. I'll talk about this alongside the next card, Hunter's Insight.

Green Card Draw!

Hunter's Insight 2G (Uncommon)
Choose target creature you control. Whenever that creature deals combat damage to a player or planeswalker this turn, draw that many cards.

While there have been precedence like Soul's Majesty, Greater Good, and Momentous Fall, they weren't played very often. This card really pushes creature-based card draw.

It's really interesting to think about how to best utilize this card. The main obstacle is that your guy might get removed in response. The second obstacle is that if you're dealing damage with a creature that's huge enough to make this card bonkers, you're already winning, so it would be a win-more effect.

For the first problem, there are hexproof cards like Thrun, the Last Troll and Dungrove Elder. You can also provide hexproof with equipment like Swiftfoot Boots. (I think every deck with Hunter's Insight should also run at least one copy of the boots! It's the kind of effect that's also useful for converting the ton of creature cards that you drew off of Hunter's Insight into victory.)

To draw a lot of cards in the early game, so that it's not a win-more effect, you can run power-boosting Equipment and pump spells. That's another cool thing: Pump spells haven't been that popular in recent constructed decks except in special cases like Infect decks, but Hunter's Insight and Garruk might make green's iconic instant effect get played more. 

The best pump spell could be Vines of Vastwood, since it provides hexproof. Imagine the best case scenario:

Player A: I attack with with my power 4 guy.
Player B: No block.
Player A: Hunter's Insight.
Player B: Doom Blade it.
Player A: Vines of Vastwood it! Draw 8 cards.

It does require 5 mana total and that could be a big barrier to making it work. Groundswell or Giant Growth might turn out to be better.

While I don't know if this can be pulled off at a frequency of, say, once per match, I do think instances of green players completely refilling their hand will be more than just a rare story. At the very least, it will make it extremely dangerous for opponents to tap out, as if they're playing against a combo deck.

Once you start using all these support spells, though, it leads to a third obstacle: what do you do with the cards that you drew?

This strategy requires devoting a lot of card slots: creature-reliant pump spells, creature-reliant draw spells, and of course tons of creatures. That doesn't leave a lot of room for other effects that can abuse a large hand size. 

Of course, getting extra cards is never bad. But while it's hard to lose a game if you draw a grip full of burn or counterspells in the mid to late game, pump spells and early creatures aren't as flexible. There are still plenty of things that could go wrong after you've drawn massively. Green cards aren't so good at controlling the flow of the game.

If you don't have an awesome way to finish the game with those cards, you're still in an extremely good position, but you might as well have cast Overrun with the 5 mana you spent for Vines of Vastwood + Hunter's Insight.

I guess you need a lot of cards that are both useful for setting up the card draw and are effective later in the game. Some cards like Garruk, Primal Hunter, Beast Within (which can be cast on your own spare land or token in a pinch?), Acidic Slime, and man-lands can serve multiple categories in your deck. Fauna Shamans can convert your draws to whatever will be most useful.

So that's my review of the green card draw spells. Constructed isn't my forte so you should take any suggestions in here with a pinch of salt.

In my next post in this series, I hope to review the green creature curve for limited. See you then!

No comments:

Post a Comment