Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Core Set Analysis for M13 (part 1)

I couldn't be more pleased with the positive response this project's announcement has received. A lot of you have volunteered to help and I'm excited to see the kind of results a team this smart and passionate can produce. Metaghost read my mind about using the wiki. As imperfect as the wiki is, this kind of collaboration is what it was built for and I can't imagine trying to funnel all your work through this site. Even the table I teased on Friday barely fits. This will be the main hub for work on the project:


As for who's on the team and who's not, if we set things up exactly the way they do at Wizards, it may be a recipe for disaster and it will definitely not be the best use of our resources. It's my aim that everyone who wants to contribute can do so as much as they desire. To this end, we'll use a more fluid team structure than "A, B, C and D are on the team, E, F and G aren't." Everyone will be given multiple chances to contribute in large and/or small ways. If you contribute at all at any point during the project, you will be credited as a contributor. Five of you are already listed as such. If you complete enough major tasks on time, you will be credited as a designer (or developer if that's the phase you contribute more in). Further stratification (major contributor, part-time designer, etc) may become worthwhile later on, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

What's next? My first job as the lead on this project is to set the goals and parameters of the product as well as the timeline for the project. I'm going to put this off until my next post however so that I can get you all working on your first assignment immediately (thankfully not dependent on my writeup). Before we begin our set skeleton, I want to ensure we are working with the best possible understanding of what a postmodern core set is.

Phase 1: Analysis

Take another look at the table I posted last week. Better yet, open it in another window while I go through my intent behind it. Right off the bat, you don't see CW01-MW03 or anything like that because this is not a set skeleton. That will come later. It is similar, however: more like a core set soul. While each core set is a reincarnation of the last, we're trying to divine what is always true of a core set.

While Blinding Mage wasn't reprinted in 2012, it's not a leap to see that Gideon's Lawkeeper is filling the exact same role and so it becomes a reasonable assertion that every core set should have a common card that can tap a creature each turn unless there is a very good reason not to. It may not be a requirement, but it is an important guideline at the very least and an amateur designer shouldn't be breaking any rules he doesn't fully understand.

Is it also necessary that this slot be a 1-2cc creature? While those properties are true of both Blinding Mage and Gideon's Lawkeeper, I seriously doubt those are requirements for this slot. On the other hand, we may find that those are properties of well designed creature tappers, since non-creatures are harder to remove and expensive/large creatures that tap for an effect which could appear on a tiny dork often feel bad.

Some groupings were dead obvious like Siege Mastodon, which is good at filling its role that it has made all three sets. Some required a bit more interpretational license, like putting Stave Off in the same slot as Safe Passage. While it's true that they both protect a creature at instant speed, they do so in dramatically different ways (and on a different scale). From a color pie perspective, however, they do both demonstrate the same core philosophy of white (protection).

Some cards couldn't even be grouped. Divine Verdict and Mighty Leap are both instants that can potentially trade with an enemy creature in combat, but they can behave differently as well. More importantly, they feel completely different. Divine Verdict punishes your opponent for attacking you, while Mighty Leap is more about evasion and pushing damage through. Wall of Faith is the opposite of Assault Griffin. Pacifism shows us a beat we pretty much have to hit every time, while the ungrouped cards show us areas we can zig and zag in down the line.

Your Task

You probably know what I'm going to ask you to do from the context. I need you to analyze the other cards the same way I started to for white. If your aim is to be a full designer, please claim a color in the comments are below, boot up Gatherer and build a table like I did on the corresponding page of the wiki. I would like to have at least one and preferably all of these done by next week so can we move on to the next phase of the project. If you don't think you can finish the full task in a week, either collaborate on a section or let someone else take it this week and aim to grab another task in phase 2.

Please claim blue, black, red, green or other (artifacts and lands) and do the whole shebang for that color or claim white and finish the shebang for it. The shebang includes the chart that factually represents every single card printed for that color in the last three core sets, the way you would group them by slots within rarity*, some important numbers** and an observation of themes specific to a year and universal across all years.

* I took a peak at black and know that there was at least one thematic slot that changed rarities. That's hard to track in our system, so just do your best and note any irregularities you find like that.

** My white chart shows the number of cards of each rarity for that color. They're not all the same across set or even across colors in the same set. It would also be good to verify how precise the 50/50 new/reprint proportion really is. Mana curve is far from irrelevant, but I'm not sure how much we'll learn from dissecting that. Call it extra credit.


  1. Jay, just for clarification, I was referring to Alex Churchill's Multiverse, where you can very easily produce skeleton tables with comments, auto-generate visual spoilers, import from MSE, and set up access-restrictions so that random chumps aren't editing whatever.

    This is a link to the skeleton for my set, for reference: http://multiverse.heroku.com/cardsets/152/skeleton

    The greatest benefit to using the site is ease of communication, as it was always annoying how discussion on the wiki had to occur on separate "discussion pages" with content constantly being overwritten.

  2. My mistake, metaghost. Multiverse eh? *Seems* awesome. The Wiki page is still useful for contributions like the analyses, but I could Multiverse making the task of managing the cards and skeletons much easier. Thanks.

  3. I suppose I'll take the Black cards, then.

  4. I have posted the Red Analysis on the wiki.


  5. I guess that leaves me with artifacts. I shall get on this very soon and have something up.

  6. Okay, my artifact and land analysis is up.


    The main thing that I took away from the analysis is that artifact design actually changed significantly from M10 to M11 by adding 5 artifacts which allowed having more creatures and cards that actually do things like provide incremental advantage or board control.

  7. Blue analysis up.