Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CCDD 032712—Oath to Raze

Cool Card Design of the Day
3/27/2012 - The Magic 2013 design team has kept Magus of the Moon in the file for most of its life. At Ian's suggestion, I asked if it weren't prudent to remove it so that people can enjoy their shiny new duals. We decided to keep it in as a safety valve against the 7 (soon to be 10) Innistrad block rare utility lands and any scary lands Friends may bring with it. (It would only stem a couple months of Inkmoth Nexus.)

That said, sometimes the best answer is the simplest answer. Stone Rain isn't an option since it's been added to the virtual reserve list as far as R&D is concerned. We don't
need to answer basic lands though, because those aren't the cards we're worried about. Can we make a simple card that destroys nonbasic lands?

Yes. Yes, we can. Old time players may be irked that this is strictly worse than Stone Rain, but when have people shied away from playing a card because it's not quite as good as something on the (actual) Reserved List?

My hope is that players will appreciate the callback to the most classic of land destruction, the refreshed efficiency (after ~5 years of 4-6 mana LD) and the simplicity of this card. I'm a little shocked this particular effect hasn't been done by itself before. My only regret is that the more iconic name, Raze, is already taken. I'm sure there's a better name than "Oath to Raze," let me know if you have one.


  1. Salt the Earth, Bulldoze, Flatten, Reduce to Rubble, Strip

  2. I'm guessing they haven't done this particular design, instead doing things like Fissure Vent, because the ability to destroy nonbasics is one of the more narrow functions in limited.

    That's why I put nonbasic Pillage in my file, because I'm mean like that.

    1. Good point. It would be pretty obnoxious to print this in a set with only rare nonbasic lands. We could have used it when we had uncommon duals in M13, but since we switched to the Rav shocklands, it's not appropriate. We could print it at uncommon, not for power concerns, but just to prevent a glut of unplayable cards.

    2. Are there any Non-basics in the file besides the Shocklands? I've always wanted to see the mirage fetches or original Karoo cycle reprinted.

  3. I think that I would prefer to try this card at 1R (still worse than stone rain, but interesting valve that will make prudent meta-gaming relevant), or try an alternative 2RR destroy two target non-basic lands. (note that I did not include the up to part in this sentence).

    1. I can see this at RR if one were really desperate to give monored a new tool in Legacy, but the 2RR Double-Up is a bit much in any format, as that's just a severe tempo-swing when it hits.

  4. This card is swingy, unflavorful and boring.

    Sure, it's nice to have a safety valve on the nonbasics in the format, but this is going to be hitting mana-fixers on turn 2 (off of a birds) WAY more often than getting that moorland haunt on turn 6. Or its going to be sitting dead in hand when your opponent gets the basic land nut draw.

    It's also a completely bottom up card. There's no flavor reason for its nonbasic restriction, and that's not just a problem with its name. Because it's so similar to Stone Rain, there's no story about why its just worse except that stone rain is too good. It feels like a cop out to not being able to reprint Stone Rain.

    And that makes it boring. Its going to lead to boring games where its either irrelevant or hits early enough to shut a player out of casting spells. Its not that interesting to players either, as its always going to be just a worse stone rain.

    I like Magus of the Moon. That guy creates stories about how players killed him, or he just shut down a really greedy mana base, or served as the Grey Ogre a player needed to seal the deal. There are other ways you could include some decent land destruction that doesn't feel like a retread:

    Stone Clouds 2R
    Creature- Elemental Wall (U)
    Flying, Defender
    When Stone Clouds die, destroy target land


    Goblin Blastminers 1RR
    Creature- Goblin (U)
    When Goblin Blastminers deals combat damage to an opponent, you may sacrifice it. If you do, destroy target nonbasic land that player controls


    Plundering Warlord 2RR
    Creature- Barbarian (R)
    Whenever a creature you control deals damage to an opponent, that player sacrifices an artifact or nonbasic land.

    Or reprint Sowing Salt.

    1. I think you're being a bit hyperbolic in your rebuttal, Duncan. The flavor of such a card is almost entirely dependent upon the flavor of the nonbasic lands in the set, and to pretend like there isn't value in designing bottom-up cards to serve this function is ridiculous. Not to mention most sideboard-oriented safety valves are "swingy", otherwise folks are incentivised to maindeck them and completely shut out the strategy they're aimed at.

      And seriously, what's up with associating "mining" with nonbasic land destruction?

      What's going with Tectonic Edge? Only nonbasic lands exist near shifting tectonic plates?

    2. True, the game is not going to crumble with this in it, and it would have been a card that I wouldn't have been too surprised to see a few years ago. But its not one that I think it particularly "good" for the game nor one that I would expect wizards to print.

      And it could be more flavorful. I doubt that would work if you only had nonbasics at rare, but if you had, say, uncommon ETBT dual lands that'd be fine. But its similarity to Stone Rain is such that is doesn't matter if its called "Castle Demolition" and all the nonbasics in the set are Castles. It's still going to be "bad Stone Rain" no matter how you do it.

      The problem with the swingyness is that this card is fringe maindeck playable in an enviroment with heavily pushed dual lands. Against decks with really efficient duals, this card is Stone Rain. If you're reprinting shocklands along side Innistrad duals and utility lands I'd imagine that mana bases are going to lean on them pretty heavily. That means that you want a Main deck worth safety valve that isn't just totally dead (Magus of the Moon, Magmafire Dragon), not a card that is liable to be completely unplayable at the drop of a hat.

    3. My only concern with some of your arguments, Duncan, are that they contradict each other. A design is invalid because it's bottom-up, but it doesn't matter if the flavor is better than Stone Rain because Stone Rain is strictly better, mechanically?

      The card is too powerful, "this card is Stone Rain," and too weak, "you want a Main deck worth safety valve that isn't just totally dead". What is Grafdigger's Cage? Celestial Purge? If you want an efficient card that can ruin your opponent's day, sometimes you have to take a chance. Swinginess is what makes Magic interesting.

    4. Maybe. It's also likely that I'm wording my arguments wrong. Let me clarify.

      I like Grafdigger's Cage and Celestial Purge. Those are narrow, efficient sideboard cards that play a role in the metagame. Great sideboard cards, but virtually no high level decks will main deck them unless there's a real problem in the metagame.

      OtR isn't that. It's a really good card that would likely see maindeck play. I don't think it's contradictory for a card to be a weaker Stone Rain, yet still be very good. That means that it has most of the problems that has kept Land Destruction nerfed for the past few years. Making it only hit non-basics doesn't help those problems.

      Finally, this card's identity is always going to be "Weak Stone Rain". Again, that isn't saying the card is weak, but it always lives in the shadow of the original. Think Cancel. If Cancel had come out in Alpha, people would remember it as an elegant, top down design. But it didn't. Now it's always just going to be the "bad counterspell".

      I'm not saying I don't see the need for cards like Cancel, but they're designs I'd avoid when possible.

    5. I think you, Ian, and others have very good points regarding Oath to Ruin being nearly as bad for the game as Stone Rain because so many people do play nonbasic lands. I also think it's a valid criticism that cards like this aren't fun to play or play against, nor is the choice to play basics to fight this card terribly interesting.

      I very much disagree that we shouldn't print strictly worse cards. Shock and Cancel are two very good examples. If Lightning Bolt and Counterspell are [usually] too efficient for the game, we should not hesitate to make fixed versions. Yes, people hated Shock and Cancel when they first came out, but they've become staples and people have accepted them because they still do what we need and at an acceptable level. Oath to Ruin may not be a card modern Magic wants, but being strictly worse than a classic that is no longer printable is one reason we absolutely shouldn't be using.

  5. The question is: are you trying to hose fixing or utility lands like Moorland Haunt? The former has Magus of the Moon, the latter would be something like:

    Magus of the Web: RR
    Creature - Human Wizard
    Lands with an activated ability that doesn't produce mana don't untap during their controller's untap step.

    If you're looking for a spell, why not something like:
    Bleed the Land - 1RR
    Target land is a mountain. Draw a card.

    Spreading Seas was fine at 2CMC. It would likely be fair at 1R. You hit utility lands, keep mana bases honest, and don't cause the screw problem Stone Rain does.

    1. I basically disagree with all of your points George. Even though Red often gets land hate, preventing untap is a white ability. And Magus of the Web creates way more mana screw issues than a targeted destruction does.

      For a core set, I don't think it makes sense to include a permanent type change like Bleed the Land; it's not something that Magic does very often, and it's counterintuitive to the way spells typically work.

      I'm also VERY opposed to cantripping mana denial of any kind. I'm sort of down on cantrips of any kind, since I'm tired of them being used to short-circuit deck building conventions (ie, running fewer lands by running more cantrips). Spreading Seas was especially frustrating in this regard, since you could use it to deny someone else's mana while building your own, which made for a very efficient mana-advantage building machine. I don't consider it a fair or fun card at all.

    2. I'm not concerned about mana screw. That's the entire point of a hoser. The question is what we're looking to shut down: greedy mana bases, or utility lands.

      Greedy Mana: Magus of the Moon
      Utility Lands: Tsabo's Web effect

      The specifics are irrelevant - every piece of text on a card is mutable. Color, cost, even effect The question is which kind of effect you want to have.

      Disgruntled Tour Guide - RR
      Creature - Goblin Advisor
      Activated abilities of lands can't be played unless they're mana abilities.


      Hill Street Vandals - 2R
      Creature - Human Rogue
      If an opponent would activate an ability on a land he or she controls that isn't a mana ability, sacrifice ~: counter that ability and destroy that land.

      Re: Bleed the Land - just because it isn't something done often, doesn't mean it's wrong. The card can be an enchantment. It could be Spreading Seasis what you want. Hell, with Magus of the Moon in the same set, the grokkability is right there. Not to mention it allows you to shut off Bond in limited.

      The cantrip may or may not be necessary - it helps keep the card relevant in limited. My only point is that a precedent has been set by Spreading Seas for that effect at that cost.

      We disagree on Spreading Seas. I think it was a perfect card to punish greedy Jund decks. Hell, Jund decks used Spreading Seas against those running it (alongside Terramorphic and an Island) to splash Negate.

      What we don't want is to destroy a land on turn two, while finding a piece that hurts these lands.

    3. But intentionally mana screwing your opponent is very much something that R&D worries about. It's the whole reason land destruction was pushed to 4cc in the first place. And there's not a clear distinction between punishing "greedy mana," vs. "utility lands;" sometimes those are the same things (like the Worldwake man lands). On top of that, there's a distinction between land screw and color screw. A Stone Rain effect can cause both (you could have both not enough lands, and lose a color), but sometimes just being color screwed is good enough to prevent a player from playing the game. And Spreading Seas is a prime example.

      With SS, it took a while for players to catch on, but once players figured it out, there was a short period where it was really good against Jund. That also overlapped with a period when Jund was the top dawg, and a lot of players were frustrated by that. The problem was that Spreading Seas also snuffed a lot of other very good decks.

      A quick summary of non-Jund decks from Zendikar-era standard that could be screwed by Spreading seas:
      - Any aggro deck with double or triple color mana costs (RDW, White Weenie, Vampires)
      - Any deck built around Emeria or Valakut (MWC, Big Red, Valakut Ramp)
      - Tri-color decks that were not primary in Blue (so all of the various Naya and early Bant midrange decks)
      - Spread 'Em decks (ironically, Spreading Seas was most devastating in the mirror match; assuming both players mulligan'ed intelligently, whoever played first won)

      Here are the decks that benefitted the most from Spreading Seas:
      - UW control with Jace the Mind Sculptor
      - Mythic/Next Level Bant with Jace the Mind Sculptor
      - UB control with Jace the Mind Sculptor
      - UG turbo-land with Jace the Mind Sculptor

      In the short run, Spreading Seas put a hit on a lot of "fair" decks, and pushed competitive players towards JTMS. And in long run Jund BENEFITTED from SS; Jund players adapted pretty quickly by running Borderland Ranger in place of Sprouting Thrinax, and Prophetic Prism out of the sideboard. On top of that, Jund was one of the few decks that still had a fair matchup against Jace decks. But all of those other fair decks (especially RDW and mono-white) that had good match-ups vs. Jund took a huge hit.

      Sorry for the text wall, but Spreading Seas is high on my list of innocuous seeming cards that turned out really badly.

    4. Spreading Seas was not the problem. Look at the name next to the decks that benefited from Spreading Seas: Jace. Jace was the problem.

      Color screw is fine to an extent. Like you stated - the tools, Borderland Ranger, Prophetic Prism... they were there to combat that strategy. The problem quickly became that it wasn't worth playing a non-Jace strategy - the desire to adapt wasn't there because you were punished for doing anything else but Jacing your opponent.

      Spreading Seas was meant to be a tempo play that punished greedy mana bases. Hell, it was one of the reasons Valakut was kept in check. It did what it was supposed to do.

      If you throw a theoretical Bleed the Land into today's Standard - Pod wouldn't care, RG Aggro would jump for joy, and RDW would be happy. Delver would still hit UW on turn 3 for Geist.

      What would be punished? Humans would maybe slow down a turn without WW on turn 2 (But as of now, it's all U on turn 1, UW on turn two and UW on turn 3), Zombies would be put off Messenger for a turn (which isn't a bad thing) and the splash for Lingering Souls could possibly be punished... the turn after they have a chance to flashback it.

      Would making Bleed the Land only target non-basics assuage your concern? Or is it the cantrip in a non-blue color?

      I really think you're giving Spreading Seas far too much credit.

    5. All I can tell you is that if you played a lot with and against the card, you would realize it had a lot of negative interactions:

      The best white hate cards (Kor Firewalker, White Knight, Devout Lightcaster) became unplayable. It killed Ball Lightning. It killed Gatekeeper of Malakir. The tools to fix the color screw problem were most readily available to the decks that needed it least. And I think you misremember the timeline of events; Valakut didn't become a top deck until M11. Spreading Seas as a card and Spread 'Em were most popular the winter-spring standard before M11 came out. Also, I don't see how it's legitimate to argue simultaneously that Jace was the problem, but Valakut was the deck that needed to be kept in check.

      I would also argue that mana bases in the current standard are even weaker than the Zendikar standards. It true there are fewer tricolor decks, but there are also 4 fewer cycles of multicolor lands. Mana bases in this standard are the most stringent they've been since the original Mirrodin.

      So with that in mind, Bleed the Land pushes the limits in an unfortunate way, since it really doesn't make for any practical difference between changing a color, and just killing a land outright. The decks you specifically mention (Zombies, Humans, RG, token souls) are often dependent on a single land to power their splash color; so for example, if you turn Zombie guy's Darkslick Shores into a mountain, that land is dead to him. And not only does he get cut off messenger, he might also get cut on Stromkirk Captain and Phantasmal Image.

      With that being the case, I don't see any reason to try to force an oddball land switcher into the format. If you want a 3cc land destruction effect (and I think it's debatable whether that's a good idea), I'd rather see it on the cleanest possible design.

    6. I think you're letting personal bias cloud your memory. I played a lot with and against Spreading Seas as well. Spread 'em was tier 2 at best, and was really only playable at that tail end of that standard season, when it was Jund, Mythic or else, neither of which played Seas.

      White Knight and Devout Lightcaster saw little play. Neither of which, nor Kor Firewalker, were there for the decks playing Seas anyway.

      Gatekeeper was poor against the Seas decks anyway, Seas or not.

      I'll cede you Valakut's dominance on the timeline, but Seas was still important post M11.

      So what if Zombies loses a blue sources. Run more than 8. Build your deck differently to account for the format. That argument is like saying Tectonic Edge shouldn't have been printed because some people like running 18 land in their decks.

      I maintain that a Spreading Seas variant is healthier than a Stone Rain variant.

    7. I'm not touching this Spreading Seas discussion with a ten-foot pole, but I did want to call out George's Disgruntled Tour Guide - RR
      Creature - Goblin Advisor
      Activated abilities of lands can't be played unless they're mana abilities.

      That's actually really solid. I'd probably make it 2R but RR isn't insane. It nerfs powerful lands without land- or color-screwing anyone and it does it in just about the cleanest manner possible.

    8. I put Contaminated Ground into my M13.

      I always liked that card, but it never quite made it into standard. I'd be happy to see it get another chance.

  6. Some name brainstorming:
    Salt Rain
    Rain of Pebbles
    Hail of Stones

    Also, maybe you would be better off with a modernized Aftershock:

    Destroy target land or creature.

    1. I'm not comfortable putting "destroy target creature" on a mono-red card, even if Into the Maw of Hell is functionally identical.

      Based on the discussions here, I think you're right that any actual LD has to cost 4+ (and do something additional to make up for it).

      It is interesting how much concern Oath to Raze raises at 2R when Demolish does more than Stone Rain at 3R and no one remotely considers it constructed playable. What a difference _one_mana_ makes!

      Makes me wonder how 3R Stone Rain would be received.

    2. Probably pretty poorly. Although, if you're looking for reprints, Rain of Salt could be a strong contender.

    3. Another interesting contender in the "more than 3cc" category would be a color shifted Annex:

      Subjugate 2RR
      Enchant Land
      You gain control of target land.

      Better than Conquer, but still more interesting than Stone Rain.

    4. Or

      Subjugate 2RR
      Enchant Nonbasic Land
      You gain control of enchanted land.

      You may spend red mana as though it were mana of any color to pay the activation costs of that land's abilities.

  7. I wouldn't love to see it printed, but has Ghost-Quarter-as-a-Sorcery been a card yet? Green seems a likely choice, but at the same time, I'd argue that the card is at home in Red.

    Back to Basics Literally R
    Destroy target land. Its controller may search his or her library for a basic land card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle his or her library.

    1. I love that card, but Legacy Players everywhere are calling for your blood for even suggesting that.

    2. It'd see play, but I expect it wouldn't be that big of a deal. Players are already starting to either take advantage of Path or be ever-so-slightly prepared for it/defensible vs. Wasteland, and so printing a card that makes an even stronger push towards including 1-3 basics probably wouldn't be terrible (given the current prevalance of Stifle/Wasteland). This assumes that when it's printed, people proactively respond rather than wait to be savaged? The truly unfortunate side is what it does to friendly-old-legacy decks like Enchantress, like killing their only red source (if they run a Taiga but can't afford to run a basic mountain) or their Serra's Sanctum.

    3. I think you get the same problem with killing duals in standard though. Right now, there are a lot of 2-color decks that aren't playing any basics in their second color. Like you say, players would probably tweak their decks to respond, but it's a real pain in the ass when your singleton island prevents you from hitting your Mirran Crusader or Geralf's Messenger on the curve.

      It's kind of a neat idea. Could it bring the replacement land in tapped though? Ghost Quarter only sort of counts as a full card, since it gets to sit in a land slot. BtBL could be a slight upgrade over GQ.

    4. As a sorcery, it probably could tap the land. (as opposed to an instant.) I think you're probably right re:Standard. Like most of these things, the play value of it in standard probably comes in below Magus of the Moon, but on the upside you could conceivably toss 1-3 copies into a control deck depending on how prevalent the new-new AVR lands become, since the investment is so low.

  8. Off topic (if you'll indulge me,) I’d like to see an Uncommon or Rare that can target more than Stone Rain can, not less.

    Destroy target permanent with an activated ability that’s a mana ability. (An activated ability is a mana ability if it doesn't have a target, it could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves, and it's not a loyalty ability.)

    The reminder text is really important and copied from rule 605.1a. The effect wording may seem a little tortured, but it mirrors the wording of the reminder text and I didn’t want players to think they could only target a permanent that has activated its mana ability. I wanted to be sure it was understood that it’s “capital A” activated ability.

    1. Mechanically or flavorfully, what's the goal here? I could see "Destroy target permanent with an activated ability that's NOT a mana ability" as a sort of burning-tree shaman heir, maybe in a muraganda, but I'm not sure what's going on with NAME.

      You want to be able to kill basic plains and Elvish Aberrations with the same card? I suppose this would de-incentivize playing Sphere of the Suns over Birds of Paradise, if it saw play.

    2. Are there mana abilities that aren't activated? I guess Carpet of Flowers, but anything else?

      Could it just say "Destroy target permanent with a mana ability" and skip the rest? Also, is it practically different from just doing an Aftershock variant?

  9. I'm pretty sure this shouldn't happen. In standard tournaments, there are enough non basics that this has a target on turn 3 about 90% of the time, and it will be used a lot more in that vein than in stopping a late game utility land. I agree that the general need for answers to these lands is present, but coming this close to reprinting Stone Rain is going to add a lot of frustration in doing so.

    I also don't like the idea of printing the phrase "mana ability" on a common in a core set. I think it's confusing, especially when basic lands don't have their mana ability spelled out on the card. Duncan's suggestion is probably just better.

  10. I think this card absolutely has a place in modern Magic design. I believe it should cost RR and be an uncommon.

    I could see an environment where Wizards is choosing to push basic lands and less mana fixing. If they used that time to reprint Wasteland as well as print RR, Destroy target nonbasic land they would have a strong push toward that meta.

    I personally believe that land destruction is currently TOO weak and that it will eventually settle with basic land destruction costing 4 or more and non basic land destruction costing RR or more. I see no reason a card like Wasteland can't be printed if the environment is one that pushes mono and 2 color decks or the primary fixing is fetch style lands.