Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Multiple Choice Magic Design Question of the Day 25

25) Which of these abilities is least appropriate for a Wandering Ones variant?
 a) Ascend. As long as you have the city's blessing, CARDNAME gets +3/+3 and has flying.
 b) When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, reveal any number of land cards from your hand. Put that many +1/+1 counters on ~.
 c) Kicker {3}. When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, draw two cards.
 d) Play with the top card of your library revealed. You may play the top card of your library.
 e) T: Untap target land.

Click through to see the answer and my rationale.

A is fine. It's higher variance than Spire Winder, but very similar to Jace's Phantasm.

B is problematic. Even if we're assuming our one-drop creature is green rather than blue, this will often produce a 4/4 on turn one, and could potentially make a 7/7. That's not something we can expect an opponent to be able to deal with quickly enough. That card is broken. (This is also why most amplify creatures start at four mana, and there's only one at three.)

C is fine. {3}{U} isn't too cheap for Divination plus a 1/1. It's good, especially when it's just one available mode, but that card might even be a touch weak at uncommon.

D is scary. Future Sight is a five mana enchantment. Being able to cast cards from the top of your library right out of the gate means your card advantage starts four turns earlier. In particular, the ability to play lands off the top of your deck could make a huge difference. On the other hand, a 1/1 is the most vulnerable permanent you can make; all five colors have answers for a 1/1 creature (though blue's and white's auras won't help here).

E might look okay, since it's just an Elvish Mystic, but it's not. First, Elvish Mystic is stronger acceleration than we want at common for most sets nowadays, and this is stronger: Blossom Dryad and Hope Tender are limited because some lands produce multiple mana (perhaps after being enchanted), or have other significant effects. Being able to double those on turn four should be okay, but on turn 2, it's just too fast.

Between our problematic mechanics, I believe making a turn 1 4/4 (and following it up with a turn 2 4/4) is the most dangerous, followed closely by Future Sight and Ley Druid. B is the best answer; D and E are very good answers; A and C are unacceptable.

This question focuses on the early game, the way the mana system ramps gradually, and the implications of various effects on one-drop creatures. These are important practical considerations.


  1. Notes and answer, before clicking through:
    a) Swingy compared the 2/1 for W, but plausible.
    b) Whoa there, 5/5+ for 1! Overpowered and feels more green than blue.
    c) Strong but reasonable.
    d) Nonstandard template and probably too strong (compare Magus of the Future)
    e) Llanowar Elves is too good these days. This is even better. Also, color pie break.

    Many of these are "way to strong" and in general that isn't Design's problem. I'll go with E.

    1. Gatherer was down when I posted, so I used original wording from Future Sight rather than Oracle. Fixed.

    2. Note that blue is primary in un/tapping permanents and tertiary in untapping lands specifically.

    3. Interesting. I hadn't thought of blue as being able to untap specifically lands (as opposed to Twitch / Vizier of Tumbling Sands effects that can untap any permanent). Gatherer shows that almost all examples of this designs that use the "free" mechanic, which is, shall we say, problematic. The only other example I found was Oboro Breezecaller, which doesn't net mana.

  2. I think you mean D and E are very good answers.

  3. B and D are equally bad. B is usually a 1 CMC 4/4, while D would have to be immediately banned in all older formats or risk becoming a degenerate combo piece, while still being far too strong for Standard. I’d go with D as my answer, as B could be corrected by revealing a much smaller subset of cards and limiting to one counter (“reveal an instant and a sorcery” perhaps?), while I can’t see a way to keep D at anywhere near this mana cost.

    E is bad too for color pie reasons - maybe that’s the answer because the other two are more Dev concerns?

    I’m not sure what I’d put for this one, even after reading everyone else’s answers. :/

  4. It is not clear to me, when you say "Wandering Ones variant" that you mean a U cost 1/1. I assumed it was an appropriately costed Blue 1/1, although it was not clear.

    1. Me too. I understood what you must mean after reading the question, but I would have thought a variant meant a card that played a very similar role in the skeleton (and even A and C would probably be uncommon)

    2. To me, the only thing distinguishing about Wandering Ones is that they are a 1/1 for one (or U).

    3. Appropriate costs

      A) U, but it's still really weak. I'd want it to always have flying rather than after Ascend
      B) 2UU, this is a weak Maro which would be weird in blue but not unheard of. The power scales down significantly with the cost.
      C) U again, wandering ones is really weak as a baseline, so I'd really want this to come with a bit more umph. Prowess?
      D) 1UUU? Magus of the Future Is a 2/3 for 2UUU and let's be honest the body isn't really adding to the cost. I'd rather add a cost to either activate the ability for the turn or an additional cost to the spells you play of it (which reduces the combo potential)
      E) 1U - Vizer of the Sands is 2U 1/3 with cycling and a cycling ability and hits any permanent

    4. Agreed, I was unsure what was meant here. Unfortunately I would guess many of Maro's may be just as tricky/ambiguous. Let's hope not! This question would be better worded as:
      The following question refers to the following card:
      Blue Dude U
      Which of these abilities is least appropriate on Blue Dude?
      Which of these abilities is least appropriate on a blue card?