Essential Magic Articles

Looking Backwards

by Wolfenrunner

    As someone who has played casually over the last 15 years of Magic’s existence, I have watched the game evolve drastically through the years, particularly in terms of its mechanics and cost/power ratios. Starting with Akroma, Angel of Wrath, who was essentially a game winner, and continuing with Kamigawa’s Umezawa's Jitte and Ravnica’s Watchwolf, cards have been increasingly powerful, leaving some of the classic cards and mechanics that made the early days of Magic so fun. While I appreciate progress, and yes, the game must change with time, many pre-existing card abilities could be revitalized and reintroduced by Wizards of the Coast with little development effort. To this end, our metagame has begun to dust off and retool some of the most outdated mechanics in order to give our libraries reaching back to Revised a little air.

    Before you naysayers begin to flame me and this article, remember that this is not a completely new idea; Wizards has been going back to edit rules in favor of newer sets for years. I used to love playing Nicol Bolas and swinging hard when my friends already had him on the board. However, with Kamigawa’s change in the legend rule, the strategy of waiting till an opponent played a well-known legend and dropping yours on top of it went the way of the Old Fogey. We adapt though, and so when we discussed revisiting some old cards and trying to resuscitate classic mechanics our primary concern was to try to help the modern game without creating “broken stuff”. Here are some of the mechanics we have altered for our metagame with success:

1.  Banding – I know a lot of people on eM have nothing but contempt for what many call the most confusing mechanic of all time, but with a little TLC, Banding becomes something which becomes useful again without being overpowered.

Moving away from the original ruling which stated that “bands” were actually nothing more than attackers or blockers that could be assigned damage by the player who initiated either, we have modified Banding to mirror the role of Equipment in more recent blocks. Under our revised rules, any creature with Banding does two new things when banding: 1) the banding creatures essentially equip onto each other to create a new “creature/band” and 2) it shares any non-activated abilities with its “band” (such as protection or first strike). Example: If Beloved Chaplain and Pikemen band, they create a new 2/2 creature with First Strike and Protection from Creatures. Now this isn’t overly powerful for several reasons. First, in this last example you have essentially halved the number of creatures you have in play. Second, each creature in a band can still be individually targeted by spells or abilities, just like Equipment. Replace the Chaplain from the last example with Birds of Paradise. You now have a 1/2 flyer with First Strike and the ability to tap for one mana of any color, but at the cost of two mana and two cards. On a side note, I enjoy using this new version of banding in samurai decks….

2. Phasing – Another one of those abilities that hasn’t seen real play in a long time. Now according to the ruling on Phasing, any abilities that trigger when a card “comes into play” aren’t triggered by Phasing, so putting Teferi’s Curse on Rishadan Brigand is really pointless unless you are interested in a weak flyer that will only be around every other turn. However, we have changed the rule so that “when creature comes into play” abilities do trigger when a permanent phases into play. Using this strategy, a number of cards and deck ideas are generated; couple this modified rule with cards like Avalanche Riders, Merchant of Secrets, Cloudchaser Eagle, or Chittering Rats and you can have some really cool combinations. I realize there some loopholes that can be exploited here, but browse around eM for more than five minutes and you’ll find decks that create infinite mana loops through simpler methods. Again, mix this rule into a Hell's Caretaker deck for wicked control….

One more limitation we put on Phasing was that in Multiplayer, a permanent only phases in on your turn. This was an important amendment when you consider that if you are playing a four-person game and run the Rishadan Brigand/Phasing combination it is completely overpowered. In one rotation, every one of your opponents will have paid {3} or sacked a permanent at least twice… ouch. Hence our rule for Phasing reads “permanent is removed from play at the end of turn and returns to play during your upkeep.” It seems to be balanced so far.

3. Mulligans – Though not a mechanic, when I play with newer players they sometimes ask “Didn’t the mulligan rule used to be different?” Ahh… the good old “no land/all land” mulligan. Why not combine the best of both worlds? On those rare occasions that we play really competitively amongst ourselves and the draw really matters, we observe both the modern and older rules of the mulligan. If you have all lands or no lands, shuffle and redraw without penalty. Otherwise, a mulligan costs one card from the starting hand. Simple, effective, and accounts for those little fluctuations in probability that surround games involving cards or dice.

Again, the purpose of this article to simply get people to look a new way of combining the new and the old. So many Vintage and Legacy decks are the same combinations with very minor changes on which cards are played, but by revisiting a few of the outdated rules and making sensible changes, you can create whole new combinations integrating spells from newer blocks. With that said, take a look at some of those ideas which were developed for a block and forgotten due to being under- or overpowered and adjust accordingly. As Captain Ramius from The Hunt for Red October said (and yes I just dated myself), a little revolution, now and then, is a healthy thing.

Last edited 1/22/2009 12:58:03 PM Page 1 of 1  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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