Monday, August 29, 2011

Chicken Little has his Day (and Night)

Innistrad's transform mechanic, aka Day/Night, has people up in arms, ready to quit the game and call for Mark Rosewater's head on a platter. So just another new set, huh? I'll admit that when my coworker Ben Bleiweiss posited the possibility of Double-Faced Cards (DFCs) I said "No way. No how." Right now, I am very happy that I did make any kind of dinner wager on this topic. Now that transform is official, I am fairly "meh" on it. Once the initial surprise factor wore off, it is just another mechanic to learn the rules for, some more foils to collect (and yes, the foils are double-sided, which is the most exciting part about all of this for me), and a mass of people complaining. Here are my thoughts on some of the most common complaints.
"This could have been done with the flip mechanic from Kamigawa!"
MaRo explained it in his article introducing transform. The flip mechanic was terrible. Most people agree on this. From my perspective, it was mostly the art issue. I do not want to own a single piece of flip card art. The transform mechanic gives me two opportunities for awesome art. Win.
"Drafts are ruined!"
And you know this because you've drafted with Innistrad? I think it's actually interesting that there is a legal "peek" now. Look around the table, but especially your neighbors and check out if they have any DFCs in their pile and what color they are. It is legal to hide them amongst your picks, but if its P1P1, how do you hide it? Under your token? Heck, do you even want to hide it? People have been writing about the art of signaling for years now. Isn't this just the beginner's course?
"There won't be enough checklists!"
As a judge, I am always picking up the draft leavings from tables: tokens, rules cards, basic lands. Now 3/4 of those lands will be checklists. If you want a checklist, just pick it up off the table after the draft. 3/4 of the packs seems like a good ratio for this thing. Not everyone will want to or be able to play with the transform cards they get (which is confirmed as one per pack replacing a common. Yes, that means we are back in potential double-rare pack territory, or triple-rare with a foil. Heck, double-foil rare and regular rare. Wow!) Worst case scenario: the very first draft at your store, everyone plays all their transformers and you don't have enough checklists. Well, then someone can play with sleeves.
"The rules are too complicated. What do you mean I can't Ixidron these things?"
Honestly, I like complex rules. That's why I'm a judge. So do you, even if you aren't a judge. How do I know this? Because you're the same person who complains about how boring Core Sets are. If we got 4 Core Sets a year, then I would quit Magic.
"The game is becoming Yugioh!"
Actually it's becoming Duel Masters, which is where they ripped this DFC thing from. And what's wrong with that? Apparently it is a very popular mechanic in Duel Masters. And despite the "Magic players are more mature than those other people who sit around and play with cards" I'm pretty sure that there's enough demographic consistency to see this through. Again, if Magic just stuck to the same tropes and mechanics that were safe and popular, things would get boring quickly. Slivers are one of the most popular gimmicks of all time, but they only do them once every five years or so because we don't need this to become Slivers: the Gathering. Diversity and change is what keeps the game fun.
"Sooooo gimmicky!"
Yeah, it is gimmicky. But I'll reiterate the Core Set argument. Most expansions have a gimmick. Scars block was a bunch of artifacts. That is a gimmick. Alara Reborn's all gold set was a gimmick (and one that I did not like very much). Gimmick's have a high risk/reward rate. Sometimes they work real well (Memento) and sometimes they are kind of blah (Clear Coke). But I would rather see gimmicks that fail rather than same old boring. Will this one fail? Unclear. It's going to lead to a lot of changes to the CR, MTR, and how we do things at tournaments. Then, a year will pass, and we will return to a safer gimmick... or not. Maybe they will finally get those 4-D time traveling cards to work because suspend was such a lame attempt at that gimmick.


  1. I should add that I am personally not a huge fan of this mechanic. I like to double-sleeve my pimpest EDH decks and having a transform card in a double-sleeve seems awkward at best (as is the idea of having a checklist in my pimp deck).


    It was Crystal Pepsi, not Clear Coke.

  3. For EDH, and possibly tournament play, I plan to commission altered art checklist cards where the art covers all but one card name. That might fit your pimpest EDH deck better.

  4. Also I don't think you've ever posted about cookies yet on this blog. Don't think I haven't noticed.