-Ramp up to eight mana.-Play Maelstrom Wanderer.-Win the game basically on the spot.
Okay…’hate’ is a very strong term. Wizards clearly appreciates our format. The thing is, I don’t think they understand it.
Let me try to explain what I mean. (Apologies in advance for the somber tone today, everyone, but I’m a little worried about things here.)
BRAND NEW HEAVIES
I managed to sneak down to Worlds Apart last night for EDH Wednesday. There was a solid turnout, and I ended up shoehorning in a full four games before I left for the evening. This is a good thing; I’m currently in the process of trying to tweak and update all of my current decks, and I had my new Thromok list to try out as well, so I was looking forward to gleaning a ton of data from the evening.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
To preface, I had a discussion with Mr. P earlier in the week about Maelstrom Wanderer. Like myself and Imshan, Mr. P also has an Intet list together, and has been fighting with the identity of the deck much in the same way that I have lately. He decided to try out the deck as it stood in some games over the weekend while substituting Wanderer for Intet as the general. His results weren’t particularly encouraging (at least as far as trying to break from the ‘good stuff’ mold goes); things seemed to follow a very concrete path in the games he played.
I’m paraphrasing here, but If I recall, here’s the progression:
He confirmed that Wanderer is a clear upgrade over Intet even when not being built around, but it simply creates a new set of issues in the process of answering the old ones. The card is good – really good – but it feels essentially like a turbo-charged Tooth and Nail or Insurrection; there’s just not a ton of subtlety in playing Maelstrom Wanderer. It takes your deck and makes it better, while not particularly helping with synergy or design vectors. It brings synergy to a deck in the same way that Tooth and Nail does, which is to say with all of the grace and technique of a sledgehammer. Put good cards in your deck, get them for free, win the game.
That’s a problem.
Someone on the Planechase 2012 design team thought this thing up. It’s clearly an EDH plant – all of the legends in that set are. It got handed to someone on the development team, and passed all tests with flying colors – a tacit seal of approval.
I’m imagining that the thought process was fairly straight-forward:
“EDH players like big, splashy, chaotic effects, right? That’s what defines the format, after all…heck, the guy who helped build it has a weekly column called ‘Embracing The Chaos.’ This thing meets all of those criteria. Kids’ll love it!”
…And suddenly here we are, cascading into Avenger of Zendikar and Primeval Titan and ending the game.
Looking back to my Monday article, I was right. Wanderer is better than Intet by a country mile. But it doesn’t make the Intet deck better. It makes it more linear, less engaging, and ramps up the ‘auto-pilot’ factor. If you’re keeping score, this is the opposite of what I want to see happen.
I played two games with my Intet list last night, also swapping in Wanderer as the general in the same way Mr. P did. Now, I’ve been tinkering with this list heavily in the past few weeks, trying to make it more interesting, fun, and interactive. I pulled Avenger for Deadeye Navigator. I added effects like Cultural Exchange and Natural Balance. Diversify, enhance, and break from the mold.
I still won both games. One easily and quickly, and one through heavy pressure.
The first game really put the spotlight things, though. Facing Jenara, Asura of War and Silvos, Rogue Elemental, I opened with
Forest into Sol Ring. Turn two, I played and Skyshroud Claim, grabbing Taiga and Stomping Ground. Turn three saw Cultivate. Tropical Island
Turn four, Maelstrom Wanderer. I cascaded into Duplicant and some other big creature, and ended up swinging for about seventeen into the Silvos player. The next turn, I had the Acidic Slime to take out his Asceticism, and beat him down to low single digits. The following turn, I drew and played Crystal Shard, and both players scooped.
Maelstrom Wanderer effectively took the deck and made it all about abusing the general to play out big expensive threats, and in the process kind of sucked the fun out of the games for my opponents. Whereas the old Intet deck was about manipulating the top of the library and managing resources to keep the game under control over the long haul, the new Wanderer deck is all about fast blunt-force trauma, courtesy of the general and a pile of good cards.
And only the general has changed.
I’m sure that the Planechase team thought this was a healthy bump up in power and excitement, but I’m wondering if they play-tested EDH with him at all. I don’t want to complain about being given nice things, but this just isn’t a healthy thing.
SOME MEN JUST WANT TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN
And then there’s this thing:
If I was unsure of whether Wizards knew what EDH was about, this solidifies my belief. Either they have no clue whatsoever what makes the format really tick, or someone on the EDH Rules Council did something to anger someone in R&D.
This card doesn’t discourage interactivity; it beats interactivity to within an inch of its life, then ties it to a chair and forces it to watch while killing every single one of its friends and family before finally tying the chair to a block of concrete and tossing it off a bridge.
Seriously. Anyone trying to tell you differently is lying to you (or playing Jhoira.)
I find it telling that a thread on the Official Forums has already been populated with nearly unanimous distain for Worldfire. Seriously…take a few minutes to read through it; it’s eye-opening. Comments range from distain to outright hostility to a few people that have latched onto the low-hanging fruit of Oblivion Ring-ing Bogardan Hellkite or suspending Rift Bolt before playing it.
For the record, the problem isn’t that Worldfire is a big, expensive game-ender. Every color has those. The issue is that EDH is a social format. EDH promotes interactivity as a primary core value. Worldfire unceremoniously jack-hammers out nearly all of the pillars of interactivity in one fell swoop. Mass land destruction? Check. Mass hand disruption? Check. Graveyard interaction? Gone. Life totals? Uniformly wiped nearly clean.
The end result is that an entire game is reduced to a situation where nothing that has happened up to the moment that Worldfire is played matters anymore. Worse yet, the outcome is either that someone has set up essentially a dreary combo win, or worse yet, didn’t, and everyone is now reduced to top-decking from seriously-depleted libraries.
Make no mistake – this card was designed for EDH. Nine-mana sorceries don’t see play in Standard or Limited, and both Legacy and Vintage have way better things to do than play this thing. And this is about the least-friendly EDH card I’ve seen printed in a very long time.
SUMMING IT UP, AND A GUARANTEE
I’m not crazy about the way things are headed. There’s a power creep happening in general in Magic, and I’m incredibly nervous that EDH will end up being a victim in the long run. Since the Rules Committee is an independent governing body, Wizards Of The Coast has no real reason to worry about the cards that filter into the format at all. With regular supported formats, Wizards has a responsibility to create cards that fit in the scope of things without breaking anything, because banning cards is not a profitable or confidence-inspiring move. (I’m positive that the last thing they want to do is tell their regular paying players that things they’ve invested in are off-limits.) With no tournament structure to support, they likely look at EDH as what it is at its core – a kitchen-table format where anything goes. All it takes is the belief that if big and splashy is good, bigger and splashier must be better, and the loose guidelines for what works and what doesn’t can stray into dangerous territory in a hurry.
I feel like this is happening already, and I don’t know what the answer to the problem is. Escalation rarely ends in a good place.
In the meantime, I’m going to go buy a lighter. Probably a nice Zippo. I’ll figure out something to engrave on it somewhere along the way…something meaningful and topically relevant.
And with that lighter, I intend to burn every copy of Worldfire that falls into my possession. Mark my words.
Nothing like a little poetic justice, right? (Should make for some interesting drafts at GenCon, too!)
. . . . .
What do you guys think? Am I blowing this way out of proportion? Are these cards solid examples of progression in design? Is this a logical place for Magic to go in this era? Are these cards actually balanced and fun? Or is the format doomed? Am I going to need to stock up on lighter fluid?
Hit up the comments and let me have it. I’m ready.