The Top Ten Ways Mark Rosewater Is Ruining Magic: The Gathering, Part II
Continuing the Ruining
So we left off last article with the first 10 to 6 ways in which Mark Rosewater is ruining Magic: The Gathering. Though, if you read the article I hope you found that I was being a little factitious in blaming him for everything. But I will of course still never stop blaming him for the blight that is Infect of which he does indeed take full credit for (proudly, I might add). If you haven't read the first part of this article I would implore you to begin with it as it contains more introductory information about who Mark Rosewater (MaRo) is. Now let us return to the top ten ways MaRo is ruining Magic by introducing my #5 reason!
Right on the heels of mythics are the cards that made mythics both so very necessary to have and so incredibly aggravating--Planeswalkers! These cards have single-handedly upped the value of all tournament-viable decks by about $50-$100 dollars depending on whether you need a playset or not, and depending on how in demand your particular Planeswalker is. The company line for making them mythic is that they're legendary and one-of-a-kind, though oddly enough the new legend rule (that now works with Planeswalkers too) implies that each player can summon the same exact Planeswalker with their being no negative interactions between them.
Oh, and what's real neat is that this is a card type that is exclusively mythic which means the vast majority of players will never see them. Other card types--instants, creatures, artifacts, etc.--are printed in all rarities so that anyone can use them. But this cash grab is just an attempt at introducing 'must-have staples' at a higher rarity to sell boosters, further alienating the casual player, and widening the gap between "professional players" (ie. people who have a big wallet) and those who can't afford to spend $100 on the latest Planeswalkers.
#4 New Art Direction
This can actually be mostly--if not wholly--attributed to the current head art director of Magic, Jeremy Jarvis. He took the place of Jesper Myrfors who had lovingly crafted Magic out of a lump of clay and into a magical world unlike any ever seen before. Magic used to be about art, and people actually were collecting the cards for their artwork even if they didn't play the game! That all changed in 2006 when Jarvis took over and demanded that all artists go through him for approval and that all art conform to a blasé, stereotypical world that all current fantasy games seem to reside in now.
The worst thing to happen to Magic art is Jarvis and his insistence on using digital/computer-created artwork which takes much of the 'art' away from the illustrations. Say so long to the days of Drew Tucker and Rebecca Guay. Now we have Raymond Swanland with his edgy-for-the-sake-of-being-edgy illustrations and Scott M. Fischer who pukes random abstract objects out and hopes it makes sense. Oh, and here's an interesting little tidbit: Rebecca Guay was ousted from Magic due to not being what Jarvis considered the 'right' type of art for the game. The only reason she continues to illustrate cards--and again, she does very, very few now--is because the internet was up in arms and demanded her return.
#3 Supplemental Products With New Cards
Supplemental products are ones that, according to Wizards of the Coast or rather Mark Rosewater, are products that only appeal to a certain smaller demographic of Magic: The Gathering players. As such the production size (how many cards are printed) is much, much smaller than with an actual expansion. This is usually a good idea since there isn't generally a huge interest in acquiring duel decks that contain over-printed cards with rares worth a quarter at most. In 2012, WotC decided to begin printing supplemental products for a larger segment of players with the introduction of Commander decks which aim to bring new cards into a format that usually isn't pandered to.
Unfortunately, since these products are printed in such small quantities when one card in the product is printed with the sole purpose of selling the entire product it creates a huge demand with insufficient product. I am, of course, referring to True-Name Nemesis, a card printed in a tiny supplemental Commander product that is now in such high demand by Legacy players that it is causing actual Commander players to be unable to obtain the product. Er, you know, the people the product was actually designed for! Because this undercosted, overpowered card will be a format staple in Legacy, a format known for its players with more dollars than sense, the Commander boxes containing him are now running for the same price as the single card contained within!
#2 Double-Face Cards
I'm not entirely sure who to blame for the Magical abomination that is double-face cards. They were first introduced with Innistrad in 2011 with the lead designer being the infamous Mark Rosewater. Interestingly though, Richard Garfield (the game's creator), was also on hand as a designer for this block as well. So do we blame the man responsible for creating this game we all love--or do we blame the creator of Infect? Well, you know who I'm choosing. The problem with double-face cards, as the name implies, is that they have two faces and no backs--so no part on the card that can cover up the identification of the card itself. It's also incredibly annoying because now, just by using a single double-face card, you have to have your entire deck sleeved opaquely for all sanctioned tournaments. This means the popular penny sleeves that are transparent are no longer sufficient. It also forces everyone to mess with silly 'checklist' cards in lieu of sleeves (if they choose), that just add bulk to a booster and confusion to a game.
There are very few hard and fast rules when it comes to Magic and it is expected for all aspects of the game to be explored. However, since Day One it has been known that you simply do not mess with the card backs because it causes everyone to need sleeves and causes legality disagreements during tournaments and even casual play. Interestingly, the first expansion, Arabian Nights, created by Richard Garfield, was going to have a pink-hued back, but at the last minute it was decided that changing the card backs would hurt the game too badly as it would disallow Arabian Nights cards from seeing play when mixed in with other sets. And now we have double-face cards that can't be played in any set without shielding their backs completely.
#1 The Dumbing Down of Magic
The dumbing down of Magic has been happening in its own way since Wizards of the Coast was acquired by Hasbro in 1999 as a way to "compete" with what Hasbro considered threats to the game--mainly Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh. But the "dumbening" really shot to astronomical levels with the advent of what Mark Rosewater proudly refers to as 'New World Order'. For something that can be reduced to 'we're making the game dumber so morons can win', it sure has an ominous-sounding name. New World Order (NWO) is the brainchild of Mark Rosewater and he alone is responsible for this shift in Magic and its slow, but inevitable decline in quality. NWO had been tried in certain Magic cards before, but it wasn't until Shards of Alara that a block was created with NWO in mind from its inception. MaRo calls NWO a solution to 'complexity creep' in his column, though considering Magic is at its most popular ever and continues to grow yearly, it seems unlikely that new players are having much trouble grasping the game--while older players are becoming disenfranchised.
The Storm Scale, which I mentioned in the previous article, lists the likelihood of seeing certain keywords/game mechanics return in the future. Unfortunately for those of us who have spent years learning the game's nuances, it would appear as though NWO is turning Magic into a game of 'turn your creature sideways and attack'. The Time Spiral block, beloved by mature fans, will never be seen again because it is considered too complex for new players now. So long Suspend too--apparently you took too much reading! And say goodbye to Echo and Cumulative Upkeep, two mechanics that are cursed because they actually are considered drawbacks by new players--and new players hate drawbacks. In their place we have some of the most uninspired new mechanics (Scavenge, Heroic, Cipher, Bestow) that barely even see Limited play and never Standard (unless the mana cost is deliberately tweaked to the point of insanity).
With Love, Mark
I feel like I'm only able to have written these articles because I am such a huge fan of Mark Rosewater. I know that may sound confusing, especially considering the title is about how he's RUINING Magic. But I think anyone who actively plays Magic and reads his blog can tell that he is doing the best he can for Magic and wants only to see the game flourish and last for a very long time. In fact, as of this writing Magic is experiencing 35% growth yearly, which is simply amazing for a 20-year-old game. MaRo has a great sense of humor and that's why I felt I would be able to write about him both tongue-in-cheek and in a serious, almost vitriolic manner. I think it's the people that care about something the most that are often the most outspoken critics of it. And that's me.
So here's to MaRo--the best lead designer a game could ever have!