Monday, June 14, 2010

Magic Doesn't Need Land

As you may or may not be able to guess, this article has nothing to do about programming. (Yes, I know all 3 of you are disappointed.)

Land is a very outdated concept. Being mana screwed or mana flooded isn't fun but it is a necessary evil since Magic requires land.

OK, I know what you are thinking, "How would we play Magic without land?" Similar to the Marvel/DC VS card game, you could play any card as a land. The mana symbols on the card would dictate which land the card becomes. If the card is Elvish Piper, which costs 3G, it could be played as a forest. If the card was Lightning Helix which costs RW, it could be played as either a mountain or a plains. And artifacts could be played as lands that generate colorless mana.

Think about it, your deck of 60 cards would consists of all playable spells and it wouldn't have 24 or so dead cards. Looking at your opening hand, you would never worry about being mana screwed. Yes you would still consider your mana curve and wonder should you play that 6 mana spell now as a land or later as a game finisher. Not having land frees up the player to make more interesting decisions.

Since each card would always represent 2 choices (to play as a land or as a spell) this actual increases the number of decisions that a player has to make. Games are all about "making interesting decisions" and I think removing lands from Magic would revolutionize the game. I'm actually thinking about tweaking Forge so people could actual test what I'm saying.

And yes I know what you are saying to yourself, "What about cards that let you fetch land? Aren't those cards going to be worthless now?" The answer is no. You still have the option of including regular, basic lands into your deck.

I'm not much of a "Magic theorist". I'm an avid player but most Magic players would put themselves in the "rabid" category. (Insert funny mad dog joke.) And I know that there are a ton of people who literally worship Magic. (I only worship Tuesday through Thursday.) So I understand that my idea of removing lands from Magic is heretical. Personally I don't see any downside but then again I think I'm genius, ha.

As Mike Myers would say, "I'm feeling verklipted. Feel free to talk among yourselves." -an old Saturday Night Live reference


GusGus said...

Did you tried that form of play? tested some decks, etc? Seems interesting.

Rorik said...

I would love to see that concept in action, as I strongly agree with what you are saying.

It almost seems as lands are the most annoying aspect of magic nowdays, and that low-cost "fast" decks are highly overpowered with the actual rules.

Forge said...

I might try to add hack Forge so everybody could try out my idea. I have not done any playtesting, it is all just theory.

Magic is a great game and the first trading card game but I think the land concept could be upgraded.

Silly Freak said...

hmm... I'm usually open to innovation, but i want to also bring up the downsides of such a change.

wizards is trying hard to create an enjoyable game, and I think they're doing a good job. a very important part is game design. if the only lands were basic lands, and there were no cards that interact with lands, i'd agree with you.

but this isn't the case. lands are very well integrated into the game, and removing lands would take the opportunity for many cards, including the whole land-based zendikar block. There would be no point in land tutoring if you always had enough mana sources in hand. the myrs from mirrodin (artifact creatures with mana abilities), while not being the most exciting creations, would be pointless if you could play them for free to get the same effect.

Greg said...

I reckon you'd need to reverse your approach to multicoloured cards and artifacts. Artifacts tend to be expensive for their abilities, because you can play them with any sort of mana - with multicoloured cards the opposite is true.

Essentially you pay for artifacts ability to make mana easier to come by and get paid for it being harder with multicoloured cards.

So I reckon multicoloured cards should play as land that produces only colourless mana and artifacts should be playable as any type of basic land.

A lot of cards would get made redundant by the change. Many of them just because they suddenly aren't useful enough (land destruction probably becomes less powerful than hand destruction, but it used to be better so it costs more).

It'd probably still be a good game if you just ignored those cards. Possibly even a better game.

Bruno Cardoso said...

Mana screw/flood is an old problem in the MTG history. No one likes to lose a game because of this.

Something like what you propose could resolve the problem but MTG would have to change to support those new rules. You said we could still play with lands, but what would be the point of that if all cards can be lands?

Greg also made several good points with artifacts, multicolor spells and certain game strategies like land destruction.

While I think Wizards should try to find ways to minimize land screwing and flooding, I don't think it will be like this.

Maybe they could release more spells and lands with cycling, ways for certain spells be replaced for lands and vice-versa.

Ulthwithian said...

Mm. Have you played one of the games that uses this model? (The WoW game is the most popular that I know of, at present.)

There is a huge psychological issue with the stance as it is presented here. MaRo hints at it when he discussed during Zendikar why certain issues happened with Odyssey. No one 'wants' to discard a card, even if it's the best play. There is massive resistance to that idea. (Obvious places where the deck is meant to do such, such as Reanimator, are exceptions.)

When you can play any card as a land, you start valuing every card as a spell and not as a land. Then, you resent any card you must play as a land and not as a spell, because it's not 'optimal'. It actually may be, tactically, but it never feels that way.

There are certain ways around this. WoW has Quests and Locations that are meant to be played as lands, but then that avoids color screw but not 'mana' screw. The Warhammer CCG had cards that served multiple functions, but never at the same time.

Also, there are some psychological advantages to mana screw. People can 'blame the cards' or (especially online!) 'blame the shuffler/RNG'. While this is not incredibly healthy behavior, psychologically, it is very normal, and helps to vent frustration.

Daniel said...

I enjoy playing random stacks of cubes like this, but from a competitive standpoint, it changes the game so much that it is not even the same. Also, making great mana bases is a skill which is very difficult, especially in color-intensive draft formats, and removing that would take a large amount of skill out of the game.

Forge said...

"Removing [basic land] would take a large amount of skill out of the game."

But in your heart to you want to fiddle around with the number of Islands versus Swamps or do you want to play cards?

My idea really only gets ride of basic land. You still could use any number of fancy, non-basics.

Steve said...

Back when VS came out, a lot of pros gave it a try. They were attracted to the idea of a well-developed card game without mana screw.

What they found was that mana screw had been replaced with a different kind of screw. Instead of worrying about hitting the right land drops, they were worried with drawing the right spells in the right order so they'd have a good curve.

I'm not sure whether they felt this was a better or worse magnitude of screw, but they were surprised by the degree to which the removal of mana screw didn't make it more skill-based.

Marek14 said...

I reprint my comment from the forums here:

I think the main problems with removing lands is multicolor play. The current system is that if you want to play more than one color, you must give thought to your land base, you must make compromises, and you must accept that you might get colorscrewed. This balances the fact that multicolored decks are inherently stronger because they have access to larger selection of effects.

Without lands, imagine you'd play deck comprised, say, of nothing but red/green cards. Each of them could be played as a land that gives G or that gives R, and there would be no real penalty of using multicolored deck.

That being said, Magic actually DOES contain a card that removes the need for land:

Dakkon Blackblade Avatar
Hand modifier: +1
Life modifier: +0
You may play any colored card from your hand as a copy of a basic land card chosen at random that can produce mana of one of the card's colors.
VGO - Master's Edition Release Events (Participation), September 2007

It's not exactly the same as your idea, but very similar. The differences are:

You cannot use colorless cards as lands (with your system, you could presumably use them for colorless mana).

A multicolored card becomes a random land - that is the big change, which preserves the more risky situation with multicolored decks. If you use multicolored card as land, you risk that you won't actually get the color you need.

Maybe more interesting than just removing lands would be to add Vanguard? Not only it would allow you to use this effect, among many others, but you could also make new game modes in this form.

Hilary said...

This idea, of all cards being mana, has already been used by wizard in the tcg Duel Master, and in my opinion was one of the best features of the game.

this being said, I doubt that magic will ever be 'officially' changed to use this idea, as land has become such a fundamental part part of the game that too much would have to be changed.

However, I could see a magic set in the feature that had some dual cards to this nature. If people remember from the time-spiral set, cards like burst, that had 2 different costs an abilities. Magic could create a set of cards that were split and could be like, "this card is a 2/2 ent with haste for 3G or this card is a land with tap:add G and tap:target ent gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

@Forge, I can imagine that while it wouldn't be that hard to modify forge to late players try this feature out, that programming the AI to know which cards to use as land when would be an absolute coding nightmare

Forge said...

Yes changing Forge's AI is very hard. That is why Forge still uses the old combat rules.

Even though land really annoys me sometimes, I'm not sure I could play Magic without it. Land is part of Magic greatness and frustration.