With Dragon's Maze just behind us and Magic 2014 coming up, I've been thinking quite a bit about some cards I really think we could use in Legacy. What I'll do today is to talk about a few card ideas that I believe would do a lot of good for the format.
Obviously, I'm not just going to list a bunch of cards without context. That would be neither particularly helpful for the fine people making this game we all love nor a particularly interesting article to read. Instead, what I'm going to do is show you the cards I've imagined and explain the particular problem they are meant to address or in what way I think they would help make Legacy a better format. That way not only do I get to talk about some possibly sweet cards, but at the same time I get to illustrate my ideas for where Legacy could still be improved—maybe someone at Wizards of the Coast is listening.
And just in case that's actually the, well, case (sorry), I don't claim any rights to these cards; if they look sweet enough to print, then please just go ahead. I'm hereby donating or abandoning or whatever all rights to these cards, and Wizards of the Coast should feel free to treat them as their own property.
Alright, with the formalities out of the way, let's get going.
The card I'd like to have the most right now is something along these lines:
Protector of the Meek
Whenever a permanent with a converted mana cost of 7 or more would enter the battlefield, exile it instead.
The target for this particular hate bear should be obvious: Show and Tell. It's basically impossible for nonblue decks to efficiently deal with Show and Tell based strategies, especially because Leyline of Sanctity exists to protect the deck from discard-based disruption.
Given that we have things like Rest in Peace, Scavenging Ooze, and friends to deal with graveyard-based combo and Ethersworn Canonist; Thalia, Guardian of Thraben; and Gaddock Teeg to put the hurt on engine-based combo decks, it seems only fair to have something similarly powerful to keep fatty cheating under control. Let's go ahead and see which combo deck is best when they can all be interacted with, shall we?
The reason to make this a bear is obviously to make it less of a dead draw in multiples, but it also serves to make it easier to interact with—hate too should be possible to get rid of. The reason to make this an artifact creature is simply so that there are more options to get your hands on it—and Enlightened Tutor sideboards are a sweet tool for fair decks.
It being a creature is also important for the purposes of Standard. After all, I intentionally chose to have the ability interact with hard cast fatties, too. Battlecruiser Magic might be some people's cup of tea, but if you decide to not stuff your deck with things like Angel of Serenity, there should be ways to straight up punish opponents that do. At least that way they might have to dilute their strategy a little to make room for removal, right?
Finally, why seven mana-plus? First, I strongly dislike hate—like Rest in Peace—that is too efficient. If there's absolutely no way to get around a hate card, the game turns into a pure "deal with it or die" game, which isn't all that interesting. With this loophole open, Dream Halls and Hive Mind will still be fine Show and Tell targets—you just have to find these usually worse options first.
In addition, six mana is usually the highest thing you can reasonably expect to hard cast almost every game in smaller formats, and as a result Wizards has been putting the real win-the-game level fatties at higher casting costs ever since the Titan problem happened. As this is meant to hose these overpowered new age fatties and not a kid's sweet Shivan Dragon, seven seemed like a good switch off point.
Speaking of Show and Tell, with legendary permanents becoming more and more ridiculous and also just having gotten harder to deal with, it might be time to make a hoser that helps keep them in check that also makes life harder for the fatty cheaters that rely solely on the biggest and baddest of the legendary creatures:
No More Heroes Any More
All legendary permanents lose all abilities and become 1/1 creatures instead of their normal types.
The fact that this can't affect itself in any way should keep a lot of the rules problems of Humility at bay—not sure how much of a problem the type changing is rules-wise—and having a cheap, permanent way to deal with some of the more ridiculous powerhouses (*cough* Emrakul, Geist of Saint Traft, and Umezawa's Jitte *cough*) would be hugely appreciated. This would probably be run mainly to deal with Griselbrand and Emrakul, but it also provide sweet utility against stuff like Gaddock Teeg and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
Now, a card like this would obviously a horrible thing to print during a legendary block like Kamigawa, but when Standard is relatively low on legendary permanents, this could sneak in to help out the older formats.
Nonblue Library Manipulation
The last time I talked about what Legacy needs, one big point was nonblue library manipulation. The reasoning here is simple: library manipulation gives decks consistency, something basically every serious player craves that also happens to be very powerful. As long as blue remains the only color with access to these types of effects, the others will always be a step behind it, which obviously is somewhat unbalancing to the format and also forces Wizards to make blue library manipulation worse and worse to make sure it doesn't unbalance Standard.
Seeing as players enjoy fiddling with their library a whole lot, phasing it out or making it unplayably bad just doesn't seem like a good solution, but neither does bleeding a very blue ability into all the other colors. As such, I'm always on the lookout for ways to give viable library manipulation to every color without straight up making blue cards in other colors. I believe I've found two interesting ways to do so, so here we go:
When this enters the battlefield, discard a card, then draw a card.
Come on, lick the Toad!
As Dryad Militant illustrates, a 2/1 body for a single mana isn't really all that impressive anymore. With looting bleeding into red, this opens up a perfect opportunity to create library manipulation for aggressive red strategies.
Put simply, this is a (pretty bad) library manipulation cantrip that always ends up drawing you a 2/1 creature instead of a random card. Sometimes you'll have to choose between dropping your early creature and actually getting value out of the library manipulation—imagine a hand full of good cards—and sometimes you're already flooded and can keep a hand that would have been a mulligan otherwise.
What I like most about this design is that the way looting works in red (you discard first and draw afterwards) also makes it so that this isn't a dead card late in the game as your usual 2/1 for one would be. Once your hand is empty, it straight up draws a card!
Watcher of Bird Flight
Creature – Seer
Whenever a nontoken creature enters the battlefield under your control, scry 1.
The movements of the beasts echo the tides of the future.
The basic idea here is the same as for Fire-Witch Toad. A 2/1 for one is barely playable and is a perfect way to replace the typically blue "draw a card" clause that library manipulation cards need to be viable. This will scry once for itself, but if it is the first creature you drop into play in your typical green midrange or aggro deck, you'll have a lot of control over what you'll be drawing during the next few turns of the game—as long as you keep playing creatures. Obviously, the scry ability will help you to make sure that's exactly what happens, which turns this fairly mediocre one-drop into a valuable library manipulation tool should the game go longer than expected.
This kind of sculpting ability is exactly what aggressive decks need to keep up with the resilience and power of other Legacy decks, and given how weak a 2/1 for one is in a format full of creatures, I wouldn't expect this to be broken in Standard. I added the nontoken clause after imagining how powerful this might be in a token-focused Standard deck—especially considering that Lingering Souls and similar cards will likely keep seeing print—because if you can scry multiple times for every spell you cast, you can likely chain together something a little too broken.
Finally, some cheap black library manipulation would be appreciated. Sadly, what black does to manipulate its library—tutor—is usually a little too powerful to make into cheap library manipulation. How about taking inspiration from its brother color, blue, but in a way that feels quite black:
Draw a card.
"Your future holds—nothing."
This is essentially just an inverse Preordain with an extra card added because fiddling with your opponent's library is usually just worse than putting your own good cards on top. Assuming they still have cards in hand, fatesealing might reach from being alright to actually hurting you even.
Combine this with the perfect information provided by spot discard like Duress and Thoughtseize, however, and suddenly you have a pretty powerful tool to keep your opponent helpless just a little longer—exactly what a black mage would want. As a bonus, this also works perfectly to counteract Brainstorm hiding cards in response to said discard spell.
More On-Stack Interaction for Nonblue Colors
Sadly—for the other colors—countermagic has been firmly in blue hands from the earliest days of Magic. This leads to obvious problems when players need to fight spell-based combo decks and opposing countermagic. Part of the solution to this problem might lie in exploring the other colors' on-stack interaction opportunities a little more deeply than has been done so far. Check these out:
Flash, First Strike
When this enters the battlefield, copy target spell. You may choose new targets for the copy.
"That's a nice-looking spell you have there..."
Now, Fork and its friends aren't exactly tearing up the tournament scene, so giving them the Snapcaster treatment (if you don't understand, see Recoup) doesn't feel dangerous at all. Obviously, I'm not the only person who has come up with this one. I think the first time I read about this idea was roughly a day after Snapcaster Mage was spoiled, in fact, as this card just makes perfect sense.
It's heavy red so as to not just end up being splashed in blue decks, it copies countermagic to allow nonblue decks to fight back, it easily "answers" a lot of ridiculous big spells like Sphinx's Revelation, and it's flexible enough to be a lot of fun to play with. It also has a good enough body to work as a solid Ambush Viper so that putting it in your deck even when your opponent doesn't help you out isn't totally embarrassing.
Stop Showing Off
Whenever target player casts a spell this turn, this deals 3 damage to him or her.
Enough with the weird hand motions already!
This might be easier to word in black with "that player loses 3 life," but black already has some tools to deal with engine-based combo, while red is sadly lacking outside of Red Elemental Blast. In all honesty, this is essentially a Pyrostatic Pillar inspired red Silence, so the power level clearly isn't through the roof. It still gives the color a way to deal with combo, but an aggressive red deck might actually value the ability to deny its opponent the option of clogging up the board for a turn.
Better Early-Game Defenses
Not only the fatties have been getting better and better; things like Delver of Secrets and Deathrite Shaman have also been pushing the power level of early-drop creatures in ways that require answers. In addition, shroud and hexproof creatures are extremely non-interactive, so some efficient tools to at least deal with the cheapest ones would be appreciated. Personally, I'd be incredibly happy to rip this out of a booster sometime soon:
Destroy all creatures with a converted mana cost of 1 or less.
We said 10 minutes, no rush!
This would be very good at dealing with mono-one-drop decks (RUG Delver, for instance) while being narrow enough to be a sideboard card at best in any but the weirdest of formats. The fact that it also deals with tokens makes it flexible enough to have some value outside of Legacy, where even the aggressive decks usually don't have enough choices among their one-drops to just ignore everything higher up on the curve.
Speaking of early-game defenses, this might be problematic for Standard, but if Firespout was fine, this should this be too:
Crushing the Meek
Destroy all creatures with a power of 3 or less.
The Meek shall inherit the earth—pah!
An inverted Retribution of the Meek would be a very powerful, cheap sweeper effect in a format like Standard, and with the current power creep—where 4/4s for three are slowly becoming a dime a dozen—there will likely be enough creatures that shrug this off to balance the early-game effect.
In Legacy, on the other hand, this solves problematic creatures like Geist of Saint Traft and Nimble Mongoose while also dealing with most of the omnipresent utility creatures and hate bears. At the same time, we also have cheap heavy hitters like Tarmogoyf, Tombstalker, and Knight of the Reliquary to punish people for relying on this alone as their main creature defense. A limited sweeper like this is cheap enough to matter while also being restricted enough to be played around.
Ways to Deal with Planeswalkers
With the new uniqueness rule, dealing with planeswalkers has gotten even harder. Forcing everyone to play a bunch of creatures may be Wizards' idea of fun, but it isn't for a significant segment of the Magic-playing populace. As such, some straight up, easy, spell-based ways to deal with the hardest to stop permanent type in the game seem in order.
This is the most obvious design:
Destroy target planeswalker.
"Go home, he doesn't like you anymore."
I don't think there's much to say about these cards, but I feel like the game is missing easy, straightforward options for dealing with planeswalkers. It also seems bad for balance reasons that you can cheaply destroy every other permanent in the game straight up but no such option exists for planeswalkers. A few variations on the theme:
Burn the Off-Worlders
This deals 3 damage to each planeswalker.
And He cleansed the world with fire.
Activated abilities of planeswalkers can't be activated.
No outside assistance, please!
All of these share the same theme and I know I'll be majorly annoyed the first time my Jace, the Mind Sculptor isn't allowed to work his magic, but making a very powerful new card type and keeping answers to it very limited—outside the combat step—just isn't particularly fun in the long run.
Out of Ideas?
There are tons of other cards I've come up with in the years I've been playing this sweet game, so I could go on and on listing more of them. For today, though, I wasn't just planning on making sweet cards; I was looking for answers to the threats we have trouble interacting with in Legacy and to fix some imbalances inherent in the current card pool. The above examples should give ample material to consider when trying to make cards that help turn Legacy into an even better format than it already is—and the story behind Abrupt Decay gives me hope that that's something R&D is interested in doing.
That's it for today. Let me know if this kind of article is something you enjoy, and feel free to share your own ideas as well as comments on the cards I've suggested here. I read them all, even if I may not have time to reply at the moment!
Until next time, solve some problems!