It’s been a bonkers couple of weeks for MTG with the dominance of the Aetherworks Marvel archetype in Standard getting attention in many Geekly circles. Devon, Mark and Stew deconstructed the Aetherworks phenomenon and muse about the role of the WotC’s new R&D team. Szpirs is surprised by spoilers for Commander 2017! It’s a gorram whirlwind on this Magic Monday
Szpirs: Hey D! Y’know that Aetherworks Marvel deck you were working on? Like the whole top 8 is playing it too!
Devon: Yeah I saw that. Now there is talk that it needs to be banned.
Stew: Why Not?! Ban Everything!
Devon: Seems to be the way of it. I’m not really sure it will help though.
Szpirs: Por Que?
Stew: It’s worked before, I guess. Banning Skullclamp really slowed down affinity way back when…
Mark: They banned everything in affinity though. Clamp, Disciple, Ravager…all restricted or banned outright. I say just ban any card that makes blue mana.
Stew (plays Blue):
Szpirs: What’s the combo, exactly? Or is it that Aetherworks speeds every conceivable win condition?
Devon: Here’s the thing – the deck works on random chance. Marvel let’s you look at the top six cards in your library and cast one card for free. It only costs six energy. Basically what’s happened is that everyone who was playing Copycat just replaced Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardians with Aetherworks Marvel and Ulamog. The result is a turn four 10/10 that eats permanents and 1/3rd of the opponent’s library.
Mark: Yeah, it is an extra chancy kinda deck. The few tourney results I’ve seen have shown remarkable lack of imagination in the winners; They’re all rocking very familiar decks.
Szpirs: Looks like it. Is the problem Aetherworks or Ulamog? Even at 10 mana, that thing is GROSS.
Devon: The problem is the two together. If you had to pay mana to use the Marvel instead of energy then it wouldn’t be so bad. Same if it reduced the CMC (Converted Mana Cost) of the target card. A ten CMC card basically for free on turn four is broken. Y’know, not to mention we have a tier one deck that works on chance not strategy…
Mark: Technically, all decks work on chance….
Devon: Yes that is true Mark…but Marvel, at its’ core, is just make energy/spin the wheel and hope for one of the four copies of Ulamog. Most of the lists I’ve seen, the back up plan is make Thopters.
Szpirs: Why not blow up the artifacts? Red and green both have X casts for smashing them enmasse, right? On the one hand, artifact hate would take care of the Marvel….on the other hand, control in will take care of the hate….Either way, I wonder why control/artifact hate isn’t surging.
Devon: I’m thinking no one is playing control/hate because it leaves them too open to aggro and mill.
Szpirs: I will try to build one over the weekend with the standard stuff I have at home. Maybe U/G…or is there more artifact smash in Red? Ugh, I’m running Red in everything.
Devon: Bring it. I plan on scrapping my Temur Marvel deck maybe for Sultai… or I’ll just build something else entirely. There are always going to be combo decks just the same as any archetypes. It’s just these unexpected card interactions that come from this huge card pool in Standard right now.
Szpirs: Huh…they’ve still got one set entering in the summer…maybe that’ll break the Marvel’s streak…otherwise yeah, we’re kinda boned until rotation.
Stew: Let’s call Standard, “the aristocrats” until this is rotated out …because it’s about as funny as the joke.
Devon: After rotation, I think things will run more smoothly. WotC has started a new division that looks specifically for these interaction during the R&D phase of development.
Play Design: The Last, Best Hope for Standard
Szpirs: What is the new R&D thing they’re dong? I thought I saw some headlines about it this week…
Devon: It’s called Play Design; basically just a new office that will take the new set as it’s being developed and comb through the Standard sets to look for unforeseen interactions in an effort to keep the format balanced – if I’m remembering correctly.
Szpirs: I can’t believe they weren’t doing this already…was each block being developed in vacuum…as if Limited was the only game?
Stew: Though they frequently state they look at all sets for infinite loops and other silly tricks, they’ve been doing a poor job. lately. That’s why Legacy, EDH, Vintage all have Aetherflux Reservoir problems.
Szpirs: I can see how Reservoir breaks EDH…the 40 starting life puts that 50 damage into reach WAY too early. What’s the weirdness with vintage?
Stew: I guess Vintage doesn’t really need it, but I can see it being a Tinker target during storm count.
Szpirs: I read this on Friday:
"Wizards argues that the problems we’ve seen in Standard gameplay are due to a flawed design philosophy that they are trying to rectify. Associate communications manager Steve Sunu told me that the Research & Design team used to believe that “If we made the best set and cards possible, keeping in mind format requirements, then we would naturally make the best format possible.” http://compete.kotaku.com/a-cheap-new-combo-is-ruining-magic-the-gathering-1795579952?utm_campaign=Socialflow_Kotaku_Facebook&utm_source=Kotaku_Facebook&utm_medium=Socialflow
Szpirs: The pro players interviewed in the article said that the Standard environment is the worst they’ve ever seen right now. If they weren’t monitoring/testing Standard before the new sets were released, I can see how we got here.
Mark: Look at it this way: quality control costs money and slows down production. At the rate WOTC puts out product, the QC step can’t take as long as I’d imagine the R&D and design (art etc.) occupy a large portion of the pre-print set process; hence you get more card blunders.
Mark: Also, WOTC develops 6 or 7 sets simultaneously, so play testing for one block has already started before the previous block or two have hit market. Each set / block is therefore covered by a separate development team so it’s hard foe them to track any bad/odd/funny/broken interactions. I think the creation of this new office should help with that immensely.
Suddenly….Commander 2017 Spoilers!
Szpirs: So…these images have been doing the rounds:
Devon: Ooo…Cat dragon token…I’m buying the dragons deck just for that token.
Mark: Well, take my bloody money why don’t they…If they do a 5 colour angel deck I’m going to be totally broke…Wow, the Ur Dragon is disgusting.
Stew: Should do 5 colour Merfolk just to mess with people…
Mark: I hope all 4 decks are 5-colour. What other tribes would be good as 5 colour?
Devon: Elementals, Angels…
Mark: Are slivers too obvious?
Devon: Not slivers. Humans, Birds…
Mark: Ah. Myr. All they do is make 5 colours of mana and lots of stupid myr tokens…
Devon: Myr would be cool. Wizards!
Szpirs: Thallids! Salads of Thallids!
Devon: I mean, there’s Eldrazi…
Mark: No Eldrazi!