fbpx

Sperling’s Sick of It: War of the Spark and Modern Horizons


Sick of It is back for an extremely condensed War of the Spark edition, some random items, and finally a look at the new set, Modern Horizons.

Sick of It

Karma

https://twitter.com/sickofit/status/1127461303579136001

Magic Online Gideon

I’ve Been Seen

War of the Spark–shave a mana, sell a booster pack

Teferi, Time RavelerKarn, the Great CreatorNarset, Parter of Veils

Narset and Karn are completely ruining Vintage and who knows what will happen with Legacy–the dust hasn’t settled yet. The most annoying things to me are:

Karn is basically targeted at Vintage, where Null Rod sees (saw) a lot of play. This isn’t an accident. They can’t say they don’t think about Vintage or test it. And it simply doesn’t cost enough mana for what it does.

Narset’s static ability appeared on Leovold and had a large impact on both Vintage and Legacy despite its UBG casting cost. And yet here you get it for the price of 1UU and an impulse or two as well, why not. Again, hard to argue that this was an oversight or hard to know ahead of time.

Teferi does too much for a 3-mana card but more specifically it bounces things for a 1UW investment and they very recently had to ban Reflector Mage. Again, how do you not see it? You place different bets with where you put the power level, but this is the same stupid bet from before. Go read the ban announcement. “Reflector Mage came up time and time again as … frustrating[.]” Why was it frustrating? It wasn’t the artwork. It was the fact that it undoes larger investments of mana (and/or buffs) for a minimal cost as the opponent continues developing to the board.

What will happen? A card or two will eventually need to be banned, people will get sick of these cards either way, but sales will be good so Wizards will declare a success despite these obvious, glaring mistakes that worsen player experiences in at least four Constructed formats.

Streamers with that red and black racing chair

This isn’t Formula 1, it’s best-of-one Standard with 200 gems on the line. “Gotta spend money to make money” though. But hey, it’s just something people find fun, it’s not something Wizards is pushing everyone into by holding their organized play incentive structure hostage. So please go ahead and buy that high-performance gaming chair, for all I know it might be one of the criteria for getting to the Mythic Championship.

Forcing me to reciprocate your “Good Luck”

You want to wish me good luck, knock yourself out. Sometimes I might even throw it back. But I don’t owe you a damned thing. It’s bad enough that between rounds I have to put up with “What’s your record?” from the kid who is 3-0, but in the match now I have to avoid some breach of etiquette if I don’t engage in your superstitious and fake gesture? I’m gonna start saying, “May the Mana Gods smile upon thee” when presenting my deck and if the opponent doesn’t come back with, “And upon thine opener as well, my lord” and I lose the match I’m going to light up Twitter about their incivility.

The MCIII flex slots being given to players in MC points contention

I covered inviting players to events as a diversity initiative in my latest non-sick-of-it piece. People have their opinions on that topic, and although that piece was mostly framing different perspectives, my own take is that this approach is fine in general but should be more carefully tailored to boost and support players from different backgrounds without putting them directly into the highest-stakes competitive events.

But what I’m really sick of is Luis Scott-Vargas getting one of the 16 invites where he can earn MC points that could easily be the reason he makes it to Worlds and I don’t. “How is that fair?” is a tortured question in these contexts, but seriously, how is that fair? LSV is already as visible as anyone. The field has plenty of talent without him. You could invite him but not count the points. You could invite him to other stuff that doesn’t award points. It doesn’t line up with the reasons the field was expanded or the criteria for making Worlds outlined at the start of the season.

I want them to start searching harder for less blatantly zero-sum opportunities and platforms for the people they want to be more visible. The Mythic Invitational got it right. These 16 invites got it a lot less right. At the end of the day, their budget will have a single total sum. But a little bit of planning with that budget would let them spend it without blatantly, explicitly taking it away from someone else who expected to have a fair shot at it. “Appearances matter” is kind of the whole principle of these invites, and yet structurally they made it feel like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Wouldn’t it be better to give people streaming contracts and free digital and paper cards to financially support people? That feels to me like a less zero-sum solution than expanding a tournament field by 16 slots without expanding prizes. And it also doesn’t put world-class players between these streamers and a paycheck or other support that could help them do it full-time or otherwise expand their presence.

If we’re trying to include more under-represented groups of players, why don’t we have the same kind of initiatives for black players? Twelve percent of the U.S. population is black. I’ve been to many U.S. Grand Prix, and Pro Tours everywhere. You’ll typically find no more than a dozen black players out of a few thousand at a GP, and at higher levels it’s even less. I like that women are being given more opportunities since there is a gap in their representation, but it’s not just about them. Quotas are bad, but so is leaving 12% of the population mostly out of sight, out of mind. We need broader attempts at bringing people into competitive and less-competitive play, and to make sure those attempts include benefits to black players, players with disabilities, etc. If you’re going to use their direct rebalancing approach, then I don’t find their approach particularly cognizant of who is actually underrepresented in the MPL. I’m not sure how many black players would have to pass before I invited LSV with one of these 16 invites, but the number is double-digits for sure.

This type of analysis will always feel a bit reductive and painful to march through in a measurable way. That’s why we shouldn’t do the whole “add 16 slots to a major pro event as a diversity initiative” thing in the first place. It’s too blunt an instrument to address a complex, broad problem, and sours the whole exercise of getting people thinking about these issues.

Modern Horizons

In my group chat with a couple of “eternal specialists” (friends Cyrus Corman-Gill and Eric Vergo), we often poke fun at other players who act like the sky is falling whenever a deck wins two tournaments or some new card sees play. The cards are all powerful, and people can adapt. And although Cyrus is known by some as a “Storm player” he is willing to try other stuff and does all the time if the metagame is shifting away from Storm.

But despite that general disposition to roll with the punches, we’re all pretty worried that Vintage, Legacy, and/or Modern will not remain fun for long with War of the Spark and Modern Horizons ratcheting up the power level in a bunch of ways that are not just problematic, but the worst kind of problematic.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Wizards internal discussion from the set file:

Bumbling Doofus (BD): Convoke from the yard, but you can’t spend mana, now works as a “must convoke” constraint.

Inept Nitwit (IN): Added delve since graveyard decks might not be good enough at convoke.

BD: Is it still costed correctly?

IN: I think so, and we usually get the delve spells right on the first try.

BD: Okay, sounds good. Added trample since your completely free spell not killing someone immediately is a feel-bad for the player who invested 0 mana and 0 cards.

IN: Changed from green only to GB hybrid so there’s no chance player has to wait for their payoff to hit the board.

BD: Great, going to test this in Modern really quick.

BD: Played 1 game, it didn’t come up. Seems fine, but making it legendary just in case.

Nincompoop from Creative (NC): Gave it a name and flavor of an animated land, specifically “Arisen Necropolis.”

IN: Sweet. Should we add land types or abilities or any connection to the rest of Magic’s awakened or arisen lands?

NC: Let’s just use “Avatar” type instead, nobody knows what that means. Maybe it also means animated lands?

Force of Negation, Force of Vigor

Force of NegationForce of Vigor

Players love free spells. We don’t see them in Standard very often because players like competitive games of Magic where spells cost mana, but in Modern anything goes and players like free spells. Wait, that’s not what Modern is about at all. It’s a home for rotated Standard cards and it’s an eternal format where things are little more sane and predictable, with powerful sideboard cards for the stuff that isn’t. Why make copycat cards at a high power lever that make the different eternal formats less unique and make rotated Standard cards (which might have been purchased for $40 a mythic) less relevant? What’s the point? What problem are we solving?

The whole concept of Modern Horizons seems to be a way to sell $7 packs while making the stuff inside the $3.50 packs less useful. But Matt, people calling products “cash grabs” are just idiots who don’t understand that a business exists to make money. That’s true most of the time, but I don’t know what else to call this set–an addition to an already fairly healthy but always teetering Modern format that people love–other than a cash grab. Why do the packs sell for more than a normal box? They said they did that with Modern Masters so the pricing floor wouldn’t fall out underneath Tarmogoyf. But why do they care whether Force of Negation costs $10 vs $20 on the secondary market? Won’t that just raise barrier to entry later and make you less likely to cheaply reprint these new cards? Cash grab.

Answered Prayers

Answered Prayers

It would have been funny if they said early on, “Don’t worry, players who can’t afford fetch lands, your prayers will be answered” and then this was the last card spoiled.

Tribute Mage

Tribute Mage

This is the third time they are reaching for the exact same nostalgia. There are tens of thousands of Magic cards. Leave Trinket Mage alone.

Urza, Lord High Artificer

Urza, Lord High Artificer

Urza’s Rage deals 10 damage that can’t be prevented, 3 damage when he isn’t even that mad. And yet Urza himself has only 1 power. Is he like The Hulk?

Cloudshredder Sliver

Cloudshredder Sliver

I’m pissed that the humanoid Slivers from M14 are gone, replaced by this alien species I cannot relate to at all. Just kidding. I’m a simple man, I see an excuse to bring up the creative direction of M14 Slivers and I take it.

One more thing about the Slivers…

Enduring SliverHollowhead Sliver

Explain to me why one gives all Slivers including itself the activated ability, and the other has the activated ability and gives all others the ability? I suspect it has to do with the reminder text, which might be confusing about “this” creature if used following the second ability, but wow, the inelegance of this difference could not have been worth it. Slivers are the most glaring place to locate an inelegant mismatch. Outlast is boring and stupid anyway, just pick a different mechanic if you have to.

Nurturing Peatland

Pete and Pete

Sword of Truth and Justice; Sword of Sinew and Steel

Sword of Truth and JusticeSword of Sinew and Steel

These get worse every iteration. The last one they make is going to be Sword of Wet and Icky +2/+2, Pro-Blue, Pro-Black, if you damage an opponent you get to scry 1 and untap target enchantment.

Altar of Dementia

Altar of Dementia

What is the risk/reward on reprinting a card like this? How does this ever show up in a fair way? If it’s playable, it’s because you can basically flip your deck over turn 3, and if you can’t flip your deck over turn 3, it isn’t playable.

Wrenn and Six

Wrenn and Six

Are you kidding me? We kicked off this installment of Sick of It complaining about 3 and 4-mana walkers that have been pushed to the limit. Now there’s a 2-mana planeswalker with 4 loyalty that ticks up to get a Wasteland back? And if you happen to blank their yard it’s still a 2-mana haste pinger, which is also above rate. These are not hidden gems. Read the card and you can see it’s broken. How is the next Standard set going to have a land recursion card that competes with this?

If this card doesn’t end up changing the texture of Legacy at some point, and not in a good way, I’ll eat my hat. $7 a pack though. Maybe soon they can add another tournament and then only invite their social media team’s favorite people to play in it.

Tectonic Reformation

Tectonic Reformation

I tried for 15 minutes to come up with a functional joke here about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation before giving up. My notepad has the words “global warming?” scribbled on it, not sure where that might have been going, but I do not regret giving up.

Goblin Engineer

Goblin Engineer

Everything is going great and then you try to take your best-performing one and turn it into a Goblin Manager and now you’ve got a manager who misses being the one who went and got the artifacts, which she was great at, and meanwhile you overlooked a different Goblin, who would have made a great manager, because you didn’t test for a managerial skill set, so now she just welds artifacts in a silo all day with 1x output.

Winds of Abandon

Winds of Abandon

This edition’s “Will he sink that low? (Yes):”

Home alone with the dog, split a Chipotle burrito with him. 30 min later we came up with this card.

Sunbaked Canyon

Sunbaked Canyon

“Since the river ran dry, travelers wander where fish once swam.”

This card is like two minor tweaks away from being called Canyon Canyon and having a flavor text that’s just the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “canyon.”

Ayula, Queen Among Bears

Ayula, Queen Among Bears

When you show up to the wrong type of gay meetup that isn’t your specific subculture but you make the most of it and quickly win over the room.

Flusterstorm

Flusterstorm

Should have been a redesigned version of the card in some way rather than a reprint, or left out entirely, because of how annoying it is to cast and not misclick on MTGO. I’m not joking. You can’t play Modern on Arena, so much of Flusterstorm’s existence is on MTGO and it’s about the worst digital experience out there, so why bring it to Modern.

Ideas for the alternative design:

Knock it Off: U instant, counter target instant or sorcery spell and all spells with the same name unless its controller pays X, where X is the number of spells that have been cast this turn.

Seriously, Stop It: U instant, counter all instant and sorcery spells target player controls unless they pay X, where X is the number of spells that have been cast this turn.

That’s Enough: I Mean It: U instant, Choose 1 or both – counter target instant or sorcery unless its controller pays 2; counter all copies of instants or sorceries target player controls.

Mox Tantalite

Mox Tantalite

There’s nothing sacred that they won’t milk absolutely dry. Every 6 months we have to get a new Mox with an even more obscure mineral or gem? It’s now impossible to be excited about a new Mox. Well done, team. Core Set 2020: Mox Plutonium. 0 Artifact, T: add <>, if it is Saturday, add 1 mana of any color instead.

Kess, Dissident Mage

Kess, Dissident Mage - Foil

I hardly recognize her in a two-dimensional representation.

Ranger-Captain of Eos

Ranger-Captain of Eos

Most prominent sidekick in the art is a Lion, yet this cannot find King of the Pride from the same set. I would have put a Stoneforge Mystic in the art to really upset the people who want it unbanned.

Giver of Runes

Giver of Runes

She looks like the kind of character you wouldn’t want to leave alone with David Benioff and DB Weiss, even for a season or two.

Aria of Flame

Aria of Flame

Has the power to wear other people’s faces, never uses it.

Llanowar Tribe

Llanowar Tribe

But also, Llanowar Elves is already plural, so why does it only tap for G?

Throes of Chaos

Throes of Chaos

An otherwise elegant two-keyword text box is instead a wall of reminder text. Shame.

Marit Lage’s Slumber

Marit Lage's Slumber

Sick nostalgia. We have to unleash Marit Lage, but this time from an enchantment instead of a land! We’ve completed this quest already.

Putrid Goblin

Putrid Goblin

The Modern format itself is the subject of examination in this flavor text: “Too stupid to survive, too dumb to die.”

Munitions Expert

Munitions Expert

Every Limited set now has a cycle of uncommon gold cards that have an insane rate. You don’t really even have to read them, you can just first pick it, draft those colors and you’re all set. I understand why this has value, as it provides a path for less experienced drafters. Why are we doing that same thing in this wacky Modern Horizons set? Isn’t this the perfect time to take a break and give us something other than gold card + blinders on = playable deck?

Thundering Djinn

Thundering Djinn

“It strikes like a bolt from a brainstorm.” Wait a minute, is this a reference to existing Magic cards? Very subtle, I almost missed it.

Lava Dart

Lava Dart

“Small outbursts are healthy.” – Koth of the Hammer. Wow, the contest for worst flavor text is extremely tough this set. By the way, this art looks like a volcanic turd.

Geomancer’s Gambit

Geomancer's Gambit

“Telepathy changes minds, necromancy changes lives, but geomancy changes the world.” Necromancy changes lives?? “My uncle did the necromancy thing, it seems cheesy but he hasn’t had a sip to drink in 22 years.” These flavor texts are absurd.

Magmatic Sinkhole

Magmatic Sinkhole

In a set all about nostalgia, [Adjective] [Noun] should do something similar to the existing card named [Noun]. Here, red is allowed to blow up lands, so why not make this a Fissure type effect with delve?

Pyrophobia

Pyrophobia

Norin The Wary is referenced in the flavor text here. Turns out Norin is a warrior. Go look it up. The opposite of Cowards according to the Coward/Warrior flavor.

Thornado

Thornado

**Swings Mjölnir around**

Umezawa’s Charm

Umezawa's Charm

Should let you pick two of the abilities. Obviously.

Goatnap

Goatnap

When Finkel gets tired at 2 pm.

Archmage’s Charm

Archmage's Charm

Sure, why not. They’re probably dead to the 8/8 trample or behind by 10 cards to Loam/Wrenn + cycle lands before they can get UUU set up. So who cares.

Share this

Discussion

Scroll to Top