Sperling’s Sick of It: Dominaria

1) There is No Other Way to Begin This Article

You ever play those puzzles where there are two images and you have to circle the 5 or 7 things that are different?

This is now a skill we need to determine whether a card is common or uncommon.

It is somewhat rude and unprofessional to call for someone’s resignation just because you disagree with their work. But the person who decided that the common expansion symbol color should be bright white and the uncommon expansion symbol should be slightly-shinier-off-white should resign. I’m sorry. I wish there was another way. I want to forgive and forget. But this I simply cannot forgive.

I want to know what else this person spends their time on. When they go to get knee surgery do they mark one knee with a black X and the other with a dark brown X so the doctor knows which one to operate on? Do they put mayo and vanilla pudding in identical unlabeled mason jars but mark each lid with a different shade of taupe? I don’t know, but I hope that they soon find themselves with more free time to do whatever it is they do.

2) Lessons Unlearned

Despite MaRo’s admission that Battle for Zendikar was the worst block in years, Dominaria takes us down the same path with legendary that BFZ went down with colorless.

“Legendary” is a restriction. It means that you can’t have more than one in play. Over the years, there has been a correlation between legendary things and cool things. But just like colorless, legendary isn’t the cool part.

Would it be good design to propose a new supertype called “awesome” and start printing Awesome Creatures and Awesome Artifacts with not much of a mechanical shift? Even that joke idea is sort of enticing. If you aren’t careful, your brain will assume that labels are interchangeable with the things they label.
“this gets played in Commander” has been yet another property that correlates with cool stuff. So I understand how we got here. But again, if you look at cards like Command Tower

They get played a lot in Commander but they aren’t cool or interesting. They actually drain coolness and interest from the format by being auto-includes and reducing the deck design space from 100 cards to 99.

Getting back to Dominaria, BFZ isn’t the only block that stands as a giant reminder of bad design that diluted something that was only correlated with coolness in the first place. Kamigawa block did the same thing with legendary creatures. Now, you can make a long list of things people didn’t enjoy about that block, and I’m sure they’ve made it in Renton, WA. But why wasn’t the presence of so many legendary creatures enough to counteract some of the wonky elements of the block? Perhaps because it isn’t very interesting when you dilute it down to basically a tribal subtype.

3) Uncommon, Really?

From the “it was fun the first few times, but I don’t know if I want to do this every afternoon” files comes playing against these uncommons. Song of Freyalise involves some great tensions though in the game play. Should I cast my entire hand or just my whole hand? Should I send all of my indestructible vigilance creatures into the red zone or hold a few back to block? Hmm.

4) Any Target

You know what we need more of? Errata on cards as simple as Lava Axe. And what’s the upside of going back to “any target” and having “player or planeswalker” be a thing? Let’s take a look:

This is the first set with the new wordings (unless you count Alpha et al), and already Healing Grace shows the price you paid. The plain English reading suggests it prevents any targeted damage that might be dealt, not that you target one thing to protect, which is how it actually works. And there’s also a trap related to the fact that you can pick any source, but not any target, despite, again, the plain English on the card. Target must be creature, planeswalker, or player. Source could be a land, a spell, etc. Even though they both basically say pick any.

Fortunately, Healing Grace is an uncommon. Maybe. I don’t know. How could we tell?

5) People Making Two Saproling Tokens on Turn 2 and Asking Me if I Have Tokens

This happened to me late into the day on both days of GP Columbus. So it’s round 7 or whatever, and you’ve been making these things all damn day and it’s the most common token and you just don’t have any? Oh but it’s okay, you’ve got us covered. Two microscopic pieces of paper torn off the CFB Guinness World Record Smallest Pad of Paper Ever lifepad with a “1” scribbled on it should keep the game state solid. I’m waiting for someone to just level up on this and pull out two wintermint Tic Tacs to represent their Soldiers and two spearmint Tic Tacs to represent the Saprolings.

6) Gaea’s Protector

How does this common (uncommon? Whatever it is—there’s no way of knowing which) not have reminder text? Show me another card more worthy of reminder text. You can’t do it. This ability gets misinterpreted at literally every skill level, every time it is printed. And there is plenty of room on the card.

I know, they needed the real estate for this jaw-dropping flavor text. Wow, this thing makes local residents “uneasy.” I bet they call the cops on Gaea’s Protectors all the time even when they’re just minding their own business or waiting for their friends at Starbucks. Is that what Wizards is in favor of here?

7) Let’s Talk About Foils, Part XXVI

The tournament rules just changed, allowing you to proxy a card that has only been printed in foil. Let’s talk about this for a second. First, some history: Foils have always sucked. The rules around foils have always sucked. I remember once being told that there was “no pattern” in the foils in my opponent’s deck (this was several years back), which is literally impossible. Even if my deck was all 4-ofs and perfectly split two foil and two non-foil of each card, guess what happens when I draw a nonfoil version of card X and my top card doesn’t look warped? It’s not as likely to be a second copy of card X.

I once saw Kibler’s opponent get foil checked in a feature match at the table judge’s suggestion right as Kibler was going to lose game 3 and the match. So the insanity around this issue is decades old at this point.

Now Wizards did the clearly boneheaded thing of creating a Legacy-legal and Legacy-playable card that exists only in foil, as if to rub our collective faces in the dog crap of their foil quality and policy over the years. I guess the rule letting you proxy it is okay—that’s just the tournament rules committee doing their best to make some lemonade.

The day they promise to stop printing foils will be the day I write a “Sperling’s Smiling About It” column.

8) Openly Rooting For People to Stop Playing the Stupid Cards You Printed a Little While Back

Wow, you did it. And there’s no chance—Zero. None—that people will get even more sick of Karn than they were of The Scarab God, and this tweet will age poorly. There’s just no chance. It’s done. Start the parade.

9) “After Your Draw Step…”

A: “Okay, we have an entire part of the turn that has no purpose other than recurring crap—or upkeep, so to speak—items that we’ve trained the players will trigger in that step for 25 years.”
B: “Yes, great point. We’ll make the Sagas trigger at the beginning of the pre-combat main phase.”
A: “Umm, I’m not sure you got what I was saying about the upkeep.”
B: “Okay, you’re right. We’ll call the beginning of the pre-combat main phase the ‘end of the draw step’ for no reason.”
A: “…”

10) The First Eruption

This is a high-brow column. We don’t sink to the level of low-hanging adolescent humor of a sexual nature around here. SKIP.

11) Shalai and Teshar

Nice of them to let the person who designed the rarity symbols design the art and casting cost on two of the white legends.

12) Gatherer Preview Showing the Invocations or Whatever They’re Called

In researching for this important article, I had to take breaks because I would periodically scroll over Rhonas the Indomitable in a deck list and get the Gatherer previous of a Yu-Gi-Oh! card in the middle of a deck of Magic cards. Inventions are yet another idea that got pounded into the ground until the unique became the generic. Making them a default view is kind of a perfect encapsulation of the trend, actually.

13) GG Sensitivity Training–Enroll Now and Save

We’ve now come so far on the post-match handshake and “gg” sensitivity training that people are losing and then consoling the winner of the match about their play skill.

I’ll admit, I do look for my opponents to acknowledge how well the round went for me. I even make them sign their name next to it. And then I hand it in at the judge’s stage.


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