Hello everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Devling with Devin, a place where we discuss everything and anything magic related! A few weeks ago, I did an article on ways we can improve competitive magic, which can be found here In this article I’m going to be delving off the deep end on one of the topics brought up in that article. This is of course, the play vs draw aspect of the game.
No one can deny, that magic is a great game, probably one of the best games you can play. It has all things going for it to make it great. It’s fun, has an incredible amount of replay-ability, and can be enjoyed in many different ways depending on what you get out of the game. With all of these great things going for it, I feel that there is one major problem with the game, an inherent, built in, broken play vs draw problem. In some games, its to your advantage to go second, or last, as you gather information on what your opponent is doing, and can react accordingly. Poker is one such game where acting last has a massive advantage.
Magic on the other hand is a game where going first has its huge advantages, as there is more to the game then just information. There is tempo, board presence, and resource management, all of which are massively impacted by being on the play. Paulo Vitor Damodarosa, arguably one of the best magic players of all time, recently released an article on channel fireball on why you should NEVER choose to draw or go second, which can be found here. In my time of playing magic, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time watching Grand Prix, Star City opens, and various other forms of magic game coverage. I challenge anyone to watch an event where the casters don’t mention how being on the play is significant throughout the event, or how if such and such player had been on the play this game would of gone completely differently. To me, as a player, I feel that this is major problem.
Its not all doom and gloom, the great thing about magic being a game, is there is a literal infinite number of levers that can be pulled to balance this equation. I remember approximately 20 years ago, when wizards decided to pull that lever, and take away drawing a card on the play. I still remember this day, there was uncertainty in what was correct moving forward, to choose the play or the draw. This was a step in the right direction, however as time has shown, it simply wasn’t enough. There is still a massive advantage to being on the play. I feel for magic to be the best game it can possibly be, the players need to be essentially indifferent to be on the play or the draw. I know, crazy talk right? how could this be possible? Well follow me! Keep pulling those levers, we will get there.
I’m going to start by giving some ideas on things that could be done to make it so players honestly dont care if they are on the play or draw. After reading the introductory ideas, please post in the comments below if you have any suggestions or ideas of your own! After giving some introductory ideas, I will lay out a larger picture on how to impliment it to add even more decision making to this great game.
The first thing that could be done, is to give the player who is on the draw a treasure chest in play. A treasure chest is a new effect in Ixilan, which is effectively a colorless artifact that can be sacrificed for any colour of mana. This would allow the player on the draw to have a chance to spell pierce an opponents turn one effect or lighting bolt their turn one play and effectively help to stifle the tempo gain from being on the play. Imagine being on the draw vs burn, and being able to lightning bolt their goblin guide on the draw without taking a hit, or being able to spell pierce the opponents turn 1 dark ritual in legacy on the draw. All of a sudden that opponent isn’t just winning the game because they won the die roll, and they need to actually play some magic to get that win.
Would getting a treasure chest on the draw make you indifferent to being on the draw?
Here is another idea that doesnt effect board presence, but would give the player on the draw an advantage in consistency which could help balance the equation. The player on the draw, at the start of the game, lays out 7 cards, and then they lay out 6 cards seperate from the original 7. The player on the draw then, when choosing wether to mulligan or not, would get to choose which hand to keep. How often do you have a shakey 7 cards, on the fence on wether to mulligan or not, and then you mulligan to 6 and its an unplayable 6, or its a great 6 and you either made the greatest mulligan of your life or your regretting getting out of bed in the morning. This would effectively give the player on the draw, a more consistent mulligan process and over all have a stronger hand on average over the player on the play. If you still didnt like that 7 or 6 and want to take a mulligan, the next hands you draw are a 6 card hand and a 5 card hand, and you can either choose one hand to keep or continue this process. If you decide to keep the 6 card hand and throw the 7 cards back, shuffle them into your deck and then scry. This is a great way to add consistency to the player on the draw, making sure they have their key ways to interact because there on the back foot on tempo.
Another more basic way to give the player on the draw an advantage over the player going first, is to have them start with a higher life total, but this isnt always going to be relevent, as life totals in all match ups dont matter, such as playing against a control deck or a combo deck. If only there were a way to let the player on the draw decide which advantage to gain…. There is!
As some of you may or may not know, I have a 4 (almost 5) year old daughter, and like the cool dad I am, I bought her the nintendo classic to play. We’ve been playing the original final fantacy game together, and she is loving it. For those of you who dont know, at the start of the game, you can choose between different classes to put into your party. Your choices are a warrior, a healing mage, a damage mage, or a thief. Each class has its advantages, higher life totals, stronger spells, etc etc. What if we add some of this game play/ lore to our magic experience?
For game one in magic, idealy players do not know what the opposing player is playing, so the draw effect should just be a generic one, such as the gaining a treasure chest. But games two and three, you now have the information on what your opponent is playing, and I feel giving the player on the draw the choice on a few different effects to gain could add to the game/ decision making process while moving us towards our goal of being play/draw indifferent. How about the following:
Generic: start with a treasure chest in play
Warrior: with extra strength, start the game at 23 life (great vs burn or hypo agro decks)
Mage: with the years of experience and knowledge, start the game with the 7 card and 6 card hand prior to mulligaining as described above. (great for sideboard games where you really need that stoney silence or rest in peace type effect)
Thief: With the art of deception, after all mulligans are complete, use a vendilion clique effect on your opponent. (see their hand and you may put a non-land card to the bottom and they draw a card if you do) Great vs combo decks!
Of course all of these are just ideas, and they would need to be tested for balance. But let me tell you, being on the draw would leave a much less sour taste in my mouth if I got to enjoy one of these effects. I might even choose to be on the draw! Gasp!
As always, let me know what you think below!