Fact, Fiction, or None of the Above

Posted in Latest Developments on March 15, 2002

By Randy Buehler

First off, I want to thank you for all the feedback I got on the Reprint Policy. (Click here to read that article.) The data is in and you voted 5510 to 570 in favor of changing the policy to allow Wizards to reprint commons and uncommons from the early base sets. We’re going to take a close look at the policy and we’ll probably make that one small change.

While I’ve got you in a feedback-giving mood, there’s a question I’ve been asking myself for months now: “Was it a mistake to print Fact or Fiction?” Brian Schneider talked about it a little in yesterday's "Ask Wizards," but I want to look at it a little harder.

On the one hand, blue has been dominating constructed tournaments ever since Invasion came out and Fact or Fiction has been important to a lot of those blue decks. Fully half the competitors in the Standard format Masters event that was played at Pro Tour - San Diego were running a version of the dreaded Psychatog deck.

Psychatog

Creature (4)
4 Psychatog
Other (4)
4 Aether Burst
60 Cards
Sideboard (15)
1 Force Spike 1 Gainsay 3 Disrupt 1 Divert 3 Hibernation 2 Lobotomy 4 Slay

When the R&D Events team met to discuss March 1st Banned and Restricted List changes, I even wondered aloud if we should ban Fact or Fiction.

On the other hand, no one in the meeting thought the card should be banned. It simply hasn’t taken over the environment to the extent necessary to be ban-worthy. Only that one event (the San Diego Masters) saw blue show up in silly proportions and it could just be that the top pros prefer to play blue, especially when they all independently discovered such a good new deck as Psychatog. In addition, several Torment cards, especially Chainer's Edict, seem really good against that deck.

Most importantly, Fact or Fiction is really interesting when it resolves. Both players are forced to make difficult decisions and I particularly like the bluffing that often occurs. It’s really hard to make a Magic card that allows players to bluff effectively (that was Cursed Scroll’s original intent, for example), but it can be so cool when it works out. I remember reading Zvi Mowshowitz’s tournament report from Pro Tour - Chicago 2000 -- the first Pro Tour where Fact or Fiction was legal -- and being delighted with his stories about tricking opponents into taking the wrong pile. Zvi’s team spent a lot of their playtesting time thinking and talking about how to make piles for Fact or Fiction and it paid off. That was also the tournament where the most skilled player in the history of the game -- Kai Budde -- started his recent ridiculous run of success, (winning with a Rebel deck that did not include Fact or Fiction).

During the development of Invasion Fact or Fiction was in the file with a mana cost of 4U. I brought it up in a meeting and argued that the “divvy” mechanic was really intertesting and that we should make sure that one of the divvy cards (Do or Die, Bend or Break, Stand or Fall, Death or Glory, Fight or Flight, and Fact or Fiction) was good enough to get played in Constructed. I wanted to “push” the power level of one of them so all the cool interactions that come from dividing and then choosing piles would keep coming up. Fact or Fiction seemed like the most interesting card to push and so we lowered the cost down to 3U.

I guess that in retrospect, I wish we had made the card a tiny bit worse. If it had been 2UU then it wouldn’t be as easy to play in quite so many decks. Or if the "unchosen" cards were removed from the game instead of put into the graveyard, then it wouldn’t be quite as powerful with graveyard cards. Or if we had left Armageddon in Seventh Edition then aggressive decks would still have the ability to punish mana-hungry control decks. Of course, a double-blue mana cost would have been contrary to the spirit of Invasion (where we did everything we could to encourage multicolor play), and the graveyard interactions add yet another level of strategy to the card, and the Armageddon decision was bigger and more important than any one other card.

All in all, my personal opinion is that I’m happy we printed it. I think it’s one of the most interesting designs we’ve printed in a long time and I don’t think it makes blue so good that you can’t play the other colors. However, it is awfully, awfully good and (like any other really good card), it’s easy to get sick of seeing it. I’m quite interested to know what all of you think.


Randy may be reached at latestdevelopments@wizards.com.

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