Responses to Vapor Ops

Posted in ARTICLES on April 25, 2003

By Randy Buehler

I’m glad so many of you enjoyed the Vapor Ops experience. This week’s column consists of interesting answers that I received along with my own take on each of the cards. (If you’re new to this conversation then click here to lean what the Vapor Ops test is or click here to see the portion of the test that I administered two weeks ago.) My take on each card isn’t actually a complete answer to the question – instead, it’s a summary of the sorts of points that I was looking for when reading answers. In addition to covering those points, good answers were well-written, with cogent reasoning and a sound recommendation for what R&D’s next move should be.


White Uncommon

New World Angel
4W
Creature - Angel
2/3
Flying
Whenever New World Angel is put into a graveyard, return it to play and sacrifice a permanent.
Whenever New World Angel deals damage to a player, you may add WW to your mana pool.

JAGVGR
New World Angel seems like it is simply too easy to abuse in some kind of mana combo, be it by having it deal damage to the opponent, then abusing the white mana with Celestial Dawn or some other effect, or by using its "deathback" ability combined with something like Ashnod's Altar. I will grant that the ability to return upon death seems quite cool, and if it were simply granted a mana cost as an additional cost, then it would probably be balanced. The damage dealing ability is nice, but overall I'm not really sure how well it fits in with white's themes.

Kenneth I. Patterson
The mana generation ability as printed is not playable; it should probably be changed to "during your next main phase." Forcing people to play a lot of 2-mana instants is too weak a bonus for a 5-mana 2/3 flyer. The auto-resurrection ability seems to be a bit of a rules nightmare; if it's your only permanent, it seems to cause a loop where you have to keep sacrificing it over and over again.

Adam Rasmussen
This card would create an infinite loop when its controller controls no other permanents, resulting in a draw. It shouldn't come back into play until end of turn. Also, its second ability is awful because it's too hard to spend mana during combat. Maybe it should have Spirit Link instead. Instead of two mana, you get two life!

My Take:
This card has numerous problems: First of all, the first ability should only trigger when New World Angel (NWA) goes to the graveyard “from play” – having it trigger when the card is discarded is both overpowered and confusing to many players. Second, the first ability makes for an “infinite” loop that’s far too easy. You can just sac the NWA to itself and combo that with any other card that does something whenever a creatures comes into (or leaves) play for a 2-card instant-win combo. Third, that ability also causes games to “hang” and result in a draw if you control no other permanents. My fourth issue with this card is that the second ability seems out of flavor for white. Issue number five is that the two abilities have nothing to do with each other – why are they on the same card? Finally, the second ability gives you the mana at an inconvenient time (you get it at the end of your attack phase and then take mana burn if you can’t use it before you go back to your main phase) which will both confuse and annoy many players. I would eliminate the second ability entirely and change the first one to some sort of Ivory Gargoyle variant that doesn’t cause infinite loops. Even that more simpler version of the card will probably belong at rare (not uncommon) by the way.


Blue Common

Twiddle Bug
1U
Creature - Insect
1/1
Flying
Sacrifice Twiddle Bug: Tap or untap target permanent.

A bunch of Pro Tour players sent in Vapor Ops answers and they were the ones who seemed to have the most interesting reactions to Twiddle Bug.

Andrew Wolf
This card is very balanced. If anything, it is a tad on the weak side. A 1/1 flyer for 1U is decent, if unspectacular, especially for a common card. The ability, mimicking the card Twiddle, is also unspectacular. Never a great card to begin with, adding the Twiddle mechanic to a creature really does very little for the effect. Is this card good or bad? It really is neither, a decidedly mediocre card that would likely never see play in Constructed, and only infrequently see play in Limited. Finally, Insect is an inapproipriate creature type for a blue creature. Perhaps it should be a Spirit or Bird instead.

Andrew Cuneo
This card sucks. I hate it when you print cards like this. I would say to make it a 2/1 flier, but that's inconsistent with how you guys cost things. A 2/1 ground creature would be reasonable.

Zvi Mowshowitz
This card is harmless. In fact, I would not be at all surprised to find it in Bacon. Twiddle was never any good, but the idea here is to model the new limited blue flyer. Having the ability to untap any creature you have in play at any time can be a major pain to the opponent when he's trying to attack, and while it does that you get to poke in the air. Also, as far as I can tell without access to the research casual players seem to like Twiddle effects. It will have zero impact on constructed, but it's not supposed to. A reasonable filler blue common.

My Take:
This was the one card on the test that seemed to have no real flaws. With the one exception that it shouldn’t be an Insect (because Insects are green), I think we could print this card as-is whenever we have a slot for a small flier in blue common.


Red Common

Lazy Goblin
R
Creature - Goblin
2/1
Lazy Goblin can't block.

Most people gave the same basic answer to this question and some even accused me of writing a lazy question.

Elliot Fung
Obviously too good. But the hard part is fixing it without crippling it or rehashing something everyone has already seen. Perhaps if its controller took damage equal to damage dealt to and dealt by this goblin. Change the name too, this goblin won't be lazy since I'll be attacking with him every turn. =)

Pierre Dupont
Too cheap! It's ability to be unable to block is NOT a drawback, let's remember Shadow creatures. Too fast for the current Standard, or at least post-Onslaught Standard, and this would give 1.x 8 Jackal Pups. Compare to the 2/2 Goblin that cannot block, he costs 1R.

My Take:
We’ve talked about this before … red is not supposed to get really good weenie creatures. This would be red’s best weenie ever as “can’t block” is an almost meaningless drawback on an aggressively minded creature (and “Creature – Goblin” is a pretty powerful bonus too). This card would be unhealthy for constructed even if we printed it with an irrelevant creature type.


Green Rare

Norwood Leprechaun
1GG
Creature - Leprechaun
2/4
If Norwood Leprechaun could normally block a creature, it can't block that creature.
If Norwood Leprechaun would normally be unable to block a creature, it may block that creature.

Peter Kvetlosky
This card seems cool enough, it's well costed and has a very interesting ability. Personally I think that this card would be an absolute blast and would love to see something like it printed. Only thing to consider is that the ability might be confusing for people.

Andrew Kolpecky
For its pt/mc/na ratio, it seemed fine, as a natural 2/4 for 3. The two green restricted it from too much splash and in limited play. My main problem with this card was its ability. The ability to me seemed like it could cause massive headaches should the card ever see print. It breaks rules in a bad way - creates situations that may need errata or some type of ruling such as blocking phantom warrior - it can block "unblockable" creatures - which creature with those abilities has priority? The question arises, what could it normally block? Well, it can normally block only one creature, not two, so can it block a second since it normally could not? What about a third? Can it normally block fliers because of its second ability? Can it therefore not block at all because abilities overlap? Suppose bedlam is in play -- can leprechaun block since it can "normally" block none of those? I guess it would come down to the definition of normal. Final Verdict: This is a bad card due to rules and should not see print unless it is VERY well worded.

My Take:
The wording here is terrible. Can it block while tapped? Can it block multiple creatures? Can it block my own creatures? What counts as “normally?” Laurie Cheers (who edits Rune’s Saturday School articles) summed it up nicely when he said, “No -- the blocking rules have enough problems already, thanks. (If a Lured creature is attacking, could Norwood Leprechaun 'normally block' any other attacking creatures?)” The flavor and the intent of the card are cool, but we couldn’t print it unless the ability was reworked so that it was unambiguous but still elegant.


 

Gold Rare

Life Cycle
2BG
Enchantment
1G: Put a wood counter on target creature.
1B: Put a sludge counter on target creature.
Whenever a creature is put into a graveyard, for each wood and sludge counter on it, put a 2/3 green and black Fungoid token into play. For each excess wood counter on that creature, put a 0/3 green Woodling token into play. For each excess sludge counter on the creature, put a 2/1 black Sludgling token into play.

Dave Guskin
Life Cycle is a cool concept gone horribly awry. Wood counters, sludge counters, Fungoid tokens, Woodling tokens, Sludgling tokens. Wow. Not only does the break the usual rule of tokens being X/X critters when generated, but it makes things incredibly confusing if, say, Mr. Babycakes is out. "I'll put 2 wood counters on that guy, and a sludge counter on that guy." "But they each already have 2 +1/+1 counters!" Complication in this way just detracts from the game, and it also opens up a window for "creative counter management", or cheating as some call it. Bad news.

Adrian den Ouden
Too much rules text, I doubt it'd fit on the card, and the wording is confusing as well. I had to read it twice to understand what it means. It's a fun idea, but I don't think it'd be a good card to print just because it's too complicated. Having two separate types of counters on a single creature created by the same permanent would be difficult to keep track of as it would require players to use two separate colors of counters. Also, the ability is kind of redundant as being able to produce 2 2/1 creature for 2BB is better than being able to creature 1 2/3 creature for 2BG. If you change it to be a single color (probably green), only use one type of counter, and for flavor's sake create whatever kind of token is dominant in the block (insects in Onslaught block, squirrels in Odyssey, saprolings in Invasion, etc.), it might be a printable card, but it needs some work.

Charlie Mauck
Mechanical Analysis: This card is hideous! Obviously someone had some fun writing this as a bad example. Not only is it overly long and complicated, and the tokens a nightmare to keep track of, it also is pointless. Why do the different counters give out different creatures? Why don't their P/T add up? What do "Wood" and "Sludge" counters have to do with the tokens? There just doesn't really seem to be a focused purpose to the card. There are so many cleaner, more direct ways of doing a card like this, I'm not sure what the purpose here would be.

My Take:
This card is way too complicated. The flavor that’s buried underneath the mechanic is ok, but we should never print anything resembling this card because it forces players to keep track of way too many different kinds of counters and tokens.


Land Uncommon

Heart of Argoth
Legendary Land
When Heart of Argoth comes into play, you may play an additional land.
T: Add G to your mana pool.

Brian Little
First, I feel this should be a rare card. Uncommon legends are a terrible idea, in my opinion. Secondly, I think this card is extremely broken for the same reason that Moxes were -- anything that breaks the one-land-a-turn rule without a drawback will break the game wide open. I suggest that the land needs to come into play tapped, or force you to sacrifice another land, preferably a forest or any basic lapped, for it to come into play, although the tap ability would be preferable to the sacrifice ability (as, with the sacrifice, you could get 4 mana on turn 2 if you played an elf or bird on turn one).

Edwin Kunkle
I've been playing since 1994, I still own moxes and a Black Lotus, and this new card (Heart of Argoth) is one of the best ideas I've seen in a long time. I've always thought green, being the color of mana generation, could have the ability to increase its mana in a similar fashion to the Moxes. Heart of Argoth is almost perfect in that respect, although maybe it should only let you play forests as additional land. Please don't let a bunch of skeptics ruin such an excellent idea! If it's watered down too much, it'll only see less play. The almost total lack of good mana acceleration in recent years is something I'd like to see changed. The fact that R&D is now considering printing such a card as Heart of Argoth gives me hope that more such fun and exciting cards will see print. In my opinion, cards like that add an element of surprise without being too overbearing. Such a card is not even remotely as strong as Tolarian Academy (an admitted mistake), and in some cases it's not even as strong as Gaea's Cradle (a fun card which I don't consider a mistake).

Noah Weil
My gut reaction was that this card is way too good. My gut reaction is completely correct, but figuring out how to make the idea, which is a solid one, into something printable was a little tough. As it looks right now, every single deck would pack X number of these, since there's no reason not to. The fact it makes G, while in flavor, is just a bonus to decks packing this card that happen to actually be green. The legendary status makes it a swing card; whoever draws theirs first has a gigantic edge in development and promoting dead draws later on…

My Take:
This card is Mox Emerald, and Moxes are far too powerful to reprint. In addition, the fact that this is a Legend makes it even worse. It’s just dumb when Constructed games are won or lost based on who gets his Legend into play first. For this reason, R&D’s policy in recent years has been to make an effort not to print any really good Legendary lands or cheap Legends. Finally, Legends shouldn’t be uncommon – they should all be rare.


If you are interested in reading more reader submissions to the Vapor Ops test, click here and you can see everything that survived my first pass through my email where I cut and pasted a bunch of stuff into the document I used as I was writing this article.


Randy may be reached at latestdevelopments@wizards.com.

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