Eight Trials: Color Pie in the Courtroom, Part 3

Posted in NEWS on May 23, 2008

By Devin Low

Brass Herald: Order! Order! This is the eighth and final trial for the crime Breaking the Color Pie. Today's co-defendants are Augury Adept and Giant Solifuge. All rise, for his honor, the Stern Judge.

Stern Judge: I see that this final trial is being attended by... every card in Shadowmoor. As well as many from Ravnica, Guildpact, and Dissension. This trial is clearly of great import to the present and future of hybrid cards everywhere. Court reporter, have you recorded the seven trials leading up to this one?

Brass Secretary : Yes, your honor. They have been deployed here and here.

Stern Judge: Then the time of waiting is over. Let this trial begin.

Case #34077008: Color Pie vs. Augury Adept

Saprazzan Bailiff: Who accuses Augury Adept of breaking the color pie?

Mark Rosewater: I do. As the lead designer of Ravnica, the set that introduced hybrid, and the lead designer of Shadowmoor, the set that turned hybrid into a major set theme, I consider myself an expert on the subject. And I'd like to warm up by questioning red-green hybrid accomplice Giant Solifuge on related color pie charges.

Giant Solifuge

Stern Judge: So granted. Giant Solifuge, please crawl up to the stand. With haste.

Mark Rosewater: Giant Solifuge, are you familiar with the Magic color pie?

Giant Solifuge: Brzrrble.

Mark Rosewater: So you know that shroud is intended to appear only in green and blue.

Giant Solifuge: Bchkchkchk.

Mark Rosewater: And yet you have been seen brazenly flaunting your shroud in mono-red decks with nothing but Mountains. Disgraceful.

Giant Solifuge: Brdrdrble.

Mark Rosewater: As a Guildpact hybrid creature, are you aware that the official color pie of 2006, when Guildpact was released, defined haste as a purely red ability, with only half a dozen black appearances in Magic's history and virtually no green appearances?

Giant Solifuge: Brdbr. Brrzrldrz.

Mark Rosewater: And yet you have also been sighted in numerous mono-green decks, both tournament and casual, using haste to deadly effect in decks having nothing but Forests. Is that correct?

Giant Solifuge: Byyrrzr.

Mark Rosewater: Then you've made my case far too easy. The prosecution has no more questions for this witness.

Stern Judge: Your witness, defense counselor.

Devin Low: Thank you, your honor. But I don't need to question poor Giant Solifuge. I need to cross-examine... Mark Rosewater.

Glimpse the Unthinkable: But that's unthinkable!

The Unspeakable: Unspeakable!

Zombify: BRAINS!

Stern Judge: Order! A strange request, but let's see where this takes us. Defense counselor, you may cross-examine the prosecutor.

Devin Low: Mark Rosewater, when you questioned Giant Solifuge about adding haste to mono-green decks, I notice you specifically cited "the official color pie of 2006, when Guildpact was released." Why so specific?

Mark Rosewater: A card has to satisfy the color pie of the time its printed. We can't go around judging Morningtide cards by The Dark's color pie.

Devin Low: Is that the only reason you specifically said that Giant Solifuge's haste in mono-green decks violated the color pie of 2006? Or do you cite a violation of that old color pie because Giant Solifuge giving haste to a mono-green deck isn't even a violation of the modern color pie at all? Tell me, who was the main proponent of expanding haste to other colors besides red?

Mark Rosewater: Well, it was me.

Boggart Ram-Gang

Devin Low: And who was the lead designer of Shadowmoor, which contains the following cards specifically giving haste to mono-green decks: Boggart Ram-Gang, Giantbaiting, and Impromptu Raid?

Mark Rosewater: I was the lead designer of Shadowmoor, and the set does include those three hybrid cards.

Devin Low: Would you say it was a wise move for you to advance haste into colors beyond just red?

Mark Rosewater: Yes. It's a significant advancement to the color pie that will lead to benefits for both design and game play of sets for years to come.

Devin Low: But if advancing haste beyond just red into secondary status in black and green is such a smart move with such great benefits in 2008, how can you say it was such an awful crime for Guildpact's designers and developers to advance haste into green in 2006? Weren't they just visionaries ahead of their time, already foreseeing and embracing the reasons why haste would play well in mono-green decks, two years before the rest of R&D reached that same conclusion in 2008?

Mark Rosewater: In 2008, I officially got haste moved into secondary status in black and green in the official color pie. The whole department approved the shift. In 2006, the pie wasn't officially shifted—it was just the work of rogue R&D operatives going beyond our formal color pies of the time with their own ideas for game play improvements.

Devin Low: Then let me ask you straight up, leaving specific sets aside: Mark Rosewater, do you believe that it's a good idea to allow some haste in mono-green decks?


Mark Rosewater: Yes.

Primal Forcemage: This the best day of my life.

Devin Low: Giant Solifuge's experiment with mono-green haste was itself based on the mono-green haste experiment of the similar Yavimaya Ants all the way back in Alliances, and the mono-green haste of Torment's Centaur Chieftain years after that. Seeing how well haste played in mono-green with Giant Solifuge in the real world inspired R&D to experiment with mono-green haste on eight cards in the alternate color pie of Planar Chaos, before finally moving some haste into mono-green in the modern color pie of today. It's clear to me that that Yavimaya Ants and Giant Solifuge are examples of where experiments in the color pie that seem bizarre at the time can sometimes lead you to very beneficial long-term color pie shifts that we might not otherwise have found.

Mark Rosewater: Ok, I guess green haste did pan out in the end. But Giant Solifuge giving shroud to mono-red is still totally ridiculous.

Devin Low: It's true that Giant Solifuge's mono-red shroud didn't end up leading R&D to want to do more mono-red shroud. But I do find that the shroud on Giant Solifuge does a good job of demonstrating the Gruul guild's desire for hand-to-hand combat as opposed to the subtlety of the spell-to-spell combat favored by guilds like Azorius and Dimir. Casting targeted instants and sorceries isn't going to solve Gruul centerpiece Giant Solifuge. You have to fight it with creatures in hand-to-hand combat, which fits the Gruul philosophy through and through, whether in a mono-red Gruul deck, a mono-green one, or a red-green Gruul combination. Just like you can access the red-green bloodthirst mechanic in mono-red, you can also access the hybrid Gruul Giant Solifuge.

Stern Judge: Counselors, let's get to Augury Adept. Prosecutor, you may begin your arguments.

Augury Adept

Mark Rosewater: For my opening statement, I refer to my recent published remarks, which I enter into the court's record as exhibit H.

My issue with this card is this: I didn't want to print it. It's not that I didn't like it, I just think it's a white-blue gold card and not a white-blue hybrid card. So how did it see print? Well, there was an interesting philosophical division within R&D about what hybrid should and shouldn't be able to do. It caused many arguments. You might surmise, by the way, that I lost this argument (I lost the fight on Giant Solifuge too), but since I have a column where I get to voice my opinion, I am going to present my side.

Stern Judge: Proceed.

Mark Rosewater:

I feel that hybrid has plenty of design space. As do traditional gold cards. Let's let hybrid be hybrid and gold be gold. We can design hybrid cards without having to resort to making faux gold cards. In my opinion (and as Head Designer and the person who has designed more hybrid cards than anyone), there is plenty of design space for hybrid. First, hybrid cards can have effects that overlap. White and green share life gain. Black and blue can mill. Red and green can destroy artifacts.

Second, I feel like it's acceptable for colors to pull outside of their base area of abilities (what I call the core of the color pie—see my Planar Chaos color pie column for more on what this means). A white hybrid card, as an example, can regenerate things that white doesn't normally get to regenerate because white as a color has a philosophy of protecting things. The stretch does not pull white outside of its color philosophy.

Third, I'm okay with hybrid cards that do things outside of their colors if the net effect feels in flavor of their color. This is the same rationale behind why I'm okay with Form of the Dragon even though red doesn't get Moat-style effects. Becoming a dragon feels very red. That's three huge areas that I feel comfortable with hybrid exploring. I believe that is plenty to get the job done.

Devin Low: As developers on Shadowmoor, we also considered these issues closely. I agree that the three hybrid design categories you list create fertile ground for hybrid card design. Could we fill up the entire set of Shadowmoor using cards safely contained within these three categories like Oracle of Nectars and Curse of Chains, "getting the job done," as you say, with nice, safe cards then stopping without exploring further? Yes, I believe we could. But would we really be improving the set by refusing to do the exploration? Would we be better off if we had never used Giant Solifuge to explore the game play of haste in mono-green? For me, the answer is that the exploration is worth doing, because sometimes you can find hidden treasure that makes the set play better than it would have. And sometimes you find hidden treasure like mono-green haste that can continue to improve the fun of game play for years.

Mark Rosewater: Ahem. Here is my response:

Other members of R&D, though, feel that there's a fourth acceptable option: a hybrid card is both colors regardless of how it's played. Augury Adept, for instance, is a white card even if you spend only blue mana to play it. As such, we should be allowed (in small amounts—even the other side agrees that this is a special case) to let the card have an ability that fits for white (such as life gain) even if it doesn't fit the other color (obviously blue in this case). I reject this fourth category because it feels to me like it violates the spirit of both the color pie and hybrid itself. There is a line in the sand that separates hybrid from gold and I believe this area crosses it. I don't mind coming close to the line, but I don't like hybrid cards that feel like they're really supposed to be gold. Once again, for emphasis, let hybrid be hybrid and let gold be gold. Viva la color pie! Devin?

ForgetDevin Low: I certainly agree that we should do Giant Solifuge-style hybrid cards only very infrequently, and that we should choose where and how we do them very carefully. We both agree that neither Giant Solifuge nor Augury Adept was designed this way by accident. Nobody "forgot" that haste wasn't green at the time, that card-drawing isn't white, or that life gain isn't blue. Each card was designed by R&D with full knowledge of what we were doing and with specific intentions applied to a specific area of game play. And it's clear from Shadowmoor that we explored what you call the "fourth area" very sparingly and carefully, choosing very specific places to do so.

Stern Judge: So noted.

Devin Low: I'm going to cite three Shadowmoor hybrid cards that Mark has publicly supported and endorsed to explain why I believe Augury Adept should be acceptable too: Steel of the Godhead, Dire Undercurrents, and Swans of Bryn Argoll.

It's clear from Shadowmoor that the set's lead designer, Mark Rosewater, is certainly okay with allowing cards like Steel of the Godhead to gain life in a deck of all Islands, even though the color pie clearly states that blue can't gain life. All you have to do in your mono-Islands deck is play Steel of the Godhead on a white-blue hybrid creature to give it lifelink. All it takes is a couple of Shadowmoor commons.

Runes of the Deus And this isn't just an isolated incident or accidental combo. All five members of the common hybrid Aura cycle can easily grant abilities to decks with none of the appropriate lands. Mono-Forest decks gain double strike from Runes of the Deus on their red-green hybrid creatures, even though the color pie says mono-Forest decks aren't allowed to get double strike, and so on. The cycle of five common Duos also grant abilities in decks without the appropriate lands, with Tattermunge Duo giving forestwalk to mono-Mountains decks that have never in Magic's history had forestwalk.

As you've said yourself, Mark, it isn't a catastrophe that mono-Mountains decks can access forestwalk with hybrid technology—it's awesome. And it isn't a catastrophe that mono-Islands decks can access lifegain through Steel of the Godhead with hybrid technology—it's awesome. You've said in your columns that using hybrid technology to get things you couldn't normally get is totally intended, and is part of the fun of Shadowmoor. And your set backs you up on that. After all, if you didn't think these combos were cool, you wouldn't have used ten of Shadowmoor's commons on hybrid auras and Duos that encourage you and reward you for getting exactly this kind of out-of-color ability access.

The gameplay backs you up on that too, because putting Steel of the Godhead on your white-blue creature in a mono-Islands deck and gaining life is totally fun, in part because it is so forbidden.

Mark Rosewater: Interesting points, Devin. I'll respond by quoting another of my recent Shadowmoor articles:

Steel of the Godhead allows you to grant a creature lifelink in a deck playing only islands. How is this not just like Augury Adept? (The discussion last week kept pointing to Dire Undercurrents.) To me there is an important line. Steel of the Godhead only grants lifelink to white creatures, the color which is primary in lifelink. Yes, you can cheat the system, but only by playing cards that are actually white. Hybrid lets you get cards of a color in your deck without the corresponding basic land, but to take advantage of this you have to use white-blue hybrid cards. You have to exploit a quality built into hybrid cards. That's not cheating; that's taking advantage of one of the abilities hybrid has to offer."

Devin Low: Mark, you make a point here I definitely agree with, and that's why I love Augury Adept. You say, "Yes you can cheat the system, but only playing cards that are actually white." That's exactly right. And here's my point: Blue cards don't have lifelink, but here's one of the key things that the hybrid does:

"The hybrid mechanic lets you play white-blue spells in a mono-Islands deck."

It seems like an obvious thing to say. If you ask a thousand Magic players what the hybrid mana symbol means, that is what they will tell you. But it's a principle that is threaded throughout the designs of several cycles and several dozens of cards in Shadowmoor. And once you truly embrace that sentence, you embrace Augury Adept as well. Augury Adept is indeed a white-blue card, just like you say. But the hybrid mechanic allows you to play white-blue spells in a mono-islands deck. For confirmation, I ask Dovescape—what is the exact reminder text for the W/U hybrid mana symbol? Please be precise.

DovescapeDovescape: (W/U can be paid with either W or U)

Devin Low: And what does that mean, specifically?

Dovescape: It means that you can play white-blue hybrid cards with either white mana or blue mana. You don't need both.

Devin Low: And is that open-ended playability some bizarre, unwanted side effect of hybrid cards?

Dovescape: Well, no. In fact, the way you can play hybrid cards with either white mana or blue mana is pretty much the whole point of hybrid cards. That's what makes them cool. Even though they're white and blue cards, you can play them with blue mana or with white mana. It's up to you.

Devin Low: Very interesting. So then my next question is: Are those white-blue hybrid spells that you play in a mono-Islands deck really supposed to count as white-blue spells, or are they always supposed to pretend to be mono-blue spells whenever they get played a mono-blue deck? Let's ask the cards of Shadowmoor. Cards of Shadowmoor, when someone plays a white-blue spell in a mono-Islands deck, is it supposed to count as just a blue spell, or is it supposed to count as a white-blue spell, with all that those words entail?

Thistledown Duo: Well, white-blue hybrid spells cast from mono-Islands decks consistently give me +1/+1 and flying, every time they get cast. They are pretty clearly both white and blue.

Sootwalkers: Yup. When I'm attack a mono-Islands mage, their white-blue hybrid creatures don't count as mono-blue creatures and suddenly start blocking me. They can't block me, because I can't be blocked by white creatures, and those white-blue hybrid cards in mono-Islands decks clearly function as both white and blue cards, despite not having any Plains in sight.

Thistledown Liege: Yeah, even though one of my abilities only pumps white creatures, I'm still very much intended to double-pump white-blue creatures in mono-Islands decks. I do it all the time. The hybrid cards are allowed to function as white spells, even though the deck is all islands, and they certainly do.

Steel of the Godhead: True. Whenever I hop on a Somnomancer in a mono-Islands deck, I certainly give it plenty of pumping and lifelink, and I can verify from experience that the Somnomancer and myself are intended to function as white cards and give lots of lifelink life, even in decks of mono-islands.

Gloomlance: When I'm fighting a mono-Island mage with hybrid cards, I still have the functionality of fighting white cards, making the mono-Island mage discard each time I pummel a white-blue hybrid creature. Even though my text makes it seem like I don't do anything special against mono-Island mages, I'm here to tell you that the white-blue cards are intended to have all the game play functionality of being white cards. It's not just cosmetic. It's fundamental to the design and game play of Shadowmoor.

Devin Low: And who led the design of Shadowmoor?

Thistledown_Duo Thistledown Duo, Sootwalkers, Thistledown Liege, Steel of the Godhead, and Gloomlance: [in chorus] Mark Rosewater.

Devin Low: Mark Rosewater. Very interesting. And you are all members of cycles. That means at least twenty Shadowmoor cards verify that white-blue hybrid cards played in mono-Islands decks aren't just intended to look like white cards as well as blue cards. They are intended to function as white cards as well as blue cards. By none other than Rosewater himself.

Repel Intruders: I gotta admit, I don't know what the hell these guys are talking about. In a mono-island deck, I'm basically a mono-blue spell all the way, baby! No white in sight!

Devin Low: When describing Augury Adept, I have to agree some wise words said about Steel of the Godhead by my colleague Mark Rosewater:

Yes, you can cheat the system, but only by playing cards that are actually white. Hybrid lets you get cards of a color in your deck without the corresponding basic land, but to take advantage of this you have to use white-blue hybrid cards. You have to exploit a quality built into hybrid cards. That's not cheating; that's taking advantage of one of the abilities hybrid has to offer.

Devin Low: Exactly. You can "cheat the system" and get life gain in your mono-Islands deck, but "only by playing cards that are actually white"... such as Augury Adept! As the above Shadowmoor cards have testified, Augury Adept is intended to function as a white card in every way, including its rules text. To use this white card, including its life gain text, you have to do just what Mark says: "You have to exploit a quality built into hybrid cards."

I completely agree. To get life gain out of hybrid cards in mono-islands deck, you have to exploit a quality built into hybrid cards: the quality that they can be played with either of their colors of mana, not both. As Mark correctly says, "That's not cheating; that's taking advantage of one of the abilities hybrid has to offer."

Mark Rosewater: Okay. So we do agree in many of our hybrid philosophies. Where we differ is in the details of how to implement them. Here's where Augury Adept falls off the bus for me. As I wrote in my articles:

Augury Adept, on the other hand, gives life gain to your all-Island deck without you having to jump through any hoops. It just gives blue life gain. The line between those two things, to me, is fundamentally important and thus where I draw the line.

Devin Low: I see your angle. I agree that it's easier to stretch the color pie when you jump through enough hoops to do so. I defended Zombify from accusations of color pie infringement on similar grounds. So here are cards that neither you or I would be willing to print, Mark:

Unprintable Hybrid Lifegain
You gain 7 life.

Unprintable Hybrid Card Drawing
Draw four cards.

Devin Low: We both agree that those cards don't jump through any hoops at all to give you life gain in blue and card drawing in white, respectively. You just play them and you instantly gain the reward, without any hope of interaction from the opponent short of counterspells.

Mark Rosewater: I completely agree. They're unprintable.

Steel of the Godhead

Devin Low: And Steel of the Godhead is a blue life gain card that we both agree is fine to print. It has a medium-size hoop to jump through: play it on a white-blue hybrid creature in your mono-Islands deck, attack unblockably and deal damage, and your blue deck can gain life.

Mark Rosewater: Again I agree. How hard it is to "jump through the hoop" and do what the card asks you to do to get its reward really affects whether I'm willing to print the card.

Devin Low: So now let's talk about Augury Adept and how difficult it is to jump through that hoop. Let's look back to how Augury Adept was designed. As well as its own themes, Shadowmoor was also designed to bolster Lorwyn / Morningtide decks. It has plenty of members of all the Lorwyn / Morningtide tribes. And Shadowmoor has cards that specifically bolster the Lorwyn / Morningtide mechanical themes. Persist works great with reinforce. Shadowmoor Merfolk Puresight Merrow and Hollowsage can do remarkable things with the Lorwyn / Morningtide Merfolk's tapping and untapping theme shown by Drowner of Secrets and Judge of Currents.

Stern Judge: And what about Augury Adept?

Devin Low: The Lorwyn / Morningtide Kithkin were an almost mono-white tribe, with a small pinch of green. Their theme was "Kithkin love attacking." As long as Militia's Pride, Order of the Golden Cricket, Preeminent Captain, Springjack Knight, and Cenn's Heir are attacking, they get all kinds of rewards. But if the team falters and has to stay back on defense, almost all of their abilities turn off.

What kinds of rewards do the Kithkin get for attacking? Preeminent Captain puts creatures into play for free from your hand, which Elvish Piper shows to be a green ability. Order of the Golden Cricket gains flying for mana, which is arguably more blue. These rewards for Kithkin attacking may not be the most traditional white abilities of all time, but each one fits the flavor of the card it's on, and each one fits the flavor of the Kithkin as a whole. They work together with many other Kithkin cards to build a theme of "Kithkin love attacking" that is truly more than the sum of its parts.

The origin of Augury Adept in Shadowmoor was this question:

In Shadowmoor, Kithkin move from mono-white into white-blue. What is a good rare design to support moving the "Kithkin love attacking" theme from mono-white or white-green effects into a truly white-blue effect?

The answer is a Shadowmoor Kithkin who rewards you for attacking in a unique, fun, white-blue way, instead of just a mono-white way. The answer is Augury Adept.

Mark Rosewater: Okay, I can see where the design would come from. But we just agreed that stretching the color pie works best when you have to jump through some kind of hoop to achieve the color pie stretching.

Devin Low: Indeed we did. Let's look at one hoop you have supported as appropriately difficult to stretch the color pie: Dire Undercurrents. Can you remind the court of your thoughts of this blue-black hybrid enchantment?

Dire UndercurrentsMark Rosewater: Sure. I said:

Here's where we start getting sneaky. The first part of the card is strictly a blue ability, while the second is a black one. We rationalized this one because you need a blue creature to trigger the first and a black one to trigger the second. True, with hybrid technology you are able to trigger the first ability playing only Swamps and the second while playing only Islands, but we felt the color restrictions were enough to allow the slight bleed.

Devin Low: So for Dire Undercurrents in a mono-Islands deck, you feel that the hoop of "Play blue-black hybrid spells" is a sufficiently difficult to hoop to jump through to get "Target opponent discards a card" effects?

Mark Rosewater: It's awfully close to the line, but yes, that's enough of a hoop to jump through that Dire Undercurrents is okay by me.

Devin Low: And yet the hoop to jump through for Augury Adept seems considerably harder. In line with the "Kithkin love attacking," theme, Augury Adept does great work as long as she is attacking, getting through enemy blockers and scoring hits on the opponent, but whenever she's not attacking, she's literally a Grey Ogre: a three-mana 2/2 with no abilities. In fact, when she's getting blocked by enemy creatures or targeted by enemy spells, she's also a fragile three-mana 2/2 creature with no evasion and no defensive abilities. Dimir Cutpurse, you're a three-mana 2/2 with an awesome saboteur ability, but no built-in way to get through. How hard would you say it is to get through for combat damage?

Dimir CutpurseDimir Cutpurse: All by myself? Pretty damn hard. Life as a Grey Ogre trying to deal combat damage to players is not easy.

Devin Low: As an expert in this field, Dimir Cutpurse, which would you say is harder to do: Get a vanilla three-mana 2/2 through for combat damage, or play a blue-black hybrid spell in a mono-islands deck?

Dimir Cutpurse: Based on my experience, getting a vanilla three mana 2/2 through for combat damage is pretty damn hard. Oh, and my experience is getting through in a blue-black deck. It's probably a lot harder to get through in a white-blue deck. As for how hard it is to play a blue-black hybrid spell in a mono-Islands deck, I'd have to refer to my good friend, Dimir Guildmage. Guildy, how hard is it to play you in a mono-Islands deck to trigger the discard Dire Undercurrents?

Dimir Guildmage: Pretty damn easy. How it goes is you, um, tap two Islands and play me.

Devin Low: I see. My colleague Mark Rosewater has stated on Dire Undercurrents that playing blue-black hybrid spells in a mono-Islands deck is a sufficiently difficult challenge to merit the reward of "target opponent discards a card" effects in mono-Islands decks. Yet, the Dimir witnesses' testimony seems to indicate that the challenge faced by getting Augury Adept through for combat damage is significantly more difficult. Why then, is it okay that Dire Undercurrents can use hybrid technology to break the color pie, but not okay for Augury Adept?

Mark Rosewater: You need two cards to combine Dire Undercurrents and a blue-black hybrid spell. Augury Adept can trigger with just one.

Devin Low: If your opponent doesn't fight back, sure. But in practice you'll usually need to combine Augury Adept with other cards to help her get through for damage to the opponent. And having abilities that only work while attacking means subscribing, to some extent, to the "Kithkin love attacking" theme from Lorwyn / Morningtide.

Finally, let's compare the color pie stretching of Augury Adept to that of Swans of Bryn Argoll, another white-blue hybrid card in Shadowmoor. Mark, what are your thoughts on the Swans. In your eyes, do these Bird Spirits unacceptably break the color pie?

Swans of Bryn Argoll

Mark Rosewater: Again, I'll refer you to my recently published remarks on this very subject:

This is one of those cards that works with the color pie, but only if you view each color through a particular vantage point. For white, it's the fact that white is king of damage replacement. Much like how we let black draw cards if it pays some kind of personal cost, we let white turn damage into something positive for the player whose creature is being hit. For blue, this is just another means to draw a bunch of cards. It's true that in mono-blue, we'd probably just tie the card drawing to damage without preventing it, but we felt that the small shift was within blue's defensive nature.

Devin Low: Good sir Rosewater, Augury Adept can draw cards using only white mana, and you claim that it's a crime against the color pie. Yet Swans can also draw cards using only white mana, perhaps drawing six cards for two mana in a combination with Judge Unworthy. Why is it okay that mono-Plains decks are allowed to draw cards on a card like Swans, but they're not allowed to draw cards with a little beater like Augury Adept?

Augury Adept can gain life using only blue mana, and you claim that it's a crime against the color pie. Yet Swans played in a mono-Islands deck with only blue mana can prevent damage to itself from Incinerate, Firespout, and Morbid Hunger while killing the opponent. Why is it okay that mono-Islands decks are allowed to prevent damage on a card like Swans, but they're not allowed to gain life with Augury Adept?

Swans of Bryn Argoll is the mirror image of Augury Adept in both directions. Each card can create blue effects with just white mana, and create white effects with just blue mana. And yet you say that Swans is acceptable and Augury Adept is not. It's an arbitrary distinction, based only on what cards a person happens to like. We certainly each have the right to like and support different cards. That's a lot of what Magic R&D is all about. But there's nothing wrong with Augury Adept that isn't also wrong with Swans of Bryn Argoll, and if you curse one, you have to curse the other.

Mark Rosewater: Mono-Plains decks shouldn't draw cards this easily. Mono-Islands decks shouldn't gain life this easily. Hybrid cards should be hybrid designs, not gold designs. That's as simple as it gets. Swans of Bryn Argoll and Augury Adept are totally different cards. The prosecution rests.

Devin Low: I have spoken from the heart. The defense rests.

Stern Judge: And the debate concludes. This case is too important for me to decide by decree alone. So I refer this decision to three parties for their own decisions: First, the Shadowmoor Development team, who bear final responsibility for which cards did and did not see print. Second, the community of Magic players around the world. Each person can make his own decision as to whether Augury Adept and Giant Solifuge are right or wrong. Third, as time goes on, history will be the judge. In retrospect, Giant Solifuge is seen by history largely as a success. Will Augury Adept earn the same acclaim, or will it go down in history as a mistake? Only time will tell.

Stern Judge: Shadowmoor development team, what say you?

Shadowmoor Development Team: We were convinced. We printed Augury Adept in Shadowmoor.

Stern Judge: The rest is up to history, and up to you.

Last Week's Poll

Which of these offbeat Morningtide rares is your favorite?
Reach of Branches 1309 24.2%
Sigil Tracer 1152 21.3%
Sensation Gorger 998 18.5%
Boldwyr Heavyweights 886 16.4%
Weirding Shaman 628 11.6%
Fendeep Summoner 427 7.9%
Total 5400 100.0%

Here in Magic R&D, we always get a lot of feedback from the public on high-profile cards like Profane Command. A lot of people love it, a few people hate it, and everyone has an opinion about which decks can use it best. It's the lower-profile, offbeat cards like these six rares about which it is often harder for us to get feedback. So every once in a while, I like to use the poll to get some feedback from magicthegathering.com readers on which of the offbeat rares they like best and least.

For research purposes, I asked the members of Magic R&D each to guess their own order as to how the public would rank the cards. Then each Magic R&D member can look at the public's list and compare it to his or her own, to get a sense of where his or her own instincts are accurate, and where the public liked certain cards better than expected. Keeping on top of which cards the public likes most is one of the key topics we continually research in a variety of ways. It is not a coincidence that Morningtide lead developer Mike Turian was the most accurate in his predictions on these Morningtide rares, predicting the list with complete accuracy except for swapping the adjacent Boldwyr Heavyweights and Weirding Shaman.